Tuesday, 3 April 2007
Finding the photos: I have included the reference number for the photo or art work, so if you are particularly interested in seeing it, go to this page, and add the ref no in the "Enter Search Terms" box, and use the drop-down menu to place "First World War" in the Conflict box.
Monday, 2 April 2007
I decided that the story my grandad had to "tell" (he had been dead for nearly 40 years) may be quite interesting, and decided to find out as much as I could, mainly so I could write it up for Mum. Like so many of his comrades he chose not to talk about his experiences on his return, other than to denounce war and say he hoped no-one ever had to go through a similar experience.
What especially struck me was that many of the histories of the war concentrate on the battles from the point of view of infantry soldiers - and that's great. But Gargoo was a Light Horseman, and then an Artillery Driver. Many of the histories and guides to battlefields provide very good information about the sites of infantry battles; I set out to discover as much as I can about the wagon lines and artillery positions.
First, I discovered that his personal war service record was available via the War Memorial Archives, so I sent away for that. We knew his regiment and regimental number, so that was easy.
These days the Australian War Memorial has one of the most extraordinarily comprehensive websites of any comparable institution, and it is an absolutely essential resource for anyone undertaking this kind of research.
Once I knew which units Gargoo had served in, I made a trip to the Research Centre at the War Memorial to read the unit diaries. . . they gave a complete picture of where he was on a day to day basis. These records are now rapidly appearing on the AWM website.
The search function on the AWM website led me to the personal diary of another soldier in his unit ,"Gunner Day", which complemented the personal, but limited view I had gained from Gargoo's letters.
While all this was going on, I read, and read, and read. . . voraciously. I stumbled across early editions of C.E.W. Bean's Official History of the AIF in 1916 and 1917, as well as the photographic volume, in a second hand bookshop, complete with the original cardboard casings!
In 2003 we made a family trip which included several days in the Somme area. I had already visited Gallipoli a couple of times in the early 1990s. Then in 2005, I again found myself in the Somme, this time witnessing the Anzac Day commemorations at Villers-Bretonneux and Bullecourt. I have included many photos from these trips, as well as some family photos.
In other places I have provided links to the War Memorial and its paintings and photo collection, because I have not sought permission to use them on the site (as yet).
I've chosen the blog format, because I already know how to use it, and it means as I continue my adventures in Gargoo's story, I can update and change it.
Born 3 August 1891 Glenburn (Yea)
Died 17 September 1966 Melbourne
Regimental Number: 972
My grandfather, Percy Smith ("Gargoo") joined the 1st Australian Imperial Force on 2 March 1915, as a private in the 4th Light Horse Regiment.
He was aged 23 years and 6 months, and single.
Gargoo was born and bred a 'country boy', who must have had much experience with horses. He was taken into the 4th Light Horse Regiment, but never fought as a Light Horseman. After the 4th LH was split up in Egypt in early 1916 (half went to Palestine where they took part in the Charge at Beersheba), Percy Smith became a Driver in the Artillery. His main work in France consisted of being in charge of a team of horses and carting the artillery and ammunition up to the trenches.
During his lifetime, like so many others, he rarely, if ever, talked about his experiences in World War One. He was away from Australia from May 1915 to early 1919 (he embarked for Australia from England on 2 January 1919) - just under 4 years. During that time, he saw action at Gallipoli and in France, both Flanders and the Somme. There were a few periods of respite, due to illness after Gallipoli ('nervous breakdown'), which saw him recuperate in Malta and Egypt, mumps and dysentery (Egypt), and leave in (England). In May 1918 he left France and was posted to the Reserve Australian Artillery Brigade in Heytesbury, England.
This is "his story" as far as I can reconstruct it.
Sydney Smith was born on 10 July 1853 at Epping. Elizabeth Johnson was born 21 June 1855 at Epping. Both of their fathers were farmers.
Sydney and Elizabeth were married 11 April 1877 at St John's Church, Nillumbik (now Diamond Creek). Sydney was a farm labourer of Woodstock, Elizabeth was living at Hazel Glen (now Doreen).
Percy was one of 9 children born to Sydney and Elizabeth.
Sydney died in Heyfield on 26 June 1919, five months after Percy's return from war. Elizabeth died in Heyfield on 6 May 1940.
Here is a photo of Percy's father, Sydney. I do not have one of Percy's mother.
St John’s Church, Nillumbik
Sydney farmed in various places - Hazel Glen Glenburn, Strath Creek, Cowwaar and Heyfield. His father, also Sydney, had selected 320 acres at Diamond Creek / Hurstbridge area. It has now been subdivided and is called Midhurst - on the west side of Arthurs Creek. At the point of Haley's Gully and Arthur's Creek roads, the original Smith home was built. The family moved from the farm at Epping to their new home in 1874, and the children still at school attended Diamond Creek State School, a walk of 4 miles each way through the bush. Sydney was 21 by then.
Percy attended Glenburn and later Strath Creek State schools and moved with his family, in 1902, age 10 or 11, to Gippsland.
The Smiths farmed land at Cowwaar. It is unknown to me what became of the farm at Cowwaar, or the selection made by Sydney at Diamond Creek.
Percy mentioned a Mrs Roberts of Cowwaar in one letter home. He received letters and parcels from her. I suspect that the Smith farm bordered the Roberts', and from reports received, has fallen into disuse and reverted to scrub.
[Insert photo of Cowwaar]
Regiment: 4th Light Horse
Regimental Number: 972
Place of Enlistment: Broadmeadows, Victoria.
Age: 23 years 6 months
Height: 5 feet 5 inches
Chest expansion: 33.5 to 38.5
Religious Denomination: C of E
Considered fit for active service 2/3/15 Signed Geo S Cole Capt AAMC
From Smith, Men of Beersheba (1993) p 4:
"It is often asserted that the bulk of the light horse regiments found their recruits in rural areas this is not entirely true. Certainly many troopers had backgrounds on the land which suits the modern perception that light horsemen were tall, bronzed young men accustomed to life in the saddle on the outback plains of Australia. But an examination of recruiting sources for the 4th Light Horse Regiment reveals that this is not the case…of the original members of the regiment, about 20% were city dwellers from Melbourne."
From Bill Gammage The Broken Years: Australian soldiers in the Great War. Penguin, 1975. P. 7:
" Many volunteers were disappointed. The army wanted men 5 ft 6 inches and over, at least 34 inches about the chest, and between nineteen and thirty-eight years, but so many volunteers that these minimums or any defect - lack of military experience, unfilled teeth, flat feet, corns or bunions - often meant rejection. Doctors set artificial standards, so high that even in 1918 the survivors of the '1914 men' stood out clearly from other soldiers…Those who sailed against Turkey were the fittest, strongest, and most ardent in the land.
Most of that early avalanche of volunteers were roused by a sense of adventure. Great wars were rare, and short, and many eagerly seized a fleeting opportunity. They were the first Australians enabled to unsling the drums of the Empire's glory, they would engage in the splendour of the charge, and in some glorious moment of cut and thrust balance the chance to kill with the risk of death. And they would do this overseas, on horizons hitherto only the wisps of boyhood dreams."
"Some volunteers felt obliged to enlist….'I would never have been able to hold up my head & look any decent girl in the face' …Other volunteers …offered to do 'their bit', or 'their duty', or to 'answer the call"…Other men enlisted from hatred of Germany…There were in addition a thousand and particular and personal reasons for enlistment. Loneliness, family trouble, public opinion, and unemployment all contributed a measure" (pp 8-10)
One soldier, Tom Cranwell wrote about Broadmeadows:
" Let me try to give you some idea of our camp life. Everyone is up at 6 in the morning, and our straw beds are at once folded up. It's a fine sight to see 3000 men lined up at the 6.30 parade to answer their names. From then to breakfast we pass our time at drill and physical exercises. One of our Sgt major instructors can speak seven languages and has seen much service in India and among the Afghans. You should see the rush there is for breakfast, for we acquire a very keen appetite. Our typical breakfast menu - coffee without milk, and very little sugar. Boiled beef and a huge slice of dry bread, no butter - that's a luxury. I haven't tasted milk for a fortnight. These are what are known as active service rations.
