Western Front Picture Gallery

poppy-2As a supplement to the 22nd Battalion Picture Gallery, a selection of photographs taken at other First World War battlefield sites predominately around Ypres and on the Somme, displayed in chronological order. Where the Australian divisions or units are noted as having fought, visit the Combat Areas > AIF Divisions pages of this website for more information, including links to geo-referenced maps.

Hill 60, Zillebeke (Ypres): December 1914

The German Army captured the high ground around Ypres in November 1914 giving their artillery observers an excellent view of the French, then from February 1915, British held ground around Zillebeke and Ypres. This area became the scene of heavy fighting including offensive mining as soon as December 1914. Ever wondered how close the two trenches could be? In the left-hand photograph the inscription on the decking in the foreground states that this was the German front line in December 1914; the people at the top of the steps are on the Allied front line! Note in the background by the right-hand bush the monument to the Australian Tunnelling Companies who dug and detonated the decisive mines on Hill 60 and the adjacent Caterpillar in the Battle of Messines on 7th June 1917. The Queen Victoria Rifles Memorial (photograph right) was dedicated by 2nd Lieut. Woolley, VC, who was the first Territorial Officer to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the war, one of four won on 17th April 1915 as the British 5th Division attacked Hill 60.

Langemarck German Cemetery: April 1915

Started in 1915 as a field burial cemetery, the Langemarck German Cemetery was expanded in 1916 and contained predominately German soldiers killed in the fighting of 1914/15. It was over this ground that the Germans launched the Second Ypres offensive towards Ypres on 22nd April 1915 which saw the introduction of poison gas on the Western Front. During the 1950’s many of the Belgian cemeteries containing the German dead were closed and their remains were reburied to the north of Ypres at Langemarck bringing the total to 44,294, and is now one of the most visited locations on the Western Front in Belgium. The cemetery contains blockhouses symbolising resistance and small concrete blocks representing the front line on the Western Front (see left photograph).

The Battle of the Somme: 1st July 1916

Situated in the northern sector of the great Somme offensive is the Sheffield Memorial Park which commemorates a number of the Pals Battalions that fought and suffered so badly here. The top left photograph shows the slope leading up to the British front line where the men waited for zero hour on the 1st July 1916, and below left is the slope down to Railway Hollow Cemetery. The photograph on the right, taken at the time of the 2016 centenary commemorations, looks back over the British support area.

The Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial Park commemorates all the men from Newfoundland that fought in the First World War at the location where the 1st Battalion of the Newfoundland Regiment who as part of the British 29th Division (ex-Gallipoli) suffered terrible losses in the ill-fated attack of the 1st July 1916. The park contains memorials, a museum plus one of the finest preserved trench systems on the Western Front including the St.Johns support trench (photograph right), communication and front line trenches. You can take the walk across the British front line, past the Danger Tree (photograph bottom left) to the German defensive positions at the deep ‘Y Ravine’. As you walk down the slope to the German lines you can see how exposed the men would have been to machine gun and artillery fire from the higher ground beyond. 

Two photographs taken in front of Thiepval Wood in the sector attacked by the British 36th (Ulster) Division, with the tree line of the Newfoundland Memorial Park seen on the horizon. The right hand photograph, taken at a place called ‘The Pope’s Nose’ (near the Ulster Memorial Tower) on the enemy front line, shows the great view the Germans had over the British support and assembly positions on the left. The high ground and fields to the right of the Newfoundland Memorial Park was in German hands and machine gun fire would have enfiladed the Ulstermen as they attacked (from left to right) on the 1st July 1916. The photograph on the left was taken in July 2016, and many accounts of the 1st July describe ears of wheat and men being mercilessly scythed by machine gun fire.  

Located close to the Ulster Memorial Tower the Somme Association purchased Thiepval Wood in 2004 with the aim to excavate, examine and restore a small section of the British front line from which the British 36th (Ulster) Division attacked the German strong-point known as the Schwaben Redoubt. The attack by the Ulster Division was one of the few successes north of the Albert-Bapaume road on the 1st July, but failures on the left and right resulted in the Ulstermen being forced back with heavy losses. 

