In 1916, one million men fought in the first battle of the Somme. Victory hinged on their ability to capture a small village called Pozières, perched on the highest ridge of the battlefield. After five attempts to seize it, the British called in the Anzacs to complete this seemingly impossible task. At midnight on 23 July 1916, thousands of Australians stormed and took Pozières. Forty-five days later they were relieved, having suffered 23,000 casualties to gain a few miles of barren, lunar landscape. Despite the toll, the capture of Pozières was heralded as a stunning tactical victory. Yet for the exhausted survivors, the war-weary public, and the families of the dead and maimed, victory came at such terrible cost it seemed indistinguishable from defeat.
The Nameless Names
‘On the Somme, on a quiet hill just outside Villers-Bretonneux, is the Australian National Memorial; its panels record 10,738 Australian soldiers missing in action over three years of fighting in that region. The Menin Gate records the 6,000 Australian soldiers missing in Belgium. In Turkey, the Lone Pine Memorial records the names of 4,900 Australian and New Zealand soldiers missing in the Gallipoli campaign…The Great War for Civilisation brutally erased them: dismembered by shellfire, buried without proper identification, shovelled into unmarked graves, or left to rot in no man’s land. They were consigned to a suspended state — no name, no body, no burial, no mourning — entombed in uncertainty.’
Scott Bennet’s new book explores how three Australian families learned to accept and live with their grief.
Rights to both books: World: Scribe at http://www.scribepublications.com.au/