Centenary of the Great War

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for 12-18 March 1917.

BREATHER: Members of a field artillery battery take a break, seemingly oblivious to the muddy conditions of their trench. Picture:The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.

BREATHER: Members of a field artillery battery take a break, seemingly oblivious to the muddy conditions of their trench. Picture:The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.

AUSSIES IN OPEN WARFARE

From C. E. W. Bean, Australian Official War Correspondent, British Headquarters, France. March 7. For the last five days the position in front of Bapaume and along the line on both flanks of it remained quite unchanged. On Monday, March 2, a German commander clearly ordered his divisions to find out who was following them, and six or seven small attacks which were made by the Germans about dawn that morning, were certainly most expensive attempts by the Germans at identification. It is no exaggeration to say that he lost 200 killed and 50 Prisoners.

The Australian troops have had a new excitement and the very real interest of following a retreating enemy over open ground, and this short experience of open warfare, despite the tremendous labours and sleeplessness, especially of the first few days, has been like a draft of new life to the men after the hardships of the winter. During more than one attack last week the troops which came up against thick wire under fire tackled it first one day and then another day until they found some means of getting through or round It. One company of Western Australians tried for 11 hours before they reached their objective. 

MERCHANTMEN ARMED

President Wilson has called an extra session of Congress for April 6th. Meanwhile, he will arm American merchantmen without waiting for power from Congress. Mr Lansing, Secretary of State, states that Mr T. W. Gregory, US Attorney-General has advised President Wilson that the President possesses the power to arm merchantmen. Guns will be supplied to merchantmen from the ex-navy's supplies, and gunners from the active or reserve lists. The navy will instruct the gunners as to whether the appearance of a submarine in the neighbourhood of the ship is sufficient warrant for opening fire. While secrecy is maintained as to the plans for arming ships, State Department officials admit that merchantmen, if convinced of the hostile intent of a submarine, are justified in firing at a U-boat without waiting to be attacked.

President Wilson is now exercising his constitutional power as Commander-ln-Chief of the Army and Navy, as if the United States were actually at war against Germany. 

TIGHES HILL

The NSW Public School Teachers' Association has adopted a scheme, for helping to raise reinforcements to assist our men at the front. Each school, or each department, has to make itself responsible for at least one accepted recruit, who will be that school's representative in the Public Schools' Reinforcement Units, and the school will undertake the responsibility of keeping him supplied with parcels of comforts. While in Sydney they will be looked after by the council of the association. The teachers and pupils of the Tighes Hill School will be glad to hear of any men who are thinking of enlisting, and would be the school's representatives. 

BAPAUME ADVANCE

While the British successes in Mesopotamia must have a marked effect upon the war, it is the British advance on the west front which is of the greatest importance at the moment. Its progress has been continuous for some time, and although occasionally momentarily checked, it does not stop. Sir Douglas Haig's forces, in which Australian troops are playing no unimportant part, have latterly gained success after success which, had they fallen to the lot of Germany, would have been the subject of stilted messages of congratulation from the Kaiser and flag-wagging in Berlin. The explanations given by the Germans for their continuous retreat before the British forces are obviously only excuses for home consumption, and to save their face in the eyes of neutrals, although that is nowadays becoming a very difficult job. The story has been given out that the Germans are withdrawing with a view to shortening their line. The circumstances of their retreats give a denial to this assertion, but it may be assumed that they have been compelled to strengthen their lines at particular points where they most fear attack. It may, however, be taken for granted that Sir Douglas Haig is fully alive to their movements, and as far as the British forces are concerned, is perfectly prepared to meet them. As much, no doubt, may be said for the French military authorities. It may be assumed that the Allies would welcome a strong German attack, inasmuch as the attackers in most cases sustain greater losses then the defenders, although so far as the British attacks are concerned that has not latterly been the case. Their intense artillery fire accounts for this, and must to some extent prove a check upon attacks by the enemy. That the Germans will go on fighting desperately there can be little doubt, but it may be questioned whether they will venture upon any great assault. It is impossible, however, to attempt to forecast German action. But the Allies will be prepared for all kinds of surprises. The British are not only straightening their line from Ypres to the Somme, recapturing territory as they advance, but threaten to go on beyond Bapaume, on through villages and towns of which the names will ever be reminiscent of the time when the German invaders drove the Allies before them from Belgium and into France. Le Cateau, Avesnes, Le Quesnoy, and Maubeuge, which lie beyond Bapaume, all recall poignant memories. Their recapture will send a thrill through the people of the Allies as betokening the nature of the end of the war. Beyond them again are Mons, Charleroi, and Namur. What the immediate object of the British advance is can only be known to those who are in the secrets of the military controllers of the war, but that it presages the battles for the recovery of the freedom of Belgium there can be little doubt.

AMERICA ARMING

The State Department has notified foreign diplomats that armed guards will henceforth be placed on all American ships sailing through the danger zone, and that American navy gunners will be provided for both passenger and munition ships.

The State Department makes a complete change of front regarding the status of merchantmen, and now holds that they do not become warships in any sense through being armed.

It is believed that the substance of the Government's instructions to the naval gunners is that they can fire on submarines on sight. The gunners are given discretionary power, to some extent independent of the captains of the ships.

The officials are now taking the necessary steps, and the first armed liner will leave at the weekend.

American military experts agree that the military news of 1917, the series of Allied successes in France, the German retirements, and the British success on the Tigris route, shows that the pendulum has begun to swing back.

AUSTRALIAN CASUALTIES

The 279th list of Australian casualties, issued Thursday, contains 891 names. It shows that 74 were killed in action, 47 died of wounds, one accidentally killed, and 39 died from other causes, including two from gas poisoning. There are 368 reported wounded, 44 missing, 304 sick, 13 Injured, and two prisoners of war. In addition 25 are reported returned to duty.

ENCIRCLING BAPAUME

Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commandant on the west front, reports: “Our line has advanced on a mile and a-half frontage south-westward and eastward of Bapaume. We progressed on a 2000 yards frontage southward of Achiet le Petit, and occupied a thousand yards of trench south-westward of Essarts, which is north-eastward of Gommecourt. We raided trenches eastward of Armentieres, and effectively bombarded positions northward of the Somme and eastward of Arras.”

GREAT COMFORT

The following letter was received by the secretary from the O.C. 17th Battalion, Major Pye: France, 27th December 1916 - “I would like to thank you very much on behalf of the officers and men of this battalion for your simply magnificent collection of Christmas comforts, which arrived safely, and well up to time. I cannot tell you how much they were appreciated. If you could have heard the men express their gratitude, I am sure you would have felt rewarded for your splendid efforts.”

REVOLT IN RUSSIA

The Czar Nicholas II, of Russia has abdicated.The Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitz, his brother, who was born in December, 1878, has been appointed Regent. The fact was announced in the House of Commons by Mr Bonar Law, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr Bonar Law added that the soldiers had taken sides with the Duma. There had been no serious loss of life. The discontent in Russia was not due to a desire for peace, but because the people were dissatisfied, believing that the war was not being conducted with sufficient energy. A trans-ocean wireless message received in New York from Berlin states that an official announcement from Petrograd states, that the Duma on the 11th instant refused to obey the dissolution ukase, and because of the breakdown of transport and the food situation, they formed an executive committee. The committee declared itself a Provisional Government, and arrested all the Ministers. The Petrograd garrison supports the revolution. The Duma declared the Cabinet no longer in existence, and appointed Deputy Engelhard, a colonel on the General Staff, commander of Petrograd. 

THE ADVENT OF SPRING

From C.E.W. Bean, official Australian war correspondent, British Headquarters, France, March 12. Yesterday, the wintry weather suddenly changed to that of spring. There was a blue sky and a bright sun, with some warmth in it, quite unlike the clear but bitterly freezing days of last month. There are sure to be a few cold snaps yet, perhaps even snow and showers, but the Australians are certainly emerging at last from their first winter in France.

ENLISTMENTS

Albert Leonard Anderson, Pelaw Main; Benjamin Edward Baglee, The Junction; Oscar Edward Bond, Dalwood; Ernest James Brookes, Kurri Kurri; Allan Bush, Pelaw Main; John James Carruthers, Hamilton West; James Cranney, Sandhills; Alfred John Curties, East Maitland; Edward James Davis, West Maitland; Bernard Sidney Duggan, Newcastle; Albert Duncan, Tighes Hill; Charles Duncanson, Newcastle; Paul Joseph Feneley, West Maitland; William Francis Goodhew, Maryville; Clapham Henry Gow, East Maitland; Clifford Griffiths, Pelaw Main; George Gunther, Kurri Kurri; Samuel Higginbottom, Kurri Kurri; Frederick Theodore Jones, West Maitland; Alexander Laurence Keddie, Hamilton; William Marsh, Hamilton; Ernest John McElroy, West Maitland; James Arthur Miller, Newcastle; Keith Reginald Morris, Newcastle; Oscar O'Toole, Kurri Kurri; Annaniah George Pellow, North Rothbury; William Roland Perrau, Hamilton; Robert Probert, Wallsend; Bertram Ronald Searl, Singleton; Joseph Brian Shaw, Scone; Walter Gordon Sutherland, Mayfield; Kitty Hughes Thomas, Plattsburg; George Richard Warren, Raymond Terrace; Jack Leonard Waterhouse, Newcastle; Samuel Michael Whiting, Bellbird.

DEATHS

Pte Arthur Herbert Bowden, Singleton; Pte Norman Bright, Cooks Hill; Pte Reggie Nathaniel French, Merriwa; Pte Samuel John Fuller, Maitland; Pte David Powell Gibb, Dudley; Pte Leslie Gray, Lambton; Pte Ernest Hayward, Wyee; Pte William Aubrey Johnson, Wallsend; Pte John Victor Lodge, Sawyers Gully; Sgt Frank Robert Moore, Tighes Hill; Pte Joseph Richard Nubley, Kurri Kurri; Pte Leslie Alexander Richards, Bungwahl; Pte Roy Geoffrey Small, Muswellbrook; Pte Albert Charles Smith, Carrington.

David Dial OAM is a Hunter-based military historian. facebook.com/HunterValleyMilitaryHistory