Centenary of the Great War

FAREWELL: The Australian honour guard for the burial of The Red Baron. 
Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony
FAREWELL: The Australian honour guard for the burial of The Red Baron. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for April 22-28, 1918.

ANZAC DAY

It is not given to mankind to look far into the future, and it is therefore not possible to say whether Anzac Day will always be celebrated in Australia with the reverential feelings that it calls forth now. But today, although three years have elapsed since the new and untried troops of Australia made their debut in European warfare, the memories of their gallant deeds are still fresh in the minds of the people. The facts are so well known that they do not call for recapitulation. The Gallipoli campaign, although through a variety of causes it failed in its object, first showed to the world the bravery of the Australians and their readiness to attempt the most daring deeds in the cause of the Empire. The landing itself was an epic in military history. Under shot and shell the Australians' gallant scaling of the cliffs was in itself a performance worthy of the most tried and experienced troops. That was only the beginning. The Turks to this day will remember the valour of the Australian troops in many a hard fought battle on the peninsula, and how the Ottoman forces were gradually driven back. The British and Australian troops on Gallipoli were small in number compared to their enemy, and therefore their withdrawal was deemed wise. This is a matter which must be left to the decision of experts. But there are not wanting those who hold that the fortunes of war might have been materially altered had Britain decided to afford some support to her troops. Constantinople might have fallen to the British. These, however, are useless thoughts today. They are only recalled because they help to show the estimation in which the valour of Australian troops was held in those early days of the war.

The name of Anzac is no longer strictly applicable to the gallant Australian and New Zealand troops who are now fighting and dying in France, but among their number are still men who are entitled to wear proudly the Anzac badge. To their comrades in Australia, the men who have distinguished themselves by their bravery and are no longer fit for active service, the memories of Anzac Day and all that it commemorates should be precious. Lastly, but in reality first Australia thinks today of the gallant young lives that were sacrificed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Their memories deserve the country's honour.

VILLERS-BRETONNEUX RECAPTURED

London, Thursday.

Mr Philip Gibbs says that the Australian attack on Villers-Bretonneux at 10 o'clock at night was a piece of skilful daring and generalship. The Australians were sent in the darkness, without artillery, armed with rifles and bayonets, and recaptured the most important position. Great heaps of German dead now lie around Villers. A couple of bodies of Australians encircled Villers, while the British fought through the village from the north. The Germans were thus entrapped. The number of German dead exceeds that at Agincourt. (Over 10,000 men are said to have fallen at the battle of Agincourt.) Mr Percival Phillips, describing the carnage of the Germans at Villers, states that British and Australian officers agree that they have never seen dead so thick on any battlefield.

London, Friday.

Mr Gibbs says: After writing yesterday's despatch many things happened. We lost Villers-Bretonneux completely, and the enemy had possession of the village long enough to stuff it with men and machines. Up to 10 o'clock on Wednesday night the Germans believed they held it firmly and permanently. Then came the brilliant counter-attack by the Australian troops. By a most skilful and daring piece of generalship they were sent forward in the darkness without preliminary artillery preparations, relying absolutely on the weapons they carried to regain the important position which gave the enemy full observation of our positions on both sides of the Somme valley beyond Amiens.

DEATH OF RICHTOFEN

The United Press reports that Baron von Richtofen, the German aviator, who claimed to have brought down 80 aeroplanes, has been killed in the rear of the British lines. The correspondent of the United Press reports thot the funeral of Baron von Richtofen took place In the Somme Valley. He received the same burial honours as are accorded to a British flying officer. Richtofen used to fly a highly-coloured machine, which was different to any other.

RICHTOFEN’S FUNERAL 

The United Press correspondent states that the funeral of Baron von Richtofen, the noted German airman, left from the Australian aerodrome, near Sailly le Sec. The coffin was made by Australian air mechanics.

Richtofen was taking part in the so called ‘circus’, including 30 fighting scouts, who have a roving commission to cut off British aviators. During such an attack on the Somme Richtofen, was seen flying 150 feet above the ground, and then suddenly crashed down. It was found that he had been shot through the heart.

THE GREAT AIR FIGHT

The Australian official correspondent states: Richtofen was one of the most celebrated airmen, and the war idol of the Germans. He was patronised by the Kaiser. The victor in 70 aeroplane combats was shot down Wednesday flying low inside the Australian lines. The bullet that killed him was probably fired by a Lewis gunner attached to the battery of the Australian field artillery. Richtofen fell at the end of a severe fight between British and German squadrons. A British airman believes that he fired the shot which brought down Richtofen. Whichever of the two is responsible, Richtofen flying in a triplane, was shot down, flying very near the ground, while he himself was chasing down a British scout.

It was a dramatic end to a great fight. The German champion's machine smashed to smithereens. Only one bullet was found in his body. That was straight through the heart, entering the left side. The fight began when two Australian aeroplanes, well out behind the German lines, suddenly met six enemy machines above them. The Germans dived, immediately attacking, and sitting on our men's tails. The Australians, turning and firing over their tails, caused one of the enemy triplanes to fall, apparently out of control. The Australians themselves went down in order to escape. Eventually recovering, they found themselves out of the battle, which was proceeding over the Somme, between about fifteen aeroplanes on each side. A British squadron of fighting scouts engaged an enemy squadron, of which the Australians had evidently only met part. Four German triplanes are believed to have been shot down, but none of the British. It was not recognised until Richtofen's dead body was identified that this was the famous “circus”. The identification was clear from his papers and watch.

