Marking the centenary of Australia’s first action on the Western Front in the First World War, this poignant legal tender coin honours the Battle of Fromelles – a ferocious encounter between the Allies and Germany in northern France over the 18th and 19th of July, 1916.
Subsidiary to the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Fromelles was a British operation aiming to exploit any weaknesses in the German defensive line. Australian troops were involved in the initial attack, and had taken some ground. Unfortunately, they failed to consolidate their gains, and instead continued to push forward. The Germans fought back, cut off the advancing Aussies, and pinned them down in no man’s land. The continuity of the attack was lost, the Australians were sliced to ribbons by fierce machine-gun fire.
Things only got worse for the Allied forces, and Australia’s first experience of warfare on the Western Front was an unmitigated disaster. A staggering 5,533 casualties were suffered by the Australian forces, and the Australian War Memorial has dubbed the Battle of Fromelles ‘the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history’.
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