Counterattack abandoned

January 03, 2018

This week in 1917 the Ottomans counterattacked to retake Jerusalem.

This week in 1917 the Ottomans counterattacked to retake Jerusalem.

By week’s end, British and Empire troops had pushed the Turks back northward so far that their counterattack was abandoned.

On the Western Front, widespread trench raids by both sides ushered in 1918.

In a terrible week for the Geneva conventions, yet another hospital ship, a British one this time, was sunk by mine in the Mediterranean.

One-hundred and ninety-seven patients and nurses died.

What made the sinking egregious was that, at the time, the hospital ship had been rescuing soldiers from a sinking troopship. SS Aragon had been torpedoed by German submarine UC-34, which stood a little way off.

UC-34 then torpedoed HMS Attack, one of the three destroyers that came to Aragon’s rescue.

The torpedo blew the destroyer in two, killing 10 of its crew and throwing hundreds of rescued soldiers back into the water.

Six-hundred-and-ten of the 2700 soldiers aboard the Aragon died.

On the Italian front, the routed Italian army was in headlong retreat. Austro-Hungarian forces chased them. During their advance, the Austro-Hungarians indiscriminately shelled Castelfranco and Veneto in northern Italy.

Their artillery fire destroyed several hospitals.

Both sinking a hospital ship and shelling hospitals are war crimes according to the Geneva conventions, but nobody seemed to care any more.

Austro-Hungarian and German workers were reduced to starvation level made worse by the cold winter.

Two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand had already died of hunger in Germany during 1917.

In both countries, discontented unionists prepared for a massive strike and demonstration that would demand food and an end to the war.

There would be four million demonstrators in German streets, their demands echoing the bread strike that ushered the Bolsheviks into power in Russia.

In Australia, despite his pledge to resign if the second Conscription Referendum was unsuccessful, Billy Hughes continued as Prime Minister.

Meanwhile in the Benalla district, wheat crops were expected to be badly affected by the wet season, weeds and rust.

On level ground between Benalla and Shepparton average crops of 10 bushels per acre were expected.

Towards Devenish and Goorambat crops of only two bushels per acre were expected. However, in the Wimmera there would be average crops of 14 bushels per acre.

Hec Waller this year was awarded the King’s medal for the most efficient graduating trainee at the Australian Naval College.

This week his leave in Benalla ended and he was due to sail from Sydney for Britain.

On arrival there, he would ship as a midshipman onboard ship patrolling the North Sea.

This week a 16-year-old boy was fined $6 in Benalla Magistrates’ Court for hitting the chairman of a pro-conscription meeting with an egg and $4 for assaulting the man who pointed him out as the egg thrower.

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

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