Centenary of the Great War

WAR WEARY: Stretcher bearers await their next journey into their hell - no man’s land. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony.
WAR WEARY: Stretcher bearers await their next journey into their hell - no man’s land. Photo: The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony.

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


A return issued by the Defence Department on Saturday showed that the number of casualties in the Australian Imperial Forces to date was 266,426. Details are as follows: Dead, 49,998; missing, 147; prisoners, 3356; wounded, 139,485; sick, 73,226; unspecified, 213. The figures for the dead, missing, and prisoners of war and unspecified are the actual net totals after all corrections have been made. But the totals for the wounded and sick are in excess of the actual number, as many have been admitted to hospital more than once.


Mr Philip Gibbs telegraphs: The Australians brought in a hundred prisoners during operations at Meteren. They were an extremely mixed crew. Some big fellows were over six feet, heavy hulking figures, whose shrapnel helmets gave them a mediaeval appearance. Others were thin, weedy, undersized lads. They had been experiencing miserable times recently, the Meteren cellars not providing a comfortable shelter from our incessant gunfire, while influenza crept from shell hole to shell hole. Divisions became so weak that companies were often reduced to thirty men. Some battalions only numbered 120. Many surrendered meekly. There was no counter-attack. Our men have a healthy contempt of the enemy's weakened strength. The Australians, especially, treat them with rough disdain. The other day, impatient to begin a small attack, fully two hours before the barrage the Australians could be seen strolling beyond the line rounding up the Germans from shell holes and winkling them out.


A German order has been given that under no circumstances must the British be allowed to bury their dead or recover wounded near the German front line, as these are required by the Germans for identification. If the wounded are in or immediately before the British front line there is no objection to the British recovering them, but if they again attempt to recover wounded near the German lines a warning shot must be fired. If this is not effective the enemy must be thoroughly engaged immediately. This is given, not as an example of atrocity, but as an order illustrating the German attitude towards the Geneva Convention and the rules of war generally.


Mr Hughes, the Prime Minister of Australia, has sent a message to the Australians who were on board the steamer Barunga when she was sunk by a submarine, expressing the Commonwealth's admiration of the splendid heroism and discipline displayed in the hour of extreme peril. “We rejoice,” he said, “that brave men and women have been spared to the nation, which is proud of the glorious example they set the citizens of the Empire.”


The official Australian Correspondent telegraphs: Yesterday (Tuesday) was a vile day, with drenching rain. Since the battle of Hamel the weather has been too hot to remain fine. There are thunderstorms every day, generally with hot brilliant intervals between. Such weather is not uncomfortable in the back areas, but the outposts often have to bail their little trenches out exactly as you would bail a boat.


Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, recently submitted to General Birdwood the proposal made by the Highland Societies in Australia that permission be granted to raise Scottish kilted units. The Minister has now received a reply in which General Birdwood says that General Monash and the Divisional Commanders are not in favour of the proposal. The reply states farther that the spirit underlying the suggestion is fully appreciated, and the difficulties of advancing convincing arguments against it realised; but the fame of the Australian Imperial Force has been made by Australian soldiers as such, and this makes them wish to encourage and preserve the national character of Australian soldiers. The fact that all units have their own traditions, which are jealously guarded, makes any proposal for changing their composition extremely inadvisable. As to the formation of a special kilted brigade, General Birdwood states that he cannot at this late stage recommend this, and that the addition of a new formation now is hardly practicable, and would not be appreciated by the troops, despite their friendship and admiration for the Scottish troops alongside whom they have fought. General Birdwood concludes with the hope that the Scottish organisations in Australia will realise the point of view of himself and the Divisional Commanders, and continue to go ahead and raise the equivalent of a brigade to fight in the uniform of their adopted land, whose soldiers have proved that they possess military virtues rivalling the long-established and recognised hardihood and valour of the men from their old country.


Mr and Mrs T. Dial, of Holmesville, West Wallsend, have received word that their son, Sergeant T. W. Dial, of the 34th Battalion, has received the Military Medal for conspicuous services.


The members of the Newcastle Surf Club and Life Saving Brigade held a smoke concert at Way's Cafe on Saturday night for the purpose of welcoming home soldier members of the club. There was a large attendance, and the proceedings were presided over by Mr. J. Moroney, the president of the club. Included in the invited guests were Alderman Kilgour, the Mayor of Newcastle and the representatives of the affiliated surf and swimming clubs. After the loyal toast had been honoured, the chairman proposed “The Returned Soldier Members”. He pointed out that the surf club had sent 176 members to do their duty to King and country, and of that number sixteen had paid the supreme sacrifice. The club's record was a very fine one, and he was pleased they had with them one of the club’s oldest and most popular members. He referred to Sergeant Stan Staton, They were all gratified to hear the good news from the front, and hoped it would continue to come through. The toast was enthusiastically honoured, the orchestra playing Home, Sweet Home.

