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WW1, Tipp/Laoise man in the Australian army

PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2010 9:16 am
by museumtom
I came across this man in a Laoise newspaper over the period of the war. I thought you might find his accounts interesting. The peculiar thing is that he was afterwards captured by the Germans where a witness states that during a trench raid he was dragged into a trench by a German, interned in Germany and, wait for it, killed in action while a prisoner of war by a grenade. Initially buried in Germany and later interred in a Belgian cemetery.

Doing his Bit.
Queen’s County Lad in Dardanelles.
Great Number of South of Ireland Men with Australian Forces.
Mr Harry M Smith, Drinagh Stud Farm, has received the following interesting letter from Private J ------- on active service. ------- was formerly a herd in the employment of Mr Smith, who describes the young soldier, whose photo we re-produce as “the straightest man I ever knew,”

The following is -------’s letter;-
Pte ------- J -------.
C. Company, 18th battalion.
5th Infantry Brigade, A.I.E.F.
C/o Australian Base.
P.O.Alexandria, Egypt.
12th October, 1915.
Dear Mr Harry,--I take this opportunity of writing you a few lines, hoping Mrs Smith, baby, Mr Victor, and yourself are in good health. I am getting along very well myself at present. I enlisted in the Australian Expeditionary Forces at the commencement of the war. At that time I was working up in Queensland for the Adelaide Steamship Company. I had a very good billet, averaging between £5 and 6£ per week. But all my comrades were joining the Expeditionary Forces. I cound not remain behind. Besides, my sympathies were with the Allies in their struggle against the German despotism. The Australian and New Zealand people have no time for anyone capable who do not come forward in this crisis to do their bit. Our positions will open for us if we come through the war. However, as you are probably aware we left Australia and completed our training in Egypt and then embarked for the Dardanelles, where we got a very warm reception from Mr Turk, which we Australian boys were very pleased to be able to return with interest. The Dardanelles is an extremely difficult country to fight through. A series of hills, each one of them a natural fortress with deep gullies between. The hills entrenched and fortified with all the skill and genius German brains could command. You people at home have no idea the difficulties our troops have to undergo in capturing the Turkish positions; to look at some of them you would say they were simply impregnable; yet in a few hours some of them would be in our hands but at a terrific loss of brave lives on our side and a heavier toll of loss on the enemy’s side. The Australian and New Zealand soldiers have no superiors in fighting qualities. To appreciate their sterling worth you would have to see them in a dare-devil charge through the olive groves and up the steep hills of Gallipoli; it is a thrilling sight and one not easily forgotten. The Turks call them the White Gurkhas and they will not wait for our bayonet charges. As a trench fighter the Turk is superb and he fights very fairly and so far they have put up a very clean fight against us. Poor beggars, we all admire the brave stand they are making against us. But as a Power their time has come, as we will soon be their masters on the peninsula, and then Turkey in Europe will be a thing of the past.
They were forced into this war by German money and duplicity, and I am afraid some more of the Balkan States will follow their example, But is won’t effect us if they do, as we are confident of waging a winning fight, I have no idea how recruiting is going on at home; but in Australia men are enlisting in thousands, all splendid fighting material.
The Australian Government is determined to send every available man is they are needed. I landed here in Alexandria four days ago from Malta when I was six weeks in hospital with wounds which I received in the attack on Hill 60, otherwise known as Chocolate Hill. On August 21st and 22nd my battalion the 16th suffered very heavily; on that Sunday morning we were ordered to charge up the hill and capture the Turkish trenches. The hill is a pretty steep one covered with short thick scrub with foliage somewhat like Irish Holly. The enemy had a number of machine guns concealed in the scrub which, along with shrapnel and rifle fire pounced in a murderous fire inti us as we ere charging; it was simply hell let loose. Our boys went down by the hundreds; but the survivors never hesitated for a moment; but in a splendid rush and into the Turkish trenches, and then it was grim, deadly work with the bayonet. We had two trenches captured by 6 a.m. The enemy counter-attacked us with rifle and bomb attacks. I was wounded by a bomb, which tore my legs and side very badly about 9 a.m., but managed to fight on until 5 p.m., by which time I was very weak from loss of blood, I was taken to Malta where I was very well looked after; my wounds healed rapidly. I am convalescent again and expect to be going back to the Dardanelles again in a few days time.
I had some very close calls in the last attack I was in; my hut was riddled with bullets; my water bottle shot clean from my side by shrapnel; piece of some shell broke my rifle in my hands and only tore across my left hand without breaking it, but cut it open badly. With kindest regards to all my old friends at Mountmellick, Drinagh, Castlebrack, Quarrymount and Kilcavan.
P.S.-If I come through the war I amy take a trip back to Ireland. But I would not like to remain there, as I consider Australia the finest country in the world. Remember me to the Messrs Robinsons and all my old friends. I wrote about a dozen letters to M Daly, and some more of my old comrades three months ago, but have never received a reply. My P.C.Captain Michael Fitzgerald, is a Co Clare man; he takes a special interest in my welfare. There are a great number of Irishmen in the Australian army; all I have came in contact with as yet came from the South of Ireland, though I believe there are a goodly number on North of Ireland men also in our forces.
Good-bye and hoping to have the pleasure of seeing you and Mrs Smith again if I am not bowled over- I am, dear Mr Harry, yours.
Jack -------.

