Honour Monash - A great Australian
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|The Battle of Le Hamel||
The Story of the Le Hamel Offensive by General Sir John Monash, written in 1919.
[It was early June 1918 when we pick Monash's narrative, Australian troops had been defending the line forward (to the east) of Amiens for two months.]
The defensive attitude which the situation thus forced upon us did not for long suit the present temper of the Australian troops, and I sought for a promising enterprise on which again to test their offensive power, on a scale larger than we had yet attempted in the year's campaign. There had been no Allied offensive, of any appreciable size, on any of our fronts, in any of the many theatres of war, since the close of the Passchendaele fighting in the autumn of 1917.
It was high time that the anxiety and nervousness of the public, at the sinister encroachments of the enemy upon regions which he had never previously trodden, should be allayed by a demonstration that there was still some kick left in the British Army. It was high time, too, that some Commanders on our side of No Man's Land should begin to "think offensively", and cease to look over their shoulders in order to estimate how far it still was to the coast.
I was ambitious that any such kick should be administered, first, at any rate, by the Australians. A visit which I was privileged to pay to General Elles, Commander of the Tank Corps, when he gave me a demonstration of the capacities of the newer types of Tanks, only confirmed me in this ambition. Finally, the Hamel re-entrant had for two months been, as I have already explained, a source of annoyance and anxiety to me. It was for these reasons that I resolved to propose an operation for the recapture of Hamel, conditional upon being supplied with the assistance of Tanks, a small increase of my Artillery and an addition to my air resources.
I thereupon set about preparing a general plan for such a battle, which was to be my first Corps operation. Having mentioned the matter first verbally to Lord Rawlinson, he requested me to submit a concrete proposal in writing. The communication is here reproduced, and will serve to convey an idea of the complexities involved in even so relatively small an undertaking
Australian Corps, 21 June 1918
1. With reference to my proposal for an offensive operation on the front of the A and B Divisions of this Corps, with a view to the capture of HAMEL Village and VAIRE and HAMEL WOOD, etc., the accompanying map shows, in blue, the proposed ultimate objective line. This line has been chosen as representing the minimum operation that would appear to be worth undertaking, while offering a prospect of substantial advantages.
2. These advantages may be briefly summarised thus: (a) Straightening of our line.
(b) Shortening of our line.
(c) Deepening our forward defensive zone, particularly east of Hill 104.
(d) Improvement of jumping-off position for future operations.
(e) Advancement of our artillery, south of the SOMME.
(f) Denial to enemy of observation of ground near VAUX SUR-SOMME, valuable for battery positions.
(g) Facilitating subsequent further minor advances north of the SOMME.
(h) Disorganisation of enemy defences.
(i) Disorganisation of possible enemy offensive preparations.
(j) Inflicting losses on enemy personnel and material.
(k) Improvement of our observation.
(l) Maintenance of our initiative on this Corps front.
3. The disadvantages are those arising from the necessity of bringing into rapid existence a new defensive system on a frontage of 6500 metres and also the particular incidence, at the present juncture, of the inevitable losses, small or large, of such an operation in this Corps.
4. In view of the unsatisfactory position of Australian reinforcements, any substantial losses would precipitate the time when the question of the reduction in the number of Australian Divisions would have to be seriously considered. It is for higher authority to decide whether a portion of the present resources in Australian manpower in this Corps would be more profitably ventured upon such an operation as this, which is in itself a very attractive proposition, rather than to conserve such resources for employment elsewhere.
5. Detailed plans can only be prepared after I have had conferences with representatives of all Arms and Services involved, but the following proposals are submitted as the basis of further elaboration:
(a) The operation will be primarily a Tank operation - at least one and preferably two Battalions of Tanks to be employed. (b) The whole battlefront will be placed temporarily under command of one Divisional Commander - by a temporary readjustment of inter-Divisional boundaries.
(c) The infantry employed will comprise one Division plus a Brigade, i.e., 4 Infantry Brigades, totalling, say, 7500 bayonets; about one-half of this force to be employed in the advance and the other half to hold our present front defensively, raking over the captured territory within 48 hours after Zero ["Zero" refers to the day and hour, not yet determined, on which the battle is to begin.].
(d) The action will be designed on lines to permit of the Tanks effecting the capture of the ground; the roles of the Infantry following the Tanks will be:
(i) to assist in reducing strong points and localities.
(ii) to "mop up".
