Australians battle Germans at Pozieres - HISTORY
Year
1916

Australians battle Germans at Pozieres

On July 26, 1916, during the epic Battle of the Somme, Australian troops taking part in their first offensive action on the Western Front battle the Germans at Pozieres, near the Somme River in France.

Divisions of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, known as ANZAC, which had previously served on the Gallipoli Peninsula during the ill-fated Allied invasion there in 1915, were given the objective of capturing Pozieres Ridge, an early goal set by the British army’s command for the ambitious Somme Offensive, which began on July 1, 1916. They began their attack late on the night of July 22, just two days after their arrival in the Somme region. The ANZAC divisions were aided in their advance by the British 48th Division, which launched a simultaneous attack to the west of Pozieres, towards the Germans’ left flank.

After the initial Allied bombardment, Australian troops moved forward under heavy fire, but were able to press ahead and capture the village of Pozieres itself within an hour. The attack’s main objective, Pozieres Ridge, was heavily defended by the Germans, who had used the week preceding the attack to reinforce their positions with a network of machine guns placed in shell holes in front of their lines.

The night of July 26-27 saw a 12-and-a-half-hour-long grenade battle between the Australians, with British support, and the Germans at Pozieres Ridge. The German army had produced multiple types of grenades by that point in World War I—including the Stielhandgranate (stick bomb), the Diskushandgranate (disc grenade), Eierhandgranate (hand grenade) and Kugelhandgranate (ball grenade, a popular type that could be thrown a great distance and that included a grenade dubbed the pineapple grenade by the British for its distinctive shape). For their part, the Allies launched some 15,000 Mills bombs—a weapon designed by William Mills and introduced in May 1915. A 1.25-pound grenade with a serrated exterior, the Mills bombs were designed to break into fragments upon detonation, inflicting the maximum amount of damage. Improved throughout the war, they quickly became the leading British grenade.

Pozieres Ridge finally fell to the Allies on August 4, 1916, after two weeks of exhausting and costly fighting, but the Germans remained in control elsewhere in the region. The Allied command—particularly British commander Sir Hubert Gough—came under heavy Australian criticism for continuing the offensive for such a long time at a high casualty rate, especially when combined with an earlier failed operation, based near Fromelles to the north of the Somme. Though brief, the attack at Fromelles resulted in 5,708 Australian casualties, including 4,000 dead, and an additional 400 prisoners taken by the Germans.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

FBI founded

On July 26, 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is born when U.S. Attorney General Charles Bonaparte orders a group of newly hired federal investigators to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch of the Department of Justice. One year later, the Office of the Chief ...read more

Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal

The Suez Crisis begins when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the British and French-owned Suez Canal.The Suez Canal, which connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas across Egypt, was completed by French engineers in 1869. For the next 87 years, it remained largely ...read more

Liberian independence proclaimed

The Republic of Liberia, formerly a colony of the American Colonization Society, declares its independence. Under pressure from Britain, the United States hesitantly accepted Liberian sovereignty, making the West African nation the first democratic republic in African history. A ...read more

Winston Churchill resigns

In the 11th hour of World War II, Winston Churchill is forced to resign as British prime minister following his party’s electoral defeat by the Labour Party. It was the first general election held in Britain in more than a decade. The same day, Clement Attlee, the Labour leader, ...read more

U.S. postal system established

On this day in 1775, the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general. Franklin (1706-1790) put in place the foundation for many aspects of today’s mail system. During early colonial times in the ...read more

United States freezes Japanese assets

On this day in 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt seizes all Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese occupation of French Indo-China.On July 24, Tokyo decided to strengthen its position in terms of its invasion of China by moving through Southeast ...read more

Bob Mathias wins second Olympic decathlon

On July 26, 1952, at the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland, American Bob Mathias wins his second straight gold medal in the Olympic decathlon.Bob Mathias was born on November 17, 1930, in Tulare, California. After a series of boyhood growth spurts left him underweight and anemic, ...read more

John Quincy Adams marries Louisa Johnson

On this day in 1797, future President John Quincy Adams, the son of second President John Adams, marries Louisa Johnson in London, England. Louisa was–and remains– the only foreign-born first lady of the United States. Louisa’s parents were English colonists living in Maryland ...read more

Officer Wyatt Earp fatally wounds cowboy

Attempting to preserve the peace in Dodge City, Assistant Marshal Wyatt Earp trades shots with a band of drunken cowboys, fatally wounding one of them.Although he ended up on the wrong side of the law later in life, as a young man Wyatt Earp’s most consistent occupation was as a ...read more

Entertainer Mick Jagger born

On this day in 1943, the musician, actor, film producer and Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger is born in Dartford, Kent, England.Raised in a middle-class English family, Michael Philip Jagger attended the London School of Economics but left without graduating in order to ...read more

Grasshoppers bring ruin to Midwest

On this day in 1931, a swarm of grasshoppers descends on crops throughout the American heartland, devastating millions of acres. Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, already in the midst of a bad drought, suffered tremendously from this disaster. Since the very beginning of ...read more

Real-life Psycho Ed Gein dies

On July 26, 1984, Ed Gein, a serial killer infamous for skinning human corpses, dies of complications from cancer in a Wisconsin prison at age 77. Gein served as the inspiration for writer Robert Bloch’s character Norman Bates in the 1959 novel “Psycho,” which in 1960 was turned ...read more

Truman signs the National Security Act

President Harry S. Truman signs the National Security Act, which becomes one of the most important pieces of Cold War legislation. The act established much of the bureaucratic framework for foreign policymaking for the next 40-plus years of the Cold War. By July 1947, the Cold ...read more