Centenary of the Great War

GALLANT: Former Abermain miner Lieutenant Thomas Ridley DCM, MC of the 17th Battalion, died of wounds on September 10, 1918. Photo: The Digger’s View, Juan Mahony

GALLANT: Former Abermain miner Lieutenant Thomas Ridley DCM, MC of the 17th Battalion, died of wounds on September 10, 1918. Photo: The Digger’s View, Juan Mahony

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for September 9-15, 1918.


The American War Department announces that the total casualties are 27,173, divided as follows: Killed in action, 5240 (including 291 lost at sea); died of wounds, 1552; died of disease, 1686; died of accident or other causes, 794; wounded in action, 14.677; missing in action (including prisoners), 3224.

Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, has received a communication from the AIF Headquarters in London, to the effect that members of the AIF were receiving parcels from friends and relations in Australia containing firearms and ammunition, the transmission of which through the post was strictly prohibited. Matches were also frequently enclosed in parcels sent from Australia. The despatch of such articles in parcels, adds Senator Pearce, should be discontinued.


Mr Philip Gibbs writes: As we approach the Hindenburg line, the enemy is drawing thence strong reinforcements of fresh troops to replace the tired retreating divisions. This largely accounts for the stiffened resistance. The enemy is strongly holding commanding spurs before the Hindenburg line as long as possible. He holds Epehy, but our patrols are creeping round on the north and south.


Mr Gordon Gilmour, correspondent of the Australian Press Association, writes: The policy adopted eastward of Peronne, namely, refraining from attacking the Germans so long as they are holding strong positions, worked out to the utmost satisfaction in the last great battle, which gave the Australians Mont St. Quentin, and also gave them a certainty that they might advance without much resistance well back towards the town of St. Quentin, which lies behind the Hindenburg line. The Germans in the last three days have gone back eight miles before the Australians, whose Light Horse has had the unique opportunity to come into action. Many times since August 8th the Light Horse has been up behind the infantry standing by the horses waiting the order to go through, but always disappointed. It put new heart into the infantry, trampling forward about four thousand yards daily, to see the horses galloping out discovering the whereabouts of points of resistance, and dealing with many disorganised parties of Germans, and patrolling the whole country through which the infantry is advancing. Thus the pursuit was carried out with a minimum of casualties, and always on the heels of the enemy, who was so harrassed that he had not time to destroy dumps, and left several miles of valuable railway intact. Only a few solitary guns were kept behind to assist the rearguard action. The Australians saw several limbering up and galloping to the rear. The German guns from further back are shooting erratically. Our aeroplanes hold unchallenged supremacy in the air in this part. Our guns coming up post haste fired energetically wherever movement was reported. Thus the advance proceeded with well-ordered rapidity, constantly trapping prisoners, while making the least possible demands upon the exertions of the infantrymen. There was some brisk fighting in the villages, however, the Victorians, New South Welshmen, West Australians, Queenslanders, and South Australians repeating their earlier progress, tackling machine guns swiftly without unduly exposing themselves to fire. These troops, although continually in action for five weeks, pressed on determinedly, lacking none of the old dash during the past three arduous days.

The Light Horse captured the village of Soyecourt. Meanwhile, the infantry worked through a dozen others, and reached within 8000 yards of Hindenburg’s line. A general movement observed in the enemy's rear areas suggests the retreat will not stop until behind those wide belts of wire, where the Germans by exhaustive labour, built up the strongest defensive line on the west front. It is possible some Germans will remain a little distance on our side of that line until driven back, but it is certain that resistance only acquires strength when the enemy's morale improves with a knowledge that they possess all the advantages of the powerful defensive positions. When the Hindenburg line shall be attacked is a problem for the future.


The number of enlistments for the Commonwealth for the week shows a slight falling off compared with the figures for the previous week. Those for the various States are as follows: New South Wales 272, Victoria 181, Queensland 91, South Australia 47, West Australia 48, Tasmania 39; total, 678. The enlistments for last week were: New South Wales 295, Victoria 165, Queensland 84, South Australia 53, West Australia 44, Tasmania 39; total, 680.


Miss Short, secretary to the 35th Battalion Comforts Fund, Newcastle, has received the following letter from Lieutenant-colonel R. M. Sadler, dated France, June 6, 1918: “The contents of your case were delivered to us last night. On behalf of all ranks, may I thank you and your committee very heartily for your generous gift. The socks were issued to the boys on relief from the line, after a long and strenuous tour of duty. So I leave you to imagine their appreciation. The weather has been hot and moist, and a change into a dry, clean pair of socks, after many days of hard work and much walking, was a godsend. During our tour in the line, a German attack was repulsed and many prisoners token, consequently the lads are in good spirits, and look happy and well. In the above action, the battalion gained four MCs, three DCMs, nine MMs, and one bar to a MM. All of which goes to prove that our men can still hold their own. They dearly love to receive gifts from home, and I can assure you that we love to see them well looked after; and deeply appreciate any efforts in that direction.”

