Lou Bougias is an Aussie patriot. In my next post I'll ask you to help Lou and his mates to get the Australian Government active in bringing some blokes cut down by the Waffen SS in Greece in World War Two to rest.
Here's a letter Lou wrote to an authority recently detailing some of his research about the first Battle of Bullecourt. I've published it so you can see the quality of his work. The request for action will be in the next post on Greece.
My name is Ilias Bougias and I am a member of the RSL. Everyone knows me as Lou Bougias.
I wish to thank you for your time today and I am honoured to be able to write to you.
I served in the Army as a reservist from November 1986 till January 1989 when I was appointed an Officer Cadet at ADFA,
I left ADFA in August 1990, and resigned my appointment in the A.R.A.
I am a friend of Lambis Englezos and I have been working with him on identifying burial sites of soldiers lost at the first battle of Bullecourt on the 11th of April 1917.
Lambis does not know that we have spoken or that I am writing to you.
I attach a map of the battlefield, with the German trenchlines superimposed.(Riencourt Map)
I have also attached a map of the battlefield with the lines of advance, of the 6 Battallions of the A.I.F that were the assaulting force on that fateful day.(Hard Jacka attachment)
The 46th and 48th Battalions of the 12th Brigade advanced on the west side of Central Rd. The 47th battalion of that Brigade was held as reserve.
The 14th,15th,13th and 16th battalions of the 4th brigade advanced on the East side of Central Rd, in the order I have just listed, west to east.
The 12 tanks assigned to assault the Hindenburg line in advance of our battalions failed to arrive on time, and of the six that actually took part in the battle, only three were able to lay effective surpressive fire and support our advance.
There was no preparatory artillery bombardment on the day, as it was felt that it was unecessary to inform the Germans that we were about to assault, as the 12 tanks were believed to be more than capable of suppressing German defensive fire, primarilly their machine guns.
Of the 5700 men we sent in to battle that day, we had 3000 killed or wounded, 1128 were taken prisoner, and there are 866 men still missing.
Battalion movements during the battle.(46th, 48th,14th and 15th)
A) The 46th and 48th battalions merged as they swung to the North East to gain the benefit of Money's tanks surpressive fire,( illustrated in attachment Hard Jacka.)
They were able to take both German trenches, OG1 and OG2, but were unable to advance further north nor west, but were able to meet some elements of the 14th and 15th battalions to the east.They suffered in excess of 40% casualties.
B) The 14th and 15th battalions, using the Central Rd as their reference point, and seeing Money's tank being effective, swung to the North West in their advance,and were able to take their section of the line, and meet some elements of the westerly battalions.
Of the 1128 Australian prisoners taken that day, there exists in our War memorial 107 statements from returned POW's.( I have read them all, in their original)
I respectfully wish to bring to your attention the statement of 940 Lance Corporal F.A.W.C Peachey of the 15th battalion, which is also in our National Archives.
He states, on the second page of his statement, (which is page 9 in his file in the Archives), that he was forced, with two other unamed diggers, to bury our dead in 5 shell holes, 20-30 men per hole. He also states that although the items of value were removed, the identity disks were left on the bodies.
He also states, that our wounded who were unable to walk, were shot through the back of the head.
I have attached the relevant page(Peachey's statement), and below is the link to his entire file in the Archives.
I also bring to your attention the Red Cross Missing file of 2507 Private R G W Wiese, of the 48th Battalion.
One of two brothers, of German descent, from South Australia,who fought at Bullecourt.
4755 Private Blake and 1623 Private H.G Agett M.M. both state that Wiese was left alive in a German dugout.
Agett goes so far as to say he was left in OG2 with 50 others, all wounded.
So does 1743 Thompson and 2192 Private Lee.
Wiese had a leg broken from a mortar shell.
He has not been seen since.
Below is his file from the Red Cross,
pages 4-6 are the relevant pages.
There are more similar files.
Thirty years ago, the owner of the paddock just south of ther the 6 cross roads intersection unearthed a body. All that he allowed to be visible were the feet.
He was instructed by the Gendarmes to rebury it. He did so in the exact same spot. Lambis has all the details.The body I believe, is still there.
2477A Private Albert Tutt, 48th Battalion.
