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Guts Glory and Blunder

Noreuil, 1917 the forgotten fight


Andrew Faulkner

Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2024

Paperback    292pp     RRP: $32.99


Reviewer: Robert Dixon, May 2024


The central chapters of this excellent book provide a detailed account of the 50th Battalion’s assault on the French town of Noreuil in April 1917. The assault was successful in that within days of the attack the German defenders withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. Unfortunately, this success came at great cost, over 50% of the Australian soldiers involved were killed, captured or missing. 

While some chapters of the book deal with the assault itself (more on that below) there are chapters dealing with the prior experience of many of the soldiers at Gallipoli (tragically, many who survived Gallipoli would later die in Noreuil and other French battles); the difficulties experienced by the 85 members of the Battalion who became prisoners of war, and; the impact of the many deaths and casualties resulting from the battle upon their families in Australia.

As the author points out in his introduction, the story of a single day’s action involves ‘hardened Anzacs and green rookies’ in fighting that ‘ebbs and flows like the tides’. The fighting involved ‘hand-to-hand combat, bomb and bayonet fights’ with ‘men carrying on against enormous odds’. At one point in the battle the Germans used captured Australians as ‘human shields’. While one man’s gallantry on the day led to the award of a Victoria Cross, the action also saw a case of ‘fragging’ (yes, fragging) and a number of Australians killed by ‘friendly fire’. All this in a single day!

This book is well researched and extremely well written. It includes a large number of ‘in-text’ photographs (mostly portraits), five maps (although given the importance of the location of a valley in the battle it is a pity that the (too) few contour lines drawn in one of the maps are so faint as to be almost invisible), nineteen pages of endnotes, an excellent index, and a very helpful bibliography.

Highly recommended.


Andrew Faulkner is an Adelaide-based journalist and author. His first book, Arthur Blackburn VC:  An Australian hero, was shortlisted for the 2009 National Biography Award.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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