Letters & Diaries: By Date

22nd-battalionMany of the soldiers that served in the First World War captured their thoughts and experiences in letters to love-ones back at home, as well as in diaries or notebooks while on active service. The following extracts, published on this commemorative website in chronological order 100 years on to the day that they were written, are from men that served in the 22nd Battalion and donated by their families to libraries such as the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne. These extracts help to provide a more personal insight into the events of the Great War alongside the more factual unit diaries and individual service records.

Alternatively click on the following link for a listing of the contributing soldiers from the 22nd Battalion or on their name below to read their complete collection.

Letter & Diary extracts, posted on the centenary of their writing:

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    POW in Germany

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

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

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. One would think we won the war.”

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.”

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.”

21st November 1918: “Boarded the ‘Rex Rheni’ at Cologne for Rotterdam.”

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.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:          17th November 1918 – St. Vaast

“Advance to the Rhine: the 6th Bgde will be prepared to move by train to Le Cateau area on or after the 19th Nov.”

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    POW in Germany

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.”

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.”

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].”

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.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:          2nd November 1918: [letter from Capt. Rodda to Mrs Braithwaite]

“I, who am proud to be able to say was counted amongst Billy’s friends, want you to know something of what we thought of him in our Battalion. A big, strong, forceful man, a magnificent officer, brave to recklessness, generous and kind hearted, he won the admiration and love of every officer and man in the Battalion. He was the idol of his Company – his last words were truly typical of him – those of encouragement to his men and of utter disregard for himself – he indeed died a soldier’s death. I trust I may someday be able to call and see you – I feel I cannot adequately express my feelings in a letter. I mourn the loss of the best friend I ever had and the finest man I ever knew. Yours very sincerely, Harold Rodda, Capt.”

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    POW in Germany

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.”

17th Oct 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.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:            3rd October 1918 – Beaurevoir

“The 22nd and 23rd Battalions will attack under a barrage at 6am on 4th October and capture line. The 22nd Battalion attacks on the left; 23rd on the right; British troops attack on the left of the 22nd and will take Ponchaux and Beaurevoir. D & C Coys will jump off from their present frontage. A Coy will jump off behind D Coy and leap frog through to final objectives. Dress – Battle Order – Greatcoat rolled into WP Sheet and attached to belt – 2 bombs, 220 rounds of SAA – 2 water bottles filled, 24 hours ration, plus 24 hours iron rations.”

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    POW in Germany

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

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

13th Sept 1918: “Rained heavily most of the day. Air raid this morning”

9th Sept 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.”

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

2nd Sept 1918:“Issue of more Red Cross food.”

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

29th Aug 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.”

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

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    23rd August 1918 – POW in transit

“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).”

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    19th – 23rd August 1918 – Cambrai (POW)

“Confined at Cambrai. Had wound dressed and injection against blood poisoning. Air raids day and night, food fair, and staff considerate.”

Lieutenant R MALLINSON                    18th August 1918 – Herleville

“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.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:            8th August 1918 – Villers-Bretonneux

6th Brigade Battle Orders: 2nd Division attacking; 7th Bgde on right, 5th Bgde on left, 6th Bgde in support; 2nd Canadian on right flank, 3rd AIF on left; 5th AIF will carry on after 2nd Div. has carried the green line. Tanks – low flying aeroplanes will cover their movement. 6th Bgde responsible for the collection of prisoners – also stop any battle stragglers and to send them back immediately to the firing line. Lists of all such men to be forwarded to Bgde HQ.

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         17th May 1918 – Ribemont

“It pays to wear and Australian hat these days. I think an Australian will always get a welcome in Picardy. The French people look upon the Australians as the people that kept the Bosch from Amiens.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         16th April 1918 – Dernancourt

“The battalion are once again in the line so little Willie is having a rather excellent run at the present moment. What do you think of Fritz attacking the positions we were in up north 5 days after we moved down here. The French are very disgusted at the British. It pays to wear an Australian hat these days. We will have to be lucky to lick the old Kaiser now. If only the Tommies had stuck to their places all would have been well but a retirement of 36 miles in 36 hours seems to be a rather hurried rear-guard action. It was a rout and in fact the British Army’s name is mud. They are fighting better up north but the whole show at present is absolutely critical and not much different to the early days of 1914. To think the lives lost in the Somme to have been thrown away for nothing. Positions won by continuous fighting for months lost in a few hours by a mob (nothing else) of panic stricken Englishmen.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         9th April 1918 – Dernancourt

“I think I told you my views of a London air raid. They are humorous when you see people tearing about on the slightest rumour. I think one could stand one of those things every day. We get them on any fine day we are here and it is interesting to watch Fritz’s giant planes come over. There is always the chance of seeing one come down although I will say that when a bomb lands close it is not the nicest thing in the world.

As you say some days the War looks like being over soon but I believe since I got down here that we are in for a fairly sticky time for the next few months. I am still at the transport and the battalion are having a quiet run though very uncomfortable. Laying in the mud for four days is not the most pleasant occupation especially with rain all day and the necessity for keeping down so as not to get shot and always the likelihood of the fearful Hun trying to come and take you home with him. However the Hun is up against something harder to shift now than he had at the start.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         7th April 1918 – Dernancourt

“We are now down where the Hun has made his great effort. You may read about the wonderful resistance of the English Tommy but in my honest opinion some of them are much better hands at long distance running than they are at fighting.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         27th March 1918 – La Basse Ville

“One of the bravest men it has been my experience to meet died this morning. A shell lobbed in his post and blew his left foot off and knocked both his legs about very bad. He was conscious at the time and died at the RAP. He was wonderful, he said it was no good, had a cigarette and we gave him a whiskey but he died all the same. His name is Harry Parsons and he had just obtained his commission a few months ago. If you ever meet any of his relatives tell them he was absolutely the bravest lad I ever knew.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         14th October 1917 – Writing his account of Broodseinde, 10 days previous

