THE DIGGERS - The Australians in France - Patrick MacGill - darmowy ebook
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In this free ebook, are but nine chapters which give an Australian perspective of their time spent on the Western Front in France.The imperishable deeds of the Commonwealth’s glorious soldiers, least of all the Australians, or Diggers, have carved for themselves a deep niche in the topmost towers of the Temple of the Immortals. The story of the valour of the Diggers will live throughout the ages, and future generations of Australians will speak of them as we do of all the heroic figures of antiquity. Their valour has covered Australia with a lustre that shines throughout the world, so that her name, which in 1914 was little known, by 1918 had become a household word in the mouths of all the peoples of the earth.The Great War made Australia—a young community without traditions—a nation, acutely and proudly conscious of its nationality. Upon that day some hundred years gone, when in the grey of early dawn the first Australian soldier leapt upon an unknown shore and in the face of a murderous fire scaled the heights of Gaba Tepe—a feat of arms almost unparalleled in the history of war—the young Australian Community put on the toga of nationhood, and in one stride entered on a footing equal to any other nation in the family of free nations of the earth. Gallipoli—scene of that most glorious attempt which though falling short of the promised success, lost nothing of its greatness—thy name is and forever will be held sacred to all!When Gallipoli had been given up as a forlorn hope, the soldiers of the Commonwealth were relocated to Europe’s Western Front, when in the Spring of 1918 the great German offensive pressed back and by force of numbers broke through the sorely tried British line, the Australian divisions were hurried down from the North and rushed up to stem the German armies.The story of the battles fought by the Australians before Amiens is amongst the most thrilling in the history of this great world conflict. Here the fate of civilization was decided. The great German army, marching along the road in column of route, like the armies of Napoleon a hundred years before,  reached the crest of high land overlooking Amiens, and with but a few miles between them and the key to Paris, were held up by a veritable handful of Australians, later reinforced as the rest of the Divisions came to hand. It was the turning of the tide; the fighting raged around Villers-Bretonneux, but the car of the German Juggernaut rolled forward no more. An impassable barrier had been set up beyond which the enemy could not pass. But the young soldiers of Australia, not satisfied with arresting his onward march, began to force the Hun back; at first slowly, and then faster and faster, until in the great offensive of August 8, when along with four Divisions of Canadians and two British, they swept him back in headlong rout, nor gave him pause until breaking through the vaunted Hindenburg line they stood victorious at Beaurevoir.The deeds of these brave men will remain forever fresh in the minds of the Commonwealth and Allied nations. Australia has reason to be proud of her war effort; she has done great things; but she has paid a great price. That a small community of just five million recruited and sent 330,000 men twelve thousand miles across the seas, is a great thing. The number dead—57,000—with total casualties—289,723—show how great the price Australia paid for Liberty.Indeed, it was the “new” colonies of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada which paid a heavy price in war dead. It would only be another 21 years before they would be asked to pay yet again.

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THEDIGGERS

The Australians In France

BYPatrick Macgill

With An Introduction By

The Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes

Originally Published By

Herbert   Jenkins   Limited, London[MCMXIX]

Resurrected By

Abela Publishing, London

[MMXVIII]

The Diggers

Typographical arrangement of this edition

© Abela Publishing 2018

This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Abela Publishing,

London

United Kingdom

2018

ISBN-13: 978-X-XXXXXX-XX-X

email

Books@AbelaPublishing.com

Website

Abela Publishing

Acknowledgements

The production of this free ebook has been sponsored by

The McAlister Line

McAlister and the Great War

McAlister’s Way

McAlister’s Hoard

McAlister’s Siege

McAlister’s Allegiance

McAlister’s Spark

McAlister’s Trail

See end pages for more details.

Dedication

TO

W. P.

Foreword

By the Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes

My dear Mr. MacGill,—

From the day on which The Children of the Dead End came into my hands, I have been amongst the most devoted of your worshippers. In this and in your later books, your genius has won world-wide recognition, and no words of mine are needed to commend to your very wide circle of readers this story of the achievements of the Australian soldiers in France.