Our comfort is that all the British at the front are braving it on the same fare. After breakfast we fall in again when the Squadron Leaders receive their instructions from headquarters. This may be drill, swimming or riding tests, and last until 12. After diner we parade and drill until 5.30, when we have tea. Although there may be a few doubtful characters here, the remainder are a jolly good and fine lot of fellows, and also good comrades. We are free after tea, but we cannot leave the lines. The YMCA also have got some huge concert tents erected for the men, and they also have a good reading and writing room. It does one good to see the crowds of fellows waiting around every night to take their turn at the writing table. The Church of England also has a huge tent for the same purpose and the Salvation Army is also doing very good work."
AWM photo showing Mess Parade at Broadmeadows. (P01700.011) The caption reads in part: "Broadmeadows, Vic, 1914.Mess parade for recruits...The recruits are gathering for dinner at the camp kitchen. The meal has been cooked in large dixies balanced on two poles stretched over a long pit, in which a fire has been lit."
From Patsy Adam-Smith The Anzacs, Thomas Nelson Australia, 1978 p. 33
"They arrived at Broadmeadows to mud and more mud. So tenacious was this mud claimed to be that the New South Welshmen swore that in Egypt and Gallipoli there were still 'Broadmeadows' mud marks on our clothes'.
On 11th August (1914) authority was promulgated for the formation of the 4th Light horse regiment as Divisional Cavalry for the 1st Australian Division under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Forsyth. This fine officer however was soon detached to the 1st Light Horse Brigade and did not assume command of his regiment until the troops arrived in Egypt. At the Broadmeadows camp the Regiment's replacement commander, Lieutenant Colonel Long set about recruiting, organising, equipping and training his fledgling Regiment."
AWM photo titled 1914 Broadmeadows. Horse lines of Light horse units training. (H03025)
From Smith, Men of Beersheba (1993) p 4:
"It is often asserted that the bulk of the light horse regiments found their recruits in rural areas this is not entirely true. Certainly many troopers had backgrounds on the land which suits the modern perception that light horsemen were tall, bronzed young men accustomed to life in the saddle on the outback plains of Australia. But an examination of recruiting sources for the 4th Light Horse Regiment reveals that this is not the case…of the original members of the regiment, about 20% were city dwellers from Melbourne."
The Light Horse Regiment was made up as follows:
Year/Unit:1916 Light HorseRegiment
Section: 4 Other Ranks (mounted)
Troop: Troop Headquarters (1 Officer, 3 Other Ranks)
8 x sections (ie 32 Other Ranks)
Squadron: 4 x troops.
Total:4 Officers,140 Other Ranks
Regiment: 25 Officers,497 Other Ranks
Regimental HQ3 x squadron
897 Other Ranks
7 May 1915 Embarked on "Palermo" Port Melbourne
AWM photo showing the Troopship Palermo, Brisbane, about 1915. (H02227)
Percy Smith sailed with the 5th Reinforcement of the 4th Light Horse, which comprised Regimental Numbers 926 to 979 inclusive. The reinforcement included 1 Officer and 52 Other Ranks. His comrades included:
Private H Biggs (928) Killed In Action
Private EH Cashmore (934) 12 Field Artillery Brigade
Private A Cashmore (932)
Private JA Cashmore (933)
Private S Chambers (931)
Private W Colombini (950) Died 1939 Returned to Australia 20 Oct 1915
Private G Crooks (939) Returned to Australia 4 August 1915
Sergeant RJ Darby (979) Returned to Australia 4 Nov 1915
Private D Devlin (935) Returned to Australia 28 Jan 1916
Private A Edwards (945A) Returned to Australia 13 Dec 1915
Private AE Goss (936) Returned to Australia 17 March 1916
Private FS Hick (941) Killed in Action 16 Sep 1915
Private H Hill (938) AVH (Army Veterinary Hospital??)
Private RD Hollins (937) British Expeditionary Force (Europe)
Private JP Howard (939)
Corporal KC Hudson (940) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Private J Jackson (943) Returned to Australia 8 May 1916
Private C Jobson (964) Cyclist Corps
Private FG Johnston (944) B Squadron Western Front
Private SAJ Johnston (931A) Invalided 1915. Re-enlisted, went with 18th Reinforcements, 20 June 1916
Private MD Lang (960) ABD HQ
Private C Leslie (947) Cyclist Corps
Private JW Lockey (946) Returned to Australia 17 Sep 1916
Private SP Macumber (949) M/O 1 March 1917
Private J McAlpine (955) British Expeditionary Force
Private HF McInerney (957) British Expeditionary Force
Private PW McLellan (959) Returned to Australia 19 Jan 1916
Private A McLeod (956) Died of Wounds 7 October 1915:
Private PA McMahon (958) British Expeditionary Force
Private MW (Malcolm) McPherson (A955) Died of Wounds 17 Nov 1915. Painter by trade.
Private AS Mill (954) 13th Light Horse
Private E Money (951) Cyclist Corps
Sergeant F Mortimer (952) Returned to Australia June 1916
Private R Newth (951) British Expeditionary Force WIA
Private WG Peel (962) Died of Wounds 5 Sep 1915
Private TJ Popple (963) Returned to Australia 31 Aug 1915
Private JA (Joseph) Roberts (969) Died of Sickness 25 June 1915 . Labourer from Cowra.
Private HC Robertson (968) Squadron Sergeant Major. Military Medal. Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Australian War Memorial Record B01165
c December 1918, Tripoli. Portrait of 968 Sergeant Herbert Charles Robertson MM, 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment. He also served in 4 (Qld Imperial Bushmen Contingent) in the Boer War. Australian Commonwealth Horse, who all enlisted in South Australia. He is wearing the Queen's South African campaign medal. A small badge in the form of the letter "A" on unit colour patch denotes that the wearer had taken part in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.
Private HF Robinson (966) Returned to Australia 11 June 1917
Private J Slattery (971) Died of Wounds 23 August 1915
Private H Stephens (970) Returned to Australia 23 Sep 1919
Private JA Stone (961) Returned to Australia 4 Nov 1915 961
Private (Pte) John Alexander Stone, of Bairnsdale, Vic. Pte Stone enlisted on 25 January 1915 and embarked aboard HMAT Palermo on 7 May 1915. On 22 August 1915 he sustained a shrapnel wound to the leg at Gallipoli and returned to Australia on 30 October 1915. On 19 September 1916 he was discharged as an invalid. (Australian War memorial Record No DA08619 )
Private O Thaw (974) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
Private L Trigg (973) Cyclist Corps
Private G Vardy (975) B Squadron Western Front. Military Medal. Sgt Wounded In Action
Private JR Walsh (976) Returned to Australia 1 Sep 1915
Private AS Walton (953) To Provost Corps
Private JM Ward (978) Cyclist Corps
Private T Wombwell (977) Returned to Australia 15 June 1919
-From Men of Beersheba: a history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1919
From Patsy Adam-Smith The Anzacs, 1978 pp 33-34:
"Most of the men had been no more than six weeks in camp - and much of that had been spent in getting uniforms together, learning to drill, and arranging their papers. On board ship, men who would be signallers for infantry regiments were drawn from the ranks and trained in semaphore and message carrying. All ranks were given instruction in semaphore signalling and all officers 'should be able to send and read semaphore by the end of voyage".
"The men had come on board with much of their personal kit such as 'soap, piece of, in wallets; Boots, ankle, brown. Laces (spare), for boots, ankle, pairs; socks, worsted, pairs - one pair on person, one pair in pocket of greatcoat and one pair in kitbag at base.' The final instruction regarding kit was: 'Soldiers when discharged will receive a suit of plain clothes and a cap for free or sum of 20 shillings in lieu…
During the voyage they were to be paid 1s 0d per day for 50 days. The pay of a private, apart from on board ship, was to be 5s 0d per day plus 1s 0d deferred pay…The allotment to dependents must be 'Not less than 2/5 of pay to wife or de facto and no less than 3/5 if children.' Illegitimate children were to be allotted one-fifth, and pre-maternity orders would be in the order of one-fifth. Colonels of regiments were obliged to ensure that soldiers retain at least 1s 0d per day for their own use while abroad."
