FIRST WORLD WAR LETTERS TO GAR
Extracts of a talk given to the Phillip Island & District Historical Society Inc on Armistice Day 11.11.2015 by Susan Maclellan
In these extracts from letters sent to “Gar”, who was John Maclellan (Susan’s great grandfather), we read from Eric Connelly, who was married to Susan’s great aunt Dorothy; Eric’s brother Clive; Andrew Gillison, who was the Chaplain for the Girl Guides which Gar set up; and Alan Brooksbank who went to the war with Susan’s grandfather Roy Maclellan. The others quoted here were employees of John Maclellan, who owned the “Big Store” in Chapel Street Prahran (the building is still there) which was part of the Foy and Gibson conglomerate which John Maclellan ran.
LIFE ON BOARD TRANSPORTS
Letter from Clive Connelly - A brief note to thank you and your family for the very valuable addition to my service kit. When the time comes to use it, my feeling of security and confidence will certainly be increased by reason of having available so effective a weapon. This voyage so far as it has progressed has certainly been of interest by reason of the conditions under which it is being made. After the very active life we had all been living at Broadmeadows, I think we all at first felt the confinement incident to life on shipboard, but we have now got past this stage and settled down to life on a transport. Work goes on steadily each day, its scope being more limited of course than when on shore, but none the less it is of great value. From the point of view of a trip our voyage has been uneventful, calm weather, very little marine life, and no phenomena to record.
The Argus Correspondent“ on Clive and Andrew Gillison…. Has proved himself one of the cleverest bayonet fighters on the flagship.
The best rifle shot of the fleet is probably the Presbyterian chaplain, Captain A. Gillison. He is a well-known member of the Melbourne Rifle Club, and has put on "possibles" at all ranges in his time. Another Melbourne Rifle Club member is Captain W R Hoggart, commander of F Company of the 14th, who shot with distinction in the Melbourne Grammar School team a few seasons ago.”
Clive’s description of being ordered to Egypt prior to Gallipoli Weather very hot following wind sea smooth. All parades and lectures cancelled owing to heat. At 11.00pm wireless received ordering A.I.F to complete training at Cairo Egypt. Much excitement amongst troops and many wild surmises and theories put forward. Orvie to proceeded ahead at full speed and was out of sight when we came on deck after lunch. Fire stations at 4.00pm wind came around ahead making matters much more bearable. 6 more events in boxing tournament were fought.
Colonel Tubb on life on board for officers “Men held “Father Neptune Ceremony” 6pm handed over duties. After dinner a trial by jury was held in Officers Mess room it was a very humorous affair.
After we retired to No 25 (the den of iniquity) for supper which we made of iced beer and sandwiches.”_
Archie Colquhoun - I must write & thank you very very much, for you sending me the Australasian every mail it is so good of you. We are still in Egypt, but it won’t be long before we are out of it. I know I won’t be sorry to get out of the place. I heard my brother has arrived in France; we hope to be there in a very short while now. We have had some very rough times in Egypt, the weather has been terrible hot we get it 120 in the shade.
Clive Connelly-"Heliopolis. 11/3/15 Cannot altogether get away from the fact that I am a lawyer, and consequently get more than a fair share of court-martial work; still it's all in the game. No further word as to when or where we go, but expect to move within a week to a place colder than here, as we were warned to take warm clothes only. General Birdwood also told us yesterday that we will go straight into the firing line. My company is ready physically, and will give a good account of itself
Heliopolis, l6/3/15 'This morning we had reveille at 2 a.m., breakfast at 3 a.m. marched out of camp at 4 a.m. went along the Suez road for 4½ hours, then turned around and fought our way back against the New Zealand Brigade, arriving back at camp, just before 2 p.m. To-morrow afternoon we go out again and work all night. No word as to when we move, but it may be any time. I am feeling quite warlike having just had my sword sharpened ready for the fray: I carry it on the saddle.
Clive Connelly From there I wandered around the museum, taking my time. By now you should have received the enamel snake bracelet and enamel brooches. These are copied from ancient models, and I think perhaps the most wonderful work of the ancient was their enamel work. Specimens in the museum, thousands of years old, have retained their colors, unimpaired. From the museum I went to the Zoo. The gardens are fine, and formed a welcome relief after the desert. The collection of animals and birds is interesting.
