Petit Kangourou

by Sylvain Halgand. Translation by Aisling Achoun

Version française


Dear friends,

From this issue of your favourite weekly, I invite you to learn about Arthur Clifford Stribling. I will tell you about the 645 days from when he first joined the army in Adelaïde and his death in Blangy-Tronville.  For that, every week I will send a copy of a letter he has never written. It is not an autobiography, but a fiction.

In preparation for the April commemoration, and in particular for the preparation of Tristan Robert's illustrated album, we did research on Cliff (the diminutive he used).
Thanks to his military record, we have a fairly clear idea of what he has done during this year, these 9 months and these 6 days. Thanks to his family members, we also know a little more about his private life.

His letters will evoke real facts, mixed with inventions from your Little Kangaroo. Each letter will be accompanied by historical comments.
The exercise will be difficult, but exciting. To date, nothing is written in advance, so not sure it will last until April. This is a new project, which I hope will interest you.

I remind you that “Little Kangaroo” is a reporter, he is neither a historian nor a geographer, please forgive him if he makes some mistakes.



Les documents illustrant les lettres sont issus de divers sites australiens, dont celui de l'Australian War Memorial.

  

First part "Adelaïde" 

19 july 1916
26 july 1916
30 july 1916
9 august 1916
14 august 1916
20 august 1916
15 september 1916

Second part "at sea"

23 october 1916
26 october 1916
2 november 1916
7 november 1916
14 november 1916
2 december 1916

Third part "in England"

28 december 1916
16 february 1917
Spring 1917
24 june 1917
15 july 1917
9 march 1918
24 april 1918 (unfinished)

Third part

Carte 3*

At Devonport, 28 December 1916


Dear Parents,

 

Today, we FINALLY arrived in England. We landed at Devonport, which is a harbor district of Plymouth. It's in the southwest of the country, quite far from the capital; it looks like an elephant's trunk on the map.
The day before yesterday, we managed to catch a glimpse of the French coast. The weather is very bad, its winter here, and we did not spend too long looking at the horizon. We will have enough time to see France. Our woolen coats were a necessity, but as they remain wet and sticky for a long time because of the sea spray, we didn’t stay long on the Port Melbourne deck.

It's been over two months since we left Adelaide and even though it's very cold here (I saw snowflakes for the first time), it's a great relief to touch the ground.

tamar River

We went up the Tamar River a little bit. On our right we could see Mount Wise and the fort overlooking it. It is a big military port with lots of boats. There were even old boats serving as pontoons. I saw one very old one; I was told it was launched in 1821, older than South Australia!

HMS Indus

Devonport

Devonport

When putting my foot on land, I felt a little unwell. I was not the only one to feel this. It's as if the earth was swaying. 

 

I hurry to post this Christmas card (and previous letters written from Durban) because we will be transported by train to a training camp located about 125 miles away. The trip should last 6 hours. We will be there to celebrate the end of this year, and the new one.

 

My dear parents, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year 1917.

Stribling



The facts:

From June 1916, Australian troops were no longer trained in Egypt, but in England. Depending on their division, the new recruits were sent to one of the training camps around the city of Salisbury. This place was chosen because it was well connected by rail, and the connection with the ports was easy, both on arrival from Australia and departure to France.

The wounded who were repatriated from France are treated in English hospitals scattered throughout the territory. When they leave, they are directed to one of the four command depots. Indeed, they cannot return to their families. They need a place to recover, then resume training, before returning to the fighting. The maximum time to return to the front was three months following treatment in hospital. These camps were in Wiltshire and Dorset. These camps have now disappeared; however there are still many traces of the passage of Australians, including unfortunately, the graves of soldiers who died of their wounds or illness.


Camp

We will talk more about the training camps when Arthur gets there.


 

 

Codford, 16 February 1917

Dear Parents,


Our training camp is in Codford in the south of England. It's cold, much colder that what we are used to in Australia. When it's not cold, it's raining. There are even days when it's cold and raining at the same time. Many people are ill because of the weather.
I am momentarily in the 13th Training Battalion while I do these classes. Some mornings, there is an inspection of our barracks.  It must be kept clean and in order. The army is very demanding on order and cleanliness.

