Centenary of the Great War

HAUNTING: Australian prisoners of war captured at the first Battle of Bullecourt, April 11, 1917. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

HAUNTING: Australian prisoners of war captured at the first Battle of Bullecourt, April 11, 1917. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for 16-22 April 1917.

CAPTURE OF LENS

The British have entered Lens. A Paris message states that explosions and fires in the German lines behind Lens, with some fires in the town itself, are interpreted to mean that the Germans have begun their work of destruction before evacuation.

The Daily Chronicle's correspondent at headquarters, telegraphing at 4 o'clock Sunday morning, stated that British patrols had entered Lens. The enemy had left rearguards in the redoubts, and frantic efforts were made to remove the guns, numbering 150, in the network of mines and pitheads at Lens and Lievin. They blew up the roads, and orders were given to destroy the mines, firing charges into the pits and flooding them. Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commandant on the west front, reports:- “On Saturday morning we captured Lievin, south-westward of and adjoining Lens, taking considerable quantities of war material. In the afternoon we seized Cite de St. Pierre, north-west of Lens. We pressed on on our whole front on the Scarpe River, southward of Loos, and reached points two and three miles eastward of Vimy Ridge. There was heavy fighting all day long southward of the Scarpe. We everywhere maintained the positions previously cultured, and inflicted serious enemy losses. We progressed on a wide front northward and southward of the Bapaume-Cambrai road, fierce encounters resulting in our favour southward and eastward of Fayet, to within a few hundred yards of St. Quentin. We carried Gricourt village at the point of the bayonet, although the enemy stubbornly resisted. We took 400 prisoners. An attempted hostile counter-attack was broken up. Our aeroplanes on Thursday and Friday dropped large quantities of explosives, with good results, on enemy stations, ammunition depots, and aerodromes. They successfully attacked enemy infantry convoys with machine guns. Four German aeroplanes were brought down, and six were driven down. Twelve of ours are missing.

AUSTRALIAN BRAVERY

From C.E.W. Bean, Australian Official War Correspondent: “I have to record an attack by the Australian troops, which will live in history as long as history exists. In order to take the fullest advantage of the great successes near Arras, it was necessary that the Hindenburg line should be attacked at a point where the Australians faced it. This line is defended by wire entanglements, of whose strength the whole world has heard. It was recognised as being something unparalleled in the history of fortifications. The chance of a very great success made the enterprise most important, though it was realised that success might be impossible to attain.

At dawn on the morning of the 11th the Australians attacked. The Australian infantry fought its way under machine gun fire, through such wire as was hitherto unknown, seized two lines of the Hindenburg trenches, pushed further as ordered, and took the village of Reincourt. By this time one of the tanks had got through the wire. The infantry followed it still further, and in accordance with the plan, entered the village of Hindecourt, near Bullecourt, two thousand yards beyond the Hindenburg line, within two hours of starting. This feat is almost unbelievable by those who know and those who have seen the strength of these fortifications. It was, however, attained.

German infantry and transports were seen streaming towards the rear. Here, however, this wonderful, brave effort spent itself. With its ranks thinned by heavy fighting, this handful of men alone in the enemy's country was unable to keep down the machine gun fire, and the sniping from all sides. The furthermost parties were completely cut off by eight o'clock. Towards midday the Germans were heavily reinforced. They counter-attacked along the whole line, and after heavy bomb-fighting, lasting for nearly an hour, the remaining troops were driven out from the Hindenburg line. From a certain definite report of the movement, there is reason to believe that though it did not succeed, this extraordinarily gallant attack had a marked effect on the progress of the troops elsewhere. In any case, it was one of the most gallant feats Australian soldiers have ever performed.”

NEW PHYSICAL STANDARD

Referring to some misconception regarding the new physical standard for the AIF, the authorities at Victoria Barracks have officially stated that the height minimum has been reduced to 5ft for infantrymen, and that a few men under 5ft will be accepted for special service as machine gunners and drivers. The general standard fixed at the outbreak of war was 5ft 4in minimum height, and 34in minimum chest expansion. Shortly afterwards this was reduced to 5ft 3in for the height, and 33in for the chest minimum. It is probable that this still is the standard for such units as Light Horse and Artillery.

ANZAC DAY IN SCHOOLS

The memory of Anzac Day is not to be allowed to fade from the minds of the public school children, for Mr James, the Minister for Education, has authorised the issue of a circular to teachers, setting out a suggested program for the day. The Minister desires teachers to take full advantage of the opportunity for impressing again upon the minds of their pupils the real basis of our pride in the share taken by the Anzacs on the 25th April, 1915. After pointing out that Gallipoli has a deep significance to Australians, the circular goes on: “For the first time in their history, Australians stood side by side with soldiers from the rest of the Empire, and with the Empire's Allies, in a world struggle for freedom. We want our Australian children to remember not only the heroism of their countrymen at Gallipoli, but the sacred cause in which that heroism was displayed.” It is impressed upon teachers that: “It is no small thing to be able to remind Australian children that within a few years of federating themselves into nationhood, the flower of Australian manhood went forth, fought, and died for the finest thing men can die for.” The children are to be encouraged to feel that they themselves are celebrating a great event, and consequently the boys and girls are not to occupy the mere role of audience, but to take an active part in what is going on. Between now and the 25th April, teachers will discuss with the pupils, and invite suggestions as to how the day can best properly be celebrated. It is suggested, however, that selected portions of Ashmead Bartlett's and Captain Bean's respective stories of the landing should be read, that short poems or special verses bearing upon Gallipoli should be recited, that truly patriotic songs should be sung, and that special reference should be made to the recruiting scheme inaugurated by the Teachers' Association, and the relationship between the recruits secured, and the schools that adopt them. 

DARCY'S TROUBLES

New York, Saturday.

The Governor of Louisiana has cancelled Les Darcy's match with Jeff Smith, which was to have taken place on the 23rd instant.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Sir, We wish to appeal to your readers for their co-operation in our work for the men of the First Light Horse and the First Light Horse Field Ambulance, now serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Summer is rapidly approaching, and with it come climatic conditions so severe, that the hardships so bravely faced by our men are materially increased. These hardships can be reduced by sending frequent and large consignments of certain supplementary foods. We all know how important it is to have changes of diet, but I think few of us realise what a terrific strain it is even on the strongest institution, to face the blistering heat of a summer on the desert, on army rations. We have had an urgent appeal for tinned fruit; tinned vegetables, and lime juice.

We must respond to this appeal, but in order to do so, we must have funds, and we must have them quickly. We therefore ask those who are interested in the welfare of the Australian Light Horsemen to send a contribution of money to the First Light Horse Comforts Depot, 28 Moore-street, Sydney. The very smallest sums will be most thankfully received. - I am, etc., Mary Vernon, Hon. Secretary First L.H. Comforts Fund.

ENLISTMENTS

Herbert Anderson, Mayfield; Donald Smirnoff Begbie, Islington; Horace Oraba Bell, Hamilton; Carl August Bergquist, Wallsend; Arthur Edward Bilton, Newcastle; William Brining, Newcastle; John Chapple, Wickham; Robert William Chisholm, Newcastle; Robert Stanley Conn, Hamilton; Frederick Thomas Curran, Denman; Daniel Thomas Davies, Hamilton; Hubert Yorke Delahunt, Denman; Frederick Dennewald, Scone; Harley James Doherty, Muswellbrook; Leonard Oswald Douglas, Cooks Hill; Richard Fitzsimmons, Cooks Hill; Percy Lawrence Gibbons, Merriwa; Albert Harris, Maryville; William Robert Henderson, Speers Point; George Salem Holm, Islington; Alexander Jones, Lambton; Norman Hunter Leishman, Newcastle; William Loades, Newcastle; Bruce McGill, Newcastle; William Alfred McKay, West Maitland; Annie Beatrice Milligan, Muswellbrook; Alexander Kethel Muir, Stockton; Thomas Gomer Palmer, Newcastle; Archibald Conrad Porteous, Hamilton; William Race, East Maitland; Harold Francis Roach, Cessnock; Richard James Roe, Blandford; John Clarence Ryan, Hamilton; Edward Ryan, Newcastle; Herbert Edward Sanderson, Newcastle; William Peter Sharkey, Cooks Hill; John Cecil Shearer, Merewether; Thomas Henry Stafford, Islington; Cecil Bernard Storm, West Maitland; Harold James Tapner, Mayfield; Albert James Terry, Newcastle; Lee Tinsley, Newcastle; John Walker, Wallsend; David Ellis Watson, Waratah.

DEATHS

Pte Arthur Barrie, Jesmond; Pte John Dolphin Barry, Weismantles;  Spr Donald Mitchell Blair, Seaham; Pte Claude Crittenden, West Maitland; Cpl John Vincent Dwyer, East Maitland; Pte Aaron Smith Haddon, Dudley; Lieut William White Hill, Branxton; 2nd Lieut Trevor Langwill, Newcastle; L/Cpl Broughton Taylor Luscombe, Muswellbrook; Pte Arthur Francis Mayne, Hamilton; Lieut Eric Dawson Simmons, Cessnock; Lieut William Albert Symington, Mayfield; Gnr William Robert Thomas, Muswellbrook; Pte Edward David Wolfgang, Muswellbrook.

David Dial OAM is a Hunter-based military historian. Follow his research at  facebook.com/HunterValleyMilitaryHistory

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