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Matt Walsh 




Table of content 


Topic Page 

The Battle for Dernancourt 






Area Map 





 Division- Brigades and Battalions 

What lead up to the Battle 

Dernancourt Square –April 2008 



 Dernancourt (Ancre 1918) 



the enemy 

The Battle 

The Battle location 

The Counter Attack 

Honours and Awards 

The Dernancourt Community Cemetery 

The “Adelaide School” Dernancourt 

Poem – “I Stand” 

 Relationships- Australia and Dernancourt   

The thoughts of Private J. Kennerly     

Profile 1018 L/Cpl Ernest Poole Australian Provost Corps                                                           












This booklet is an initiative of the Defence Reserves Association (NSW) Inc and the Military Police  

Association of Australia Inc as part of their Schools Military History Program. 



Written and compiled by Matt Walsh 

JP. MLO ALGA (MCAE) Dip Bus & Corp Law (CPS) 

© 2008 Matt Walsh.  















The Battle for Dernancourt 




















There were two battles which involved the village of Dernancourt.    The first was during the period 



 March 1918 and involved the 12


 and 13


 Brigades of the 4


















What lead up to the Battle 


Following the surrender of the Russians on the Eastern front in November 1917, this allowed the 

Germans to move 35 Divisions to the Western Front and on the 21


 March 1918 to launch a very 

strong offensive which they gave the name ‘Kaiserchlacht’ (Emperors Strike’).  


This was to be the offensive to win the war.  It was to consist of a number of attacks on what was 

considered vital communications centres at Amiens on the Somme and Hazelbrouch in Flanders. 






- 1 - 

The Germans broke through on the Somme and forced the British to retreat.   The Australians were 

rushed into the offensive to plug the gaps.   It is reported that the Australians said to the French 

civilians in an effort to reassure them and to maintain calm:- “Fini retreat, Madame, beaucoup 

Australiens ici” meaning (The retreat is over, Madam, there are many Australians here). 


Battles occurred in a number of areas: the 4


 Brigade at Hebuterne – 10


 and 11


 Brigades at 

Morlancour, with the 9


 Brigade stopping the Germans around Villers –Bretonneux.   However the 

hardest fighting involved the 12


 and 13


 Brigades on the railway embankment at Dernancourt – this 

was one of the strongest attacks by the Germans against the Australians.   They not only held their 

positions but counter attacked and the Germans were stopped.   












Australians visiting the Square Dernancourt 24


 April 2008 




 Dernancourt (Ancre 1918) 


The Enemy:- 


XXIII Reserve Corps – on the left of the Australians was the 79


 Reserve Division to the front was the 



 Reserve Division including the 229


 & 230


 Reserve Infantry Regiment.. 














Why did the Germans need to win this battle?   

A win would enable the Germans to penetrate the British front line and thus open up to them an 

unopposed approach to the vital railway centre of Amiens    This made the railway line through 

Dernancourt an important part of the Battle. 






- 2 - 



The Dernancourt area 








The Battle 


On the 28


 March the day Gough was relieved- the 4


 Australian Division under the command of 

Maj Gen Ewen Sinclair-MacLagan had moved into the battle area north of the river at Dernancourt.  By 

this time the Germans were slowing down. 









The Battle location 


Outside the village of Dernancourt was a railway line and embankment running North and South, to the 

East was the river Ancre. 


The Germans occupied the village and were dug into the railway embankment on its eastern side just 

outside of the village. 


By the 5


 April 1918 a dense mist which restricted visibility to 180 metres descended over the railway 



The Germans commenced their bombardment at 0700h (7.00am).  Three German Divisions attacked in 

a line, with a Division attacking each of the Australian Battalions (47


 Qld & Tas) and the 48


 (WA & 

SA). Unfortunately due to the density of the mist the Australian signal flares could not be seen and the 

artillery fire which could have broken up the attack was not launched. 


The German 261


 & 262


 Reserve Infantry Regiments were unsuccessful against the 48


 Battalion – 

what a feat an Australian Battalion stopping (2) two Regiments with a third in reserve. 


But what about the railway embankment and the village just beyond it- The line held by the 47



Battalion was very thin being held by widely spaced platoons, not an ideal situation.  The 47



repulsed the first two attacks by the 20


 Reserve Infantry, unfortunately on the third occasion the 

Germans broke through, causing heavy casualties.  This allowed the Germans to infiltrate the lines of 

the other battalions.  The Australians had to withdraw to avoid capture. 


The assault by the Germans against the two brigades of the 4


 Division at Dernancourt had been the 

strongest ever met by Australian troops and given the vastly dispersed defensive positions it was very 

difficult to resist.   Yet the Aussie Digger held the line and the Germans were left bitterly frustrated that 

their main offensive against Amiens   

- 3 - 


















The counter attack 


When the order was received to begin the attack, the problem which had to be to be faced was how  

to move the troops down a   bare faced slope in full view of the Germans.   If it could be done during 

darkness they could move with very little danger.  However the Orders did not provide for this scenario. 

The objective was to take control of the railway embankment – the main front line being the forward 

slope of the embankment.  All was not lost, at 1715h (5.15pm) a counter attack was launched by the 



 Battalion  (NSW) and the 49


 Battalion (Qld) supported by the other battalions- the 4



knew that it was now fighting with its back to the wall- Bean describes the counter attack as “one of the 

finest ever carried out by Australian troops”. 