From Bill Gammage The Broken Years, 1974 pp 32-33:
"Complaints about food, beer restrictions, canteen facilities, and the distribution of mail were fairly frequent on board the transports, but there were only two real discomforts: seasickness, or 'practising singing', and boredom. With a spirit that was to support them well in harder times, men tried to laugh seasickness away ('If I was Christ I would get out and walk home'), and they had a ready counter to boredom:
Gambling is a favourite pastime on board. I suppose 60% of the troops indulge in these games, more or less. There are the crown and anchor, house, cards, and two up. Any time of the day and up to 9p.m. one will find crowds congregated together at different parts of the ship, playing one or other of these games…the first thing that meets my eyes on coming up from below this morning was the coins being tossed…at the stern…the crowd…started their gambling and kept it up all through the [church] service…I don't think it possible for them to lift their minds off the two coins in the air. (Bdr W.E.Baker, 2 FAV, Telephone mechanic of Northcote, Vic. KIA 21/3/18 aged 27.)
Australians necessarily tolerated their confinement at sea, but they resented being kept on board a ship in port. Authorities invariably attempted to restrict shore leave, and large numbers of men invariably ignored such attempts. General Bridges wrote that discipline on the first two convoys was good, the chief difficulty being in off-loading civilian stowaways at Albany. In fact men from these convoys regularly went absent without leave, often only a small proportion of those given leave returned when it expired, and troops kept under special guard on board serenaded their officers with songs as 'Britons never shall be slaves' and 'Every dog has his day'. "
In mid-1915 soldiers on a troopship at Colombo were refused leave, and were fined when they took it. They were not allowed to buy beer or fruit from the natives, but after the ship left port the canteen sold Colombo fruit at rates 200 per cent above Colombo prices. The 'Australian spirit' having been roused by these injustices, the troops rioted. They pushed officers about, assaulted the military police, broke open the canteen and the detention cells, and threw furniture overboard. When their commanding officer attempted to address them, he was hooted, hissed, and threatened with ejection over the side, until at last he withdrew. The men finally dispersed when more leave and cheaper fruit had been promised them, but by then they had exhausted their opportunities and energies for riot and revelry.
The man who described these events, a Victorian private, defended them by pointing to the injustices done at Colombo, and by listing other iniquities; the men had been kept below deck when they left Australia and so has missed the last goodbyes; the voyage had been insufferably monotonous; there had been no fruit on board until Colombo and seasick men craved fruit; the commanding officer had broken promises about leave and refreshments; the detention cell was hot and dirty, so that men were carried to hospital from it." (Lt H.S. Trangmar, 57 Bn, Book keeper of Coleraine, Vic. b. 1888.)
Voyage From Australia Shipboard Training and Morale
The leadership of the AIF placed great store in ensuring that discipline was maintained on board troopships. For a good deal of the time of the eight week passage to Egypt, recruits were drilled and underwent instruction in weapons training.
The training men received included lectures on hygiene and sanitation. For the Light Horse Brigades there were lectures on horse health and diseases.
Officers of the AIF were also conscious of the need to sustain morale, especially given that theirs was a volunteer citizen army. So it was that, during the voyage from Australia, a measure of high spirits and horseplay was tolerated - more so than would have been given units of the British or Indian armies. Cultural activities such as concerts and the production of ship board newspapers were encouraged, even though these activities sometimes resulted in military authority and politicians being made the target of satire.
He was part of the 5th Reinforcements.
5 August 1915: Reported to unit M.E.F.(Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) Anzac
From 4th Light Horse War Diary: [AWM4 - AIF War Diary collection]
5 August Ryrie’s Post
1020 to 2040 Demonstration … to draw enemy’s fire
(remainder not easy to read)
6 August Ryrie's Post
0930 to ?
Not easy to read
2315 to 0120: Demonstration by Reg against enemy’s trenches in front
13 August Ryrie's Post
2100 to 0300: Ruses (5) were carried out to draw enemy’s fire
14 August Ryrie's Post
1000: 1 Corporal and five men detailed as portion of escort to Sir Ian Hamilton
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force,
5th August 1915
Soldiers of the old army and the new.
Some of you have already won imperishable renown at our first landing or have since built up our foothold upon the peninsula, yard by yard, with deeds of heroism and endurance. Others have arrived just in time to take part in our next great fight against Germany and Turkey, the would-be oppressors of the rest of the human race.
You, veterans, are about to add fresh luster to your arms. Happen what may so much as least is certain.
As to you, soldiers of the new formations, you are privileged indeed to have the chance vouchsafed you of playing a decisive part in events which may herald the birth of a new and happier world. You stand for the great cause of freedom. In the hour of trial remember this and the faith that is in you will bring you victoriously through.
IAN HAMILTON, General
From Commanding Officer 4th Light Horse (Lt Col Leonard Long)
To Headquarters 2nd Light Horse Brigade
7th August 1915 0600
After the engagement on our left yesterday the enemy kept up an irregular fire on our trenches up till 0935. The remainder of the 24 hours was quiet. The ruses practiced last night failed to draw very little fire from the trenches in front.
Trench Mortar fired several bombs into position pointed out by our observers where enemy’s machine gun was located. Enemy during the night used considerable number of star shells mostly white.
Casualties Wounded 6
8th August 1915
With the exception of one heavy brush with fire from the enemy’s trench on our front has been light. Otherwise a quiet 24 hours.
Casualties 1 killed and 6 wounded.
9th August 1915
Enemy’s bomb proofs have not been added to since yesterday. Whenever a burst of fire occurred from our left enemy threw up star shells. Trenches and recesses deepened.
Casualties one wounded (slight)
10th August 1915
Very quiet 24 hours. Deepened trenches and recesses. Enemy does not appear to be doing any further work on his trenches.
11th August 1915
A quiet 24 hours, but the fire from enemy’s trench in front was heavier than for the previous 24 hours. Deepened trenches and saps and widened Sap No 8 (?) in order to use it by stretcher bearers.
12th August 1915
Enemy were observed carrying bushes along the trench apparently to be used for overhead cover. The ruse last night failed to draw much fire. Deepened trenches and saps.
Casualties – one slightly wounded.
13th August 1915
A very quiet 24 hours. Widening saps and deepening trenches and recesses.
Casualties – one wounded.
14th August 1915
Ruses drew very little fire last night.
Casualties One killed One wounded
15th August 1915
About 0100 our artillery fired a few shots in what appeared to be the direction of the Olive Grove. In reply a few small shells were fired at our trenches from the direction of Pine Ridge. No damage was done. The officer on duty at 0100 received a report that a body of the enemy were moving from their left flank towards Lonesome Pine. A sharp lookout was kept but nothing unusual was observed. Deepened trenches and saps.
Casualties one wounded
16th August 1915
Very quiet 24 hours.
Casualties – One wounded (slight)
17th August 1915
1. At 1930 yesterday liquid bomb fired from enemy’s trenches ?? along from GUN RIDGE landed at number 10 sap. The bearing to the ? was taken and forwarded to Brigade Headquarters.
During the night four bombs were fired from the same position.
2. Deepening saps.
3. Casualties one
18th August 1915
Summary of events for previous 24 hours:-
1. Very quiet
2. Enemy were throwing up earth during the day of a very dusty nature which appears to be from the bottom of the trench.
3. Casualties one.
From Philip J. Haythornthwaite (1991) Gallipoli 1915 frontal assault on Turkey p 71:
"Hamilton scheduled the Suvla landing for 6 August, and ordered two simultaneous diversionary attacks to occupy the Turks, at Helles and Anzac. ..
