Centenary of the Great War

RESPECTED: No 2 Australian Flying Corps pilots, including Captain Richard Watson Howard MC (back row fourth from left), who died of wounds in March 1918. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.
RESPECTED: No 2 Australian Flying Corps pilots, including Captain Richard Watson Howard MC (back row fourth from left), who died of wounds in March 1918. Photo: The Digger's View by Juan Mahony.

Newcastle Herald transcriptions and Hunter enlistment and death details for July 8-14, 1918


The 415th list of Australian casualties, issued Monday by the Defence Department, shows that 31 New South Welshmen were killed in action, 20 died of wounds, one drowned, one died from causes not stated, three died of illness, and one died of injuries. In addition, three are reported wounded and prisoners of war, 11 prisoners of war, 134 wounded, 45 ill, and eight injured.


The official Australian correspondent telegraphs:- By the complete success of Thursday's assault, the Australian troops in France added another chapter to the magnificent record which they have been compiling during the present state of war.

While immense credit is due to the tanks, whose wonderful work is spoken of with enthusiasm by every man who comes out of that battlefield, and whose success on this occasion was complete down to the smallest details, yet the basis of all this result was the grand courage, the buoyant, indomitable spirit, the untiring energy of that same old great-hearted Australian infantry, which is gradually carrying the name of Australia to a place in the esteem of the world which may well fill the eyes of all their countrymen with tears of pride.


Mr Percival Phillips telegraphs: Australia’s Independence Day attack was as clear-cut and complete a victory as the Allies have ever won. The German resistance was feeble, spasmodic, and utterly unlike the organised opposition that was expected of good troops. Probably the day attack was chosen owing to the anniversary, as the Australian units had been fraternising with the Americans for many weeks. The country where the Australians had to advance was mostly open, undulating farmland, with the straggling ruins of Hamel lying on a gentle slope about a mile above the Somme. When the Australians got through the torn entanglements they found themselves in rugged fields, full of pitfalls, without any cover; but they found scarcely any opposition. Something like a panic prevailed in Hamel. A large number of Germans were found dead, victims of the preliminary air raid, which was as destructive as the artillery. The British aviators dropped 300 large bombs, and before the defenders could rally the tanks were upon them. Many of the Germans ran away. One battalion surrendered with its staff.


Mr F. Howard, of Hamilton, received several letters by the last mail from Europe referring to his son, Captain R. Howard, MC, of the Australian Flying Corps, who was reported missing in France. Captain Watt, of the Australian Flying Corps, in sympathising with Mr. Howard on account of the anxiety he must feel, writing on April 4, says: “I appreciated to the full, as did everyone who met him in France, his extraordinary fine qualities, both as pilot, fighter, and officer, and he was well on the way to making a great name for himself. Everyone over there seems convinced that he landed in error behind the German lines, while the front line was practically unknown, and I do most sincerely trust this is the case. He is a sad loss to our young flying corps”. Major Sheldon says: “He went out on patrol on March 22nd, and was last seen flying very low towards our lines. What I think has happened is that he was forced to land, may be at an aerodrome, which formerly ours fell into the German hands, on the latter's rapid advance near Bapaume. Of course, this is only my own private opinion, so please don't build too much on it, but Howard was such a cool, and splendid pilot, that I find it hard to imagine that anything worse than being taken prisoner has happened to him.”

Captain Holden, of the Australian Flying Corps, writing from Eastbourne on April 12, says: “He was leading a patrol over the lines the afternoon after the first day of the German offensive in the Somme sector. He left about 3.30pm I went and told him to keep a good lookout for Huns (air ones), as I'd just returned, and we had had a good many fights on our trip.

We had noticed an extraordinary activity in the air on this day, and were rather surprised, as up to this time things had been rather quiet. It afterwards transpired that the ground we had been doing our patrol over had been recaptured by the Germans in their first rush, and our intelligence up to the time Dick left had not advised us of the new line.

I explain this, as we all think that when Dick dived down on a Hun machine over our territory, as he supposed, it was in reality German ground. 


Mrs AC Wilson, of Adamstown, has received a letter from her youngest son, Ronald, stating that he has now completed his course in the flying school, and has been granted a commission  Lieutenant Wilson, who enlisted in June, 1915, went to France with the first lot of Australian troops, and was eventually severely wounded during the Somme battle. By the same mail Mrs. Wilson was advised that her other two sons, Sapper A. H. Wilson (Field Company Engineers), and Captain GC Wilson, MC, DCM. (Australian Flying Corps), who left with the first division in 1914, are still well.


Mrs Honey, of 118 Cleary Street, Hamilton, has received the official statement concerning the services for which her son, Private Stanley Honey, was awarded the Military Medal. The statement is as follows: “Conspicuous courage and devotion to duty. On April 4th and 5th, 1918, in the defence of Villers Bretonneux, acted as a stretcher-bearer. He worked indefatigably throughout the operation, and never once spared himself. He tended the wounded under extremely heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, and the fact that he was being deliberately sniped at, and that one of his assistants had been wounded by a sniper, never once deterred him. He displayed magnificent courage and devotion to duty.”


