Centenary of the Great War

READYING: Australian Flying Corps aircraft crew prepare to help the advance of their companions on the ground. Picture: Courtesy of The Digger's View by Juan Mahony
READYING: Australian Flying Corps aircraft crew prepare to help the advance of their companions on the ground. Picture: Courtesy of The Digger's View by Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for September 2-8, 1918.

HINDENBURG LINE 

A New York message says: The British armies have smashed the Hindenburg line and are beginning to roll up the German armies on the Picardy front. They have captured Le Transloy. The Germans have abandoned Bailleul. The British have crossed the Hindenburg line south-east of Arras and south of Bullecourt. The New Zealanders have taken Bapaume.

The United Press correspondent says: The Australians faced Peronne across the Somme, and reached almost to striking distance on the north bank. They crossed the bridge to Clery. Combles was taken, together with a battery of field guns.

ACROSS THE SOMME 

Mr Philip Gibbs, continuing his narrative of the fighting around Peronne says:

Peronne fell on Sunday, in consequence of the Australians' brilliant attack on Saturday. A fine feature of the capture of Mont St. Quentin was the rapid way the Australians moved their guns over the Somme and fired on the enemy at close range. This was largely due to the Engineers at the river crossings. At one crossing the Australians discovered several land mines, but an explosion was prevented. Part of the secret of the light Australian losses was the quick manner in which they dived into the German trenches at Clery, taking 150 prisoners, and securing shelter where a hail from machine-guns passed harmlessly over their heads.

The individual gallantry of the men reached the summit of audacity. An Australian corporal heard his comrades debating how to take an enemy post, which had been giving great trouble. He said, “That's all right; I'll take it.” He slipped a Mills bomb into his pocket, crawled through the tall corn, jumped into the German trench, knocked down the first German, and then, by sheer force of spirit, cowded the garrison officer and 13 men, who surrendered.

The enemy is putting up the fiercest resistance in the centre around Bullecourt; Reincourt, and Ecoust, A fierce counter-attack was made by a new German division on Friday, which hard pressed the Londoners and West Lancashires. Between August 26 and 31 the Australians have taken 10 times more prisoners than the whole of the Australian casualties.

Another correspondent states that the Australians started for Peronne with the simple object of taking the city, but on the banks of the Somme the plan was suddenly altered, whereby the Australians were ordered to swing round towards the left. The movement meant the encirclement and capture of the city. The whole army is ready to storm the Hindenburg line frontally, but the new plan is to go over nothing where there is a way around.

The United Press Association's correspondent says that 10 counter-attacks on Sunday pushed back the Australians at Mont St. Quentin on the flanks, but the summit held, and the Australians recaptured the flank positions, while other Australians won further ground.

AROUND MONT ST. QUENTIN 

Mr. Gilmour, the correspondent of the Australian Press Association, telegraphing Wednesday night, says:

The success of the divisions around and beyond Mont St. Quentin, which attracted attention, was only achieved after heavy fighting. The enemy's proximity to the river, holding commanding trenches on the high ground overlooking the Somme, necessitated long marches on the part of the Australians to enable them to come to grips with the Germans on the north bank.

Mont St. Quentin was frontally attacked on the north-west, west, and south-west. The New South Wales troops, who made the first assault, had to contend with heavy artillery fire from batteries to the northward, near Bouchavesnes. They clung to the slopes tenaciously, although the Germans counter-attacked them 15 times in 24 hours. Mont St. Quentin stands like a sentinel guarding Peronne, which lies helplessly on low ground in a bend of the Somme. When the Victorians pushed through the New South Welshmen on Sunday, with a view to completing the capture of the commanding height and wood, beyond which the enemy had fled at the last moment, the German artillery put down an intense artillery strafe on the whole summit. It was impossible for hours to see anything of the houses and trees through the rising smoke screen, but the Victorians pressed on. The lifting of the German guns from the target on Mont St. Quentin, and resuming their fire some points beyond, showed that the Victorians had gone out of sight, reaching the lower ground on the further side, getting away well to the north-east of Peronne. The Bapaume road from Peronne runs up over the nearer side of Mont St. Quentin. Above it rises a series of naked clay cliffs and bare green slopes to the north and south, which make it difficult for troops to advance without great peril. The main communication is easily distinguishable owing to the chalky nature of the soil thrown up, and wriggles up the hillside, crossing the road entering the wood just to the northward of what was once the village. This was the main line of attack.

The New South Welshmen had an exciting time reaching the village. A Newcastle man who was sent back as a runner said he belonged to the foremost party, who had an exciting time with Lewis guns and rifles firing up into the fleeing Germans on a small road off the main road. They pursued fifty into a quarry on the north side of the village. Considerable bomb fighting occurred before the bulk of the Germans surrendered. The Australians tackled the proposition discreetly. The leading man crawled out, rose up and ran a few yards then hurled bombs, ran back and dropped and rolled in a shell hole. Then another rose up and repeated the performance, the Germans meanwhile doing the same thing. The battle with bombs continued until the Germans, finding themselves outbombed, walked forward with their hands up.

