Diary of Lieutenant R MALLINSON

Date of enlistment 22nd July 1915
Age at enlistment 26
Profession Accountant
Town Hamilton
Status Single
Rank at enlistment Private
Company B Company, VI Platoon
Significant events while with the AIF Appointed 2nd Lieutenant October 1917, promoted to Lieutenant 30th July 1918

Embarked A71 HMAT Nestor, 21st November 1917

Taken on Strength 24th June 1918 from 20th Reinforcements

Served in France

Wounded in Action, gassed, 17th July 1918

Captured and made Prisoner of War at Herleville, 18th August 1918

Returned to Australia 16th March 1919

officers-e02585Photograph of Lieut. Mallinson, standing 2nd from right, back row, taken of the 22nd Battalion Officers, at Querrieu on 27th June 1918.

Lieutenant Mallinson’s full WW1 service record can be located in the National Archives of Australia. Full details are available online, NAA Series B2455

The following extracts are taken from the notebook of Lieut. Mallinson while on active service with the 22nd Battalion in France and while Prisoner of War in Germany. Included are two letters – one to Lt.Col Wiltshire and the second the response – regarding the operation at Herleville on 18th August 1918 when Lieut. Mallinson was captured and made Prisoner of War.  The notebook and letters are stored in the Australian War Memorial research centre in Canberra. Acknowledgement goes to the family of Lieut. Mallinson and the AWM enabling the subsequent publishing within this commemorative project.


18th August 1918: We had been chasing Fritz since 8th August and carrying out each night ‘peaceful penetration’ tactics. This meant digging in on new positions, and we were all very tired and weary, and suffering from the strain of the previous strenuous and momentous days. We were dirty and unkempt, and waiting for relief when word came up that we had to ‘go over’ on the morning of the 18th. We were pitifully few for the job.

Hurst, a signaller from HQ, was lying near us, badly hit in the stomach from machine gun bullets. I managed to drag him in (shell hole). He thanked me and told me I was good fellow. He wanted water, but we could not give it to him with his stomach wound. He soon died, but before he did he wished us all good luck and good bye.

We went through an awful period of agony, with the wounded and dying men in the post, and the utterly helpless position we were in. Sgt Dolan made an attempt to get back, but he no sooner got out of the shell hole than he was riddled with bullets and killed instantly. The Germans had now worked close to us and were bombing us. We had no sooner changed our positions than a bomb landed in amongst us and killed Westaway. The strain was telling on us all. Lance Corporal Jackson looked up and fired his rifle, but fell back with a burst of machine gun bullets through his head. Another bomb landed amongst us, killing Kelly who was already wounded. We agreed to surrender and almost immediately I was looking down the barrel of a revolver in the hands of a great big German. He pointed to my revolver which I had in my hand, and I handed it over to him. The six unknown Australians buried by the Germans would be the four men I left behinds – Lt Westaway, L/Cpl Jackson, Pte Hurst and Kelly, Sgt Bregenzer DCM, L/Sgt Dolan who were lying close, one on either side.

Captured by Germans in front of Herleville. Pt Jewell and Pt Veal and myself, all who were left out of our post. Jewell and self slightly wounded. At first had grave doubts as to Germans intentions, but afterwards treated with fair amount of kindness. Lt Armstrong, Lt Rigby and some more men also taken. Had meal of water and German bread. Entrain for Cambrai. Arrive 3am absolutely done up.

19th – 23rd August 1918: Confined at Cambrai. Had wound dressed and injection against blood poisoning. Air raids day and night, food fair, and staff considerate.


23rd August 1918: Entrain Cambrai for Karlsruhe. Route through Douai, Lille, Brussels, Cologne, Frankfurt, Heidelberg to Karlsruhe. Pass along the valley of the Rhine. Scenery pretty. Some Belgian travellers on train kind to us, and gave us drinks and sandwiches, and offered to lend us money if we needed it. Had an enormous feast in the guardroom at Cologne, fish, cabbage, potatoes and coffee for six costing 106 marks (£5).

25th August 1918: Arrive Karlsruhe and taken to the Reception House and incarcerated there for four days, not allowed out of room. Got very miserable.

29th August 1918: Arrive at camp, a few minutes walk from the house, along with English and French officers, some of whom looked very dilapidated. Camp very full of officers, English, Scottish, Irish, French, Italian, South African, Australian, Canadian

1st September 1918: ‘Big day’ at the dining room. Meat for dinner, piece about the size of a penny

2nd September 1918: Issue of more Red Cross food

3rd September 1918: Same routine. Wild excitement caused by the escape of Canadian Flying Officer. Special roll call.

9th September 1918: Bought a pipe for 17 marks and had first smoke of a pipe since captured. The room drew an unclaimed parcel containing luxuries, including a piece of soap each, which is a great windfall for us, as this necessary piece of toilet unprocurable here. The best day we have had since falling into hands of Fritz.

