Polygon Wood (World War 1, 26 September 1917 to 3 October 1917)

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About This Campaign


Polygon Wood 26 Sep 1917

The battle of Polygon Wood was the I ANZAC component of a larger British and Dominion operation staged as part of the third battle of Ypres. This operation was the second of the "Plumer battles", a serious of well-planned, limited advances supported by large volumes of artillery, masterminded by the British general Herbert Plumer.  He advocated and executed what was described as "Bite and Hold" tactics which were very successful in countering the tendency of British attacks to over-reach and become vulnerable to German counter-attack. The name "Polygon Wood" derived from a young plantation forest that lay along I ANZAC's axis of advance, the western extremity of which had been reached in the earlier Battle of Menin Road.


Right Assault Division I ANZAC Corps


Scheduled to begin on 26 September 1917, the operation was almost derailed by a German attack on the British X Corps to the south of I ANZAC. A day earlier, Australian troops of the 15th Brigade, preparing for their attack, took part in fending off the Germans; however, their advance the next day began with continuing uncertainty as to the security of their flank.

The British and Dominion advance began on schedule at 5.50 am on the 26th, with the 4th and 5th Divisions, on the left and right respectively, taking the lead in the I ANZAC sector. The infantry advanced behind a heavy artillery barrage - the noise of this was compared to a roaring bushfire - and they secured most of their objectives without difficulty. To the south, the 15th Brigade, which after its efforts the previous day had been reinforced by two battalions from the 8th, secured not only its own objectives but those allocated to the neighbouring 98th British Brigade. The Germans launched several counter-attacks but these were thwarted by the heavy defensive artillery barrages used to protect the infantry consolidating on their objectives; this was a feature of the Plumer battles. The battle cost 5,770 Australian casualties.



Private A.V. Barber wrote:

Slowly we advance, keeping behind the creeping barrage, which churns up the whole country. The red flashes of bursting shells mark its progress. The men advance, not altogether as on parade, but sections grouped. As the creeping barrage reaches the first line of enemy trenches, the standing barrage lifts and falls on his support trenches, while the creeping barrage maintains its rate of 100 yards to the minute. As we approach the enemy’s front line, those who have survived that hell come running towards us, all their equipment gone, hands above their heads, crying “Kamerad!” Hastily they are grouped together, put in charge of one of our chaps and sent off to the rear. The front line simply doesn’t exist as a trench. Recognisable mostly by arms and legs showing above the surface, we can just make out its position.’ 5

Thanks to Neville Browning for sourcing this quote

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Showing 7 people of interest from campaign

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CROSSMAN, William Reeves

Service number 2394
59th Infantry Battalion
Born 1883

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CLOUSTON, Edgar Boyd

Service number 6222
4th Machine Gun Company
Born 21 Sep 1895

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Service number 2707A
49th Infantry Battalion
Born 4 Sep 1890

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COTTERELL, Frederick James

Service number 45
55th Infantry Battalion
Born 12 Jun 1889

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MCDOUGALL, Norman Finley

Service number 2874
59th Infantry Battalion
Born Feb 1888

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WILLIAMS, Frederick James

Service number 3640
57th Infantry Battalion
Born 1893

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SLAPE, Francis William

Service number 3479
50th Infantry Battalion
Born Jun 1898

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