…To the forces already at Anzac, Hamilton added 13th Division, which with 29 Indian Brigade gave Birdwood some 40 000 men. The reinforcements were slipped ashore at night on 4 - 6 August and the troops secreted in newly constructed trenches and caves, to conceal their arrival from the Turks. The plan was for an attack at Lone Pine, to the south of the ANZAC bridgehead, utilizing a secretly constructed underground tunnel which would allow the assaulting force to debouch almost directly into the Turkish positions. Having convinced the Turks that this was the main attack, after dark the principal assault would be made further north, towards Sari Bair, which was hoped to be in ANZAC hands by the following morning."
The 4th LH was not directly involved in the attack on Lone Pine, but did provide cover.
From Smith, Men of Beersheba, 1993 pp 29-32:
29 July: The 4th LH replaced the 7th LH's forward positions at Ryrie's Post and two days later supported West Australia's 11th Battalion in an attack on what became known as Leane's Trench…For the next week the Regiment was given the perhaps odd responsibility of drawing the enemy's fire between 2 and 3 am every morning. This involved 'demonstrations' at the appointed time with much yelling and rattling, flares being fired and even some shooting and throwing of bombs. The idea was to keep the enemy on his toes and hopefully wear him down somewhat. Although annoying to the Turks doubtless the troopers of the 4th Light Horse Regiment did not find much rest in the activity either.
6 August: Leane's Trench became a point of particular interest to the Turks who at 4.30 am on 6th August made a concerted attack on the Australian infantry defenders. The Light Horsemen became heavily involved in the ensuing counter attack which resulted in the loss of five Light Horsemen killed and five wounded, most if not all, from A Squadron…Late the same day the Regiment supported the fateful attack on Lone Pine with covering fire on Pine Ridge and the Turkish Despair Works…Orders were then received to support an 8.30 pm attack by the 5th Light Horse on Green Knoll and Balkan Gun Pits. Thankfully the weary troops were to be told at 8.00 pm the attack was cancelled.
There was little respite. At 1.20 am the following morning the 4th Light Horse Regiment was again tasked with a 'demonstration' against the Turks with bayonets fixed, and much rattling, cheers and 'cooees' echoing from the Light Horse trenches. Apparently many troopers were of the belief that this demonstration and the earlier cancelled attack had been part of an accidentally aborted charge, but this was not the case. The 6th August had been a costly day for the 4th Light Horse Regiment in terms of life and limb….
8 - 21st August: the 4th LH remained in the Ryrie's Post position. Various ruses were carried out to draw the enemy's fire and generally harass him. All the time the troopers worked to deepen and extend the trench system which had become their home. On the 21st C squadron plus a troop from A squadron relieved the 7th LH in the trenches at Lone Pine where the next day they had to fight hard to withstand a heavy Turkish attack comprising concentrated shelling , bombing, machine gun and rifle fire."
And so it went on…the 4th LH being moved around in various positions covering Ryrie's Post and Leane's Trench.
The Sphinx, the Nek and Walker's Ridge: The Sphinx, The Nek and Walkers Ridge from Ari Burnu cemetery:
Lone Pine cemetery:
Memorial at Anzac Cove:
17 August 1915
Sick to hospital
From Smith, Men of Beersheba, 1993, p 35.
An unending stream of men continued to be evacuated from Gallipoli due to injuries and sickness. By late August the Regiment could count only 320 men on the Peninsula. Men succumbed to sickness every day. In August …many were hospitalised…The depleted ranks were generally filled rapidly as reinforcements accumulated in Egypt and were shipped across as necessary…
From service record:
27 August 1915
Nervous breakdown. Admitted to hospital Hamrun ex H.S. Georgian
From Les Carlyon, 2001, Gallipoli p 333:
"…'nervous breakdown' (a phrase used in 1915 to describe everything from mild exhaustion to frothing lunacy)…"
During the First World War, like the Crimean War period, Malta served as a "Nurse of the Mediterranean". From the Gallipoli campaigns 2500 officers and 55 400 troops were treated in the Maltese hospitals.
Click here for more information about military hospitals in Malta
7 January 1916
Dysentery. Transferred to Egypt per "Essiquibo". Non cot case.
11 January 1916
Admitted to No 2 Aux Conval Depot
21 January 1916
Transferred to Con Depot
2 February 1916
Discharged to duty ex Helouan and rejoined Regiment
3 Feb Letter to brother-in-law, Dave Lade:
Sister Maud, and brother-in-law, Dave Lade, with their grandchild.
Letterhead of The Young Mens Christian Association with H.M. Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt.
Heliopolis Feb 3rd 1916.
As you will know before you receive this I am in Egypt again. I was sent to the convalescent home at Helouan, about twenty miles up the Nile from Cairo, and after having about a fortnight there was allowed to rejoin my regiment here.
I could have gone home if I had wished, but as I felt so well I did not care about that, there being so many more in need of a trip than I was. The doctor was doubtful about letting me stop, as they make a point of sending typhoid cases home for three months; but here I am, and hope I will be able to see the war through before being sent home sick or wounded.
I got another batch of delayed letters yesterday - about a dozen in all including one from you, one and a postcard (view of Strath) from Maud, and one from Hilda. They were very old ones - written mostly in September and August.
Will Ross is a lieutenant in my regiment, and although I have seen him once I have not had an opportunity of making his acquaintance.
I also met Dave Patterson, and he wished to be remembered to you. He has been sick, but is better again now.
Will tells me that they have started what is very nearly conscription in Australia, and is not sure but what he might be called up.
I think myself that Australia has done quite her share now, and will not be doing much good by sending her young married men away.
Everything is very quiet in Egypt, but as you know there are possibilities of stirring times shortly.
However, I cannot say much about that, as the censorship is very strict at present.
We are having perfect weather in Egypt now, but I expect it will soon be getting warm again.
I was glad to hear you have had such a fine season in Australia, and I suppose it was most welcome after last year.
You said in your letter your nephew Perce was in the 13th L.H., so he will be in the same lot as Dave Patterson. It is not far from where I am so will try and see him shortly.
You said you were a great believer in prayer for soldiers, and I am sure it will interest you to hear what fellows in the trenches have told me.
I have been told by the most hardened of men that in the hour of greatest danger, they have offered up a prayer - the first in most cases since they were children - and have been surprised at the benefit they received.
This is about all this time.
Yours truly, Percy
Remember me to all your people.
AWM photos:Al Hayat Hotel, Helouan, used as a Convalescent Depot (P00156.019)
Al Hayat - the Australian Convalescent Home (J06424)
From Service Record:
25 February 1916
Mumps (mild): adm No 4 Aux hospital
1 March Letter to sister, Maud Lade:
No 4th Auxiliary (sic) Mumps Hospital
March 1st 1916
As you see by this address I am in hospital again, this time with the mumps. I came in last Friday 25th and am getting on alright now, although my face is still a bit swoolen. I think they will keep me hear three weeks as that is the time they allow for isolation of mumps cases.
A great number of the soldiers here are getting mumps for some cause or other.
I had a number of letters the day after I came here including one from you and one from Dave. They were both written in Oct. though. However I had some later news from Mother also one from Berta. They were written in the middle of Jan.
By the way I am to congratulate myself I suppose on the possession of several new nephews.
I expect you would be disappointed - Mother especially - when you heard I was not coming home after all, but I think you will agree I did the right thing, as it would not be too nice returning when there was nothing wrong with me. In any case I would only have meant coming straight back again.
We had just finished three days sham-fighting in the desert before coming in here. It was very interesting and exciting while it lasted although hard work.
We used to get up early march out about five miles - sometimes further - and then double about in the sand all day. By the time we got in at night we would be tired enough. The 4th L.H. is very much over strength so all those who have come back from hospital lately have gone in what they call the details, and have no horses yet. The details consist of D + E squadron. I am in D squadron under the command of Lieut Ross.
I was speaking to him for a few minutes the other day. I was to go to his tent and have a yarn with him but have not been able so far. He wished to be remembered to you and Dave. He is looked upon as a good officer and got the most points with his men in the sham-fighting.