On the night of 2nd I had just gone to bed when I was sent for and told to go up to the line and take Billy Woolf’s place as he had been wounded. It was a rotten re-entry into the war and I rode through Ypres about 2 o’clock in the morning with the wind right up. I then got into the area where shell drops now and again which caused me distinct uneasiness after just five months absence. However in the end I reached BHQ and saw the CO and get orders for the stunt and found myself in command of C Coy. I had three others with me Jacky Kohn a fine little chap, Tales from Hampton who is a good man and Beckingsdale who has turned out to be a complete washout. We had 24 hours before the show and during that time Fritz gave us a fairly rough time so that by the time for the show came I was quite accustomed to the blasting of the shells. We got out on our jump off tape which was situated in our front line at 4 o’clock and our barrage was not to open till 6am. We soon had the Coy ready and then all we had to do was to sit down and wait. Things were fairly quiet until 5.30 when Fritz opened up for half an hour with the most intense bombardment that I think is possible. I was laying in a shell hole with my Batman and three runners and I think that a shell landed on every part of the lip of the hole. I was quite certain I would not get out of it alive and so was everybody else. My word, we were waiting anxiously for our barrage to open. I was buried twice in that half hour and have never been 1/100 so frightened in my life before. It was glorious when our guns opened up 2 minutes late but so great had been the strap that Fritz had given us that I thought I and my band of heroes were all that were left of the Battalion, but they rose up from everywhere and the show had started. We very soon ran into Huns and until we reached our objective (1,000 yards away) ours was the 1st objective. I never had such an enjoyable time. Fritz’s barrage was preparatory to an attack he was going to lodge against us. Imagine his surprise when ours opened up but just as he was thinking of coming against us we were on him. Well if the Germans we met on the 4th are a fair sample of what we have against us we are certain to win this war. They are a craven lot of brutes. As soon as they saw we were a force they either up with their hands or rushed off to Berlin. The Blockhouses were frightful death traps to them, a couple of bombs in the back door did very well. Our lads were in their element. I have seen Fritz’s bombed, bayoneted and shot. They were frightened. We reached our objective all right and the barrage stopped 200 yards in front whilst we dug in. Then it went forward and other battalions went over us to go on to the 2nd objective. I think the stories that accumulated about this show will have to wait. It was funny. You would see a bunch of Germans rushing down with their hands up and Billgims ratting him for souvenirs. I had no time because I had to get a place for our people to dig in and generally act the ass. However we dug in alright and until about noon of the 4th all was quiet but then for 18 hours he gave us hell with his artillery and it was also raining and I was wet through. We being in here for two days and were relieved but came back to support with plenty of rain and no place to live but in the mud. We were all absolutely done and imagine our feelings when we got orders to return to the line and do another hop over. I had the remnants of B, C & D Coys and we did our small job all right but our left copped it. We then had to wait another night until relieved spent a night in support and finally got out of the line at 2am on the 12th. For a hard experience and absolutely awful time I do not thinks that mine for 10 days could be beaten. I had so many escapes that it makes one wonder how it is that anyone could possibly live. However the great majority weathers the storm and only the unlucky ones get knocked. The conditions at the end were awful, always over your ankles in the mud and slush. Sometimes above your knees and the men live in this for nine days with constant shelling and in our last position plenty of sniping.

Our future movements are uncertain but they cannot be worse than they were last time. Little Frank Kellaway, son of Rev Kellaway of Northcote was killed. I was frightfully sorry as he was absolutely as fine a boy as you could possibly meet. He got a MC at Pozieres. I think we are just about finished stunts for the year and we should get through the winter alright with the shelling it takes a great many to hurt anyone. It is rather a compliment to get a Coy to take over and I do not think I messed things up so that I think that the powers that be still smile upon me. Things lately seem to make me think this war is reaching the end. I thinks that if it does not end soon the German soldiers will chuck in the sponge. He is no soldier. You should see the ground we have taken from him. Three ridges which if he had any stomach at all he should have held. Where he had us at the disadvantage we have him now and I think that if we are spared for the next twelve months that things will be working themselves out so that we will all be home once again.

Capt. WJ CAWTHORN:                            30th September 1917: Broodseinde battle orders briefing:

Operation: On a day to be notified, 1st Anzac, simultaneously with Corps on each flank will continue its advance. On the 2nd Division front the 6th Brigade attack on the right, 7th Brigade on the left. Before midnight prior to the attack the 22nd Battalion in support will change places with the 23rd Battalion in the line. The 22nd will carry and consolidate the Red Line. The Blue Line will be captured by the 24th Battalion on the right and the 21st Battalion on the left after passing through the 22nd. The Battalion will attack on a 4 Company frontage, each Company on a Platoon frontage. The 3rd Platoon of each Coy will be moppers up.

Artillery: At zero hour a barrage will be put down 150 yards in front of our front line. At plus 3 minutes it moves 200 yards at the rate of 100 yards every 4 minutes, thence to the Red Protective Barrage (200 yards beyond the Red Line), it moves 100 yards every 6 minutes. At plus 130 minutes it moves 100 yards every 8 minutes, finally resting on the Blue Protective Barrage (200 yards beyond the Blue Line). One smoke round per gun will be fired when the Barrage reaches each of the Protective Lines. A number of Batteries of FA, at the disposal of the Divisional Commander, can be switched on to any point holding up the attack, on particulars being furnished.

Consolidation: About 150 yards behind the Red Protective Barrage, shell holes are to be linked up. If sufficient men are not available to complete a continuous trench, sections of trench are to be dug so that a continuous line may be completed later.

2008 Private R SMITH:                            29th August 1917 – Recuperation, London

“I am properly fed up, we have been waiting since 14th of this month for the boat to go and it has not gone yet and I think we will be lucky if it goes by the middle of next month. Some of our chaps and some Yanks were having an argument one day and one of the Yanks said ‘well we’ve come over to finish the God darn war for you, and do what you could not God darn well do’. So one of the Australians let out and punched him right between the eyes and knocked him out and said ‘take that and you are the first ____casualty’. There are a lot of big chaps in the Yank army, but they are the first to come and would be the pick of their lot, but their sailors are a lot of weeds they do not come anywhere near the British Jack tar.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             22nd July 1917 – Recuperation, London

“Last Saturday I went up to London and went for a walk down towards Buckingham Palace and I saw a big crowd and the King was going to present some VC’s and a policeman said that I could go inside so I went in. He gave out 32 VC’s and Australians got 6. There were eight people there to receive the VC that their sons had won but were killed. After the King had finished he came over and had a little talk to us all, he asked me how my leg was if it was healed up and if I was fitted with an artificial leg and when I would be going back to Australia, and asked me where and when I was wounded and said that I must have had a bad time to be in hospital for so long. There were about a dozen generals following the King and they stopped and asked me a few questions (FM French, Sir William Robertson, Lord Derby, Prince Louis of Battenberg was amongst them) and I can tell you I was glad when they went.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             18th July 1917 – Recuperation, London

“A party of us went to Windsor castle yesterday and we had a good look around. After we had finished looking round the castle we went into one of the big halls and had some tea and cakes and Princess Alice came along and poured out our tea and had a little talk with each of us and when we were going out she gave us a postcard from the King and Queen.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                        On leave in England

15th July 1917: Saw the family in Leeds

14th July 1917: Saw match between Australian Army and English Army at Lords Cricket Ground. Took train to Leeds

12th July 1917: Arrived in Southampton and went to London

8th July 1917: Horse fell through the road and was buried alive

2nd Lieutenant Filmer:                           12th July 1917 – Letter from PM Kirkpatrick, Town Clerk, Hamilton, Scotland, 12th July 1917, to address unknown in 2nd Lieut. Filmer’s home town in Byaduk

“We are all very much grieved at his death occurring as it did so very soon after his visit. He was a fine young man and it is hard to think of such gallant young men being wiped out as is recurring daily.