(iii) to consolidate the ground captured.
(e) Apart from neutralising all enemy artillery likely to engage our troops, our artillery will be employed to keep under fire enemy centres of resistance and selected targets - in front of the advance of the Tanks. Artillery detailed for close targets will work on a prearranged and detailed timetable which will be adjusted to the timetable of the Tank and Infantry advance. Sufficient "silent" field artillery supplied before the battle should be emplaced in advanced positions, to ensure an effective protective barrage to cover consolidation on the blue line," and to engage all localities from which enemy counter-attacks can be launched. It is estimated that, in addition to the resources of the Corps, four Field Artillery Brigades will be required for, say, four days in all.
(f) Engineer stores in sufficient quantities to provide for the complete organisation of the new defences will require to be dumped beforehand as far forward as practicable.
(g) No additional machine guns, outside of Corps resources, will be required.
(h) Contact and counter-attack planes and low-flying bombing planes prior to and during advance must be arranged for.
(i) Artillery and mortar smoke to screen the operations from view of all ground north of the Somme in the SAILLY LAURETTE locality are required.
6. As to the date of the operations, the necessary preparations will occupy at least seven days after authority to proceed has been given. As an inter-Divisional relief is planned to occur on June 28th-29th and 29th-30th, it would seem that this operation cannot take place earlier than the first week in July. The postponement of this relief would not be desirable for several reasons.
7. Valuable training in the joint action of Tanks and Infantry can be arranged, probably in the territory west of the HALLUE Valley provided that one or two Tank Companies can be detached for such a purpose. Thorough liaison prior to and during the operation between all Tank and all Infantry Commanders would have to be a special feature. For this reason only Infantry units not in the line can be considered as available to undergo the necessary preparation.
(Sgd.) JOHN MONASH Lieutenant General.
Cmdg. Australian Corps.
Approval to these proposals was given without delay; the additional resources were promised, and preparations for the battle were immediately put in hand. As I hope, in a later context, to attempt to describe the evolution of a battle plan, and the comprehensive measures which are associated with such an enterprise, it will not be necessary to do so here.
It was the straightening of the Corps front, as an essential preliminary to any offensive operations on a still larger scale, to be undertaken when the opportune moment should arrive, that made the Hamel proposal tactically attractive; it was the availability of an improved type of Tank that gave it promise of success, without pledging important resources, or risking serious losses.
The new Mark V. Tank had not previously been employed in battle. It marked a great advance upon the earlier types. The epicyclic gearing with which it was now furnished, the greater power of its engines, the improved balance of its whole design gave it increased mobility, facility in turning and immunity from foundering in ground even of the most broken and uneven character. It could be driven and steered by one man, where it previously took four; and it rarely suffered suspended animation from engine trouble.
But, above all, the men of the Tank Corps had, by the training which they had undergone, and by the spirited leadership of Generals Elles, Courage, Hankey and other Tank Commanders, achieved a higher standard of skill, enterprise and morale; they were now, more than ever, on their mettle to uphold the prestige of the Tank Corps.
All the same, the Tanks had become anathema to the Australian troops. For, at Bullecourt more than a year before, they had failed badly, and had "let down" the gallant Infantry, who suffered heavily in consequence; a failure due partly to the mechanical defects of the Tanks of those days, partly to the inexperience of the crews, and partly to indifferent staff arrangements, in the co-ordination of the combined action of the Infantry and the Tanks.
It was not an easy problem to restore to the Australian soldier his lost confidence, or to teach him the sympathetic dependence upon the due performance by the Tanks of the roles to be allotted to them, which was essential to a complete utilisation of the possibilities which were now opening up. That the Tanks, appropriately utilised, were destined to exert a paramount influence upon the course of the war was apparent to those who could envisage the future.
This problem was intensified because the battalions of the Fourth Division who were to carry out the Infantry tasks at Hamel were the very units who had undergone that unfortunate experience at Bullecourt. But, on the principle of restoring the nerves of the unseated rider by remounting him to continue the hunt, it was especially important to wean the Fourth Division from their prejudices.
Battalion after battalion of the 4th, 6th and 11th Brigades of Infantry was brought by bus to Vaux, a little village tucked away in a quiet valley, north-west of Amiens, there to spend the day at play with the Tanks. The Tanks kept open house, and, in the intervals of more formal rehearsals of tactical schemes of attack, the Infantry were taken over the field for "joy rides", were allowed to clamber all over the monsters, inside and out, and even to help to drive them and put them through their paces. Platoon and Company leaders met dozen of Tank officers face to face, and they arzued each other to a standstill upon every aspect that arose.
