The German attack upon a front extending northward of Tuesday's fighting includes the Messines and Wytschaete sector, where the Australians were sent in the winter to strengthen the defences. They put in a prodigious amount of work, and were convinced that they had made the sector one of the tidiest on the front. Frequent Australian raids kept the enemy on tenter-hooks. The Australians were certain that if the Germans were foolish enough to attempt to attack from their low position, they would give their attackers a terrible reception, but the conditions have changed during the past three weeks. The Australians evacuated the sector to take with the New Zealanders a more active share in the immediate fighting, where the pressure is greatest. Doubtless the Germans will be compelled to pay heavily for the recapture of the high ground near Messines, which is almost sacred ground to the New Zealanders and Australians.
The correspondent on the French front of the Morning Post supplies interesting details regarding the German tanks. After the experience of the British use, they have greatly increased their speed. They have tanks capable of travelling at the rate of five miles an hour over broken ground. These tanks advance in formulations of five, moving zigzag. Special tank schools have been formed in Germany, in vast manoeuvre grounds. The tank is torpedo-shaped, and weighs ten tons. It is eight yards long, three wide, and two and a half high. It is able to turn easily, and is completely protected by armour, while the loopholes are impermeable to gas. It is fitted with a 5.5 rapid firing gun, and furnished with a periscope. It also fires gas shells, and has four machine guns and flammenwerfer. In case of obstinate resistance, a flame, projecting sixty yards, is produced by a mixture of tar and carbolineum, which is sent out by oxygen under pressure. The motor has eight cylinders, of 250 horse-power. The personnel consists of two drivers, two gunners, four machine gunners, and two reserves, under orders of a junior engineer officer. The clothing of the entire crew is fireproof.
Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, has stated that enlisted members of the Australian Imperial Force are eligible for selection and appointment as air cadets, and there has been no dearth of applications. Reports from the front show that the Australian Flying Corps is maintaining the very high standard set by the other arms of the service. Air cadets on being accepted for a course of instruction at the central flying school, in Australia, will in future classes, for disciplinary purposes, rank as sergeants, and receive 10 shillings per day. On satisfactorily completing this course, they will go through the advanced course abroad, afterwards becoming eligible for appointment to commissioned rank in the Australian Flying Corps.
The enemy has made no further general attack, but there has been great gunfire. Big guns and troops are being concentrated behind the enemy's lines, and another battle is expected to commence shortly. Meanwhile, heavy artillery fire is being directed on the British and French lines. The reports of the enemy’s losses are confirmed by messages from Amsterdam.
Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, stated on Monday that where the return of soldiers on active service is desired, applications are only considered in the following cases:
(1) Where it can be shown that exceptional distressful family circumstances exist through the soldier's absence. (2) Where the applicant is a widow and three or more sons have enlisted, and two have made the supreme sacrifice, but only if the family circumstances are of a very distressful nature. Otherwise, a request is made to the general officer commanding the Australian Imperial Force abroad to place the soldier in question on lines of communication, so that he will not be in the danger zone. (3) Soldiers who are under the age of 18 years are also returned to Australia for discharge as under age, but owing to these youths making a false statement on enlistment, they are liable to forfeiture of pay from the date of discovery.
Senator Pearce added: “It must be borne in mind that the services of every available man are necessary at the front. Hence the number of refusals.”
The activities of the Rejected Volunteers' Association are being extended to Newcastle, and Mr A. Bryce, whose address is c/o Box 187, Post Office, Newcastle, has been appointed secretary. The association is composed of men, who heaving volunteered for active service, failed to pass the medical examination, and the objects are: (1) To assist all patriotic movements. (2) To establish a fund for the relief of cases of distress caused as the direct outcome of the great war. (3) To provide homes for war widows of Australian soldiers. (4) To at all times extend a welcome to, and assist returned soldiers. (5) To establish a mortuary fund for members. (6) To safeguard the interests of returned soldiers and members of the R.V.A. Since the association was formed in Sydney considerable work has been done in fulfilment of its objects, 600 pounds having been contributed to the war widows' fund which has been formed, and six cottages are now in course of creation at Warimoo in the Blue Mountains. Parties of members spend weekends at Warimoo in voluntary labour, and the whole of the subscriptions of members are devoted to furthering the objects of the association. There are many members of the association in the Newcastle district, and when they have got in touch with Mr. Bryce, it is proposed to hold a meeting for the purpose of forming a local branch, as it is felt that there is much work here in which the association could give effective assistance.
The late Lieutenant Noel Stretch, fourth son of the Bishop of Newcastle, whose name appeared in District Casualties on Thursday as having been killed in action, was 24 years of age. He enlisted shortly after the outbreak of war, and left Australia as a sergeant with the first contingent. While in Egypt he and a number of others were selected by British officers to undergo a course of training for commissions in British regiments. This training was carried out in England, where he obtained his commission, and then went to France in an artillery brigade. Subsequently he was transferred to a machine gun section. Last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and early this year won a bar to the Cross. At the time of enlisting he was about to enter college to study for holy orders. The bishop has two other sons on active service.
