Centenary of the Great War

POISED: German troops in their trench await the order to fight. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.
POISED: German troops in their trench await the order to fight. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for January 21-27, 1918.


Philip Gibbs, telegraphing from the West Front, states: The relief from the incessant infantry work is reflected in the clear drop in casualties and the splendid emptiness of the hospital wards. Even the cases of sickness are not heavy, in spite of the weather. The health of the troops is wonderful. Muddy scarecrows from the enemy's waterlogged trenches tell miserable tales of discomfort, of flooded dugouts, and of a shortage of food, owing to the difficulty in getting up supplies. Undoubtedly there is a relaxation from discipline in the ranks of the German army. Apparently the officers are afraid to punish severely even the gravest offences. It is noteworthy that deserters are not now shot, but are sent back to German prisons. The German High Command is trying to build up a mighty bogey, that masses of troops are coming from the East, hoping to demoralise the Allies. The latter are not likely to be deceived by such camouflage. My personal opinion is that there can be no great operations for at least a month. No-man's-land is a flood, and the roads and trenches are bogs.


A welcome home was tendered to Privates L. Gradwell, G. Williams, and D. Breeze, in Lightfoot's Picture Palace, Minmi, on Friday evening prior to which the soldiers were entertained at tea in the Ambulance Hall by the ladies of the Red Cross Society. There was a large and enthusiastic gathering. Mr. Thomas Wilson, of Holmesville, on behalf of the citizens of Minmi, extended a hearty welcome home to the soldiers, and expressed the hope it would not be long before they had the pleasure of welcoming the rest of the local soldiers, and that the guests would soon be in good health again. Mrs T. Etheridge, sen., Misses Violet and Alma Woods, then presented Privates Breeze, Williams, and Gradwell respectively, with a gold medal suitably inscribed, and a parcel from the Red Cross Society. Private George Williams, on behalf of his comrades and self, thanked the Red Cross Society, Patriotic Committee, and residents of Minmi for the reception given them. He also again thanked the Red Cross Society for the parcels they had forwarded to them while in France. At the time he was wounded he received every attention possible by the hospital nurses, both in France and England, and when leaving he could not find words sufficient to express to them his heartfelt thanks. The work done by the Y.M.C.A. in comforting the soldiers was also excellent.


A public welcome home was tendered to Sergeant W. Reckenberg, Private C. Britton, Sapper A. Miller, Private R. Poole, J. Baker and G. Harris by the Abermain Citizens' Committee on Friday night. Mr. D. James presided, and with Messrs. W. M'Donald and ex-Corporal Streatfield, on behalf of the committee and citizens, extended the returned soldiers a hearty welcome home. To the strains of Grant's Orchestra the audience stood and sang several popular songs, and They Are Jolly Good Fellows. Mr Arthur Teece (president Abermain Miners), then, on behalf of the committee, presented each soldier with a gold medal, suitably inscribed, and asked each to accept it as a small token of the esteem which he was held by fellow unionists and citizens. He was pleased to see them home again, but was sorry those who remained behind at home had not (speaking from an industrial point of view) been able to retain the same standard of efficiency as when they left, but he saw a silver lining in the dark cloud, which was passing over, and hoped in the near future, by greater organisation, they would be able to obtain a fair share of justice. It was a terrible thing to think that men whose brothers had gone to the front, if needs be to give their life for their country and justice, should be victimised by the owning classes, and deprived of the right to work. Some had got their work back, and he hoped all in the near future would be re-employed. He eulogised the committee for their noble work, particularly the ladies, who had worked so hard to provide comforts for the boys at the front, and had always provided luncheon for functions of this character. Mr D. James asked for volunteers to form a working bee to assist the widows of fallen soldiers at the front. A number volunteered to assist. Several widows’ homes have been renovated, chimneys built, and fences erected by willing volunteers.


A welcome home to returned soldiers and send-off to two who are departing, was tendered in the school of arts hall on Saturday night. The Mayor, Alderman G. Wilson, occupied the chair. The returned soldiers who were present included Privates Kemlo, Burg, Durrant, Scribner, and Gilchrist. Private Smith, who had already left for the front, was represented by his mother, Mrs Smith, of Gipp-street, who has two other sons at the front. Private Challis, who is in camp, was represented by Mrs Challis. The chairman extended a welcome home to the returned soldiers, on behalf of the committee and citizens of the municipality. All present felt proud of those returned citizens who had nobly done their part, and done it well. Unfortunately none of those returned had escaped scatheless, but he hoped that each of them would shortly be restored to the best of health. Privates Kemlo, Scribner, and Durrant thanked the committee and residents for the welcome accorded them. The toast, "Our Boys at the Front," was proposed by Mr W. J. Dillon, and enthusiastically honoured. Mr A. H. Gardiner, MP, in speaking to the toast, said the sacrifice had been great, but he hoped that victory would come shortly and triumphantly, and trusted that when that time did come, the ideals and aims they set out to achieve would be accompanied by a lasting peace. They ought to feel proud of Carrington and the men they had sent from amongst them, proving that Carrington was loyal, and he was pleased to see that the committee and residents showed the respect in which the soldiers were held, by giving them a hearty reception upon their return.


