Brad Manera, Executive Manager of the ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park, Sydney, 7 August 2015
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: Welcome back everyone. We may have lost a few, but it is not surprising for a Friday afternoon, tummies full of scones and coffee. We now go into our final session for the day, in which we have Brad Manera, who is the Executive Manager of the Anzac Memorial at Hyde Park, talking on the August offensives on Gallipoli and their echoes in Australia. If you could join me in welcoming Brad. Enjoy the rest of the afternoon. [applause]
BRAD MANERA: Thanks very much. On 3 August 1915 a 27-year-old miner from Townsville arrived with a batch of reinforcements on Gallipoli with the 5th Light Horse and he, in my opinion, became one of Australia’s great authors, Ion Idriess. After four days on the peninsula - indeed today 100 years ago - he looked around, looked out of his dugout down Shrapnel Valley and said, ‘Of all of the bastards of places of the world this has got to be the biggest bastard of them all’. That really sums up Gallipoli in August.
It was a nightmare. The landings hadn’t gone well. Summer had stretched the combatants on both sides to the limit. Everybody was sick. It was hot. Nobody had enough water. It was just everything that could go wrong with the campaign had gone wrong on both sides.
What I would like to speak to you about for the next half an hour or so - until you start to throw things, perhaps - is a little bit about the operational course of August 1915. Then we will look at a couple of examples of Australian soldiers who fought in the August offensives and how their fate was communicated to their families back in Australia.
I work for the Anzac Memorial in Sydney. We are developing a collection. A recent addition to that collection was the documents associated with a fellow named Jack Harris. I will talk about Jack Harris as we go through. [image shown] In fact, this is Jack Harris. I think he’s the youngest Australian killed in action in the Great War.
QUESTION: How old is he?
BRAD MANERA: Have a guess.
BRAD MANERA: Doesn’t he look like he’s 12. He’s 15 years and 10 months old when he’s killed in action 100 years ago yesterday.
This is the form that his father signed to say ‘My son is old enough to serve in the Australian Imperial Force’ - in those days the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force.
I think Jack Harris is a really interesting example of young Australia. He’s born at the turn of the century. He’s full of enthusiasm. He’s a citizen of empire. His mother, Alphonsine Camille, was French born from a non-English speaking background; a migrant. Jack Harris’s middle names were Auguste Emile - a really interesting mix. He and his dad would fervently read news from the Front. They’d cut out little pieces of war news. He could not wait. He’s in a militia uniform, by the way. He’s a cadet under-officer.
Australia, in my opinion, was the most prepared nation for war in 1914. I don’t think they were prepared for that war, but they were prepared for war. We’d built a small arms factory at Lithgow in New South Wales. We’d built a Commonwealth government clothing factory to make military uniforms, and a Commonwealth government harness factory to make military belt equipment and all of the horse harnesses required for horse-drawn armies. We could clothe and equip and feed an army. We can’t do that today, but in 1914 we could form an expeditionary force.
We even had a trained population. In 1911 we had introduced conscription for 12-year-olds. So if you were a male within reasonable distance of a drill hall you had a compulsory military commitment from the age of 12 to the age of 26. And they loved it. Riffle shooting was the most popular sport in Australia.
When our politicians competing in the 1914 election heard the news that the war clouds were gathering over Europe, in July of 1914 they promised that they would support Britain to the last man and the last shilling. They promised an expeditionary force of 20,000 men - that’s a pretty ambitious call for a country of under 5 million people - but they raised them in days.
When recruiting opened in the Australian states, between 10 and 12 August 1914, we had 20,000 soldiers raised within weeks. By the time the first fleet to go to the war gathered in Albany in November 1914 we had more soldiers than we needed. We had an entire infantry division of 15,000 soldiers. Each of the units within that division is state-raised. These are groups of mates who have joined together. They have grown up together. They have been to school or work together and they have gone to war together. These were ‘pals battalions’, like the British expeditionary force.
So the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Battalions were all from New South Wales. The 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions were all from Victoria. They formed the 2nd Brigade; the 1st Brigade from New South Wales and the 2nd Brigade from Victoria. The 3rd Brigade was an all states brigade, with the 9th Battalion from Queensland, the 10th Battalion from South Australia, the 11th Battalion from my home state in Western Australia and the 12th Battalion half Tasmanians and then a company from WA and a company from SA. So these were people who really knew each other.
