Villers-Bretonneux re-taken: a century ago

Gouache by A. Forestier

24, 25 April, 1918

A bloody, senseless slaughter, with superior tank support, had left the town occupied by a German Spring Offensive.  Foch and Rawlinson ordered the town to be re-taken. This meant a night attack (zero hour, 10 pm) against fortified enemy positions, including machine guns.

Tanks for the memories

The Australian 13th and 15th Brigades struck, using bayonets like stilettos, the so-called ‘peaceful penetrations,’ and despite being well-outnumbered and incurring heavy losses, took Villers-Bretonneux.  It was a charnel house, but the objective was achieved, within the ambit of Clausewitz’s dictum to ensure that the gain should always outweigh its cost.

The allied forces held on to this strategic town till the end of the War. Some Australians remain there of course…they stay, with the rest, at least, in the hearts of the locals.


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