Auntie Sarah and Uncle Arthur are getting quite gay in their old age running about to the lakes and so on. I have not heard anything of Eric lately. Have been wondering if he has enlisted. Berta too was down Gippsland she says. I have not come across any more Strath boys. I fancy they most of them are down on the canal somewhere.
We have a chap - Sgt Major - in our lot name of Purves. He comes from Yea, and used to visit Henny Yorston at Strath. I wonder if you know him.
I have also seen Jim and Arthur Knoop. Arthur is in the next tent to mine and Jim is in the 8th L.H. Also one of the Collins from Break-a-day is in the 4th and a Pat Nelson brother of Mrs Mitchell of Strath.
All these chaps belong to the late reinforcements.
I think this is about all this time.
I would tell you a lot more that would interest you, but the censor won't allow I'm afraid.
Hoping you are all well
I wrote to Dave about a fortnight ago.
From Men of Beersheba (Neil C. Smith, 1993) p 45:
" From the men who had been evacuated wounded or sick from Gallipoli and who after a period in hospital were now available for duty, and from fresh reinforcements a new squadron of the 4th Light Horse regiment was formed and known as D squadron. This squadron, plus B squadron formed a unique Light Horse contribution to the campaign on the Western Front and went to France. The troopers were destined to be linked with the Otago Mounted Rifles and then placed under command of a New Zealand officer. Australian 4th LHR original Lieutenant Colonel Hindhaugh later took
From a letter written by Percy Smith on March 1st 1916:
" The 4th L.H. is very much over strength so all those who have come back from hospital lately have gone in what they call the details, and have no horses yet. The details consist of D + E squadron. I am in D squadron under the command of Lieut Ross."
From The Battle of Hamel: the Australians' finest victory (John Laffin, 1999) pp 25-26
" …after the fighting against the Turks on Gallipoli the Australians believed that they could stand up to any conditions, dangers and hardships that might face them in France and Belgium.
The men of the 1st and 2nd Divisions knew little about the war in Europe other than what they occasionally read in the newspapers of Cairo. The ignorance of most of them about what was happening on the Western Front was profound. They were not to know that the battles fought by General Sir John French used up men at a frightening rate. On 25 September 1915, while the Australians were still on Gallipoli, 15 470 men became casualties on the first day of the Battle of Loos. On 11 October a single British division lost 3 800 men in ten minutes of fighting. The entire battle cost General French 61 280 casualties - and without gain.
Unknown to the Australians, some British generals considered that they had great soldierly potential. By common British consent, they lacked discipline but they could fight. Early in 1916 the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, in London, telegraphed the British commander in Egypt: 'Three Anzac Divisions in France in April might be worth six at a later date, He meant that the British and the Canadians were under such pressure that the sooner the Australian divisions arrived the better.
At the end of 1915 General French was dismissed for his failures and the new British commander-in-chief, General Sir Douglas Haig, had begun planning a major offensive to relieve the German pressure on the French armies.
The newspapers in Cairo emphasised the heroism on the Western Front, and there was plenty of that, rather than the horrors of which there were also many. The heavy casualties were rarely correctly stated and some defeats were presented as victories. The newspaper reports had one important effect - the Australians now knew that the Gallipoli campaign had been a sideshow and they were eager to move on to England, which was 'Home' to most Australians, and then on to the war in France and Belgium.
The transfer came in March 1916, though direct to France, not via England. Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood, the Briton who had commanded the Australians at Gallipoli, visited each brigade to give them the news, usually during a church parade. He told them that in France they would be among people whose young men were fighting for their country, leaving behind the old men, the women and children. The Australians would be living among these people and serving with British, French and Canadian soldiers, as well as those of France's many colonies. He appealed to the men's honour to uphold the good name of Australia and to justify the reputation they had won at Gallipoli.
The theme of service, honour and probable sacrifice came up in sermons preached by army chaplains on troopships carrying the Australians from Alexandria to Marseilles."
From Service Record :
11 March 1916
Transferred to 2nd Div. A.C. (2nd Division Ammunition Column)
Taken on strength
From Smith, Men of Beersheba p 49
A result of the re-organisation and growth of formations and new units in the Middle east in early 1916 gave rise to massive personnel transfers to and from the 4th Light Horse Regiment…Scores of men were transferred to the 2nd Divisional Ammunition Column and about one hundred and fifty went to the newly formed Cyclist Corps…
Most transfers occurred on 11 March.
From Service record:
19 March 1916
Appointed Act Driver and posted to No 2. Section
AWM photos of Zeitoun:
Zeitoun campfire and kitchen (P00620.010)
Line of sleeping huts, Zeitoun (H12865)
Formed September 1915 and assigned to 2nd Division.
· 2nd Division Ammunition Column September 1915 to past November 1918
· 4th Field Artillery Brigade 23 September 1915 to past November 1918 (NB 10th, 11th and 12th batteries)
· 5th Field Artillery Brigade 6 September 1915 to past November 1918
· 6th Field Artillery Brigade 19 October 1915 to 20 January 1917
· 22nd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Brigade February 1916 to 27 January 1917
· V2A Heavy Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 to 21 February 1918
· X2A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 to 21 February 1918
· Y2A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 to 21 February 1918
· Z2A Medium Trench Mortar Battery 17 April 1916 to 21 February 1918
· 3rd Medium Trench Mortar Battery 21 February 1918 to past November 1918
· 4th Medium Trench Mortar Battery 21 February 1918 to past November 1918
The Artillery Regiment
· Brigadier General G. J. Johnston 1 December 1915 to 8 October 1917
· Brigadier General O. F. Phillips 8 October 1917 to past November 1918
Gallipoli: Defence of Anzac
2nd Division Artillery Insignia at Australian Corps Memorial Park, Le Hamel, France. (SE, May 2003)
"First Australian Artillery going into the 3rd Battle of Ypres (1919). This work shows a team of six horses, three mounted and three led, struggling through thick mud pulling a heavy 18 pounder gun on the limber. Six other soldiers on foot are helping to haul the gun, all moving away from the viewer. Septimus Power has captured the dash, the urgency, the immediacy of guns being moved to give fire support on the battlefield. You can almost hear the sound of mud sucking on the hooves, the gasping of the horses, the slap of leather, and creaking of axles, and the shouts of men. And you can imagine the sounds of the great battle beyond and sense the danger towards which the gun team is headed. "
Power did some wonderful drawings and paintings, many of artillery, horses and drivers. Search the AWM Collection using the term "Septimus Power" to see his other works.From Laffin:
"Man and Horse: Sharing The Load"
To save manpower, the AIF used mules at night to take water tins as close as possible to the front line. Ten mules controlled by two minders could carry as much water as 60 men. During the bitter 1916-17 winter at Flers, wounded men were evacuated in improvised sleds drawn across the mud by one or two horses. In emergencies, ambulance horses were commandeered for direct military purposes. In November 1916 at Flers, the front-line units planning an attack needed 600 scaling ladders so troops could climb out of their deep, muddy trenches to go over the top. Orders were issued that ambulance horses were to be used to transport the heavy ladders across the sea of mud on sleds normally used for the wounded. The heavy labour wore out the horses, but most ladders were delivered in time for the attack.
Endlessly toiling along tracks, the thousands of packhorses and mules made them almost impassable. At places in the Ypres Salient during the 1917 offensive, horses pulling ammunition wagons sometimes became trapped in treacherous areas of mud and sank almost out of sight. The drivers struggled to keep the animals' heads up until help arrived.
The country-bred Australian drivers were regarded as the finest on the Front. In winter conditions, Australian drivers were dirty and their wagons battered, but their horses were groomed and in good condition. When strings of wagons were shelled, all soldiers in the vicinity dived for cover, but no shell-fire could separate an Australian wagon driver from his beloved horses. Horses at the halt trembled when they heard the whine of an incoming shell and instinctively buried their muzzles in their soldier-minders chests.
