Battle of Hamel The Battle of Hamel was a major turning point of World War 1. It set the centre stage for future engagements such as Amiens and was the quickest and more efficient battle in the history of the war. The Battle of Hamel took place on 4th July of 1918 and the operation was overseen by John Monash, an Australian general. It was executed by the elite soldiers of the 4th division as well as newly conscripted Americans. The objective was to take the town of Hamel, France for the Allies to straighten the Western Front.
The town and the woods adjacent to it were considered of significant strategic important to the success of the later battle of Amiens. The battle of Hamel, although only for a small town, was incredibly important at the time of the war. Its location was regarded highly with a strategic importance. If the location was captured successfully it would give the Allies an important foothold in the Somme area. It was also a key defensive area in the battle of Amiens as it prevented flanking artillery from Germany.
Also, the capture of Hamel unblocked Allied movements between Villers-Bretonneux and Somme and therefore mounting the Amiens offensive would’ve been a lot more difficult. The battle of Hamel lasted for only a short three minutes, but was a major breakthrough for the war, the execution of a new tactic that acted as a guide to larger scale engagements such as the battle of Amiens. The plan nowadays is named "all-arms" in its simplicity of using other forms of armed units such as airplanes and tanks. The tactic relied on heavy support of the infantry soldiers taking the ground with a wide-array of military technology.
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A major contribution to the success of the capturing Hamel was the plan was laid out in complete secrecy. Soldiers were not to move in daylight, dummy installations were created and planes and mortars provided distractions for the movement of tanks. General Monash’s immense amount of care and planning ultimately led the Allies as victors. The Australians moved into place at 2230 the night before the attack, around half a mile from the front lines. From there they open fired with their regular mortar barrage, also known as morning hate.
This was a ritual to release the tension as soldiers were required to wake half an hour before dawn to load their rifles in case of an attack, it was generally a waste of ammunition. No. 101 Squadron from the British Air force also provided covering bombardment for the movement of the tanks for the last half mile. The Allies crept behind this barrage, as it was just before dawn the German visibility wasn’t the greatest and they suspected nothing. Entering the battle, the Allies forces had a significant advantage with new modernized military technology.
Throughout the battle, planes dropped supplies and ammunition by parachute and the introduction of tanks on the Western Front made many Germans surrender on sight. There was also a wide-spread distribution of Lewis guns for the troops, light machine guns that were more accurate and lighter to carry. Artillery was more comprehensive with huge improvements in accuracy and mobility. However, the most important factor of the victory at Hamel was the fast communication. Motorbikes were used to dispatch maps of troop’s location, both allies and Germans, as well as new commands.
This was integral to the success as the Generals had constantly updated information on the battle which lead to the excellent decision making of General John Monash. With the smoke bombs that hid the Allies from view, the constant stream of supplies, the support from planes, tanks and artillery and the plan carefully put together by Monash. The infantry had all the support behind them and mortars covering them in front, all they had to do was take the trenches. The battle of Hamel lasted 3 minutes and all objectives were successfully achieved in 93 minutes.
There 1062 Australian casualties, 800 dead, and 176 American casualties, 100 dead. However they accomplished and gained back two times over, with 2000 Germans captured and a further 1600 captured along with all their equipment that wasn’t damaged (as the British artillery had bombed much of it already preventing them from firing at the approaching tanks). The Australian soldiers from the 4th division were the main fighting force in the battle of Hamel, but with assistance from 131st and 132nd infantry regiment from the American 33rd division. The No. 01 Squadron of the British Air Force and No. 5 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps assisted with supply distribution and bombing. Five companies of the 5th Brigade of the British Tank Corps were provided by General Rawlinson. The French contributed with over 600 arms for the infantry. After the battle two Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valour in the face of the enemy. They were Thomas Axfeld and Henry Dalziel. The battle of Hamel was an incredibly important engagement in the evolution of military tactics.
It was used a model and structure for future engagements to counter entrenched enemies. To that day, modernized technology and only been used defensively, to travel troops quickly to the front lines but never offensively. That changed at Hamel with the use of tanks and airplanes, where neither side had an advantage just for the position they were in. Although the playing field was never quite equal as the around the time of Hamel the German force was deteriorating. The battle of Hamel was the first of its kind and the first major push into the end of World War 1.
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