17th Apr 1918: 1st Bgde inflict huge losses on attacking Germans

The Australian sector at Strazeele was shelled heavily, and though the German guns had yet to be accurately registered the village and the railway station were wrecked. At 10am the Germans attempted to attack up the valley between Merris and Meteren but were met with a deluge of fire from the 4th and 1st Battalions. The 1st Brigade estimated that they had caused between 1,500 – 2,000 casualties whereas the 3rd Battalion to their south estimated that at the railway embankment their Lewis and machine-gunners had accounted for 700 casualties. By contrast the casualties in the AIF 1st Division were few.

However strain was being felt on the entire British front, with seven divisions needing withdrawal and rest after four weeks of the offensive, and being severely understrength were vulnerable if the German attack was continued. To assist in this situation General Foch agreed to send French divisions north to bolster the defence. To the south the German artillery drenched the village of Villers-Bretonneux with 12,000 gas shells, repeating the exercise the following day causing the defending battalions to lose a considerable amount of their men. A captured German confirmed that this gas bombardment was as a prelude to a coming attack on the village.

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