I don’t know whether you are familiar - there’s a famous photograph taken on 10 January 1915 of the 11th Battalion, Western Australia’s own, on the steps of the pyramid. Eleven hundred soldiers on the pyramid. All of the officers are down the bottom. Right in the middle is Lyon Johnston, the commander of the 11th Battalion. Lyon Johnston was the mayor of Kalgoorlie. You look at that list of officers and there’s the head of the Chamber of Commerce in Hannan Street, Raymond Leane, Doc Brennan from Adelaide Terrace in Perth - all of these community leaders. May not have had a great deal of military background, but they’re taking their friends and neighbours to war. This was the nature of the Australian Imperial Force.
We couldn’t send our home army, this group of conscripts that we had raised, after the Defence Act of 1903, and then increased in size in 1911. We couldn’t take the Australian Commonwealth Military Force to the Great War because under their terms and conditions of employment it restricted their deployment to Australia and its territories. So we had to raise another force. That was put together by the commandant of Duntroon here, William Bridges. He called it ‘the Australian Imperial Force’. It was supposed to be one infantry division, about 15,000 soldiers, a brigade of light horse, about 2,000 men on horses. But these guys joined up and we ended up with a whole spare brigade, a fourth brigade. Away they went from Albany with the New Zealanders. The New Zealanders had two brigades.
You need three brigades for a division. When they arrived in Egypt we’ve got the Australian Division, the spare Australian Infantry Brigade, the Brigade of New Zealand Infantry and a Brigade of dismounted New Zealand Cavalry. When you put two divisions together the formation is called a Corps. So with the Australian Division and then two brigades of Kiwis plus, for administrative purposes, they put the fourth brigade of Australians with them that created the second division called the Australian and New Zealand Division. They were all camped together at the base of the pyramids. For administrative purposes they created this amalgam called the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. This is this group of soldiers that are training together at the base of the pyramids. Around about this time the Ottoman Empire enters the war.
This is a problem because things had been going reasonably well for the western allies. When Germany crossed the Belgian border that brought Britain into the war on the side of France. The Russians had already come into the war against the Germans and the Austrians in the east. Every general’s nightmare, a war on two fronts, was working out very, very well for the British, French and Russian alliance against the Germans and Austrians. Then in November 1914 the Ottomans come into the war and they block the Dardanelles.
If you are familiar, this is the Mediterranean. Here’s the Dardanelles. This is the Gallipoli Peninsula. This strait of water goes up the Dardanelles, across the Sea of Marmara, up the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.
With the winter of 1914-15 coming on the north Russian ports freeze over. How do the Ukrainians get their wheat crop and the Crimeans get their wool clip out and the Romanov Empire get weapons in? It’s got to come up that body of water. With the Ottomans entering the war on the side of the central powers Russia is in dire straits. The British and the French know that they’ve got to bail them out because they want to maintain this war on two fronts.
Who was available though? The main focus of the British and French is the war on the Western Front, so they put together very much a B team - the Australian cricket team at the moment, if you like.
QUESTION: Don’t mention the war!
BRAD MANERA: Don’t mention the war! It’s hell out there! So they bring this group together. They’ve got this amalgamated group of inexperienced but highly enthusiastic Australians and New Zealanders that are practising its soldiers in the dessert. The 29th regular British Division comes out from the UK and another amalgamated formation, the Royal Naval Division - sailors for whom there are not enough ships - equipped as infantry. This group is brought together under the command of a chap named Ian Hamilton, a crippled British officer from the first Anglo-Boer War, who is given a very short time to put this force together. He is given a couple of divisions of French colonial infantry. This force is called the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force is created because on 18 March 1915 the Royal Navy had tried to force its way up the Dardanelles with some French ships in support. Within half an hour a third of the fleet had been sunk or disabled. They realised that was a bad idea and that it was going to need a combined operation; ground troops were going to have to go ashore and try and disable those guns.
This is one of the guns that fought that 18th of March battle that drove back the British and the French fleet. Most of those were destroyed in the 1920s under a disarmament program for the Dardanelles. That one had been dismantled in 1916 and shifted further south in Turkey. It was found a few years ago in a naval dockyard in Ismea and has been re-assembled, with some really bad sculpture, and put back in place. It is really quite exciting, the thought that here is a genuine artefact from the 18th of March naval battle that’s back where it was when it defeated the Royal Navy.