In a letter dated France, June 23, addressed to a member of the 35th Battalion Comforts Fund Committee, Private J. R. Jubb says: “I received today, through the battalion comforts fund that pair of socks made by you, for which please accept my sincere thanks. The socks themselves afford great comfort, but the knowledge that we are not forgotten by our home folk means a great deal to us. I may say that our battalion has made a name for itself second to none, and the spirit of the boys who have won its name, and are still keeping it ahead, is greatly due to the many great kindnesses shown by the 35th Battalion Comforts Fund.”


Mr and Mrs George Denton, of Adamstown, have received official information that their son, Private Wilfred Denton, has been wounded on the second occasion. Private Denton was the seventh man to enlist in NSW. He left with the first Expeditionary Forces, but was invalided back from Egypt after undergoing an operation. He returned with the 35th Battalion. His eldest brother, Private J. Denton, enlisted in England, at the commencement of the war, and is still with the colours, though he has been wounded on three occasions. His youngest brother, Private Arthur Denton, left with the 19th Battalion, and was killed in France a year ago.


Mr J.H. Fairbairn, late of Islington received a letter from the chaplain of the 18th Battalion with reference to the death of his son, Corporal Norman Fairbairn. After expressing the sympathy of the battalion and himself, he writes: “During his service with the battalion your son deservedly won the esteem of all ranks. He was a truly brave soldier, and fearless leader, and his death was the glorious climax of a splendid life. He took part safely in the recent advances of the Australians against the Germans, and dug in with the rest of his company in the new position in the early hours of the morning. Later in the day (4/7/'18), one of his section was on patrol in No Man's Land, and was seen to fall wounded. Your son immediately went out to help him, but was himself shot by a German sniper, death being instantaneous. You have reason to be proud of a truly gallant son, your gift to the Empire being indeed a priceless one. He was buried on the battlefield in France.”


Private Tom Price, who is shortly leaving for the front, was entertained on Saturday by a party of his friends of Cooks Hill. Mr J. Lawrence, who occupied the chair, wished him godspeed and a safe return, and presented him with a fountain pen, on behalf of the boys. He also received a sliver-mounted pocket wallet and silver cigarette case and other presents. Speeches were given, to which Private Price suitably responded, and said he thanked all friends for their good wishes. He hoped to be among them all again before long. Mr Price also returned thanks on behalf of his son. An enjoyable evening was spent.


A public welcome home and presentation of framed war service certificates to a number of returned soldiers was held in the school of arts on Saturday.

The Mayor, Alderman Wells, who presided, presented certificates to Privates D. L. Lloyd, W. Charlton, W. H. Bott, E. Morgan, Robert Blair, A. Lewis, Robert Smith, and Wm. Peale. Certificates were also presented to the parents, wives, and friends of those who had been killed in action, as follows:  Mr T. Allanson received two certificates on behalf of his sons, T. H. Allanson, killed, and J. Allanson, wounded; Mr. E. Malcolm, on behalf of his son, Sergeant E. S. Malcolm, killed in action; Mrs West, on behalf of her husband, Lieutenant L. West, killed in action; Miss Sparkes, on behalf of her brother, Private Wm. Sparkes, wounded, and died after being sent home; and Mrs Geo. Ruddy, husband killed in action. The Mayor, in making the presentations, referred to the great deeds and the noble sacrifices which had been made by those who had fought so splendidly for the Empire, and said the certificates were presented as a slight recognition of those services. Mr E. Buxton said he considered the certificates far superior to medals. Private D. L. Lloyd, in responding, on behalf of himself and comrades, said he was pleased to be back among his friends. Mr E. Malcolm expressed his thanks on behalf of himself, wife, and family. He had given his son to the Empire, and the certificate would be taken care of, they could rest assured of that, as it would remind them of one who had done his duty, but would never return.

Mr T. Allanson, on behalf of his family, thanked the committee, and said he accepted the certificates with deepest gratitude, as an emblem of self-sacrifice.


A large number of residents gathered at the Teralba railway station on Saturday night, to welcome home Sergeant Linsley and Private Russell, recently returned from the front. They were given a hearty reception, and carried shoulder high from the station to Mr Bedford's car, in which they were driven to their homes, followed by a large number of people. Sergeant Linsley was unfortunate enough to lose a leg in the fight at Passchendaele Ridge.


Thomas Percival Tarrant, Islington; John Denis Thomas, Catherine Hill Bay; Margarita Veenman, Newcastle; Alfred Warren, Swansea.


Pte Frederick William Beech, Newcastle; Pte William Thomas Buckley, Cooks Hill; Pte John Donald Collins, West Wallsend; L/Cpl Thomas Richardson, Lambton; Lieut Thomas Ridley MC, DCM, M St G, Abermain; L/Cpl James Percy Riley, Stewarts Brook; Pte George William Witt, Gloucester.

David Dial OAM is a Hunter Valley-based military historian and member of Hunter Living Histories.

Follow his research at facebook.com/HunterValleyMilitaryHistory