We are all suffering for each other in this Great War and can assure you that this country looks with great pride and honour to her colonies for the great and valuable assistance and the true patriotic spirit which has been shown. We feel here sometimes that our patriotism lacks the enthusiasm of our colonies, but great things have been done and will be done to end this terrible struggle, and we shall remember with feelings of love and admiration the grand things achieved by our colonies.

Kindly accept from this Municipality our heartfelt sympathy with all friends of Lieut. Filmer whose death we mourn and whose memory we cherish as binding the towns of Hamilton in more close ties than ever.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             8th July 1917 – Hospital, London

“Well I am now back at Southall [2nd AAH] again now, we have finished at Brighton and there are two boats coming back to Australia about next week and they are full up now so I will have to wait till the next one is leaving. I have got my leg and have been walking on it, but it hurts me, so I will have to get it fixed up, then nothing can stop me from the next boat. There was another big air raid on London yesterday and they done a terrible lot of damage. We were all laying out on the grass in front of the hospital when we heard the anti-air guns open out and we knew what was doing and we could see about fifteen of them quite plain with shells bursting all round them and of the Taubes came quite close to the hospital flew around a while then went back. It seems that the Germans can just come over here when they like and go as they like it is a shame the way they are killing the women and the poor little kiddies. We heard that some of our mail has been sunk and I did not get any from you last by last mail so I will be a long time without a letter, then our mail going to Australia that left here at the end of May that has been sunk too so you will not get two photos that I sent you, that we had taken at our workshop at Brighton, but never mind I will be coming home soon now.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         11th May 1917 – Hospital, London

[Account of Bullecourt] “Here I am [3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth] and very pleased too. I am suffering from five small wounds in my right upper arm and a small one in my left forearm but I was never better in my life. They are practically all right now, and I was hit about 4.15am on May 3rd. I will try and give you some idea of our show which believe me, was no good. I had told you in my previous letter that we were in for a hop over and it duly came to hand. Our battalion’s job was to occupy a certain section of the Hindenburg Line between Bullecourt and Riencourt and then go further in about 280 yards and take possession of a sunken road. The 21st battalion were to go and take Hendecourt. Our line was a railway embankment about 1,200 yards from the Bosch line and to start off we had a tape laid about 500 yards from his wire. We moved up from Favreuil about 7 o’clock in the evening of the 2nd and reached the railway embankment at 2.45am and moved straight out to our Jump off mark. We had not got 50 men into position and lying down before the gentle Hun turned on a searchlight and of course that was the finish. Flares went up and he immediately started off with trench mortars and machine guns. However, eventually we got our men out into 4 waves and had them lying down until zero time at 3.45am. By 3.25 approx. his batteries started their tune and for 20 minutes we lay in shell holes whilst around us were falling ‘minnies’, which were big trench mortars with explosions like the end of the world, ‘pineapples’, a sort of aerial torpedo, machine gun bullets and every class of German shell from the highest to the pip-squeak both high explosive and shrapnel. All this time Willie was trying to push his tummy further and further into the earth. All we had to do was lie there and wait for something to turn up. We lost a good few here, but when you realise the amount of iron that was flying through the air it is really marvellous how few got hurt. At 3.45 zero time our barrage started and that was goodoh. It really is wonderful, a show like this. We had all Fritz’s machinery going then ours started. Talk about noise. No use trying to speak, what with Hun’s fireworks display of rockets, the smell of the explosives and the dust and all to start with in the dark space before dawn, it was uncanny. By this time, all our waves and those of the 21st were mixed up. However we got to the 1st and 2nd trenches and some parts had Huns in and others were Australians and talk about mix up. You couldn’t imagine it. One minute would be quiet and then you would see some speedmaster bombs coming through the air and you would know that you were being shown the way out. Then we would push him along with our gentle Mills which is five times better bomb than the German one and so it went on until he was gradually pushed out of our show. I did not see any more of the show as I had had  enough then! I got a piece of HE in my left arm on the way over and a bit bruised on my heel. The speedmaster had caught my right upper arm so I decided to go home as I had my share. I could see that Fritz still had both villages but I could use neither of my arms so did not see the force of staying. But when I went to go back I nearly changed my mind. In front of what had been his front line trench, machine gun bullets were whistling all ways and Fritz had also brought up his barrage nearer so that it looked extremely unhealthy. However I made up my mind to chance it and also had a brain wave. There were three Fritz prisoners there so I determined to take them out and use them as a bit of cover. I thought that perhaps their pals might stop firing but just the opposite. They picked us up and chased us 1,200 yards back. The only way to go was from shell hole to shell hole. I went first, I thought it was the best place. It took me about three hours to get back to the railway line and I left what remained of one Fritz behind as he was last out of one hole and the machine guns got him properly. From the railway I walked back to the dressing station at Vaux. Motor bus to Grevillers Hospital Train and I was at No.7 station in Boulogne at 6am on the 4th. Crossed over on the 7thto Dover and reached my present abode that night. Been here ever since. Have seen Arthur Mitchell who had had a rough time but is now improving, and Major Dooley, my O.C. is here also. He gets his Military Cross at Buckingham Palace tomorrow. I will tell you next time all about the hospital which is a fine place, and I am not surprised at patients marrying their nurses. You don’t know how lucky you are to get out of a show like our last one with a nice Blighty. I am in no hurry to go back. It is funny. I was not at all frightened in the stunt somehow I thought I would get a blighty and shells and bullets did not worry me at all. Other times, one I remember in support with perhaps a dozen shells a day I had the wind right up. Perhaps it is because two consecutive ones landed on the roof of the dugout. I thought that Providence would look after me and it did.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             2nd May 1917 – Brighton

“I am now down in Brighton and started work again. I see the Germans are playing up with the boats – they sank 54 in one week so it is really not safe to travel now. Everyone is busy digging up the ground and planting potatoes, you cannot get them in any of the restaurants or hotels in London.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         Le Sars sector (with 2nd Pioneers)

20th-22nd March 1917: “Repairing roads where no-man’s land had been. Spare time looked at J trenches very bad state. Too much smell. Saw aeroplane which had belonged to Rupert of Bavaria – [pilot] was taken prisoner, wounded.”

18th March 1917: “Making dugouts at Butte de Warlencourt.”

17th March 1917: “Working out on main road at top of ridge and saw Bapaume for first time still burning. See the flames at night 10 miles away.”