On 25 April 1915 the land component of the Gallipoli campaign occurs. The British and the French land at the mouth of the Dardanelles; the British primarily at Cape Helles at Four Beaches. In fact, if I go back to this map - I don’t know whether you can see this little red pointer - so the British are landing here around Cape Helles. The French put some soldiers here at Kumkale. The British intent is to drive up the peninsula. They have an idea that there is a fairly substantial Ottoman garrison on the peninsula. The relatively untried Australians and New Zealanders are going to be landed further up the peninsula here at the base of these cliffs. They’ve got to climb and occupy the high ground, provide an anvil force, if you like, for the British hammer force to crush the Turkish defenders against. A gross generalisation of the campaign, but they had faith in British regulars. The Australians had a much simpler task.
The British came ashore in daylight. The Australians had landed about an hour earlier in darkness, and had successfully got 12,000 soldiers ashore by about 9 o’clock in the morning.
The British landed in daylight and the Turks didn’t run away. Indeed, the Turks stayed in place and killed a very large number of the Brits; pinned them down on the beaches.
The Australians had this task in front of them. [image shown] Fortunately they landed in darkness, because I reckon if they’d seen that coming ashore on the boats they really might have had a major second think. This is the base of North Beach. This is a feature called the Sari Bair Range. The Turks only had a company, about 260 soldiers, in this area. The Australians put 4,000 men ashore in the first wave. They landed along this beach and then around the cove to a little beach that they now know as Anzac Cove. Not that much easier terrain than this to conquer.
The plan was to get their covering force ashore. They had a reasonable idea how rugged the countryside was. They’d visualised three lines of ridges that had to be taken on the first morning, and then the force was to execute a left turn and climb up onto that range and climb further up the hill to capture the main Turkish range. The British were calling it the Sari Bair Range. It’s not quite true. But the main Turkish range is up here. The Australians landed here in Anzac Cove and around the base of what became known as North Beach. They took the first line of ridges, dropped down into Shrapnel Valley and got up here onto the second line of ridges. Some pushed forward to this third line of ridges. The plan was to get there; drive the Turks out and then move up those spur lines onto this high ground.
We had enthusiastic but badly trained young soldiers led by risk-averse brigade and divisional commanders. So the cohesion broke down. They landed in darkness. The terrain was much more rugged than the junior leaders had been led to expect. Some of them pushed inland. Others propped here on the second line of ridges. Others thought: this doesn’t look anything like what we were briefed about. Let’s stay on the beach and wait for further orders. So you’ve got 15,000 soldiers swanning around between the third line of ridges, the second line of ridges and the heights immediately above the beach.
The brigade commanders gather here on the 400 Plateau, a place that would go down in history as Lone Pine. They look at these soldiers and they see that the Turkish resistance is getting heavier by the minute. Rather than push the division forward to the third line of ridges they bring these blokes back to form a continuous line of weapons pits that eventually become a continuous line of trenches.
And so the ANZAC position by 10 or 11 o’clock on the first day runs to the beach here at the base of Bolton’s Ridge up onto this ridge line and then up onto the start of the climb up to this main range. It stays there through April, May, June and July - through the coming summer. The troops are getting tired. Their rations are appalling. Water is at an absolute premium. What they can get is so salty they can barely drink it. Their health is breaking down. They’ve all got diarrhoea. They’ve all got mouth ulcers. They are all exhausted. Joint pains. By the first week of August more men are being evacuated through disease than through battle casualties. Something has got to be done.
The British General Hamilton has been begging for resources. Back in Britain his requests are falling on the relatively deaf ears of the Dardanelles Commission. What he is proposing is to try and break out of ANZAC. He has tried to push the British soldiers further south at Helles. The Turkish resistance there is very strong and there are no flanks. The Turkish and the British lines run across the width of the peninsula. So the British are just throwing themselves at entrenched Turkish positions week after week, battle after battle. They are just filling cemeteries. The Australians have bogged down and are fighting a very offensive war around these heights on the second ridge.
Finally in August Hamilton gets news - indeed in the last week of July - ‘Reinforcements are on the way. Plan a breakout’. And he chooses to plan the breakout from Anzac, not at Helles anymore.
In May he had gone south and sent all the reinforcements down to the British and tried to break out from there. But in August he chooses the northern sector. I don’t know - can you see this? We’ve got the Australian section down here in this tiny little portion around Anzac Cove. Hamilton’s plan is to reinforce these soldiers, get them to break out by moving up to the north along the beach and then climbing the main range - trying to attempt what they had planned to do back in April. Meanwhile he’s going to then land an entire second army and open a brand new beach head up here at Suvla Bay, to the north.