The larger questions relating to the employment of the Tanks at the battle of Hamel having been disposed of, the remaining arrangements for the battle presented few novel aspects. Their manner of execution, however, brought into prominence some features which became fundamental doctrines in the Australian Corps then and thereafter.
Although complete written orders were invariably prepared and issued by a General Staff whose skill and industry left nothing to be desired, very great importance was attached to the holding of conferences, at which were assembled every one of the Senior Commanders and heads of Departments concerned in the impending operation. At these I personally explained every detail of the plan, and assured myself that all present applied an identical interpretation to all orders that had been issued.
Questions were invited; difficulties were cleared up; and the conflicting views of the different services on matters of technical detail were ventilated. The points brought to an issue were invariably decided on the spot. The battle plan having been thus crystallised, no subsequent alterations were permissible, under any circumstances, no matter how tempting. This fixity of plan engendered a confidence throughout the whole command which facilitated the work of every Commander and Staff Officer. It obviated the vicious habit of postponing action until the last possible moment, lest counter orders should necessitate some alternative action. It was a powerful factor in the gaining of time, usually all too short for the extensive preparations necessary.
The final Corps Conference for the battle of Hamel was held at Bertangles on 30 June, and the date of the battle itself was fixed for 4 July. This selection was prompted partly by the desire to allow ample time for the completion of all arrangements; but there were also sentimental grounds, because this was the anniversary of the American national holiday, and a considerable contingent of the United States Army was to co-operate in the fight.
For some weeks previously the 33rd American Division, under Major-General John Bell, had been training in the Fourth Army area, and its several regiments had been distributed, for training and trench experience, to the Australian and the III. Corps. I had applied to the Fourth Army and had received approval to employ in the battle a contingent equivalent in strength to two British battalions, or a total of about 2000 men, organised in eight companies. The very proper condition was attached, however, that these Americans should not be split up and scattered individually among the Australians, but should fight at least as complete platoons, under their own platoon leaders.
All went well until three days before the appointed date, when General Rawlinson conveyed to me the instruction that, the matter having been reconsidered, only 1000 Americans were to be used. Strongly averse, as I was, from embarrassing the Infantry plans of General Madagan, to whom I had entrusted the conduct of the actual assault, it was not then too late to rearrange the distribution.
The four companies of United States troops who, under this decision, had to be withdrawn were loud in their lamentations, but the remaining four companies were distributed by platoons among the troops of the three Australian Brigades who were to carry out the attack - each American platoon being assigned a definite place in the line of battle. The dispositions of the main body of Australian infantry were based upon this arrangement.
In the meantime, somewhere in the upper realms of high control, a discussion must have been going on as to the propriety of after all allowing any American troops at all to participate in the forthcoming operations. Whether the objections were founded upon policy, or upon an underestimate of the fitness of these troops for offensive fighting, I have never been able to ascertain; but, to my consternation, I received, about four o'clock on the afternoon of July 3rd, a telephone message from Lord Rawlinson to the effect that it had now been decided that no American troops were to be used the next day.
I was, at the moment, while on my daily round of visits to Divisions and Brigades, at the Headquarters of the Third Division, at Glisy, and far from my own station. I could only request that the Army Commander might be so good as to come at once to the forward area and meet me at Bussy-les-Daours, the Headquarters of Madagan - he being the Commander immediately affected by this proposed change of plan. In due course we all met at five o'clock, Rawlinson being accompanied by Montgomery, his Chief-of-Staff.
It was a meeting full of tense situations - and of grave import. At that moment of time, the whole of the infantry destined for the assault at dawn next morning, including those very Americans, was already well on its way to its battle stations; the Artillery was in the act of dissolving its defensive organisation with a view to moving forward into its battle emplacements as soon as dusk should fall; I well knew that even if orders could still with certainty reach the battalions concerned, the withdrawal of those Americans would result in untold confusion and in dangerous gaps in our line of battle.
Even had I been ready to risk the success of the battle by going ahead without them, I could not afford to take the further risk of the occurrence of something in the nature of an "international incident" between the troops concerned, whose respective points of view about the resulting situation could be readily surmised. So I resolved to take a firm stand and press my views as strongly as I dared; for even a Corps Commander must use circumspection when presuming to argue with an Army Commander.