Lieut De Ravin Eric Connelly and myself went on leave after lunch to see Cairo by day. So we started at the Zoological Gardens, which were fine indeed, beautifully laid out, and fine gardens and lawns. The collection of animals was nothing out of the ordinary, in fact, I think we can beat it as far as variety goes. The birds were fine, and also the lions and lionesses, with their cubs, which were playing about just like pups. In other respects we are beyond them, that is my opinion judging by what I saw in an hour and a half.
Eric Connelly "We had a holiday yesterday, and the Colonel, Capt. Mackenna, and I went to the Citadel in the morning. It is a wonderful old place, with the holes caused by the British guns still to be seen in the great massive gates. At the back is the old fort built by Napoleon, whilst in front is an old mosque, the walls of which are battered by the guns of Napoleon's fort. In one place you can see the old round cannon ball still embedded in the stone. The Citadel is a very historic old place, and we saw where Mahomet Ali Pasha massacred the last of the Mamluks. One is supposed to have escaped by jumping over the wall on horseback, but if you saw the wall you would agree with me that the theory that he was warned, and did not turn up at the dinner which Ali had arranged for them, is probably the correct one. The Citadel is a magnificent mosque, which is a copy of the great mosque. From the Citadel we could see the old Roman Viaduct. In the centre of t at Constantinople and inside is a huge chandelier which was given them by one of the old French king, who also gave them a fine tower clock, which stands outside.
Jim Minty Cairo is about 7 miles from here and can be reached in a few minutes by electric train for the small sum of half a piastre. There is very little to be seen in Heliopolis beyond the architecture of the buildings which is perfect. The ornamentation is beyond description. The outside of some of the bigger houses (palaces) excels the inside of our biggest theatres as regards ornamentation.
Cairo is much livelier than Heliopolis and you need to keep your wits about you whilst there. The first thing that catches your eye is the number of small native boys & girls who clean your boots and leggings for half a piastre. If you should happen to stop for a minute to look in a shop window a dozen black hands will be at work cleaning your boots. On consenting to have them cleaned a fight starts amongst these youngsters as to who was on the job first.
Clive Connelly As an illustration on how improved the natives are, I saw a lorry going along a main street, loaded with the rim of one wheel off, except for a very small section. The weight of the lorry was being taken on the spokes. The natives go to sleep in the streets on the slightest provocation. Anything does for a pillow, shovel handles, stick, curb, loose stone, or bare ground. Some of them rightly cover their heads with pieces of cotton cloth. I marvel they don't suffocate.
Clive Connelly. I wish the authorities were a bit more generous on the clothing side. This desert is the absolute limit on boots, yet we get treated on the basis that, in theory, a pair of boots should last a certain time. It's rotten. The men also have only one uniform to wear under all conditions. The Territorials have four uniforms. We will get through all the same
Clive Connelly Am enclosing motto off my pajamas supplied to me at the hospital. You would have laughed to see me in them, as they were many sizes too large. (The motto is 'Strike hard; uphold Australia's honor; duty be your watchword.')
Eric Connelly We are very lucky, and have been sent to the best hospital in Alexandria. We are far more comfortable here than any of the other officers, who are in purely military hospitals. The funny thing about the place is that it is German, and we have two little German nurses looking after us. They are kindness itself, and can't do too much for us. I think it is the ladies of Alexandria who have arranged for us to come here, and they are constantly here getting us things if we want them. Lady Somebody (I forget her name) made our beds for us the other day, and I'll bet she hadn't made many before.
