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Composite photograph of Australian soldiers during the Battle of Polygon Wood, Frank Hurley. Image courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

The Battle of Polygon Wood began at 5.50 am on 26 September 1917 when Allied forces launch a massive artillery barrage on German lines at Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium on the Western Front.

The Australian 4th and 5th Divisions and five British divisions proceeded to attack along a ten kilometre front.

A second artillery barrage followed at 7.30 am and by 8 am the Australians had gained a few hundred metres’ ground beyond Polygon Wood. Subsequent German counter attacks made little impact and the battle was declared a great success for the AIF.

The attack inflicted a severe blow on the German 4th Army, causing more than 30,000 casualties. The Australian 4th Division sustained 1,717 casualties; the more heavily engaged Australian 5th Division suffered 5,471.

Official Australian war correspondent CEW (Charles) Bean described the victory as a “clean, strong blow” attributed to the “most perfect barrage that had ever protected Australian troops” rolling ahead of them like a “Gippsland bushfire”.

Allied forces had captured a significant portion of the Flandern I-Stellung and were now in a position to contest the German hold on Broodseinde Ridge.

Four men from the Orange district were killed in the Battle of Polygon Wood:
Reginald Claude Nancarrow
Robert Clyde Jones
Christopher Henry Gage
Joseph Albert Walsh