However, disguised in the best diplomatic language that I was able to command, my representations amounted to this: firstly, that it was already too late to carry out the order; secondly, that the battle would have to go on either with the Americans participating, or not at all; thirdly, that unless I were expressly ordered to abandon the battle, I intended to go on as originally planned; and lastly, that unless I received such a cancellation order before 6.30 p.m. it would in any case be too late to stop the battle, the preliminary phases of which were just on the point of beginning.
As always, Lord Rawlinson's charming and sympathetic personality made it easy to lay my whole case before him. He was good enough to say that while he entirely agreed with me, he felt himself bound by the terms of a clear order from the Commander-in-Chief. My last resource, then, was to urge the argument that I felt perfectly sure that the Commander-in-Chief when giving such an order could not have had present to his mind the probability that compliance with it meant the abandonment of the battle, and that, under the circumstances, it was competent for the senior Commander on the spot to act in the light of the situation as known to him, even to the extent of disobeying an order.
Rawlinson agreed that this view was correct provided the Commander-in-Chief was not accessible for reference. Repeated attempts to raise General Headquarters from Bussy eventually elicited the information that the Field Marshal was then actually on his way from Versailles, and expected to arrive in half an hour. Thereupon Rawlinson promised a decision by 6.30, and we separated to rejoin our respective Headquarters.
In due course, the Army Commander telephoned that he had succeeded in speaking to the Field Marshal, who explained that he had directed the withdrawal of the Americans in deference to the wish of General Pershing, but that, as matters stood, he now wished everything to go on as originally planned. And so - the crisis passed as suddenly as it had appeared. For, to me it had taken the form of a very serious crisis, feeling confident as I did of the success of the forthcoming battle, and of the far-reaching consequences which would be certain to follow.
It appeared to me at the time that great issues had hung for an hour or so upon the chance of my being able to carry my point.
An interesting episode, intimately bound up with the story of this battle, was the visit to the Corps area on 2 July 1918 of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, Mr W.M. Hughes, and Sir Joseph Cook, the Minister of the Navy. They arrived all unconscious of the impending enterprise, but only by taking them fully into my confidence could I justify my evident preoccupation with other business of first-class importance. Most readily, however, did they accommodate themselves to the exigencies of the situation.
Both Ministers accompanied me that afternoon on a tour of inspection of the eight battalions who were then already parading in full battle array, and on the point of moving off to the assembly positions from which next day they would march into battle. The stirring addresses delivered to the men by both Ministers did much to hearten and stimulate them. As they were on their way to an Inter-Allied War Council at Versailles, the personal contact of the Ministers with the actual battle preparations had the subsequent result of focussing upon the outcome of the battle a good deal of interest on the part of the whole War Council.
The fixing of the exact moment for the opening of a battle has always been the subject of much controversy. As in many other matters, it becomes in the end the responsibility of one man to make the fatal decision. The Australians always favoured the break of day, as this gave them the protection of the hours of darkness for the assembly of the assaulting troops in battle order in our front trenches. But there must be at least sufficient light to see one's way for two hundred metres or so, otherwise direction is lost and confusion ensues.
The season of the year, the presence and altitude of the moon, the prospect of fog or ground mist, the state of the weather, and the nature and condition of the ground are all factors which affect the proper choice of the correct moment. To aid a decision, careful observations were usually made on three or four mornings preceding the chosen day. A new factor on this occasion was the strong appeal by the Tanks for an extra five minutes of dawning light, to ensure a true line of approach upon the allotted objective, whether a ruined village, or a thicket, or a field work.
The decision actually given by me was that "Zero" would be ten minutes past three, and every watch had been carefully synchronised to the second, to ensure simultaneous action. A perfected modern battle plan is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they perform are their respective musical phrases. Every individual unit must make its entry precisely at the proper moment, and play its phrase in the general harmony. The whole programme is controlled by an exact timetable, to which every infantryman, every heavy or light gun, every mortar and machine gun, every tank and aeroplane must respond with punctuality; otherwise there will be discords which will impair the success of the operation, and increase the cost of it.
The morning of 4 July was ushered in with a heavy ground mist. This impeded observation and made guidance difficult, but it greatly enhanced the surprise. The unexpected occurrence of this fog lessened the importance of the elaborate care which had been taken to introduce into the Artillery barrage a due percentage of smoke shell, and to form smoke screens by the use of mortars on the flanks of the attack. But the fog largely accounted for the cheap price at which the victory was bought.
