WWI in the Herald: Archive
SATURDAY 17 APRIL 1915
When the Emden was battered into a wreck by H.M.A.S. Sydney, in November, and it was announced that what remained of her armament and fittings was being collected, the suggestion was made that steps should be taken to obtain some of the relics as mementos of the Australian navy’s first sea fight.
This suggestion was acted upon, and it was stated that the collection of relics was coming to the Commonwealth.
Some of these, it is hoped, will be distributed amongst the States, while others will be specially reserved for the Federal Capital.
The activity on the part of the German Zeppelins has so far proved a very negligible quantity in the war.
Of two that attacked fortified points near the Belgian frontier, one was so damaged by gunfire that it returned in a battered condition without having done any damage, while the other killed three civilians and set fire to some ships.
The attack upon the Tyne district may or may not have been intended to destroy or injure the ordinance and naval works, but merely resulted in the destruction of some property and not in loss of life.
The value of these huge dirigibles as a weapon of offence is necessarily be coming discounted, and the statement recently purporting to have been made by the secretary to Count Zeppelin that ten of them will attack London in August will probably not create much apprehension.
It is, indeed, somewhat remarkable that such an avowal of the intention of the enemy should be made, as the unwisdom of putting the British on their guard is obvious, and the only conclusion which affords itself is that it is an emanation of the extraordinary boastful vein which has been exhibited by the enemy since the beginning of the war.
At the same time, some surprise cannot be repressed that these raiders are permitted to pay flying visits to the British coast without receiving attention from local aviators.
That the British aeroplane is more than a match for the unwieldy end monstrous dirigibles is admitted, and the shooting down of one or two would be a satisfactory reply to German boasting. It has, of course, to be fully admitted that the British authorities know their own business, and thoroughly grasp the whole position, as well as the risk from aerial attacks.
The question, however, arises whether, owing to the great demands upon the services of their aviators, they have sufficient to keep constant guard over all parts of the coast line.
The great ordinance works and naval yards in Newcastle-on-Tyne should be afforded the utmost protection.
The war has now proved the great value of aeroplanes in many ways, and to a great extent they have entirely replaced previous methods of scouting. From the point of view of aerial attacks also they have been of great utility, and will prove still more so as the war proceeds.
Hydroplanes have been sent flying over an enemy’s shores from British war vessels, and have been of aid, in destroying aeroplane and Zeppelin sheds, and also it is understood, a number of the flying machines.
While the great work which is being done by the Commonwealth Government as regards the despatch of expeditionary forces and pushing on with its preparations for naval defence is fully appreciated, it may be asked whether it is doing as much as could be desired in the training of aviators and the construction of aeroplanes.
Its staff consists of a very few officers, of whom it is lending the services of one or two to the Government of India. No fault can be found with this action, as the Indian armies, both at home and in the field, may require more aviators, and the instruction of these men by the Australian officer will be a service to the Empire.
But this affords no reason why Australia should not consider its own defence at the same time. The danger of attack may not seem very great, and probably is not, but it is a risk which a prudent administration should guard against.
This is the time for putting this service on an efficient footing in the Commonwealth.
No doubt the nucleus which the Government possesses is good enough, but it is too small.
Australia is a vast continent, and its chief seaports should possess some protection front aerial attack.
Mr. Tennant, the Parliamentary Under-secretary to the War Office, stated in the House of Commons that the British casualties to the 11th April, numbered 139,347.
Mr. Carmichael, who is organising the big send-off to the troops on April 24th, has received the following letter from the Premier:
“Arrangements have been made, at the instance of the district commandant for the 16th Infantry Band at Newcastle to be convoyed to and from Sydney by rail free of charge.”
The number of men to pass the enrolling officer at Victoria Barracks today was satisfactory. Amongst the recruits were two farmers, who brought their own horses, and they were drafted to the Light Horse. Others included two horse trainers and an ex-naval man, who had served as a gun-layer in the Imperial Navy.
Mr. John Winterbottom, of Minmi, has received a letter from his son, Private J. Winterbottom who left Australia with the first Expeditionary Force, and who was in Egypt when the letter was written on March 7th.
The letter is chiefly occupied with a refutation of some of the statements which have been made concerning the conduct of the Australian troops in Egypt, and it is evident the tone of the statements has caused much pain and resentment among the men.
Private Winterbottom sans that he cannot understand why such statements were ever made and published.
He alluded to the gay attractions of Cairo, and points out that when they landed in Egypt the force of nearly 50,000 men had been on the transport for eight weeks, without touching land.
It was not to be wondered at that when so large a number of men came under the influence of many temptations offered in Cairo that a few of the weaker would be caught; but it was not fair to “condemn the whole lot because of a paltry few.” R
eferring to the general charge of drunkenness among the troops, the writer of the letter says that he has seen more drunken men in Minmi in a day than would be seen at Mena camp in a week.
The population of the camp numbered nearly 50,000, all physically fit, and trained ready for anything. Private Winterbottom said that Mr. Walker, one of the English agents of the Y.M.C.A., who was in the camp at the time the letter quoted was written, said that he was astonished at the statements which had been published in the Australian press, and said that he would take steps to refute them.
A meeting of the committee appointed to give effect to the proposals of Colonel Wallack, State Commandant, was hold at the Newcastle Council Chambers yesterday afternoon. Lieutenant-colonel Clark presided.
Mr. D. Macdonald thought there was a great deal of apathy among young men, and efforts should be made to endeavour to compel them to enlist.
Mr. Munro advocated that the Governor-general should put into force the provisions of the Defence Act. Many men at present holding back should be compelled to enlist. Considering the numbers in this district, the response was far from praiseworthy.
Mr. Macdonald thought it would be advisable to get the population of the city and district, and find the male population, and compel those who were available to enlist in the service of the country.
He stated there were two rifle clubs in the city doing good work, the Y.M.C.A. and A.N.A. Clubs, and with drills and rifle practices at night – (no doubt the Mayor would be good enough to supply the electric light) – arrangements could be made so that miniature rifle ranges could be established and thus acquire all the knowledge necessary, and the railway rifle range might be reconstructed.
Mr. Fox said they had replies from the railway office in Sydney with regard to the formation of railway rifle clubs.
No doubt these would work in conjunction with the tramway rifle clubs, the opinion being not to form separate clubs.
(From Embarkation Rolls)
Private John Kelly, Scone, 17th Infantry Battalion, 1st Reinforcements
Private Clement McNamara, Newcastle, 18th Infantry Battalion, 1st Reinforcements