Centenary of the Great War

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for May 20-26, 1918.

AUSTRALIAN CASUALTIES

The weekly return issued by the Defence Department on Sunday showed that up to May 18 the casualties in the AIF totalled 246,686. The details are as follow: Dead, 46,340; missing, 668; prisoners of war, 2998; wounded. 125,805; sick, 70,661; unspecified, 214. The department explains that the figures in the case of dead, missing, prisoners, and unspecified represent the actual net total, while those for wounded and sick are in excess of the actual number, as many men have been admitted to hospital more than once.

TRIBUTE TO AUSTRALIANS

The correspondent of the Giornale d'Italia, on the French front, pays a high tribute to the gallantry of the Australians there. 

“They are magnificent men, born warriors,” he says. “To watch them fighting is to realise the error into which the Germans have fallen in their hope of finishing the war in three weeks by crushing Britain.”

“They are soldiers who do not await orders before leaping into the enemy trenches. Their aim is ever to solve a difficult situation in the briefest possible time. After four years of war they are still the same. These men of another continent are fighting for an ideal, as volunteers, unweariedly.”

AMERICA'S ARMY

The United States correspondent states: Americans have arrived, and are reinforcing the British front in Northern France. He points out that the arrival of Americans on the British front locates United States troops in three, and possibly four sectors. They are already announced as being between Mailly and Hangard on Santerre, and west of Montdidier, and possibly the new arrivals are located in Flanders. 

Correspondents on the American front report that the British greeted the American arrivals with tremendous cheering. The correspondents emphasise that the Americans will assist in blocking the German advance toward the Channel ports. There was heavy concentration of German gunfire on Friday morning in the neighbourhood of Hinges and Pacaut Wood. It seemed to foreshadow a local attack, but after the British had retaliated with a few rounds of rapid fire, the enemy thought better of it. The weather is unusually warm, with brilliant sunshine. There is severe air fighting and heavy night bombing. 

An American communique states: Fighting on Friday was limited to reconnaissances. Intermittent active artillery fire has increased. There is aerial activity north-west of Toul and Lorraine.

General Pershing reports increased artillery fire in Lorraine. The Americans at Montdidier destroyed two German batteries, and forced others to withdraw.

The correspondent of the New York Times with the American Army in France states that the Germans are training in the use of all steel-armoured planes for low flying over infantry.

THE DEFENCE FORCE

It is considered officially that the incorporation of rifle clubs with the citizen forces, in connection with the new home defence scheme, will be of considerable value. Members of rifle clubs who are ineligible for the Australian Imperial Force, but are eligible for home service, will be accepted. Each member so volunteering will be called upon to agree to serve at least 16 days a year in continuous training until the end of the war. Arrangements are being made for members of each club to join a definite unit, and, as nearly as possible, they will be kept together within that unit to prevent loss to clubs by the volunteering of their members. Rifle club members who volunteer will be attached to citizen force units. An amendment is being made to the regulations, to the effect that the cubs will receive an efficient grant in respect of any member who volunteers and undergoes the prescribed training. It is considered that this will fully meet the wishes of members of the rifle clubs.

DISMISSAL OF GIRLS

The action taken at Victoria Barracks regarding the dismissal of men medically fit has been applied also to the girls employed there. Each girl is now required to state if she has any male relatives on active service. If she replies in the negative, then she will be compelled to make way for a girl who has relatives away fighting. It is considered that the latter girl should be given preference, as she would be helping to support a soldier's family with the money received for her work from the Defence Department.

CATHOLICS AND THE WAR

Dr Kelly, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, took strong exception, in the course of some remarks made at Boolaroo on Sunday, to the interpretation that had been placed in certain quarters on his recent pastoral letter. The Archbishop had blessed and opened the church that has just been erected at Boolaroo, and was responding to a vote of thanks recorded him.

“We are now under the shadow of the great war,” said his Grace. “We are now coming to the crisis of that great war. We are fulfilling our duty not only as Australians, but as Catholics. We are fulfilling our duties under the eye of God, and God will have a special reward in heaven for those young men who lose some years in this life. They will have a more glorious eternity, because of their bravery, certainly recognised by God, because in fulfilment of their duty to their country. This spirit is not inconsistent with the desire for peace, because God uses war as one of his scourges on the human race. We want victory and peace, and we want God's blessing, and it is wise to point out to people what they may do to be sure of God's blessing.”

“Let me say emphatically, and say it to the press, it was very wrong, in every sense of the word for any newspaper to construe my remarks in my pastoral letter, to mean that we would not continue to come voluntarily unless justice were done to the Catholic schools. That is a wrong interpretation, and a mischievous one. What is the position? I am Australian. You are Australians. We want Australia to succeed in this war; we want to have peace, to have victory, and we shall do anything that will help it. You can treat Catholic schools fairly. That will give additional solace to the Catholics who are now at the front. We have them at the front. We have a long honour list. We have Victoria Crosses, we have all these things.

We are fighting, but if we are fighting against injustice elsewhere, will it not be a gratification to all of us to know that injustice has ceased at home? It is in the power of the people of Australia to make this injustice cease.”

