The enemy must not get the Messines Ridge at any price …
An intriguing conversation about the people, the plotting and the times associated with World War I’s Battle of Messines was at the heart of the Hobart launch of the second book authored by GYC’s Principal, Mr Craig Deayton.
Mr Adrian Howard who has been closely associated with Friends of the Soldiers Memorial Avenue conversed with Mr Deayton before a large crowd of family, friends and colleagues in Hobart Town Hall on Friday 28 July. ABC Radio’s Mr Chris Wisbey was the master of ceremonies. (pictured above, from left, Chris Wisbey, Adrian Howard and Craig Deayton)
At Any Price: The Anzacs in the Battle of Messines 1917 tells of the blood, guts and grit need to take one of the strongest German positions on the Western Front.
The Battle of Messines is considered one of the successful battles of 1917: but why, how and at what cost?
Mr Deayton focuses on the involvement of the Australian and New Zealand soldiers of the I and II ANZAC Corps.
At Any Price has been sponsored by the Australian Army History Unit.
The book’s inaugural launch was in Canberra earlier in the year. Then, Mr Deayton delivered a lecture at the National Library of Australia for its On War series which has been presented in association with the Canberra Great War Study Group, the Estaminet.
For Mr Deayton, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in History, a Master’s degree in Education, who began his teaching career as a History teacher, and has a special interest in Australia’s military history, this is his second book. The first, published in 2011, was Battle Scarred: The 47th Battalion in the First World War.
Both books have been published by Big Sky Publishing and are available in local book stores.
So read the orders to German troops defending the vital high ground south of Ypres. On 7 June 1917, the British Second Army launched its attack with an opening like no other. In the largest secret operation of the First World War, British and Commonwealth mining companies placed over a million pounds of explosive beneath the German front-line positions in 19 giant mines which erupted like a volcano. This was just the beginning. By the end of that brilliant summer’s day, one of the strongest positions on the Western Front had fallen in the greatest British victory in three long years of war. For the Anzacs, who comprised one third of the triumphant Second Army, it was their most significant achievement to that point; for the men of the New Zealand Division, it would be their finest hour.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of Messines for the Australians, whose first two years of war had represented an almost unending catalogue of disaster. This was both the first real victory for the AIF and the first test in senior command for Major General John Monash, who commanded the newly formed 3rd Division. Messines was a baptism of fire for the 3rd Division which came into the line alongside the battle-scarred 4th Australian Division, badly mauled at Bullecourt just six weeks earlier. The fighting at Messines would descend into unimaginable savagery, a lethal and sometimes hand-to-hand affair of bayonets, clubs, bombs and incessant machine-gun fire, described by one Australian as ‘72 hours of Hell’. After their string of bloody defeats over 1915 and 1916, Messines would prove the ultimate test for the Australians.