Eric Connelly We were up and had breakfast before daylight; then just before the break of day we slipped close in and dropped anchor close to the shore. There were warships and transports all around us, but we hadn't much time to look about us, as they had started on the beach, and we could hear pretty lively rifle fire. The 3rd Brigade landed first, and got ashore before the guns started, but got it hot from rifle and machine gun fire; but they charged like devils, and chased the enemy off the beach and up into the hills, which rose very steeply off the sand. Meanwhile the 2nd Brigade was landing, the 7th going first. I got my platoon into the boats, and a naval launch got us in tow and ran us in. By this time the Germans and Turks had their guns going, and shelled us all the way in; in fact they shelled our transport before we left her. The launch slipped our tow rope when we got close to the beach, and we had to row the rest of the way. Up to this time, although rifle bullets had been plopping in the water around us and shells had been flying, none of us was hit, and I thought we were going to get ashore without a casualty. Anyhow as soon as we had started rowing, two shells in quick succession exploded right over the boat and showered us. I called out, "Is any one hit?" and got no answer, so kept on coaching them as they rowed. One man wouldn't keep time and was throwing the others out, so I was cursing him. After we got ashore alright, and when I was getting the men out of the boat (into the water) I discovered that the man who had not been keeping time had a shrapnel bullet right through his shoulder, and had sat there rowing away without saying a word even though he was being sworn at. One of the others had one right through his wrist, and he also hadn't said a word. I sent them both back to the troopship, and we went on.
We stacked our packs on the beach and went along to the place where we were to assemble, and although we were being shelled they never got any more of us there We formed up, and then started on the rather difficult job of finding Turks It was a difficult job, because the country is covered with scrub up to your knees, and they had well concealed trenches all over the place. You could not stand up and look around too long, as too many bullets were buzzing, and they had snipers all over the place. So as to, conceal their snipers, they had dug pits, and in these pits stood men with bits of scrub, tied round their shoulders and heads, making it almost impossible to see them. Our fellows at first thought they were seeing things when a bush would hop up and run like mad, but the said bushes never ran very far without getting a message to stop.
Clive Connelly Our division, the New Zealand and Australian divisions, were in reserve, and landed as soon as the Australian division was ashore. My battalion happened to be the last to land, some going ashore Sunday night, but most of the battalion, did not get ashore until early Monday morning. I got away with the last boatload. Last Sunday night made a big impression on me. We were waiting for the order to land, when along came some boatloads of wounded, and as military transport officer it was my job to see they were got aboard. Well this job lasted until daybreak, when I had to refuse any more. It was sad, and came as a great shock to me to see so many wounded. You only see a few at a time in the firing line, but, by gum, the behaviour of the wounded made you proud to be Australian. Needless to say, there were wounds of every description and in all sorts of places. The scene was quite different to what one would picture. Groaning was scarcely ever heard, and the men gave mighty little display of the suffering that was going on. There was plenty of talking, and laughter was by no means absent as the more lightly wounded recounted their adventures. Our men worked well helping to get the wounded aboard, and in taking round, hot tea, bread and butter and jam. We were going all night
Andrew Gillison The whole place is like nothing I ever saw, with its burrows all over the steep slopes wherever safe, and the hill sides bared of much vegetation & scarred with trenches. In places it looks as if alluvial miners had been at work & had turned up every inch of soil, leaving it in broad ribbons on the surface & all the intervening space dug over. Gun fire is partly responsible for this of course.
Captain Benjamin Jack They wouldn't face it and we went forward again. I found I felt much safer with a rifle and bayonet and hung on to one all day. Major Bennett & I located a 3 gun battery on the map and sent it back to H.Q. and the battleships blew it out 1/2 hour later. Then Bennett got wounded and left another sub. and I in charge of about 200 men. I was never in such a fix. I didn't know whether to dig in, go forward or back. The latter I couldn't do so I stopped….. My christening of fire will be remembered for ever. I felt sick, a peculiar feeling in my stomach
Chaplain Andrew Gillison We have been very fortunate in the matter of water, & have been able in a bit of country where there are no streams to obtain a good supply by sinking. The water diviners were called in to aid. Their success was very questionable, but of course there are quite a number of men in the force who have practiced with the divining-rod& believe in it. We get some from the ships, but I have no doubt could do without it if necessary.
Captain Benjamin Jack We have a man in the Battn. who can find water by a divining rod. An ordinary twig held in his hands and he walks along, who he comes over water the stick bends. This was done from several directions and it bent in the same spot each time. I saw it done. I have often read about it and laughed but never again. We drag at the spots indicated and sure enough 4 ft down we got a lovely well. We now have 6 wells close by, each marked out by him. He is a very handy man in the army.”
Mention in Dispatches for Edward Pascoe “During the operations from October 23rd 1917 to December 31st 1917, this officer had control of the transport of the unit. He was most efficient in his duties in every way & gave the greatest satisfaction. On more than one occasion, TEL KHUWEILPE, near JEMMAMEH, at ESDUD, he assisted in the collection of wounded though under machine gun fire. He was most cool and collected & headed his men in a most thorough manner. Though this officer is only attached , he has been of great assistance.”
