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Centenary of the Battle of Hamel

 History
 Wednesday 4th July 2018
 Simon King

Centenary of the Battle of Hamel
Today, the fourth of July 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Hamel which was one of the most significant Australian actions of the First World War. It is well knows not only as a decisive victory, but for the contribution by Australian Lieutenant General John Monash who was commanding the Australian Corps for the first time, and it was the first occasion that United States and Australian soldiers had fought alongside one another.

Many Wimmera volunteers were amongst the more than 7,000 Allied infantry that took part and were also amongst the 1,400 casualties who were either killed or wounded.

This Battle was fought in and around the town of Le Hamel, in northern France, aiming to straighten out a bulge in the British line, and for Monash it was also an opportunity to test the tactics he believed could be used on a larger scale in future offensives.

Drawing on more than three years' experience in wartime command, and the lessons of past successful actions by both sides, Monash devised a combined arms assault co-ordinating artillery, tanks, aircraft and infantry.

The attack was planned in intricate detail to last for 90 minutes, and the battle was a stunning success taking just 93 minutes for the Australians and Americans to achieve all their objectives. The time taken for the battle was a success in itself as many battles on the Western Front during World War One lasted much longer than planned and few achieved all the planned goals.

Along with the main action at Hamel, a diversionary attack was undertaken to the north east near the village of Ville-sur-Ancre to disguise the main attack and disrupt the ability of the Germans to counter attack.

One of the volunteers from the Wimmera who fought on this day one hundred years agos was Private Percival Roy Penglase, one of five sons of Mr Alfred Penglase of Jeparit who had enlisted and were at that time all serving in Europe.

Penglase had enlisted in April 1916 and served with the 60th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, first seeing action in France in January 1917. Throughout his service he was present at some decisive battles of the war, including the Second Battle of Arras, fighting near the French village of Bullecourt in May 1917 and at Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium in September of the same year.

He was hospitalised on four occasions during his year and a half in Europe, including for shrapnel wound suffered during the fighting at Polygon Wood.

Penglase was killed on the battlefield at Ville-sur-Ancre on this day 100 years ago and is buried in the Mericourt L'Abbe Communal Cemetery. His sacrifice is also remembered on both the Honour Roll in the entrance foyer of the Memorial Hall and on the cenotaph in his hometown of Jeparit.

Above - Percival Roy Penglase's name appears at the top of the list of names on the southern face of the cenotaph in the Memorial Avenue in Jeparit, but curiously he is listed with the initials of "I.R.' although all his other service records list "P.R.'.

The Penglase family defied the odds and was fortunate to have four of the five brothers who served survive the War and return to Australia - many families that provided multiple volunteers

The overseas service of these brothers not only resulted in the death of one of the family, but took between three and six years out of the lives of the remining four.

One two of the brothers appear on the Jeparit memorials, Percival Roy and Albert Ernest, with the other two, Arthur Tonkin and Alfred William, presumably appearing elsewhere.



Above - due to the success of the Battle of Hamel, the Anzac Corps chose this village in France as the location for their memorial.


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