Centenary of the Great War

ALLIED EFFORT: Two weeks before the battle of Hamel,  Australian diggers with three US soldiers commonly known as doughboys. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

ALLIED EFFORT: Two weeks before the battle of Hamel, Australian diggers with three US soldiers commonly known as doughboys. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for July 1-7, 1918.


About the largest batch of sick and wounded soldiers, numbering over 1000, to land in Sydney, arrived by boat Friday morning. Sydney was the vessel’s first Australian port of call, and consequently considerable delay was caused before the men were enabled to proceed on their way.

A number of men were for the other states, and arrangements had to be made for the conveyance of the men for the south. As usual, a special train awaited the Queenslanders. After an hour and a half's delay, the returned men were put into motor cars, and, amid great cheering, resumed their interrupted journey. A feature of the day was the arrival of a batch of 150 naval men from the Australian fleet, who are back on a short furlough. An exceptionally fine reception was given them, as they passed through the densely crowded streets. Flags, streamers, and strong posts, in addition to a number of bands, helped to make the welcome an effective one.

A number of those who returned have had the unique experience of encircling the globe, besides taking part in many of the big battles in Flanders and France. They speak in glowing terms of their trip home, and the opportunity afforded them of seeing strange countries and strange people, which many of them, in their wildest dreams, had never expected to visit. The trip was undoubtedly an interesting one, but they one and all expressed pleasures at being once again in their native land.


The Defence Department issued returns last Saturday showing that up to June 29 casualties in the Australian Imperial Forces totalled 261,494. The details are: Dead, 49,047; missing, 276; prisoners, 3334; wounded, 136,229; sick, 72,425; and unspecified, 213. The figures relating to dead, missing, prisoners and unspecified are net totals after correction has been made. The figures relating to the wounded and sick are in excess of the actual numbers, as many men have been admitted to hospital more than once.


It is reported from Washington that General March, the United States Chief of Staff, has announced that the first division of the conscripted army has been placed in the West Front firing line. Five divisions have finished their training with the British, and have been placed under General Pershing's direct command.


The United Press correspondent reports that the Australian troops, aided by others, with tanks, swept forward at dawn, attacking along a four-mile front from the Somme to Villers Bretonneux, and captured Hamel, with the Vaire and Hamel Woods. The positions thus retaken are important, including the ridge between the Somme and the Luce, overlooking Amiens. The Germans were completely surprised. During the night preceding the fight the airmen showered the area eastward of Villers Bretonneux with bombs, largely contributing to the success of the surprise attack. About 1500 prisoners were taken. In another operation along a front of 1200 yards, on the Morlancourt region, they won a depth of 400 yards, attaining all their objectives with clock-like precision. They captured 450 prisoners.


Field-marshal Sir Douglas Haig reports: “We carried out a successful operation on Thursday morning between Villers Bretonneux and the Somme. We captured the village of Hamel, and advanced our line to an average depth of 2000 yards. There was hostile artillery activity in the Robecq and St. Jans Cappel sectors”.


Field-Marshal Sir Douglas Haig has telegraphed to General Pershing, on behalf of himself and the British Army, offering warmest greetings for Independence Day, when the soldiers of America and Britain for the first time in history stand side by side in defence of the great principle of liberty, which is the proudest Inheritance and the most cherished possession of their nations.

“That liberty, which the British, Americans, and French won for themselves,” he said, “they will not fail to hold for the world.”

General Pershing replied: “The firm unity of purpose so strongly binding the great Allied nations stands this Fourth of July as a new declaration and a new guarantee that the sacred principles of liberty, shall not perish, but shall be extended to all peoples.”


The Pall Mall Gazette publishes Independence Day messages, including tributes from Mr W. M. Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia, and Mr W. F. Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Mr Hughes says:  “The whole civilised world looks to America for help in the hour of supreme crisis. The Allies are sorely pressed, and their need for reinforcements is daily more urgent and more imperative. America's splendid troops are pouring across the Atlantic in increasing numbers. I am convinced that with their help, victory for liberty, and enduring peace will finally be secured.”  Mr Massey says: “It must be particularly gratifying to the citizens of the US and the Empire to think that after nearly a century and a half of estrangement, two great nations descended from the same stock, and speaking the same language, have come together in the cause of liberty and freedom. May the sun never go down on their wrath. May each succeeding Independence Day find mutual respect and esteem increasing.”


The 413th official list of Australian casualties was released for publication by the military authorities on Monday. It shows that 95 men from New South Wales were killed in action, seven died of wounds, four died of illness, and two died from causes not stated. In addition, five are reported wounded and missing, two missing, six wounded and prisoner of war, 24 prisoners of war, 305 wounded, 22 ill, and seven injured.

The 414th list of Australian casualties was released by the military authorities on Wednesday. It shows that 50 New South Welshmen were killed in action, 13 died of wounds, three died of illness, one died of injuries, and one accidentally killed. In addition two are reported wounded and missing, one previously reported missing now reported with unit, 20 prisoners of war, three wounded and prisoners of war, eight previously reported prisoners of war now reported to have arrived in England. 258 wounded, three previously reported wounded, now reported not wounded, 25 ill, and ten injured.