14th March 1917: “Working on destroyed roads where Germans have evacuated.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             16th February 1917 – London

“I have been to the theatre parties dinners and for taxi drives and in the tube railways. I am getting an expert on the moving stairs, the tubes are very handy you can get to any part of London in a short time. The people are very good to us chaps on crutches, if they see us walking along the street they want to call a taxi for us.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                          12th February 1917 – Le Sars sector (with 2nd Pioneers)

“Working out in front line on frozen ground after a march there of 5 miles there and back again.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                        3rd February 1917 – Le Sars sector (with 2nd Pioneers)

“Marched into Contalmaison from Fricourt.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC:         12th January 1917 – Somme

“It is very cold here. Impossible to obtain coal and other fire materials scarce, so we do not know what a fire is. Great writing but my hands are frozen. There is not much to tell you mum….daily routine with not much happening in between and we don’t get out of camp much for incidents to happen.

I will try and give you some idea of my present abode. Imagine the West Melbourne swamp for 10 miles. Then in the wettest and muddiest patch dig a trench, then make a dugout by digging out of the side of  the trench a couple of square feet and putting a piece of iron over the open space. I must mention the swamp must have shell holes in every available inch. Holes average diameter 6 feet. The highest temperature since I got up here should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 30 degrees [Fahrenheit]. Water in shell holes is frozen all the time and now I hasten to inform you it is snowing. All the time shells are going both ways. The dugout dodge is a great idea. The floor is a waterproof sheet. I am above the average height and cannot sit straight in it. It is about 2 feet high. It is built for three and the legs of any person will not fit in it so we are really sitting on the ground with our legs out in the snow or rain or just with a piece of iron over our heads. But enough of it. It is impossible to imagine the frightful ruin and devastation that is everywhere on this battlefield and war is No Good! Rotten idea I think.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           9th January 1917 – 2nd AAH, Southall, England

“Just a line to let you know that I have had another operation and doing well now. It was done on the 2nd they cut my leg all round the edge where it was not healing very quickly pulled it together and sewed it.”

861 L-Cpl GB Muir:                                   7th January 1917 – Flers sector

“We had to have a credit £5 on our book before we could get English leave. That is the reason I was so long getting my leave. [note: letters from other soldiers thank relatives for sending £5]

I think mother asked me something of Les Taylor [5th/22nd]. Well as far as I know he was killed at Pozieres on 5th Aug, being hit on the head by a piece of shell which penetrated his brain. He was one of the best mates I had since I came to France.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         31st December 1916 – Flers sector (with 2nd Pioneers)

“Working making new road instead of old near Ginchy. Had severe cold for about 3 weeks and did camp duty. Had a beer on Christmas Day. Had a holiday. Last day of year had a good bath and changed.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           28th December 1916 – 2nd AAH, Southall, England

“Just to let you know that I am having a great time. I had dinner at the hospital and it was very good, we had roast turkey, ham, peas, potatoes, then a pudding plenty of fruit nuts dates. I was nearly forgetting a small bottle of beer each.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           23rd December 1916 – 2nd AAH, Southall, England

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am doing well. The Sister at Wharncliffe sent me a nice Christmas box a big round tin of short bread and a box of 50 cigarettes, the short bread was lovely.”

Captain WM BRAITHWAITE, MC          21st December 1916 – France

“There is one lad in my Company who has a girl in Boulogne, three in England, and two in Australia. He writes to them in terms of undying affection and he really must have a very lively brain to keep each romance separate.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           14th December 1916 – Hospital, England

[transfer to 2nd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Southall] “This is not much of a hospital it has been an old school and very cold I got here about 2 o’clock I was downhearted at the dismal look of the place that I went to bed at 3 o’clock. A doctor or sister did not come, never came near me until next morning about 11 o’clock and my leg had not been dressed since Tuesday night (2 days). I can tell you I never felt so home sick in all my life as I have today. One never realises a good place until you leave it.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           8th December 1916 – Hospital, England

[talking about life in Sheffield] “There are women conductors on the trams, women drive milk carts, clean the shop windows and do the bill sticking on the hoardings and lots of other things. I suppose it will be same in Australia before long.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                           28th November 1916 – Hospital, England

“It is terrible about those hospital ships being sunk there were some sisters from this hospital on the Britannic and the Britannic was in Lemnos Island last Christmas she was one of the biggest ships afloat [sister ship of the Titanic, sunk by a mine on 21st November 1916]

2008 Private R SMITH:                           23rd November 1916 – Hospital, England

[letter to Phil, others were to mum] “It is marvellous how I am alive today as men were killed each side of me by the same shell so I am not a bit downhearted at losing my leg, although it is a pity it is off, but I never did expect to come through a war like this without getting hit sometime. Pozieres was just a hell, the trenches were full of killed Germans and our own as well we were falling over them in the dark, and they had been dead for days, so you can guess how they smelt, I never want to see anything like it again. Well I am addressing this letter to Normandy St, as there is no need to keep anything from my mother, as I am quite alright.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         Flers sector (with 2nd Pioneers)

23rd November 1916: “Working on railways making a station and unloading trucks.”

19th November 1916: “Left camp at 2pm to dig communication trench. Out there about 1 hour when we were spotted and shelled out. Got out knee deep in mud and home at 11pm.”

16th November 1916: “Went out on railway line behind front line. Fritz put over gas shells.”

14th November 1916: “Got up at 2am to carry water and rations to trenches a distance of about 4 miles. Stayed there all day giving out tucker to the boys as they came out of the line.

6.50am. Stunt going on. All artillery opened up together. About 4 minutes later heard machine gun fire, evidently enemy opposing first line. Air is thick with smoke and have all the noise of all our artillery behind us and enemy up in front. More machine guns opening out. Enemy putting over shrapnel. Our own artillery still firing. Plenty of machine guns in action as well as heavy stuff. 8.45am action closing and already wounded are coming past. 12am stunt over but still plenty of artillery and machine gun fire. Our men are coming out, mud from head to foot and some have had to abandon rifles, water-bottles and food to get out of the bogs. We took 3 lines, but had to retire to No.2 line of trench. Our company suffered 24 casualties and A Coy 26 in killed and wounded. We advanced to our position dug under shell and machine gun fire until orders came to withdraw. Most of our lads were binding up the wounded for 2-3 hours later.”

13th November 1916: “Our company left camp at 6pm but my boots were too bad [for me] to accompany them and I did camp fatigue.”

12th November 1916: “Went out to trenches to dig hop over trenches in no man’s land. Our own artillery were putting shells on us. Some of the trenches were knee deep in mud and dead lying all over the place. Were out from 2pm to 2am next morning.”

5th November 1916: “Working on destroyed roads and knee deep in mud. Had sheepskin vests issued.”