Buried by the German 27th Infantry Division, 100 metres west of Riencourt.
They gave us his ID disks..
I attach his German Red Cross burial form (Lou's Tutt Document) with English translation.
And his Red Cross file from our War Memorial.
Satellite photo's indicate a very large unusual ground formation at that exact spot, heading Northwards.
At this point Sir, I would like to remind you that it was snowing that April, and the battlefield was under 2 feet of snow.
Peachey was captured near the intersection of OG2 and Centre Rd, where the 4 battalions, 46th,48th,14th,and 15th, had secured 550 odd yards of trench.
The 27th Infantry division(Royal Wurttenbergers), had used the communication trenches leading from Riencourt, and the saps connecting OG1 and OG2, to surround and envelop our troups.
Considering that the 46th and 48th had the most casualties, the lay of the land,and the counter battery artillery fire from the Germans, the five shell holes are situated between Central Rd and the "Cross in the field.": Satellite photo's actually indicate 2 large anomalies in the ground to the immeadiate East of the intersection.
It is interesting to note that the late Ian John Black, Major Black's nephew, paid for the construction of the Cross in the Field.
With this information, I took the liberty of writing to HRH The Duke of Wurttenberg, asking him if he may have any records, and if I may have access to them?
His great uncle was the King of Wurttenburg during the war.
Much to my surprise I received an email from HRH's family Archivist Dr. Eberhard Fritz , informing me to contact the State Archives in Stuttgart, as all military records had been transferred there.
So I did, asking them the same question, mentioning that I had been referred by the Duke's Archivist.
Subsequently, a Herr Johannes Renz, State Archivist of Stuttgart, contacted me and provided me with the following information.
In April 1917, the German 27th Infantry Division composed of the following Regimental units.
- Infanterie-Regimenter 120, 124, 127 und 180
- Grenadier-Regiment 123
And that the Archives had in their possession the war diaries of ALL these units.
If you recall, our Goverment did not move on the Fromelles issue until Lambis had discovered the German Commanding General's order to dig burial pits for 400 Allied dead.
Then, and very politely, I asked if our esteemed historian CW Bean had looked at these records.
The response floored me,
"eine Nutzung des Hauptstaatsarchivs durch den Kriegshistoriker C. Bean ist nach unseren Informationen bisher nicht erfolgt."
According to our knowledge the Hauptstaatsarchiv was not used by war historian C. Bean
our War Memorial's records state,
"Although Bean focussed his writing on the experiences of front line soldiers, the following table shows that he covered the operations of 1917 less fully than those of any other part of the war"
None of the twelve volumes of the Official Histories, however, treat so much so briefly as that for 1917. Even among the six volumes dealing with the Australian infantry, 1917, is relatively neglected. Although Bean focussed his writing on the experiences of front line soldiers, the following table shows that he covered the operations of 1917 less fully than those of any other part of the war:
|No of volumes||Period covered||Approximate period in front line (months)
||August 1914 – December 1915
||January – December 1916
||January – November 1917
||December 1917 – May 1918
||May – November 1918
Yet in 1917 the AIF suffered its worst defeat, lost most prisoners, lost most casualties in a single battle, and probably suffered more casualties than in any other year of the war. 1917 was also significant in the development of the AIF front line experience: it provided the first clear evidence of that professionalism which was to flower so brilliantly in Australian operations in 1918. Finally 1917 was important to Bean: he tells us (p. xxxii) that the compilation of this volume, more than any other, proved the necessity of investigating front line experience in order to discover what actually happened in war, and in 1917 he found at Hermies in April, the first occasion in Australian experience in which a major operation went according to plan. So 1917 was significant for the AIF, and for what Bean wanted to say about the conduct of war and about writing military history. Why did he treat it relatively lightly?
The 1917 volume was written during the Depression, between 1929 and 1932, which may have restricted Bean’s ability to gather material, but by 1929 he had assembled most of his evidence, and the events of 1917 had been limited to one volume at least by March 1919. It is just possible that Bean was not allowed to write two 1917 volumes at the expense of combining Volumes VIII, IX and X, as would have more proportionately reflected the Australian war effort, but so far as is known he had a free hand in planning his history. There are, however, signs that Bean found 1917 difficult to write about."
