Centenary of the Great War

PORTRAIT: Members of Newcastle’s 35th Battalion including Sergeant Cecil Howard, a veteran of the first battle of Villers-Bretonneux. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony.

PORTRAIT: Members of Newcastle’s 35th Battalion including Sergeant Cecil Howard, a veteran of the first battle of Villers-Bretonneux. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony.

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for April 15-21,1918.

AUSTRALIANS SAVE AMIENS

The official correspondent with the Australian Forces telegraphs:  It is now possible to state that Australian divisions were hurried at the beginning of the last week of March to block the German advance on Amiens. They were the Third and Fourth Divisions.

The Fourth Division holds the reputation throughout the force as the most travelled Australian Division about France, where it has fought on every field and invariably with the greatest distinction. The Third Division, the newest of all, had never before fought outside of Flanders. It came to the Somme country with the keenest enthusiasm. Its battalions had long withstood the friendly chaff of other divisions that they were “not dinkum Anzacs,” and had “never seen the Somme”. They had the honour of bestriding the ridge between the Somme and the Ancre in the direct path of the Germans, where they were sent into battle individually as they dismounted from omnibuses. They flung themselves against the enemy advance guards coming along the Somme with the utmost exultation.

On March 27 and 28 two brigades made a brilliant skirmishing advance south of Mericourt, drove in the enemy advanced lines, cleared a large wood, and established a firm well-sized line running down in the direction of Sailly, which was held against all attacks. In this advance a Tasmanian battalion had a particularly gallant fight.

The Fourth Division came into action contemporaneously west of Albert after a magnificent forced march. One of its brigades went into action in support of a tired British division. This brigade, like the other two west of Albert, met heavier fighting than the Third Division, especially at Albert, where they were called upon to withstand heavy German massed assaults, especially in the great battle at Dernancourt on April 5th, when; after an all-day fight, they threw back the storming infantry of four German divisions.

April 4 and 5 were days which will long live in history of Australian arms. They were the days when the Germans tried their utmost with what forces remained with them to hack a way through to Amiens. On April 4 efforts were made south of the Somme against Villers-Bretonneux, when the British cavalry and NSW battalions fought tooth and nail in an heroic battle against odds. The flanks were constantly hard pressed. The town itself and the centre of their position were deluged with shellfire, nevertheless, they gave ground only by inches, and repeatedly counter-attacked. They finally saved the position after 18 hours' fighting, with a magnificent advance by the NSW battalion at one o'clock in the morning. Since that day two NSW brigades and most of the British troops from the Somme south to the French junction near the river Luce have been repeatedly engaged in skirmishes, in which a little ground has been lost among the woods, but only at the cost of the severest losses by the enemy. The outstanding feature of this fighting was the skill of the Australian soldiers with rifle and machine-gun. Day after day they sniped Germans in the open like rabbits. Enemy efforts in this locality lately have been mainly directed against the French garrison in the village of Hangard, which has several times been taken and retaken. On the morning of April 12th, the Germans launched a heavy converging attack on the village, and moved thereto in one direction obliquely across the front of the New South Wales battalion immediately to the left of the French. This manoeuvre was described by our men as either one of madness or colossal impudence. The artillery wrought havoc on the long enemy columns, which marched as on a divisional parade. It offered a target to our infantry and machine-guns at various points at a 250 yards range. The enemy captured the village, but the French, cheered on by Australians, who furnished help to the flanks with machine-guns, advanced, dug in, and later the same evening attacked and retook the village.

THE CALL FOR MEN

The news from the front is ominous. How serious it is may be best gauged by excerpts from Sir Douglas Haig's address to his troops. It is an appeal to his armies for the utmost self-sacrifice.  There is no note of failure or defeat, but a warning of the grave danger threatening. “No other course is open to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last man. There must be no retirement. With our back to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end. The safety of our homes, and the freedom of mankind depend alike on the conduct of each one of us at this critical moment.”

Such an appeal will fire the British troops to deeds of even greater bravery and heroism than they have yet displayed. The news that strong French reinforcements are at hand affords some reassurance. But Sir Douglas Haig's command to his troops, for it is a command, though worded as an appeal to their courage and loyalty, should ring throughout Australia. It is an appeal to every man of British birth to rally to the aid of the Empire, and of the brave men now fighting its battles. A special appeal is to be made during the next few days to the Newcastle district. It has already contributed even more than its quota to the splendid battalions which have won fame for Australia. Its men are to be found among all ranks of the army. Many have won distinction, and many others have earned it although their brave deeds may have passed unnoticed in the turmoil of battle. The mining corps, which comprised many men from the Newcastle district, has proved its splendid value over and over again.

It is impossible to differentiate between the bravery of the various bodies of the fighting forces, but it has to be remembered that working underground has its special terrors. None of these daunted the miners. There must be many more brave men of the same sort throughout the district who have not yet responded to the call of arms, men who will not hold back now that the tide of battle is temporarily flowing against Britain and her Allies, and who will hesitate no longer in this time of crisis. The fortunes of Australia are as much at stake as those of Britain. Hence the hope may be expressed that the demand for support to the Australian forces which is to be made throughout the district during the next few days will meet with a ready response.

