Sunday, 10 September 2017

Battle of Polygon Wood

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood will be commemorated on the 26th September.  The battle occurred six days after Menin Road and was the second of the 'Plumer battles'  which were a series of well planned , limited advances supported by large volumes of artillery,  overseen by British General Herbert Plumer. All of these battles were part of the Third Battle of Ypres campaign.

The 4th and 5th Australian divisions took part in the battle, replacing the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions for the 1500 metre advance.  Polygon Wood was a less ambitious operation than Menin Road due to the conditions and the time available to gather together the same amount of artillery.

The objective for the Australian divisions was to capture the area of charred and splintered stumps which was all that remained of Polygon Wood and the plateau to the north. The British divisions on the Australians right would seize the high ground around Tower Hamlets.

The allies plans were thrown into chaos when on the morning of the 25th September the Germans launched their own attack at the point where the Australian 5th division and the British 3rd division were linked. Two regiments of German soldiers caught the British unawares just as they were preparing to take over the front line. The Germans with support from artillery and aircraft were able to push the British  back some 700 metres. The Allies attack would proceed with the security of their flank under a cloud.

The allies launched their attack as planned on the morning of the 26th September. The infantry advancing under a heavy barrage of artillery fire were able to secure most of their objectives without difficulty. The Germans tried to launch several counter attacks but these were quickly stopped by a heavy artillery barrage which was being used to protect the infantry consolidating their objectives. While the battle was a success the Australians still suffered 5770 casualties.

The following two articles are from the Ballarat Courier. The first is how the battle was reported in the newspaper while the second is an In Memoriam classified remembering some of the Ballarat and district men who died in the battle one year on.

Following the articles is a sketch from the Australian War Memorial's Collection depicting the Australian Infantry attack by Fred Leist.
Ballarat Courier 28 September 1917, p. 3

Ballarat Courier 27 September 1918, p. 2

Australian Infantry Attack at Polygon Wood.  Courtesy Australian War  Memorial.

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