Centenary of the Great War

Armourers prepare an aircraft of the Australian Flying Corps for a night bombing mission. Photo courtesy of The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony
Armourers prepare an aircraft of the Australian Flying Corps for a night bombing mission. Photo courtesy of The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for February 4-10, 1918


A summary supplied by the Defence Department shows that the total casualties from the date of embarkation of the forces are: Dead 42,510, missing 1171, prisoners 3003, wounded 114,892, sick 66,549, casualty unknown 212; total, 228,337.


A representative of the Australian Press Association has made a tour of the principal Australian convalescent depot and hospitals in France, and witnessed the distribution of Christmas gifts and other comforts.

He was impressed by the cheerfulness of the men under suffering, which was greatly lightened by the liberal provision of athletic material. This does much to refit them for "the big scrum" again, besides helping to pass the time, and keeps them out of mischief. Boxing is the chief attraction. Even men with leg wounds still visible are able to hop gaily into the ring for a bout. A novel attraction for those unfitted for violent exercise is the introduction of the old English folk dancing exercise. It is lithesome, leaving the individual to do much or little, as he feels disposed. Gymnastic instructors are enthusiastically extending this new form of training.

The Y.M.C.A. has spent over £8000 providing sporting materials for Australian divisions. Our men are bettered entered for in this respect than the British Army. In nearly all the Y.M.C.A. huts lessons in French are given twice a week. The classes are largely attended. The French cigarette is the despair of the Australian soldier, and is only used in the last resort. Likewise light French ales are only drunk on sufferance, the preference being for light French wines. One thing in which Australian and British soldiers excel their French comrades in is the use of soap. The Australian Y.M.C.A. recently opened a large cafe at Havre. It is the largest institution under one roof in France, and is used by all overseas, American, and British troops.

WAR CHEST CLUB            

There is no place in London where Australian soldiers on leave will receive a more hearty welcome than at the War Chest Club. It is altogether Australian, those in charge are Australian, and have the Australian view point. It is opposite the A.I.F. headquarters, and everything is done for the comfort of the men and not for profit. Sight-seeing parties are arranged, and entertainments provided for those who wish to remain in the club. There is on the premises a post-office, telephone, safe deposit information bureau, hairdressing and shaving saloon, bathing accommodation, gymnasium, billiard room, lounge and smoke room, and many other advantages which do much to add to the enjoyment of men on leave. Hot meals and hot baths are ready at all hours, and a hearty welcome awaits all men in khaki. An urgent appeal is being made for funds to support the War Chest Club in London. The Newcastle and Hunter River District War Cheat Fund has been asked to contribute £1500 towards the upkeep of the club, and the authorities have suggested that a small tablet may be put up in the club, stating that this sum was donated by the Newcastle and Hunter River District. Scone has already donated £200 and Muswellbrook £110.


Mr. F. M. Cutlack, the assistant official Australian representative at British Headquarters in France, telegraphs:-

With winter more than half over, the armies on each side of the line are beginning to feel out for the information they want for opening the new year campaign.

Raids and patrol encounters reported up and down the line reveal the extent of the endeavours to obtain identification of the enemy units. There is great movement along the roads and railways behind both lines. There are more roads and railways than appear in the maps in any general atlas, which each side has maintained, and increased during the winter months’ preparations. The battle areas are covered with light railways, sufficient to open up a whole continent, more numerous than even this closely-settled country ever thought to bear.

Aeroplanes from reconnaissance far into the German lines report a great stir of troops. The transport movement is naturally paralleled on this side. Other air squadrons are despatched over the lines nightly on bombing expeditions against the new camps and ammunition dump. The enemy attempts to conceal his concentrations by utilising the railways' activity at night instead of by day, and camouflaging depots and gun positions, but the huge movement involved in manoeuvring modern armies is impossible to hide for long.

Infantry raids confirm the reconnaissance of the aircraft. It is not improbable that the Germans will attack on the first approach of favourable weather, believing that the new force is gathering for the offensive on our side, and hoping to forestall the Allied arrangements. The whole western front is equipped to receive a shock whenever it comes.


Mr. W. B. Tamlyn, secretary to the Northern Association, has received a long and interesting letter from Peter Coppock, the ex-Merewether and inter-State halfback. Peter comments on Soccer matters in general, and says either Wallsend or Weston Albions would win the competition. He was a good judge, as these two teams met in the final, Wallsend, it will be remembered, winning, 2 goals to nil. The versatile Peter states that he selected a team to play some Royal Field Artillery Tommies. He had a job to get a team, but succeeded, and the following is an account of the game, which was played just behind the lines:-