By the end of the offensive the Australians were responsible for halting the German advance between 

Albert and Dernancourt.  

















A view of the area over which the Australians advanced to reach the Western side 

 of the railway embankment 


Unfortunately many were killed on leaving their trenches many by machine gunfire which had been 

described as the heaviest encountered. 

- 4 - 

The battle ended in a bayonet charge and hand to hand fighting, by 1830h. (6.30pm) the Germans were 

in full retreat. 


It is recorded in a German Regimental History that “The enemy’s defence was so strong that a further 

advance was not to be thought of”. 


Whilst the Australians were victorious, they suffered 1,233 casualties: –    12


 Bde 580   13


 Bde 500 

Artillery, 153 – the Artillery fired 27,588 rounds.  For their efforts the Australians were awarded the 

Battle Honour” Ancre 1918”. 


Honours and Awards 


Sergeant Stanley Robert McDougall VC MM was awarded his Victoria Cross on the 28


 March 1918 

at 1


 Dernancourt and was awarded his Military Medal on the 5


 April 1918 at 2





Victoria                                                                                                                                     Military 

  Cross                                                                                                                                        Medal 









Other Award winners were:- 


Major G.E. Reid MC   (45




 Battalions)                                    Military Cross 

Lieutenant E. Robenson MC   (47







The Dernancourt Communal Cemetery 


Dernancourt Communal Cemetery is 500meteres north –west of the town of Dernancourt and facing 

east towards the railway embankment which was the site of the Battle for Dernancourt. 


The Field Ambulance used the Communal Cemetery at Dernancourt for burials between September 

1915 and August 1916.  The XV Corps main Dressing Stations was formed in August 1916.  


Between September 1916 and March 1917 the 45




and the 1


 South Midland Casualty 

Clearing also used the area.  The 3


 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) was in the area in March 1918. 


By the time of the Armistice there were more than 1,700 burials to day it now contains 2,162 burials of 

these 177 are unknown.   




- 5 - 


The Adelaide School (Dernancourt) 













After the war the South Australian Diggers and the people of South Australia collected funds and 

forwarded it to the town (village) of Dernancourt to assist with it recovery from the terrors and 

destruction of the war.    These funds were utilized in the re-establishing of the village school which is 

now known as the ”Adelaide  School  in a similar approach to that of the ‘Victoria School’ at  

Villers-  Bretonneux .  Each year a group of Students from South Australian Schools visit Dernancourt 

and participate in an Anzac Service with the community of Dernancourt at both the Australian Graves 

in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery and then to the French Memorial also in the Cemetery.  


In April 2008 the following Poem which was written by Ms Naomi Wattchow of the Westminster 

School and read by her at the Service this poem identifies the relationship between the people of 

Australia and the citizens of Dernancourt and how they stood side by side as brother to defeat a 

common enemy.   




I stand beneath the large bold, Australian Flag

Pride and strength surge through me. 

I long to press my body into the folding material, 

beating powerfully against the blue sky. 

To preside patriotically over Sydney Harbour. 

The Last Post sounds in the background, 

I bury myself in the sharp tones, 

Clench my jaw,  

and remember… 

our leaders, 



The people who fought for mateship

The people who defined our Nation. 

Fierce tears of respect prick my eyes. 

I breathe deeply. 

And I stand beside many cultures, 

Beneath the large, bold Australian Flag. 

Proud to be Australian. 





- 6 - 

Relationships- Australia and Dernancourt  


Just down from the main square of Dernancourt is a street named ‘Rue D’Australie’   















Whilst back in Australia in the State of New South Wales within one of its suburbs Milperra which is 

just across the Georges River from where many of the Australian Diggers undertook their initial 

military training  at Liverpool Army Camp ,an area of land was designated after the end of the war as 

‘Soldier Settlement Land’ to be granted to returning Diggers in an effort to re-establish themselves over 

recent years these ‘Soldier Settlement Blocks have been subdivided and the streets which were created 

were named after many of the Battle areas of the Somme and Flanders – one of these street is 

“ Dernancourt Parade”.     



























- 7 - 

The thoughts of Private J. Kennerly about Dernancourt 


      “ Shifted up into the line which is in the railway embankment facing Dernancourt I was  

       with HQ on the left of Buire in the chalk pits.   Twelve months previously we were billeted 

       in Buire and the surrounding villages.   They were well out of range of their guns then. 

      The village of Buire is a mass of ruins now and all the civilians have left there.   When we 

       were billeted there we used to do numerous dummy stunts on the surrounding hills.  

       Little did we think that we would be fighting in earnest on the same hills about twelve 

       months later.”   















Profile of 1018 L/Cpl Ernest Poole 


      Ernest Poole was born in Sydney (Drummoyne) and educated at Leichhardt Public School,     

      in civilian life he was a Marine Engineer.   He enlisted in the 13 Infantry Battalion whilst in 

      France he transferred to 4


 Division Provost under the command of APM Captain Kensett 

      who was assisted by Squadron Sergeant Major Wilkinson.     A number of the 4



      Provost distinguished themselves at Dernancourt during the period March/April, one who saw 

      service at Dernancourt during this period was L/Cpl Ernest Poole. 


      L/Cpl Poole died on the 14


 June 1918 of a fractured spine after trying to save a young child 

      from drowning at  Le Haeve  on 1


 May 1918.   He is buried at Hampshire – Southampton  

     (Hollybrook) Cemetery UK      















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