Centenary of the Great War

FORMER ABERMAIN MINER:Lieutenant Thomas Ridley DCM, MC of the 17th Battalion died of wounds received on September 10, 1918. Photo:  The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

FORMER ABERMAIN MINER:Lieutenant Thomas Ridley DCM, MC of the 17th Battalion died of wounds received on September 10, 1918. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for November 12-18, 1917.


An official report on Sunday from Egypt states: The whole Turkish army in southern Palestine is retreating to the north, and is being bombed by British aeroplanes. The enemy upon our right is retiring on Hebron. We have hampered his retreat, capturing prisoners and transport. Our mounted troops are advancing through Jemameh and Huj, thirteen and nine miles respectively eastward of Gaza. They have reached the south bank of the Wadi Hesi, which is twelve miles north of the old Turkish front, and have thus established contact with our forces advancing from Gaza. The latter forces have captured the north bank of the mouth of the Wadi Hest, and the village of Heribeh, reaching the railway, and turning the enemy's prepared position on this river. We also captured the Turkish coastal railhead at Beit Hanum, and are pursuing the enemy from this position towards the Wadi Hesi. We have captured over 40 guns. The British Navy, assisted by the French, actively co-operated throughout, bombarding the enemy's communications near the coast.

A later report states: Our mounted troops, advancing rapidly, captured 400 more men and ten guns. Our line now runs in a south-easterly direction, from two miles northward of Hamameh to two miles northward of Arakelmenshiye, on the central railway, generally ten to six miles northward of the Wadi Hesi. We have occupied Askalon. Our aeroplanes continue to bomb retreating bodies, also important centres of communication, dropping 300 bombs during the day.

General Allenby estimates the enemy's casualties at 10,000, exclusive of prisoners.

King George has sent the following message to General Allenby: “I heartily congratulate you and your troops on the successful results of your ably-conceived plans, which were crowned by the capture of Gaza. I admire the tenacity and endurance of all ranks.”

In a later report, General Allenby said: “Our infantry and mounted troops continue to advance. We now hold the railway line near Naanes and Mansurmah, including the junction of the Beersheba-Damascus line and the Jaffa-Jerusalem line. We inflicted heavy losses on the Turks on Tuesday and took 1000 prisoners with four guns and 20 machine guns. We buried 400 Turks at Katrah alone.


Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the British Commandant on the West Front, reports: There is considerable hostile artillery fire north-eastward of Ypres and in the neighbourhood of Steenbeke. Our artillery fire continues. Low-flying aeroplanes on Sunday fired many machine-gun rounds at ground targets and silenced a hostile battery. We destroyed one machine, and drove down four. None of ours are missing.

A message from Washington states it is reported that 200 Germans attempted to raid the American trenches on the night of November 9. They completely failed, and suffered some losses. Despatches from France disclose that American troops and supplies are arriving there in increasing numbers. The submarines have not claimed a single life. The conditions on the American sector continue normal. Intermittent artillery firing is proceeding. Early on Thursday morning the enemy heavily bombarded our position northward of the Menin road. His infantry shortly afterwards attempted to advance, but our fire successfully repulsed the attack. Another party endeavoured to approach north-eastward of Passchendaele, but was also driven off. Hostile artillery again showed great activity in the neighbourhood of Passchendaele, and also southward and northward. The Belgians entered the German lines on Thursday night northward of Dixmude, and blew up their concrete shelters.


Twenty-five leagues and unions were represented at the meeting of the Newcastle No-conscription Council, held at the Trades Hall on Saturday night. Mr J Murphy presided. The resignation of Mr L.P. Vial, as treasurer, was accepted, and Mr T. D. Gearing, Newcastle representative of the Australian Workers' Union, was appointed to the position. 

The question of finance occupied a lot of attention during the evening, this being eventually left to a committee consisting of Messrs. Quinlan, Mehan, Dolan, and the treasurer. Mr Vial reminded the delegates that the previous campaign was commenced without a penny, and £300 had been received in donations. There were 60 unions in the district. A letter was read from Mr Evans, general-secretary of the P.L.L, stating that Mr Judd, of the Socialist Labour Party, was acting in concert with Labour in opposing conscription, and urging harmony between the two parties “on this grave issue.”

The executive were deputed to confer with Mr Judd on Sunday, and it was decided to inform Mr Evans that Newcastle would co-operate as desired. Speakers were also selected from among those present and opposition to the conscription proposals will be offered forthwith. The offices of the AWU were placed at the disposal of the council, for which Mr Gearing was thanked, and it was resolved to write that union to ascertain if Mr Gearing's services could be secured for the fight. 


