The Battle of Mouquet Farm was a World War I battle fought between German and the Australian troops, during the major Battle of the Somme. It took place just after the Battle of Pozieres from August 8 to September 3, 1916. During the battle, the Australian divisions of I Anzac Corps advanced northwest along the Pozieres ridge towards the German strongpoint of Mouquet Farm, with British divisions supporting on the left. As that battle dragged on, the Canadian Corps took over from the Australians.
Having secured the Pozieres area, the plan was to push north-west along the ridge and render the enemy’s strong position at Thiepval untenable. Mouquet Farm was situated about 1.7 kilometers north-west of Pozieres village and lay directly in the line of advance. Understanding the importance of the position, the Germans had heavily fortified it and built a labyrinth of interconnecting underground chambers, bunkers and strongpoints. On the night of August 6-7, 1916, the Australian the 4th Division took up positions on the Pozieres Heights and at dusk on August 8, behind a creeping barrage, the Australians attacked northwards towards Thiepval. But they made little progress. On the next night they seized their first objective and on August 11 two strong German counter-attacks were thrown back.
German artillery bombardments were intense during these attacks. Moreover, as the Australians were advancing into an ever-narrowing salient into the enemy line, the Germans were able to shell them from three directions. All movement towards the front was observed by the enemy as the whole area was torn up by artillery shells, leaving a sea of craters that turned into a bog when rain fell. The shelling had destroyed all the landmarks and the attackers became disoriented and lost. There was no undamaged surface there. It was as if the circumstances in which the Aussies found themselves stranded were a surreal scene from hell.
Being close to Mouquet Farm, the Australians attacked it at night on August 13. A quarry near the farm was captured and a company under Captain Harry Murray, 13th Battalion, New South Wales, seized part of the German ‘Fabeck trench’ north-east of the farm. But Murray and his men were outflanked by the Germans and had to fight their way back to safety. After ten days of continuous fighting the Australian4th division had become exhausted, suffering 4,649 casualties, many from German shelling. It was now relieved by the 1st Division.
Attacking with comparatively light forces, the 1rst Division made only slight gains and by August 22 had suffered 2,650 casualties. Nevertheless new and larger assaults were launched to seize small sections of trench which were defended by the Germans with equal intensity. The 2nd Division now took up the task and, on August 26, reached Mouquet Farm. They discovered that it was held by the elite German Guard Reserve Corps, in deep shelters. But the 2nd Division were unable to hold their gains.
The 4th Division was thrown in again and attacked on the nights of August 27, August 29 and September 3, pushing towards Mouquet Farm. The Germans, however, held off the Australian assaults on the farm. On September 5, the Aussies were relieved on 5 by the Canadians. Ten days later, on September 15, in a major offensive on a wide front, with tanks being used for the first time, the British were moderately successful in advancing east of Pozieres. But Mouquet Farm still held out and did not fall until 26 September 1916.
The capture of Mouquet Farm would render precarious the German hold on the fortress of Thiepval which had thus far withstood all British assaults. However, by the time the battle concluded in mid-September, the German garrison still held out. The farm was eventually captured on 27 September following the general attack of the Battle of Thiepval Ridge.