Yesterday an Australian First World War bayonet from the French battlefields of Pozières was presented to the citizens of South Australia at a poignant ceremony at the City of Unley Soldiers Memorial Garden, presided over by Unley Mayor, Lachlan Clyne.
Presented by Barry Gracey, President of the Pozières Remembrance Association, on behalf of the Mayor Bernard Delattre and citizens of Pozières, the framed Bayonet was officially accepted by the Hon Martin Hamilton-smith MP, Minister for Veterans Affairs.
Dignitaries at the ceremony held in the rotunda included Dr Duncan McFetridge MP, Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Sir Eric Neal, former governor of South Australia and chairman of the Veterans Advisory Council, and Sue Crafter, Honorary Consul of France in Adelaide. Other guests included descendants of South Australian servicemen who fought at Pozières.
The village of Pozières in northern France was close to a sought after ridge in the centre of the Somme battlefield. The two week struggle to gain this important German defensive position took place between 23 July and 7 August 1916. Although British divisions were involved, it is remembered largely as an Australian battle, and a bitter and costly one. Three Australian divisions suffered over 20,000 casualties in a few weeks, comparable to those sustained by Australians over eight months at Gallipoli in 1915. Official Australian historian Charles Bean said of the Pozières ridge it ‘is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth’.
South Australian soldiers served in the 10th, 27th and 50th Battalions and in the combined 12th, 16th and 52nd Battalions. It was fitting that the ceremony took place in Unley, the home of ‘Unley’s Own’ the 27th Battalion, which had been led by the then Mayor of Unley, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Dollman. Over 800 South Australians were lost in the Battle of Pozières. The Battle also witnessed much bravery including the awarding of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy, to two South Australians: Arthur Blackburn of the 10th and John Leak of the 9th Battalions, both in their early 20s.