861 L-Cpl GB Muir:                                   2nd November 1916 – Flers sector

“It is almost impossible to move on the roads here without going over ones boots in mud and slush. I have seen troops moving out of the trenches one mass of mud from feet to head.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         30th October 1916 – Flers sector

“Left camp and marched to Longueval. Rained all day.”

861 L-Cpl GB Muir:                                   29th October 1916 – In billets, behind the Somme

“I came pretty near reaching my end a few days before we left the trenches [Ypres Sector]. I was on ration fatigue going up to the front line carrying a petrol tin of water in each hand when a shell lobbed at my feet and the explosion hurled me in the air. I can tell you it gave me a good shakeup and I was as deaf as a post for a couple of days but otherwise unharmed. One of the tins I was carrying was blown in half. The other could not be found.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                              24th September 1916 – Wharncliffe War Hospital, Sheffield

“I had hopes of being home for Christmas dinner but I do not think that I can as I have to stay in this hospital (Wharncliffe War Hospital Sheffield) where they fix artificial legs. One of the Army Medical men at this hospital was telling me that he saw a fellow with one of these legs and he said that you could not tell that he had an artificial leg and he could get about as well as anyone with two good legs so that is something to look forward to. There are a lot of us fellows here with legs and arms off. There are a good many Australians too.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         Move to Ypres sector

20th September 1916: Continued working on baths. Had a bath and clean clothing

19th September 1916: Working on baths in Ypres

15th September 1916: Left camp to work in trenches. Shelled with trench mortars during gas alarm and rain

12th September 1916: Left Montreal Camp and marched to Ypres. It looks like every house in for miles around has been shelled and knocked to pieces. A big city.

10th September 1916: Left Poperinghe and marched to Montreal Camp and had hot bath and clean clothing. First since leaving Neuve Eglise

2008 Private R SMITH:                              7th September 1916 – 26th General Hospital, Camiers

“Just a few lines to let you know that I have some bad news for you I have been under four operations with my leg and at the last they had to cut it off above the knee. It was either lose my leg or go under myself. But I am considering myself lucky that I got away from such a place as we were in. I am getting on alright now. The doctor said that I will soon be able to travel so that means that I will be going to England and then I have a chance of being back in Australia by Christmas.”

Lieutenant WGM CLARIDGE:                    10th August 1916 – Letter from No.4 London General Hospital, Denmark Hill (transferred to 8th Battalion)

“After your loving words [previous letter] I could not have turned coward, though God knows what we went through, was Hell itself. We just grit our teeth and go ahead and do our job. I am not going to tell a lie and say I wasn’t afraid because I was and who wouldn’t be with Death grinning at you all from all round and hellish 5.9 shells shrieking through the air and shrapnel dealing death all round. I don’t know how I stood it so long without breaking but…I knew you would be ashamed if I had played coward, so I kept on at the head of my platoon from Sunday night 23rdJuly till Tuesday afternoon. I wasn’t touched although I was buried three times. I was very thankful to get my wound as it got me out of the firing line for a rest. Australia may well be proud of the part its boys played in the taking of Pozieres and it was no light job for the Germans had made it a fortress as it is on a plateau had orders to hold it all costs. It was the first time they had come into close contact with Australians and by Heavens they won’t forget it. Our boys went straight at them with the bayonet, in perfect order, no mad rush, and no prisoners were taken and very few Huns got away, they were simply wiped out by our boys and we took the village and will continue to hold it. You can tell all people that Pozieres ranks with Gallipoli, so is that little ruined village in Picardy to the Australians and I am proud to have done my job and been wounded there. Your dear letter helped me through all the trials of the battle and I am very grateful to you for all your loving thoughts.

We heard the 1st and 3rd Brigades do their attack on Pozieres at 5am on the Sunday morning we were moved up to support. On Sunday night at 9 pm we were launched on an attack to clear all the Huns out of Pozieres and this we did with no trouble, he wouldn’t fight but just ran for it. All this time from 7am on Sunday morning we had been under shell fire. Early on Monday morning the old Hun lost his temper and began to throw things about and didn’t it rain shells, it wasn’t nice squatting in a crater hole and dodging them. We hung on there till Tuesday and then more shelling till 4pm when I got hit and so that ended the show as far as I was concerned. I had to stay there till 7pm no stretchers and no stretcher bearers and 73 other wounded.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             9th August 1916 – 26th General Hospital, Camiers

“Now I will tell you the different parts I got wounded: in the head, through the left shoulder and forearm, the left thigh broken and two wounds, a wound in the chest and another on the right leg, but I am getting on fine and there is no need for you to worry. PS Excuse the writing as I am laying down in bed.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                  8th August 1916 – Pozieres  

[Letter from brother Eric] “The sad news about Dock will have reached you long before this does, but in all probability you would have received his particulars. We were in the front trenches for a few days the first time and although Dock was buried several times he got out of it safely. He did some splendid work in those few days and for it was recommended for a DSO. After several days of comparative safety and quiet they went right up again and charged on the night of 4th August. Dock led the first half Battalion and was killed outright by the machine guns while crossing no-man’s land. His body was brought in from there and would be buried behind our original line. I saw him last in the afternoon before they went up. Two of us were left behind and Dock said he would be better pleased if I stayed back. He seemed then to have an idea that he wouldn’t get through and said one of us was enough to be in it.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         4th August 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Pozieres front line

“Followed up Infantry in charge and dug new communication trench up to the new line.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       4th August 1916 – Pozieres front line

“We had a few hours spell, and then had to assemble for the attack tonight. At 18:00 we moved up to attack but the Germans had a barrage of fire around us, we suffered heavy casualties and were held up, but at 21:15 we rushed to attack. We got safely to the first line driving the Hun out then our artillery lifted to their 2nd line, a few minutes later we rushed the second line, but our men were falling fast, for Fritz maintained a heavy artillery and machine gun fire. Eventually we reached the 2nd line, so after a few minutes of hand to hand fighting we cleared the line of them, capturing many prisoners, our artillery then put a barrage of fire around us, and then we dug in. Fritz counter attacked three times but our lads would not leave. At 04:00 [5th Aug] one of our own shells hit me in the jaw.” [Pte Findlay was evacuated wounded to England before returning to Australia and discharged in June 1917]

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       3rd August 1916 – Pozieres support, Sausage Valley

“We went into No-Mans land and dug a shelter trench [Jumping Off Trench] to attack from. Fritz heavily shelled us, we had a few casualties, it was very hard work for we had to complete it, it meant working hard all night, so by the time we finished we are completely knocked out.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                  31st July 1916 – Pozieres support, Sausage Valley 

“I just can’t write a letter at present but I must let you have a short note. We are out for a bit after the three most trying days and nights I have yet experienced. We go in again tomorrow night.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       31st July 1916 – Pozieres support, Sausage Valley

“We received reinforcements to build us up a bit. The smell and dead men about is awful for we cannot bury them.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             30th July 1916 – Hospital, Camiers

[letter from Sister Cunningham, 22 General Hospital, Camiers] “I am writing to let you know that your son Pte Smith, arrival at our hospital two days ago, he is quite badly wounded both legs and one arm and chest but is doing very well, and I do not think there is any doubt of his early recovery. He is much better today than when he came in.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         30th July 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Pozieres front line

“Digging communication trenches, artillery very heavy on this front. Saw sensational shelling of our artillery. [Shelling] On road by Huns. Working around Pozieres on new captured ground.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       29th July 1916 – Pozieres front line

“We dug in, but the Hun blew us out of it, for three days we were digging and carrying our chaps out, the 7th Brigade and half of our Brigade charged on the 28th. Our Bgde reached their objective but the 7th retired we are cut to pieces, hardly any men left, hanging on to our positions, our nerves are all gone, for we have had no sleep.