Strong counter-attacks found the New South Welshmen at nightfall holding the main road. The Victorians commenced on this line and pushed on at daybreak and cleared up the whole of Mont St Quentin ridge. They pressed beyond the Queenslanders, West Australian, Tasmanians and South Australians this morning doing the third stage.

Operations as I write are in full blast, but already the Australians have gone three thousand yards to the north-east of Mont St. Quentin, capturing the twin villages of Allaines and Haut Allaines. Pressing on they probably have already passed Almecourt. The British troops are making a determined push on our northern flank this morning, and are going strongly, taking Moislans. They are now fighting towards Nublu.

A prisoner yesterday stated that the defensive line is almost complete from Nublu southward along the main road. The Australians are already in contact with the enemy at the lower end. The capture of the whole of the important region around Mont St. Quentin makes the position at Peronne and southward extremely satisfactory.

The New South Welshmen, co-operating on the southern flank with the Victorians, moved eastward and south-eastward, mopping up Peronne itself. They captured a good many prisoners, and a small village on the riverbank, also Anvill Wood. They then swept through the ruins of Peronne, which was subjected to heavy bursts of shelling during the day. The comparatively few Germans found in Peronne included a battalion commander, also a Pioneer, who was surprised, and admitted he had been left behind. Sunday's prisoners numbered nearly 1500 men, and 10 guns, including a complete battery of seventy-sevens, captured by a Queensland battalion.

The thoroughness with which the Germans were everywhere dug in deeply against bombing was a splendid tribute to the night activities of our pilots. Many notices remain in the ruined villages warning the troops of the necessity of immediately taking cover on the approach of our aircraft. False alarms were frequently given, with a view of practising the troops in taking shelter. The serious demands made upon the German reserves are obvious, when it is known that since August 8 the high command has been compelled to throw in an average of four divisions dally along the west front. Disorganisation is apparent from the fact that on the Australian sector on Sunday, between the commencement at dawn of the battle and midday the prisoners taken belonged to 19 different units. Many minenwerfer men were put into the line with rifles.

REISSUE OF BOOTS 

As a measure of economy, the military authorities have decided to renovate and reissue for wear stocks of partly-worn boots that have been allowed to accumulate in ordnance stores in several military districts. Very large quantities of such boots are believed to be available. Before they are released every pair is to be thoroughly washed and oiled.

MAILS FOR SOLDIERS 

A parcel mail for the Expeditionary Forces in Egypt will close at Newcastle at six o'clock on Tuesday evening next, and for letters, parcels and newspapers at half-past five o'clock on Wednesday morning. A mail for letters and packets for the Expeditionary Forces in England and France will also at Newcastle at quarter to nine o'clock on the morning of Monday, September 10.

LATE MAURICE DIX 

The late Maurice Dix, news of whose death in France has reached Newcastle, was a son of the late Mr Thomas Dix, miners' general secretary and adopted son of Mr and Mrs James Wilson, of Newcastle Road, Wallsend. The deceased was in his 28th year, He was known throughout the Newcastle district as Jimmy Wilson, he having been adopted by Mr and Mrs Wilson when only four years old, He left Newcastle for active service with the 30th Battalion in November 1915, but at the time of his death he was attached to a trench mortar brigade. Prior to enlisting, Dix was a prominent league footballer. He was picked to go to England with the Kangaroos but declined the offer, preferring to go a year later, but the chance did not come his way. His brother, Private T. Dix, was killed in action last May.

LIEUTENANT FRY 

Mr and Mrs H. W. Fry, of West Maitland, have been notified that their son, Lieutenant Sydney C. Fry, was killed on August 24 in an aeroplane accident, in England. The deceased officer enlisted in 1915, and left in November of the same year, with the 6th Light Horse. He spent some time in Egypt and France, and was transferred to the Aviation Corps, and a few weeks ago received his pilot's certificate and commission. He was nearly 23 years of age.

WEST WALLSEND 

Mrs J. O. Cherry, of Brooks Street, West Wallsend, has received word relating to the death of her step-brother, Private Erskin Jackson. Private Jackson and a mate were lacing their boots up in their dugout, leaning forward with their heads out, when a shell burst over the trench, wounding them both. They were taken to the clearing station, but Private Jackson never regained consciousness, and died the same day.

ENLISTMENTS 

Pte James Michael Cahill, Cessnock; Pte William John Hooey, Catherine Hill Bay; Pte Whitby Coleman Kempe, Cessnock; Pte Ronald Stanley Lamborn, Bulahdelah.

DEATHS 

Pte Pearce Barton, Tenambit;  Pte Albert George Burt, Wallsend; Sgt Oswald James Driscoll, Moonan Flat; Cpl Bertie Lorrimore Gordon, Teralba; Pte Henry Gunn, Scone;

Pte William Arthur Phillips, Newcastle; Lieut Bertie Danson Rush, Newcastle East; Capt Percy Lascelles Smith, Adamstown; Pte Ronald Herbert Welsh, Scone.

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