The 453rd list of Australian casualties, issued Thursday, contained 98 names. There were seven reported killed in action, 38 died of illness, and one died from a cause not stated. Of the remainder four were reported wounded, four injured, and 53 ill. The only northern casualty reported is that of J. L. Page, of Muswellbrook, who died at the Quarantine station, Woodman's Point, West Australia, from pneumonic influenza.
This cable message has been received by the Governor-General from the Secretary of State for the Colonies: “With reference to my cable message of November 11, by a convention signed at Treves on December 13 the armistice with Germany has been prolonged till January 17, the prolongation to be extended till the conclusion of peace preliminaries if the Allied Governments approve. The execution of the uncompleted clause of the convention of November 11 is to be proceeded with and concluded during the period of prolongation, in accordance with detailed conditions imposed by the permanent International Armistice Commission, on instructions from the Allied supreme command. A further clause has been added to the convention of November 11 to the effect that the Allied supreme command henceforth reserves the right, when it considers it advisable as a fresh guarantee, to occupy the neutral zone on the right hank of the Rhine to the north of Cologne, bridgehead, as far as the Dutch frontier. Six days' notice of this occupation is to be given by the Allied supreme command.”
Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, the Governor-General, has received the following message from the King: Buckingham Palace, December 24, 1918. “Another Christmas has come round, and we are no longer fighting. God has blessed your efforts. The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt good wishes for a happy Christmas, and many brighter years to come. To the disabled, sick, and wounded, we send a special greeting, praying that with returning health you may be comforted and cheered by the vision of the good days of peace for which you have sacrificed so much. – George, RI”
Senator Pearce, the Minister for Defence, has received the following cable message from General Birdwood: “All ranks of the Australian Imperial Force send their heartfelt greetings to you and our comrades in Australia. We feel that those who have done their duty in Australia can indeed look back with satisfaction on the good work done during the past four eventful years, which has resulted in the complete overthrow of our enemies, due to the courage and magnificent determination of the British race. We wish you all a happy Christmas, with many a happier one in store, when the boys have all returned to those they love. – Birdwood.”
General Monash, through the Australian YMCA, has sent the following message to the troops in the field: “My close association with you since May is a proud memory. My earnest wish is for your happiness in the coming year. We must: turn our thoughts homeward. Those whose turn it is to go later must seek to spend the time in preparing worthily for their future life in Australia. Stops have been taken to that end, but the men must help.”
Senator Dubois, on behalf of the Budget Committee, informed the French Senate that about a quarter of a million houses had been destroyed in Northern France, and a quarter of a million acres of land had been rendered uncultivable. The damage, including that caused to mines, roads, bridges, and other things, was estimated at £2,600,000,000. German prisoners are refilling trenches and shell holes in the devastated regions of France, and are preparing land for cultivation.
Military critics will probably be of opinion that General Chauvel's mounted troops in the march to Damascus rivalled all cavalry achievements in the past. Desert Mounted Corps covered a greater distance in a given time, and obtained more important results than any other body of horse in any war. For thirteen days the cavalry marched on an average about 30 miles a day, and took upwards of 50,000 prisoners. It is an unparalleled performance, and yet it is one that can be described very briefly and simply. As a campaign, it was monotonous. One word will explain it - speed. The Indians got to the enemy once on the Esdradion Plain, once in the moonlight near Nazareth, and in the course of one or two other charges. The Australian Mounted Division, armed with swords for the first time, eager to use them, did not run through half a dozen Turks. A hundred times our horsemen had unrivalled opportunities for terrible slaughter, but the enemy always surrendered and was always spared. To have used the steel on those huge surrendering mobs would have been worse than murder. General Chauvel's grand enveloping movement was so rapid and complete that fighting was not necessary. The speed and endurance of our horses rather than the fighting qualities of their riders were the enemy's undoing.
Still this great cavalry triumph vindicated the continued use of sword and lance, and will probably lead to the sword being added permanently to the arms of Australian Light Horsemen. Had the Australian Mounted Division been armed only with rifles, as in previous fights, its performance would not have been nearly so remarkable. Again and again the Australian regiments were able, because they possessed a mounted weapon, to gallop down on Turks and cause them to surrender. Without the swords they would have been compelled to dismount and go in on foot with their rifles, and it is certain that in many instances, when thousands of Turks put up their hands at the galloping advance of the horses and the sight of the sword, there would have been stout and perhaps successful resistance to our men approaching on foot. When the Turks retreated into our cavalry cordon, they were just in that state which is the cavalry leader's dream. They were disorganised and disheartened. Against slow moving infantry the Germans among them would certainly have fought effectively with machine guns. But the rush of our horses was too much for them. It shattered their last vestige of morale. Before this campaign many experienced Light Horse officers were strongly opposed to the sword, but since they have seen the remarkable saving it has made in hard fighting, and in casualties, they have entirely changed their opinion. The Light Horseman has become a cavalryman, without in the least losing his effectiveness as a mounted infantryman. In addition of the sword, which adds very little to the load of the horse, means that he can fight from his horse when the chance offers. His morale has been greatly increased. He dashes in now where before he was obliged to feel his way. The sword doubled our prisoners, halved the time necessary for the great ride, and probably saves as many hundreds, or possibly thousands of killed and wounded.
The British Graves Commission is considering the best means to provide a record of the dead whose graves are not identified. It invites relatives of such to express their views on the subject. The South African Government has agreed to maintain all graves of soldiers buried in the Union, including those from Australia who died en route to Europe.
Sir Thomas Mackenzie, High Commissioner for New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the Soldiers' Graves Commission, announces that temporary crosses from soldiers' graves will be saved for relations and friends, if they wish to keep them as mementoes.
The British War Office has received a telegraphic report that the Turks, in many cases, have grievously molested and desecrated the cemeteries at Gallipoli. On receipt of details, an explanation will be demanded from the Turkish Government, which gave frequent assurances that, it was carefully safeguarding the graves and cemeteries.
Dr Cumpston says that the hope that Australia will be spared a visitation of pneumonia influenza is increasing daily among those combating the disease. The latest advices from all sources show that the outlook is favourable and encouraging.
Honorary Captain Wallace Neve, after putting in over four years' active service, returned to Newcastle on Tuesday evening, looking remarkably well. He was granted his furlough three weeks before the armistice was signed, and fully expected to return “to see the thing through,” as he puts it, with his Newcastle comrades. At the time war broke out, he was in the annual training camp at Broadmeadow, and lost no time in offering his services. He went right through the Gallipoli campaign, and afterwards saw considerable service in France.
Mrs Lewis, of Clyde Street, Newtown, Hamilton, has received word that her husband, Lieutenant H.T. Lewis, who had been a prisoner of war in Germany since April last, was repatriated to England on December 11th, Lieutenant Lewis was reported killed in April, Mrs Lewis afterwards receiving word that he had been taken prisoner. Lieutenant Lewis, who left in 1916, was previously employed on the McMyler hoist, and in his letters home whilst a prisoner of war frequently spoke of the good work done by the Red Cross Society in sending them food and clothing.
Mr and Mrs G. Weimer, of Charlestown Road, Adamstown, have received a message stating that their son, Sergeant-major W. Weimer, C. de G., will shortly return to Australia. He was wounded in the left arm, and it will be some months before it is fully recovered. On July 12 the King of the Belgians conferred on Sergeant-major Weimer the Croix de Guerre for conspicuous conduct in the field. From latest reports his brother, Private J. Weimer, has fully recovered from his wounds, and is on service again.
Mr William Grace, senior, a returned soldier, died at Singleton, on Saturday morning, and the remains were brought to Maitland for burial. Deceased was a native of Maitland, 54 years of age, and for years was well-known as a dealer. He was married twice, leaving four sons and four daughters by the first marriage, and one son by the second. He enlisted with the 34th Battalion in 1916, but was transferred to the Tunnelling Company, with which he served in France. One son, Leading Stoker Cecil Grace, served on HMAS Sydney, and another, Private William Grace, served with the 30th Battalion. About thirty returned soldiers attended the funeral.
Mrs A.C. Payne, of Raworth, near Morpeth, has received a letter from Nurse M. O'Reilly, sister in charge of a ward at Norfolk War Hospital, England, advising her that her husband, Private A.C. Payne, as a result of injuries sustained, had lost the sight of both eyes. Private Payne, who enlisted with the 34th Battalion, was engaged at Baker's brickyards, Morpeth Road, prior to the war.
Alderman Wilkinson, the Mayor, presided at the meeting of the Wallsend Soldiers' Memorial Committee. Mr W. Cunningham submitted the lists of names (as compiled to date) that were to be inscribed on the memorial. Several names were held over pending further inquiry, this being referred to Messrs. W. Cunningham and G. Stone, and it was arranged that the list be exhibited at Messrs. C. Firkin and Coy's store, in order that those interested could examine same, with a view to the rectification of any errors or the insertion of names omitted. It was resolved that the names be inscribed in alphabetical order.
Private Ambrose Kavanagh, West Maitland, died of wounds and tuberculosis, Christmas Day, 1918.
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