Many animals were wounded, particularly by shell-fire, and among the busiest units were the Mobile Veterinary Sections. The 2nd Division's MVS was shelled in the back area in the summer of 1916 and reported that its horse patients suffered acute shell-shock. On August 21, enemy planes dropped seven bombs on the wagon lines of the 7th field Artillery Battery in Becourt Wood, near Albert. Apart from the soldier casualties, 15 horses were killed and 29 wounded.
About 80,000 horses and mules in British service died on the Western Front. Australian fighting men, always sentimental about their horses, swore with anger when they came across animals gasping piteously for breath after a German gas attack. And when parted from their horses at the end of the war, tough Digger drivers often wept. The bonds they had forged with their four-legged mates were as strong as those they had made with their fellow soldiers.
AWM photograph of Australian mule transport in winter mud, The Somme, December 1916. (E00036)
From CEW Bean Vol IV The AIF In France 1917:
September 1917, Polygon Wood.
“The circuit roads had to be made whatever the cost. The forward one lay in ground always heavily shelled, frequently with mustard gas, and the shelling increased when the German airmen, as they quickly did, observed the new roads. In the early stages the pioneers constantly suffered from small burns due to the mustard oil, which, hanging about the shell holes, clung to their clothing. These minor hurts were soon avoided by changing clothes on return to camp near Ypres, but the drain of more serious casualties continued steadily. Particularly trying was the duty of the transport drivers, Strings of waggons had to carry the planks slowly along the narrow, mainly one-way, roads. When, as often happened, the track was shelled, and a length of it destroyed by direct hits, while the breach was being repaired the drivers had to sit, each on his high perch, controlling his horses, while the shells struck home on or around the crowded traffic. Other than Australian transport was used for this work; the superiority of the Australian drivers for it was most evident. They belonged to the finest class their nation produced, unassuming country-bred men. They waited steadily until the break was repaired or some shattered waggon or horses dragged from the road, and then continued their vital work. No shell-fire could drive them from their horses. The unostentatious efficiency and self-discipline of these steadfast men was as fine as any achievement of Australians in the war.”
AWM photo of Artillery horse and driver on the road between Montauban and Mametz. Dec 1916 (E00002)
Painting by Septimus Power - Horse Lines on the Somme (ART03335)
From Service Record and 2nd DAC War Diary:
20 March 1916
Embarked on H.T. Magdalena
27 March 1916
Disembarked at Marseilles
1 April 1916
Arrived at Abbeville 7.30am
AWM photograph of 18th and 19th Battalions at Marseilles, 25 March 1916.(C04393)
AWM photo of troop train at rest stop between Marseilles and Le Havre (P02321.053)
Soldiers stretch their legs, or pick wildflowers to decorate the train carriages.
From Diary of Gunner Kenneth Sydney Day : [AWM records PR01054]
21/3/16 At midday we boarded a train for Le Havre. We were put in cattle trucks, two men and 8 horses per truck. We are having a lot of snow, and it looks fine on all the stations and hills surrounding them. We arrived at Havre at 5p.m. on Wednesday, after sleeping two nights in trucks and freezing all the time. From Lyons it rained all the way through, and the ground was awfully muddy.
Havre Railway Station…This is a very long railway station, and contains, I suppose thousands of pounds worth of war material, etc. We stayed at Havre for a week to get our equipment. While here, being new chums, we thought the war was over as one day a brigade of "Froggies" marched past all cheering and singing; but we soon found out our mistake, when speaking to someone, they told us they were going up to the line.
Havre is a very nice city, and the lady in charge of the Y.M.C.A. is a West Australian girl.
We left Havre on Wednesday night at 11.30 p.m. on cattle trucks as usual for a place called Eyre. Arrived there at 5 p.m. Thursday and drove eight miles to a small town called Lynde. This place is about 15 miles from the firing line, and we can hear the guns all day and night. Left Lynde at 7 a.m. Saturday and took the wagons to a big ammunition factory in Eyre and got them loaded up with Shrapnel and High explosive Shells, and then went back to Lynde.
Monday left Lynde at 5 a.m. and set out for a place called Armentieres. This place is only one mile form our support trenches, and is a town between Lille and Ypres. It is well within the range of the german guns, and they are always sending shells into it."
From Bill Gammage, The Broken Years Australian Soldiers In The Great War (1974) p 147:
" The Australians landed at Marseilles, belied their reputation by almost faultless behaviour in the port, and in a few days entrained for billets in northern France. The journey was their most pleasant since leaving Australia. The green countryside and the cheers and kisses of the populace seemed paradise after Egypt, and second only to one other land and people on earth. But it was not the Western Front, and almost every Australian was eager to man that legendary line."
From Laffin, The Battle of Hamel (1999):
"On 19 March 1916 troopships carrying the 2nd division reached Marseilles, where the bands, which had not once been able to play at Gallipoli, struck up 'La Marseilles'. The men were wildly excited but the officers retained control, much to the relief of the British staff in the port who had feared riots. Day after day trains carried the Australians through the beautiful countryside of southern France, fresh with spring, into the cold, wet and snowy north. They finished up in billets in barns around St Omer, Aire and Hazebrouck. In the distance the crump of shells and flashes and flares told them that they were indeed approaching the 'real war'.
They were in what the army called the 'Nursery', where reinforcements were trained. The Australians considered themselves veterans and they impatiently endured lectures on many subjects, including how to relieve a trench garrison.
AWM photo of Armentieres railway station about Dec 1916 (H15699)
11 March 1916 - 23 May 1916: 2nd Division Ammunition Column (2nd section)
23 May 1916 - 22 June 1916 : 4th Field Artillery Brigade
22 June 1916 - 19 July 1917 : 11th Battery, 4th FAB
(England leave c. 22 Jan-2 Feb 1917)
From 2nd Division Ammunition Column War Diary (AWM Microfilm)
April 1 Abbeville. 7.30am Arrived from Marseilles
April 2 Abbeville. Headquarters and No 2 Section taking over horses, mules, harness and wagons. Marched for Blaringhem via Canchy – Le Boisle – Hesdin – Aire
April 5 Blaringhem.Arrived and proceeded to La Belle Hotesse
April 8 La Belle Hoteese. 2nd DAC filled with ammunition from railhead Triezennes
April 12 Marched to Le Petit Mortier. Arrived 1 pm. All gun ammunition handed over to 34th DAC RFA.
April 13 Le Petit Mortier.Relieved 34th DAC RFA. Ammunition (gun) taken over in dumps from 34th DAC
April 18 Route march and instruction in trench disciplines.
April 19 - ditto
April 21 At this period the 2nd DAC were supplying daily an average of 25 wagons to report to 20th Army Troops R.E. at 6 pm? and finishing work (in the fire zone) at daylight also about 20 wagons per day transporting Engineers Stores from ERQUINGHEM and 20 wagons transporting ? from LA MOTTE about every 4 days.
April 23 Marching Order Inspection, Dismounted
April 29 New Syllabus of Training issued
April 30 Le Petit Mortier to Grand Sec Bois
2nd DAC less No 3 Section and 6 wagons of No 1 marched to GRAND SEC BOIS via LE VERRIER-NEUF BERQUIN starting 2 pm arrived GRAND SEC BOIS 5.30pm.
May 2 Grand Sec Bois. Training at Sec Bois – Harness Fitting, Driving Drill, Battery Drill
May 3 -6 Harnessing, Driving and Battery drill
May 7 Le Petit Mortier. No 2 Section plus 6 wagons of No 1 relieved No 3 Section at Le Petit Mortier – keeping up supply of ammunition and transport for Engineers
May 21 60 Other Ranks attached to FA Bdes. Note’ The majority of them were retained permanently and new (less efficient) were transferred to the DAC in their place.
24 April 1916 Postcard from Percy Smith to Mother
I sent you a letter the other day …there is to say I had a trip to the hot water baths to-day and I can tell you it was acceptable after weeks of "grey-backs". I see by to-day's paper some Russians have landed in France, so things are looking up. What do you think of this card? It is hand worked. Remember me to all. Wishing you many happy returns of your birthday.
Letter from Percy Smith to his sister, Maud Lade:
May 17th 1916
It is quite a time since I have written to you now, but as I write to Mother pretty often it is not so bad.