The plan requires not only the landing of this massive army scheduled to hit the beach at sunrise on 7 August - today a hundred years ago - and that is going to occur at the same time that dismounted Australian light horse are going to try and climb out of the existing Anzac position up toward the foot hills of the main range, a position called Baby 700, while the New Zealanders go along the beach and climb and attack a position called Chunuk Bair, a height that’s higher than Baby 700. So the New Zealanders are going to be coming downhill while the light horse is charging uphill to catch the Turks in between.
A second offensive breakout is to occur and march even further than the New Zealanders along the beach before turning right and climbing up the highest peak in the Sari Bair Range, Hill 971, (Koja Chemen Tepe). That is a force of about two-and-a-half thousand from the 4th Brigade, led by General John Monash. These two major breakouts to the north, a breakout directly from Anzac across The Nek towards Baby 700, and all of this is going to be under the cover of a faint attack heading south from Anzac on a position called Lone Pine.
On the afternoon of 6 August, at 5.30 in the afternoon, the 1st Brigade from New South Wales attacked out of Anzac heading south to capture a feature called Lone Pine. They didn’t have to go any further. They weren’t intending to breakout. All they needed to do was to drive the Turks off the southern high ground to the second range and hopefully draw all of the Turkish reserves that are waiting back behind the main range down on top of them. That would reduce the garrison and allow success for these blokes that are marching north from Anzac with the intention of climbing the heights.
I have a gift for technology, as you can see.
This is the view from The Nek. There’s a 150 metre drop-off down this side through the bush. This is the ground that the 3rd Light Horse Brigade is going to charge along. This is their left flank. The New Zealanders and the Australian 4th Brigade and the 29th Brigade - a brand new Nepalese and British brigade - on the night of the 6th, while the light horse are preparing to charge here, are going to make their way along the beach. Then the New Zealanders are going to climb up along this ridge line, Rhododendron Spur. On their left the 29th British Brigade, the Gurkhas, are going to climb up Cheshire Ridge and assault the main range while the 4th Australian Brigade is going to try and climb up over this set of hills and down this gully, Aghyl Dere, try and find their way up onto a feature called Abdel Rahman Spur and then assault to the south uphill towards 971.
It’s a Hamilton plan. It’s so complicated. It’s under-resourced for the amount of ground that you’ve got to cover. It’s really difficult to walk through that countryside. There are blind gullies. The scrub is two metres high. You could do that with lots and lots of fit young men that are extremely well connected with communications and runners. You are not going to do it with sick, tired, under-strength units. It’s got ‘disaster’ written all over it right from the start. This photograph just doesn’t give you an appreciation of how rugged that countryside is.
It’s 5.30 in the afternoon, 6 August. First Brigade goes over the top into Lone Pine. They do a superb job. They fight there for three-and-a-half days; 2,277 Australians are killed or injured in three-and-a-half days. They kill or wound three times that number of Turks. They take the position and they hold it. Seven Victoria Crosses are won by Australians in that action; the most Victoria Crosses in any single action. But it goes nowhere. It doesn’t even draw the number of Turks that they had hoped to onto that location.
But while they’re fighting for their lives at Lone Pine in the south, before daylight the next morning the light horse charges across The Nek. What they haven’t realised is that the New Zealanders haven’t made it up Rhododendron Spur. Well, some of them have. The Wellingtons and the Aucklands make it, but there’s two more battalions. Their brigade commander, a chap named Johnson - it is unkindly said that he may have been a little under the weather and he lost his bottle - he just could not manage this complicated task in front of him. He’s got a cliff in front of his face. He’s got two brigades that are dragging their feet. They cannot keep up. But he’s got Malone and the Wellingtons just underneath the Turkish position. They’ve got two dozen Maoris with them who have climbed up onto Chunuk Bair, the position they’ve got to take, and they’ve said ‘There’s no Turks here. Let’s take it.’ Johnson says, ‘Wait. We’ve got to wait for our following battalions to catch up with us’. And they wait through the day of the 6th, while the Turks build up their defences in front. And they hear the light horse men from the 3rd Brigade being massacred at 4.30 on the morning of the 7th of August.
Meanwhile, Monash and 3,000 Australians get lost. They walk into the scrub there and every time they try and find the gap over Aghyl Dere they bump into Turkish resistance. So they stop and re-organise. Try and work out where they are. Their scout’s got no idea. He’d taken a walk up there two nights before. It looked different in the daylight.