No battle within my previous experience, not even Messines, passed off so smoothly, so exactly to timetable, or was so free from any kind of hitch. It was all over in ninety-three minutes. It was the perfection of team work. It attained all its objectives; and it yielded great results. The actual assault was delivered, from right to left, by two battalions of the 6th Brigade, three battalions of the 4th Brigade, and three battalions of the 11th Brigade. It was also part of the plan that advantage was taken by a battalion of the 15th Brigade to snatch from the enemy another slice of territory far away in the Ancre Valley, opposite Dernancourt, and so, by extending the battlefront, further to distract him.
The attack was a complete surprise, and swept without check across the whole of the doomed territory. Vaire and Hamel Woods fell to the 4th Brigade, while the 11th Brigade, with its allotted Tanks, speedily mastered Hamel Village itself. The selected objective line was reached in the times prescribed for its various parts, and was speedily consolidated. It gave us possession of the whole of the Hamel Valley, and landed us on the forward or eastern slope of the last ridge, from which the enemy had been able to overlook any of the country held by us.
Still more important results were that we gathered in no less than 1500 prisoners, and killed and disabled at least as many more, besides taking a great deal of booty, including two field guns, 26 mortars and 171 machine guns - at a cost to us of less than 800 casualties of all kinds, the great majority of whom were walking wounded. The Tanks fulfilled every expectation, and the suitability of the tactics employed was fully demonstrated. Of the 60 Tanks utilised, only 3 were disabled, and even these 3 were taken back to their rallying points under their own power the very next night. Their moral effect was also proved, and, with the exception of a few enemy machine-gun teams, who bravely stood their ground to the very last, most of the enemy encountered by the Tanks readily surrendered.
Shortly after the battle, G.H.Q. paid the Australian Corps the compliment of publishing to the whole British Army a General Staff brochure, containing the complete text of the orders, and a full and detailed description of the whole of the battle plans and preparations, with an official commentary upon them. The last paragraph of this document," which follows, expresses tersely the conclusions reached by our High Command:
1. The success of the attack was due:
(a) To the care and skill as regards every detail with which the plan was drawn up by the Corps, Division, Brigade and Battalion Staffs.
(b) The excellent co-operation between the infantry, machine gunners, artillery, tanks and RAF.
(c) The complete surprise of the enemy, resulting from the manner in which the operation had been kept secret up till zero hour.
(d) The precautions which were taken and successfully carried out by which no warning was given to the enemy by any previous activity which was not normal.
(e) The effective counter-battery work and accurate barrage.
(f) The skill and dash with which the tanks were handled, and the care taken over details in bringing them up to the starting line.
(g) Last, but most important of all, the skill, determination and fine fighting spirit of the infantry carrying out the attack.
Of the extent to which the tactical principles, and the methods of preparation which had been employed at Hamel, came to be utilised by other Corps in the later fighting of 1918 no reliable record is yet available to me. But within the Corps itself this comparatively small operation became the model for all enterprises of a similar character, which it afterwards fell to the lot of the Corps to carry out.
The operation was a small one, however, only by contrast with the events which followed, although not in comparison with some of the major operations which had preceded it - by reference to the number of troops engaged, although not to the extent of territory or booty captured. Although only eight Battalions ( or the equivalent of less than one Division) were committed in the actual assault, the territory recovered was more than four times that which was, in the pitched battles of 1917, customarily allotted as an objective to a single Division. The number of prisoners in relation to our own casualties was also far higher than had been the experience of previous years. Both of these new standards which had thus been set up may be regarded as flowing directly from the employment of the Tanks.
Among other aspects of this battle which are worthy of mention is the fact that it was the first occasion in the war that the American troops fought in an offensive battle. The contingent of them who joined us acquitted themselves most gallantly and were ever after received by the Australians as blood brothers - a fraternity which operated to great mutual advantage nearly three months later.
This was the first occasion, also, on which the experiment was made of using aeroplanes for the purpose of carrying and delivering small-arms ammunition. The "consolidation" of a newly captured territory implies, in its broadest sense, its organisation for defence against recapture. For such a purpose the most rapidly realisable expedient had been found to be the placing of a predetermined number of machine guns in previously chosen positions, arranged chequer-wise over the captured ground. According to such a plan, suitable localities were selected by an examination of the map and a specified number of Vickers machine-gun crews were specially told off for the duty of making, during the battle, by the most direct route, to the selected localities, there promptly digging in, and preparing to deal with any attempt on the part of the enemy to press a counter-attack.
