The Pozières Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Memorial to the Missing is located on the Somme Battlefield in France near the village of the same name, about a mile from the massive Thiepval Memorial and a quarter mile from the Lochnagar Crater.
The Battle of Pozières was a part of a forty-one day action wherein the British Fourth Army tried to flank the German strongpoint at Thiepval. The Australian 1st Division, recently arrived in France after heroic service at Gallipoli, was tasked with capturing the defenses at Pozières which included a bunker complex that the British mapmakers called ‘Gibraltar’ and the nearby windmill on the highest point, Hill 160, which the Germans had also fortified.
As was typical of the Australians, in the first wave of the attacks their capture of their Pozières objectives was the only breakthrough achieved. Consequently they bore the full brunt of the German counterattack, and reinforced by the 2nd and later the 4th Australian Divisions, they stopped the Germans then drove them back. The 1st Australian Division suffered 7,700 casualties, the 2nd 8,100 and the 4th 7,100, a total of 22,900 men killed, wounded or missing. By comparison, the Australian forces at Gallipoli, which included these three divisions, took 28,900 casualties for the whole campaign. Many have said that this site is more sacred to Australians than Gallipoli. Separate from the memorial there is also a monument to the 1st Australian Division.
Strangely, the Memorial to the Missing lists no Australians, as all of the Australian missing in France are listed on the memorial at Villers-Brettenoux, which will be the subject of a future article. The 14,692 men listed here are mostly British (about 300 are South Africans), all of whom were lost in 1918 during the German March offensive. The Germans moved so quickly that a number of artillery batteries were overwhelmed, leading to an unusually large number of Royal Artillerymen on the list. Also in the maelstrom of the attack, but not commemorated here, was the Portuguese Expeditionary Force. Most of these fallen were buried by the Germans in mass graves that have not yet been found.
The design of the memorial is unusual; although there are many other CWGC memorials combined with cemeteries, in this instance the memorial completely surrounds the cemetery, which has 2,758 burials, most of whom are Australians who fell in 1916. Also unusual is that the cemetery was there first; about ten years before the memorial was built.
W.H. Cowlishaw (1869-1957), known for his Arts and Crafts style work, was the principal architect. He also designed several small cemeteries for the CWGC in the Ypres Salient. He was assisted at Pozières by Charles Holden, who worked on 68 other CWGC projects. The Pozières memorial was dedicated by Gen. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien in 1930.