20th Sept 1917: The Battle of the Menin Road

At 5.40am British artillery and machine-guns opened up signalling the start of the attack. The Australian 1st & 2nd Divisions, together with four British on their right and five on their left on an eight mile front moved forward. This was the first time in the War that two Australian divisions had attacked side by side, and this gave a boost to the men knowing who was on their flank. menin-1_0The Battle of the Menin Road (map courtesy of Australians on the Western Front 1914-1918) went to plan. The artillery barrage was the densest that had covered the Australian troops so far, and it was the artillery that did the damage. In many cases the Germans in the heavily protected pill-boxes offered little resistance. By 6.09am the first objective was reached along the whole of the British offensive. Between 7.30 and 7.45am the second objective had been reached on the Australian front and most of the British front in accordance with the timetable. At 9.53am the long pause ended and the barrage came down in front of the Blue Line. The advance to the third objective, the Green Line, was short lived with prisoners taken and pillboxes captured. Shortly before noon German troops and artillery were seen moving in preparation for a counter-attack, but almost immediately were drenched with shells. Nightfall was marked by another German movement met once again by a ferocious artillery barrage, and with this ended the fighting on the Anzac front. British and German losses were comparable, between 20,000 to 25,000 men on both sides, of which Australian casualties within the AIF 1st & 2nd Divisions numbered 5,013. However the German troops came out of this battle crushed, and the British comparatively fresh, leading to an air of optimism both in the field and in England and France.

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