Remembering Hamel

ONE hundred years ago, a 93-minute battle was fought during the First World War on the Western Front, heralded as one of Australia’s greatest military achievements and is still considered a masterpiece of logistics and combined arms warfare.

Gippsland MHR and federal Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester represented the Australian government at a commemorative service in Le Hamel, France last week, along with Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Lynne Cosgrove, and French Secretary of State under the Minister of the Armed Forces, Genevieve Darrieussecq.

“Today marks the centenary of the Battle of Hamel, one in a series of battles after the German Spring Offensive had been halted at nearby Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918,” Mr Chester said.

“The Battle of Hamel was a turning point in the First World War and the first time Australia fought alongside our American allies. We have fought together in every major conflict since.

“Seeking an opportunity to straighten the line north-east of Villers-Bretonneux, then Lieutenant General John Monash, in what would be his first battle as Australian Corps commander, decided to launch an attack on the Germans at Le Hamel.

“Monash meticulously planned the attack, consolidating the strategies used in previous battles by the British Expeditionary Force, and coordinated infantry, artillery, armour and aircraft in a way that had not been done before.

“The Allies achieved all of their objectives in 93 minutes, just three minutes longer than Monash had planned, with a relatively small number of casualties when compared with other battles on the Western Front.

“In all, some 1200 Australians and more than 170 Americans were killed or wounded, while German casualties were more than 2000 and some 1600 were taken prisoner.”

Mr Chester said that many view the Battle of Hamel as the forerunner of the successful Allied battles leading to the end of World War 1.