Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

My Time as a POW during the War; Sergeant Frederick A.W.C. Peachy Gives an Account of Wartime Heroics

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

My Time as a POW during the War; Sergeant Frederick A.W.C. Peachy Gives an Account of Wartime Heroics

Article excerpt

BULLECOURT in northern France was at the heart of the Allied attempt to push through the defences of the Hindenburg Line in April 1917. The first Battle of Bullecourt was fought on 11 April 1917 and it was fierce. The Australians spearheaded the attack with men from the 4th and 12th Brigades. During the fighting there were 3,300 casualties with another 1,170 taken prisoner. Among these prisoners were two young men who later escaped while being held in Belgium. The soldiers were Sergeant Frederick A.W.C. Peachy (15th Battalion) from Grafton, accompanied by Pte John Lee (14th Battalion) from Victoria.

On their return to England both soldiers were awarded the Military Medal for their ordeal and they were asked to write down details of their experiences. Pte Lee was only 18 and his account is limited. However, our Sergeant Peachy gives a very detailed and fascinating account of their capture, treatment, escape, and journey to safety.

He states that on 11 April the Infantry was working with tanks which had gone forward to pave the way. Tanks had not been used in the early part of the War but by 1917 they were proving their value. The troops were met by heavy German machine gun fire and it was found that most of the barbed wire was still intact. Getting through proved hazardous and many soldiers were caught there.

Light artillery was called up to assist and it helped but the German resistance was too strong and soon afterwards the men were surrounded and taken as prisoners. They had to collect the dead and place them in trenches 20 or 30 at a time.

All items were taken from the bodies except identity discs. Any wounded men lying on the barbed wire were removed. Those who could not walk were shot in the head and added to the dead in the trenches. Wounded Germans were carried several kilometres to a village. …

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