TOUGH GOING: Australian machine gunners firing at an enemy aircraft above the Western Front. Photo courtesy of Juan Mahony.Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter Valley enlistment and death details for June 18-24, 1917.
SOLDIERS’ LETTERS:WITH THE LIGHT HORSETrooper Niau, of the Light Horse, writing to his mother from Gaza, says: “I think I told you we went into action on the 19th of April. We left here at 8pm, and travelled till midnight, had three hours’ sleep, and travelled some more. All next day we were practically in the saddle. We watered our horses and grazed them on the wheat and barley. The whole country round about here is under wheat or barley. I think it was done to provide German cavalry with fodder. Anyway, it won’t be harvested, as most of it is ripe now. The following evening we went to within a few hundred yards of the Turks, and relieved one lot that had been in position all day. That night we were mostly occupied in digging trenches, our horses being looked after by the horse-holders, i.e., one man out of every section of four. We got a few hours’ sleep, and the following day did a little bit of mounted patrol work, getting sniped at occasionally by the Turks, who were entrenched. On the night of the 18th we had one and a half hour’s sleep. All this time our horses were kept ready saddled, and at 1.30 a.m. on the 19th we moved into position for the main attack. Before daylight, our horses were sent to the rear, and we advanced on foot in extended order. The Camel Corps and Tommies, who were advancing abreast of us, on our left, got slops, and we got into a pretty hot quarter after we had advanced nearly a mile. Our artillery had shifted the Turks back a bit, but as the attack on our front for three miles or so was supposed to be only a demonstration, we were satisfied to just keep the Turks from sending reinforcement to where the main attack was to be made, i.e., Gaza. However, the Turks thought we were pushing them a bit too much, so called up reinforcements from Jerusalem, and really our centre bore the brunt of the scrap. We got properly peppered, as we were out in the open all the time, running forward in short dashes, then lying down to fire at the Turks in their redoubts. One of the British tanks got to work. It was the first one I had seen in action, and we couldn’t help laughing. It reminded me of an old hen with a batch of chickens following it, as the Tommies were advancing with it in hundreds. It drew a lot of artillery fire, and the Tommies lost a lot of men. Finally it struck a mine near a Turkish redoubt, and got put out of action. I was in the front line, and behind us were the other squadrons, yet our troop only lost one man. The others at the rear lost up to 10 each. Taking it all through our losses were pretty heavy, 33 per cent of the regiment. Our colonel died from effects of wounds. I can’t make out how so many of us missed getting hit, as the shrapnel was pretty thick, and fired at point blank range at that, besides rifle and machine gun fire. Anyway, we were going all day; had one water bottle full, 1 tin of bully, a bit of bread, and a few biscuits. That night we retired to a commanding position half a mile back, and dug ourselves in. I was dead sleepy, but we had to take our shift at standing patrols. Next day we dug trenches, and had things pretty easy for another couple of days, and when relieved, came back here, where we are out of artillery fire. But it is a rotten hole, too far to water, and heaps of dust. We just dig a hole in the ground and get inside. Our blankets on top make a bit of shade. We expect to move off any minute. Can’t get tobacco high or low, and a Y.M.C.A. canteen, which is five miles away, has run out. Of course, we get a small military issue once a week; we still get bread; it comes out by train from Kantara. I wash with about half an egg-cup full of water every day. Our horses take up most of our time. It’s a wonderful country, in a way, yet I don’t like it, from a soldier’s point of view; no firewood and no water.”