We had to leave for the support line and retire for we are cut to pieces, the boys, what is left of them are done, I am played out, and we did what we set out to do, so we are now having a rest behind the lines. We have over a 1,000 guns here, the din and row is awful, I shall be glad to get out of it.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         29th July 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Pozieres front line

“Out working, dead and equipment lying everywhere and destroyed German guns.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         28th July 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, heading to Pozieres

“Left for trenches, passed through Albert and camped at Contalmaison.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       26th July 1916 – Heading to Pozieres

“At 1800 we left the brick kilns for the firing lines eight miles. The Huns heavily shelled us heavily going in, it was an awful sight, dead men laying everywhere.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                   26th July 1916 – Heading to Pozieres

[Diary] “Got orders to get into fighting order. All valises etc to be left behind. With them I am leaving my diary, as it has been subject to no censorship regulations.”

[Letter] “Just a very short note written out in the open amid a good deal of bustle preparation on the eve of our entry into the big push. Our chance to prove ourselves has come at last – not for my part that I have been eagerly looking forward to it – but now that it has come I trust we may all prove ourselves worthy of the name of our troops made for Australia in their landing at Anzac. May God be with you all in your present anxiety for us both and may He bless us give us strength and courage to face all that may be ahead of us – and if it is Hiss Will may we be spared to return safe and sound to you all – and may the victorious peace for which we are all longing soon be ours.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                   22nd July 1916 – Lealvillers, Somme

“I am sorry I have so little in the way of news but it is impossible to say much at this stage. If it is our lot to do something here I hope and trust we may acquit ourselves as we will be expected to do with the confidence that is felt in us will not prove to be misplaced. We are naturally all conscious to come through this terrible business and to see a victorious peace – may we all be able to do our utmost to bring about that for which we are all so anxious and may we have the strength and courage to face all that may be ahead of us and prove ourselves worthy of the name that our men made for Australia in the landing at Anzac.”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:                21st July 1916 – Lealvillers, Somme

“I believe the 1st Division has gone into action and I fancy we shall be on their heels very shortly.” [Last diary entry: Sgt AW Bradley reported missing 5th August 1916]

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       7th July 1916 – Reserve Line, Bois Grenier

“Arrival of the 9th reinforcement.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                         1st July 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Bois Grenier

“Out at trenches, plenty of artillery and rain.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       29th June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“Three hundred of the Brigade are raiding at night, the largest to date. At 2400 the artillery opened up, and the Germans replied smashing the parapets. Our raiding party rushed the trenches with full vigour and the slaughter commenced, covered with blood and blackened faces the raiders return under heavy fire leaving the German trench with every German killed, their brains knocked out. The result was 100 Germans killed also two officers and we took six prisoners. Our casualties were eight killed and 17 wounded.

The 22nd Battalion have suffered the heaviest bombardment of any Australian Battalion; it has been 10 days and nights of bombardment.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             26th June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

[example of censoring that the Officers had to perform to the letters being sent home – this activity was one of their most tiresome of jobs]

“We are having a rough time in the trenches now, so far we had _________  _____ and a ________  _________ in B Company alone, and we have only been in a few days. There is one _________ ___________ _________ ________ deep and ________ feet wide a _________ _________ ________ came over and dug it up, and hundreds of smaller ones.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                      25th June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“Heavy German artillery. A great number of our chaps go away with shell shock. This is the fifth day of bombardment which has practically been continual. Trench raid arranged for the night.”

524 Private FC RUSSELL:                      23rd June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

Story from Ian Russell as recounted by his father Fred Russell, a Signaller with the 22nd Battalion, regarding events on 23 June 1916 near Armentieres:

“For about an hour and a half the shelling lasted and then gradually died down. The worst of it was during the last 10 minutes during which time one German gun kept pounding away at our position. We could hear the guns fire then the shell coming and then the crash of the burst somewhere about our lines. This was easily the worst sensation of all to hear the shell coming over and then to have it burst right overhead. 

During the bombardment our telephone line had been cut, so as soon as we could get out, McCormack and I set out to find the break and repair it. We had only gone out about 50 yards along the line and were up to our knees in long wet grass which covered old shell holes and barbed –wire, when the Hun opened up another bombardment more furious than the last. As we were without any cover or protection where we were we had to make a wild rush for the dugout again which we safely reached much to the relief of the chaps therein who were wondering if we had been caught by a shell. We were not exactly pleased to find out when we did get back that our trouble had been fruitless as we were still out of communication which meant we would be called out again to venture out to find it, a job we did not particularly relish. 

So when again the opportunity offered out we went along the  wire to repair breaks. This time we traversed over 200 yards along it repairing breaks and making it useable again when once again a bombardment started. This time we were well away from any cover at all , out in the middle of a grass paddock and the nearest cover a dugout about 150 yards away so we made a sprint for that. We made it safely. We later found our labours and scares had been rewarded and that communications had been  established.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                      23rd June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“Germans active with artillery, bombs, machine guns, we had casualties.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                  22nd June 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“At 4 o’clock heavy bombardment by enemy began very suddenly. Found all wires cut. Tried to get artillery retaliation. Shells bursting everywhere – heaviest bombardment I have yet experienced. Bombardment lasted ‘til 4.50. Fifty minutes of hell. No casualties in D Coy – 3 for battalion.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                        18th June 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Bois Grenier

“Air fights and saw church destroyed by artillery.”