So Monash’s 4th Brigade is strung out along this ridgeline trying to find their objective. The Turks, by this time, identify them and are able to bring down fire from further up the ridgeline. So Monash isn’t going anywhere. He gives it an extraordinary shot on the 8th of August but loses so many soldiers that they fall back and consolidate down on these hills. They don’t get anywhere close to Hill 971.
The only successful operation of the August offensives, the Gurkhas get onto Hill Q. They make it up onto this position. All they have got to do is take this location between the New Zealanders on Chunuk Bair and the Australians on 971. They’re the communication link. They’re the only blokes who get to where they had planned to be. The New Zealanders get up onto Chunuk Bair and get wiped out. The Australians don’t even get close to their objective, 971.
So the Turks launch a massive counter-attack on the 10th of August and the Gurkhas are thrown off the side of the cliff. The entire August offensives last less than a week. It’s a complete disaster.
The British did get their army ashore at Suvla. It looked nothing like this. There was no incoming fire as they waded ashore. The Wills’s cigarette cards - this is the way the war should have been fought.
This is Rhododendron Ridge where the New Zealanders were climbing up. The only New Zealand Victoria Cross for the Gallipoli campaign was won here by a young man named Cyril Bassett, a 27-year-old signaller. He spent three days trying to get communications up to Wellington, William Malone and the Wellingtons who did make it up onto that feature but were cut off. Johnson and the rest of his brigade never got up onto Chunuk Bair. But Cyril Bassett ran for three days. He got a telephone up to Malone and his Wellingtons, but the artillery and the incoming fire kept snapping the landline connecting the telephone so Bassett would then pick up the cable and run back up this ridgeline, checking for a break, get out his pliers and repair the line. He did that for three-and-a-half days. He got the heels shot off his boots while he was kneeling repairing the line on one occasion. He had his bayonet shot away. There was something like nine bullet holes in his tunic by the end of the three days. And yet he spent the rest of his life wondering why he got the Victoria Cross and others didn’t. In one of the last public interviews he gave before his death he said, ‘I didn’t deserve this. I shouldn’t have the Victoria Cross because all my mates just got wooden ones’.
Have I been rambling? I meant to check the time. What is the - another 10 minutes?
I want to talk about this collection that we’ve acquired for the Anzac Memorial recently that relates to Jack Harris.
Jack Harris lands on Gallipoli at 2 o’clock on the morning of the 6th of August 1915. He’d enlisted in the first week of June. He trained for about 10 days at Randwick - what do you teach a 15-year-old in 10 days?- and then his three weeks on the ocean. Arrives in Egypt. Has another few weeks training, at best, and then he and that group of reinforcements to the 2nd Battalion set off for Anzac. They arrive on the beach at Anzac at 2 o’clock in the morning. It’s dark. They have no idea what’s going on. They are issued a few packets of bullets and told to head off up Artillery Road. They arrive with the 2nd Battalion. A bloke named Robert Scobie was commanding the battalion - a very laconic farmer from west Maitland. Forty-four years of age. He should have had a thousand soldiers behind him. He’s got 440 sick men, and he’s been ordered to make an attack at 5.30 that afternoon.
So when 138 reinforcements arrive under a reverend from Dulwich Hill, named Everard Diges La Touche, he throws them straight into the line alongside his soldiers. These guys aren’t issued with grenades because they’ve never seen them. They don’t know how to use them. They’re told they’re going into the attack and they’re issued with three pieces of white calico to stitch onto their uniform. That’s the preparation that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Battalion and 4th Battalion get for the attack on Lone Pine.
At 5.30 in the afternoon, with the sun setting behind them, three whistle blasts draws 900 Australians out of their trenches and they cross 60 metres of no man’s land. Tiny space. Sixty metres by - I don’t know - 100, 150 metres wide. It’s a tiny space before they get to the Turkish trenches. But when you are down at ground level the tiniest undulation can hide what’s going on on the other side. The Turks are only 60 metres away. But it’s not until the Australians get out of their trenches that they appreciate just how much of the enemy position is roofed with heavy pine logs. In the 2nd Battalion’s sector it’s continuous.
The 2nd Battalion, Scobie, his 440 veterans plus his 138 recent arrivals under the maverick preacher and the 15-year-old boy get there and they prop - matter of seconds - here’s the target. What do we do? That’s all it takes for the men of Tevfik Bey’s 47th Turkish Regiment to respond. Now those guys have been hit by artillery for three days so most of them are deaf. Some have been buried alive and their mates are trying to dig them out. They’re in a dreadful state.
