A World War 1 bayonet, unearthed from the fields of Pozieres in France last year, will be presented to the people of South Australia at the Unley Soldiers Memorial Gardens.
Minister for Veterans Affairs Martin Hamilton-Smith, will accept the memorial gift on behalf of all South Australians. He said the relic is a gift from the French citizens of the Village of Pozieres, where some of the fiercest fighting took place between July and September, 1916.
“There were more than 23,000 Australian casualties at Pozieres Ridge in a fiercely fought campaign that lasted six-weeks,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
“During the vicious Western Front campaign, 5,000 Australian servicemen died at Pozieres including more than 800 from South Australia.”
Five Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallantry at Pozieres. Two are linked to South Australia; Private John Leak and Lieutenant Arthur Seaforth Blackburn. They were awarded Australia’s highest military honour for their valour on 23 July, 1916; the first day of the Pozieres Ridge campaign.
The Pozieres bayonet is one of six century old bayonets being presented to each state of Australia in the lead up to the centenary of Pozieres commemorations taking place in the village on 23 July next year.
The Mayor of Pozieres, Bernard Delattre gifted the bayonets to raise awareness of the battle and as a symbol of the Poziere community’s admiration for Australians who gave their lives.
The certificate accompanying the bayonet reads:
“Your young may rest in our fields, but they are always in our Hearts, Thoughts, and Prayers.”
The South Australian bayonet will be presented by the President of the Pozieres Remembrance Association, Mr Barry Gracey, who has supported the Village of Pozieres since 2006, raising funds to ensure commemorations are held each year.
Mr Hamilton-Smith said to mark the centenary the Association is working with the Village of Pozieres to erect a memorial honour roll at the Windmill site. The memorial will honour the 5,000 Australians who fell at Pozieres; many of whom have no known grave.
“The new memorial will complement the First Australian Division Memorial located 400 metres west of the Windmill ruins site; where Australian troops successfully destroyed the German bunker known as ‘Gibraltar’,” Mr Hamilton-Smith said.
“The Windmill was the highest vantage point on Pozieres Ridge and fiercely contested ground, it changed hands several times during the battle.”
Australia’s official war historian, CEW Bean, described the windmill site as “a place where more Australian troops fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war.”
Descendants of servicemen who fought at Pozieres are invited to contact Pozieres Remembrance Association for more information: www.pozieresemembered.com.au