The RUSI of NSW Badge
 Search this Site

 Search the Library Catalogue

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies NSW

Use the button top right to donate much needed funds to the The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies NSW. 

 Please note our office at the Anzac Memorial Sydney is currently closed and will remain so until Sydney's COVID lockdown is lifted. 

Diggers In France - Australian Soldiers on The Western Front

By: Richard Travers (572/35780)
Publisher: ABC Books ISBN: 9780733323423

Australia maintained an army of around 150,000 men and women in France and Belgium during the First World War. The diggers preferred France and Belgium to Gallipoli. 'There were no girls to talk to on Gallipoli, and no beer, or white or red wine.' wrote Sergeant Denning. But the sense of relief was short-lived. In a few weeks on the western front the diggers suffered m ore casualties that in the entire Gallipoli campaign.

In 1916 and 1917 the diggers fought in many of the toughest battles - Fromelles, Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, Bullecourt, messiness and Third Ypres. They suffered terribly under the impetuous command of British General Haig. Haking and Gough, who believed that casualties ere the 'price of victory'. And did not hesitate to pay. But in 1917 the diggers came under the command of two British generls of quite a different stripe, Generals Plumer and Harrington. Their use of the bite-and-hold tactic, thorough planning, and inclusive 'leadership by trust' style suited the Australians.

B 1918 when the five Australian divisions came together in a single Australian Corps under the command of General Monash, the diggers had honed their fighting skills and methods. They played key roles in the battled that led to victory - at Villers-Bretonneux, at Hamel, on 8th August 1918, and at Mont St Quentin and Peronne. Diggers In France not only graphically describes the diggers at battle in the front line, but also their lives away from the front when wounded, on leave, or resting out of the line. It was possible to be in the trenches one day and in London the next. Paris was closer still. Both cities provided an abundance of 'congenial company'. Whilst many diggers found it difficult 'to adjust from the rough manners of the trenches to the arcane conventions of English society, or to overcome the shyness that, surprising to some, was very much part of the Australian character', those who did enjoyed their leave or convalescence. Lieutenant Lawrence fell for the women of Paris" 'superbly gowned and beautiful women. Surely they were only made to tempt man, and they well know how to do it.'

April 2008

PO Box A778, SYDNEY SOUTH NSW 1235; Anzac Memorial, Hyde Park South, SYDNEY NSW; Telephone: +61 (0)2 8262 2922; Email:
Open 1000 to 1500h Monday and Wednesday; by appointment (8262 2922) on Tuesday and Thursday GETTING TO THE INSTITUTE
The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies New South Wales Incorporated - ABN 80 724 654 162