Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds BRUCE SCATES: Welcome back to the 100 Stories. This is the centre of the Pozieres Battlefield in France. For over 400 years, a windmill stood on the ridge behind me, its great sails catching the breezes that blow all the way from the Atlantic to here. In 1916 that windmill was blown to pieces, and so too, so too were the men who fought here. In the fields around me, the First AIF suffered around 23,000 casualties. Over half the men who fought at Pozieres were either killed, or they were wounded, and most of those men were killed or wounded by artillery fire.
Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds Shells rained incessantly on this site, and these fields, as the Memorial Plaque reminds us, are more densely sewn with Australian dead, Australian sacrifice than any other spot on Earth.
Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds We have an eyewitness account from one of the men who survived the artillery bombardment here at Pozieres. It captures the aftermath of one of the fiercest barrages ever to take place on the Somme. In August 1916, Sergeant Edgar Rule watched the remnants of the Australian First Division limp out of the line. And what does he say? “They look like men who’ve been in hell,” he writes. “Almost without exception, each man looked drawn, looked haggard, and so dazed that they appeared to be walking in a dream. Their eyes looked glassy and starey. Quite a few were silly. Quite a few were noisy. In all my experience, I have never seen men as shaken as these.”
Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds The men that Sergeant Rule is describing here are suffering from shell-shock the psychological rather than the physical injuries inflicted by that battle. This module of the 100 Stories is called Troubled Minds. It looks at the men and women who never truly recovered from what they saw, and what they did here. Who lived all their lives with the trauma of war. And we begin with the story of one of Pozieres’ survivors.
Introduction to the stories
Bruce Scates introduces the stories from Pozières, France.
Having explored aspects of the physical wounds of war, you can now explore stories describing the psychological damage wrought by war.
After watching the stories, we’ll be asking you to reflect and share your thoughts on the different ways soldiers were affected by their experiences during the Great War.
© Monash University. Filmed on location by Monash University journalism students on the Monash University Battlefield Study Tour.