But the Turks further up the line haven’t been subject to artillery fire. The Turkish machine gunners at The Chessboard realise there’s a gap. The artillery fire is lifted to allow the Australians to charge, and so they open up from the flank. So that 60 metres becomes beaten ground from inflating machine gun fire. Six Maxim guns firing 500 rounds-a-minute each. They catch 2nd Battalion standing on those roofed trenches. La Touche dies. Harris dies. Most of the 2nd Battalion is chopped to pieces in a matter of seconds.
Harris arrived at 2 o’clock in the morning of 6 August. He’s dead by 5.30 that afternoon - 17 hour war.
This is the telegram sent in September - can anyone read the date? - to Alfred Harris saying that: ‘Your son has been reported missing from 14 August’. Remember, Alfred Harris signed the certificate saying his son is 18 and allowed to join up. Why did he do that? I don’t know. Was that preacher La Touche powerful enough to have talked the family into joining up, or was it that young Jack hassled his old man because he wanted to join up? He was such a keen young cadet. The problem was that Alfred Harris had been 15 when he went to the Second Opium War in China in 1860 on HMS Iris, and then he served in the New Zealand wars in 1862 before migrating to New South Wales. So it’s pretty hard to knock the boy back because this is a great adventure. They’re all going to be home by Christmas. He’s not expecting his boy to be thrown into a butcher’s shop like Lone Pine.
So there are just a few telegrams here that give you an indication. These are telegrams from Victoria Barracks to Alfred Harris saying, look, your son, we believe that he’s missing in action. It’s been four weeks and there’s been a dreadful battle. We don’t know where he is.
One of the newspaper reports comes out: ‘Number 77: Casualty list’, published in the Sydney Morning Herald reports him as a casualty, as wounded - not missing. So the Harris family then start to make contact with family and friends. They’ve heard that Gallipoli casualties are turning up in hospitals in Britain. They contact a woman named Emma Starkey, in Britain, an old family friend, and say, ‘Will you start looking around the hospitals for Jack. We think he has only been wounded’.
They write to Victoria Barracks. ‘Is there any further information?’ This is a letter that Mrs Starkey sends to her friend, Alfred Harris, saying that she’s making all possible inquiries but she is confident that Jack is alive and well.
Then this arrives - the telegram that every Australian family is dreading. It’s not sent to the family. It’s sent to the local reverend, Robert McKeown. ‘Would you go and knock on the door of Alfred and Camille Harris and tell them that their son is now believed killed.’ Three-and-a-half months after this young man is mortally wounded his family get this telegram.
They spend the rest of the war searching for information. They contact the Red Cross. This is a map that was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, widely distributed. This was part of the documents in the Harris collection that the family put together - they gathered every possible scrap of information.
Here, for example, as late as early 1916 they’re still receiving letters from the Red Cross, who are writing to wounded Australians trying to find out whether they’ve got any further information. For example, that was the covering letter for this scrap of information they gathered from one of the soldiers who had arrived on Gallipoli with their son, and he was recovering from his own wounds at Randwick. He said, ‘The last I saw of Jack was that he was lying across the Turkish trenches’. Now they received this in May of 1916.
This is really typical of the information flow back to Australia as a result of the August offensives. It’s taking months.
Oliver and Joe Cumberland, two brothers, go to Gallipoli together. Oliver was the older brother. Joe enlisted. Oliver followed him to look after him. Joe was killed at the landing - or died of wounds at the landing. Oliver stayed on. He disappeared at Lone Pine fighting with the 3rd Battalion. His sister, Una, wasn’t informed officially that he was missing, presumed killed, until February 1916.
As you discovered earlier in today’s session, a lot of this information was relayed by the Red Cross. This was the covering letter. It’s come from the Red Cross with this. The interesting thing about this is, ‘We feel hesitation about continuing to send reports to you for fear that it should re-open your trouble, and we shall be glad if you will let us know whether you would prefer that we should not send any further information which we receive’. He has already received six reports like that. The Red Cross is doing an extraordinary job for the Australian Imperial Force and for the families of the AIF.
So after Gallipoli the Australians go on to the Western Front. The mounted soldiers stay in the Middle East. They fight in dreadful battles on the Western Front. In 1916 - if they thought Gallipoli was bad - at Pozieres alone in July and August of 1916 26,000 Australians are killed or injured. They fight through to the end of the year and then redeploy at Belgium. From July until October of 1917 in Belgium another 38,000 Australians are killed or injured between the Menin Road and the village of Passchendaele.
