His Majesty King George V, knighting Lieutenant General Sir John Monash, Australian Corps Commander, at the Corps Headquarters, Chateau de Bertangles, 12 August 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Day 1475 of the war
King George V travels to John Monash’s battlefield headquarters at Chateau de Bertangles in France to knight him following his recent success in the Battle of Amiens
Just a few lines while the barrel is cooling. I have just been through what you might very well term a bit of hell let loose, but I am pleased to be able to say I am still in the land of the living. I came through without a scratch, but, by jove, a chap wants a great deal of luck at times to pull through … The heat is excessive. The temperature is 120 degrees in the shade every day. We are near water now, but during the stunt we were very short. I must close, as the flies are too bad for me to write any more.
When you’re finished perusing the paper,
And cheering our boys —from a chair,
When you’re laughing at Ludendorff’s caper
On the gore-soddened ground and the air;
When your chop you’ve contentedly eaten
With your omelet and cafe au vin.
When Britain, you know, can’t be beaten
And we’re blowing our way to Berlin,
Though we weren’t the first to begin it,
It knocks at our national core,
So sacrifice something to win it
While there’s a war.
Four years has it lasted, or nearly,
Four years of massacre mad—
Years when the Boches paid dearly
For each blood-reddened raid that they’ve had.
For years Britain’s best they’ve bombarded,
The Belgians, Australians and French,
For the long road to London’s been guarded
By battleship, trawler and trench.
They are there that the free man shall hear not
The boot of the Bosche at his door,
So at men who are saving you, sneer not
While there’s a war.
Their part they’re in patience performing,
They freeze in the flood lands of France,
While your well-fed proportions are warming,
And patronise pictures, and dance.
They face every vileness invented,
Each horror that hell could release
With their blood each success is cemented,
Their bones are the bulwarks of peace,
They gasp in a gas sodden crater
While in civilised comfort you snore—
Remember you’re but a spectator
While there’s a war.
If you can’t take your pack and a rifle,
And face the Hun murder machines,
If your lungs aren’t suited to stifle
In the mazes of tunnelled Messines
You can help, though you’re far from the fighting,
And the rumble of garrulous guns,
By the wrongs of the warriors righting
Who give hurry-up to the Huns.
Even blacks first discovered by Stanley
Leave their babes by a safe Afric shore,
So make up your mind to be manly
While there’s a war.
You, who have never enlisted
And are wooing a warrior’s wife:
You, who traitorously twisted
On the mate you have known all your life:
You’re earning no medals and crosses
This side of the safety-zone sea,
And if you don’t deal in divorces
Go East from the smile of the She,
Peace in the end may re-link ’em.
When the world-splitting struggle is o’er,
So dammit, just try to be dinkum
While there’s a war.
Spencer William Coleman was born at Wheeo, near Gunning, in May 1880, one of thirteen children born to Charles William Coleman and his wife Maria Selmes. Young Spencer attended the local public school and later trained as a police officer.
In 1903 Spencer married Emily Pole at Kogarah in Sydney.
During 1911 and 1912 Police Constable Coleman was stationed in Orange. During this time he was an active member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1913 he was transferred to Forbes. Constable Coleman remained in Forbes until January 1915 when he was transferred to Paddington as a detective.
Constable Coleman enlisted for war service in July 1915. He noted on his attestation papers that he had served in the police force for a period of 14 years.
Spencer embarked from Sydney in April 1916, a private in the 30th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement. Private Coleman served in England for a year before proceeding to the Western Front in France. He was hospitalised twice during this time; in August 1916 with influenza, and in February 1917 with bronchitis.
Private Coleman proceeded to France in late April 1917 and was transferred to the 29th Battalion in early May.
On 1 February Private Coleman received a promotion to Lieutenant.
On 9 August 1918 the 29th Battalion was engaged in the advance on Vauvillers, part of the Battle of Amiens. Lieutenant Coleman was one of three officers killed that day. The commanding officer noted:
Great bravery was exhibited by all ranks in advancing against extremely heavy machine gun fire and ultimately silencing all opposition.
Shortly before his death Lieutenant Coleman wrote a letter to his old friend in Orange, Arnold T Caldwell. He said:
Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health, and still endeavouring to do my bit towards helping in this awful struggle, which is ever in progress over here … What sort of season have we been having round Orange? How are the crops, including the fruit? How is the Foresters’ lodge getting on, and all our old friends? I am awfully thankful to you all for your great kindness in sending me the parcels. They always arrive at the right time—just when the tobacco supply is getting low, or when one feels he would like a change in the rations … I am anxiously awaiting my leave to England, and, with anything like good luck, I should be there in about five weeks. It is a great change to go away from the roar of battle for only a few days …
Spencer William Coleman is commemorated on the Ancient Order of Foresters Orange Roll of Honor, the Crookwell War Memorial, on his parents’ grave in Crookwell Cemetery, and on panel number 115 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Lieut TW Coleman, presumably Spencer”. It was donated by the Ancient Order of Foresters. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Spencer’s brother, Leslie Raswell Elton Coleman also served in WWI; he died of wounds in Belgium in September 1917.
Howard Vivian Hawke. Image courtesy Sydney Morning Herald.
