army of war

An aerial view of the battlefield of Fromelles, showing the German trenches captured by the 5th Australian Division. The third line of German “trenches” turned out to be nothing more than a water filled ditch and the second line trenches were also partially filled with water.

( Part of the German front line after the Battle of Fromelles 20 July 1916)

The attack was made with full knowledge of the German forces in the area and was beset by problems from the corps level down. The Australian and British divisions used in the attack were neither prepared (the Australians having only arrived in France weeks earlier) nor supported well enough to succeed and the entire operation was meant to be only a feint to draw reserves away from the Somme battles further south. 
Over the night of 19-20 July the Australian 5th Division took 5,500 casualties, more than the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam combined. Several battalions suffered so many casualties that they effectively ceased to exist and had to be rebuilt from scratch. Of 887 personnel from the 60th Battalion, only one officer and 106 other ranks survived unwounded, the 32nd Battalion suffered 718 casualties and the 31st Battalion took 544 casualties. It took a full year before the division was back up to strength.

(Remnants of shell and bullet-torn kits of troops of the 5th Australian Division who were killed in the unsuccessful attack at Fromelles on 19 July 1916.)

The poor planning by the corps commander Haking, bad communication with the British 61st Division and mistakes by the Australian divisional commander McCay along with inexperienced Australian troops and an under-strength and demoralised British division led to a situation in which chances of success were vanishingly small.

The fallout from the battle in Australia was vicious when it was reported by GHQ that “Yesterday evening, south of Armentières, we carried out some important raids on a front of two miles in which Australian troops took part. About 140 German prisoners were captured.” 
Compounded by the apparent failure of the 61st Division to get forward and Haking’s poor planning this damaged Australian faith in both British troops and British command.

Today (06.06.17) marks the 73rd anniversary of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.

3

Centrefire Semi-Automatic Pistol with Stock from Germany dated about 1899 on display at the Royal Armouries in Leeds

The Mauser C96 “Broomhandle” had become very fashionable and the Mauser was most advanced and expensive. Such weapons were used by the Boers in South Africa, this one being seized by the Royal Scots Fusiliers.  The wooden holster-stock has been carved with ’R.S. Fusiliers, Boer War, 1899-1900-01-02’ set around a South African Republic coin.

The coin is the Krugerrand named after the man on it, Paul Kruger the third President of the South African Republic and famous for his opposition to the British Empire during the Second Boer War. He was a controversial figure not just for fighting the Empire but also for his treatment of Black Africans in the Republic