Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
France, 10-12 August 1918
Proyart, an action which took place on 10-12 August 1918, was mounted by the 3rd Australian Division under Major-General John Gellibrand as a counterpart to the operation against the Etinehem 'peninsula' (q.v.). At the same time as Monash formed a column to clear the northern bank of the Somme River, he tasked the 10th Brigade (Brig.-General Walter McNicoll) with launching an easterly night movement on the opposite bank, travelling along a Roman road past Proyart with orders to then swing in to the river towards Chuignolles. The intention was to entrap the Germans within an enclave containing Méricourt, before the 3rd Division's other brigades set to 'mopping up' this area.
McNicoll's column was also assisted by tanks-six of them, from the 8th Tank Battalion-but in this case it was not made clear that their role was to overawe and panic the enemy. The column was bombed by an enemy aircraft soon after 10 p.m., then fiercely engaged by German machine-guns which totally disorganised the lead battalion and caused casualties to a quarter of its strength, so that a withdrawal became necessary before daylight arrived and left what remained of the force dangerously exposed.
During the next day Gellibrand decided to push forward his 11th Brigade during the night of 11-12 August with the object of sealing the mouth of the Méricourt 'peninsula' formed on the south side of the looping river. This effort resulted in some 350 prisoners being taken, at a cost of 74 Australian casualties. Having achieved this much, during the daylight hours of the 12th Gellibrand set to 'nibbling' his way up to and through Proyart using patrols. Beyond the village the troops began encountering strong enemy forces, these being seen to receive considerable reinforcement about 6 p.m. Although counter-attacked, the Australians held their newly acquired ground.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 154-155.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Citation: Proyart, France, August 10 to 12, 1918