Centenary of the Great War

Newcastle Morning Herald transcriptions and Hunter enlistments for August 20-26, 1917.ARTILLERY’S FINE WORK(From C. E. W. Bean, Australian Press Correspondent.)


The Australian artillery has again been involved in very heavy fighting.

German counter-attacks several times during the recent fighting came under a murderous fire from the Australian guns.

Scottish officers state that on one occasion the Germans were advancing when our guns suddenly opened on them with perfect range. The German artillery, not knowing the precise position of their own troops, was also firing heavily. That particular attack melted under the combined Australian and German fire.

The great battle of Flanders has been a battle of artillery in a sense which is applicable to no other battle. Day after day, during the long bombardment preceding each attack, and during the drawn out troubled intervals between the battle stages, the artillery has borne the brunt both of the work and danger in this colossal fight.

The artillery would not claim that it had to face a whirlwind of the sort into which the infantry plunges day after day, and week after week. The gun crews stand by, living, eating, sleeping, and working amid a desultory shower of shells from the biggest to the smallest, which now never ceases, week in and week out, often increasing to angry, black, purposeful storms. Day and night, up and along roads, constantly barraged, often through darkness, impenetrable except for gun-flashes, past unspeakable mires, wherein mules have been known to disappear up to neck, head, and ears, comes an ammunition train. And in this trial, artillery drivers have come by their own at last. Till now the drivers have not been considered men on whom the brunt of the fighting falls. Yesterday, both Australian and British battery officers told us: “Don’t forget the drivers. If anyone deserves credit out of this show, it is they.”

Officer after officer, and sergeant after sergeant have given their lives ungrudgingly, and they speak of their men with a pride which makes the heart glow. Our Australian drivers, when a barrage is before them, have one rule. It is best to go straight ahead and take what comes. There are fewer losses that way, in the end, they say. “Give the horses their head and room, do not hesitate, and do not crowd.” That is their answer to the German barrages. There is a comradeship between the driver and his horse these wild days, which could scarcely be realised before. “Your horse knows quite well when things are dangerous,” one told us as we left that desolation. “If a corner is awkward, and you are anxious to pass it rapidly, the horses quicken up instinctively. If shells begin to fall where you are standing the horse will always get close up to you and press his side against yours. If they are left by themselves when shells fall near they begin whinnying and neighing for you immediately.”

We left that Australian artillery towards evening in their desolate pink shell-pitted landscape, amidst scattered black bursts, carrying out the day’s work as simply as if they were driving home cows on northern rivers farms. I came out with a British major, whose battery nearby had been doing glorious work. He had been allowed 48 hours’ rest, after long and continuous fighting, and he was enjoying that prospect like a schoolboy, and was hardly able to talk without laughing. The way he spoke of his men and ours simply brought tears to your eyes. “Before God,” he said; “they have been making a tradition worthy of Britain and Australia.”

CAPTAIN STEELCaptain L. G. Steel, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. O. G. Steel, of Wallsend, who was killed in France on the 6th August, was a native of Wallsend. He was 34, and leaves a widow and three children. The deceased had been associated with the Education Department for many years, and at the time of his enlistment was acting as science master at Albury. He took a keen interest in the school cadet movement, and at the time of the coronation of King George, he was one of the officers who proceeded with the cadets to London. He was a proficient musician, and occupied the position of church organist at Wallsend and other places at which he was stationed. At one time he was conductor of the Wallsend Choir, and he also had charge of the Summerhill Juvenile Choir, the Fort-street Boys’ Choir, and the Cleveland-street Boys’ Choir. In September, 1914, he went into camp, and was at the landing with the First Division’s field artillery at Gallipoli. Subsequently, he returned to Australia with an attack of enteric fever. Recovering, he returned to France, and to the firing line. His only brother, Sergeant Cecil B. Steel, is at present in France, with the artillery.

SERGEANT MALCOLMThe late Sergeant E. Malcolm, whose name appears in the list of district casualties, was at the time of his enlistment employed as a shipping clerk in the Newcastle office of Messrs. Gibbs, Bright, and Company, and was at one time a clerk in the office of the Newcastle City Council. He was as a boy a bugler in the Naval Brigade, and was a member of the Naval Reserve at the time war broke out. He was one of four members of the reserve selected to proceed to Sydney soon after the commencement of hostilities. He was secretary of the Cook’s Hill Lifesaving Club, in which capacity he showed much energy. He enlisted in one of the battalions which was chiefly recruited in the Newcastle district.

LETTER FROM FRANCEMrs. Shakespeare, wife of Joe Shakespeare, the veteran boxer, of Neath, has received the following letter from French school teacher, Fernando Durant, of 54 Rue au Ein, Amiens: “I have seen last time your husband, and I promised him to write to you, but I cannot speak English as well as I speak French, and it is not easy for me to write a long letter. I think you know me, because Mr. Shakespeare told me he spoke to you about me. When he visits Amiens he comes to see my parents and me, and I send you the letters he writes to you. I don’t know where he is now, but I think he is always in good health. When you will write to him will you tell him l have written to you. For some days I am not at home. I am at school with my pupils, because I am a school teacher. I hope your little family is quite well. Your husband told me to give four kisses for each of the children – Joe, Lizzie, and Georgie. I wish you see him again very soon.

BATTLE: Members of the 36th Heavy Artillery Group, four of whom were killed in action. Picture: Courtesy of The Digger’s View by Juan Mahony

PELAW MAIN GATESDuring the past few months the residents of Pelaw Main have been endeavouring to raise funds for the purpose of erecting a roll of honour in memory of the boys who have enlisted for active service. It has been decided to erect memorial gates at the entrance to the Pelaw Main Public School at a cost of about £70. The gates, which will be made of iron, will be swung on two stone pillars, with the names of the miners who have left the district on one, and the names of the ex-pupils on the other. The whole of the arrangements in raising the funds have been carried out by the Pelaw Main Progress Association. As the result of two sports gatherings and concerts, the required amount of money is now in hand.

ENLISTMENTSLawrence Anderson, Aberdare; Joseph Augustus Deitz, Kurri Kurri; John Edwards, Newcastle; James Auchterlonie Fairfull, Newcastle; Alexander Greig, West Maitland; Arthur Raymond Hancock, West Maitland; Robert Harris, Merewether; William Hilton Henry, South Singleton; Harry Langford, Cooks Hill; John McLeish, Minmi; William Leo Murphy, North Waratah; Soren Frank Olsen, Stockton; Robert Scott, Minmi; Charles William Walton, West Wallsend.