I have had a splendid time in France (Flanders) up to date, and, with the exception of about three weeks of last month when it rained incessantly. The climate is all that you could desire. These last few days have been absolutely perfect, and it is marvellous how quickly the mud drys.
This is the middle of spring now, and I can tell you the country is beautiful. The trees are in leaf, and all the hedges just a mass of white, and the fields just a mass of buttercups. The farm-houses are quaint old affairs with their thatched roofs and white walls (The thatch is over a foot thick on most of them)
The people are most homely and you just walk into their houses like your own. Of course we pay for everything we get.
One can spend a most enjoyable evening in most places. Nearly everyone can speak a little English, and, between their English and our French (about on a par) conversation is most amusing.
We have not been doing a great deal of work lately. Carting mettle for roads and transferring horses and mules from one place to another is all. I was up close to the trenches with mettle on several occasions last week, and although there are hundreds of guns round about, never saw a shot fired, except the anti-air-craft. Of course one never knows when a shell will come along, and the roads and villages are torn about some. The farmers go on with their plowing just behind the trenches quite undisturbed, and it is nothing to see the shells land quite close to them, but it never worries them.
The Germans have sent gas over on several occasions, but although we had our helmets ready, it did not reach us. It is only a waste of energy sending gas now, as the helmets are so safe. They are funny looking affairs, and go right over the head with two glass places in them for the eyes.
There is a rubber tube to exhale with, and although you can exhale through it no air can come in. It is like the valve of a bicycle tube. There is some sort of mixture inside like tar, that preserves the good air for some hours, and the gas seldom lasts more than fifteen minutes. You can see it coming just like smoke on a damp day - rolling very low along the ground.
It is most interesting to watch the aeroplanes duelling in the air. Most of them are fitted with a machine-gun, and you can hear it cracking away, hundreds of feet up in the air. Some of the 'planes are very daring and fly quite low over the trenches. The German gunners are not nearly as good as ours, and although their machines never come so low, they lose more than we do.
As you know there are all sorts of troops in France now - South Africans, Canadian, West Indies, Aust., New Zealand. Russian and others as well.
I have not had a letter since I landed in France although it is now about eight weeks. The 4th L.H. are pretty slow at sending them along.
We are taking a lot of sick horses to the Vetinary hospital today and it is nearly time to start must close, with love to all
I saw Will Ross the other day. He is now a Lieutenant (first) in the cycling corps.
My address is
2nd Australian Divivison
British Expeditionary Force
Photograph of soldier wearing a gas mask of the kind mentioned in letter (EZ0051) "The wraparound cloth mask featured a carbon filter (in a unit in the bag attached to the soldier's uniform) that removed impurities from the air. Note the fob watch on the soldier's wrist. "
23 May – Transferred to 4th Artillery Brigade
From Positions Occupied by the 4th A.F.A. Brigade in France
The 4th FAB was In Action at Armentieres in the period April 8th – July 2nd 1916.
22 June 1916 – Taken on Strength, 11th Battery, 4th FAB
From 11th Battery, Australian Field Artillery: Brief History 18 Nov 1915 – 20 Dec 1918 (AWM 224; MSS13)
21 May – 3 June 1916
11th Battery Wagon lines at Just-le-Erquingham, supporting gun positions at Armentieres
4 June – 9 July 1916
Joined 11th Battery 22 June
Wagon lines moved to Menen Gate near Steeuwerch
9 July 1916
Left area for St Marie Cappel (and then on to the Somme in subsequent days)
“From April 2nd until July 2nd we remained in the same gun positions at Armentieres (the detachments from Plogsteert rejoining the remainder of the battery early in April). Our gun position was naturally a good one, and being situated at the foot of a row of poplars, was practically safe from observation. Great care was exercised in (illegible) as much as possible any movement near the pits in daylight, and in using flash screens for night firing, and thus we were able to remain in position for three months without attracting enemy fire. For some time after arriving here, our ammunition supply was very restricted and practically no firing was done, other that for registration. Later frequent night raids were made by the infantry, and in support of these we fired very heavy barrages. It is interesting to note, when compared with all later barrages, that the rate of fire was usually section fire 6 seconds or even at times 4 secs.
There was no heavy shelling in our immediate vicinity during the whole three months and only one man was wounded in the time.
While the guns remained in the one position all the time the wagon lines shifted twice, Just-le-Erquingham on May 21st and later to L’Menengate, near Steeuwerch on June 4th. On the night of July 2nd we were relieved by a N.Z. battery and returned to the wagon lines at L’Menengate which we left on the fifth of the month and moved to a farm some little distance from Baillieul. A few gunners went up to gun pits which we were going to take over but receiving sudden orders to move these positions were left and on the ninth we went to St Marie Cappel . . . “ [Unit moves to the Somme]
From Bill Gammage, The Broken Years (1974) p. 151-52:
"The first months on the Western Front were not severe. The Australians were introduced into the line at Fleurbaix, near Armentieres, where the trenches were
not dug, as it is impossible to dig more than one foot without striking water, sand bag breast works are erected about 5 to 6 ft high & 3 to 4 ft thick which gives very solid cover & protection from rifle shots, but would not last very long under artillery fire…Everything is remarkably quiet on this sector, which is at present being held by an English regiment, very seldom is a shot fired…A considerable amount of movement is taking place all day long to which the Germans apparently take no exception, the idea being 'Don't fire at me and I will not fire at you' these sentiments were expressed to me by a British tommy (de Vine, D 27/4/16)
Photograph of Fleurbaix, covering an area from Bois Grenier to Fromelles.(H15912A)
Their gentle reception relieved many veterans. They contrasted it favourably with the dark days on Gallipoli, and agreed with the new soldiers that war was pleasant in France, because there were no great battles, but short stays in the line, comparative immunity, and comfort in the back areas.
In a relatively tranquil atmosphere, the soldiers manned their breastworks, watched aeroplane 'dogfights', patrolled No Man's Land, sat out the German artillery's daily 'strafe', waited for the victory most thought imminent, and willingly undertook the formal raids to which their leaders shortly introduced them."
From Diary of Gunner Kenneth Sydney Day (10th Battery):
13/4/16 Thursday. 4th Brigade went into action so we are kept pretty busy now, taking up ammunition and rations. The Tommies have a great craze for polishing all the chain work on the harness, so our drivers have got to start polishing theirs. We are under British Army orders now, and therefore, we have to copy the Tommies.
The camp we are at present is mud up to our knees and we have to sleep in tents, which are very damp and muddy. We have only seen the sun a few times since we have been in France so far. It has been raining or dull grey weather all the time.
2/5/16 There is not much to put down for the next week or so, only we see plenty of aircraft; but do not worry much about them as they have to fly very high to dodge our shells. The weather is improving, and the mud is getting hard, so it is not so bad.
We go down and have a hot bath once every two weeks, and wash every day from the drains at the sides of the streets. This water is not very clean but is all we can get…
While in Armentieres an English officer told me not to mix up with the Belgian civilians, that 75% of them are against us, which afterwards I found out to be correct.
During the next week or so, we made a good many trips with ammunition. We do these trips at night, as it is very dangerous to go about in the day time.
Left Le Menengate (this is where our wagon lines were) at 3 p.m. for a new camp four miles away, called Le Petit Mortier (umpteen miles from anywhere). Arrived there at 4 p.m. and were put in billets. Each sub has one of its own. Our sub was a very clean one. The barn next door to us was burned down that night. We were all pulled out to get it out, but nobody was hurt except an old woman.
8/5/16 All the B.A.C.s were turned into D.A.C.'s as the former were not much use to us. They have mules to drive now, and have plenty of kicking matches.
