Dr David Coombes is a ...
In April-May 1917 the sleepy hamlet of Bullecourt in northern France became the focus of two battles involving Australian and British troops. Given the unique place in this nation’s military history that both battles occupy, surprisingly little has been written on the AIF’s achievements at Bullecourt. A Greater Sum of Sorrow seeks to remedy this gaping omission.
The First Battle of Bullecourt marked the Australians’ introduction to the latest battlefield weapon — the tank. This much-lauded weapon failed dismally amid enormous casualties. Despite this, two infantry brigades from the 4th Australian Division captured parts of the formidable Hindenburg Line with minimal artillery and tank support, repulsing German counter-attacks until forced to withdraw.
In the second battle, launched with a preliminary artillery barrage, more Australian divisions were forced into the Bullecourt ‘meat-grinder’ and casualties soared to over 7000. Again Australian soldiers fought hard to capture parts of the enemy line and hold them against savage counter-attacks.
Bullecourt became a charnel-house for the AIF. Many who had endured the nightmare of Pozières considered Bullecourt far worse. And for what? While Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig considered its capture ‘among the great achievements of the war’, the village that cost so many lives held no strategic value whatsoever.
A Greater Sum of Sorrow
If you are interested in AIF involvement in WW1, the book is a terrific account of the war in 1917, particularly the events leading up to the disasterous two battles at Bullecourt, the actual battles and the aftermarth. The autors coverage of the tactical and strategic situations situations is gripping (and upsetting), as is his coverage on leadership and politics. The book would be better for an index to the photographs, and more detail behind some of the comments regarding personalities and history, e.g referring to Australian involvement in both battles, and its contribution to the outcome, "little has been written...considering the myth that has evolved around the Australian soldier in World War 1....." (Introduction P3) What myth? explain!
Attention to detail, authorative comments, and research are first class.
Book Review - "Frontline Journal" The RUSI VIC Newsletter by John Donovan
"This volume on the two Battles of Bullecourt, in early 1917, provides a useful companion to Dr David Coombes' earlier books on Sir Leslie Morshead, Sir JJ Talbot Hobbs and Australian prisoners of war during World War I....."
Books of Interest - Australian Defence Magazine, October 2016
"Historian David Coombes is on a mission to inform Australians about the involvement of its soldiers in WWI battles of Bullecourt, a village in northern France."
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