His superior, the Staff Officer of the Australian Dental Services in his Unit Report of June 1918 wrote somewhat churlishly
“This officer is mentioned in dispatches A.I.F. list 346 dated 18.6.18.
The recommendation for this “mention” was never submitted to me and from the point of view of Dental Services would never have been permitted to proceed without comment as the dental condition of this Brigade was not such as one should expect. (vide A.I.F. Headquarters correspondence 640/4/27 19136)
From a departmental point of view I consider this “mention” was ill advised.”
Second Mention in Dispatches When the 1st L.H.F.A set off from Richon - Le Zion this officer was placed in charge of all transport, which duties he always carried out most efficiently. During the first El Salt, operations, extending from march 23rd to April 11th this officer rendered most valuable services. Though belonging to an attached unit he really acted as second in command in the mobile party of the 1st L.H.F. Ambulance. On March 29th he was dispatched with some 60 odd camels with cawlets, stores etc. to refer assistance to the Anzac Collecting Station from near El Ghoraniye to where such station was established on the Es Salt to Amman Road. During such trips he rendered most valuable services, & through his own initiative, perseverance he was able to add to the comfort of numerous refugees during their transport down the line to the Anzac Receiving Station at Shunt Nimrin.
On April 11th during the attack on the bridgehead at Ghoraniye by the Turks he again rendered valuable assistance, on more than one occasion, he was exposed to enemy fire whilst locating suitable position for wounded to be sheltered.
During the second El Salt operations extending from April 29th to May 4th , this officer again rendered valuable assistance. He was temporarily placed in charge of the mounted personnel accompanying the Brigade when his CO Lieut Col Cave was evacuated. He assisted materially by his own initiative & skill in assisting the transport of the wounded down the hilly country from El Salt.
This officer has previously been mentioned in dispatches.”
In September Edward was appointed to the Moascar Dental Hospital. This move was noted in the Unit diary by Major George Douglas in the following terms_
“As an effort towards improving the tone and morale of Moascar Dental Hospital, Capt. Pascoe E.T. was appointed S.D.O. 16.9.18 - Capt. Bull R.A. going to rest camp, Port Said. Results so far, have amply justified the change.
Indeed it is now realised that a big mistake was made in not appointing this officer to the position at an earlier date. In connection it is only fair to state, with regard to this officer’s recent “mention” that it can now be realised of what value he must have been to 1st. A.I.F. Ambulance.
Adventure of Stan Savige
Following the abdication of the Russian Tsar in 1917, the Caucasus Front collapsed, leaving Central Asia open to the Turkish Army. The British War Office responded with a plan to send a force of hand-picked British officers and NCOs to organise any remaining Russian forces or civilians who were ready to fight the Turkish forces. A request for Australian officers to participate was sent to the commander of the Australian Corps, General Sir William Birdwood. Some twenty officers, drawn from "the cream of the cream" of Australian leaders, were chosen, including Stan. This force became known as Dunsterforce after its commander, Major General Lionel Charles Dunsterville, the inspiration for the titular character of Rudyard Kipling's novel Stalky & Co. Dunsterforce arrived in Baku in August 1918. It was hoped that, from the Christian Georgian, Armenian and Assyrian people who had supported the Russians and historically feared the Turks, Dunsterforce could raise an army to contain the Turks but "the task proved superhuman
Charles Bean the Official Historian on the role of Stan Savige The stand made by Savige and his eight companions that evening and during half of the next day against hundreds of the enemy thirsting like wolves to get at the defenseless throng was as fine as any episode known to the present writer in the history of this war. For full details the reader must be referred to Savige’s own account: here it can only be said that the marked feature of the fight was that every Dunsterforce man knew that he could rely on each of his fellow members, however far they were separated, to carry out his part whatever the cost.,”
FRANCE and ENGLAND
Private Charles McKenzie We are going to move again to Wareham there are also a lot of reinforcements here but a lot left today for their training battalion and the rest will follow as they are on four days furlough which is up tonight all the troops that arrive in England get four day leave to London and I think that they give it to them so they will not take French leave, this camp is being taken over by motor machine gunners who belong to the “tanks” but none of their machines have arrived yet but am living in hopes of seeing one before we move.