Mr G.F. Healy, agent at Newcastle for the Federated Seamen's Union, has received from Mr Havelock Wilson, England, a copy of a letter written to him by Corporal James Caird, in which reference is made to the fact that Quarter-master-sergeant A.Campbell had been awarded the DCM. All were of the opinion that it was well earned. The letter states: “The seamen generally have borne themselves at sea with credit in this great war, and some day I hope a full and true story will be written of how well they behaved. It is indeed pleasing when they also win honour with the land forces of the Empire. At the time of his enlistment in 1915, QMS Campbell was the representative of the Seamen's Union at Newcastle, NSW. During his absence from Australia, 1916-1917, he was again elected by a large majority of our candidates to fill the position in the event of his return from the front. As he has also served for some years on the Australian coast, he is truly a representative seaman. I consider it a pleasing duty to inform you of the honour conferred as I take it to be an honour to the class to which he belongs.”
Mrs Hopes presided at the monthly meeting of the Abermain Comforts Fund held at the school of arts on Thursday. The members decided to join in procession on the gala day to be held on April 27 in aid of the local roll of honour fund. The secretary stated that 104 skeins of wool had been given out and one packet knitting cotton; articles returned being 21 caps, 16 pairs socks, 14 pairs mitts, one scarf, 21 washers, and four pairs kneepads. A letter was received from Private D. Wemyss, acknowledging parcel. Thirty one parcels were packed on March 27 and despatched by post. Each parcel contained two pairs socks, one pair mitts, one balaclava cap, one scarf, one washer, one pair knee-pads, one tin tobacco, one tin cigarettes, one tin lollies, one tin cheese, one tin tea, one tin sugar, one pair laces, one khaki handkerchief, chewing gum, pencil, and writing tablet.
In a letter to his parents at Adamstown, Gunner C. McMaster, writing from England, where he is recovering from the effects of gas poison, speaks highly of the work of the Red Cross. He says: “On this card I am sending you we are shown seated at the table ready to be served with our Christmas dinner, and we had a great spread. We could not have bought it for ten shillings a head, and we have the Red Cross to thank for it. You people out there have our thanks for the work you do for us all over here. I wonder do they know what the boys think of them for the work they do. All the boys received a card and a very nice parcel for Christmas, which we all enjoyed”.
A welcome home was tendered to Private D. Hyslop, in the Wallarah Hall. The proceedings opened with the National Anthem, after which there was entertainment. Mr Wardle, in presenting a monetary gift to Private Hyslop, on behalf of the residents, said the hardships and struggles were severe, but with the characteristic grit of the Australian boys, he had done his duty. Many had had made the great sacrifice, but many would return, and it was a pleasure to welcome them. Miss O'Neill, on behalf of the Girls' League, expressed her pleasure to welcome Private Hyslop, and trusted that he would soon be restored to good health and happiness, and to accept from the league a small present. Private Hyslop, who, on rising was heartily greeted, expressed his thanks for the presents. He had been away to do his share, but, unfortunately, he had been wounded, and was invalided back. This was a good country, and worth fighting for, and our boys were putting up a great fight, with many hardships, and needed all that could be done for them.
John Anderson, Newcastle; Milton Amos Brooker, Gresford; Fred Foster, Raymond Terrace; Eric James Fuller, Grahamstown; Alfred Charles Gough, Carrington; Richard Oswald Nichols, Waratah; James Alfred Parker, South Cessnock; Harry Price, Cessnock; Thomas Price, Cooks Hill; Robert William Reay, Wallsend; John Shaw, Cooks Hill; James Simpson, Cessnock; Thomas Somerville, Mayfield; Thomas Herbert Spittle, Mayfield.
Pte Thomas Bell, Greta; Pte Joseph Bilbie, Minmi; Pte William Lawrence Gallen, Adamstown; Pte John Hugh Kerr, Martins Creek; Pte John William Naylor, Wallsend; Pte Thomas Potter, West Maitland; Pte Paul Francis Dufferin, Newcastle; Pte Thomas Rogers Jones, Adamstown; Pte Clarence Harold Pearce, Hamilton; Pte John Robertson, Telegherry; Pte Thomas Frederick Shears, Minmi; Pte William Henry Stewart, Teralba; L/Cpl William Edward Brooke, Pelaw Main; Pte Ernest William Hancock, Cessnock; L/Cpl Harold Pardey, Wickham; Pte Percy Thomas Sheffield, Newcastle; Pte Levi Cann, Singleton; Pte Leslie John French, The Junction; L/Cpl Howard Gunderson, Stockton; Pte Wilfred Henry Plumb, Wickham; Pte Charles Frederick Worrad, Scone; Pte Robert Delaney Worthington, Wickham; L/Cpl Harry James Ford, Cooks Hill; Pte William Archibald Pinfold, Horseshoe Bend.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.