The 34th Battalion (or Coppock's team) won the toss, gaining no advantage neither sun nor wind being in evidence. The Tommies immediately attacked, but Taylor surprised them and put the ball well down the field to Bates. The winger got across a beautiful centre, but the forwards were too slow, and the Tommies' backs cleared the danger. Jones, however, banged the ball back, and it was sent just over the bar. The next few seconds found the Tommies' centre forward making towards the 34th goal. He tricked Lovett, the ex-Teralba boy, and closing in beat goalie Sneddon, and so the Tommies led one to nil. This reverse stirred the 34th up, and they hotly attacked. A lot of bustling took place near the Tommies' goal, and Messenger had bad luck with a quick shot, which hit the post and bounced out again to Jones, who, closing quickly in, put through, thus making the scores one all. Excitement was very high, the supporters of the 34th making themselves heard, and shouting out all sorts of odds on the 34th, but the Tommies indulged in some splendid passing bouts, and for a time had the 34th tied up, but Sneddon in goal could not be beaten, and the interval score was one goal each.

Starting the second half, the colonials made for the Tommies' goal, and things were very willing. The Tommies' goalie was in good form, and always appeared to be in the right spot. James put in a good shot, but this was sent well up the field. Lovett and Taylor were defending well, and sent the ball back. The Tommies' right back jumped up to head the greasy ball, which glanced off his head to Harris, who put out to Bates, whose good centre made matters very exciting. The general mix-up in the Tommies' goal area caused a great deal of laughter. On one occasion there were three players on top of the ball, and the Tommies' fullback put it out with his hand, but the referee did not see the offence, and the 34th claims for a penalty were ignored. The ball was eventually sent clear, but Jones put in a hot shot, which hit and broke the upright. The game was delayed for a few minutes until the wounded post was repaired. Resuming, the Tommies made for the 34th goal, and from an auspicious looking offside position their inside scored their second goal. Referee "Buggie" White's decision for a goal caused him to be strifed by the 34th supporters. The colonials were not yet beaten, and made desperate attempts to draw level, but luck and the Tommies' good goalkeeper kept them out. The last few minutes of the game were all in the 34th favour, but no further score took place, and the Tommies had won a hard fought game by 2 to 1. The 34th, though beaten, were not disgraced. The Tommies' team have not been defeated, and the hard game played was a great surprise to all who saw it. Peter says it reminded him of the games 'twixt Merewether and West Wallsend, Cessnock and Weston. The 34th team was: A. Sneddon (Cessnock), goal; E. L .Taylor (Cessnock), H. Lovett (Teralba), backs; F. W. James (West Wallsend), W. Jones (Adamstown), P. G. Coppock (Merewether), half-backs; T. Pease (Adamstown), R. A. Bates (Minmi), J. Brady, E. Messenger, and Harris, forwards. "Buggie" White was selected to play, but arrived late, and so was persuaded to act as referee, and did his work, so Coppock says, well. A. White, the ex-Adamstown player, was selected, but did not play. The colonials' colours were blue and gold.

Practically all the 34th team were Newcastle Soccerites. Peter concludes his letter by saying he is quite well, and sends good wishes to all his Soccer friends. He also adds a P.S. to say he had been awarded the Military Medal for doing his duty on the battlefield.


Private William Steven was welcomed home from the front on Saturday at the residence of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Steven, at Pelaw Main. Private Steven, who enlisted soon after the outbreak of hostilities, was sent to Egypt, and then took part in the Gallipoli campaign. With the Anzacs he was transferred to France, and was severely wounded in the great battle at Pozieres. He was invalided home last month, after spending about 18 months in hospital in England. In spite of his incapacitation, like all his comrades, he bears himself well, and keenly regrets the enforced separation from his mates at the front. Two of his cousins, John and Willie Melrose, have recently been officially reported missing. Those two brothers, who enlisted at Maitland, were the sole members of their family, their parents residing in Scotland. A large number of relatives and friends in the district, and some from Sydney, were present to welcome the guest.


The death took place on Saturday of Mrs. Ritchie, wife of Private George Ritchie, who left with "Newcastle's Own" Battalion, and is still at the front. Mrs. Ritchie, who was 31 years of age, worried a great deal since her husband went to the war. Within the last couple of months her health broke down, and on Christmas Day she entered Newcastle Hospital, where she died. Mrs. Ritchie, who was highly respected by all who knew her, had no children, but reared a boy, who is now 10 years of age. The funeral took place on Monday.


Alderman Kilgour, the Mayor of Newcastle, makes the following appeal: "It must be gratifying to the general public to know that this city and district is playing a leading part in the important matter of raising recruits.

"In other parts the recruiting staff has had motor cars placed at its disposal, and if we are to maintain our position, we must endeavour to fall into line, and place at its disposal such a facility. It must be patent that much better results will be obtained with such means of conveyance, I now appeal to all patriotic citizens to generously assist in this object, towards which we already have the sum of £40 in hand."


Philip Manderson Evans, Waratah; John Vivian Evans, Waratah; Arthur Hampden Jackson, Scone; Stanley Low Steele Wareham, Greta.



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