Centenary of the Great War

CAPTIVES: Australian light horsemen accompanying their prisoners into captivity during their campaigns in the Middle East. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony
CAPTIVES: Australian light horsemen accompanying their prisoners into captivity during their campaigns in the Middle East. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details November 5-11, 1917.

THE WEST FRONT

Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig reports: We repulsed last Sunday morning, after sharp fighting, attacks southward and westward of Passchendaele, in which the enemy captured an advanced post in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Roulers railway.

We retook the post in the afternoon, and repulsed a bombing attack eastward of Gouzeaucourt. There is considerable activity by the enemy's artillery northward of Ypres. The weather interfered with flying.

Saturday's report stated: Hostile artillery is more active in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Staden railway. Our artillery activity on the battlefront continues.

We took prisoner a few Germans in a patrol encounter westward of La Bassee.

We slightly improved our positions southward and westward of Passchendaele, and south-east of Poelcapelle, taking prisoners.

There is great activity on the part of hostile artillery eastward of Ypres.

A Belgian communique states:- A most violent artillery struggle is proceeding on our front in Flanders, especially before Dixmude.

SUCCESS IN PALESTINE

An official report from Egypt states:- After a heavy bombardment, we attacked on Thursday night the western defences of Gaza, and captured the Turkish first line on a front of 5000 yards. We took 296 prisoners, and drove off three counterattacks, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy.

A previous report stated:- We held a position north of the town of Beersheba, which we occupied on Wednesday. We successfully raided another portion of the front, killing a large number of the enemy.

BRITISH OFFENSIVE RENEWED

Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commandant on the West Front, reports:- We attacked at six o'clock on Tuesday morning positions in the neighbourhood of Passchendaele. Reports show that we are satisfactorily progressing.

In a later report Sir Douglas Haig states: The Canadians' operations yesterday morning were completely successful against the defences in and around Passchendaele, and the spurs north and north-west. After a successful assembly the assault was launched at six o'clock, as arranged. The enemy had been ordered to hold this important position on the main ridge at all costs.

There was hard fighting at a number of points, particularly on the high ground northward of the village, and for a collection of fortified buildings at strong points on Goudberg Spur. Nevertheless the troops made steady progress. They captured at an early hour Passchendaele, the village of Mosselmarkt, and Goudberg hamlets, and gained all their objectives before midday. We took a number of prisoners. It has been raining at intervals. Our guns are dealing effectively with the enemy's batteries and concentrations of infantry.

FIRST AMERICAN FUNERAL

The United Press correspondent at American Headquarters states that there were most impressive scenes at the burial of the first American soldiers killed during the fighting against the Germans.

The Americans fought with clubbed guns, bayonets, knives, entrenching spades, and even with their hands, but were overwhelmingly outnumbered. The whole force is now most anxious and most impatient for a chance to attack.

PROGRESS IN PALESTINE

Mr. Massey, the official correspondent with the Palestine forces, reports:- Beersheba is now firmly held, and all the high ground north is in our possession.

The Turkish thirty mile front has shrunk considerably, and we are able to concentrate greater strength at threatened points. General Allenby has now attacked the seaside defences in the Gaza area. The warships harassed the enemy communications, and destroyed several ammunition dumps, but there was a most terrific bombardment by all the guns just before the infantry rushed Umbrella Hill, capturing every living Turk, the tanks assisting.

The enemy made desperate attempts to regain his lost ground, throwing in four counter-attacks, but the Scottish and East Anglian troops broke up every Turkish line by rifle and machine gun fire.

Our casualties are considerably smaller than was anticipated.

CONSCRIPTION REFERENDUM

At the conclusion of the Cabinet meeting in Melbourne on Wednesday, Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, said:- "The Government, in view of the increased gravity of the military situation, and being satisfied that the voluntary system of recruiting has proved itself inadequate to reinforce our armies, has decided to immediately ask the people by referendum for authority to raise by compulsory service the number of troops necessary to maintain our five divisions at their fighting strength."

The referendum will not be taken on the same lines as the last one, but will be upon a definite scheme, which will be fully outlined by the Prime Minister at Bendigo on Monday next.

PROGRESS SATISFACTORY

A high military authority explains that the progress on the West Front is satisfactory.

We now hold two-thirds of the Passchendaele Ridge he says, which is the most important part. The percentage of the divisions engaged on the battle front since July 31st is 82 per cent British, 9 per cent Australians, 2 per cent New Zealanders, and 7 per cent Canadians.

Referring to Palestine, the authority said: General Allenby, after Beersheba, made a successful midnight desert march, and captured and secured an advantageous position by an enveloping movement, seriously threatening the Turks in the rear.

SUCCESS IN PALESTINE

In an official report General Sir Edmund Allenby states: We captured Khu Welles, eleven miles northward of Beersheba, at midnight on Monday, and repulsed repeated counter-attacks all day long on Tuesday.

Our troops, further south, advancing north-west from the neighbourhood of Beersheba, carried the whole of the Turkish defences southward of a line from Tel el Sheeba to Abu Hereira, capturing the last-named places, and thus advancing nine miles. Our troops displayed magnificent dash and endurance.

A later message from General Allenby announces that Gaza was captured on Wednesday morning.

TURKS OVERWHELMED

Mr. Massey, describing the bombardment of Gaza, states that many landmarks are now unrecognisable, especially the Gates of Gaza.

Our troops operating at Beersheba experienced great heat and dust, but showed superb endurance.

General Allenby, visiting the front lines, saw Australian engineers preparing a water supply for a large force of men and horses. They had worked for twenty-four hours to get a good flow. The spirit of these men is typical of that of the whole force.

AUSTRALIANS FIGHTING TOGETHER

C. E. W. Bean, the Official Australian Correspondent, states: When the news of the capture of Passchendaele by the Canadians reached the Australian troops, both in and out of the line, it was received with the greatest satisfaction. As one man put it, laughingly to some of us: “We always said if the Canadians took Passchendaele, we would take them into the family."

The Australian troops here are one great family in feeling, to an extent to which perhaps no other troops on the front have attained. Since all the Australian divisions fought together at Ypres, this sentiment for the first time has been definitely recognised by all Australians. I was with some battalions when the decision became known, and in every case it was exceedingly welcome. "That's splendid," was everyone's comment. The Australian force is indeed now fighting practically as a solid army, although it is not large enough to form a regular army.

The keenest desire is felt amongst the men and officers that abundant reinforcements of our best quality during the winter may completely maintain the prestige of these magnificent divisions.

PALESTINE ADVANCE

An official message from Egypt reports:- We assaulted and captured on Tuesday night lightly held works southward of Gaza.

"We continued the advance upon the right to Ali Muntar, a height dominating Gaza, on the south-east. We advanced our left to the Sheikhr-ed-Wan fortifications, a mile northward of the town, and pushed on through the town during the day, reaching the mouth of the Wadi Hesi, eight miles north of our original line.

Our Sheira forces also successfully continued their advance to the northwest. The Turks still occupy some trenches eastward of Gaza, but there are indications of a general retirement to the north. Our aeroplanes inflicted losses on the retiring Turks, and also on enemy concentrations at the railheads. Our captures of guns and prisoners are considerable along the whole front.

LATE LIEUTENANT PUTNEY

Word was received on Wednesday night at Carrington that Second Lieutenant F. Putney was killed in action in France on 12th October.

Lieutenant Putney had, prior to enlisting, been living in Carrington for 15 years. He carried on a business of hairdresser and tobacconist, and was most popular amongst the residents. For over two years previous to enlisting he was an alderman of the municipality, and took deep interest in municipal matters. Since the outbreak of the war he was associated with all the patriotic movements inaugurated at Carrington, and at the time of enlistment was secretary of the Send-off and Welcome Home to Soldiers' Committee, for each of which he worked and gave most generously. Lieutenant Putney was a widower, and leaves one child, a son about five years of age, Mrs. Putney having died early in January, 1916. He was also well known in cricketing circles in the district, of which game he was an enthusiastic supporter. He left Sydney in October, 1916. The latest letter received from him stated that he had received his commission. Expressions of regret were heard on all sides when the news became known of his untimely end. The deceased officer was 37 years of age.

CORPORAL FAIRLESS

Mrs. Fairless, of Stockton, has received a letter from Sergeant J. Thompson, referring to her son, the late Charles Fairless, who was killed in action on the West Front, and who was a prominent member of the Stockton Surf Club. In the course of his letter, Sergeant Thompson says: "Charlie was 'knocked' at Messines, almost by my side, and as he fell the victim to machine gun fire, his last words before going were, “Johnnie, old boy, write and tell my mother I died happy.” I then dug him into his last trench, and marked the spot with a small wooden cross, “Here lies Happy Fairless, __ Battalion, A.I.F.” If I had been a woman I would have cried. I almost wish I could have. He was such a fine chap, so cheeky, and such an excellent soldier. All his men adored him. If popularity went for anything, he would have been at least in charge of a company when fate intervened, and claimed him for her own. You can well imagine that it is not death, fatigue, exposure, or being absent from home, that makes us weary of this war, but the loss of one of our best pals."

PRIVATE ALBERT

Private F. J. Albert, the ex-Merewether and interstate centre forward, who has been killed in action, was a member of the Advance Club, and for a number of seasons occupied the position of centre forward. On numerous occasions he represented the district, and was chosen to play in the last interstate team. His last game was against the South Maitland team, which was played at Weston just over twelve months ago. A few weeks ago word was received that he had been wounded, but had recovered and returned to the firing line. His death is a big loss to district "Soccer," for he was without doubt one of the finest exponents of the game.

ENLISTMENTS

William Quinn Arthur, West Maitland; John Gibson Atkinson, West Maitland; Leon Bethel Bailey, West Maitland; Ernest George Finney, Wickham; Charles Firth, Hamilton; John Hutchison, Waratah; Leonard Havelock Lee, West Maitland; Albert Ernest Lostroh, Newcastle; Leslie James McMahon, Merriwa; Henry George Mitchell, West Maitland; Rolf Norman, Middlebrook; Frederick William Vizzard, The Junction; Frank Baverstock Ward, Middlebrook; Herbert Frederick Ward, Middlebrook; Charles Stanley Webb, Cooks Hill; George Stanley Wilson, Wickham.

DEATHS

Sgt Victor Wadsworth Ashworth, Branxton; Pte Norman George Barrett, Wickham; Pte Arthur John Bruderlin, Singleton; Pte Gavan Dickson Carmichael, Seaham; L/Cpl Frederick Christensen, Stockton; Cpl Gordon Selwyn Gillam, Newcastle; Pte Roy Cyril Hackett, Merriwa; Pte Rex Edward Steven Heuston, Singleton; Pte Edmund Victor Hughes, Hamilton;

Pte Henry George Ireland, Wybong; Pte John Richard McDonald, Bunnan;  Coy QM Sgt Lancelot Gordon Meek, Maitland; Pte George John Morrison, Scone; Pte James Reginald Reid, Lambton; Pte Alfred Shenfield, Kurri Kurri; Pte Herbert Henry Soars, Gloucester; Sgt Alexander Treu, Lochinvar; Pte Joseph Williams, Hamilton; Gnr William Joseph Willis, Cessnock.

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