Leave in England
While I was in London I went through a part of Selfridges and it was crowded they had policemen on the doors and about the buildings and I think that they must
be lose a lot of articles they have women shop walkers dressed in riding habits also acts as porters.
IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE
Clive Connelly I went ahead to have a look at the ground myself, and got a report from one of my officers that the trench to be charged was either occupied by New Zealanders or unoccupied. I wanted Major Steel to make sure before charging. Whilst I was forward of the trench having a look for myself, I heard him say, 'Get ready to charge.' I came running down to stop him until scouts had been sent out. The men were in their dugouts with bayonets fixed. One bayonet was sticking up, and I did not see it, neither did the man see me coming down. The result was I got, the bayonet just below the knee; it then travelled up below one side of the knee cap and came out the side of my leg above. I slid most of the way down the hill with my leg stuck up in the air. When I got to a dressing station, the doctor dressed my leg and said I would have to go to the beach and get some stitches in. As there were a fair number of wounded to keep the stretcher-bearers busy, I walked down with the aid of my observer, Gilbert Smith, a very fine fellow. It was nearly two miles, and the Turks were chucking in shrapnel all the way along the track. I was not a blooming hero, and felt mighty uncomfortable all the way. When Smith saw the wound next day he said, 'I wonder how you managed to walk down to the beach like you did.' I told him the answer was 'shrapnel was the moving inspiration.'
Clive’s superior officer (thought to be Pompey Elliott) "The strenuous time that I have passed through has had its effect on me, and I have been invalided to England. The last attack I made was with 350 men of the 4th Infantry Brigade and was one where fatal casualties occurred, only 110 coming out. The poor lads had to attack to take some Turkish trenches. It was a combined attack from three different directions—the Connaught Rangers, New Zealand Infantry and 4th Brigade. Prior to the attack an artillery bombardment took place on these trenches lasting from 4 to 5. It was difficult to conceive that any human life could remain in the Turkish trenches. On the cessation of the fire our attack had to commence. This was accordingly done. I formed three lines with a reserve placing Captain (Major) Connelly in charge of the first line. In less than ten minutes poor Clive was killed, shot in three places and about 50 per cent of his line. The second and third lines advanced, but owing to a difficulty of the ground and the effect of the enemy's rifle and machine gun fire very few reached the trenches. We recovered Captain Connelly from the position where he fell, but he did not last long and we buried him before daybreak. It was fearful slaughter, but it is only by this means that our advances can be made. We have only four of the original officers left, the rest being killed, wounded or invalided. You must resign yourself to anything that may happen, as so many are going under that no one knows when his turn will come
The worst time I had was crossing a small flat about 200 yards wide, to the farthest firing line. The enemy were raking it with shrapnel, machine-guns, and rifles to stop supports coming up. This was about two miles from where we had landed, and it had been two miles steep hill-climbing, so we were not as fresh as we had been. It is wonderful how they can miss you. I am not going to harrow your feelings with an account of all the things I saw there, but it is sufficient to say we managed to get over without a scratch. When we were over there one of my men crawled up to me to say he had a bullet in his shoulder. I turned over on my left elbow to have a look at him, and got hit myself. We were both useless there, so I got my first-aid dressing on my arm, as it was bleeding somewhat, and told the other poor beggar to come with me, as he did not know where the dressing station was. It was a very lively trip back: they sniped at us all the way, and kept going with their old machine guns and shrapnel.
About three-quarter way over the flat we were resting behind some scrub, and I called out to him, "Are you ready to run." and I heard the voice of another of my own men say, "I can't, sir." I went over to him, and found him with a bullet through his right leg, and he could not get up. I had two good legs and he had two good arms, so between us we got over the flat, and just over the rise, all on his own, and doing very good work, considering he was under fairly heavy fire, we met Dr. Black, of the 6th. We dropped down, and I called him, and got him to dress the poor beggar's leg. The other man had gone on ahead of us. The two of us then went on again, and I don't know which of us was the most exhausted. Every few minutes we would look at each other, and then just drop and have a rest. That flask the bar gave me came in very useful. I asked poor Dingwall (that was the man with the bullet in his leg) if he would like a drink, and he said, "I've got plenty, thanks." He reached for his water bottle, and said, '"Someone has shook my water." We then examined the bottle, and found that two bullets had been clean through it. Anyhow, mine was alright, so we had a nip, and went on.
