Military History

This Week in History | Week 12

By The Cove March 16, 2020

16 - 22 March


17 March 1917 | Battle of Bapaume.

Originally the objective for the first day of the Somme campaign, Bapaume was occupied by the 5th Division after fighting against the rearguards during the German retreat of early 1917.


18 March 1941 | First Australian forces arrive in Greece

The 6th Division arrived in Greece between 18 March and 12 April 1941, where they joined with a New Zealand and British force. On 6 April 1941, the Germans began their invasion of Greece with a total of 27 divisions.  After arriving in Greece, the Australians were transported north towards the Yugoslav border, where they took up defensive positions around the Florina Valley. During the fighting around Vevi that followed, troops from the 2/4th and 2/8th Infantry Battalions and the 2/3rd Field Regiment, from Brigadier George Vasey's 19th Brigade, fought against the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler brigade. Despite their efforts, the Allied force, together with Greek units, was unable to halt the rapid German advance down central Greece towards Athens. The Allies were outflanked by the Germans and by 27 April they were driven off the Greek mainland, with a final act of defiance being made around Porto Rafti. The division's casualties in Greece amounted to 320 killed, 494 wounded and 2,030 captured.


20 March 1916 | ANZAC Corps land in France

With Gallipoli behind them, the bulk of Australia's forces were now sent to France where the terrible fighting on the Western Front awaited.

In March 1916, the Australian Imperial Force arrived in France, and by July and August, the Australians were heavily involved on the Western Front. The 5th Division was the first to encounter the Germans on 19 July 1916 in a small but bloody engagement at Fromelles in Northern France. Shortly after, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions became embroiled in the Somme offensive at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In six weeks of operations, the Australian divisions suffered approximately 28 000 casualties. 


21 March 1918 | The Battle of the Somme (Operation Michael)

Operation Michael was a major German military offensive during the First World War that began the Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918. It was launched from the Hindenburg Line, in the vicinity of Saint-Quentin, France. Its goal was to break through the Allied (Entente) lines

and advance in a north-westerly direction to seize the Channel Ports, which supplied the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and to drive the BEF into the sea. Two days later, General Erich Ludendorff, the chief of the German General Staff, adjusted his plan and pushed for an offensive due west, along the whole of the British front north of the River Somme. This was designed to separate the French and British Armies before continuing with the original concept of pushing the BEF into the sea. The offensive ended at Villers-Bretonneux, to the east of the Allied communications centre at Amiens, where the Allies managed to halt the German advance; the German Army had suffered many casualties and was unable to maintain supplies to the advancing troops.



The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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