WWI in the Herald: December 16, 1914

16/04/2019 Posted by admin

WWI in the Herald: Archive


While it is possible that the reports that have been received of German and Austrian officers forcing their soldiers to advance in some instances at the sword point are not correct, in view of their bravery, there appears to be no doubt that a restless spirit exists among the great armies which the two enemy countries are pouring on to their frontiers.

But there is undoubtedly truth in the statements that there is a very strong feeling of dissatisfaction, not only at the present outcome of the war, but at its origination, both in Germany and Austria.

The Hungarians have fallen out with both the Austrians and Germans, and in some cases whole regiments are reported to have surrendered to their foes.

The Bavarians have also fallen out with their German leaders, although they are still fighting bravely. It is not surprising that this should have occurred, as while the Bavarians are Germans, they are by no means enamoured of Prussian militancy.

Bavaria is the second State of Germany, and its industries and commerce are very great.

The injury inflicted upon it by a war which was wholly unnecessary, which was deliberately fostered and brought about to serve the purpose of a militancy whose aims were impossible, cannot be expressed in figures.

Its precise result, indeed, will not be available until after the war closes, and it is possible to estimate how much of Bavaria’s flourishing trade has been lost to it for ever.

The members of the Bavarian Parliament are naturally not all of the same opinion. But the views of a considerable section are that the neutrality of Belgium should not have been violated.

They say that by this course of attack they have lost many soldiers, much precious time, and have had no real profit by it. How true this view is can be better estimated today than five weeks ago, when this statement was made.

The forcing back of the Germans in Belgium, and the gradual but certain command of the coast line which the Allies are gaining, speak for themselves.

And further proof is found in the reports of the train loads of wounded soldiers which are making their way through Belgium to German territory.

The Bavarian spokesman added:- “I repeat, it was a mistake to attack Belgium, and also it has had the consequence that many of the neutral States are in their hearts against us because they are afraid that we may do the same to them. It is the Prussian military party which committed this fault.

The Prussian generals are the best generals in the world, but they are not diplomatists. I don’t reproach them for that, but the Imperial Chancellor should not have let them take control in this matter.

There are other considerations besides military; moreover it is now obvious that from a military point of view also it would have been more prudent not to touch Belgium. That military party in Prussia has done much harm to Germany.

It was that party which made the great mistake in 1870 of taking Alsace and Lorraine from France. We have never had any profit out of it, only trouble, and it has always been a hindrance to our getting on good terms with France.

The German generals are a great danger to our nation. We Bavarians like them only as generals; otherwise we don’t like them at all. Of course, they are Germans, but they are of a tribe very different from our own.

But now the die is cast, and we are forced to take the chances as they come.” With France driving back the enemy in Alsace and taking cities which for forty odd years have flown the German flag, these words seem prophetic.

The idea of the Bavarians was that if they had not attacked Belgium Britain would not have taken part in the war, France would have been overcome in a week or two, and then only Russia would have remained.

The Germans believe that in that case they could easily have overcome the Muscovite troops. This argument is faulty, inasmuch as it is by no means certain that Britain would not have found herself compelled to fight even if Belgium had been spared by the Germans.

That view was most clearly put forward by Sir Edward Grey in replying to the German proposals. But the assertion that they would have been able to get to Paris in a fortnight or so is even more distinctly disproven by the facts.

It is perfectly true that the Germans during the first few weeks of the war did fight their way quickly until they were not many miles from the outskirts of Paris.

But it has now been made clear that to a large extent this advance was conceded by the Allies for motives of their own. An illuminating light is thrown upon those motives by the steady if slow manner in which the Germans have been forced back on nearly their whole line.

As to capturing the French fortresses within two weeks, they have not yet taken Verdun, although more than twenty weeks have elapsed, and it is now the opinion of military experts that they never will.

At all events the position today is that in Belgium the Germans are fighting a retreating battle, while the French are slowly driving them across the frontier, and are advancing in Alsace and Lorraine.

“We should not have taken this risk,” says the Bavarian spokesman.

“We could have attained what we desired without this risk if we only had not attacked Belgium. Afterwards, perhaps, we could have found a modus vivendi with England; that would have been the best.

But in the worst case a later war against England would have been less risky – indeed no risk at all.