Alfred Lloyd (21), cook, admitted that at Newcastle, on January 21, he falsely represented that he was a returned soldier; that he was wounded three times and contracted trench feet; and was awarded the DCM, and also that he was found wearing the defence uniform. Sergeant Morgan, of the military police, said that from information received, he accosted the defendant, who was wearing three stripes, indicating three wounds, and the ‘A’ of an Anzac, and who told him he was a DCM. At the police station, he admitted the truth. Lloyd enlisted, but did not leave Australia. He was discharged as medically unfit. In reply to Inspector Buzacott, witness said there was no explanation as to where he got the uniform. The magistrate (to Lloyd): “What your object is, I cannot understand. You got sympathy and money, probably to buy beer,” On the first charge defendant was sentenced to a month's imprisonment, and for wearing the uniform he was fined 40 shillings, or 14 days, the sentences to be concurrent.


Sergeant Henry Hughes, of Hopkins-street, Merewether, has received a number of letters from the front condoling with him on the loss of his eldest son, Lance-corporal Richard Samuel Hughes, who was killed on October 1st last. The late Lance-corporal Hughes prior to enlisting was employed at Walsh Island. One letter is from the officer commanding the company of which the deceased soldier was a member, who after expressing his sympathy, says: “I knew your son personally, and I had the greatest admiration for his soldierly qualities, especially in the position of Lewis gunner. He was always cheerful, and inspired his team with confidence. I can assure you that his loss was deeply felt by the whole company.”

Corporal J. Reilly, who signs himself as “Dick's old pal,” writes offering his deepest sympathy, and says, “I first met Dick here in France, and on joining the battalion I went into his gun team and we had been the best of pals ever since. It was in one of the recent pushes that Dick met his death, and I might mention that he died a painless death. He was going in with the gun and his pal was wounded. It was while bringing him back to be dressed that a machine gun bullet went through him. The battalion lost a good man in Dick, and he is missed by all ranks. All the boys join with me in sending their deepest sympathy in the death of a soldier and a man.”


A small ceremony took place at Redhead public school on Monday, when Mr J. A. Buckley presented the school with a Roll of Honour. In so doing he remarked that it was only a small gift, but he hoped It would make the pupils think with gratitude and affection of those who had risked, and in some cases, lost all for us. Whenever the children looked upon the Honour Roll they should think of those who had gone from Redhead to fight for everything Australians hold dear. It should be the prayer of each child that each one of those still alive should be spared to return to their homes, though he scarcely dared hoped they would escape unscathed from the many dangers by which they were surrounded. Miss Nettie Heath, as eldest girl, took charge of the roll, and thanked Mr. Buckley, and promised that the children would care for the gift. Mr Ogilvie (teacher) thanked Mr Buckley, on behalf of the school, remarking that it was an important duty resting upon teachers to promote and foster a spirit of loyalty and patriotism among their pupils. He was especially pleased to see the motto, “For God, King, and Empire” upon the roll, as if children took that motto into their hearts when young, nourished and treasured it, their actions In later years would surely be those of the loyal and patriotic citizen.


Mr C. H. West, of Mitchell-street, Merewether, has been informed that Company Sergeant-major L. J. West, has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In the notification in the London “Gazette”, it is stated that the medal was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in charge of carrying parties. He continued carrying after 36 hours‘ continuous work, with all the other members of his party casualties. He persevered in his work until the companies he was carrying for were supplied with water, although several times nearly blown up by shells bursting close to him.


Mrs A. Gill, of Catherine Hill Bay, is in receipt of the following letter from France in connection with her late son: “It is with feelings of the deepest regret that I have to write to you of the death of your gallant son, Private William Thomas Gill. He was killed in action in the battle of Passchendaele (third battle of Ypres) on October 12. During the whole time your late son served with us in the field he won for himself a high reputation for his manly and upright character, his good work, his ready and cheerful obedience, and his devotion to duty. In action he distinguished himself by his courage and coolness. We mourn more than words can express the death of such a splendid comrade. Officers, non-commissioned officers, and men all join me in offering you and your family most heartfelt sympathy in this your sad bereavement.”

The letter is signed by the Lieutenant-Colonel of the battalion.


James Arthur Brown, Jerrys Plains; Stanley Cowan, Hamilton; George Elfield, Forster; William George Gibbs, Howes Valley; William Glass McAlpin, Bulga; John Jacob Stoops, Merewether; John Samuel Topping, Greta; Joseph Turner, Neath; James Cunningham Wilkie, Newcastle; Frederick William Woodall, West Maitland.



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