Centenary of the Great War

 A LAST DRINK? It was sadly for Lieutenant Edward Clark, right, who died of wounds June 1917. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony
A LAST DRINK? It was sadly for Lieutenant Edward Clark, right, who died of wounds June 1917. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for   June 3-9, 1918


The weekly return issued by the Defence Department, shows that the casualties of the AIF to date total 252,313. Details are: Dead 47,499, missing 608, prisoners 3048, wounded 29,802, sick 71,142, unspecified 214. The total for dead, missing, prisoners, and unspecified are actual totals; those for wounded and sick are in excess of the actual number, as many men have been admitted to hospital more than once.


The official correspondent with the Australians telegraphs: During the long nights of the full moon and misty rain, the Germans have not moved masses of infantry opposite this front. By some means they moved a large part of their reserves quietly and quickly in another direction, and threw them in, according to accounts of French correspondents, after a bombardment, which was much shorter than any which ever preceded an attack on this scale. Meanwhile, huge preparations, which were made on this front, constituted not a mere feint, but can be used any day for an attack, much as the ostentatious preparations for an undelivered attack in March against the French was possibly used on this occasion. The Germans have made a habit lately, not so much of telling men what to say if they are taken prisoner, as of spreading tales among them, which they believe, knowing that if they are taken prisoner, some of this will reach the Allies. The essence of this year's German strategy is the manner in which it is designed not to follow any rigid plan, but to be capable of following up any success with which it meets. It seems possible the Germans will continue this plan during the year. It will be realised what a tremendously formidable effort faces our side.


A Palestine official report states: We advanced our line to a maximum depth of 3¼ miles on a front of 4½ miles, in the coastal area, southward and south-westward of Tabsor, capturing two posts, and repelling several counter-attacks, with considerable enemy losses. The Arabs renewed their attacks on the Hedjaz railway, northward of Maan, taking 925 prisoners, and effecting important demolitions.


During the present week another great appeal will be made to the men of military age in Newcastle and district to help to swell the forces that are being gathered for the support and relief of the brave men who are now upholding the honour of Australia on the battlefront. Rumours are again to hand that one of the battalions which has done magnificent service in the past is now so reduced in numbers that it may have to be broken up, and the men attached to the other units. That will be a sore blow to the men who have prided themselves on the records of their battalions, but it is more serious when regarded in the light of existing facts. The official Australian correspondent reports that they are defending the Amiens line, which practically means some of the Channel ports. It is a position of great responsibility, for which their courage and their fearlessness and personal initiative and resource have caused them to be singled out, and it is necessarily a position of great danger. It is not many weeks since they drove back a fierce German attack, causing great loss to the enemy, but also sustaining many casualties. That the numbers of these brave men should be allowed to dwindle away without a strong effort by their Australian comrades to relieve and support them hardly seems credible. The battle position of today, dangerous as it is for the Allies, does not imply that the end of the war is at hand. Even if the enemy should succeed in crossing the Marne, and in invading the capital of France, he will not have gained victory over the Allies. There will be much fighting for months to come, unless the unexpected should happen. Britain needs the support of every man who has hitherto lived in peace and happiness under her protecting flag. France, too, needs assistance. Her gallant troops have now been fighting for four years, but despite their great losses, are still determined and confident.


Mr Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia, speaking in New York, said that the Pacific islands always seemed a tempting prize for Germany. America had an interest in the fate of the Pacific islands, because of Guam, the Philippines, Tutulla, and Manus. A correspondent says: While the United States has so far not declared a definite policy in regard to the captured Pacific territory, there is reason to believe that she will support our valiant ally Australia in her efforts to free herself from the menace of predatory Germany. Mr Hughes also stated that Australia did not want more territory, but was perfectly content that the islands adjacent to the Commonwealth should be held by a friendly Power and added that this was not the time to talk about peace, but a time to keep on fighting.


The official Australian correspondent telegraphs: The cutting down of the Australian Force in France in order to compensate for the absence of normal reinforcement, is being carried out up to the present, by disbanding one battalion after another, as the shortage makes it necessary. So far the battalions which are being thus dealt with are the 36th, the 47th, and the 52nd.

The 36th is a NSW battalion which, beyond question, saved Villers-Bretonneux when the Germans flung themselves against the town on April 4. The 36th was in reserve. Late in the afternoon, by a tremendous attack, the British line was driven in, together with the flank of the Australians. The 36th had a well-known fighting commander, “Jock Milne”, an old Gallipoli soldier. He no sooner saw the retiring troops coming over the rise about him than he ordered the battalion to fix bayonets and go up over the ridge at once. The Germans, advancing there, suddenly found a line of grim men, with bayonets ready, coming straight towards them, where they expected to find men retiring. The German line at once wavered and fell back. “Jock Milne” a few days afterwards was killed by a shell, but his fighting tradition lives through the force. That is exactly the way in which the Australians are facing present emergencies. The 36th fought very hard battles on the right of the British line at Messines, and during the most difficult and ambitious attack ever undertaken before Ypres.

