Heavy Australian casualties

September 29, 2017

Early this week in 1917, the next component of Third Ypres began.

Early this week in 1917, the next component of Third Ypres began.

This required the British Fifth and Second Armies to advance 1100 metres, to occupy Polygon Wood and capture the southern edge of what had been the village of Zonnebeke.

Again, First Anzac Corps was to lead the advance.

Repeated use of Australians as the spearpoint of advances would result in heavy Australian casualties during 1917.

Eventually, it would cause a mutiny by Australian troops in 1918.

British bombardment with 205 heavy guns and hundreds of lighter field artillery helped protect the Australians as they advanced towards Zonnebeke.

However, the guns also destroyed the ground over which the Australians and other troops were to attack.

This, in turn, led to difficulties in supplying food and ammunition as troops advanced into the third line of German defences.

However, the battle achieved its objectives. It cost 5770 Australian casualties. Four of the lives lost were from Benalla.

German counterattack by specialist Eingreif or Strike Divisions was broken up by concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire.

Pillboxes captured by Australians still stand in the woods.

Aircraft from the Australian Flying Corps flew overhead and sounded klaxon horns. Responding flares allowed the pilots to ascertain Australian progress and guide protective artillery fire.

Meanwhile, the correspondence of Count von Bernstoff, former German Ambassador to the United States, was published this week.

It had been intercepted by the British Secret Service.

Not only did this correspondence deal with his sabotage of American and Canadian ships, canals and bridges, it also dealt with his gun running and diversion of phenol to limit American production of high explosives for sale to Britain.

Bernstoff had been expelled from America in February 1917 so his activities there could not be punished.

However, the British Secret Service also published photographs of him, scantily clad with his arms around two women.

In Russia, Kerensky’s time as head of the Provisional Government came to an end this week.

He was forced from power.

The Soviets grabbed more power from the failing Provisional Government. A Bolshevik coup was now only a month or so away.

Meanwhile in Benalla, a dead rooster tested two Justices of the Peace sitting as a Magistrates’ Court.

Robert Edgar had sold a silver Wyandotte rooster for 50 cents to Percy Williams. Both men were represented by barristers.

The rooster was delivered to Williams by one Ismael in a bag with a goose. The next day the rooster was found dead.

Williams offered to pay 25 cents for the dead bird. Williams seemed to think that Ismael’s status as an undischarged bankrupt was significant in causing the rooster’s death.

The court ordered Williams to pay 50 cents plus $3.25 in legal costs.

— John Barry, ANZAC Commemorative Working Party, Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI heroes

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