We then, struck another poor devil in an awful mess so we hitched him on, and the three of us must have looked a picture. We got to the first dressing station, and left the third man, as he needed a stretcher and as they were only dealing with serious cases, they sent us on to the beach to get fixed up. I was hit about 1 p.m., and it was about a quarter to 3 when we got to the beach, but we had only had three good legs between the two of us. The doctor, or, at least, one of them, fixed up my arm, but refused to let me stay on shore, and sent me on to a troopship. From there I had a great view of the bombardment, one of the warships being only just a couple of hundred yards away, and blazing broadside after broad sideclean over us. That night they let go a few shells at us, but they are rotten shots.
Charles Bean on Andrew Gillison’s death
“On the following morning while Gillison was waiting to read the burial service over the bodies of some of those who had fallen in this action, he heard someone groaning in the scrub on the ridge in front of the old line. He had been warned against attempting to move in daylight on that ridge; but he went forward far enough to ascertain that the cry came from a man of the Hampshire who was Iying out wounded and was being troubled by ants. Gillison at once called Cpl. Pittendrigh and a man named Wild (of Hinton. N.S.W.) of the 13th Bn. The three crawled forward, reached the wounded man, and had dragged him for about a yard when a Turkish sniper opened and severely wounded both Gillison and Pittendrigh. Gillison died the same day.”
“The officers whom Gellibrand had picked and trained had picked and trained their subordinates in the same way, and were now obtaining a similar response. Along the battered parapet of O.G.2 the tiny scattered posts looked out over the crater-field at the German flares rising from the Six Cross Roads and falling over their heads. At no time of the day had it been possible for them to rest in the dugouts - men were far too few. But, weary to death, they were still determined to beat their enemy. At intervals throughout the night bodies of Germans could be seen moving near Riencourt and in the Diagonal Road close in front of the captured trenches. Whenever there appeared such signs that the enemy might attack, the call to “stand-to” came from the men themselves. Captain Savige tells of two whose bayonets had been blown off their rifles, running from one post to another to replace them - they must have bayonets for this work! Another was firing with German rifles and ammunition, with a collection of German bombs beside him and his own rifle carefully covered for use in emergency. Men could not be spared for stretcher-bearing - the wounded made their own way to the rear “unless absolutely mangled.” One man with a fragment of shell in his lung reached the railway before he fainted; a corporal with a piece of metal in his knee carried another man out. The medical officers at the railway were working steadily throughout the tornado, but the firing line became crowded with men with ghastly wounds. Savige tells of one whose entrails were showing through a gash in his abdomen, but who lay smoking a cigarette. To Savige’s “Stick it out, lad,” he answered “Don’t worry about me, sir, but give the bastards hell!” Afterwards he shot himself by placing a rifle between his feet. “The men (says Savige) had one notion only – ‘it doesn’t matter at what cost, we’re going to beat them!’ Officers-in particular, those of the 24th were consciously working to the standard their brigadier had set them. Their reports throughout were based on his maxim: “I want the truth, but don’t get your tails down.” _
In September we stood on the battlefield of the Somme. One evening, as we climbed a steep hillside, and looked back on the way we had come, the level rays of the sun set revealed the shell holes on the plain, countless, unimaginable. Near by was a roofless church and churchyard. The Huns had robbed the dead, smashing the coffins and leaving the bones in careless heaps, so that he might steal the lead linings of the coffins for munitions. Sick at heart we entered the church to thank God that some of Australian's sons are standing between her and such outrage. If more were needed to harden us for the coming stunt, the Hun has set traps everywhere to maim or kill men unawares, trip wires with bombs attached, souvenirs loaded with explosives, and his dead so placed as to make contact with mines.
Away in the distance are captive balloons, and nearer an enemy 'plane, which our archies are firing on without success, the pieces of shell falling all around us. Here is a notice, "The Bandicoots will show here at 5.30pm. Admission free," and further on a colony of canvas tents - a casualty clearing station. Broad or narrow gauge lines, motor lines, traction engines and horses haul the guns, munitions, and food supplies. Here come the "Dinks" (Infantry); some are smoking, some carrying extra gear in sand bags slung across their shoulders, marching easy, and well contented with their chances of reaching the line in good time.