The imposing Thiepval Memorial to the Missing commemorates the 72,000 British servicemen that died in the Somme up until March 1918 and who have no-known grave. Dominating the skyline for miles around it is set on top of the German front line and was the objective for the British 32nd Division on the 1st July 1916. The photograph on the left shows the cemetery behind the Memorial containing the graves of 300 French and 300 British servicemen and looks down the slope in the direction from where the British attacked, and Aveluy Wood on the far side of the Ancre Valley.

Lochnagar Crater

The massive mine at Lochnagar was detonated at 7.28am on the 1st July 1916, two minutes before the start of the infantry attack, leaving a crater 100m wide and 21m deep that we see today. Located at La Boisselle just to the south of the Albert-Bapaume road the crater and surrounding trenches were attacked by the British 34th Division. From the rim of the crater the valley known as ‘Sausage Valley’ can be seen which, particularly for later periods of July, became the main thoroughfare for the Australians towards Pozieres as well as a major location for field guns, cookers and supplies.

Delville Wood: 15th July 1916

Delville Wood was the most significant and costly action that the South African Brigade as part of the British 9th (Scottish) Division ever fought on the Western Front as they attempted to take the heavily defended wood by the village of Longueval as part of the second phase of the Battle of the Somme which commenced on the 14th July 1916 (Battle of Bazentin Ridge). When relieved on the 19th/20th July only four officers and 140 other ranks made it out unscathed, and then British and German counter-attacks in the wood continued for another seven weeks. The left hand photograph shows the Hornbeam, the sole surviving tree in the wood, and on the right a trench line that snakes through the wood. The Delville Wood South African National Memorial sits in the centre of the wood, surrounded by avenues of trees and rides.

Fromelles: 19th July 1916

Newly arrived in France, the 5th Australian Division was pressed into the ill-conceived and disastrous Somme diversionary attack at Fromelles which resulted in 5,533 casualties, the worst day in Australian military history. In the centre of the Fromelles Memorial Park, which is set on the old German front line, is the ‘Cobbers’ statue depicting the mateship and selflessness of the Australian soldiers. The photographs were taken in July 2016 just after the centenary commemorations. Close by is the VC Corner Cemetery Memorial containing the names of 1,299 men with no known grave, many of whom laid undisturbed in the fields in no-man’s land until the end of the war. 

On the left of the battle the Germans recovered and buried many Australian soldiers in large graves at Pheasant Wood on the edge of Fromelles (photograph left). Following the discovery of the pits, a major project was undertaken in 2009 to exhume and try and identify the remains through DNA testing then re-bury the soldiers in the new Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Cemetery (photograph top right). As of November 2019, 166 have been positively identified from the 250 soldiers that were re-buried. The photograph bottom right is of the ‘Hitler bunker’ visited by the Nazi Dictator in 1940 following the fall of France, a location where he served with the German Army in 1916.

The Battle of Arras – Vimy Ridge: 9th April 1917

At dawn on the 9th April 1917 the British First and Third Armies launched their great offensive at Vimy and Arras as part of the diversionary attack for the coming Nivelle offensive by the French at the Chemin des Dames. The attack succeeded in most of the areas and at Arras success was almost complete, taking the first two defensive systems. For the Canadians at Vimy Ridge this was the first time their four divisions fought together as a unified force and despite heavy losses this victorious day would be seen as key in their evolution from dominion to an independent nation. Today the Canadian National Vimy Memorial situated high on the ridge overlooking the Douai Plain, and its  battlefield park comprising restored trenches, tunnels and preserved shell and crater holes is one of the most visited battlefield sites on the Western Front.

The Battle of Messines: 7th June 1917

As the pre-cursor to the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Messines was one of the most successful battles for the British Army in the First World War notable for the detonation of 19 mines at the start of the dawn attack on the 7th June 1917. Today many of the craters can still be seen, most resembling village duck ponds, but probably the most impressive is the Caterpillar Crater (photograph top right) detonated by the Australian Tunnelling Company simultaneously with the nearby mine at Hill 60 (photograph bottom right of a captured German pillbox Hill 60, later adapted to become a British artillery observation post). The 3rd Australian Division and New Zealand Division attacked up the ridge at the southern end towards the village of Messines, encountering many German block-houses and strongpoints such as in the photograph left of a German blockhouse that would have had a machine gun mounted on its roof, looking down the slope to where the NZ Division followed by the 4th Australian Division attacked – photograph taken in the New Zealand Memorial Park, Messines.

