Centenary of the Great War

WAR-RAVAGED: A battered village on the Somme remains a hub of activity for soldiers. Photo: The Digger’s view by Juan Mahony.
WAR-RAVAGED: A battered village on the Somme remains a hub of activity for soldiers. Photo: The Digger’s view by Juan Mahony.

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for December 3-9 ,1917.

WARATAH

At the Waratah Golf Links on Saturday afternoon, a roll of honour, containing the names of the members and ex-members who have gone to the war, was unveiled. A large number of members and visitors were present.

Mr. Hudson Berkeley, the president, in performing the ceremony, said it was a very simple tablet, but the importance of it lay in the fact that the names of these men would be writ large in the history of Australia, with those of the tens of thousands of others whose high ideal of duty had prompted them to leave their fathers and mothers, wives and children, to fight the common foe in far-off lands. When a high sense of duty was shown by any man or woman, it immediately called forth a responsive admiration for their acts, especially when it might mean the making of the supreme sacrifice of life. Their members had shown that splendid character, and those present were there to show that they recognised their great self-sacrifice.

FIERCE FIGHTING

The United Press correspondent reports that the Germans launched a very heavy counter-attack on the Cambrai battlefront, between Moeuvres and Bourion.

Prince Rupprecht, out-generalled by General Sir Julian Byng, decided to put every available General life in the balance in an effort to regain some, if not all, of the newly won British ground, and likewise some of his lost prestige. The blow was, perhaps the hardest struck by the Germans since that at Verdun, in February, 1916.

Vast masses charged into the teeth of the British machine guns, while the artillery filled the fields with flesh-strips, the mangled pawns of the Crown Prince. The Germans thrust southwards towards Graincourt, but every yard forward was bought by countless dead.

It was manifest that Prince Rupprecht's pride would not allow General Byng to retain his winnings if the Germans were able to rebuy them. Meanwhile the British infantry vigorously counter-attacked.

Despite the lavish use of guns lately galloped up, the enemy is, apparently, unable to progress in the new attack near Gonnelleu. On the extreme southern flank of the new battle-ground the enemy shelled Bourlon Wood, and the vicinity, all night long.

Prisoners declare that the officers are fearful lest the British wedge at Bourlon force the German withdrawal from the area to the southwards of the Scarpe. Civilians have already evacuated Cambrai and region, and the Germans have begun destroying the city by torch and explosives.

THE ANZACS

Mr CEW Bean, the official Australian correspondent, telegraphs: “The other day some of us were at battalion headquarters, just by the front line, when we noticed several newspapers on the table inside a pill-box. They were London papers of the day before.

“Northward can be heard, especially for the last three days, an unending and tremendous gunfire. It is the sound of shellfire around the Passchendaele salient. It may help Australians to understand the fighting of the last few days near Cambrai if it is explained that when the Australians held the front near Bullecourt in the Spring, wherever they stood in that area there was always one big distant hummock or hill, far behind the German lines, which seemed to look down on them.

“This was Bourlon Hill. When the Australians first heard of the push towards Cambrai, the first question everyone asked was – “Have we got Bourlon Hill?" We have. It makes the German position very difficult. Probably it will be expensive to hold, and possibly dangerous, but it is not impossible, because in this war practically no position is impossible for determined troops."

AMERICANS JOIN IN

The correspondent of the "United Press" says:- Americans, in some cases, fought side by side with the British, using borrowed rifles. Since the commencement of General Sir Julian Byng's sudden thrust the Americans have been building and operating strategic railways close up to the German lines.

They relished their baptism of fire, and with sleeves rolled up they plunged into the spirit of the fighting. One Tennessean was standing by an engine when shrapnel began to rain. He had no steel helmet, but grabbed up a petrol tin and put it on his head. The Prussians then came up, and he hid in a shell hole. The enemy blew up the railway, but left the engine. The Tennessean stole from shell hole to shell hole, and escaped. Suddenly he found himself among the Tommies again, and picked up a rifle, and fought all day long with the British, ending by getting his engine back. He looked as proud as if he had done the whole thing himself.

A LOYALIST SOLDIER

At the Newcastle Stevedore Association’s Labour Bureau, Newcomen-street, Mr. H.D. Hook, on behalf of the loyalist coaltrimmers, presented Private Burgess, who will shortly be leaving for the front, with a wristlet watch. Mr. Hook congratulated Private Burgess upon the step he was taking, and wished him a safe return. He mentioned that the departing soldier was leaving behind him a wife and four children. In accepting the gift, Private Burgess said his country had called him, and he was off to do his duty. He thanked his fellow workmen for their good wishes.

IN PALESTINE

Mr Massey reports that the enemy is having no respite in any portion of the Jaffa-Jerusalem line.

We are daily inflicting serious losses, and took 468 prisoners on Friday. The Australian mounted men, in the open country near the sea, displayed their usual resource. A patrol espied a body of the enemy near Burkew el Jamus, seven miles north-east of Jaffa, which the Australians are holding. They allowed the Turks to come within two hundred yards of them, and the horsemen then launched a vigorous attack. After a lively fight the Turks were hopelessly beaten. By dawn the Australians surrounded the whole of the enemy, and took 147 prisoners.

The Imperial Camel Corps nearby cleared the Turkish trenches. There was heavier fighting in the hilly country eastward. The Scottish Lowlanders, using Stokes guns, stormed a ridge at El Burg, despite strong Turkish opposition. The biggest success of the day was near Belture el Fokka, or Bethoron, where dismounted Yeomanry attacked difficult ground and defeated the Turks, taking 300 prisoners. Our possession of the Nebi Samuel Ridge, which gives a magnificent view of Jerusalem and to the Mediterranean, gives the Turks much concern.

ENLISTMENT FIGURES

There was a shrinkage in the enlistment figures in Victoria last week from 189 in the previous week to 130, and New South Wales from 293 to 271. Jimmy Clabby, the well-known American boxer, enlisted today at the Melbourne Town all in the Sportsmen's Thousand. He advises all other American boxers in Australia to do likewise.

NEW WAR REGULATIONS

Amendments to the War Precautions Regulations were issued Tuesday, creating a Commonwealth police force, and providing for soldiers under 21 years voting at the referendum.

NEATH

Mr H. Colgate, of Neath, has received the following letter from Private G. Curtis, dated from France: “I wish to extend to Mrs. Colgate and yourself my sincere sympathy in the great loss you have sustained in the loss of young Jim. I trust the knowledge that he gave his life for his country whilst fighting to retain the liberties which we at present enjoy, and to overthrow the Prussian menace, will to some extent soften the blow. As an old soldier yourself, you will appreciate the risk a soldier runs here, and to some extent prepared for the worst, but I realise it is a very heavy blow to you and Mrs. Colgate, and will also cause you to worry more about the other boys. Young Jim grew up to be a splendid young fellow and a fine soldier. He was leader of a machine gun, always cheery, with no thought of danger when there was work to do. He met his death like a good soldier. Neath has lost two fine fellows in young Jim and Dudley Parker. Dudley was always quiet and unassuming, always there to do his duty without a murmur. There were not two better or better-liked boys in the battalion. I met young Bert and Trapper the other day. They both feel the loss of young Jim very keenly, but, like good soldiers, they are more determined than ever to keep going until victory crowns our efforts, as they realise what a Hun victory would mean. These countries here have suffered very heavily in the war, and we will never be able to do too much for them. When the refugees were brought in from the country taken from the Huns, there were children with their limbs off, and otherwise mutilated. Most of them had lost their parents. They presented such a pitiful sight that men who had gone through some of the worst stunts in the war broke down completely at the sight of them. Well, Harry, there is not much news to send from here. The boys are in good health, likewise myself. Good-bye and good wishes, from Private G. Curtis.”

NEW LAMBTON

Driver Leon George, in writing to his sister, Mrs. John Heddles, of St. James Rd, New Lambton, states: “I am keeping well and feeling very fit. The only thing that is troubling us fellows now is the thought of another winter in France. We have had about two months of sunshine, and now the rain has set in again, and with it, I think, the winter. We are starting on our ‘blighty’ leave shortly, and I will be more than glad to get away from this country for a while, and to land where they speak English. If it wasn't for the Y.M.C.A. and the Church Army huts, I don't know what a fellow would do. There is no mistake about it, those people are within a few yards of the rear trenches for the soldiers, and without them there would be nowhere for us to go. If you will send over a pair of socks occasionally they will be very welcome now that the cold weather is coming.”

MEREWETHER

Mrs F. E. Dale, of Rose-street, Merewether, has received a letter from the officer commanding A Company of "Newcastle's Own" Battalion, conveying to her the sympathy of the officers and men of the battalion in the loss of her husband, who was killed in action at the battle of Messines. The letter concludes, "His life and many other brave men's have been given that the loved ones, at home may have a future of peace and liberty."

SALT ASH

There was a large gathering at Salt Ash on Wednesday night to welcome home Trooper Reece James from the front, where he received wounds which incapacitated him for further active service. A committee of ladies provided refreshments, and carried out all arrangements in connection with the function. The Rev. Stuart Right occupied the chair, and extended, on behalf of the residents, a hearty welcome home to the young soldier. Major Windeyer, a returned soldier, spoke in eulogistic terms of Trooper James, both as a citizen and a soldier, his remarks being supported by Messrs. Harry Dalton, Stanley Smith, and Jonah Bevan. The presentation of a medal and shaving outfit was made by Rev. Stuart Wright. The recipient, in responding, said that he was pleased to be back among his friends once more, and thanked them sincerely for the warm reception accorded him. He urged all to vote "Yes" on the referendum question.

ENLISTMENTS

William Thomas Bell, Stockton; George Cowell, Merewether; Robert Curry, Carrington; William Hall, Adamstown; Harry Watson Hendry, Merewether; William Henry Milford, Weston; Geoffrey Norton, Thistlethwaite, Broadmeadow.

DEATHS

Pte Thomas Joseph Ferris, Norris Flat; Pte Frank Meadowcroft, Newcastle.

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