ARMY MEDICAL CORPS IN FRANCEPrivate Garnet Wilton J. Dart, writing to his father, Mr James Dart of Newcastle: “I am penning this letter in one of the small triangular shaped wooden huts that dot the country within the war zone. They resemble much in appearance large sized dog kennels. The first night in them was somewhat cool, but now that a nice fire radiates its warmth, comfort is again with us. The hut I am in now possesses a nice improvised small table that affords me ease and pleasure as I write this letter. By my side is a hut mate committing his thoughts to paper, and gathered around the cheerful fire are four chaps getting things ready to have something good for supper. Although we do little physical work, the eating powers have not decreased correspondingly. I hear the familiar noise of a primus stove in use by one of the four chaps to prepare the supper. It awakens memories of the past. It is a very useful asset to the hut, and I can just picture myself when I did make use of a similar stove in the old home, well over a year ago. I cannot hear the noise of war without, but if I were to go out I could see the lightning-like flashes of the artillery guns in action. The weather during the fortnight has been generally mild and cloudy, but I cannot say that the spring conditions are with us. Yesterday we had several falls of snow, covering the ground about an inch thick. A frost set in during the night, so the snow still lies on the ground. It looked a pretty sight yesterday afternoon. It reminded me much of what I first saw when Salisbury Plain was covered with the great ‘white cloak.’ Since writing last I have travelled into some strange land, but where I cannot relate. In one place war has done its work too well. In another place the entrance of the warm season will supply a most picturesque change. During this week the motor ambulance has carried me over some miles of this country. Every appearance of the sun witnessed the big birds out on the wing. Last Sunday many of them could be seen carrying on the work required of them – one never tires watching them. No air duels, or bagging them by anti-aircraft guns, has yet been witnessed; the guns always have a hard try to wreak destruction on the intruding machines, but I have not seen them successful yet. Last Wednesday night I witnessed a most entertaining show given by one of the divisional theatre parties. It put in the shade the previous ones I have seen given by the “Coo-ee Pierrots.” The entertainment was very bright and cheerful, and was thoroughly appreciated by those present. The orchestra – well, when I heard it strike up, I thought I was attending some large theatre at London or Sydney. The music rendered was, indeed, a pleasure to walk miles to hear. Some 20 to 30 persons playing instruments, from flutes to big bass fiddles, gave forth music that I never thought I would hear so close to the real thing. It was simply delightful to be one of those present at the show. I guess I will be there again at the change of programme. One of the performers masqueraded as a girl, and he takes the part almost perfectly. To express the performance in French, it is ‘tres bon.’ The other lads who attended from this unit thoroughly enjoyed the show. The two page letter limit is nearing so I guess I had better call a halt. I am enjoying the best of health, and still manage to eat three meals a day and sleep in a comfortable bed. Kindly remember me to all good friends who may be inquiring as to my welfare.”
NO USE GRUMBLINGPrivate Sid Scowcroft, who left Newcastle in October, 1914, and was at the landing in Gallipoli, and who is now in France, writes to his mother in New Lambton:“I fully expected when I came out this time that there would be a lot of letters waiting for me as it is a long time since I received any mail. Needless to say I was very disappointed on arriving here to find there was only one from Dick (Private Aynsley). I suppose you read in the papers every day about big advances that are being made on this front. It is of no use me trying to describe things to you, sufficient for me to say is that the Australians are taking a good hand in the game. The Australians have kept continually on the Hun’s heels ever since he started to retreat. Some of the villages we had to fight for, but at others all we had to do was to walk into them. But it’s practically all the same. We always get the villages, that’s the main thing. We had a big stunt yesterday morning, and gave Fritz one of the biggest knocks he has ever had. You will read about it all in the papers long before you receive this letter. I just got a very pleasant surprise. The mail boy came in with five letters for me. I don’t think I will be able to answer them today as we are expecting to move at any minute. The weather here is not too good, and as I have only a few bags and a sheet of iron for a shelter one cannot get at all comfortable. It is a very funny sort of a day. The sun is shining brightly one minute and the next minute it is snowing, and to make things worse a bitterly cold wind is blowing. My right hand is almost frozen. The reason this letter has such a smudgy appearance is that the snow is blowing all over the paper, and I am trying to write over the top of it. I don’t suppose it’s any use grumbling – grumbling won’t win the war, and that’s what we are here for – to win. I was very pleased to hear that Mr. and Mrs. Bleazard had been kind enough to call on you and give you those photos. I will be able to give you the details of each one when I return. I have been where all the photos were taken. I often wish it were permissible to carry a camera here in France. I could have got some “bonser” snaps on the Somme, and now that we are advancing through all the deserted and devastated villages I could get some very interesting snaps to show you what German “Kultur” means. The cold has made my hand numb, so l will have to draw to a close. Remember me to all my friends. I am keeping in the very best of health and spirits, and living in expectations of being home this year.”
ENLISTMENTSArthur Stewart Cobcroft, St Clair; Norman Davidson, Wallsend; Kenneth Albert Farley, Stroud; Leonard Spencer Gluyas, Waratah; David Shiach Gregory, Bellbird; Thomas Innes, Hamilton; William John Jenkins, Newcastle; Archibald Johnston, Boolambyte; John Joseph Kavanagh, West Maitland; John Broughton Keightley, Newcastle; Edward Charles Kent, Newcastle; Felix Charles McDermott, East Maitland; Allen Robertson Miller, East Maitland; Norman Edgar Phillips, Cooks Hill; George Baden Powell Pike, Waratah; Percy Thomas Sheffield, Newcastle; Henry James Shoesmith, Newcastle; Gordon Smith, Boolaroo; Phillip Stapleton, Oakhampton; David Robert Stewart, Boolaroo; Arthur Edward Young, Adamstown.
DEATHSPte Samuel Campbell, Kurri Kurri; Pte Joseph Jenkins, Adamstown; Sgt Arthur William Mounter, Hamilton.
David Dial OAM is a Hunter-based military historian. facebook南京夜网/HunterValleyMilitaryHistory