Centenary of the Great War

TROPHY: A captured German aircraft, which would eventually find a home with the Australian War Memorial. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony
TROPHY: A captured German aircraft, which would eventually find a home with the Australian War Memorial. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for February 18-25, 1918.

AUSTRALIAN TROPHIES

Mr C.E.W Bean, Australian official war correspondent, telegraphs: A difficulty has arisen about the disposal of the trophies of the first Australian troops, which, unless swift steps are taken in order to rectify it, will wreck the whole scheme of the collection of Australian trophies and cause extreme indignation among all Australian troops. Australian battalions and companies – from generals to privates – display the greatest enthusiasm in bringing out from battle more and more interesting exhibits for the people at home. The man who is hauling a battered German machine gun down the duckboards, with sweat pouring from under his steel hat, pictures to himself all the time the pleasure of showing it some day in some museum at home to his family and friends. The men are intensely eager to get the best for Australia, but it turns out that some time ago, when the war was younger and circumstances possibly different, a promise was made on behalf of Australia, in answer to a request originating from the Imperial War Museum, London, to give the first selection of all trophies captured by our troops to that institution.

Difficulty has already arisen over the very finest trophy captured by the Australians - the Sinai ancient mosaic pavement, which was carefully preserved and guarded by the Light Horse. The Australian claim to this is being resisted by the authorities, who possess the permission mentioned above, and by the same promise the very fine trophies captured by the Australians in France, at the risk of their lives, over which fatigue parties sweat through the night, past wire entanglements, and shell-holes, are liable to be selected by the authorities of the London museum.

The indignation of the Australian troops when they realise this would be intense, and amongst the Canadians and New Zealanders, who are aware of the facts, the feeling is every bit as strong. The idea of preserving these cherished relics for a museum in London leaves them quite cold. Indeed, all the British soldiers I spoke to completely agree and warmly sympathise. Probably other British authorities would sympathise equally if they knew the facts. It would be a very different thing for Australia to present the best possible collection from her own trophies to represent her in the British Museum. Men here would make every effort to get the London Museum whatever it asked, and doubtless the museum would do the same for us.

But it is urgent for Australia to insist on three principles: First, to revoke whatever promise was given; second, to claim the greatest possible control for the Australian Imperial Force over the collection, supervision and distribution of its own trophies; and, third, to willingly co-operate in the fullest scheme for the exchange of any representative collections desired, but to join only on a basis of complete equality amongst the museums of British countries.

ENEMY'S LAST EFFORT

Mr Philip Gibbs telegraphs: At any moment we may see the beginning of the enemy's last desperate effort to end the war by a decisive victory. Undoubtedly the offensive which has been long preparing is now imminent. Detailed information from prisoners leaves no doubt about this. Our aviators for some time past have reported terrific industry and nervous tension behind the German lines. All leave has been stopped for German officers and men. It is anticipated that tanks and gas will be used in the enemy's initial attacks. The Germans are drugged, under a spell of a frightful secret hope. Germany today is a nation with bloodshot eyes, in a high temperature of fever, buoyed up to the last resistance against the despair eating into its heart. Our men won’t fail, whatever the test.

A COLOSSAL BATTLE

The United Press correspondent on the West front telegraphs: Civilisation is on the threshold of the most colossal battle of all time. The German offensive is expected momentarily. The Germans, for the first time, will use tanks, some like the British are equipped with mortars, and others with machine guns. The speed is almost four miles an hour. They will probably attempt to smash the British between Arras and St. Quentin synchronised with blows elsewhere. Trench mortars will be directed at the entanglements and from the support trenches guns will play on battery positions, roads, railways, and suspected concentration points. A heavy percentage of gas shells will be used everywhere against the troops, and endless waves of infantry will follow, cattlewise, through the holes it is hoped to tear. The officers are telling the men the wildest stories of the infallibility of the scheme, but according to prisoners, the men are doubtful.

APPROACHING JERICHO

An official report from Palestine states: Our advance eastward of Jerusalem was resumed on Tuesday. In spite of heavy rainstorms, difficult country and the enemy's obstinate resistance, we progressed 3½ miles on a front of eight miles, to within four miles of Jericho. Simultaneously we advanced a mile on a front of four miles westward of Jerusalem on the Nablus road. Our air service co-operated and bombed camps and depots ten and a half miles east and north-east of Jericho. The losses on our side were of the slightest. Those sustained on Wednesday are not yet reported. Operations continue.

LATE SERGEANT DODD

Mrs  Dodd, of 17 Bull Street, Cook's Hill, has received a letter from an officer of ‘Newcastle’s Own’ Battalion, relating to her son, the late Sergeant Arthur Dodd, who was killed in action in France in October last. After offering his sympathy the writer of the letter says that Sergeant Dodd was last seen going forward with his company to attack on October 12, and was at the time in charge of a Lewis machine gun section. He was one of those who, after the battle, were officially reported as missing, but after the lapse of some few days, word was received at battalion headquarters that he had been killed in action, and was buried at Passchendaele, east of Ypres. The writer of the letter adds that Sergeant Dodd was looked upon as one of the best non-commissioned officers in that battalion. He was keen and thorough at his work, cool in the presence of danger, and universally esteemed by officers and men. He did his share in the great fight, and died nobly.