Then there is the bloodiest hundred days of the AIF, the August offensives of 1918. [image shown] Another piece from the collection at the Anzac Memorial. This was the final of four dozen postcards sent by Charles William Smith, a 24 year-old boot maker of Manly to his wife, Grace Lillian Smith. Grace was from west Maitland, ironically the same place as Scobie. When Charles Smith and Grace were married they moved into Smith’s father’s place, a boot maker in Manly - father and son boot makers.
Every fortnight for his entire service Charles William Smith sent a postcard to his wife, Grace. She was expecting when he deployed overseas. They had a son, Robert.
This postcard was written on 6 August 1918. Remember 1918. And it reads: ‘To my dear son Bob.’ He has never met Bob. ‘With best love from your dear daddy in France. 6/8/18. I will soon be with you and mother again shortly.’ He posted it on 7 August. He was killed at sunrise on 8 August.
The army again sent a telegram to the local reverend to deliver the information. The next of kin was the wife, Grace. So the reverend comes around with that telegram for Grace. But Grace is not home. She’s gone back to her family in Maitland. So Charles senior receives the telegram meant for his daughter-in-law. He receives that telegram on 22 August.
So suddenly in four years the army and the Red Cross have learnt this information needs to get home very, very quickly. With Harris it takes four months for his family to receive confirmation that he has been killed. In this case it’s a matter of a fortnight.
The next day Charles senior sends this telegram to his daughter-in-law: ‘Just received news. Charlie severely wounded’. He’s lying to his daughter-in-law ‘Letter following’. I wish we had that letter. I would love to know how he wrote to his daughter-in-law to break the news that she was a widow, that his grandson was an orphan.
By March of 1916 it is obvious to Alfred and Camille that their son is dead because they receive in the post a postcard photograph of him as a cadet, this Christmas card draft that he had in his pocket and the dog tag taken from around his neck. It was obvious that their son was not coming home.
It was an extraordinary price to pay. In 1914 our politicians had promised 20,000 soldiers. By 1919 60,000 dead; 340,000 Australians wore a uniform. The AIF never got home leave. So in memory of that war Australians, despite the economic depression, built memorials - thousands of them - all over the cities and the bush.
This is the memorial that I work at. I guess it’s fascinating to see that people are still visiting these places. They’re still pausing a moment to reflect. They’re still keeping a promise that we made to those Australians who lie beneath foreign fields, that we will remember them.
Thanks very much. [applause]
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: Thank you. We do have time for some questions. If anyone has anything they would like to ask - or comments?
QUESTION: Why were the young men so anxious to go to war?
Mr BRAD MANERA: I think if there’s 340,000 Australians in uniform there’s that many reasons for going to war. I think every one of those blokes probably has their own reason for going. There is a sense of adventure. In Harris’s case I think there was desperation to prove himself. There’s a passion about the Empire. Perhaps his mother’s moaning about what’s happened to her homeland. I don’t know. It’s really quite fascinating.
When you look at memorials around Australia they’re not just AIF. I was looking at the Roll of Honour under the clock tower at Sydney University. Twenty percent of the names on that Roll of Honour did not serve in the AIF. These are Australians who went back to Britain or, indeed, wherever they were to join up.
I live in Enmore, in Marrickville, in Sydney at the moment. Our city council has just torn down one of the magnificent memorials; smashed it up and sent a piece of it interstate here to the ACT. It’s on display at the national War Memorial. One of the names on that memorial was a kid from Dulwich Hill who was killed with the 2nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force at 14 .50.20 Vimu Ridge. Tragically, the memorial at Marrickville was the only place in Australia his name is remembered.
The first Western Australian killed in action in the First World War died with the 9th Battalion in the Royal Irish Rifles. His family had migrated to Western Australia in 1831. They were landed protestant gentry from Tipperary, so they always had a seat in the local legislative assembly and a commission in the County Regiment. In 1914 the eldest son decided to take it up. He left Irwin station in the merchant and travelled at his own expense to Ireland and served with that regiment. He was killed in March of 1915 at Neuve Chapelle. His younger brother was killed at The Nek on 7 August with the 10th Light Horse.
QUESTION: So it was a tradition to have someone in the military in the family history?
BRAD MANERA: I don’t think so. True, there had been in the early 19th century, but there had been a gap when the family had become farmers. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s a fascinating question. I think for every soldier there’s a motivation.
