WWI in the Herald: December 8, 1914

TUESDAY 8 DECEMBER 1914

Associated with the first and second general Australian military hospitals at the front will be 186 skilled nurses, selected on a proportional basis from each State, as follows:-

Victoria, 45; New South Wales, 45; Queensland, 27; South Australia, 27; Western Australia, 18; and Tasmania:,18. Six matrons make up the full total.

The Victorians, Queenslanders, and Western Australians will be attached to the No. 1 hospital, and the nurses from the remaining States to the other.

The difficulty experienced by the Acting Director-General of Medical Service (Colonel R. H. Fetherston) was not in securing the necessary complement, but in eliminating volunteers, because practically the whole nursing profession, besides many hundreds of women who had no practical experience, wanted to go to the war in a body.

The official French bulletin sketching the progress of the war to the present date is a most interesting, although brief, summary of the events along the border of France and in Belgium.

Simultaneously with this was published an anonymous statement that General Joffre, the French Commander-in-Chief, had asserted that the coming victory of the Allies was a mathematical certainty.

We cannot attach much weight to this statement, as it comes without any authentication, and judging by the reports which General Joffre has issued from time to time, he is not given to dilating upon future events.

It may be perfectly accurate or it may not. But in any case the official bulletin, which bears the imprimatur of the French Commander-in-Chief, leads very much to the same view.

The words are worth quoting and emphasising. "Our forces are now as large as at the outset of the campaign, and the quality has enormously improved. All are profoundly imbued with a sense of superiority over the enemy and with absolute confidence of victory. The Germans' futile efforts have exhausted their reserves, while the troops they are bringing up today are badly officered and badly trained. Russia is more than asserting her superiority, and the German halt in the east is doomed inevitably to become a retreat."

It will be noted with satisfaction that while the review of the fighting necessarily and properly touches mainly upon the fine work of the French troops, who have gallantly defended a long frontier line, the assistance of the British is fully recognised. "We were unable to engage the enemy in the North until the British came into line."

The reports of the valour of the British troops and the splendid manner in which they have fought, which have appeared in the French newspapers, show how greatly British assistance is valued and appreciated.

But apart from the fact that the number of troops Britain has been able to put into the field is not as great as those of either France or Germany, the enormous value of Britain's co-operation to France must not be overlooked.

Had she remained neutral, the whole of the French seaboard would have been open to attack by the German vessels, and her merchant service would have been incessantly harried.

In guarding her against such dangers Britain has performed a service for France which it is certain that country will never forget.

The French official statement confirms reports which  had previously emanated from private sources that the Allies positions are now almost impregnable.

Yet it has to be remembered that the position of the Germans in Belgian territory is hardly yet sufficiently clear to ensure that they may not make another strong effort to break through the Allies' line.

That they would again be beaten and driven back there seems reason to believe.

The furious assaults they have made with serried masses of their picked troops have been so signally repulsed that any further attempts made by less well trained troops are not likely to be dangerous.

At the same time it would be unwise to cherish the hope that there will not be much more serious fighting. If the reports are correct, the Germans, both in Belgium and in Alsace-Lorraine, are making preparations to resist a long siege from the westward.

It is unofficially reported from Russia that they have transferred nine army corps from France to resist the Muscovite attacks, which must largely account for the cessation of active hostilities along the French frontier and in Belgium.

While the Allies will be content to gain such advantages as may present themselves, it is evident that time is on their side.

They can afford to wait until Germany loses more and more of her strength.

So far as Russia is concerned, the battles which are now proceeding are of a desperate character.

Thus far, however, the Russians have undoubtedly inflicted many defeats upon the enemy, and are steadily if slowly advancing.

It may be expected at the conclusion of the battles in Poland and Eastern Prussia that the Russian advance will become much more speedy.

The German losses, according to official statements from Berlin, have been so appallingly heavy that they will hardly be able to offer a very prolonged resistance to the invasion of the greater hordes of troops which Russia can pour into her territory.

The prospects of the Allies are therefore bright, but there must be much more stress and loss before they can be realised.

Paris, Monday.

A communique issued last night stated:-

Near the house at Pocsele, between Dixmude and Ypres, which we captured yesterday we destroyed a small German fort.

We were successful in the duel of heavy artillery in the Champagne district.

The sapping war continues in the Argonne, where we are slowly advancing.

We advanced slightly on the south–east of Varennes, where we silenced the German artillery.

A message from Boulogne reports that there is little activity at the front. There is a noteworthy decrease in the number of wounded, though many soldiers are in the hospitals, particularly the Indians, suffering from frost-bitten hands and feet.

The weather has enabled the aviators to make reconnaissances, resulting in the Allies progressing between Dixmude and Ypres.

The Germans at Turnout are cutting down the Forest of Casterle, with the object of building bridges and rafts to cross the Yser floods.

The German attempt on Pervyse resulted in the loss of eight machine guns mounted on rafts. The Belgians had only 40 killed, and 17 wounded.

London, Sunday.

An eye-witness with the British Headquarters Staff confirms the wantonness and vindictiveness of the bombardment of the Cloth Hall and the Cathedral at Ypres by the Germans.

The bombardment of these two places began after the failure of the final effort made by the enemy to capture the city.

It ceased immediately the buildings were destroyed, and served no military purpose whatever.

London, Monday.

Reuter's correspondent at Alexandria states that an officer of the Emden told a passenger on a transport that the Emden had for several weeks been cut-off from all news.

They captured at times various mail boats but as there were women and children aboard it was decided to spare passenger ships.

When the Emden was cornered off Keeling Island it was believed that the Australian transports were at least two days' distant.

He complimented the Australian authorities on keeping the movements of the transports secret.

If the Emden had known that the transports were close to her she would have got among them despite the knowledge that she would be going to certain destruction.

It was bad luck that the Sydney happened to be so close, as the Emden had previously successfully dodged vessels specially sent to intercept her.

(From Embarkation Rolls)

Driver Cecil Jones Buttsworth, Gloucester, 4th Infantry Brigade Train

Private Arthur Herbert Coventry, Speers Point, 9th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements

Trooper David Rankin Mackay, Wallsend, 6th Australian Light Horse Regiment    

Private Alexander Malcolm Mitchell, Wallsend, Tropical Forces, 2nd Battalion, New South Wales 

Gunner Albert Whittaker, Islington, 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade, 4th Reinforcements