<– Part 206 – June 30, 1918 | Part 207 – July 7, 1918 | Part 208 – July 14, 1918

American, Australian, and British troops the day before the battle

The concentrated artillery barrage, with German flares going up.

Following extensive planning and preparation by the commander of the Australian Corps, Lieutenant General John Monash, fighting at Hamel village began. The planning included two weeks of artillery barrages at the same time before dawn, getting the Germans “conditioned” to it, plans for medical supplies and ammunition to be dropped by planes, and tanks to be used for resupply. Other tanks, for the attack, have been painted colors for each battalion to help the infantry know which tank to follow. The plan calls for combined battalions of Australian, English, and American infantry, and the battle will begin July 4 out of deference to the Americans.

June 3, at 22:30, the British tanks began rolling to the front; engineers cut the wire for them while infantry marked tracks for the tank advance. At 3:02 a.m. on the 4th, the artillery opened fire with gas and artillery shells, as usual, prompting the Germans to enter the routine of putting on gas masks – limiting their visibility, maneuverability, and ability to communicate. The artillery also served to mask the sound of 60 tanks moving the last half mile to the front. The guns gradually shortened their range for the next 8 minutes to reach the start line, dropped smoke screens on the flanks, and pounded an area covering 200-600 yards from the infantry. The infantry rose en masse at 3:10 and advanced to within 75 yards of the artillery (some killed by shortfalls of shells), after which both began advancing together.

The Pear Trench, with dead German machinegunner in the center. The Allies advanced up, over, and down the hill to the right.

British RE8 plane plummeting to the ground after its engine was hit by a faulty shell

The center of the line was the “Pear Trench,” a German strong point. Artillery problems had failed to cut the wire, so the Australian troops were forced to do so while under fire from the German Maxim machine guns. High crops forced the Allied Lewis gunners to fire from the hip, suppressing German fire while sacrificing accuracy and suffering heavy casualties. The Australians were finally able to rush two German positions; another opened up on the flank, when Private Henry Dalziel charged with a revolver, killing the 2-man German crew and capturing another. Fighting became chaotic; some Germans attempted to surrender while others attack, so the call for no-quarter was given.


To the south, at the “Kidney Trench” (also named for its shape), the Australian commander and sergeant-major were killed. Lance-Corporal Thomas Axford led the attack with multiple grenades thrown, then stormed the German trench at bayonet point, killing 10 Germans and capturing 6 others, before the trench was finally taken. At the actual village of Hamel, the combined infantry/armor/artillery/planes proved effective as well. To the north, a feint attack succeeded in pulling German forces away from the main battle; it also captured parts of the German trench. The advance ended after 93 minutes, only 3 minutes longer than Monash’s calculations. Mopping-up operations had ended by 7am; British planes had taken pictures of the new front lines by 4:45am. The German counter-attack came the evening of July 5 at 10pm, forcing a gap of 200-yards between the Allies; an Allied counterattack four hours later with grenades and trench clubs pushed the shocked German troops back out. Altogether, the 7,000 Allies suffered 1,400 casualties, while the 5,600 German lost 2,000 killed, 1,600 captured.

“Jack” Axford, 1918


Henry Dalziel, with bandage visible under his hat, 1918

On July 6, US President Woodrow Wilson agreed to send 5,000 US troops to Siberia to assist the Russian Imperial government and provide relief to the Czechoslovak Legion. The US Navy is also conducting mining operations in the North Sea to hinder German submarine movements.


View west from the German trench towards Hamel and beyond. The German front line had originally been at the crest of the hill in the mid-distance; the trench in the foreground became 200-yards BEHIND the new front line after the battle (the front line is now behind the photographer)


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