Date unrecorded (July 1916) " Left Le Petit Mortier at 5 p.m. on 4th July 1916, and drove five miles to a camp called Neuve Eglise. Arrived there at 11 p.m. the same night. It is a very large camp with plenty of grass around it, by way of a change from mud. This is a pretty place near the front, and there are plenty of shells flying about. On the second day I had my first experience with death. There is a 12 " Howitzer Battery each side of us, they roar all night. The germans send back 5.9s trying to hit them. I was standing near the road watching them, when a shell landed 100 yards from me, and went in between some A.C.C. men they can thank their lucky stars that it hit a tree first. It cut the tree into matchwood (a very tree at that). Two men were killed and two were wounded. Two of us carried one of the dead men down to their camp, and I must say I never thought a dead man could be so heavy. All the time they were sending over shells pretty thick, and when you are in the middle of the road, carrying a man that you cannot drop too quickly, you feel just a bit shaky in the knees.
Our Battery is in action at a place called Ploegsteert. There are some fine woods round here - one of them is called La Hutte Wood. The Battery had several casualties at this place, but nothing very serious.
It got too hot for us at the camp, so next day we left at 5 p.m. We marched through the towns Bailleul, Cassel (where our Australian head quarters are) and finished up at a place called St Marie Cappel at 11.15 that night. It is beautiful country, and well cropped. Stopped there four days and then pushed on to St. Omer. This is a fine town about the same size as Bendigo, with a fine river running through it. While at this place they took our blankets from us, and left us with nothing but a water-proof sheet and overcoats. I do a perish every night.
From 11th Battery, Australian Field Artillery: Brief History
… on the ninth [July] we went to St Marie Cappel where we remained until the 11th then that day entrained at Arques, detrained at Oeuveus and billeted at Le Chaussee until the 20th and then went to Puchevillers remaining until 27th when we went by road to the “Brickfields” near Albert, camped there until the 30th and went into action in Sausage Valley the same day. . .
9 July 1916 Left L’Menengate, arrive St Marie Cappel
11 July 1916 Left St Marie Cappel, road to Arques, entrained.
12 July Arrived Longue (?) Siding (outside Amiens), road to La Chaussee
13 July – 19 July Camped La Chaussee
20 July Left La Chaussee, arrived Puchevillers
20 – 26 July Camped Puchvillers
27 July Left Puchvillers by road, arrived Albert “Brickfields”
27 – 29 July Camped Albert Brickfields
From Battleground Europe: Courcelette by Paul Reed, the Brickfields are described:
On the outskirts of Albert was the Brickfields, a large billeting area among an old brick factory. "... an inhospitable area of chalky ground, scantily covered with grass, on a low ridge west of town. Bare and uninviting at the best of times.
On the Brickfields the men quickly discovered that boxes of Small Arms ammunition could be built into substantial walls; and when a tarpaulin was thown over them an adequate hutment was the result. Diligently they applied themselves to the task of creating comfort,their industry accelerated by the downpour which began to drench the place. Huddling within their improvised shelters, they paid little heed to the long-range shelling which was scattered indiscriminately over the area."
30 July Left Brickfields and established Wagon Lines at Bécourt Wood
30 July – 15 August Battery in action in Sausage Valley. Wagon Lines at Bécourt Wood. Infantry attacked Pozieres 4 Aug.
Photo of funeral at Bécourt during August 1916. [AWM EZ0064] "A chaplain reads the burial service beside the grave of a fallen Australian in a cemetery in a wood, near a chateau that housed a casualty clearing station. The burial party standing around the grave includes English and Australian soldiers. The man on the far right has a 2nd Division colour patch on his sleeve. Note the stretcher in the foreground."
Photo of artillery drivers at Bécourt Wood, July 1916. One is identified as Lieutenant Frederick George Fitzpatrick of Heyfield, Vic (far right); all others are unidentified. The gunner on the left has two postcards or photographs propped in front of his boots, and a trench biscuit balanced on his knee. Cooking utensils and stores are lined up along the edge of the 'roof', which is covered with vegetation for camouflage purposes. (AWM C00474)
16 August Left Bécourt Wood
17 August Arrived Vadencourt Wood, between Warloy and Contay
17 – 22 August Camped Vadencourt Wood
23 August Left Vadencourt Wood, arrived back at Bécourt Wood Wagon Lines
23 August- 3 Sept Battery in action Sausage Valley
4 Sept Left Bécourt Wood, arrived Vadencourt Wood that night
5 Sep Left Vadencourt Wood, arrived Hem
6 Sep Left Hem. Entrained at Doullens, arrived Hopoutre Station, near Poperinge. Road to Berthen
“A few gunners went up to gun pits which we were going to take over [ near L’Menengate] but receiving sudden orders to move these positions were left and on the ninth [July] we went to St Marie Cappel where we remained until the 11th then that day entrained at Arques, detrained at Oeuveus and billeted at La Chaussee until the 20th and then went to Puchevillers remaining until 27th when we went by road to the “Brickfields” near Albert, camped there until the 30th and went into action in Sausage Valley the same day, wagon lines being established at Bécourt Wood. Remained in Sausage Valley until Aug 16, covering our infantry in the attack on Pozieres on Aug 4th. Very little enemy shelling near our position – one man killed by a 60 pounder premature(?). Relieved on 16th and went to Vadencourt, returning again to the same position in Sausage Valley again on 23rd and stayed there until Sept 4th. This time the Valley was rather heavily shelled and we had two or three men wounded.
Leaving Sausage Valley on Sept 4th we returned to Vadencourt – stayed there one night and next day went to Hem, near Doullens. The following day we entrained at Doullens and detrained at Hopoutre (Poperinghe) the same day, went to Berthen where we billeted until the 8th … “ [back to Flanders]
From Diary of Gunner Kenneth Sydney Day:
16/6/16 We entrained at 11.30, and passed through Aire, Lillers, St. Pol, Doullens, Domart and arrived at Amiens at 8.30 a.m. the following day. This town has one of the best cathedrals. We stayed there for one day and went on to a place called Argoe, a small village just outside the town.
19/7/16 At 9 o'clock I was called out to be transferred to the 11th Battery, so packed up and walked to Picquigny, five miles away. …
28/7/16 Moved on to-day to a place called Contalmaison and the Infantry went into Pozieres. Our guns are in a place called Sausage Gully (where the name came from I do not know). There are hundreds of guns in this place; there is also a big chalk pit or crater. There are Canadian and English batteries as well as our own, so we have a great variety of swear words.
12/8/16 Met some Tommies to-day and they were saying that they did not like the way we advanced so much, they like trench warfare the best. I do not think much of them; they are a dirty lot - taking them on average; the Scottish are far the best, they take far keener interest in their work.
16/8/16 At 2.30 we came out of action after a stay of 19 days, we are getting very sick of living in the mud and the noise of the guns; went to the other side of Albert for the night, and then to a rest camp just outside Contay, called Vadencourt Woods. Stopped there for six days and then went back into action again to the Somme and mud.
We took over the same gun pits as before and stayed there for 12 days, came out and then marched to a place called Hem, stayed there for the night, and then to Dollens, where we entrained , left there at 9 a.m. and passed through St. Polaire, Hazebruck and disentrained at Poperinghe, drove to our wagon lines at Renninghelst, 5 miles from Ypres; our guns went into action the same night; it is seven miles between our wagon lines and Gun Pits, an average two trips per night, and drill all day, so there is not much rest for the wicked.
Ypres has been a very fine city, but there is not much left of it now, they have very wide streets and also a beautiful Cathedral. It is at this Cathedral that the Kaiser said he would be crowned King of Belgium, but I am afraid it will not be there when the war is over. (On the Somme where we were last in action the villages of Fricourt, La Boissille (sic), Contalmaison and Pazieres (sic) are all blown level with the ground or thereabouts, I know I would not like to pay for the rebuilding of them).
Photo of Vadencourt 30 July 1916. Lord Northcliffe and Australian war correspondent CEW Bean inspect the cooking facilitites at 2nd brigade camp (AWM E00794)
Cemetery and woods at Bécourt (May 2005):
Looking from Bécourt Wood across Sausage Valley towards La Boisselle and Lochnagar Crater:
Looking across Sausage Valley to La Boisselle from road between Bécourt and La Boisselle:
Approaching La Boisselle: