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Fromelles (Battleground) Paperback – 6 Jun 2002
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The attack at Fromelles is significant for a number of reasons. It was the Australians' first major operation on the Western Front and pitted them against a part of the German line that was an object lesson in the siting of a defence. Before the battle, the Australian Gallipoli veterans had airily dismissed the fighting in the new theatre as 'pleasant'. After it, they said grimly that Anzac was 'a picnic' compared to France. Fromelles came as a terrible shock and was a foretaste of things to come. Both the genesis and aftermath of the operation were controversial. The objectives and the tactics employed to achieve them were changed several times and the sufficiency of resources vigorously debated. After the war, the British and Australian Official Historians argued as to how the battle should be interpreted. Most of the correspondence that accompanied their exchange of drafts has not been published. It makes interesting reading! On a more trivial note, the List Regiment of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division held the Sugar Loaf on 19/20 July. Numbering among the regimental runners was one Adolf Hitler.
About the Author
Dr Pedersen was born in England but grew up in Sydney, Australia. He is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Australia, the Australian Command and Staff College and the University of New South Wales. After commanding a rifle company in Malaysia, Dr Pedersen was seconded to the Australian Prime Minister's Department as a political/strategic analyst in 1987-88. He is the author of Monash as Military Commander, and Images of Gallipoli, an illustrated account of the Gallipoli Campaign. He has also contributed to many other books and writes regularly on military history and battlefields for British and American journals. Not confining himself to the pen, he has appeared in military history programmes on Australian television and radio and lectured in the US, Australia and Europe.
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The `Battlefield Europe' series is strongly connected to location, and geared towards being effective guidebooks to the battlefield locations, but they are also fine reading for the armchair general / traveller. This volume is no exception, being meticulously scholarly and pleasingly personal. There is a dominant Australian perspective, but the author does not at all neglect the British 61st division losses in the battle.
In particular, the details of the ground are amply supported by clear illustrations and photographs, covering the location of trenches, angles of attack and viewpoints of the combatants.
There are few maps, but what's here is good, being grounded in authentic trench maps of the period. They are evocative, and the reader should have no sense of being lost. I would say with this book and Paul Cobb's volume on the battle, you have the last word on this terrible action. Hopefully with the poignant discovery of 400 British and Australian bodies in a mass grave in Spring 2008, this battlefield will become a more visited and appreciated sector of the Western front.
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