Howard Vivian Hawke served overseas for just seven months before being killed in action on the second day of the Battle of Amiens on the Western Front in France.
Howard was born in Orange on 27 June 1896, one of five children of Francis and Evangeline Hawke of Glenluna orchard on Pinnacle Road in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Glenluna was one of the district’s first orchards; it was established in 1846.
Howard and his siblings attended Orange District School. The school was located 6.5 km away, and the children would walk there and back. Following his education Howard worked on the family orchard. He was also a keen tennis player and a member of the Methodist Tennis Club.
In September 1917 Howard enlisted in the First World War. According to his attestation papers his previous military experience consisted of five years with the cadets and serving as a Lieutenant with the 42nd Battalion Militia in Orange.
Private Howard Hawke left Sydney on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 19 December 1917 and disembarked in Suez on 16 January 1918. He proceeded to England via Italy and France and spent three months with the 5th Training Battalion at Fovant.
Private Hawke was taken on strength with the 18th Battalion in France on 28 May 1918. In early August the battalion was preparing for the united Allied counteroffensive at Amiens. At 9pm on 7 August 1918 the commanding officer recorded in the battalion diary:
3.48 am All Coys are on the tape and quite ready
4.11am Tanks heard just tuning up and starting
4.15am Very heavy fog descending
4.20am Barrage opens
4.25am Very little retaliation
5.00am No retaliation coming over
5.20am Infantry have passed through but are finding difficulty in keeping direction as the fog is very thick
6.00am 13 prisoners at 17th Battalion HQ
6.20am No news through. Fog still very thick. Impossible to see more than about 10 yards
7.20am 17th Battalion stretcher bearers report verbally that 17th Battalion are well through the village of Warfusee and have met with little opposition
8.10am Artillery, Armoured Cars and Cavalry moving along the main road. No activity on the part of the enemy noticeable.
11.00am Information to date: A, B, C and D Coys have all reached the Green Line (2nd Objective) with very little opposition and consolidated.
The 18th Battalion continued their advance in the Battle of Amiens, capturing many prisoners and seizing German weapons, ammunition and supplies. At midnight the Commanding Officer noted:
Still in position in front of Warfusee
And on the morning of 9 August:
A quiet night for the Battalion and all benefitted by the night’s rest
At 9.40am the order was received “prepare to move”. The battalion continued their advance towards Mont St Quentin, meeting with little enemy resistance. At about 5.30pm as they approached the village of Framerville Private Howard Hawke was hit by enemy fire, killed instantly by a bullet to the head. He was one of nine men from the 18th Battalion to die that day. He was later buried at Heath Military Cemetery at Harbonnieres.
Howard Vivian Hawke is commemorated on the Methodist Church Orange Honour Roll, on panel number 85 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte HV Hawke”; it was donated by AE Warburton. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Howard’s youngest sister, Vera, went on to manage Glenluna, becoming the first woman orchardist in NSW.
Howard Vivian Hawke memorial, Orange Cemetery. Image courtesy Lynne Irvine.
At 4.20am on 8 August 1918 430 British tanks lead a massive united Allied attack against the German army on the Western Front. The Australian Corps spearheaded the attack, led by Lieutenant General John Monash. The British 3rd Corps provided support on their left, and the Canadian Corps on their right. Aircraft of the British and Australian Flying Corps provided aerial support, bombarding enemy defences and severing enemy lines of communication.
The Australian 2nd and 3rd Divisions advanced rapidly along a 3.6km wide front in dense fog. By 7.30am they had broken through the German lines. Within the hour the Australian 4th and 5th Divisions had overtaken them, taking the village of Bayonvillers without contest. So successful was the advance that it ran ahead of Monash’s estimations.
By day’s end the Allies had forced an opening 20 kilometres wide and 11 kilometres deep in the enemy lines. Germany had sustained 27,000 casualties, including 16,000 prisoners, 7,925 of whom were captured by the AIF, who had also seized 173 guns.
Fighting continued until 11 August by which time Amiens and 116 other towns and villages on the Western Front had been liberated.
The counteroffensive was the most comprehensive allied victory to date. It heralded the beginning of the Hundred Days campaign, a four-month period of continued Allied success.
German morale sank to an all-time low in the prospect of imminent defeat. German commander General Erich Ludendorff later recorded:
August 8th was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war. This was the worst experience I had to go through … The 8th of August opened the eyes of the Staff on both sides; mine were certainly opened … The Emperor told me later on, after the failure of the July offensive and after August 8th, he knew the war could no longer be won.
The Australian Commander, Lieutenant General John Monash, was subsequently knighted by King George V for his role in securing an Allied victory.
Four men form the Orange district died during the Battle of Amiens; a fifth later died from wounds received during the battle:
The 28 cm calibre German railway gun which became known as the Amiens Gun after its capture by Australian troops on 8 August 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
The Amiens Gun was a 45 ton German 28-centimetre calibre railway gun captured by the Australian Imperial Force during World War I. The gun was brought to Australia as a war trophy and placed on public display at Central Railway Station, Sydney, between 1920 and 1923. The gun’s carriage was scrapped during the 1960s, the gun barrel remains on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The Amiens Railway Gun on display at Central Railway Station