Sergeant Staton, in responding, said he was pleased to be back, as there was no place like Australia. The news received from the front was very cheering, but they must not run away with the idea that old Fritz was beaten. He had been organised with a view to the world’s domination for forty years, but he was likely to be crumpled up before long. The Allies wanted every man they could get. They could not tell a Britisher that the Allies were going to lose. The spirit of losing never entered the minds of the Tommies. All they had to do was to pound Fritz into nothing. So far he had only been staggered.


Mr J. McRae, of Cardiff, has received a letter from his son, Corporal N. McRae, stating that he had been detailed to attend the divisional signalling school in England, and that the course would take four months for completion. He thought that at the conclusion he might be sent to the headquarters signalling school, where wireless is taught, and that would mean another two months. Corporal McRae said that he had met one of his former mates in the 34th Battalion, and he told him that very few of the original men were with the unit. The division to which the battalion was attached suffered severely in the German offensive. Corporal McRae adds that everything in England is very dear. Cigarettes cost a shilling a packet and soap sixpence per cake.


A recruiting meeting was held in the school of arts hall on Monday evening by the Newcastle recruiting party in charge of Sergeant-major Desmond. About 120 of the recruiting column in charge of Major Stark marched to the town. They were met at the boundary by the residents and representatives of the patriotic and Red Cross societies. Councillor W. Beath, on behalf of the residents, gave them a welcome to Dudley. The lady members of the Red Cross Society gave cigarettes to each soldier. They were then marched to the hall, where the ladies had the tables laid ready, and given refreshments. During the evening songs and recitations were given by soldiers and residents. Major Stark thanked the residents for their welcome and the manner in which they had been entertained. 


The Maryville Bo-Peep Girls' League have been very busy for the past few weeks with gift evenings and other functions, preparing to send Christmas parcels for local soldiers. It is the intention of the committee to send each soldier a parcel every six weeks, and 45 parcels will be sent next week.


A roll of honour to the members of the Newcastle police who have gone to the war was unveiled at the police station Wednesday night, in the presence of a very large muster of members of the force. The officers present were Superintendent Goulder, who has entered on leave of absence prior to retirement; Superintendent Childs, his successor; Inspectors Cook, Buzacott, Hood, and Hojel. There were more than 40 police present. Alderman Kilgour, the Mayor of Newcastle, Mr C. F. Butler, S.M., and Mr W. G. Chiplin, chamber magistrate at Newcastle, were also present. There are eight names on the roll - H. Chadban, F.M. Doonan, H. W. Hancock. T. Connell, C. W. J. Grant, D. J. Long, V. Digre, and S. Pender. The first four have made the supreme sacrifice. The last mentioned, as Superintendent Childs said, was mentioned in despatches for meritorious work at the Dardanelles. On his return he rejoined the force, but had felt the call so strong that he had again resigned and enlisted. The names are inscribed on a scroll of black marble, which is mounted on a white polished panel, and surmounted with a white marble pediment richly carved, with a laurel wreath and the flags of the Empire and Australia. At the top is inscribed “Our Heroes,” and immediately below “Newcastle District Police.” Below the names are the words, “For King and Country,” and lower down, “The Great War, 1914-19,” space being left to fill in the year in which the war ends. In unveiling the roll, Superintendent Childs said he would apply words used by the Governor-General recently in unveiling a roll of honour, “I unveil this roll to the honour of those connected with the Newcastle Police Force. I dedicate it to the glory of God, to the memory of those who have fallen, who have been wounded, who are returning to us, and who are about to serve in our renowned Australian Divisions.”


An honour roll, containing the names of former scholars of Wickham Superior Public School, was on Wednesday completed by Messrs. Meldrum and Markey, the contractors. The roll is of white Italian marble, and the main tablet, on which the names of the soldiers are inscribed, is of one slab of beautiful polished marble, measuring 11ft x 4ft. There are two grey granite polished columns in the polished bases, and carved Corinthian caps on either side support the pediment of rich moulding and entablature. The crest of the Australian Imperial Forces, richly carved on the apex, is supported by scrolls, on which are embossed the Emu and the Kangaroo, a flaming torch, and a set of scales, emblematical of Australia fighting for liberty and justice. The whole structure measures 11ft 6in x 8ft 6in, and it is probably the finest memorial of its kind in the district. The roll has been placed in the main entrance to the boys' school. The names inscribed on the roll number 265.  The unveiling will take place on Saturday.


Frederick John Black, Muswellbrook; Alfred Leonard Faulkner, Newcastle; Thomas Harold Francis, West Maitland; Frank Edgar Gould, South Singleton; Howard James Kingston, Bandon Grove; Thomas John Matthews, Boolaroo; Charles Thomas McTaggart, Muswellbrook; William Leslie Morgan, Hamilton.


Pte Thomas Myatt Brough, New Lambton; Cpl Batholomew Johnson, Kurri Kurri; Pte Albert Reay, Plattsburg.

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