Mr Orchard, the Minister for Recruiting, has approved of a ‘March to Freedom’ being organised with Dungog as starting point, the North Coast towns north of Dungog to be the recruiting grounds. The march is timed to leave Dungog on July 25, Stroud July 26, Gloucester July 27, Wingham July 28, Taree July 29 and 30, Coopernook July 31, Wauchope August 1, Port Macquarie August 2, Kempsey August 4. The other fixtures have not been arranged.


A social was held under the auspices of the Cardiff Busy Bee League in Streeter's Hall on Saturday for the purpose of securing funds to provide Christmas parcels for Cardiff soldiers at the front. A large number of residents and visitors were present, also members of the Speers' Point Sunshine League and Wallsend Girls' League. During the evening dancing and games were indulged in, and vocal items were rendered by Miss Williams and Miss Short. The members of the league are knitting socks, and anticipate getting the parcels away next month.


Mr Joseph Dempsey, of Mayfield, formerly of Moscheto Island, has received a letter from Chaplain G. E. Shaw, referring to his son, the late Driver Dempsey, who was killed in action in France. The chaplain offers his sympathy, and states that Driver Dempsey had a most excellent record among his associates. He was buried alongside several of his comrades who fell, and arrangements were being made for a cross to be erected over his grave. Miss Dempsey has received a letter from Driver W. J. Harrison, of the battery to which her brother was attached. The letter, which is dated April 4, states that Driver Dempsey met his death on the previous day. He was at the time carting ammunition and, with the two horses he was driving, he was killed by a shell. He was hit in the head, and death was instantaneous. He is spoken of as a loyal and faithful comrade, who was liked by every man in his battery and whose death was mourned by all.


A public meeting was held in the council chambers on Wednesday night to consider the question of the erection of a roll of honour. Alderman Wells, the Mayor, who presided, said he was pleased to see so many present, which went to show that the services rendered by the young men who had gone to the front from Merewether were appreciated. He was quite aware that there were several rolls of honour in the municipality, namely, in the school of arts and several churches, but he found, on conversing with a large number of residents, that it was their desire to have one general roll. Mr G. Turner, draughtsman, had promised to prepare plans of a suitable monument free of charge.

Alderman Dixon moved that those present form a committee to erect a general roll of honour. It was rather unfortunate that so much money had been expended with various bodies in erecting small rolls, still he did not blame those responsible, as they were anxious to do honour to the gallant lads who had enlisted from their ranks. It was the duty of the people of Merewether to do all they could for the movement, and not be behind other municipalities. Alderman Barlow, in seconding the resolution, said he was satisfied that the residents would respond to the object they had in view. Discussion took place as to what form the roll of honour should take, and site. Alderman Rowlands said he favoured a monument. Mr Buxton moved that a monument be erected, and contended that by settling the question that night the people would know to what they were subscribing. The motion was agreed to, and it was decided that the monument be in Mitchell Park.


A day is to be held in Newcastle on July 19 for the Newcastle and Hunter River District War Chest Fund, and preparations are in progress to make the effort worthy of the excellent cause for which the War Chest stands. The War Chest is to help Australian soldiers, and an appeal is made to send them Christmas boxes, tobacco, foodstuffs, and sporting material. This effort will take the form of an Allied Nations Fair, in Hunter Street, and every Allied country will be represented. As illustrating the enthusiasm with which the latter has been taken up, eighteen stalls have been allotted already. A meeting of all interested in the movement will be held at the Newcastle Council Chambers on Monday night next.


In answer to the sock appeal, 4356 have been despatched during June from the Newcastle depot. It is anticipated that the final count will exceed 8000 pairs. These cannot be sent, however, until the Christmas gift shipment is despatched. Packing is in full swing at the depot, Scott's, Ltd., and members are asked to attend daily.


George Wanless Baldwin, Wallsend; Leo Bamber, Maitland; Leo Bede Cornish, Warners Bay; Arthur Leo Francis, Adamstown; Alexander Victor Green, Waratah; Albert Edward Hawkins, Singleton; William Max Kirchner, Newcastle; Arthur Bruce Loder, Singleton; Leslie James Mansfield, Wallsend; John Benedict Reynolds, Bungwahl; Alfred Ernest Woodward, Hamilton.


Pte James Henry Bush, Cessnock; Pte Norman Stanley Fairbairn, Islington; Pte Thomas Fisher, Kurri Kurri; Pte William Gilligan, Dagworth; Pte Henry Hopton, Broadmeadow; Pte George Ireland, Bungwahl; Pte George McIlwraith, Morisset; Spr Andrew Kirkland McIntyre, West Wallsend; Pte Thomas Parrish, Boolaroo; Pte Robert Simpson, Hamilton; Lieut Francis Lawrence Smith, Muswellbrook; Pte Frederick Smith, Newcastle; Capt Frederick Frank Woods, Wallsend.

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