Eastern Front 1915. Image courtesy US Department of Military Art and Engineering.
Poison gas is used for the first time in the Battle of Bolimov, as German soldiers on the Eastern Front attack Russian positions west of Warsaw. Although the Germans fire 18,000 gas shells, they have little effect on the Russians as frigid temperatures prevent the gas from vaporizing.
The Leader reports a steady increase in war recruitment in Orange; 72 men have volunteered for service since October 1914
German U-boats torpedo the passenger liners Tokomaru and Ikaria off the north coast of France. The attack is unprovoked and carried out without warning. German sailors make no attempt to rescue the victims; Germany is widely criticised for its brutality.
The German submarine U21 opens fire on British airship sheds on Walney Island, off the west coast of England. The rounds fall well short of their intended target and the submarine is driven off by shore batteries. This is the first-known operation of German submarines in the Irish Sea.
German lieutenant Erwin Rommel leads his platoon in a daring mission, capturing four French blockhouses and successfully defeating a counter attack. He is awarded an Iron Cross for his bravery.
Thomas Joseph Dalton was born at Wheatley in North Sydney in 1893. His father was Thomas Garrett (“Gatty”) Dalton MA, LLB, and Mayor of Orange in 1903, 1904 and 1905. His grandfather, also called Thomas, built Duntryleague and founded Dalton Brothers Stores.
Thomas was the fifth of six children born to Gatty and his wife Mary Helene Condon. He spent his childhood at Killiney in Kite Street, a house built in 1875 by his grandfather, and now known as Mena. He was educated at St Ignatius’ College at Riverview.
20-year-old Tom was one of the first men in Orange to enlist, doing so on 22 August 1914. He attended camp in Sydney for several months before embarking in October, a Private in the 1st Light Horse Regiment. In May 1915 he joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and proceeded to Gallipoli, where he was appointed Temporary Colonel.
Following the evacuation of Gallipoli Tom transferred to the 15th Field Artillery Brigade in Egypt. In March 1917 he proceeded to France and served on the Western Front at Passchendaele and Ypres.
Thomas Dalton, aged 22, aboard Honorata following the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915. Image courtesy John Egan and Rosemary Serisier.
Tom returned to Australia in December 1918 and dedicated his time to the Dalton Brothers family business. He later became chairman of the board of directors. In 1926 Thomas married Doris Morrissey and the couple had three children; Elizabeth, Thomas and Rosemary.
Thomas died in Orange on 20 December 1979, aged 86. He is buried in Orange Cemetery and is commemorated on St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll.
Thomas’ brother James also served in WWI; he died of disease in 1918.
In December 1914 Thomas wrote two letters home in which he described the Australian Light Horse’s memorable reception in Cairo and the beauty of Egypt.
The Imperial German Navy suffers its first wartime loss of an airship when PL-19 makes an emergency landing in the Baltic Sea after bombing Libau in Russia. Two Imperial Russian Navy minesweepers capture her seven-man crew and set the ship ablaze.
The Leader publishes a letter from Bert Martin written to his mother in Orange. Bert describes travelling through the Suez Canal and the beauty of the train trip from Alexandria to Cairo: “It is just like a vast pleasure garden, and the native Egyptians themselves are like overgrown children, in the happy, frolicsome way they take life.”
James Lewis Martin’s headstone, Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, France. Image courtesy Sharon Hesse.
James Lewis Martin was born in Orange in 1887. James was the youngest of twelve children born to Thomas Martin and his wife Ellen (nee Stephens). Thomas, a native of Galway, had come to the colony in the 1860s and settled in the Forest Reefs area. The family later moved to Sale Street in Orange.
James enlisted in Melbourne in January 1915, aged 27, and was assigned to the 12th Battalion as a private. He embarked from Sydney in June, however ill-heath saw him return to Australia just three months later. Private Martin re-embarked from Melbourne in October 1915, joining the 29th Battalion.
In March 1916 James was re-assigned to the 46th Battalion, and he proceeded to France three months later. James sustained a gunshot wound in his back in August 1916, which saw him hospitalised in England. He was hospitalised a second time, in February the following year, with mumps. In April 1917 he was hospitalised again, this time with a fractured arm.
James was promoted to Lance Corporal in July 1917, Corporal the following month, then Sergeant in October 1917. Sergeant Martin was killed in action on 11 July 1918, aged 30. He is buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery in France.
James’ father, Thomas, died in August 1918. Before issuing Sergeant Martin’s’ war medals, the Army Base Records Office requested that the Orange Inspector of Police interview James’ mother, Ellen. Once she had testified that her husband was deceased and that James was unmarried and had no children Ellen was issued with her son’s medals.
James Lewis Martin is commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.