2nd Lieutenant CF YEADON, MC:        17th June 1916 – Reserve Line, Bois Grenier

“What grand news about the Russians [Brusilov offensive on the Eastern Front] they seem to have more than making up from last year’s retreat in fact everything seems to be going on to our advantage and sometimes I do not think it will be very long before they [Germans] are trying to call for peace.” [This was a common sentiment in letters written at this time]

400 Private L HICKMAN:                        15th June 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Bois Grenier

“Heavy bombardment at night. Gas alarm.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                       10th June 1916 – 2nd Pioneers, Bois Grenier

“Went to see old 22nd Battalion.” [having been transferred to 2nd Pioneers]

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       6th June 1916 – In Reserve, Bois Grenier

“Australians raided three trenches, killed about 60 Germans, taking 3 prisoners.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       1st June 1916 – In Reserve, Bois Grenier

“Inspection by PM Hughes and Fisher, and Gen Birdwood.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                   1st June 1916 – In Reserve, Bois Grenier

“Inspection by Mr Hughes and Mr Fisher, with Birdwood, Legge and Johnson. Three cheers for Hughes, Birdwood and Australia, and all was over.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                             9th May 1916 – In Reserve, Bois Grenier

“Well I lent my tunic to one of our fellow that went to England on leave, so it will see England even if I don’t. They all had to get a lend of something off somebody else, as we cannot get new Australian uniforms they give us Tommies uniforms and we do not like them.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                       29th April 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“Germans gassed our left at Armentieres, we are provided with shrapnel proof helmets, weeping gas goggles and new respirators.”

Major MN MacKAY:                                   27th April 1916 – Front line, Bois Grenier

“Message came through of an attack on our left. Ordered putting on of gas helmets everywhere. Found them very awkward and hard to see clearly owing to the darkness. Could see no signs of gas along the front.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                        27th April 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“At 2200 Germans heavily shelled our line. Heavy casualties along the line.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                          19th April 1916 – On leave

“Went to Boulogne on leave for 2 days and saw the torpedoed Sussex in harbour, other boats sunk outside.”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:                17th April 1916 – Front Line, Bois Grenier

“You never in all your life seen such a place for rats there are millions of the brutes and into the bargain they are about the size of a bunny.”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:                10th April 1916 – Reserve Line, Bois Grenier

“Will have to write this letter under great difficulties as the blessed old barn we are in has been shelled so often that there is more daylight than roof on top and it has rained.”

305 Private AW FINDLAY:                        8th April 1916 – Reserve Line, Bois Grenier

“The Germans are heavily shelling our billets at Fleurbaix.”

400 Private L HICKMAN:                          28th March 1916 – Rejoining from hospital

“[with the] 9th Reinforcements 22nd Battalion” [2nd ADBD, Etaples]

400 Private L HICKMAN:                          24th March 1916 – Rejoining from hospital

“Arrived from England to Boulogne”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:                3rd March 1916 – Egypt

“We have been told yesterday that we would be sailing for France on the 20th of this month. Quite looking forward to it now – anything to get away from this desert.”

2669 Lance Corporal LW HENDERSON:  22nd February 1916 – Egypt

“Company split up; I am now in the 7th Battalion, 2nd Brigade as far as I know.”

2669 Lance Corporal LW HENDERSON:  1st January 1916 – Egypt

“Visit to the Citadel in Cairo. Explanation cannot convey the splendour of this place, it requires personal inspection.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:        28th December 1915 – Arrival in Egypt

“Arrive Tel-el-Kebir 7am. There is every sign of preparation for concentrating all or most of our forces in Egypt at this Camp. We arrive at our allotted ground but there are no available tents and we are forced to camp in the open.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:        19th December 1915 – Evacuating Gallipoli 

“2am, embarked in small cutters at pier. The embarkation was carried out in perfect order and from the pier we were conveyed in cutters to trawlers; during this short trip a man was hit in our boat by a stray bullet. We were conveyed by trawler – after transferring our casualty to the Hospital Ship – to Imbros reaching our Camp after an hours march at 4am.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:        18th December 1915 – Evacuating Gallipoli

“6pm evacuation. We left the trenches with half Company at 6pm. Every man had his feet wrapped in blankets and the trenches and footways had been sprinkled with loose earth so that the movement of troops would be a silent as possible. From Bridges Road we turned left into Shrapnel Gully, passing one of our own cemeteries on our way; it cut everyone to the heart to leave these Gullies and Hills that had taken so much of our blood to capture and then to hold, and, although our Battalion had not crossed no-man’s land, still we had buried a great number of our men in that cemetery.

From Shrapnel Gully we turned to our right into Anzac Cove where thousands of troops were waiting to be taken off.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         17th December 1915 – Arrival in Lemnos

“Arrived in Lemnos harbour 8am. Harbour just crowded with shipping.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:          16th December 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Wonderful feeling of relief and freedom after I had a few minutes on board ship.”

861 Lance Corporal GB MUIR:            Retelling of three months in front line Gallipoli

“I had only been there about an hour when I got my first shot and so settled my first Turk. I got a great surprise to see 4 or five more rush out and pick him up and carry him off. I was nipping almost the whole time I was on Gallipoli and I can safely say that I accounted for a good many Turk.

The living in the trenches was anything but pleasant but of course one had to put up with it. The worst time I think was about a month before we left. We were on half rations for about three weeks and practically without water and then a week on quarter rations and less water. It was owing to the rough weather that we had to take half rations, the sea being too rough to land supplies. It was during our half ration month that we had snow which it made it all the worse for us.

I have seen some never to be forgotten sights and I don’t like writing of them. It was a daily occurrence to see men blown to pieces, but the most marvellous thing of all I think was how one sometimes got missed. The closet shave I had was from a bullet and it was a shave too. It passed between my right ear and my head and cut a passage through my hair and just broke the skin on top of my ear. It was too close to be pleasant I can assure you. This is only one incident. There are dozens more I could tell you of if I had more time.

There was no water fit for drinking on our little bit of the peninsula we held and so it all had to be shipped.

The withdrawal from Gallipoli was without doubt a great feat and carried out well. The whole scheme was well planned and was tried a week before we really left in this way. We were ordered not to fire a shot and not to show ourselves in any way. We did this. On the third night there were several parties of Turks ventured over to explore our trenches. Well we let them come to within 15 yards of us and then opened fire with machine guns and rifles. After fooling him is this way it is no doubt that when we were finally leaving he thought we were trying the same dodge on him again.

I went for about a month at one time without a wash. As for washing clothes, this was a thing unknown to us in the trenches. I wore a shirt for about three months before I got a change and I can tell you it is not a very pleasant way of living. We were lucky if we got 6 hours sleep in the 24 and often got none at all.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         1st December 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“The Turks are dropping very heavy metal a little to our right front – you can hear them coming through the air – they are very close and are going into the Pine where the 23rd, 24th and Light Horse are. After two hours of continual shelling our trenches are strewn with pieces of shell and shrapnel. The 23rd, 24th and LH were changing over when the bombardment commenced, they have suffered severely and have roughly two hundred casualties. The greater number of casualties occurred through the blowing in of an underground communication trench, one platoon was practically wiped out; we wonder why the Turks did not follow up with an attack.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         29th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“The saddest day that I have spent on the peninsula. Brown (sic) – a gentleman in every sense of the word.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         27th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Heavy shelling by Turks; 3 men buried in dugout.”

