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Cooee - Tanks used in battle at Flers Courcelette

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September 28, 2016

Tanks advanced more than 1500 metres on a 8km front 100 years ago in WW1

This week saw the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

Another phase in the Somme campaign, this battle was fought by British, Empire and French forces with the objective of capturing a commanding ridge.

Their objective was achieved.

However, the Germans were successful on the Allied right flank.

Unknown to most Australians, this battle is notable for three reasons.

It was the first time the New Zealand Division had fought on the Western Front.

It was also the first battle in which tanks were used.

The British deployed 40 tanks.

Although they were slow and prone to breakdown, the tanks advanced more than 1500 metres on a 8km front.

This was at a time when every advance of 100 metres cost 1000 lines.

The German army suffered 130000 casualties during September 1916 during this phase of the Somme campaign.

These losses, when combined with casualties at Verdun and on the Eastern Front, brought Germany closer to total military collapse during this week than at any time until November 1918.

This week saw the end of the Russian Brusilov Offensive.

Four Russian armies had crushed the Austro-Hungarians on the Eastern Front and captured 350000 prisoners.

Advances of up to 100km had been made along a 500km front before 24 German divisions were rushed to reinforce the Austro-Hungarians.

The Offensive had cost almost one million Russian lives.

When their troops were not reinforced, the Russians were forced to withdraw.

This humiliation lit the fuse of the Russian revolution.

Meanwhile in Benalla this week, the pumping engineer of the Water Trust recommended urgent purchase of a new pumping plant, pointing out that water consumption in Benalla had increased by more than 100 percent in the past 10 years.

The existing plant had been in continuous operation since March 1893 and was not now covered by insurance because of its age.

The cost would be $4386.

The Trust thought this excessive.

The cost had already risen by $228 through delay.

As was common here and in the United States, short recruiting or patriotic speeches were made before movies began.

In Benalla this week a speech by a soldier became so personal and insulting that several men and women left the hall in disgust.

In 1916, publicans charged eight cents per shot of spirits.

When a publican in Wangaratta this week began to charge six cents per shot for spirits, a representative from the Licensed Victuallers’ Association visited him to warn that his beer supply would be cut off unless he charged the higher price.

In 1916, such threats were made and enforced in almost every business activity.

Such behaviour is now illegal under the secondary boycott and retail price maintenance provisions of the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI Heroes

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