Bapaume to Bullecourt

Running time
16 min 32 sec

This silent film shows scenes from the Australian advance from the Somme winter lines east of Flers towards the Hindenburg Line between February and April 1917. There are shots of the Mairie (Town Hall) of Bapaume which was blown up by a delayed action mine on the night of 25-26 March 1917. [AWM F00045]

Text description

[The Rising Sun badge appears in white on a black screen. A semicircle of sword and bayonet blades arches over a crown. Below, two curved scrolls read "Australian Commonwealth Military Forces".

On a text card a swirly border featuring the Rising Sun Badge surrounds the words "Bapuame to Bullecourt".

Text card: In the early spring of 1917 the Germans left their trenches on the old Somme battlefield and retired to the Hindenburg line. They were pursued by the British Forces, including the 1st Anzac Corps (1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Australian Divisions), which fought astride the Albert-Bapaume road.

Text card: Infantry advancing over the old No-Man's-Land to attack the German rear guard.

A field is a sea of churned thick earth. Holding their rifles diagonally across their bodies, soldiers move across the field. Their bayonets are fixed. An officer holds a handgun. Beyond a fence of tangled barbed wire plumes of earth explode into the air. From a trench, tiny figures of soldiers are visible filing across the barren desolation of no-man's-land. Posts dot the landscape. In the distance plumes of smoke erupt into the air. The mud is punctuated by tangles of metal.

Text card: To facilitate the advance, a light railway was constructed by Australian Pioneers alongside the road.

Railway tracks curve past a gentle slope. Soldiers push a flat trolley up the hill. More soldiers ride the trolley back down the hill. Beside the tracks, soldiers dig long trenches. A large group of soldiers pushes a loaded trolley up the tracks. A long beam sticks out both ends of the trolley. Soldiers dig with picks and shovels. On a dirt road beside the track, soldiers ride on horse-drawn carts piled with equipment. The slope near the track is covered with small hillocks. Near the tracks, soldiers construct a frame. A horse-drawn cart stops at a platform near the track. The soldiers dismount. One runs a hose to the cart.

Text card: The first material moved over this railway was metal for the roads being constructed over the old No-Man's-Land.

Soldiers shovel the contents of low rail carriages onto a mound beside the track.

Text card: The Germans tried to delay the advance by blowing craters in the roads. Where possible, these were filled in with material obtained by blowing up wrecked houses.

Smoke drifts past the ruins of village buildings. Smoke billows from the buildings. Parts of a wall crumple away, leaving a chimney.

Text card: Where the craters could not be filled in, roads were built around them. Australian transport passing a crater on the Bapaume road.

Teams of horses pull carts past a large crater and along a road. A wooden fence runs along the edge of the crater. More horses and carts wait by the road. A fence sags away from the edge of the crater toward the road. Planks litter the sides of the crater. Soldiers ride the pairs of horses. Another drives the carriage. The crater's steep sides slopes down to the pool of water at the bottom. Carts and horses head past the crater and up the road which is lined by tall bare tree trunks. The carts have large spoked wheels. A covered truck trundles past the crater. It tows a two-wheeled cart. Soldiers on horses follow close behind. Following trucks carry soldiers and equipment.

Text card: The tanks move up with the Infantry and Artillery.

A tank rolls across a muddy field. Its tracks run around its oblong sides. As the tank drives from a pit, a soldier standing on top struggles to keep his balance. The tank stops at a steep angle. In the distance soldiers, horses and carts file along a road.

Text card: Bapaume was occupied on the 17th March, 1917. It had been destroyed by the retreating Germans.

Three soldiers walk along a street past buildings shrouded with smoke. Behind them rubble from a destroyed house is strewn across the street. Smoke rises from buildings, their windows are smashed in. A sign on a facade reads "Duflos Baroux". Soldiers move along a street lined with ruined buildings. A series of tall archways lines the porch of a building. Soldiers stand outside. Soldiers work near piles of rubble lying amid broken walls. An open car passes.

Text card: Australians warming themselves at a burning building.

Thick smoke rises from piles of rubble. Behind a small group of soldiers, wooden beams stick out at steep angles. More beams lie across the debris.

Text card: Australian Infantry and Transport passing through Bapaume.

Soldiers drive horse-drawn carts along a road lined with the remains of flattened buildings.

Text card: Light railways taking up stores to Bapaume.

Soldiers ride flatcars loaded with equipment up railway tracks. The sleepers are split logs lying flat side down. Some battered carriages are piled with sacks, others with hay bales.

Text card: An Australian Band playing in the square at Bapaume.

Near large, smoking piles of rubble and broken buildings a large crowd of soldiers stands around a band. The sunlight glints off tubas and trombones. Soldiers bundled up in coats ride past on horses. Many soldiers stare toward the panning camera. Some smoke cigarettes.

Text card: A few days after Bapaume was occupied the Town Hall was blown up by a delay-action mine laid by the Germans. Several Australian soldiers lost their lives though their comrades endeavoured to rescue them from the debris. After the explosion.

A crowd of soldiers digs through the rubble covering a large area. Some soldiers sit on a low wall. A covered truck drives past the rubble and the nearby remains of buildings. Many buildings have sections of roof and wall missing.

Text card: The Villages occupied by our troops in this advance were shelled by the Germans.

Across barren fields smoke plumes rise above village buildings. Throughout the village tree trunks stretch up to spindly bare branches. In the middle of buildings smoke shoots high into the air. Dark smoke drifts over the thatched roofs of the pale buildings. A person's tiny figure is dwarfed by the landscape.

Text card: Artillery advancing across the open was also subjected to heavy shell fire.

Barren plains stretch to the horizon. Looking like ants, dark figures and vehicles file across the vast landscape. One figure is a considerable distance ahead. High above, a dark smoke cloud appears and expands.

Text card: Drivers bringing their dumb comrades out of the inferno.

Patches of white smoke dot the landscape. Distant figures of soldiers and horses move across the plains. A cloud of black smoke appears and expands overhead. A horse pulls away from a soldier.

Text card: Australian Machine Gunners engaging a German plane.

Two soldiers chest-high in a ditch aim a large machine gun into the air. Pale smoke drifts from the thick cylinder of the barrel. One soldier holds an ammunition box containing the ammunition belt. It feeds rapidly into the gun.

Text card: They succeeded in bringing it down.

Text card: The Australian Batteries were shelled by the Germans.

A barbed wire fence runs across a vast muddy plain. Soldiers ride horses quickly across the flat horizon. Behind them earth explodes into the air. Near a field gun a soldier's helmet is visible in a ditch. In the distance a cloud of dark smoke drifts across the plain. The gun fires. A trench runs from the field gun to a second gun. Soldiers dig more trenches. In the distance dark smoke billows then drifts away. Soldiers work near the gun. One picks up a long shell. Smoke bursts from the end of the gun, the barrel shoots backwards, then darts forward.

Text card: An Australian forward observing Officer directing fire on Bullecourt.

A soldier lies on a sharply sloped trench wall, another sits nearby. They peer across the plain. Men in round helmets gather near a narrow trench and stare across No-Man's-Land.

Text card: Australian Infantry resting in a sunken road during the attack on Bullecourt.

At the base of a steep slope, soldiers gather by a dug-out. Sandbags are neatly piled nearby. A soldier moves away, revealing the low dugout entrance which is flanked by sandbags. A soldier slips down into the entrance. Near the dugout a soldier swings a pick. A man perched on the dugout idly twirls a stick. A soldier pulls aside the cloth covering a the door of a hut and ducks inside.

The Rising Sun badge appears in white on a black screen.]

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