2008 Private R SMITH:                         14th October 1915 – 3rd/22nd arrival in Egypt

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am getting on alright. The reinforcements that came with us for the 21st, 23rd and 24th Battalions have gone from Egypt but the 22nd were left behind, sixty six went to Cairo on guard for a week, and eighteen went to Heliopolis hospital on guard and another eighteen went to another Hospital. I went with another guard to Gizeriah Palace that is another big hospital.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         12th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“The truth of the matter is that the realities of war have melted away the surface shyness of men about religion. As a censor I can testify to the real part of religion bears in a soldier’s life – it was shown in the innumerable letters home I have read in which the writers ask for the prayers of the relatives or express their trust in God.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         9th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Fleas, mud and dirt everywhere. Lot of shrapnel fell at door of dugout.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         8th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“608 Pte P. Gaunt C Coy, buried in in Beach Cemetery.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         4th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“During the night the Turks had connected the gap in the barb wire entanglements and had made improvements on their left. The official instruction not to fire, as a number of Turks wish to come in and surrender; it was however only a ruse on the part of the Turks to silence our fire while they strengthened their entanglements. Our respect for the Turk as a soldier greatly increased.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         4th October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Turks giving us beaut – biggest bombardment to date. Man hit in front of me – bullets and bits of shrapnel flying.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         1st October 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Buried in Shrapnel Gully cemetery: 1558 Pte Albert Johnson; 65 Pte GA Newbound; 889 Pte FH Randall. Piece of shrapnel fell by our dugout.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         28th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“[Turks] Bombarded our position – 127 shells near us. Parachute with explosive on it – new idea.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         24th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Terrific artillery bombardment. Buried 501 Pte Fraser DD, B Coy, bullet wound died today.” [Service record shows Pte Fraser seriously wounded, bullet wound to head, 24th September, died of wounds 10th October]

Major MN MacKAY:                              20th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“We had our first experience of heavy bombardment a few days ago. I can’t say I enjoyed it – nor do I think anyone else did. It is just marvellous how little damage it really did. The fellows were very fine while it was on, and spent most of their time crying as to who had more than their share of bread and jam and complaining about the tea getting cold. It just happened at tea time, which was of course very inconsiderate of it.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         18th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Buried 1217 Pte WH Watkins, D Coy; 151 Pte AJ Elliot, A Coy”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         15th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“Buried 1106 Pte WS Samways. Father Frank W, Gt Wishford, near Salisbury, Wilts. Bomb at night; buried 1690 Pte AT Hotham [died from wounds 13th Sept].”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:            14th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“The air becomes thick with shells hissing on their voyage of destruction.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         13th September 1915 – Front line Gallipoli

“First death in the Coy (D). Private Hotham shot through the head on No 2 post. He had just gone on duty, the bullet passing through a sand bag first.”

1656 Sergeant AW BRADLEY:             8th September 1915 – Arrival in Gallipoli  

“It’s marvellous when you look around you and see the steep hills in the vicinity of the landing place how are boys landed at all.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:          7th September 1915 – Front line trenches

“Visited all our Battalion trenches with Major Smith. Bullets, shells, snipers – 2 shots. Wonderful network of trenches – saw whole position with periscope.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:          6th September 1915 – Heading to the front line trenches

“Asiatic Annie firing on beach – shrapnel sending us all into our dug out every now and again.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         6th September 1915 – Heading to the front line trenches

“To reach our portion of the trenches we had to climb up ‘Bridges Road’ with full kit: never again do I wish to make that climb under the same conditions; we had to rest three times before reaching the top, how this ridge of hills was ever captured is beyond my imagination.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         5th September 1915 – Landing at Anzac

“We landed about 1am and formed up on the beach at the foot of a very steep hill or cliff which seemed to run almost into the sea, there being practically no beach. We were completely fatigued by the time, 2am, we reached our camping ground, many men falling out on the way up the gullies from the beach. Although weary from fatigue it was well on to morning before I could settle down to sleep; the continual ping ping of the rifles seemed to be very close, many bullets striking the opposite side of our gully.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:         5th September 1915 – Landing at Anzac

“Saw the trenches for the first time – & understood what the Australians did – ‘the impossible’ wonderful fighters they are, spirits of men wonderful.”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:          4th September 1915 – Approaching Anzac Cove

“First sound of guns – shells from ships – 2 tugs, man in our barge hit with bullet – first time under fire”

Captain Chaplain TP BENNETT:          2nd September 1915 – Arrival at Lemnos

“Just received news of the Southland being sunk – left an hour after us. How near we have been to home. Have just heard that the Brigadier is dead. Southland has not been sunk – two boatloads of men lost.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:         2nd September 1915 – Arrival at Lemnos

“Arrived at Lemnos at 10am: beautiful land locked harbour, evidently very deep. The harbour is full of shipping of all tonnage mostly British; to reach our anchorage we passed a double line of Battleships and Cruisers, British on our port and French on our starboard; the entrance to the harbour is also securely mined and no shipping is allowed to enter or leave port.”

Lieutenant KS ANDERSON, MC:          29th August 1915 – Departing Egypt

“After two or three days of great preparation we marched from our Camp at 5pm on Sunday 29th August and entrained for Alexandria at 10pm. Before leaving Heliopolis all tents were struck; no man carried anything except for the bare necessities and a few private possessions; everything else was packed in his black kit bag and left at base. We must have presented a queer sight as we departed – each man, officers and men alike, carrying full equipment and every necessary article he possessed.”

2nd Lieutenant CF YEADON, MC:            1st July 1915 – Training in Egypt

“I am pleased to have had the chance of meeting French people, their style seems so much for making friends and not so rough and course as the average crowd of us Australians. Our boys are by far the roughest here when on leave, great drunkenness and knock the natives about more than the Tommies. But when our boys are on parade or trench digging they knock out the English Territorials. Their own officers are sent over to see our men take up a new position and entrenching it and cant our boys use the pick and shovel. On average we are bigger by a good deal than the Tommies and they are a bit jealous of us.”

2nd Lieutenant CF YEADON, MC :           26th June 1915 – Training in Egypt

“Now we are drilling very hard and having some hot and long marches a good few of our boys are getting knocked up but so far I am going strong. Last Saturday and Sunday we marched out over 20 miles and back, a total of 40 miles over the sandy deserts and it is very hot here in the day but the nights are almost cold and one has to use a blanket every night.”

Published as ‘news’ 100 years on to the day, follow the 22nd Battalion on the project website and via Facebook and Twitter

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