Centenary of the Great War

BRIEF PAUSE: Light Horse officers pose for a photo during a break from the offensive against the Turks. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony
BRIEF PAUSE: Light Horse officers pose for a photo during a break from the offensive against the Turks. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for  February 25 - March 3, 1918.


Mr Massey telegraphs: The capture of Jericho was most difficult, but it forced the Turks to burn the storehouse of Rujur el Bahr, north of the Dead Sea, which is an important centre of grain supply. The operation lasted three days, and was splendidly executed. The mountain heights were taken almost in accordance with the time-table. The London Infantry gunners were irresistible, and carried position after position with magnificent courage, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy, whose stubbornness was without avail. The Anzac mounted men, moving down from the high ground around Jerusalem, got among crags and boulders, but after being held up for a time sent the enemy flying over the Jordan. The whole country is a succession of kIoofs and dongas. In one place, Wadi Farar, there are perpendicular cliff sides 500 feet high, but the Cockneys scaled the boulder-strewn hillside, and ousted the dug-in foe. We attacked four important positions on Tuesday, and all were captured by three o'clock in the morning, though the Turks offered stout resistance. Our London battalion assaulted three times before bayoneting the enemy out of the trenches. The final fight before the Anzac rush was around Jebel Ektrif, whose southern face is as precipitous as Gibraltar. The infantry had to march in single file from Muntar. Moving guns uphill was a herculean task. Finally the Turkish machine gunners were routed out and captured, while the Anzacs moving from Muntar attacked the Turkish rear as already stated.


The capture of Jericho was most brilliant. The Australian and New Zealand mounted men moved eastward over the hills, threatening the enemy's rear in the most difficult country up hills. It took a considerable time to press through a defile, where only two could ride abreast. The enemy brought several guns to bear on the point, but when the darkness fell, the Anzacs had such commanding positions, that the Turks fled east, and the Anzac cavalry entered Jericho in the morning. A Turkish official report states: We were unable to repulse all the enemy's attacks in Palestine, and our troops took up previously appointed positions.


Mr F.M. Cutlack, the Assistant Australian Correspondent on the West Front, states: The advance guard of the American army is taking its first experience of war in Lorraine, where patrol encounters have already occurred with German troops. The Germans, who long sought to deride America’s military efforts, are now beginning to view with alarm the preparations of this great new Power, which is coming into the battle line on the western front. The advance troops of the United States' regular army and National Guard are already a respectable field force, yet they represent only a small fraction of the huge citizen army which will follow before long. Vast numbers of American engineers and other technical troops are behind the lines, preparing communications and transport routes, without which such large numbers are unable to operate. The first drafts from the 10,000,000 men enrolled in America have yielded a large number of divisions, which are already equipped and partially trained. The remainder have been classified for later divisions and reinforcements.  The American staff men talk in millions, and many hundreds of thousands are already in all stages of training. The American divisions are magnificently equipped. Their artillery, machine guns, transport services, and food supplies are the admiration of the skilled armies. Individually, the American soldier is most like the Australian soldier, and in general appearance he reminds one of the first troops who left Australia. The Americans belong to all classes of society, and they are entering the war with the utmost enthusiasm. This is no mere phrase. They represent the public opinion of a great democratic people, whose minds are now turned exclusively to active participation in the war for liberty, which is more vital to their national freedom than any they ever fought in.

The modest bearing and attitude of the Americans, as they enter the line alongside the older fighting armies have impressed all observers, and betoken the serious purpose to which they are addressing themselves. Equally noteworthy is the eagerness with which they receive and absorb every guidance the more experienced armies are able to offer. Attached British and French officers express admiration for the soldierly qualities and the efficiency of America's first fighting troops. Many visits which are being exchanged between the American and Australian officers reveal the highest appreciation of each other as free peoples of the New World, fighting to maintain civilisation and liberty in Europe.


Mr and Mrs Peter Reid, of Elder Road, Lambton, have received a letter from Palestine, written by an officer of the battalion to which their son, the late Trooper Reginald Reid, was attached. After offering his sympathy, the officer says that Trooper Reid was killed in action at the battle of Khuweiffe. Death was instantaneous and he did not suffer any pain. He was buried on a hillside, not far from where he was killed. There were others of the company and battalion buried near him. The letter also refers to the popularity and bravery of the deceased soldier.


Representation was made to the military authorities by Mr J. Jordan, of Gipp Street, Carrington, whose family of five sons volunteered for active service in the early stages of the war (the youngest and last to volunteer having made the supreme sacrifice), asking that the remaining youngest, who is on active service, be returned from the front to his home. Mr. Jordan received word, per Mr.  D. Watkins, MHR, stating that the matter had received consideration, but it was regretted that owing to the serious shortage of reinforcements, it was quite impossible to grant the request. The Minister appreciated the splendid patriotism of Mr Jordan’s family, and fully sympathised with them in this matter, but for the reasons mentioned, deeply regretted having to give an unfavourable answer.


