“Unfit to fight” – tersely the surgeon put it.
“Unfit.” Good God.
If he but know the battle I have struggled through
A battle lasting days and nights and months and years,
A battle knowing little hope, but blackest fears,
A battle to the death for breath.
“Unfit to fight.” Yes, I suppose I am unfit,
And yet, I wonder, if that surgeon knew
How night after night I fought the fight.
In bitter struggle and despair,
With sweat pouring down through matted hair,
And death waiting there,
So tempting in that bottle on the chair
If he would still have said, “Unfit to fight?”
Home, mother, family, sweetheart, friends – all put behind,
That I might fight this battle with my mind,
The battle every hopeless one must fight,
When death seems good, and life is only fright.
With rotting lungs and wheezing breath,
A man shunned, outcast, wishing only death;
But I battled on and in a way I won, until that night,
The surgeon said, “You are unfit to fight.”
You boys out at the front cannot know
The battles fought by those who could not go,
By those who were pronounced ”Unfit to fight.’
And so, tonight,
When taps were sounded, slowly, sweet and clear,
And thoughts float back to those you hold most dear,
Perhaps you’ll breathe a prayer into the night
For those who stayed at home, unfit to fight.
The Battle of Cambrai begins on the Western Front. Britain employs aircraft, artillery and, for the first time, tanks en masse. They manage to penetrate the Hindenburg Line by more than nine kilometres on the opening day of battle. Fighting continues until 7 December.
The Leader reports that the Mayor’s son, James McNeilly, is arriving home on tonight’s train, having been invalided home from the war. Coming Come
Bathurst Police Court finds German missionary Rev Niedurney guilty of contravening the War Precautions Act. The Rev Niedurney is a prisoner of war interned at St Stanislaus College who attempted to send a letter to his mother. Young German Priest Fined
AW Olsen asks “Is Heroism Dead?”, claiming that “fear and cowardice seem to prevail”. He complains that the government is “afraid of cowards … afraid to do its duty” and has called the second conscription referendum out of fear”.
The parents of William James Dunbar are informed that he was officially reported wounded and missing in action on 11 November. William was, in fact, killed in action in Palestine on 7 November 1917. Missing and Wounded
The torpedoed stern of the Italian transport ship Orione as seen from HMAS Parramatta, 16 November 1917. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Australian destroyer HMAS Parramatta comes under enemy attack in the Ionian Sea when she comes to the rescue of torpedoed Italian transport ship Orione. Parramatta escapes damage and tows Orione towards Brindisi.
Georges Benjamin Clemenceau is appointed 54th Prime Minister of France and French Minister of War
One officer and 97 men of the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train (RANBT) are transferred to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in preference to being returned to Australia for discharge. Formed in Melbourne in February 1915, the 1st RANBT was a horse drawn engineering unit attached to the Royal Naval Division serving as infantry on the Western Front. The train built jetties and berthing facilities at Gallipoli, and later served in the Suez Canal zone and Sinai.
Ben was born in Spring Hill on 21 May 1898. His father was George Barnett Chapman; his mother Mary Jane nee Capps. Ben was educated at Spring Hill Public School and later worked as a labourer.
Following enlistment the intrepid trio were assigned to 7th Light Horse Regiment, 6th Reinforcements. Ben and Alf embarked together for overseas service on 15 June 1915 and were sent to Gallipoli.
On 15 November Ben was admitted to the 3rd Australian Hospital in Lemnos, suffering from dysentery. In July 1916 he was transferred to the 2nd Light Horse Brigade Machine Gun Squadron at Bir et Maler in Egypt. In October he was again hospitalised, this time with malaria. Ben returned to duty on 8 November 1916.
Ben served for over four and a half years; he returned to Australia in August 1919. Benjamin’s brother George returned to Australia in March 1919; his cousin Alf was killed in action in Palestine in November 1917.
Two years after his return from the war Benjamin was admitted to Dudley Private Hospital with adenoid and ear trouble. His condition appeared to improve during the four weeks he spent in hospital so he was discharged, whereupon his condition suddenly deteriorated. Benjamin died on 8 October 1921, the cause of death being acute septic meningitis.
The Leader of 12 October 1921 described Benjamin’s funeral in detail, claiming it to be “one of the largest ever seen in Spring Hill”. A large body of returned men preceded the hearse and formed a guard at the entrance to the cemetery. Ben’s coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and borne to the graveside by Stanley Evan Bryant, Jack Hilton West, Joseph Victor Bennett and Raymond Westley Moad. The newspaper concluded:
Ben will be severely missed by many whom he benefited in his generous way; he was most popular with all classes, and his cheery smile and pleasant manner will not soon be forgotten.
Benjamin Barnett Chapman is commemorated on the Spring Hill Public School Honour Roll, the Spring Hill Church Roll of Honor and the Spring Hill Temperance Hall Honor Roll. His headstone in Spring Hill Cemetery also commemorates his cousin, Alfred Chapman, and bears the inscription “Mates in Peace and War”.
Benjamin Chapman’s headstone at Spring Hill Cemetery commemorating Alfred Chapman: Mates in Peace and War. Image courtesy Alex Rezko.
Schoolchildren in Orange are invited to the Orange Railway Station at 2.30 pm on 20 November to greet the recruiting train and escort the recruits to Robertson Park. Arrangements For Reception
The Leader reports that more than 100 men have joined the train which is travelling along the Great Western Railway Line collecting reinforcements for the war and devoutly wishes “that a large number of our eligibles will avail themselves of the opportunity afforded them to join the colors”
A formal reception will greet the recruiting train when it arrives in Millthorpe at 10.30am on 22 November. The Recruiting Train