James Mason who served in the Camel Corps
In January 1916 the Imperial Camel Corps was formed to deal with the revolt of the pro-Turkish Senussi tribesman in Egypt’s Western Desert.
The Australian War memorial Site has the following description of the Camel Corps:
“The men of the ICC had a rough reputation, largely because when the Corps was originally formed Australian battalion commanders had seized upon it as an opportunity to offload some of their more difficult characters”
–neglecting duty, failing to salute an Officer and was also reprimanded and admonished for:
“neglect of duty whilst caterer of No2 Sgts Mess in that he failed to report an irregularity namely an officer and prostitute in the Sgts Mess & serving them with liquor”
He was wounded and they concluded it was accidental and therefore no disciplinary action
James Minty faced a court martial in September 1916.
The two charges related to failure to comply with the rules in relation to correspondence. James wrote to two French women he had met Cecile Porain and Marcelle Pothier. He thanks them both in French for their kindness to him and encloses photos of their time together. He also describes life in Melbourne, identifies his profession and that of his father and also his full name. Of great concern to authorities he identifies his location in the field and used Red Cross envelopes to post the letters thereby circumventing the censor.
The case for the prosecution was that all men had been provided with enough orders regarding letters that James must have been aware he was breaching the rules and that he had admitted to posting the letters at a French Post office. It was also an offence to invite ‘strangers’ to write to him. James’s defense was that he had done similar things in Egypt and that the letters contained information which was not confidential in that it was already published in newspapers freely available to all. He was found guilty of the offences however his superiors failed to confirm his court martial.
In October 1917 he was awarded a Military Medal for his actions in September 1917 at Ypres.
“This N.C.O. during operations on the day 28th Sept. 1917. East of YPRES displayed great coolness in directing his squad of bearers throng heavy shell fire. He repeatedly went out for wounded and succeeded though blown up with his squatting getting the wounded safely through. His bravery was most noted and he set a fine example to his men. He was equally gallant on the 29 Sept.”
AFTER THE WAR
Mr. Walter Gibson, a young engineer by profession, was in Aberbach, near Heidelberg.
In the south of Germany, for the benefit of his health, early in 1914. One day in the following November, when he had just returned to bed after undergoing electric treatment in a sanatorium, he was confronted by a German policeman, armed with a couple of revolvers. Mr. Gibson speaks German fluently as knowledge of the tongue served an interesting purpose later when he over-heard a sailor's confession about the battle of Jutland - and when he was met with the stentorian command, "Aufstehen" he knew precisely what to do. In plain English it meant "Get up!" Mr. Gibson got up, packed his bag, and, obeying instructions, went along with the policeman. This was how Mr. Gibson later found himself one of 4500 prisoners in Ruhleben - people from all parts of the world, but the majority of them sailors who were caught in the different German ports when war broke out.
It is a live, racy story that Mr. Gibson tells of Germany in war time. He is the youngest son of Mr. William Gibson, of Messrs. Foy and Gibson, Melbourne, and has only just returned to Australia. He was unable to book a passage back from England, so worked his way out as an engineer. It was only his unfitness for military service that secured for him his release from Germany. Mr. Gibson's story is in the main one of harsh and even brutal treatment of civilian prisoners.
George Chisholm rheumatoid arthritis – classified as” whilst on duty not directly due to service”
John Gibson, at one time a member of the famous Black Watch, and who received 17 wounds during the war, and who was very wealthy, was killed by a shark at Bondi on Saturday. He was of fine physique and a very handsome man.”
Alan Brooksbank - 1939
“GAS ALERT" BY ALAN BROOKSBANK "Gas Alert 1" was a warning proclaimed during the Great War whenever conditions were favourable to attack by poison gas; and the author has chosen his title well, for this book is one of warning, but it also deals with the organisation safety precautions; it is addressed to Australians; and it adapted to Australian conditions. Mr Alan Brooksbank, who served during the Great War as an anti-gas N.C.O. and has recently resigned his commission as Gas Officer to the 3rd Division of the Australian Forces, is well fitted to handle his subject as the results of years of specialisation and research.”_