LATE CORPORAL STEVENSON

Mrs. Stevenson, of Young-street, Carrington, has received a letter from an officer of the battalion to which her son, the late Lance-corporal Thomas Stevenson, was attached. The writer of the letter, after offering the sympathy of himself and the officers and men of the battalion, says: “Tom was very popular with us all, and we hope it might be a little consolation to you to know that he died while doing his duty so very pluckily and thoroughly. We were in the front line at the time (November 21, 1917), and a trench mortar bomb burst in the post where Tom was, killing him and two others. He received wounds rendering him unconscious, and died in a few minutes. He was buried in a quiet little cemetery behind our lines, the battalion chaplain reading the service in the presence of some of your son's comrades.”

LIEUTENANT DEAKIN

Mr and Mrs S. Deakin, of Brunker St, Hamilton West, have received further word from the War Office, London, regarding their son, Second-lieutenant David Deakin, of the Royal Flying Corps, who was injured in a flying accident some months ago. He is reported to be much improved, and able to walk about. The injuries he received to his head are healing satisfactorily, and no anxiety is to be felt at present.

ADAMSTOWN

Private George Wallace, son of Mr G. Wallace, of Gosford Rd, returned on Saturday, and was met at the station by a number of friends. He left with “Newcastle’s Own,” and his return is due to being gassed in an engagement. He has two brothers still in France. One sad feature in connection with Private Wallace's return is that his mother died during his absence.

KILLINGWORTH

Signaller Edward Blatchford, who has been invalided home from the front, was given a welcome home on Friday in the Institute hall. Mr T. W. Kennaway, president of the Killingworth Patriotic Committee, occupied the chair, and welcomed the wounded soldier. Signaller Blatchford had been severely wounded at Messines, but after a time in French and English hospitals was at home once more, where he hoped he would regain his former health and energy. Mr John Horn, senior, on behalf of the patriotic committee, also extended their best thanks to Signaller Blatchford on his return from duty manfully done. Mrs E. Humble, for the local branch of the Red Cross Society, and Miss Netta Craig for the Girls' League, spoke warmly and sympathetically in welcome of the guest. Before calling upon Mrs. Kennaway to present Signaller Blatchford with the usual gold medal, with its inscription, “From the people of Killingworth,” the chairman remarked that this pleasant duty had always fallen to their guest's mother as president of the local Red Cross, and now her own boy was to be decorated. They all joined her in pride of her gallant son. Mrs Kennaway then, after a happy little speech, pinned the medal on, amid rousing cheers and musical honours. Signaller Blatchford said a few words in reply, thanking them all for their welcome. During the evening songs were rendered and the remainder of the evening was spent in dancing.

MAYFIELD

Mrs Dunnicliff, of Maitland Rd, Mayfield, has received letters from her son, Private T, W. Dunnicliff, announcing his arrival in New Zealand. Private Dunnicliff enlisted in the Dominion. He was a slaughterman by trade, and as the Government was desirous of filling all the cool storage space, he was not called up until January of last year. He tried to enlist in the Light Horse at the commencement of the war, but was rejected on the ground that he was too heavy. When in England he developed symptoms of blood poisoning, and after being treated in camp, he was admitted to Codford Military Hospital, where he underwent a serious operation for the removal of an abscess under the ribs. He speaks most highly of the treatment he received in hospital.

WARATAH

Mrs Chenery, Hanbury St, has received a letter from her son, Gunner Arthur Chenery, saying he is on 14 days' sick furlough in England, and spending seven days in Kent, and seven in Devonshire, with relatives, after fighting in France. His battery was up in front of Ypres, also Passchendaele Ridge, where he speaks of the narrow escapes he had. Then they were sent to No. 1 Spur, Railway Wood, close to Hell Fire Corner and Menin-road. “One day three of Fritz' planes came over and gave us a show of fireworks. Two went for our observer, and the other was up about 150 feet trying to take photographs of our positions, but no luck for the Huns; we quickly sent them away. But the other two were dropping shells fifteen to the dozen; one 5.9 inch shell struck a stack of 35 of our 8 inch shells and 50 cartridges. Then you ought to have seen the pieces of shell and burning cordite flying. We fell flat on the ground, where I had no less than five pieces of spent shell fall on my back. Then it got too hot, so we made a dash for a safer place. Then another shell dropped about 10 yards in front. We dropped flat in a pool of mud and water, and a spent piece of shell caught me on the knee, but our observer beat the square-heads, and we gave him a hearty cheer when we saw him make a bee line for the hangers. Then a little while after I was sent back with trench fever, and slightly gassed, but I am now OK.”

ENLISTMENTS

Harold George Cobley, Newcastle; James Henry Ragan, Merewether; Maxwell Harold Rochester, Cessnock.

DEATHS

Pte Alfred James Fordham, Newcastle

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