Vivid Description.
By One of our Rear-Guard.
Through the courtesy of My Harry M.Smith, Drinagh Stud Farm, Mountmellick, we are enabled to publish the following letter from Corporal -------, formerly in Mr Smith’s employment, and who served in the rear-guard which covered the evacuation of the British troops from Gallipoli. Some time ago we published a photo of Corporal ------- and another very interesting letter from him. In the Queen’s County he was a great favourite before going abroad and was prominently identified with the Quarrymount Recreation Hall.
The Corporal writes to Mr Smith;-
D. Company, 128th Battalion,
5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division., A.I.F.,
C/o Intermediate Base
Tel El Kebir Camp, 23-1-’16.
Dear Mr Smith—Just a few lines hoping you, Mrs Smith and family are all well. I received the parcel of comforts you sent me for Xmas; it reached me on the Island of Lemnos in due time for the Festival. I had just reached Lemnos from Gallipoli when I got your parcel, so had our Xmas on the Island, and it was a very good one woing to the kindness of our friends in Australia who forwarded us an abundance of good cheer for the occasion, and which I assure you, our lads did ample justice to, being in good form for trench work after their strenuous time in the firing line.I expect you are aware, long ere this time, that we evacuated Gallipoli on the 19th December. Our troops felt it very much, having to do so after the heavy fighting and severe losses they had to undergo there to make the landing and advance to the positions they were holding. But when the Balkan Campaign opened up Gallipoli was no longer the road to Constantinople; besides, it was very hard to land supplies for the army once the rough weather commenced, and we were losing a lot of men through sickness, not counting our losses from shell and gun fire. You have no idea how the troops had to work and how cheerfully they did it on the peninsula. Water was exceedingly scarce in most instances it had to be transported over by boat from Lemnos, pumped on to the beach which was raked all the time by the Turkish batteries. We could not advance further without terrific loss of life, as the enemy’s positions were almost impregnable, and they vastly outnumber us, so it was a wise move of the Military Authorities to withdraw the troops under the existing circumstances.
The evacuation will always stand out in History as being without a precedent. Thousands of troops being withdrawn and embarked in the face of a brave and active enemy, our Brigade, the 5th, covered the retirement from Anzac, and my battalion, the 18th, had the honour of supplying the rear-guard. Picked men were selected from the different companies, and I had the privilege of being one of the N.C.O’s to be selected from my Company to hold the last line of defence to cover the withdrawl. Our trench was one “plugg’s plateau,” and I assure you the night of the 19th December will ever be a memorable one for me. To see thousands of troops file down in perfect order from their trenches, pass along underneath our trench and embark, the harbour lit up by the lights of various ships, the thunder of the battleships which kept up a continuous bombardment on the enemy’s position, the hills brilliantly illuminated by rockets and flares and the sullen roar of the Turkish batteries in reply to ours, along with the incessant crack of their machine gun and rifle fire, all contributed to make up a picture which it will be difficult to efface from memory.
We in the read-guard expected to have to suffer casualties, but so well was the movement planned by the Military Authorities and the embarkation so marvellously carried out by the Navy, that we only had a few men wounded, which, when you consider the thousands of troops which had to be withdrawn from their positions and embarked, was a feat unequalled in history. We are at present encamped on the old historic battlefield of Tel-El-Kabir, resting, and being re-organised. Our troops are in the best of health and spirits and ready for any emergency the future will have in store for them. I was very pleased to see that Ireland had sent so many volunteers to the front, that in her case it was not necessary to bring her under the Conscription Bill. If I am spared to come through the war safe, I will, I think, take a trip back to Ireand.
My C.O., Major Fitzgerald, will go, and I will probably go also. Major Fitzgerald is a native of Ennis, County Clare. His brother, Dr Fitzgerald, practices there. He also has two brothers
Inspectors of National Schools.
The Major is one of the best and most popular officers in our brigade, and our lads would follow him anywhere. I shall always be pleased to hear from you, as I need not tell you I always take a keen interest in the welfare of your family. With kindest regards to Mrs Smith, self, and all my old friends and neighbours.—I am, dear Mr Harry, yours sincerely.
