Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front
France, 8 August to 3 September 1916
Mouquet Farm, situated about 1 kilometre north-west of the heights behind the village of Pozieres (q.v), between 8 August and 3 September 1916 became the focus of nine separate attacks by the three Australian divisions of 1 Anzac Corps. The purpose of these operations was to extend British control of the ridge extending from Pozieres towards the ruined town of Thiepval, with the aim of driving a wedge behind the salient held by the Germans there.
The 4th Division under Major-General Sir Herbert Cox - having relieved the 2nd on 6-7 August - was the first to press the advance in this direction. After a week of constant attacking the line had been carried forward to the fringe of the farm. The toll upon the 4th Division due largely to incessant German shelling, however, had been 4,649 casualties and it was replaced by the 1st Division (Major-General Harold Walker). Restored to only two-thirds its normal strength after losses at Pozieres, this formation could make only very small gains and on 22 August - having lost another 2,650 men-it again handed over to the 2nd Division (Major-General Gordon Legge). A dawn attack launched on 26 August actually succeeded in reaching the farm, but with this success came the discovery of deep shelters which were now filled by troops of the German Guard Reserve Corps. The Australians could not hold their gains and were pushed out again.
After the 2nd Division had suffered another 1,268 casualties, the 4th Division was brought back again and made further attacks on the nights of 27 and 29 August. The second of these again occupied the farm, but the attackers' strength was insufficient to cope with the counter-attacks. This achievement was repeated on 3 September, but after fierce fighting the objective was again lost. At a cost of another 2,409 casualties the 4th Division had extended the gains in this sector as far as they could be achieved. As a result Mouquet Farm was practically half-surrounded on its north-eastern face, but the place was still in enemy hands when the I Anzac Corps was withdrawn from the Somme on 5 September. It did not finally fall until a further three weeks-after British forces had swept past in a wider offensive and left it as an isolated outpost. The 11,000 Australian casualties sustained in battling for this objective meant that in just six weeks since entering the Somme front, I Anzac Corps losses had reached 23,000 (of whom 6,741 had been killed) - which was broadly comparable to the toll sustained by the AIF in the eight-month Gallipoli campaign.
Mouquet Farm was commonly known in English as Moo-Cow farm.
The three photographs used in this article are taken from the same perspective. The second photograph is taken about half a kilometre from the farm buildings illustrated in the first photograph while the third is taken from roughly the same place as the second photograph.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 117-118.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
C.E.W. Bean, (1929), The Australian Imperial Force in France 1916, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Further Reading:Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920
Citation: Mouquet Farm, France, August 8 to September 3, 1916