Australians executed near Courcelette.

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Cuddles, Apr 25, 2007.

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  1. As I sat enjoying my morning ablutions, I delved into the enormous pile of WW! literature that passes for entertainment in the abort chez Cuddles. I was reading up on the battle for Courcelette and almost as a throway read the following passage:

    "Lieutenant Colonel Bent met up with Captain Laycock, whom he had left in the line four days previously to form a burial party for those killed in the initial fighting around COURCELETTE. It had been a particularly harrowing duty, especially when the party found a group of twelve australian prisoners on the outskirts of COURCELETTE, lying in a row and obviously executed by the Germans..." (Paul Reed: Courcelette p.71)

    I wonder if anyone, perhaps an Aussie, can cast any further illumination on the identity of these hapless dozen Diggers who were apparently summarily shot by the defending Germans during the initial assaults on Courcelette? There may not be an involved story, it could simply be a "too busy to take prisoners" tragedy of the type which litters the history of both sides, in both world wars.

    Any ideas?
  2. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    I can find no reference to the Ozzies being at Courcelette only Brits & Canadians.
    What year year did this happen?
  3. I wish you well, but I would be amazed if someone took the names of the executed from their bodies, passed them on to the relevant authorities and that they were then preserved in archives somewhere. I'm afraid this kind of thing went on all over the Western Front, on all sides.
  4. Searched mightily Cuddles, but could only come up with the fact that the Aussies fought at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm which was only one mile away from Courcelette.
    Possibly, your aussies were from this time?


    This: The Courcelette British Cemetery on a hill overlooking the village is reached by a quiet country lane. Of the 1,956 men buried there 1,177 are unidentified. There are at least 514 Australians who during July and August 1916 fought and died around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm which is just a mile away across the fields to the South West.

    Website has pictures of Cemetery,
  5. Eye witness account of the battle (not this execution) here;

    I haven't read it all yet, but it sounds like it was free fire all round.

    "They did not spare many and I saw one man get mad at having to take 8 prisoners back more than his mate. They settled it with a bomb among the Fritz."
  6. Kind of as I imagined. Prisoners are always a bit of a nuisance...especially British officer ones with their demands for sports equipment, unsafe digging habits and unlicensed tailoring conversions of military costume!

    Pozieres was a mile behind the Canadian section of the line I am studying over at present (48th Highlanders of Canada's section in fact) and the operation I am researching was 15th September. It seems that the Canadians relieved the AIF troops near Mucky (Mouquet) Farm. Mucky Farm is perhaps a bit more than a mile from Courcelette but closer to the German front line in the shape of the Fabeck Graben.

  7. The expression 'too late chum' springs to mind.
  8. That maybe the same paul reed who is a member of the great war forum you could always ask him via the forum if he has any more info.
  9. I think it is him. "There's only one Paul Reed, there's only one Paul Reed..."
  10. Cuddles, I strongly suspect that relates to the circumstances in which Albert Jacka won his first military Cross. Jacka had previously won the V.C at Courtney's Post Gallipolli. He was the first Aust. V.C. recipient.

    On 6th August 1916, 40 men of the 48th Battallion under a Capt. Hartley had surrendered to the Germans advancing from Courcellette. Jacka in a bypassed bunker waited until the 40 were marched within 30 yards of his position. He then counterattacked with half a dozen or so of his unwounded men. The 40 prisoners then joined in the fight against their captors.

    You can read about it here

    Jacka must of had balls the size of watermelons. He finished the War with The V.C and M.C and bar. Some have the view that it should have been a V.C and two bars.


  11. I think not Mick. The action at Courcelette took place on 15 September. The Canadianburial party started their task on the 9th September. Also the 15th Bn (48th Highlanders of Canada) of the CEF should not be confused with the 48th Bn AIF...
  12. Cuddles, You're right.

    Bean, in the official histories mentions that 70 Australian prisoners were taken in the last Australian attack on Mouqet Farm on the 4th September. He makes no mention of the fate of them.

    On one hand, this is unusual because Bean is a prolific footnoter. Had he been aware of murdered prisoners, I am sure he would have mentioned it.

    On the other hand, according to Carlyon the Australian casualties in 7 weeks of fighting at Ypres were nearly the same as those suffered at Gallipolli. It's easy to miss 12 from 23,000.

    The link to Bean for the period is Here