The Third Ypres Battle / Passchendaele: 31st July – 10th November 1917

Located near to the eastern bank of the Yser Canal just to the north of Ypres and the village of Boezinge is the excavated and preserved section of a British trench known as The Yorkshire Trench. The short section of trench that you see (photograph right) dates from 1917, but a pathway just a few metres away marks the outline of the 1915 system. The photograph on the left shows the entrance to a deep dugout. It was from this position that the British 38th (Welsh) Division attacked on 31st July 1917 in what was known as the Battle of Pilckem Ridge at the start of the Third Ypres offensive.

Essex Farm Advanced Dressing Station

On the west bank of the Yser Canal are the concrete bunkers of the Advanced Dressing Station known as Essex Farm. These were built in 1916 and made permanent for the Third Ypres offensive on the site of the 1915 ADS which was used by the Canadians during the Second Ypres offensive and where Canadian Army Medical Corps Capt. John Mcrae wrote the famous war poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. 

The Battle of Polygon Wood on 25th September 1917 involved the 5th & 4th Australian Divisions successfully attacking the heavily defended wood which included a piece of high ground that was formerly part of a Belgian firing range known as the ‘Butte’. The 5th Australian Division, which suffered the most of the 5,500 casualties that day has its Divisional Monument on the top of the Butte (photograph right). 

The Tyne Cot Cemetery, located on the battlefield taken by the 3rd Australian Division on the 4th October 1917 attacking up the Broodseinde Ridge, is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world with 11,900 British servicemen buried here. At the rear of the cemetery is the Tyne Cot Memorial which commemorates 35,000 British and New Zealand soldiers who have no-known grave. Within the cemetery are a number of German blockhouses (see photograph left) including a large one in the centre that was used as an Advanced Dressing Station upon which King George V later stood and suggested that the Cross of Sacrifice be mounted above it (see photograph right). From this point you can stand and look back towards Ypres and see the start of the offensive on 31st July at the line of the wind turbines (Yorkshire Trench) in the distance. 

The Passchendaele Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm (photograph left) marks the place where the men of the Canadian Corps commanded by General Arthur Currie, having relieved the 3rd Australian Division, finally took possession of the high ground at Crest Farm after ferocious fighting in the Second Battle of Passchendaele between 26th October and 10th November 1917. Casualties for the Canadians by the end of the battle were very high, with approximately 4,000 men being killed and a further 8,000 men being wounded. Behind the Memorial is the Bellevue Spur which was attacked by the New Zealand Division on the 12th October 1917 (First Battle of Passchendaele) when they lost 845 men, the worst day of fighting for New Zealand during the war. Photograph right of the rebuilt St. Audomar church in the center of Passchendaele.

Le Hamel, The Somme: 4th July 1918

The tactical success of the 93 minute Hamel operation gave the British possession of the Hamel Valley on the Somme plus drove the enemy from the adjacent ridge from which the enemy could observe the Australian forces (photograph left of German trench lines on the ridge by the monument, photograph right). However of greater strategic importance was that under the command of Australian Corps Commander Lieut.Gen. Monash the battle provided the blueprint for the 8th August 1918 Amiens offensive and indeed became the standard for how modern military operations are conducted today. At the heart of the success was the excellent integration and co-operation between the infantry, machine gunners, artillery, tanks and the Royal Air Force, plus catching the enemy completely by surprise.

The Hindenburg Line: September 1918

Part of the German defensive Hindenburg Line lay about the St. Quentin Canal and in the Australian Corps sector passed through a 5km tunnel at Bellicourt (centre photograph). It was here that Lieut. Gen. Monash decided to launch his Australian Corps attack across this ‘land bridge’ along with two American divisions. To his right the British 46th (North Midland) Division skillfully crossed the canal at the Riqueval bridge (right photograph) relieving pressure on his flank. It is at nearby Bellenglise where the 4th Australian Division have their memorial (left photograph).

Published as ‘news’ 100 years on to the day, follow the 22nd Battalion on the project website and via Facebook and Twitter

poppy-2       FIRST WORLD WAR TIMELINE       poppy-2

1914          1915          1916          1917          1918          1919

%d bloggers like this: