11th Apr 1917: First Bullecourt – poorly planned attack a disaster for the gallant AIF 4th Div.

The First Battle of Bullecourt – click on link below to Combat Areas > AIF Divisions > Bullecourt for a more detailed account.

Troops of the AIF 4th Division assaulted the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt in what was a poorly planned and executed attack. Instead of relying on the customary artillery barrage to destroy the thick belts of barbed wire, British commander General Hubert Gough decided to employ 12 tanks to advance ahead of the infantry in order to retain the element of surprise. On 10th April almost all of the tanks failed to arrive at the rendezvous point. The attack was delayed until following day, giving the Germans full warning of an imminent assault. The 4th and 12th Brigades set off to attack the Hindenburg Line with little support from the tanks. The infantry covered over 1,000 yards of no-man’s land without artillery support, in full view of German machine-gun crews, but still managed to negotiate thick belts of barbed wire and gain partial possession of the Hindenburg Line. The Australians quickly expended all their ammunition while holding the line against German counter-attacks. Ordered to withdraw, they negotiated a no-man’s land swept with German artillery and machine-gun fire. The battle cost the 4th Division over 3,000 casualties, of which 1,170 were taken prisoner – the largest capture of Australian troops on the Western Front.

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