Private Harold McLeish received a welcome home at his parents' residence, Thomas Street, Adamstown, on Saturday evening. He was met at Newcastle railway station by the Mayor, Alderman Cameron, and the town clerk, Mr W.Brown. The welcome was clouded by the death of the young soldier's mother while he was away, and the news that came to hand the previous evening that his nephew; Private Kirk, of Weston, had been killed in action in France. At his home, the Mayor, on behalf of the citizens and patriotic committee, gave Private McLeish a cordial welcome. His remarks were supported by Aldermen Saunders and Thompson, and Messrs. Brown, McMaster, and Bloomfield. Mr A. McLeish thanked the gathering for the welcome extended to his son. A large number of friends partook of refreshments, provided by the family.

Private McLeish can lay claim to being one of the youngest if not the youngest soldier who has left Australia. Private McLeish was born in Thomas Street, Adamstown, in February, 1902. He was a big boy, and looked more than his age. At the age of 13 years he enlisted, but his parents would not sign his papers to allow him to go to the front. At 14 years of age he tried to get away on a transport, and did not succeed. Six months later his brother, Private A. McLeish, of the 30th Battalion, returned from Egypt sick, and was laid up in Randwick Military Hospital. The boy went to Sydney to see his brother, and said to him, “Alex, I'll go and enlist and take your place.” His brother told him not to, as he was too young. He was, however, determined to go and do his bit. He gave his age in as 18 years of age, and other matters the boy arranged himself. He was accepted, and his parents were not aware of it till the day previous to him stepping aboard the troopship. The parents thought it judicious to place no further obstacles in his way, as they feared he might enlist in another state. He was accepted when he was 14½ years of age, and celebrated his 15th birthday on Salisbury Plain. Shortly after he went into the thick of the fighting with the Australians. He was twice wounded. While in hospital in England, the young fellow told some of his right age. It got to the ears of the military authorities, with the result that his father was communicated with, and the lad's birth certificate sent to England, and he was sent home as soon as he was able to leave hospital. Private McLeish is now 16½ years of age, and weighs about 12 stone. He looks well, and has almost recovered from his wounds. He is a member of a widely known and respected family. His father, Mr Alex. McLeish, was under-manager at Minmi Colliery for a number of years, and subsequently filled the same position at New Lambton Colliery. His eldest brother, Mr John McLeish, is manager of the state coalmine in Victoria.


In response to the call of the Empire, Abermain has done her share, but the Reckenberg family, of Abermain, has set an example of which it has every reason to be proud. Mr. E. Reckenberg, who left Australia as a private, but has been invalided home, is the father of four soldier sons. Sergeant W. Reckenberg and Corporal E. Reckenberg, who saw service, have also been invalided home, while Private B. Reckenberg is still on active service, and Private J. Reckenberg is at present in camp.


A public send-off was given to Private G. A. Liversidge in the school of arts hall. Mr. S. W. Merritt presided. The first part of the entertainment took the form of a concert, interspersed with speeches from the chairman and Rev. S. Reid, who wished Private Liversidge bon voyage and a safe return to his wife and child. Mrs. H. Morgan, on behalf of the citizens, presented Private Liversidge with a wristlet watch as a token of appreciation. Tea was handed round by the ladies of the Patriotic Association, after which the hall was cleared for dancing.


Privates Leece and Evans returned from the front on Friday evening. They were met at the Newcastle railway station by the Mayor (Alderman Hardy), and after .a few words of welcome, were driven to their respective homes in Young Road and Kendall Street, where they were received in the presence of a large number of relatives and friends. At each place the Mayor proposed the toast of the returned men, and intimated that they would be accorded a public welcome by the residents at an early date.


A large number of residents assembled at the school of arts on Saturday night to accord a welcome to a number of soldiers who have returned from the front.

Lieutenant J. Dyet marched the returned men up the hall and on to the stage, where Alderman Wells, the Mayor, welcomed each man, and stated that the Welcome Home Committee had decided to present each returned soldier with an illuminated war service certificate. The Mayor then proceeded with the presentation of certificates, which are of appropriate design, and bear the seal of the council. Mr. J. Campbell said he desired to say a few words of welcome to the returned men. A number of men who had left the municipality would never return, and he contended that their relatives should receive a certificate, also every local soldier who had gone to the front from the inception of the war. He trusted that the question would be taken up with energy and spirit. The certificates were far more valuable in his opinion than medals. 


Howard Avery, Mulbring; Stanley Roy Jeffkins, Hamilton; George Henry Lewis, Merewether; Wallace Ross, Newcastle; Harvey Richard Smithard, Sparkes Creek.


Pte William Bertie Barker, Broadmeadow; Tpr William Archibald Caldwell, Merewether; Sgt John Luscombe Ellerton, Muscle Creek; Pte Harold Stanley Ingram, Baerami Creek; Pte Herbert Jones, Cooks Hill; Pte Victor Harold Merrifield, Dungog; Pte Sylvester Power, Markwell; Cpl George Edward Schadel, Tighes Hill; Pte Francis Malcolm Turner, Newcastle; Pte Mark Walton, Ladysmith.

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