No effort has so far been made in Newcastle to assist in carrying into effect the modified proposals of the Federal Government. Alderman Kilgour, the Mayor, stated yesterday that he had not been approached with the object of having committees formed to assist the scheme. On the other hand, those who are opposed to conscription, have been keenly alive to what they call the peril which is threatening to overtake them if Mr Hughes' proposition is put into effect with popular sanction. Already the central committee in Newcastle, with quarters at the Trades Hall, has been well established, and branches have been brought into existence in about a dozen suburban centres. “Uncompromising hostility” enunciated by the Labour leader, is the watchword of them all. A general meeting of the central council was held at the Trades Hall on Wednesday night, the largest room in the building being selected for the purpose. Representatives were present from nearly all the Labour Leagues and many of the unions. The statement of the treasurer showed that funds were coming in well, large numbers of persons levying themselves voluntarily, and others purchasing the tickets issued from Sydney at one shilling. The absence of the district Parliamentary representative from the meeting was warmly commented upon by a number of the speakers. Mr Watkins, MHR, had, it was stated, been communicated with by telephone and letter, but had not even attended or extended the council the courtesy of an apology. Not one speaker rose in defence of Mr Watkins, and it was decided to acquaint him by urgent telegram that another meeting would be held at the end of the week, and that his presence was required.


A juvenile plain and fancy dress frolic was held in the Federal Hall on Monday evening under the auspices of the West Wallsend Young Girls' League. The hall had been tastefully decorated, and the fancy dresses of the young folks presented a picturesque appearance. Prizes were given for the best and worst dresses of boys and girls. The winners were Miss Nellie Kennedy, of Carrington (representing the 45th Battalion). The prize for the worst dress went to Miss Thelma Cherry, West Wallsend, as “Mary Pickford in Rags.” Best dressed boy, Master Allen Knott, Minmi, as “Lord Nelson”; Master Stan Cherry, West Wallsend, as scarecrow, securing first prize for worst dress.


At a meeting of young ladies held at Mrs Skelton's residence, Speers' Point, it was decided to form the Sunshine Girls' League, to work in conjunction with the Boolaroo Farewell and Reception Committee. Messrs. J. Oswald and A. Jenkins, president and secretary of the Boolaroo committee, gave advice as to the organisation of the league.

The following officers were elected: President, Miss Celia Skelton; vice-president, Miss Bowen; treasurer, Miss Ruby Steel; joint secretaries, Misses Winnie Grahame and Evelyn Halton.


Mrs A.C. Wilson, of Adamstown, on Wednesday received a cable message front her son, Lieutenant Gordon Wilson, DCM, of the Australian Flying Corps, who was recently reported wounded, stating that he was now quite well, and had been promoted to captain. Captain Wilson stated that his brother, Private Donald Wilson, had joined the officers' school of instruction of the Flying Corps, and his other brother, Sergeant A.H. Wilson, was well. Captain Wilson was a member of the original first division, and was at the landing at Gallipoli. He was originally attached to the Field Engineers.


Mr and Mrs T. Ridley, of John St, Abermain, have received a copy of the Commonwealth Gazette, in which it is intimated that in February last the Emperor of Russia conferred the medal of St. George on their son, Sergeant-major Thomas Ridley, DCM, of the AI, for conspicuous services. At the time the decoration was conferred Sergeant-major Ridley was a private, and was promoted sergeant-major in April last.


A meeting of citizens, convened, by Alderman Kilgour, the Mayor of Newcastle, at the request of the League of Honour, was held at the council chambers Thursday evening for the purpose of taking steps to provide toys for the children of the soldiers on active service abroad. In the absence of the Mayor, Mr J.R. Flanagan, the president of the Newcastle Labour Council, was voted to the chair. The chairman said the presence of so many ladies augured well for the success of the movement. 

Dr May Harris, the president of the league, explained what had already been done to further the movement. Last year the citizens had stood to the league to the tune of £185, and that sum enabled them to treat the children handsomely. Unfortunately, however, the list was kept open too long, and the result was many children received toys who were not entitled to them. This year the list had already been closed, and it was estimated that at least the names of 600 children had been handed in. It was not proposed to distribute so many toys this year, as the members of the league thought that the mothers would appreciate gifts of clothing, sweets, and something in the way of Christmas cheer. There seemed to be an opinion outside that the distribution should be limited to the municipality of Newcastle, but many of the members of the league lived in the suburbs, and that fact would have to be taken into consideration. If necessary, the funds of the league would reach those members. The chairman expressed the opinion that possibly it would be better to confine the effort to the municipality of Newcastle, but a motion to that effect was lost, and it was eventually decided to take in all the suburbs.


James Bullock, Newcastle; John Burgess, Mayfield; Francis Richard Cooper, Singleton; Archibald Leslie Farley, Karuah; William Fleming, Kurri Kurri; Harold Raymond Morris, Raymond Terrace; Timothy Edward O'Connell, Bolwarra; Albert Henry Sault, Merewether; Alfred William Seabrook, Newcastle.


Pte Walter Barrell, West Wallsend; Tpr Charles Henry Daniel, Gungal; Pte Daniel John Drough, Homeville; Cpl David Edward Etches, Paterson; Pte William John Green, Scone; Pte William George Henderson, Saddlers Creek; Pte Albert William Humphries, Newcastle; Pte Alexander Hughes Huntress, Islington; Lieut Roy Oscar Claude Keene, Scone; Gnr David John McKay, West Maitland; Gnr William John Shiels, Cooranbong; Pte Ernest Victor Taylor, Pages Creek.

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