The supreme moment has arrived when every man must decide upon his duty.

ANZAC DAY

Arrangements have been completed for the commemoration of Anzac Day, April 25, by the Newcastle sub-branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers' Imperial League of Australia. Returned soldiers of ail ranks are invited to meet at the Custom-house that morning, and march under the leadership of Brigadier-General Meredith, to the Anzac Institute, the Memorial Statue, in front of the post-office,  being saluted en route. On arrival at the Anzac Memorial Institute, which is to be draped in mourning, addresses will be delivered from the balcony by returned men. Refreshments will be provided for returned soldiers between 1 and 2 o'clock by members of the Anzac ladies’ committee and the Australian Women Service Corps.

‘MARCH TO FREEDOM’

The northern districts of NSW will be visited shortly by a contingent of soldiers, now doing training prior to embarkation to Europe. These men have expressed a desire to show to the people of NSW their determination to stand by the stout hearts who are facing dreadful odds in Flanders, and on the West Front generally. They will appear fully equipped, and be accompanied by a representative of all arms of the service, transport, horsemen, and artillery. A feature will be one of the Australian Field Artillery's 18-pounder cannon. The “boys” wish to inspire renewed confidence, and to let it be known that whatever terms are submitted by any pacifists in these lands, we shall not have them cashed by General Ludendorff, or any of the Kaiser's magnates. It is hoped that the visit will be heralded with an enthusiasm deserving of the cause.

WELCOME HOME

Corporal Ben Turnbull, a son of Mr and Mrs Burton Turnbull, of Brunker Road, Adamstown, was welcomed home Thursday night by a large gathering. He was met at the railway station by the Mayor, Alderman Cameron, and members of the Patriotic Committee. At his parents' residence Corporal Turnbull was given a welcome by the Mayor on behalf of the citizens, and appropriate addresses were made by Aldermen Robin, Thompson, O'Hagen, and Saunders, and Messrs. JA Eaton, J. Bockenstein, J. Jennings, and Enoch Eagles. In the course of his remarks, Mr Jennings said a few days ago a friend of his, Private Bayless, of Quirindi, called on him, and told him to come to Adamstown to join in the welcome home of Corporal Ben Turnbull, but on his arrival he found it was Private M. Turnbull who was coming home that day. In conversation, Private Bayless said he was severely wounded by the same shell that struck Corporal Turnbull. They both lay for 11 hours in a shell hole, when the stretcher-bearers came. They were going to pick up Corporal Turnbull, when he told them to pick up his mate, Private Bayless, who he believed was more seriously hurt. Corporal Turnbull was carried in four hours later. By the unselfish notions of Corporal Turnbull Private Bayless believed his life was saved, and Corporal Turnbull lost his foot, for had he received treatment a few hours sooner his foot might have been saved. He (Mr Jennings) was asked by Private Bayless to state the facts, and it went to show the spirit prevailing among the brave Australians at the front. Private Turnbull, who has lost his right foot, was heartily cheered when he thanked the friends for their cordial welcome.

TERALBA

A meeting of the roll of honour committee was held in the school of arts, Teralba, on Wednesday night, Mr Howell in the chair. It was decided to unveil the roll of honour on the 27th April, and Messrs. Charlton, MHR, and Estell, MP, be invited together with Councillors Johnson and Talbot, Messrs. Cowdry, Durie, and Sneddon, and ministers of all denominations. It was decided to ask Miss Coates to arrange for the school children to be present at the unveiling. It was also decided to write to the shire council, asking them to attend to the road surrounding the site for the monument. The relatives and friends of the fallen soldiers will be invited to place wreaths upon the monument.

ENLISTMENTS

Harry Godwin, Newcastle; George Gray, Richmond Main; Raymond Thomas Hanks, East Maitland; Aubrey Athelstane Henry, Adamstown; Oswald Johnson, Newcastle; Hubert Victor McNamara, Merewether; Clarence William Mead, Merriwa; Lorraine William Perry, Newcastle; Robert Herbert Rankine, Hamilton; George Henry Richards, West Maitland; David Williams, Kurri Kurri; Henry Victor Yardley, Stockton.

DEATHS

Pte Albert Brown, Moonan Flat; WO1 John Alexander Campbell, Carrington; Sgt John Lawrence Cantwell, Copeland; Pte David Davies, Greta; Gnr Reginald William Earp, Newcastle; Pte Matthew Hamilton, Islington; Pte James Hyland aka Edward Prescott, Islington; Pte Alexander Olphur Johnston, Barnsley; Pte John Keogh, Muswellbrook; Pte Alexander Bevan Lambert, Lower Belford; Pte Alister Roy Lester, Mount Olive; L/Cpl Joseph Henry Littlefair, Weston; Lieut Henry Loban Montague, Dungog; Pte Melville Ernest Mullins, Morpeth; Pte Phillip Otoe Nickolas, Newcastle; Pte John Edward Parryman, Teralba; Pte William James Richards, Greta; L/Cpl Alexander Scott, Krui River;  Sgt Green Smith, East Maitland; Pte Edward Gerald Thomas, Merriwa; Pte Albert Ernest Ward, Catherine Hill Bay.

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