The imperishable deeds of Australia's glorious soldiers have carved for themselves a deep niche in the topmost towers of the Temple of the Immortals. The story of their valour will live throughout the ages, and future generations of Australians will speak of them as we do of all the heroic figures of antiquity, and strive to mould their lives upon the sublime spirit of self-sacrifice and love of country and liberty which animated them. Their valour has covered Australia with a lustre that shines throughout the world, so that her name, which but yesterday was almost unknown, is now a household word in the mouths of all the peoples of the earth.

The war has made of Australia—a young community without traditions—a nation, acutely and proudly conscious of its nationality, its record in this war, and the great future which awaits it. Upon that day some four years gone, when in the grey of early dawn the Australian soldier leapt upon an unknown shore and in the face of a murderous fire scaled the heights of Gaba Tepe—a feat of arms almost unparalleled in the history of war—the young Australian Commonwealth put on the toga of manhood, and at one stride entered on a footing of equality the family of free nations of the earth. Gallipoli—scene of that most glorious attempt which though falling short of success lost nothing of its greatness—thy name is and forever will be held sacred to all Australians! In that fiery furnace of trial, of suffering and death, was formed the mould, in which throughout the long and dreadful years of war the young Australian soldier has been cast. From that day onwards, through the fearful horrors of trench warfare in France and Flanders, on the burning sands of the East, on land and on sea, the armies of the young Commonwealth, casting out not only fear but doubt, have dared, endured, and died, supremely confident of victory.

Through the long dark days when the skies were black with omens of disaster for the Allies, they faltered not, nor for a moment doubted that the cause for which they fought would triumph. Their record is a glorious one, and its lustre is no fitful gleam, but shines brilliantly throughout the long dread years of trial.

It is of the deathless story of the Australians before Amiens that you write, and inspired by such a theme yours will be a story to make the pulses of all Australians leap in their veins with exultation.

When in the Spring of 1918 the great German offensive pressed back and by force of numbers broke through the sorely tried British line, the Australian divisions were hurried down from the North and rushed up to stem the German armies, flushed with triumph and supremely confident of final victory.

The story of the battles fought by the Australians before Amiens is amongst the most thrilling in the history of this great world conflict. Here was the fate of civilization decided. The great German army, marching along the road in column of route, reached the crest of high land overlooking Amiens, and with but a few miles between them and this key to Paris, were held up by a veritable handful of Australians, later reinforced as the rest of the Divisions came to hand. It was the turning of the tide; the fighting raged around Villers-Bretonneux, but the car of the German Juggernaut rolled forward no more. From that day the onward rush of the enemy offensive was stayed. An impassable barrier had been set up beyond which the enemy could not pass. But the young soldiers of Australia, not satisfied with arresting his onward march, began to force the Hun back; at first slowly, and then faster and faster, until in the great offensive of August 8, when along with four Divisions of Canadians and two British, they swept him back in headlong rout, nor gave him pause until breaking through the vaunted Hindenburg line they stood victorious at Beaurevoir.

The deeds of these brave men will remain forever fresh in the minds of Australians. Australia has reason to be proud of her war effort; she has done great things; but she has paid a great price. That a small community of five millions all told should have recruited 417,000 men and sent 330,000 twelve thousand miles across the seas, is a great thing. The number of our dead—57,000—and our total casualties—289,723—show how great is the price which Australia has paid for Liberty.

Although I have not seen the manuscript of The Diggers, with such a theme it is impossible that the author of The Children of the Dead End and The Great Push can fail.

Sincerely yours,

W. M. Hughes.

Contents

ITHE SOMME

IIVILLERS-BRETONNEUX

IIITOWARDS PERONNE

IVMONT ST. QUENTIN

VTHE HINDENBURG TUNNEL

VITHE DEAD VILLAGE

VIIGRAVES

VIIICAMBRAI AND AMIENS

IXIN THE CAFÉ

The Song of Picardy (1918).

Oh! barren hearth of Picardy

And trampled harvest field,

Say, who will light your fire at night

Or mill your autumn yield?