Some days we learn to march in good order. We Australians have the reputation of not being very disciplined. 


Other days, we do tactical exercises at the side of the Yarnbury castle. We say castle, but it's a fortified hill that dates back to the Iron Age, we can see only the trace of earthen ramparts.


The exercises take place on manoeuvring grounds, but also in sheds when the weather is really bad.

 

 

 

 

We have mobilization exercises. Without notice, we need to get ourselves ready as quickly as possible to board a train.  

 

At least once a week, we do a long walk with all the gear. This week, the departure was at 9:30 from the officer’s quarters and then we went through Fisherton, Wylie, Bapton, Stockton and Stockton Park before returning to our respective camps. This walk was 6 miles. At our next training session, the distance will increase.

 

 

 

 


 


From your beloved Cliff

Stribling

 

 


Facts :

Codford camp was used for training the recruits arriving in Europe, but also for recovering those wounded in training. When they left hospital and before they were sent back to combat, they followed a progressive training, at the end of which they joined the front or were confined to tasks compatible with the consequences of their injuries. Some were definitely sent home.

The living conditions at the camp are often described as difficult, but the climate, far from that of Australia, is the first responsible for this feeling.

 

The camp is away from the village, near the river. A railway track passes through it.

Codford is a very small village with little attraction for soldiers. It is mainly in the camp that they spend their free time, waiting for permission which will allow them to visit London.

 

ANZAC soldiers stationed at Codford during the First World War left a lasting impression on the village, especially through the giant army badge carved on the hill above Foxhole Bottom. The ANZAC cemetery in Codford is the second largest of its kind in the UK.



 

Codford, Spring 1917 (What you are going to read today is not a novel, but the one and only letter actually written by Clifford that we have. As part of our commemorations, we are pleased to be able to share this with you.)

Dear Charle                                                                                                                                      Codford
This is out the back of Codford. It is not a big river by any means, a bit bigger than the Gilbert.  I don’t suppose that it would be so big in the summer. It runs just close below our camp right through Wylye.  There is a flat for nearly ¼ mile on each side of stream which they seem to grow anything when not too wet.

Your Cliff

Stribling

 

Codford, 24 June 1917

Dear Charle,


I write to you separately so as not to worry Mam & Dad unnecessarily. Do not let them read this
letter, tell them positive things.


Since I arrived in England, I have spent many days in hospital. I was there from 18 February to 30 March, then 20-30 May. Many of us have the same problem. The Doctors call it the STA which means Septic Traumatic Abrasions. It's a foot disease
due to the fact that we stay too long in the same cold and wet shoes. Winter and the European Spring are ruthless for our Australian feet. We are regularly given new pairs of socks from all over the country which have been knitted by good ladies or
schoolgirls.

 

I was in a hospital at Sutton Veny. I was very well cared for there, and my feet which were very damaged and painful are repaired. They are still a little sore, but the pain will quickly fade according to the doctor who came to see me. The nurses were very kind, it feels good to see soft female smiles.

 


During convalescence, I had the right to walk in the camp and the village but my painful feet held me back a little. The village pubs are called “The Wool Pack” and “The Bell”.

There is also the YMCA which is installed at Greenhill House. 

"Located amidst the biggest
training and convalescence depots of the Australian army in Britain, this mansion,
containing more than 50 rooms and vast lawns and grounds, offers ideal opportunities for
rest and recovery for troops tired by the war. It belongs to the Australian YMCA and offers a family welcome to officers, NCOs and to men."


Tomorrow, we will leave by train, to a port, to embark to France. The serious stuff begins!

All the best,


Your brother Cliff.

Stribling

 

 


Facts (wikipedia) :

 

"Trench foot" (in English and Septic Traumatic Abrasions) is the name given to an ulcerative necrotic disease that became known when it spread through the trenches during the First World War.

This disease is probably due to the combination of several pathogens and the difficult living conditions of the soldiers. Its first stage, ulcerous, seems to be caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to humidity, insalubrity and cold.

Characteristics

Infected feet may become numb. Erythrosis (the foot turns red) or cyanosis (blue stain) are some of the symptoms. They are induced by a depleted vascular supply. A decomposition smell may follow, related to the early stages of necrosis. Without treatment, the condition worsens further, with swelling of the feet. Advanced infection leads to open abscesses and wounds, and usually to fungal infections, sometimes referred to as tropical ulcers (jungle moulds). If the diseased foot is not treated quickly, gangrene sets in, which can lead to the need for amputation and sometimes death if there is sepsis. If Trench Foot is treated properly and from the beginning, complete recovery is normal, accompanied by pain, when the nervous system resumes normal functioning.

As with other cold-related injuries and this type of infection, recurrences are possible or more frequent in those who have already been victims.


Causes

Trench Foot was favoured by situations where the foot was cold and wet for a long time, in people forced to wear tight shoes. Unlike frostbite, Trench Foot occurred without freezing up to at least 16 ° C (60 ° Fahrenheit).


Prevention

Trench Foot can easily be avoided by keeping feet warm and dry, and changing socks frequently if feet cannot be kept dry. The soldiers, in their letters to their families, often asked for more socks, to help prevent problems such as Trench Foot.

During the First World War, the armies provided whale fat that was used to waterproof the leather and apply to the feet, in order to reduce the prevalence of this pathology, the idea was to make the feet impervious to water. However, it was found that this treatment worsened the perspiration of the feet, which then became moister. It has also been discovered that a key preventative measure is regular inspection of the feet by officers.

The Red Cross and other voluntary workers routinely made calls to knitters. Even schools were involved. A small booklet "The Grey Sock" explained what and how to knit.

 

 

15 July 1917, Ploegsteert Wood, Belgique

Dear Parents,


We embarked on 25 June 25 in Southampton for a crossing of the English Channel by night, to avoid attacks by German submarines. The boat, whose name I do not know, was painted in very strange colours.

When I landed in the port of Le Havre, I think I saw American soldiers, I did not know that there were some in France. I also saw German prisoners coming down horses from a boat; it was the first time I saw the "Enemy". A little further away, a large crane unloaded English locomotives from another boat. After the port, we walked to Harfleur, a few miles away, where there is a huge camp for us Australians, English and Canadians. There is also a hospital to treat those who come back from the front. Not far away, there is a factory that makes guns.





I was at the 4th Australian Division Base Depot. The atmosphere was not at all the same as in England, we felt more tension, although the front is still far away. I stayed in this camp for 4 days. We had walking exercises and medical exams to ensure officers were sure we were ready to combat.

Then we took the train to the north of France.



The trip was long, with many stops. We went through Amiens, then near XXXX. This city is completely destroyed; it is very close to the front. We had to make many detours because sometimes the main line is found on the German side. We also stopped to let amunition convoys pass.





We arrived at XXX Wood, near XXX, in XXXXX.

I joined my battalion, and I am now "Taken on Strength".

 
Sending you lots of love,
Stribling


Les faits :

As early as 1914, the Australian federal government introduced the War Precautions Act, which introduced censorship. This one, based on the British model, is administered by the Australian Army. It grew stronger as the war went on. The main activity was to open and read through the letters, including those sent by the military front, and local mail exchanged between civilians. Any information deemed compromising - for example, details of military locations - was removed. Postal censorship has also provided intelligence agencies with a list of people to actively monitor. The letters of the soldiers were thus redacted; that's what happens to Clifford's. The soldiers learned not to give details of their movements, nor of what they really lived on the front. Clifford joined the 50th Battalion on 15th July 15 1917, at Ploegsteert Wood, near Messines (Belgium), under the Ypres salient.


 

 

 

9 March 1918, Kemmel Shelters, Belgium



Dear Parents,


REL/01173

Tomorrow, I am going on leave to England for 14 days. I was treated at the hospital for my feet (again!), but now I am fully cured, do not worry. I stayed at the hospital from January 19th to February 9th. It was a big change after the past few months. I cannot tell you where exactly, I can just tell you that it was in France and Belgium.



I imagine that the newspapers are telling what happened during the past few months and especially the fighting around Ypres.






 




 

 

 

 

Today, a concert was given by the YMCA, and it was very entertaining.

Lots of love

 

Stribling

 


Facts:

The soldiers could not tell in their mail, the battles in which they participated, let alone share the conditions of combat. The letters of the soldiers thus offer a mistaken vision of the feats of arms.
The military journals, on the other hand, offer a cold, dehumanized story, where the losses are just numbers. Only the personal diaries of the combatants can better understand the horror of these moments. In the case of Arthur, we have no record of such a journal.
One imagines that he has limited himself to stories very sweetened, both to avoid censorship, but also not to  alarm his family.
The March diary of the 50th Infantry Battalion establishes the following chronology. We must imagine Arthur among the anonymous of this story:



August 1917

The battalion moves from Steenwerck to Mount Kemmel, where the men are engaged in defense consolidation work. On the 17th, the battalion had to replace the 12th, but orders were cancelled and a New Zealand brigade was finally replaced. On the 21st, the battalion left for Neuve Eglise (Camp Aldershot), then Ploegsteert Wood.
On the 22nd, departure at 20:30 for the front line, to complete NZ forces (New Zealand). There was one killed and three wounded. The Australian artillery is pounding gently, but continuously, the enemy lines. Hostile planes fly over allied lines.
On the 24th, allied artillery is unusually active. Allied planes fly over the German lines continuously. There are many anti-aircraft machine gun fire against them. Allied patrols cross the front line and observe the enemy. On the 26th, there is an enemy raid on the left, which is pushed back.

Every day, the officer tells how coldly the 50th lived:



If the reports are handwritten, the orders that accompany them are typewritten: 


The report for the month of August ends with a count of losses. The battalion moved within a radius of less than 10 kilometers

September 1917

On the 1st, the battalion leaves for New Church, where (as far as I understand) men can take a bath. They then board buses that will take them to La Bréarde, near Hazebrouck.
The 2nd, they complete and clean their equipment, and parade.
On the 4th, they leave for Lugy. They stay there until the 20th to train.
On the 20th they come back to Ploegsteert wood.
On the 21st they depart by bus 2 miles west of Ypres, where they stay until the 24th, before relieving the 52nd Battalion at WestHoek Ridge.
From 26th to 27th, the battalion participated in an attack, before being relieved and returning to the second line to participate in road works.
On the 30th, the battalion left for the Halifax camp near Dickebusch.





October 1917

On the 1st, the battalion moves to Steenvoorde (East). Reinforcements are assigned to the battalion which reorganizes its men in the sections. Men sleep on farms. They train until the 10th. That day, they walk towards Abeele, then Ypres. They return to the front on the 11th. The staff is established at the farm De Knoet in Broodseinde. The weather is not good (October in Belgium!) And the ground is very muddy. On the 12th, the Australians attack the German line with success (without understanding from the logbook what success is).


The Germans bombard for several days, the weather is bad and the ground is getting heavier. There are many sorties from German planes. On the 19th, the next generation is here. This battle killed or wounded 2 officers and 141 men of rank. 29 men are sick.
On the 21st, the battalion marches for Camp Cornwall, near Ouderdom. The camp is bombed by planes. The 22nd is bathing day and equipment inspection.
On the 25th, it is the return to Lugy, to alternate trainings and moments of rest. Footballs are bought for boys.



 

 

 


Ypres le 31 october 1917
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 1917

The Germans bombard for several days, the weather is bad and the ground is getting heavier. There are many sorties from German planes. On the 19th, the next generation is here. This battle killed or wounded 2 officers and 141 men of rank. 29 men are sick.
On the 21st, the battalion marches for Camp Cornwall, near Ouderdom. The camp is bombed by planes. The 22nd is bathing day and equipment inspection.
On the 25th, it is the return to Lugy, to alternate trainings and moments of rest. Footballs are bought "for boys".







