Military History

This Week In History | Week 32

By The Cove August 3, 2020

Week 32 | 03 - 09 August


03 August 1916 | Battle of Romani

The Battle of Romani, fought between 3 and 5 August 1916, finally put a stop to the Turkish threat to the Suez canal and marked the beginning of the British forces' drive out of Egypt and into Palestine. The British defences were sited in a series of towering sand dunes, 35 kilometres east of the canal, which the Turks tried to outflank to the south early on 4 August. Initially, only the 1st Light Horse Brigade was in position to meet the Turkish attack. Heavily outnumbered it was forced to fall back but as the day progressed both mounted and infantry reinforcements steadily arrived. The position was held throughout the night and before dawn the next morning the 1st and 2nd Light Horse Brigades advanced on foot with the bayonet. Turkish resistance collapsed at this point, and large numbers of prisoners were taken.


04 August 1914 | Great Britain declares war on Germany

Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. The declaration was a result of German refusal to remove troops from neutral Belgium. Australia pledged a force of 20,000, to be placed at Britain's disposal, but by the end of the war over 400,000 Australians were in uniform.

'It was 11 o'clock at night – 12 by German time – when the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencil in hand, waiting. Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing 'God save the King' floated in. On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, which meant 'Commence hostilities against Germany,' was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign all over the world.
I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done.'

Winston Churchill


06 August 1915 | Battle for Lone Pine

Lone Pine was an action that featured one of the most famous assaults of the Gallipoli campaign. The attack was planned as a diversion for the Australian and New Zealand units that were to breakout from the Anzac perimeter by capturing the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill

971. At 5.30 pm on 6 August 1915, the Australian artillery barrage lifted and from concealed trenches in no man’s land the 1st Australian Brigade charged towards the Turkish trenches. The troops paused on reaching the Turkish trenches, finding that many were covered by timber roofs. Some fired, bombed and bayoneted from above, some found their way inside and others ran on past to the open communications and support trenches behind. By nightfall, most of the enemy front line was in Australian hands and outposts had been established in former Turkish communication trenches. The Australian Engineers dug a safe passage across no man’s land so that reinforcements could enter the captured positions without being exposed to Turkish fire.

Having captured the Turkish trenches, the Australians now tried to hold what they had taken while the Turks desperately and determinedly tried to throw the Australians out. From nightfall on 6 August until the night of 9 August a fierce battle ensued underground in the complex maze of Turkish tunnels. The Australians succeeded in drawing the whole of the immediate Turkish reserve. Six Australian battalions suffered nearly 2,300 killed and wounded at Lone Pine. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest number ever awarded to an Australian division for one action. (AWM)


06 August 1945 | First atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima

Hiroshima was chosen as the target for the dropping of the first atomic bomb as, to that point, it had not been subjected to US air raids. It was believed that attacking a untouched city would demonstrate the awesome power of atomic weapons. The bomb was dropped by a US B29 bomber nicknamed "Enola Gay"; it was estimated to have killed some 140,000 people by August 1946.


07 August 1915 | Australians charge at the Nek

The Nek was an important location in Gallipoli for the Allies. On the northern end of the Anzac front, this narrow bridge of land stretched between the landmarks of Russell's Top and Baby 700. The Turks occupied trenches on the slopes of Baby 700 and dominated the Australian positions below.

Naval gunfire and shore-based artillery shelled the Ottoman positions. The bombardment was intended to provide cover for the Australians during the attack. Unfortunately, the barrage ended 7 minutes too early, but the officers of the Light Horse at the Nek did not adapt their plans. They held back their men until the appointed time for the charge. The delay gave the Turks enough time to set up their machine guns. They were ready for the assault.

The plan was for the New Zealanders to move down from Chunuk Bair and attack when the Light Horse did. But the New Zealanders hadn't taken Chunuk Bair as intended, so their support did not come.

The first wave of light horsemen was immediately shot down by a devastating hail of rifle and machine-gun fire. The second line of troops scrambled over the dead and wounded, and suffered the same fate.

Given the circumstances, a cancellation of the attack was proposed, but the officer in charge refused to abandon the attack. He had been told that some Australians had reached the Turkish trenches. The third wave was sent over and met the same fate as the previous two. Then, without a signal having been given, men on the right of the fourth wave also went over before the attack could be cancelled.

The casualties of the action were devastating. Of the 600 Australian troops involved, 234 were killed and 138 were wounded.


08 August 1918 | Battle for Amiens

The Battle of Amiens was an Allied victory that helped bring an end to World War I. Following the Second Battle of the Marne, the Allies launched an attack on 08 August 1918 with a force of 75,000 men, more than 500 tanks and nearly 2,000 planes. The offensive achieved huge gains on the first day, with Allied troops and tanks advancing eight miles and causing 27,000 casualties including 12,000 prisoners. In contrast, the spearhead of the attack, the Australians and Canadians, suffered but 6,500 casualties. The success of the first day had been due to surprise, the drive and firepower of the infantry, the large number of tanks, and counter-battery dominance. Although the German resistance stiffened and the fighting was over after a few days, the battle convinced many in the German high command that victory in the war was unattainable and General Ludendorff referred to 8th August as "the black day of the German Army in this war". 


09 August 1945 | Nagasaki bombed

Nagasaki was the second Japanese city to suffer an atomic attack. Japan surrendered shortly afterwards.



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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