Below is the link,
I then asked Herr Renz, if he was able to tell me if their records could be narrowed down to April 1917, if they had battalion and company diaries, if pioneer battalions were involved etc etc.
His reply informed me that the records were too LARGE for them to inspect, and that I should go over and look at them, where by he would be able to introduce me to some of their experts and collegues.
"Sehr geehrter Her Bougias,
angesichts Ihrer vielen Fragestellungen würde ich vorschlagen, diese bei Ihrem Besuch in Stuttgart mündlich zu besprechen. Dort können ggf. auch weitere Experten aus meinem Kollegenkreis zur Beratung herangezogen werden.
Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Now, to return to the battle.
The 16th Battalion(Western Australia) was led in to the charge by Major Percy Black, who decided to launch the attack even when the tanks did not arrive.
His exact words were "bugger the tanks".
He was subsequently killed between OG1and OG2, after he had just sent his runner back to his C.O tellling him that the first trench had been captured, and he was moving on to OG2.
It was machine gun fire that killed him, a bullet to the brain apparently, just as he had found a hole in the concertina wire, and had ordered the remnants of the 16th through to OG2.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Beryl Black recently, Percy's widowed niece in law, whose late husband Ian John Black, Percy's brothers son, collected and donated most of the material that our National Archives and War Memorial have on Major Black.It was spine tingling reading his own letters to his mother from Galliopoli when he was a Private,and in the same gun team as Harry Murray V.C.
I attach a photo of "the little white chapel" of Bullecourt. If you zoom in to the left of the chapel, you will see an arrow drawn, pointing to the spot where we believe Major Black still is. His nephew Ian John Black drew this arrow 25 years ago!! I do not know how he came to the same conclusion we did, aside from the fact that the Germans would not have carried the bodies more than 100 metres for burial, as the railway line between the two trench lines had been destroyed by our artillery fire the week before, and the burials wold have been conducted immeadiately after the battle, as per L/Cpl Peachey, to prepare their defences for the "supposed" next attack.
Harry Murray V.C, at that time a Captain swung the remainder of his 13th battalion o the North East, to support the 16th battalion.
It is needless to mention his acts that day to you, suffice to say that Birdwood told him that if we had had a victory, the D.S.O. he received would have been a bar to his V.C.
You will notice in the attachment "Riencourt", the communication trench he used to advance to the village is clearly visible.
The records indicate that the men who died accompanying him are still there, at least 25-30.Unfortunately, he and the remaining ten men he had with him, were forced to retreat.
I sincerely believe that with the information we have, we can justify a radar search of the sites.
I have spoken to some political aqauintances, and they, having followed this journey of ours,have suggested that we publicly ask them if they would be supportive of such a search, and in this election climate, they could not refuse.
I think that we may be able to get a commitement from both political parties almost immeadiately, as I think that a radar search would cost less than $150k for the whole battlefield.
There was a 2nd Battle of Bullecourt, that had a large amount of artillery fire on the positions, that undoubtably has affected our identified locations, but I feel we can justify looking for our original missing 866, and undoubtably find men from the 2nd Battle as well. In all 2400 of our men lost their lives in that small area, and most of them are still there, just 5-7 feet beneath the topsoil, away from the farmers plough.
The Gentleman who has acted as my German translator, has offered to go to Stuttgart to examine the documents. He would do so at no fee.
His name is Mr. Harald Scnmaultz, and he is a German freelance journalist,who lives in Melbourne and who writes for German and European newspapers on issues that affect the Asia Pacific region.
He was born and raised in Stuttgart, and it was his suggestion that we contact the Duke of Wurttenberg, knowing that he had an extensive family archive.
I believe that it would be beneficial if our RSL,sponsored Harald's trip to Stuttgart to examine these records, it would only cost $2-3,000.
Attached is a photo of the 16th Battalion's officers taken either in 1916 or 1917.
Half of these men were killed at Bullecourt.
I have the original photo in my possession on loan from Mrs Black, and I do not believe that even our War Memorial has seen it, let alone have a copy.
As a friend of ours says Sir, what would the boys in Afghanistan think if they knew that we would not go looking for them?
Your thoughts and guidance Sir, would be highly appreciated.
I remain at your service,