The Battle of Fromelles - until recently largely forgotten in the accounts of Australia's experiences in World War One - remains the single bloodiest day in terms of numbers of soldiers killed, wounded or missing, in Australia's military history. The battle now is also one of the most controversial military episodes in Australian history.
Unsurprisingly, Australians in the 21st Century find the loss of over 1,700 soldiers killed in one 24 hour period confronting. Inevitably, some have reacted by seeking to find individuals to blame or accusing authorities of a ‘cover up'. The commanders during the battle, especially the senior British commanders, are always a tempting target. Long dead and unable to defend themselves and clearly from a different age in which attitudes and social values are removed from our own, they are an easy target, especially to modern day critics who have never served in the military, let alone been in command of troops under enemy fire.
The battle for Fromelles was undoubtedly a tragedy – in the midst of a war which produced many such tragedies. Should anyone be blamed? Does finger pointing from the safety of 95 years distance add much to our understanding of the battle, the Western Front or the war itself? This book attempts to look at the battle, free from emotion, and place the course of events and the unfurling of the tragedy into its tactical, operational and strategic setting.
1. Prelude to a Disaster
2. The Strategic Setting
3. The Opposing Armies
4. Planning for Disaster: Why was the Battle of Fromelles Fought?
5. The Attack
6. The Attack Fails: The Germans counter-attack
Epilogue: Fromelles ninety-four years on