Corporal J ------- (Reg. No -------)
Interesting letter.
To Mr H M.Smith, Mountmellick.
Mr Harry M.Smith, the popular owner of the well-known Drinagh Stud Fram, Mountmellick, has received the following interesting letter from Sergeant John -------. Sergeant ------- was in the employment of Mr Smith for a number of years at Castlebrack. He left to try his fortune in Australia where he was doing remarkably well at the outbreak of the war. Feeling he was called upon to do his bit, he joined the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force as a private, was all through the Gallipoli landing and subsequent heavy fighting, was badly wounded, mentioned in despatches, promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and has now been in the Big Push, in France for some time. His many friends in the Queen’s County will be pleased to learn of his safety and further good work at the front.
Sergeant ------- writes;-
“Somewhere in France, 2-9-’16.”
“ Dear Mr Smith—Your very welcome letter with photos reached me on yesterday.
Glad to learn by your letter that all your family are in good health. I was pleased to receive the photos. You have a lovely family, indeed. The governor looks very well. Does he still take an active interest in the business? You must be having a strenuous time of it between the farms and the business at Mountmellick. Is Mr Rowland still with the firm? I expect there are some changes since I left. Sorry to hear that Mr Victor was still unwell in Egypt. It’s a pretty trying climate, especially where he was encamped out in the Sinai Desert, which pkace I know very well as our troops were waiting there early last spring for Jacko Turk to come along and pay us his annual visit. We did a lot of trench work on the Arabian side of the canal at that time, and after all our preparations our friend Jacko had the discourtesy to postpone his visit until a few weeks ago, and when he did come along our light Horse gave him a very warm reception. Seriously, though, the Australian troops have a great admiration for the Turk as a fighter. He always put up a good clean fight against our lads. There is no comparison between the German and the Turk as a fighter, as we found them. The Turk comes out an easy winner as the best and fairest fighter. We have been doing some very heavy fighting since we came to France. Where we were first sent to we did 13 weeks in the trenches without a spell, and were then sent on to the Somme where the big push is taking place. Our troops, as you are probably aware from the press, did very well. We captured line after line of trenches from the Germans, consolidated the ground won, and in spite of heavy counter attacks, in no instance did the Australian troops lose any of the ground they won. Our casualties were very heavy, but so were the Huns. You have no idea what it is to be under a heavy artillery bombardment such as we had to sustain for days at a time. We had very little difficulty in capturing the trenches, but then the German artillery gets on to the position, and knowing every inch of the ground, they play continually on the trenches we have gained from them. In one of our charges along with two men I captured a German machine gun and 20 prisoners, poor beggars, there was not much fight left in them after the terrible bombardment they had undergone from our artillery. A couple of them were badly wounded. We dressed their wounds and gave them some water from our bottles which they were sorely in need of. I sent the lot back to our lines, under escort, when the remainder of our company came up. As you are aware from the press, things are going very well with us—we are winning all along the line. Rumania coming in will make a big difference to the duration of the war. Greece can hardly keep out of it any longer, so the Enterrte(?) Powers will be strafed from every side. We are having a few well-earned days rest. I will write you again in a few days time. With kindest regards to Mrs Smith, self and the members of your family and all my old friends in the Queen’s County.—I am, dear Mr Smith, yours sincerely.
Sgt J -------.
D Coy.
18th Batt., 5th Brigade., A.I.F., France.

He died four weeks after this last letter was written.

Re: WW1, Tipp/Laoise man in the Australian army

PostPosted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:55 pm
by johnzo
Can anybody tell me who this man was who wrote these letters please?

Re: WW1, Tipp/Laoise man in the Australian army

PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:17 pm
by Na Fianna Éireann
excellent read thank you , just been handed an origional diary from trenches covering 30th march 1915 to 19th sept 1915 from a family of man that died in action