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Australian War Memorial Tour of the Western Front 2007

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Flers, Lesbouefs, Bernafay Woods, Bullecourt, Reincourt, Hendecourt, Baupame

The Bullecourt Memorial Park

The Bullecourt Memorial Park was dedicated in 1993. There were two major battles at Bullecourt in April and May 1917 in which some 10,000 members of the Australian Imperial Force were killed or wounded. The Memorial Park overlooks the battlefield and consists of a cairn on which stands the bronze "Bullecourt Digger". The bronze sculpture was designed and sculpted in Melbourne by Peter Corlett.


First Battle of Bullecourt

As part of the Battle of Arras in 1917, the plan called for two divisions, the British 62nd Division and the Australian 4th Division to attack either side of the village of Bullecourt and push the Germans out of their fortified positions and into the reserve trenches. The attack was initially scheduled for the morning of 10 May, but the tanks intended for the assault were delayed by bad weather and the attack was postponed for 24 hours. The order to delay did not reach all units in time, and two battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment attacked and were driven back with significant losses. Despite protests from the Australian commanders, the attack was resumed on the morning of 11 April; mechanical failures meant that only 11 tanks were able to advance in support, and the limited artillery barrage left much of the barbed wire in front of the German trenches uncut. Additionally, the abortive attack of the previous day alerted German troops in the area to the impending assault, and they were better prepared than they had been in the Canadian sector. Misleading reports about the extent of the gains made by the Australians deprived them of necessary artillery support and, although elements of the 4th Division briefly occupied sections of German trenches, they were ultimately forced to retreat with heavy losses. In this sector, the German commanders correctly employed the Elastic Defence and were therefore able to counterattack effectively.

The Hindenburg Line near Bullecourt, seen from the air.Bullecourt, France

Second Battle of Bullecourt

After the initial assault around Bullecourt failed to penetrate the German lines, British commanders made preparations for a second attempt. British artillery began an intense bombardment of the village, which, by 20 April, had been virtually destroyed. Although the infantry assault was initially planned for 20 April, it was pushed back a number of times and finally set for the early morning of 3 May. At 03:45, elements of the 2nd Division attacked east of Bullecourt village, intending to pierce the Hindenburg Line and capture Hendecourt, while British troops from the 62nd Division attempted to capture Bullecourt itself. German resistance was fierce, and, when the offensive was called off on 17 May, very few of the initial objectives had been met. The Australians were in possession of much of the German trench system between Bullecourt and Riencourt, but had been unable to capture Hendecourt. To the west, British troops were ultimately able to push the Germans out of Bullecourt, but, in so doing, incurred considerable losses, failing also to advance north-east to Hendecourt.