Round 1 – Fremantle v Geelong: Not So Quiet On The Western Front
By Citrus Bob Utber
I have been having trouble trying to get the Somme and the various battlefields out of my mind since I spent the last fortnight in that beautiful part of France.
The towns such as Pozieres, Villers-Bretennaux, and Amiens keep jumping out at me as well as the many woods. Names such as Polygon Wood, Delville Wood, Monument Wood and Hangar Wood readily come to mind as places where Australian soldiers of the First AIF played significant roles.
I have returned to Australia via the western front of Subiaco to witness the battle between a Geelong Army that was shattered by its last encounter on the field of battle and a Fremantle battalion that lost nearly every fight that it was engaged in during 2016.
Their Commanding Officer Ross Lyon had no tactics to combat any enemy during his annus horibilis.
One site that was not seen in the Somme was Danger Wood and Commander Lyon was again forced to defend his territory against this impenetrable foe. Playing on the coordinates of 14 + 35 the Geelong army where brutal in many aspects of their game plan.
There was a new dimension to their attack. If the opponents have the advantage, tackle hard and often, a trait that had been foreign to them in the decisive battle with Sydney in 2016. Their soldiers had obviously been reminded during summer training.
The Cats big tank 26 crushed anything that got in his way and the new defending back half showed control of any attack that the Freo Panzer division could throw at them. They were a very impressive unit with great assistance from the Irish Lieutenant who moved into the unit as if he had been there forever.
Filed Marshall Scott, in charge of the army was able to counter the home countries biggest asset the enormous gun who seemed to have no opposition in gaining the first advantage for his troops. The new rules of warfare will help him immensely in the battles to come.
But it was the force and the brilliance of the troops scattered amongst the Danger Wood that would assist Geelong to a decisive victory.
Lyon’s troops could not penetrate Danger Wood and the Geelong army where able to start many of their forward movements from that area of the field. The speed of many of their attacks where based on attacking through the Wood on both flanks. The visitors where very flexible in how they attacked towards their goal and where using Tank 26 in a number of different battle techniques. 26 will be a valuable weapon in battles this year if the forward thrust and brute strength are used more often. It will be difficult for any forces to counter attack when the ability of the tank to cover ground quickly becomes a major tactic.
Lyon’s big guns rarely came into the battle except for the centre where most battles start from. His army still has a long way to go if they are to take ground in the eastern part of the country. They do not seem to have the weapons that an army should have if they are to be destructive and I foresee a number of retreats that will prove catastrophic for the purple and white haze that so often has been used to advantage in past battles.
The Geelong brigade flew back to their headquarters on Monday content that their battle plans had been used effectively although they do have a problem with their 7th division which failed as an attacking unit. In other battles this unit (7) has been a defensive back up that was able to thrust opponents back into the trenches. In other wars this proved most effective and FM Scott and his other leaders might have to review this side of their battle plans. It would be a pity if this back-up unit where forced out of the game because of some game plan that the Field Marshall has experimenting with and not succeeding at.
To Commanding officer Lyons credit his troops did apply counter attacks later in the battle but the work of the Cats in Danger Wood was too much in the final analysis.