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The Plugstreet Archaeological Project

The 39th Infantry Battalion.




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The 39th Battalion, 10th Brigade, 3rd Australian Division, was raised at the Ballarat Showgrounds in Victoria on 21 February 1916.

The 39th Btn departed for England from Melbourne on the 27th of May 1916 onboard the Ascanius. A further 7 reinforcements would follow, the last leaving Melbourne on the 2 February 1918. Arriving in England on the of 18th of July the 39th Battalion spent the next four months training and crossed to France to take up positions on the Western Front in late November 1916.

Their first major action was the Battle of Messines, launched on the 7th of June 1917, when the battalion attacked over ground near Ploegsteert Wood, close to the Ultimo and Factory Farm mines. The faced a 3 mile march from their camp which lead them through the wood under shelling from the enemy and a gas attack which slowed progress and claimed casualties. The 39th Battalion suffered particularly from the gas and less than a third of the troops who set out from the camp reached the reached their jumping off points. Those who did arrived just as the mines were detonated and went straight over the top, managing to capture the Battalions objectives on the Black Line.

The 39th Battalion went onto the Battle of Passchendaele where they suffered 62 per cent casualties. In 1918 they saw action in the Spring Offensive when the enemy pushed through the lines. Their final action of the war was to be along the St Quentin Canal and the 39th Battalion was disbanded in March 1919



Those who served with The 39th Btn. AIF

at the Battle of Messines.

  • Butler  
  • Patrick Pte. d.8th July 1917
  • Munro
  • Daniel Pte. d.9th Jun 1917
  • Pollock  
  • Walter George Pte. d.8th June 1917
  • Reid
  • Ebenezer Sjt.
  • Richards  MM.
  • Percy Charles Pte. d.6th Dec 1917




    Digging Up Plugstreet

    Richard Osgood and Martin Brown


    The compelling story of the Australian soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division who journeyed to England in 1914, and who fought and died on the Western Front during the First World War. Using archaeology as the vehicle for their story, Martin Brown and Richard Osgood follow in the footsteps of the 'Aussies', from their training on windswept Salisbury Plain to the cheerless trenches of Belgium, where they 'dug-in' north-east of Ploegsteert to face the Germans. It presents a unique window into the world of the men who marched away to fight the so-called 'war to end wars
    More information on:

    Digging Up Plugstreet




    Pillars of Fire: The Battle of Messines Ridge, June 1917

    Ian Passingham


    Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography.' So said General Plumer the day before 600 tons of explosives were detonated under the German positions on Messines Ridge. The explosion was heard by Lloyd George in Downing Street, and as far away as Dublin. Until 1918, Messines was the only clear cut Allied victory on the Western Front, coming at a time when Britain and her allies needed it most: boosting Allied morale and shattering that of the Germans. Precisely orchestrated, Messines was the first true all-arms modern battle which brought together artillery, engineers, infantry, tanks, aircraft and administrative units from a commonwealth of nations to defeat the common enemy. So why is its name not as familiar as the Somme, Passchendaele or Verdun? General Sir Herbert Plumer, perhaps the most meticulous, resourceful and respected British general of WW1, is also unfamiliar to many. This book examines the battle for the Messines-Wytschaete Rid


    Bullecourt 1917: Breaching the Hindenburg Line

    Paul Kendall


    The assault upon the formidable Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt in April and May 1917 by three British Divisions - the 7th, 58th and 62nd - and three Australian Divisions was initially designed to assist Allenby's Third Army break out from Arras. This book tells the full story of a battle that can be seen as an archetype of the horrors of trench warfare. The controversial first Bullecourt battle of 11th April came to be regarded as the worst Australian defeat of the War, when Australian infantry assaulted without artillery and tank support. They were badly let down by the British tanks - but the British tank crews were let down in their turn by their own commanders, who put them in the forefront of the attack in Mark II training tanks, prone to malfunction and not armour-plated. Significant numbers fought their way into the German lines at Bullecourt against all odds, including legendary ANZAC soldiers Major Percy Black, Captain Albert Jacka and Captain Harry Murray. The Australians achi




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