RICHTHOFEN'S END

A friendly but lively controversy is in progress as to whether an Australian Lewis gunner in the Ancre Valley brought down the noted German aviator, Baron von Richthofen, or a British aviator who was pursuing Richthofen near the Australian lines. M. Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, credits the deed to the British aviator. When the Fokker crashed, Richthofen remained upright, strapped to the seat, dead. Australians nearby crawled out and at great risk, placed a rope around the body; which was dragged to a trench. German gunners, meanwhile, put a barrage around the aeroplane, possibly hoping to rescue Richthofen in the night time.

SOLDIER’S LETTER

Private Thomas Bedford; of Waratah, in a letter to his brother, dated France, February 24, 1918, says: “We are out of the line now for a well-earned spell, having just done 28 days in. I am in good health, but, like all the rest, l am very tired alter our long spell in the trenches. And I think it is time some more of the cold-footers in Australia enlisted; if they did we perhaps would not have to do such long spells in the line. We had a fairly lively time in the line this time; had about a dozen killed and several wounded. There will be none of the old hands left soon. One night it was so very bad that we had to evacuate our frontline and get out in front in No Man's Land, and lay on our chests for three-quarters of an hour. If we had stopped in the front line we would have all been wiped out. I looked back to our front line, as I lay on the ground, and it was simply one line of bursting Hun shells. When we got back there was some repairs to be done, I can tell you. A battalion on our right raided him that night, and I suppose he was not certain who was coming over to him; so as were directly in front of him, he shelled us like hades, but, of course, when he found out who was raiding him he shifted his barrage to the right - to our relief. Well, from what we hear we will have about six weeks spell before we go in the line again.”

SOLDIER’S FUNERAL

The funeral of the late Private Jack Ridley, a returned soldier, who died in the Randwick Military Hospital, took place from the Newcastle railway station Thursday afternoon, and the remains were accorded full military honours. Upwards of 70 returned soldiers paraded at the railway station to pay a last tribute of respect to their departed comrade. Chief Petty-officer Saunders, of the Naval Bridging Train, was in charge. As the coffin was removed from the Sydney train to the funeral train for the journey to Sandgate cemetery, The Last Post was sounded, and the firing party and infantry stood with arms reversed. The service at the graveside was conducted by the Rev. W. F. James, who referred in sympathetic terms to the death of the young soldier, who had done his duty nobly in the great battle for freedom and right. At the close of the service, The Last Post was again sounded.

CATHERINE HILL BAY

Anzac Day was observed by the pupils of the Public School. The children were marched around the school grounds to the base of the flagpole, where an appropriate address was given by the principal, Mr Akhurst. Some ex-pupils of the school had participated in the Gallipoli landing, and in respect of their memory the many wreaths on the pole were emblems of love to their memory. After the saluting of the flag, the National Anthem was sung by the children.

TERALBA WAR MEMORIAL

The unveiling of the Teralba roll of honour will take place on Saturday afternoon. The memorial is being erected on the eastern side of the entrance to the railway station, facing Macquarie Street. It will be a handsome structure of granite, and will stand 11 feet 6 inches in height. The unveiling will be performed by Lance Corporal William Miller, the first of the Teralba soldiers to return from the war.

ENLISTMENTS

William Harold Braye, Waratah; Sidney Grey, Girvan; Bernard Francis Barry, East Gresford; Arthur Mostyn Burns, East Maitland; Frank Carpenter, Tarro; Clarence Arthur Danvers,  Merewether; William Joseph Fallins, Kahibah; Patrick Flynn, Alison; Charles Ernest Grant, Carrowbrook; Claude Christopher Hooper, Newcastle; William Larke, Summer Hill; Charles Lockwood, Merewether; Henry Single McPherson, Booral; Hugh Joseph Neary, Muswellbrook; Charles Leonard Potter, Cooks Hill; Joseph Blyth Robinson, Merewether; Charles Stewart, Merewether; Reginald Harold Walker, Toronto; Donald Gilbert Wells, Vacy; Henry White, Maitland; George Rudolph Worlin, Carrington; Bernard John Young, Wickham.

DEATHS

Pte Donald Smirnoff Begbie, Islington; Cpl Harold George Burgin, Teralba; Gnr Rupert Henry Gornall, Kurri Kurri; Pte Ernest Hemmings, Wickham; Pte Albert Lilly Knight, Swan Bay; Pte Cyril McFarland McCrea, Greta; Pte William Henry Pearce, Seahampton; Pte Hugh Elmar Sibbald, Stockton; Pte James Alexander Slater, Cape Hawke; Pte Harry Taylor, North Waratah; Pte William Whitby, Weston; Pte Eric Courtenay Wylie, Merewether.

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