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Battle of Hamel still considered 'turning point'

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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Jul 2008 8:44    Onderwerp: Battle of Hamel still considered 'turning point' Reageer met quote

By Penny McLintock

Posted Fri Jul 4, 2008 3:22pm AEST
Updated Fri Jul 4, 2008 5:18pm AEST

Ninety years ago, Allied forces on the Western Front launched an all-arms battle against the Germans south of the River Somme.

The Battle of Hamel on July 4, 1918 lasted only 93 minutes but it was the turning point for Allied victory in World War I.

Led by Australian Corps commander Lieutenant General John Monash, three Australian infantry brigades (the 4th, 6th and 11th) along with British and American soldiers captured the village of Hamel near Amiens.

It was the first time the Allied forces coordinated an all-arms battle with tanks, aircraft, artillery and machine guns.

Historian Nigel Steel, from the Australian War Memorial, says the coordinated approach provided a model for larger offensives during August and September which ultimately lead to victory in November 1918.

"What you see over the course of 1916 and '17 and '18, is a very painful but positive learning process whereby all of these tactics [and] new weapons are brought to the field," he said.

"Hamel, certainly from the British and Commonwealth point of view, is the first time in which these all come together very very successfully."

Mr Steel says the battle represented a moment of realisation.

"The significance of Hamel rests not really in the size of the victory or the territory that it gained but in the fact that it showed how to fight a battle," he said.

"For the history of the First World War, pretty much Hamel stands at the top of the learning process.

"It represents the moment at which people realised how they were going to fight the battles.

"Through the conduct of that particular battle, people realised they were going to be able to do this on a larger scale and inflict greater damage which is what happened a month later at the beginning of August."

Well planned

The Battle of Hamel was aimed at straightening the front line and maintaining pressure on the Germans.

Mr Steel says it was a "short and sweet" battle because of Lieutenant General Monash's extensive planning.

"One of the things he did was he was insistent that everybody talk to each other and he introduced a very effective communication though a series of conferences so that everybody knew what everybody else was doing," he said.

"They all knew their part in the battle and when he got it going he was able to bring them all to play at the same time.

"It was a relatively compact battle and given the size of the bombardment which began - the fact that it was led forward by tanks and that the aircraft were an integral part of keeping the security of the battle field - meant that all of the objectives that the Australians were aiming for were taken extremely quickly."

The Australians suffered about 1,400 casualties during the battle.
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