The following is a contemporary account from the unit historian
In March 1918 the Battalion was at its best as regards numbers and morale. Dr Bean, in the ‘Official History of the A.I.F.’ records that “he passed at Noyelle our 51st Battalion very strong numerically and looking grand” and that “the 13th Brigade, including the 51st Battalion contained a large number of young recruits recently received, but marching full of confidence, helmets cocked and cigarettes in mouths.”
Then a month later came the historic counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux. On the evening of the 24th-25th April 1918 “an attack” says the Official Historian “that brought great fame to the Australian Infantry. Before sunrise this cold clean stroke had relieved the Allies from the anxious situation existing at sunset. The swiftness and finality of the decision which it imposed and the success obtained here caused it to be cited as the most impressive operation of its kind on the Western Front”. It is well known that this counter-attack effectively halted any further westerly advance of the enemy.
Such successes, unfortunately, can only be gained at great expense in human lives. On the morning of the 24th April, the ration strength of the Battalion was 844, and the casualties were 43.2% of that number, or 365. No wonder therefore that the survivors saw fit to erect a wooden cross at the spot near to where this large number of Western Australians paid the supreme sacrifice. The cross was made by Horatio and Ted Julian, English cabinet makers, from timber of the nearby destroyed church in the village of Blangy Tronville. It was painted by Walter Rich and was transported to the scene of its erection by Joseph Tunnercliffe, MM. Chaplain Donald Blackwood MC conducted the service. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Christies DSO had previously selected the site and marked it with a stick. The cross was erected at this spot by a working party from the Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Reginald Wood. The cross remained at this original site until the establishment of the Australian War Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux.