Centenary of the Great War

ON A MISSION: Australian Flying Corps members of No 1 Squadron prepare for a mission against the Turks. Picture: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

ON A MISSION: Australian Flying Corps members of No 1 Squadron prepare for a mission against the Turks. Picture: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for 31 December 1917- 6 January 1918.

SUCCESS IN PALESTINE

An official report from Palestine states:- We further advanced our line northward of Jerusalem, between December 27th and 29th, and took 750 prisoners.

A thousand enemy dead were counted.

Mr. Massey, the official correspondent, states:- The troops will remember this Christmas tide for the most uncomfortable weather on the front line. Rain and a gale drove across the mountains for a day and a half, the roads became rivers of mud, but the service triumphed over the storms.

Since our left advanced northward of the Aujar River, the right has materially improved. The Turks on December 27th made an effort to take positions north-westward and northward of Jerusalem, where our raids had straightened the line. The enemy, with all determination and strength, tried to force us back towards Jerusalem, but failed heavily.

Further westward, on the right of the enemy's attack, our infantry and dismounted men did brilliant work. After beating off the attack, they gallantly counter-attacked, swept the Turks back, and advanced our line on a front of nine miles to a depth of two and a half miles.

The enemy's dead testified to the severity of their losses.

Airmen continued to bomb the enemy communications on Monday, and then made a big attack, machine-gunning the Turks at Kalundlu, between Jerusalem and Birch. The warships bombarded the enemy in the trenches near the coast.

THE WEST FRONT

Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commandant on the West Front, reports:-

Raiders were driven off before reaching our positions eastward of Epehy.

Hostile artillery was more active south-westward and westward of Cambrai, and was also active along the front southward of Lens to Armentieres, and in the neighbourhood of Zonnebeke.

Our aeroplanes on Wednesday night dropped a few bombs on Carvin, near Lille, despite the bad weather.

A previous report stated:-

The enemy, attempting to raid in the neighbourhood of Oppy, was driven off before reaching the trenches. His artillery is more active in the neighbourhood of the Ypres-Comines canal.

Our aeroplanes on Tuesday dropped 200 bombs on the ammunition depot near Courtrai, on the aerodrome at Inglemunster, and on other targets. Three hostile machines were brought down, and two driven down. One of ours is missing.

We repulsed night raiders in the neighbourhood of La Bassee, taking prisoners.

MILITARY HONOURS

The list of military honours issued in connection with the New Year is a striking testimony to the splendid services which all ranks of the Australasian forces are rendering in the field. From the first landing at Gallipoli the Australians have proved themselves wonderfully adapted to bear their share of the great task which they entered into. The Victoria Cross and the Military Medal are conferred for some special deed of valour, while the Distinguished Service Order is given to men who by their zeal and ability do so much to make the army efficient for the work it has to perform. Each man must play his part. There must always be men in the forces who have but little opportunity to do the great deeds which earn for others either one or other of the coveted distinctions. But all are doing the work which has to be done, and all are worthy of the greatest possible measure of thanks. If the men who have received the honours which have been announced could be heard to speak, they would probably say that they had done no more than thousands of others, and that all would do the same if they had the chance. Such a statement would no doubt to a large extent be true.

There are many deeds of the greatest heroism performed under such conditions that they cannot attract the attention which would bring official recognition. It is no man's business in the height of battle to look around for brave deeds. They are being done on all sides by men of all ranks. If it were not for that spirit the accomplishments of our forces would not have been as great as they have been. But every now and then some particularly heroic deed stands out in bold relief, and that is when the V.C. or D.C.M. is conferred. They are justly prized distinctions, and the men who receive them always richly deserve them. The list of officers on whom the Distinguished Service Order has been conferred contains names of men attached to all branches of the forces. Many of them took to the army great technical skill and administrative abilities proved in their own businesses. They have served their country well, and they have received recognition. No recognition could really adequately express the debt the people owe to the members of the expeditionary forces, but the decorations will be accepted as some tribute of the Empire's appreciation of the services they have rendered.

MESSAGE TO AUSTRALIA

Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, has received the following message from Mr. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of Great Britain:-

“At the beginning of a New Year I wish to send on behalf of the War Cabinet to the Government and people of Australia a message of goodwill and confidence.

"We are now far on in the fourth year of the war, and, despite many set-backs, and many disappointments, we are also far on the path to victory. I have no doubt that if the Allies stand firm, they will not only restore liberty to Europe, but give lasting peace to the world.

"In the accomplishment of this great work, no peoples will have played a greater part than those who are members of the British Commonwealth. Against their steadfast courage, the legions of autocracy have cast themselves in vain, and the Empire which the militarists of Prussia were persuaded would crumble at a blow, has proved itself the most united and most massive of the bulwarks of freedom, because it is itself sprung from the eternal roll of freedom. We have good hope that before this new year is passed, the purpose to which we have set our hands will have been completely achieved."

TITLE OF ANZAC DISAPPEARS

Senator Pearce, Minister for Defence, on Wednesday explained that the five Australian divisions had been concentrated into an Australian Army Corps, while a separate corps had been formed of New Zealand and British troops.

The word Anzac had thus disappeared from both bodies.

LONELY SOLDIERS’ LETTERS

Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, stated on Friday that as the result of the insertion in the Australian press of advertisements by "lonely soldiers," inviting correspondence from residents in Australia, several bags of letters, papers and parcels were received by members of the Australian Imperial Force, two advertisements alone resulting in the arrival of some 10,000 letters for two men. The Minister further stated that the practice of inserting advertisements in the press inviting correspondence of strangers is strictly forbidden by censorship regulations, and is an abuse of the facilities granted. It also causes congestion in the post office, to the detriment and delay of ordinary correspondence, to say nothing of the additional work thrown on the base censors.

In future advertisements in the press by “lonely soldiers" will be prohibited, and correspondence under the same class stopped.

WORD OF NEATH MEN

Private J. Ryan writing to his father, Mr. J. J. Ryan, of Neath, from France, on September 22, 1917, says: “It is a good while since I wrote you a letter, so I now write a few lines to let you know how things are going with me at present. All the boys from Neath who are here with me are well and going strong at the present. Myself, Herbert, Jim Hodges, and William Bamback have had our welcome leave to England, and I can tell you we enjoyed it after our long time in Egypt and the trenches in France. They treat us well in 'Blighty,' l met Jack O'Bryne the other day, and just as we met old Fritz began to lob his shells on us, so our chat was cut short for the time. I also met Charlie Hughes, senior, also Matty Laws the other day, They are going strong. My nerves go a bit shaky at times now, since my shellshock on the Lewis machine guns on the Somme, but one must have some nerve to keep from getting bluffed, more especially when you see your mates getting blown to pieces at times. We are on a pretty hot front now. Our battalion is engaged laying light railways and roads for taking up the guns when they advance. Old Fritz gives us some hurry up too. We do not get too many casualties in our battalion. We lost a few hundred on the Somme, and a few since we came in here this time; but they have shoved old Fritz back a bit. He comes over our camp nearly every night with his flying machines, dropping bombs, but I don't think he will be long before he ‘chucks the towel in’ now. We gave him a good go this last few days. We got about 3000 prisoners, and some of them are starved-looking and broken up, and some very young looking, only about 16 years of age a lot of them. I don't know how they stand our bombardments; they are terrible. I don't wonder at them coming over and giving themselves up. It is very funny to see our fellows bringing the prisoners in. They leave them standing about anywhere, and they never seem to trouble about escaping."

Private Ryan, who has been over two years on active service, has three brothers and a brother-in-law at the front also.

ENLISTMENTS

Edward Alexander Barnes, Bulahdelah; Henry Charles Cridland, West Maitland; Edwin John Dorrough, Lochinvar; Allan Edward Ford, Mayfield; Andrew Smart Gillespie, The Junction; Benjamin Hardy, Merewether; Claude Albert Jack, Lorn; Roy Kendall, Lorn; Thomas Kenny, Muswellbrook; Anders Kristian Lund, Gloucester; Frank Hind Phelps, Aberdeen; Charles Edward Thompson, Waratah; Walter James Whyte, Waratah; Ronald Ernest Wood, Raymond Terrace.

DEATHS

Pte Claud Alfred Corner, Mulbring.

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