“When one thinks of the splendid response of Britain itself to the call of arms, of that of India, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is reasonable to assert that the latter impression is somewhat doubtful.

Paris, Tuesday.

The latest communique states:- We have progressed on the Yser Canal and west of Hollebeke. We repulsed several violent counter-attacks.

The German offensive north-west of Carney was repulsed.

A previous communique stated:- The enemy violently bombarded the trenches north-west of Sonpir, in the Aisne region.

We replied, throwing their trenches into disorder. Our artillery destroyed important earthworks on the outskirts.

The Allies carried 500 metres of their trenches.

We repelled two violent attacks in Mont Marie wood, and have made appreciable progress at Aspach and at other points.

London, Tuesday.

The correspondent of the “Daily Chronicle” at Dunkirk says that the weakening of the German cannonade and infantry demonstrations are noticeable in Flanders.

The enemy has abandoned many trenches, and a constant reshuffling is apparent behind the enemy’s lines.

Some of the native troops from the Belgian Congo co-operated in the repulse of the German attack on the Yser.

London, Tuesday.

The “Daily Chronicle’s” correspondent in Amsterdam states that there has been an important concentration of German troops near Courtrai, almost opposite Ypres, which is interpreted to mean that their recent plans to advance on Calais have been abandoned in favour of an attempt to break the Allies’ line further.

The German wounded at Bruges are being hurriedly transferred to the interior of Belgium.

The German authorities at Thielt announce that anybody carrying arms in East Flanders after the 15th instant will be summarily shot.

The whole of the public and historical buildings in Ghent have been mined.

London, Tuesday.

An officer of H.M.A.S. Sydney relates that when last in Sydney three Tingira boys volunteered. The captain didn’t want them, but took them because they were so keen.

Two belonged to the officer’s gun crew, and were perfectly splendid. One didn’t turn a hair, and the other carried projectiles to the gun without thinking to take cover.

“The Emden was nothing but a shambles from end to end,” adds the officer. “One of the officers of the Emden accused the Sydney of firing on the white flag, but Captain von Muller assembled them and they formally denied this statement.

At one stage of the fight the Sydney was deceived by peculiar smoke, and believed that the Emden had sunk. The Sydney ceased fire, and began lowering boats.

Captain von Muller considered himself unlucky, as all his voice pipes were shot away at the start of the engagement.

London, Monday.

The British submarine B11 entered the Dardanelles, and sunk the Turkish battleship Messoudieh, of 9120 tons.

The Press Bureau states that Commander Norman Holbrook, in charge of the B 11, entered the Dardanelles on Sunday. In spite of the difficult currents he dived under five rows of mines, and torpedoed the Messoudieh, which was guarding the minefield.

When last seen the battleship was sinking by the stern.

The submarine returned safely, although pursued by gunfire and by destroyers. On one occasion she was submerged for nine hours.

Melbourne, Tuesday.

The following message was received today from the Secretary of State for the Colonies:-

The enemy have evacuated the west bank of the Yser Canal. Three violent infantry attacks made by the enemy south-east of Ypres were repulsed.

The Russians have captured the enemy’s positions in the region of Przasnysz and Czechazow. Enormous losses were inflicted on the enemy.

In the region of Ilowa, south of Cracow, four guns, seven machine guns, and four thousand prisoners were captured on Thursday.

The Secretary of State confirms the report of the sinking of the Turkish battleship by a British submarine in the Dardanelles.

Some years ago German military authorities predicted that the next European war would be a war of artillery.

They went further.

They affirmed that the gun would be the decisive factor in all future wars, just as the longbow decided the battle of Agincourt, and bayonet and sabre that of Waterloo.

Events in Europe have to a large extent borne out that view, artillery having played a greater part in battle than has ever been the case in the past. Germany and France seem to have realised the fact to a rather greater extent than Britain, and the question is one of importance to Australia, both as regards the expeditionary forces and in reference to home defence.

In Egypt, at the present moment, there are three field artillery brigades (says the Melbourne “Argus”) with their supplementary ammunition columns, to which will be added the Motor Divisional Ammunition Park now encamped at the Domain.

The brigades are the first from New South Wales, under Colonel Hobbs, V.D.; the second from Victoria, under Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson; and the third from Queensland, under Lieutenant-Colonel Rosenthal.

Taking them all round there are probably no keener men in the division than the artillery men, as their work when in training showed; and in the next few weeks they will have opportunities for range firing, and for training upon a larger scale than has hitherto been possible. But the total of guns is not excessive.

The weapons are of the latest 18 pounder type, and are thoroughly efficient; but, compared with many of the guns now in use on the Continent, they are somewhat on the light side, and cannot compare in smashing power with much of the enemy’s heavy ordnance.

“Supposing the Turks should go into action in Egypt,” said an officer yesterday, “it will be interesting to see what guns they have available.

There is certainly a possibility that the Germans have furnished them with up-to-date heavy artillery; this is likely, inasmuch as the Turkish army has been trained by the German school. Compared with such weapons the Australian field gun may be a little light.

But I have no doubt that in other respects the Australian artillery will prove themselves far superior.”

The removal of these batteries from Australia, however, suggests that in the future the Commonwealth will have to pay more attention to gun manufacture. Hitherto artillery has been imported.

At present, however, the workshops of Great Britain are far too busy with home orders to export freely. They have to repair the wastage of battle and to furnish arms for new batteries. Subsequently they will be repairing the wastage of war, turning out both military and naval weapons.

Australia will have to lay down ordnance plant in the near future. To some extent guns can be manufactured already in the Commonwealth.

At Newport Railway Works it is possible to repair ordnance, and the large machinery plant there can be utilised for the manufacture of modern wire-wound guns up to the 8-inch weapon.

Accommodation is necessarily limited, however, and the process of manufacture would be on the slow side.

For defence purposes a large ordnance plant should be laid down as soon as possible, for it would be a rash man who would argue that the present calamitous war is the last that Australia will take part in.

Australia is beginning to make her own aeroplanes for the army; she will have to make guns for her army, and maybe for the navy as well. Particularly is this the case with regard to machine guns.

When questioned as regards the Caldwell machine guns recently, the Minister for Defence announced that it would not be taken over by the Commonwealth, because Australia had no facilities for making machine guns.

Almost every day, however, a study of the war news will bring home to the reader the importance of these deadly weapons in modern warfare, and it may be authoritatively stated that certain recent events have shown that the Australian military authorities are fully alive to this importance.

Australia will have to make machine guns, for there is a possibility that for many years England will have to face some sort of universal military service, and will find the resources of her armament manufactories heavily taxed.

That the Commonwealth can turn out weapons has been proved in regard to the rifles made at Lithgow. It is a step from rifles to machine guns, and from machine guns to heavy ordnance, and probably in the future Australia will be protected not only by Australian soldiers but by Australian heavy artillery.

In view of the applications to the Defence Department from insurance and other societies for information regarding the arrangements to be made for documentary evidence as to the death or disablement of members of the expeditionary forces, it has been decided that societies or institutions requiring certificates in connection with their dealings with next-of-kin or other beneficiaries shall, upon formal application to the secretary of the Defence Department, Melbourne, be furnished with them after the receipt of the usual documentary evidence from the headquarters of the forces.

The wireless station which has been erected at Government House, Rabaul, is now working very satisfactorily. It is interesting to know that most of the apparatus was previously the property of the German Government, and was being used by a high-power station at Bitapaka, which was captured after a sharp encounter during which the late Captain Pockley and others lost their lives.

The whole of the installation has been carried out, and is now being operated by members of the naval and military expeditionary force.

The station, which is comprised of Telefunken and Marconi instruments, is under the charge of the senior operator, Corporal G. Smith, signaller, “A” Company, assisted by W. Shaw, Marconi operator, and J. Fitzpatrick, telegraphist of H.M.A.S. Australia, and two junior ratings. The power is supplied by a captured German A.E.G. dynamo and converter, driven by a Bolinger oil engine.

Arrangements have been made for a limited amount of private correspondence to be despatched by wireless to Australia, at the rate of 3d per word, plus Commonwealth land line charges.

Telegrams are to be sent through the postmaster in the usual way, and they will be forwarded as opportunity offers. No responsibility will be taken.

(From Embarkation Rolls)

Lieut William George Board, Hamilton, 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment

Private William Marshall Cook, Wallsend, 14th Infantry Battalion, 4th Reinforcements

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