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II

In August, 1914, came the news of the outbreak of war in Europe. Far removed as Australians were from Europe, and having but little knowledge of international complications, they scarcely realised the full extent of the disaster. There was considerable excitement, and patriotic enthusiasm was aroused, but the general feeling was that the war would be of short duration. Little was known in Australia about the relative strength of countries. The fact that Germany and Austria had arrayed against them Britain, France,


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Russia, and Servia caused the belief to be general that the two central Powers of Europe would be speedily crushed.

Within a few weeks of the outbreak of hostilities, the Governor of Western Australia, Major-General Sir Harry Barron, in a public speech, expressed himself as firmly convinced that before Christmas the armies of Britain, France and Russia would be in Berlin.

Meanwhile, recruiting began, training camps were formed and arrangements were made for sending Australian troops to Europe. When saying good-bye to early contingents of soldiers leaving Australia, I found some of them afraid that the war would be over before they reached the front and so would see nothing of the fighting. Alas! Only too many of them never returned. There were none that did not see more of the war than they wanted.

Men returning from Gallipoli told many strange unpublished stories. One was that a gunner who came from Australia was discovered to cut short fuses, with the result that the shells exploded short amongst Australians rather than amongst the Turks. It was discovered that he was a man of German descent and with German sympathies. There was no court-martial. He was shot by his own comrades.

Another was of two kangaroo shooters who were found to be wonderfully good shots. They accordingly became snipers, and operated at a considerable distance from each other with much success. Lord Kitchener when on the Peninsula heard of them and said he would like to meet them. They had to take up their


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position at night, and one of them when coming off duty was told that General Kitchener wished to speak to him. When brought before the General he drew himself up and saluted in proper military style.

The General spoke to him nicely and asked him what luck he had had that day.

“I did well, sir; I got ten Turks.”

“You shot ten Turks?” said Kitchener.

“Yes, sir,” was the answer.

“That's not bad,” remarked the General, “but you did not do as well as your mate. He got twenty-two.”

“Did Bill say that?” answered the sniper indignantly. “Then tell him from me he's a bloody liar.”

Some Turks had good boots which Australians were keen to possess. Men were in the habit of raiding enemy trenches to get a pair. One Australian who disappeared into the Turk's trenches was an inordinately long time away. He eventually turned up with the much prized boots. “We thought you were not coming back. What delayed you?” he was asked. “Oh,” he answered, “I had to kill six before I got a pair to fit.”

An officer when going his rounds thought he heard a call from a partially collapsed dug-out. He told his batman to investigate. Subsequently he said to the batman, “Well, did you find anyone?” “Yes, sir,” came the reply. The officer asked, “Did you get him out?” “No,” was the answer. “And why not?” “Well, sir,” said the batman, “he was the parson, and we won't want him until Sunday.”

I met a Victoria Cross winner who had come back with a great reputation as a courageous fighter, having


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killed single-handed more than half a dozen of the enemy. I congratulated him. When I knew him better he told me the truth of what actually happened to him. “They were coming to kill me,” said he. “I was terribly frightened. I never felt so terrified in my life. Suddenly a wave of rage came over me and I rushed at them. I must have become stark mad with frenzy, for I remember no more until it was all over and I was safe with my mates. Had I not killed them, they would have killed me. I wanted to live, and so I won the Victoria Cross. If people knew how terrified I was they would not call me a hero.”

General Sir John Monash, who was Commander-in-Chief of the Australian troops towards the close of the war, was a most impressive personality. My first meeting with him was in unusual circumstances. It was several years after peace had been declared. I was travelling in a crowded special train from Melbourne to Canberra. There was not a vacant sleeping berth and my compartment was shared by a total stranger, a man with powerful jaws, well-defined features and a decidedly strong face. He was friendly and communicative. We talked for hours and hours about numerous subjects, but, curiously enough, we never once touched on defence affairs or the war. I knew he must be someone of importance and wondered who he was. It was not until next day when at the Canberra Hotel, where we both stayed and had meals beside each other, that I discovered that my travelling companion was Sir John Monash. That was but the beginning of numerous other meetings between us. The more I knew him, the more impressed I became with his marked qualities for leadership. He was a born leader of men.




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A friend of mine, a member of the Federal Parliament, had an interesting experience with Lord Kitchener when he visited Australia in 1909 to report and advise on Commonwealth military defence. Kitchener went to great pains to learn the views of leading men. He not only consulted Ministers of the Crown, but also arranged to meet Opposition leaders privately. Evidently he clearly realised that Governments are but the creatures of a day and that those on the left of the Speaker usually in time are entrusted with the responsibilities of office. A meeting between Kitchener and the member was arranged by an Australian state Governor. Kitchener said to my friend, “I hear that if there be a change of Government you are likely to be Minister for Defence again, and so I will tell you what I have told the present Minister for Defence but what I will not include in my report.” He then gave him information that was confidential and asked my friend if he had any questions to ask him. The member asked four questions, and the Field-Marshal replied to them. Some time later there was a change of Government, and the member became Minister for Defence. The Minister had to go to London, and whilst there he met Kitchener at a private dinner. After dinner Kitchener asked him to come with him to a room where there was but the two of them. “Now that you are Minister for Defence,” said Kitchener, “what have you done regarding the four questions you put to me in Australia?” The Minister had to admit that he had forgotten what the questions were. Kitchener reminded him of them. The Minister told him what he had done regarding each of them, and apparently the Field-Marshal was pleased, but what


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astonished my friend was Kitchener's amazing memory for even matters of small detail.

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