HONOUR ROLL UNVEILED

The celebration of Empire Day at the Tighe's Hill School, under the auspices of the Parents and Citizens' Association, was marked by the unveiling of the school roll of honour. Alderman R. J. Bond, the Mayor of Wickham, who presided, said that he was glad that the school had such splendid children. It was a pleasure to be present at the unveiling of such a magnificent roll of honour, which had been provided by the Parents and Citizens' Association and the school children. He was also proud of the rolls of honour in the Wickham Council Chambers. The whole municipality had responded splendidly to the call of the Empire. Australians had made their names famous on the other side of the world.

Mr W.C. Grahame, the Minister for Agriculture, in unveiling the honour roll, said that he was pleased to have the opportunity of unveiling an honour roll which helped to keep green the memories of those boys who were defending Australia. He did not think the Government of the country or the employing classes had yet done enough for the men who had sacrificed everything for the Empire. Every man who had taken his place in the trenches should be properly provided for. Their liberty, their freedom, and democracy they were proud of were being defended today on the war fronts. The nation was fighting for her life, and all the available men who were willing were needed to protect Australia and to preserve the prestige of the Empire. Peace under the present conditions, while the Germans were in Belgium and France, would not be an honourable one. They needed the peace that would give them the privilege and prestige of the British nation, otherwise they had better fight on even if great sacrifices had to be made.

Colonel J. L. Beeston, CMG, in paying a high tribute to Nurse Amy Matthews and Sergeant Baber, recounted some of the deeds they had done on the battlefields. He pointed out that the work of the stretcher-bearers was more arduous than people were aware of. They had nothing to protect themselves with, but had to get the wounded and carry them to a place of safety under heavy fire.

NEWCASTLE RECRUITING

The official returns of recruiting in all the Federal electorates in NSW for the week ended the 11th instant have been received at the recruiting office, Newcastle. They show that Newcastle again headed the list with 41 men accepted, which was practically double the average enrolment of the electorate. The number enrolled in the Hunter electorate was only eight. Riverina was last on the list, with only five enrolments. Last week 76 men offered at Newcastle, and 50 were accepted.

WESTON

A public meeting was held in the Olympia Hall on Friday night. Mr J. Littlefair, the convener, explained that the meeting had been called for the purpose of arranging a welcome to the soldiers in the route march when they reached Weston. He was disappointed at the small number present. It was resolved that all present form themselves into a committee. Mr J. Littlefair was appointed president, Mr C. Edwards secretary, Mr R. Jarvis, treasurer, and Mr Bushell vice-president. The recruiting officer, Mr A. E. Musgrave, addressed the meeting, and promised to let the committee know as near as possible the number of recruits in the march likely to visit Weston. They would reach Weston on the 5th of June. A vote of thanks was accorded to Mr Musgrave, also to Mr Outram for the use of the hall. The ladies present formed themselves into a committee for the purpose of canvassing the town for assistance. It is hoped by the committee that the response by the townspeople to the collectors will be of such a character as to allow the town to give the soldiers a good time when they reach Weston.

RETURNING SOLDIERS

Mr J. A. Dransfield, of West Maitland, has been advised that his son, Sergeant Harry Dransfield, will return to Sydney in a few days. He left with reinforcements of the 31st Battalion in February, 1916, and was for a time a drill instructor in England. He went to France in January, 1917, but was invalided to England suffering with trench feet. Returning to France he was wounded in the left arm in September, and the hand was permanently injured. His brother, Roy, was killed at Pozieres in July, 1916, and another brother, Rupert, is still on active service.

ENLISTMENTS

Rupert Thomas Barratt, Bulga; Sydney Thomas Benton, Catherine Hill Bay; Ewing Fletcher Blewitt, Newcastle; Francis Claude Christopherson, Newcastle; Harrie Everingham, East Maitland; Roy Gould, Singleton; George Sydney Hicks, Dungog; Charles Arthur Hugo, Wallsend; Elijah Hunt, Merriwa; James Horace Ivin, Timor; Thomas Jones, Muscle Creek; James Lionel Meehan, Belltrees; Robert Ernest Settle, Lorn; John William Spinks, Singleton; Robert Stephenson, Catherine Hill Bay; Arnold Leslie Walkom, Wallsend; Gordon Benjamin Watson, Wallsend; Andrew Watt, Hamilton; John Boucher West, Murrurundi; Albert Lionel Woodcock, Newcastle.

DEATHS

Pte Cyrus David Brosie, West Gresford; Pte William Burns, Carrington; Pte George Cole, Kurri Kurri; Pte John Beeston Donald, Hamilton; Pte Bert Reginald Doohan, Singleton; Pte John Gibson, East Greta; Pte Paul Tonkin Kelly, Carrington; Pte Thomas McEvoy, Merewether; Pte Andrew O'Neil, Catherine Hill Bay; Pte James Parker, Newcastle; L/Cpl Adam Dryle Ramage, Kurri Kurri; Pte Archibald Scott, Abermain; Pte Harold James Slack, Bellbird.

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