13th September 1918: Rained heavily most of the day. Air raid this morning

16th September 1918: Very hot. Sick all day, lying down. Temperature up, retired to bed

21st September 1918: Feeling okay again. Usual routine 21st-29th: got up, washed, went to bed

17th October 1918: Left Karlsruhe for Koln arriving 2am. March to Lager (old barracks), pass the Cathedral. New camp, things not working too well. Half the officers down with Spanish grippe, two deaths. One and McDonald (airman) try to escape over the wires, latter shot and hung on wires for two hours. Fireman badly injured in trying to rescue him.

17th October – 8th November 1918: Food has been very short during this time, as no parcels have been coming through. We have been very hungry at times, and the bread which we once despised is now looked upon as a luxury.

8th November 1918: During the past few days we have been in a very unsettled state owing to the Armistice. News has eagerly looked for by us all, and we are now hourly expecting to hear that it has been signed.

12th November 1918: All excitement amongst us ‘Gafangeners’ during the past few days. News of startling events keeps filtering through. Papers are verboten, but by the bribe of a piece of soap to sentries, workmen etc, they got in. Grub has been very scarce since our arrival in Koln. We have been on Bosch food most of the time, and it has left us all very weak. Prices in the canteen have been exorbitant. A few sweets which you could buy for 3d [pence] cost 5/- [shillings].

13th November 1918: The greatest day since capture. Received first Aussie Red Cross Parcels. The sight of Swallow & Ariels factory on the box of biscuits was almost too much for us. The parcels caused more of a stir than the signing of the Armistice.

14th November 1918: Had splendid breakfast, bacon, sausage etc. Allowed out for a walk this afternoon. The people seemed friendly towards us. Walked along the banks of the Rhine. Visited the Cathedral, one of the best known in Europe. Several German officers saluted us. This is a contrast to a week ago when we were compelled to salute them.

18th/19th November 1918: Out in the town ad lib. All restrictions removed. See part of the German Army coming back from the front. The city is beflagged, and the troops are given flowers and get a fair welcome home, but there is not an uproarious demonstration.

21st November 1918: Boarded the ‘Rex Rheini’ at Cologne for Rotterdam


23rd November 1918: Arrived at Nijmegan in Dutch waters, and had a great reception. Billeted with a Dutch gentleman. Treated royally by him and his wife.

25th November 1918: Go into Rotterdam and have a look around. Lots of Tommies arriving and embarking. See a few Australian prisoners, all have had a rough time.


28th November 1918: Arrive at Hull and get a great reception. All the steamers hooted their sirens. The Kings message read to us by a Naval officer. Wonderful enthusiasm all the war. One would think we won the war.

29th November 1918: Arrive London, medically boarded and get a month’s leave

16th January 1919: Leave London for Weymouth to sail boat for Aussie.

The following is a copy of the rough draft of the Herleville operation of 18th August 1918 written in Germany and sent to Lt. Col Wiltshire C.O. of the 22nd Battalion, whose reply follows.

Advance through heavy artillery and machine gun fire; 2. Casualties before going 100 yards; 3. After going about 250 yards, had Sgt Dolan, L/Cpl Jackson and two me left; 4. Joined forces with Company Headquarters under Lieut. Westaway in shell hole (Vanslow and Kelly badly wounded); 5. Lewis Gun worked by Sgt Dolan knocked out of action; 6. Fire all rifle grenades at enemy; 7. Fire flares for artillery support, and our S.O.S. No response; 8. Corporal (wounded in leg) from Heffernan’s post came into shell hole and reported Heffernan killed and the post scuppered; 9. Germans work down hedge on our right front and throw stick bombs but cannot reach us; 10. Sgt Dolan made an attempt to get back but killed just as he got out of the shell hole; 11. Enemy ‘pineapple’ us and kill Lieut Westaway and afterwards Kelly; 12. Self and Veal, wounded Corporal from Heffernan’s post, and Jewell left alive. Vanslow badly hit, and four dead in the post. 13. German NCO walked out of hedge and I surrendered the post to him consisting of self (slightly wounded), Corporal from Heffernan’s post (wounded), Jewell (slightly wounded), Bartlett (Company Hqrs), Veal and Vanslow (badly wounded); 14. The position we attacked was very strongly held by the 65th Prussian regiment who greatly out-numbered us. After capture six machine guns were counted along high ground and foot of hedge in front of our objective.

Reply from Lt.Col ARL Wiltshire, December 1918, Paris

Dear Mallinson,

I have received your letter and the account of the Herleville operation from your point of view. It coincides very clearly with accounts we had from wounded survivors who regained our line.

The whole stunt was hopeless from the start – paucity of men, insufficiency of barrage and a too extended front. I made the strongest representations to Higher Authority on the matter, and then, receiving orders to ‘carry on’, did so.

It would not have been right for me at the time to let you or any of your men know these facts. Now that is all over I can mention them to you privately.

If you see Armstrong I would like to you to tell him that I very much appreciate the way you both tackled the task that morning. Regarding being captured – had I been there myself I would probably have acted the same in face of the circumstances.

I was sorry to hear of the death of so many brave fellows – especially Westaway and Bregenzer.

Thank heaven it is all over now.

Yours sincerely, (signed) A.R.Wiltshire


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