No more the reaper plies his trade,

The hours of peace are o'er,

And gone the matron and the maid,

And they return no more.

The poppies blow in Picardy,

The skylark sings o'erhead,

And flower and bird their vigil keep

Above the nameless dead;

But though above the dark sky lowers,

Beneath its gloom is set

The little seeds of Freedom's flowers,

To rim the parapet.

And hearts are strong in Picardy,

Where Hope is still aflame,

Where Freedom's heroes see ahead

The goal at which they aim;

Though drear and cold the ruined hearth

And barren fields are dumb,

A voice breathes soft across the earth

Of peace that is to come.

Chapter IThe Somme

In the afternoon of October 11, 1918, I found myself with a party travelling out from Amiens and taking the straight road that runs eastwards towards St. Quentin across the war harried fields of the Somme. We had just passed through a country where the harvest was gathered in, where the hay ricks and cornstacks stood high round the ancient farmhouses, and we were now in a country where Death had reaped its sad harvest for over four years, where all was ruin and decay—a spread of demolition and destruction. This was the battleground of the Somme.

This department is level, very fertile and was at one time amongst the best cultivated districts of France. Cider was made there, poultry reared, and the locality was rich in all manner of farm produce. And it stood high in textile industries—wool, cotton, hemp, silk-spinning, and the weaving of velvet and carpets. In addition to these industries there were also large iron foundries, beetroot sugar factories, distilleries, breweries, employing prior to the war close on seventy thousand hands. But now, at the present moment, all these industries are obliterated, the rich pastures of the Somme are barren wastes, the factories and distilleries huddles of charred wood, twisted iron, and broken bricks. All homes and hamlets are destroyed, and for miles and miles ruin succeeds ruin, until the eye wearies and the heart is heavy at the sight of the horror which has been heaped on the once fair land of France.

The land of the Somme is not alone deserted and ravaged. It is dead, utterly laid waste as if the lava of war had not alone fallen on it, but blotted it out as a sand storm smothers the landmarks of a desert. Of the great trees which lined the roadways nothing remains save the peeled stumps, that stretch mile after mile as far as the eye can see, passive relics of the hate which swept over them and broke them down. Never again will they bear a leaf or call to the dead earth for the food which gave green to their foliage.

The green which spreads out from the roadways is the green of rank weeds, thistle, nettle and dock, the rank undergrowth which rises through the tortured strands of rusty wire that were once the outer ramparts of the Hindenburg line. Up from these nettles, docks, and thistles, rises here and there a cumbrous tank which at one time fell into a shell-hole and was unable to hiccough itself out again.

By the roadside lie shells which failed to explode, shells in their cases which were never despatched on their mission of death, shells sticking nose deep in the clay with their bases showing through the weeds. Near these are gun emplacements with the guns still in their original positions pointing back towards the locality where the British troops are at present billeted in their many rest areas.

Here is a mill, its walls down, a brewery silent and deserted, a sugar refinery with its girders twisted and bent, its framework stripped of all covering, its iron bowels naked to the sky.

It is hard to picture this spread of world being other at any time than a wild desolate waste, covered with broken homes, rusty limbers and waggons, with ghastly spiked contraptions of war, chevaux de frise, distorted entanglements, trip wires hidden in the weeds, snares for unwary feet, and grotesque ill-proportioned dug-outs, with doors askew and roofs falling in.

Elbows of trench suddenly gape by the roadside and as suddenly cease. At one time these were parts of a well-proportioned alley, set with fire-bay and traverse, boarded floor and well-built parapet, running for mile after mile in one continuous crooked line from the steep Vosges of the South to the sand dunes of the North. Here was a sap that once stretched across No Man's Land, there was a front line, and further back, crawling through holt and hamlet, all that remained of a communication trench could be dimly discerned. The hamlet was now a medley of tortured beams and fallen bricks, the holt a congregation of peeled stumps that in the distance looked like an assemblage of lepers, and sap, fire-bay and communication trench were defaced, disfigured, their shapeless ruin adding to the ravage which had deformed the face of the country.