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Bravery without forethought causes a man to fight blindly and desperately like a mad bull. Such an opponent must not be encountered with brute force, but may be lured into an ambush and slain.

-- Ts`ao Kung
Buried Alive6422 Reads  Printer-friendly page

World War I I have been through a most thrilling experience - one I shall never forget all my life. We had been strafing the enemy for some days, our artillery pounding them all along the line. Suddenly, at 4.53 o'clock on Sunday morning last the order came to charge. We went over the parapet - the whole brigade, save one battalion. Our artillery fire lifted, and our boys calmly walked over to the opposing trenches, a barrage of fire being put behind the lines.

A and B companies of each battalion took the first trench and C and D companies crossed over the advanced to the second line and took it!

Some three thousand of us were in this memorable charge and, for the first ten minutes, the scene baffles description. The Germans showed plenty of fight. They met us with bombs and tried all manner of tricks, but our bombs and bayonets were too good for them.

We each carried 220 rounds of ammunition and two bombs, and made good use of them. The Germans suffered very severely, and we cleared them out in short order. We no sooner had the trenches in our possession than they counterattacked, twice within the hour, but the Australians are a tough nut to crack and we hurled them back with heavy losses.

Finding they could not shift us, their artillery opened fire, shot and shell dropping like hail. The ground around us was strewn with corpses, the vast majority being Germans.

The din was terrific, and the sight one of the most awe-inspiring imaginable.

One felt one was holding his life in his hand all the time. Our gallant fellows hung on through it all, and passed back 100 prisoners, all men of the Prussian Guard. These were all that were left alive.

The Prussians fairly hate the Australians, and say they have no time for us, and that we are only murderers.

Once we got rid of our prisoners we started to collect our wounded, but the German snipers -they are good shots - kept up a steady stream of lead on the stretcher-bearers, many of whom fell under the attack. Ultimately we had to alter tactics, move the wounded from shell-hole to shell-hole, back to the dressing stations. While this was going on the rest of us were consolidating the conquered trenches, for they had been smashed to pieces by our artillery.

The work was in progress when I heard a big shell coming. Four others and myself bobbed down in the trench. This was at 6.30am and I remember nothing more till 2pm. It appears the shell burst on the parapet and buried the five of us.

There we lay till a party came along and were digging the trench when at 10.30am they discovered us! I was unconscious and my few brave mates had answered the Final Call.

How I survived I do not know. I was all bruised around the thigh and had two of my ribs broken. The rescuers called the stretcher-bearers, who carried me to a first-aid post, thence to the ambulance and, finally, to the hospital where I now lie.

I recovered consciousness there and am now improving wonderfully, I hope to get back at Fritz again in a couple of months, and get some of my own back.

This was the biggest charge lying to the credit of the Australians up to that time, and the first ever done by our brigade in daylight.

Our losses were heavy, but the Germans suffered more severely. At least three Coroki lads were in the wonderful charge - Privates Bert Pursey, L. and B. Smith, but I do not know how they got on.

Once we cleared the parapet it was a case of every man for himself, and the lot against the Huns, so I did not see them again...

Note: by Sgt Harvey Gale


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