Rare Footage of Australian WW1 Soliders
Australian Screen Online has just released rare footage of Australian WW1 soliders at the 1916 Battle of Pozieres. Over three clips, which runs for more than 10 minutes, have just been released in collaboration with the Australian War Memorial.
In Part 1, ‘Rehearsing for war’, the Australian Prime Minister, Mr WM Hughes, poses for the camera and Australian WW1 soliders are shown building trenches and preparing for battle in Pozieres. While at rest, Australian WW1 soliders build practice trenches using sandbags. At a trench training range, they rehearse for the coming attacks, using smoke bombs for cover. Near Armentières, West Australians of the 11th Battalion march up on duckboards, laid to traverse the mud.
Part 2, ‘Shells, shells, and more shells’, shows Australian WW1 soliders occupying old German trenches, enjoying the sunshine and waving at the camera as they await orders to move. They house some of their horses in old shell holes made by British guns. British Field Artillery moves up behind horse teams. British 8-inch howitzers are now pounding Pozières. the French village had been laid to waste during the two-week battle.
Part 3, ‘The shelling of Pozières ridge’, is a clip of British howitzers shelling German positions and Australian field guns joining the bombardment. They keep up a constant rain of shells on the German positions on the ridge. Horse-drawn limbers and mules bring up more shells and water along dusty roads. The Germans retaliate with shrapnel, which explodes in the air above the Australian lines. Australians go forward through the tiny village of Contalmaison, almost destroyed by shelling.
Paul Byrnes, a journalist and curator at the National Film and Sound Archive, says the film was the first attempt to make an Australian war documentary.