The name-badges of these battalions will be preserved at the depots, but the battalions themselves, have gone. In the heavy fighting which inevitably is close ahead, some other famous battalions will go. The details have already been settled. They will be kept up to the last possible moment, but dissolution is certain if the fighting is as heavy as at Ypres. 


Marshal von Hindenburg, in spite of the opposition of the Kaiser, has persuaded the Government to introduce a bill in the Reichstag drafting into the army all convicts of military age. They will be constituted special regiments, commanded by officers known for their ruthlessness, and sent to the most dangerous points. Many shirkers have committed crimes in order to be imprisoned and so escape service in the German army.


It is reported from Madrid that a mysterious epidemic is spreading through the country alarmingly. Forty per cent of the population are stricken. The railways, tramways, factories, newspapers, schools, and theatres are seriously disorganised, owing to the depletion of the staffs, and many have closed. Some of the symptoms resemble Influenza, but in many cases there are sudden fits. The King and several ministers are ill. 


In October last a telegram was officially received by Mr W. Morgan, of Kurri, stating that his son, Private Morgan, had been wounded (self-inflicted). Six weeks later information was received, with the addition “not as previously advised”. 

Now a letter has been received from Captain Cain, in France, in which he writes that having heard the unfounded report circulated regarding Private Morgan, “In justice and the great admiration I have for his conduct and work, it is my duty and pleasure to tell you that if any such statements have been made, they are not correct. “Your son was wounded by the enemy at Passchendaele. I would like to add that on all occasions your son has been in the line with me under heavy fire, he has always been calm, determined, and very reliable, most of the time being in command of a Lewis gun team. Captains Gilder and McLeod both speak very highly of him.” Mr J. Forster, of Aberdare Street, Kurri Kurri, has received two letters from comrades of his late son, Wilfred, dated April 2, giving a few details of the manner in which he met his death, which took place on April 1. His company (B, 34th Battalion) had been in the line the night before, and early in the morning was relieved and sent into a village behind the line for a needed rest. About midday Fritz began to shell the village, and one fell on the house where Wilfred was and killed him and seven others. His face was not disfigured at all, his injuries being mostly about his legs. The fatal blow was behind the ear. He was buried with his comrades near the village, and the place would be marked and looked after. His mates sent deepest sympathy, and said although deaths were only too frequent and caused little comment, his death caused great regret, as he was well liked and esteemed, being always ready to assist a comrade in any way he could. He was a splendid soldier, and feared nothing. 


The March to Freedom column came to the end of their long journey on Friday at Newcastle, when the men were received by the people of the city and district with unbounded enthusiasm. It is probable that in all the big functions which have taken place in front of the Newcastle Post Office since the commencement of the war none has exceeded the event of Friday in enthusiasm. This was heralded by the march of the column, and its accompanying bodies through the densely crowded passages of spectators, who cheered the long procession, which was expressive, not only of the men who are going to do their bit for the Empire, but those who have fought, and those who are fighting today, and the many organisations whose members are working for the comfort of the soldiers and sailors abroad.


Pte James Harold Adams, East Maitland; Pte Thomas James Akhurst, East Maitland; Pte Gilbert John Allan, Kundibakh; Pte George Henry Boyden, Newcastle; Pte William George Brown, East Greta; Pte Sydney William Butcher, Kurri Kurri; Pte James Alexander Cook, West Maitland; Pte Thomas James Crux, Heddon Greta; Pte Herbert Henry Ekert, Farley; Pte Royden Keith Ellis, Dagworth; Pte Alfred Baker Hall, Adamstown; Pte Arthur Leslie Hyams, Aberdare; Pte David Jones Kurri Kurri; Pte Francis John Kem, Islington; Pte John Kitto, East Maitland; Pte Daniel Manson, Newcastle; Pte John McAteer, Smedmore; Pte Robert Millar, Boolaroo; Pte Walter Wallace Miller, Wickham; Pte Albert Ernest Nolan, Greta; Pte Claude Oakes, Kurri Kurri; Pte Morgan Eugene O'Neill, South Maitland; Pte Cecil Sylvester Page, Muswellbrook; Pte John Robert Pitt, Weston; Pte William Purdy, Kurri Kurri; Pte William Francis Rennex, Cessnock; Pte George Wilson Ridley, West Maitland; Pte Squire Roberts, Merewether; Pte Thomas Henry Sault, Newcastle; Pte William Edgar Simmons, East Maitland; Pte Bedwell William Surman, Jesmond; Pte John Tucker, Abermain; Pte John Hardwell Wilkins, Murrurundi; Pte Ernest John Williams, Cessnock; Pte John Williams, Cessnock.



David Dial OAM is a Hunter-based military historian. facebook.com/HunterValleyMilitaryHistory