I remember asking my grandfather why he put his age down to get into World War II. He said, ‘Son, have you ever worked underground?’ At that stage I hadn’t.
QUESTION: He covers a different proposition too.
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) Well, just on that question, it was like that everywhere. The German young man, full of joy, went into that war. As I said before, it was also because every single person - all those guys went to war - thought ‘in four months we’re back as victors’. It was not just the Germans. The war before was the Franco-Prussian. They also were convinced, ‘It takes us four months. We come back as heroes’. I don’t know who - I think somebody in Canada or in America - a woman said, ‘Don’t call them “heroes” because if they’re called “heroes” then the next lot wants to go and fight.’ I think it was everywhere.
Mr BRAD MANERA: Sure, absolutely.
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) Also these days young guys, young teenagers, like to have a little bit of physical violence and all that, so it fits with the programming.
I do have another question, but also a little comment, because I feel I am representing the German community. Actually the memorial of the Germans, part of that is (a) why is Australia still so focused on this ANZAC Day, which was basically just a complete loss – defeat. Nothing heroic about that, certainly.
BRAD MANERA: We came second.
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) Sorry?
BRAD MANERA: Sorry.
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) Also, more importantly, when will John Monash, the child of Prussian Jews, finally be recognised as actually the only really big hero of the war? He, in fact, in the Battle of Hamel and the Battle of Amiens was the one who - through careful Prussian Jewish organisation, might I add - he was a Russian Jewish engineer - was meticulous.
BRAD MANERA: The perfect storm.
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) He prepared his soldiers, et cetera. He was not mentioned. We know why. It was Hughes, Bean and Murdoch. And can I say one thing that came up before also with the press and how the press reported: in my eyes I think this nation is receiving their own historical narrative by one family, namely, the Murdochs. It was Keith Murdoch in the First World War and now it’s continued by - what’s the name? Not James, the other bloke - Rupert.
So Monash, obviously what he did was deliberately not mentioned by Hughes, not by Bean, who hated Jews, and Murdoch who hated Germans and Jews. Anyway, to be German Jewish or Prussian Jewish was completely impossible. So when will that happen - or is it happening?
BRAD MANERA: Oh, absolutely it’s happening. Monash, in my opinion, is part of the high school curriculum, in the national curriculum, as well as in most state curriculums. You can’t take a group of students to the Western Front without them mentioning John Monash. They want to go to Messines where he did an extraordinary job with the 3rd Australian Division in June of 1917. The massive Australian park out on the summit above Hamel is very rich in the Monash legend. I think every Aussie school kid now knows about Monash.
QUESTION: You’ve just got to convince the British.
BRAD MANERA: The King came to the Western Front and knighted Monash. He is not doing that for any other corps commanders. They’re going to Buckingham Palace. But the royal family came to Monash. Bean can’t cover that up. And, indeed, he doesn’t try.
NADINE HELMI: Nobody knows Monash. If I ask people they don’t even know who he is.
QUESTION: Yes they do.
QUESTION: That is not true.
BRAD MANERA: I don’t think that’s true either. You are asking the wrong people.
QUESTION: At the Australian War Memorial John Monash is highly represented. He’s highly respected. There are several excellent books written about him. I agree with you, he is well known to all the school children. There is a very good book written about him called The Man Who Won the War.
BRAD MANERA: I think Peter Pedersen’s study of Monash as a Military Commander is an excellent read.
QUESTION: He is probably the only Australian general that is well respected.
BRAD MANERA: Australians - we do have a bit of a cringe when it comes to history. I am surprised at the number of Australians that come on tours to Gallipoli and get surprised when we say ‘We didn’t win here. We got beaten’. So if we start to look at our level of historical ignorance amongst the broader Australian population - that’s just a task that is monumental. I think you are right; Monash is one of the best known. Take any group of Australian students on the Western Front and you would be surprised at the depth of their knowledge of what an extraordinary soldier he was.
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: No, I’m sorry—
QUESTION: (Nadine Helmi) Why then isn’t the story replaced by a heroic battle finally to change that narrative?
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: I have to intervene here because it’s now gone 4.30.
BRAD MANERA: Oh, sorry.
Dr MICHAEL PICKERING: Officially we’re closing the procedure; unofficially, chinwag away. Just make sure you get out of the building before the hounds are let loose. We close at 5 o’clock.
Again, just thank you to all our speakers. Would you put your hands together for Brad and for all the speakers, for what they have done today and, for yourselves, for a stimulating discussion? Thank you. [applause]
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Date published: 07 September 2015