The main difficulty affecting the use of machine guns is the maintenance for them of a regular and adequate supply of ammunition. Heretofore this function had to be performed by infantry ammunition carrying parties. It required two men to carry one ammunition box, holding a thousand rounds, which a machine gun in action could easily expend in less than five minutes. Those carrying parties had to travel probably not less than three to five kilometres in the double journey across the open, exposed both to view and fire. Casualties among ammunition carriers were always substantial.
It was therefore decided to attempt the distribution of this class of ammunition by aeroplane. Most of the machines of the Corps Squadron were fitted with bomb racks and releasing levers. It required no great ingenuity to adapt this gear for the carrying by each plane of two boxes of ammunition simultaneously, and to arrange for its release, by hand lever, at the appropriate time. It remained to determine, by experiment, the correct size and mode of attachment for a parachute for each box of ammunition, so that the box would descend from the air slowly, and reach the ground without severe impact.
It was Captain Wackett, of the Australian Flying Corps, who perfected these ideas, and who trained the pilots to put them into practice. Each machine-gun crew, upon reaching its appointed locality, spread upon the ground a large V-shaped canvas (V representing the word "Vickers") as an intimation to the air of their whereabouts, and that they needed ammunition. After a very little training, the air-pilots were able to drop this ammunition from a height of at least 300 metres to well within 100 metres of the appointed spot. In this way, at least 100,000 rounds of ammunition were successfully distributed during this battle, with obvious economy in lives and wounds. The method thus initiated became general during later months.
The Corps also put into practice, on this occasion, a stratagem which had frequently on a smaller scale been employed in connection with trench raids. Our Artillery was supplied with many different types of projectile, but among them were both gas shell and smoke shell. The latter were designed to create a very palpable smoke cloud, to be employed for the purpose of screening an assault, but were otherwise harmless. The former burst, on the other hand, with very little evolution of smoke, but with a pronounced and easily recognised smell, and their gas was very deadly.
My practice was, therefore, during the ordinary harassing fire in periods between offensive activities, always to fire both classes of shell together, so that the enemy became accustomed to the belief at the least that our smoke shells were invariably accompanied by gas shell, even if he did not believe that it was the smoke shell which alone gave out the warning smell. The effect upon him of either belief was, however, the same; for it compelled him in any case to put on his gas mask in order to protect himself from gas poisoning.
On the actual battle day, however, we fired smoke shell only, as we dared not vitiate the air through which our own men would shortly pass. But the enemy had no rapid means of becoming aware that we were firing only harmless smoke shell. He would, therefore, promptly don his gas mask, which would obscure his vision, hamper his freedom of action, and reduce his powers of resistance. On July 4th both the 4th and 11th Brigades accordingly took prisoner large numbers of men who were found actually wearing their gas masks. The stratagem had worked out exactly as planned.
The battle was over, and when the results were made known there followed the inevitable flow of congratulatory messages from superiors, and colleagues and friends, from all parts of the Front and from England. The following telegrams received from the Commonwealth Prime Minister were particularly gratifying:
On behalf of Prime Minister of Britain, and also of Prime Ministers of Canada, New Zealand and Newfoundland, attending VERSAILLES Council, I am commissioned to offer you our warmest congratulations upon brilliant success of Australian Forces under your command, and to say that the victory achieved by your Troops is worthy to rank with greatest achievements of Australian Armies.
My personal congratulations and those of the Government of Commonwealth on brilliant success of battle. Please convey to Officers and Men participating in attack warmest admiration of their valour and dash and manner in which they have maintained highest traditions of Australian Army. I am sure that achievement will have most considerable military and political effect upon Allies and neutrals, and will heighten morale of all Imperial Forces.
In company with Mr Lloyd George and General Rawlinson today saw several hundred of prisoners taken by Australian Troops in battle before Hamel. Rawlinson expressed to me the opinion that the operation was a brilliant piece of work. Please convey this to troops.
Taken from Monash - the Australian Victories in France 1918, Hutchinson & Co, London 1920. Photographs from the AWM collection and taken by the Webmaster in 2016/7. Location map courtesy Google. Measures converted to the current Australian metric system.