Mrs W. Wholert, Greta, has received a communication that her son, Private G. W. Swinton, 35th Battalion, is returning to Australia. Private Swinton left his home soon after war commenced, and at that time was 14 years of age. Inquiries for his whereabouts were unsuccessful until more than 12 months afterwards, when information was received from England that he had enlisted at Goulburn, and was in one of the camps about London. He is now 17 years, and is 6 feet 1¼ inches in height. It has been reported by Greta soldiers in the old country that he has been twice wounded at the front.


A welcome home was tendered to Bombardier Fred Davies, by his sister and brother-in-law, Mr and Mrs H. Street, at their residence, Lewis Street, Maryville, on Saturday night. There was a large gathering of relatives and friends. Mr H. Street presided. After the loyal toast had been honoured, the chairman proposed the toast of The Guest, and on behalf of all present extended him a hearty welcome home. The guest, in responding, referred to his impressions after two and a half years of active service, and said that after it all there was no place like home. Mr and Mrs Street have a son fighting in France.


A welcome home was given by Scott's Limited and the members of the staff, at the Central Hall on Thursday night to four of the employees who have returned from active service abroad. The returned soldiers who were thus welcomed were Messrs. B. Moffatt, J. Mackay, A.H. Sellers, and H.E. Guy. Mr W. Scott presided, and apologised for the unavoidable absence of Alderman Kilgour, Mayor of Newcastle. During an interval in a very enjoyable program of musical and elocutionary numbers, presentations were made to the returned soldiers and to the father of the late Reginald Reid. Mr Scott said they had gathered together to welcome back the men who had returned from the other side after having done their bit. “When the men went away,” Mr Scott continued, “we promised every one of them that their positions would be kept open for them, and in very case the firm has fulfilled that promise. Fourteen of our young men have gone to the front. The firm also felt that those who had gone to fight for the liberty of the country should not be at any loss in doing so.” He was very proud to have those that returned back in his employ, and he hoped that God would spare the other men to come back. The firm would find positions for them. There was one boy who would not return, Reg Reid. He was quite a boy, one of the juniors, when he volunteered, and he had given his life for his country in Egypt. Their heartfelt sympathy went out to his family. He felt sure that Reg Reid had not given his life in vain. It was to such heroes as Reg Reid and the men who had returned, and those who were doing their bit, that we owed our freedom today. The names of Anzac and Australia would be among the brightest when the story of the war was written. Australians had helped to make the name of Britain more glorious than before. It was a grand thing to know that we still had men who would fight for liberty, righteousness, justice, and freedom, and while we had such men we had no need to fear for Australia or for the British Empire. In extending a hearty welcome to the returned men, Mr Scott remarked that Mr Mackay had not rejoined the staff of Scott's Limited, but had started business for himself in Sydney.

Mr H.S. Thompson, in adding a few words of welcome, said Mr Scott had covered the ground so well that there was little left for him to say. They had seen by the press that the German raider, Wolf, had only been a few hours’ steam from the Australian coast. Some could not go to the war, but thousands of others could, and perhaps if the Wolf had come along and shelled the port of Newcastle they would have wakened up to the necessities of the hour. He joined cordially in the welcome to the returned men, and added his sympathy to that already expressed to the relatives of their deceased friend, Reg Reid.

On the suggestion of Mr Scott, it was unanimously decided that the gathering should send greetings to other employees of the firm at the front. Mr Scott said Mr Thompson and he had decided after consultation that the difference between the military pay of the men and their wage when they enlisted should be made up during the time they were at the war. The present was the first opportunity they had had of paying that debt. He would ask them to do one thing, and that was to put the cheques they were about to receive in the War Loan. It would be safe, and would help the boys at the front. Mr. Scott then handed a cheque to each of the returned soldiers. He also handed a cheque to Mr Reid, representing the difference between the military pay of his son Reginald and the wages he was receiving from the firm at the time of enlistment for his term of active service. Mr Scott asked Mr Reid to accept his deepest sympathy in his loss.

Messrs. Moffat, Mackay, Sellers and Guy, in responding, spoke in grateful terms of the welcome home that had been given them, and of the generosity of Scott's Limited.


Robert Ernest Dawson, East Maitland; Basil Robert Healy, Muswellbrook; William Joseph Jones, Boolaroo; Frank Oswald Pryor, Hamilton; Marlwood Clarence Ryder, New Lambton; Alexander Ware, Newcastle.


Pte Stanley Johnson Mears, Branxton; Pte Henry Edward Auckett, Paterson; Cpl Edward Hewit, Cooks Hill; L/Cpl John Henry Johnston, West Maitland; Sgt Francis James Kellaway, Tighes Hill.

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