Battles

Website becomes a book

It has been five years since the research began on the men and women from the Surf Coast Shire who enlisted in World War One.

The results of the research into the honour boards and memorials that identified some of their community members has been published on this website in the early stages of the research. Since then over one hundred more names have been found and yet to be added to the website.

Now the research has been exhausted, the information has now been compiled into a book due to be launched next week. I would like to thank the supporters of the website and Facebook page who have contributed to extending the knowledge of one or more veterans and also for your support and encouragement of the research.

Through Torquay Museum Without Walls this comprehensive 460 page book, covering the 700 men and women from the Surf Coast Shire who enlisted will be distributed to local schools, public libraries, history groups, RSLs, as well as to families who assisted in providing details of family members who fought in the Great War or helped with relevant photographs and artefacts.

The book is abundantly illustrated. Seventeen short historical chapters deal with different aspects of the war, recognizing local veterans experience over those five years. The chapters discuss how they prepared for war, their experience at Gallipoli, the Western Front, the sinking of HMAT Ballarat, being part of the Charge of the Light Horse Brigade and the experiences of those left behind. There are letters from home and messages in bottles thrown overboard by those leaving our shores. The core of the book is the investigation into the location of the local memorials and honour boards, their history and who the men and women identified on these honour boards and memorials are. Wonderful photographs accompany each story.

Details of purchasing a printed or digital copy will be available soon.

 

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The Battle of the Somme, 100 Years On

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Somme offensive, a series of fierce and ultimately futile battles that consumed the British, Australian and Dominion forces for much of 1916. The offensive was eventually abandoned on 18 November with staggering troop losses and very little ground gained.

The initial day of the offensive, 1 July 1916, remains the costliest day in the history of the British army. It suffered almost 60,000 casualties, a third of whom were killed. The attack on 1 July, and the operations that followed, were undermined by a failure to appreciate the strength of the German defences, and the relative ineffectiveness of the British artillery against them. British command had a lack of confidence in the abilities of Britain’s volunteer army, which meant there was a distinct lack of imagination or innovation in the tactics employed.

Despite the enormous losses of that first battle at the Somme, the offensive continued through summer and a particularly wet autumn until the first snow fell on 18 November 1916. The Australian Imperial Force, consisting of men who had fought at Gallipoli and fresh volunteers from home, arrived at the Somme in late July.

The major contribution of Australian troops to the Somme offensive was in the fighting around Pozières between 23 July and 3 September. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions suffered more than 24,000 casualties at Pozières, including 6,741 dead.

Nine men from the Surf Coast honour boards were killed in action during the Somme offensive. William Traill Appleton (Anglesea); Charles Smith and John Lamb (Ceres); Albert Clery (Connewarre); Francis Gannon, Ray Trigg, Lester Crossley (Deans Marsh); Robert Smithers and Ernest Armistead (Lorne). Five of these men, who were attached to the 21st and 22nd Battalion, died on July 19 at Fromelles / Fleurbaix.

When exhaustion, and the sticky mud of a particularly wet autumn, caused the offensive to be abandoned in November, the allied forces had managed to advance only 12 kilometers. It had come at a cost of 430,000 British and Dominion troops and 200,000 French casualties. The offensive destroyed Britain’s mass volunteer army, and for the rest of the war it would be reliant upon conscription for reinforcements. Participation on the Somme also put the first strain on Australia’s voluntary recruitment system, and led to the first unsuccessful referendum to introduce conscription.