December 1917

On the 4th, orders announce that one must be ready to move shortly. The marching journal, as several times before, mentions that the company D is not with the main body of the battalion, but close to Senlis. There is no explanation for the reasons for this separation. The orders are for all the companies, except the D, to join Péronne. The battalion made a brief passage before going to Etricourt on the 7th. Company D joined the rest of the battalion. The men sleep a mile north of Etricourt. Earthen walls are built around the tents to protect them from the horizontal effects of bombs thrown from planes. On the 9th, the battalion moved 9 miles to Templeux-la-Fosse. Until the 19th, the battalion trains and must be able to decamp in one hour.





On the 19th, the troop moves to Moislains, just 4 miles away. Cabins replace tents, while the weather is cold and wet.
On the 25th, a good Christmas meal is served to all men; extras were bought at the canteen of the Brigade and Amiens. Money raised by the League of Loyal Women improves the comfort of men.
On the 31st, some men go on leave to Britain, while the others continue to train. During the month, large-scale exercises take place, simulating attacks and counter-attacks, according to the scenarios established by the HQ.







January 1918

The 1st is a day of rest for all. The General pays a visit to the men.
The first days of the year are devoted to training and road maintenance work. On the 6th, the commanding officers are assembled at the staff of the Brigade. On the 7th and 8th, a snowstorm prevents the application of orders.
On the 9th, the battalion left Moislains under the snow, for Péronne. We learn that the commander of the area appreciated that the camp was left in a state of exceptional cleanliness. Arrived at Bailleul, the YMCA serves cocoa to all the battalion. The battalion is then hosted at Strazeele. On arrival, there is a foot inspection. The quarters assigned to the men are very dirty. On the 11th, a general cleaning is organized. On the 12th, the battalion moved to Elzenwalle, Camp Tournai. Again, the camp is very dirty on arrival and must be cleaned on the 13th, which once finished makes it very comfortable for men. On the night of the 13th to 14th, there is heavy snowfall which limits the reconnaissance outings to a minimum. Other men work to protect the barracks with earthen walls. The weather conditions are getting worse. Snowfall follows heavy rains. The soil is completely soggy. In turn, men have the right to a hot bath. On the 18th, the battalion commander goes on leave in Great Britain.



24 April 1918, Blangy-Tronville, Somme, France

Dear Parents,


I think you have received the letter I sent from England on leave. I joined my unit on April 2nd. After two weeks of rest, clean sheets and hot showers, without shrapnel noise, without flying, it was difficult to get back to the usual rhythm in France.

Since my return, we have crossed many villages in the Anchor Valley and the Somme. The front and the enemy are rarely far away.

I am in a small village on the south bank of the Somme.

(Unfinished letter)


Facts :


Translated by your servant from the marching journal of the 50th Infantry Battalion.





 



Officers of the 50th Battalion (Locre, 7 March 1918)

From left to right, at the back: Lieutenant (Lt) William Leslie Scarborough; Lt Alexander Mills, DCM; Lt Frederick Balfour McBryde; Lt Matthew Mackay McGregor (died of his wounds, 3 May 1918 in France); Lt Frederick William Wakelin, War Cross; Lt John David Lockley Craven; Lt William Vernon West; Ralph Elsmere Claridge; Lt Frederick Taylor Goodes; Lt William Rignold Wills.

Middle row: Lt John Leslie Waldron, MM; Lt Walter James Hale; Lt Gordon Stanley Irwin Queale; Lt Charles Angas Willcox; Lt. John Hunt; Lt Leslie Elliott Harding, MC; Lt Cleveland George Edwards; James Norman Loudon, MC and bar; Lt Joseph Waine, MC; Lt William Stewart McKay killed in action on 24 April 1918 in France); Lt. John Holroyd Hill, MC; Lt Percy Edward Nuttall, MC.

Front: Temporary Captain (Capt) Raymond George Goodman; Capt William Russell From The Poer Beresford, MC; Capt Frank Herbert Hancock (killed in action 24 April 1918 in France); Major William Murray Fowler, MC; Lieutenant Colonel Alfred George Salisbury, CMG, DSO and Bar, Knight Cross; Lt Lancelot Beck Smith, MC; Capt Randall Lance Rhodes, MC; Lt Henry Kay (killed in action 24 April 1918 in France); and Dr. Herbert William Carlton, MC and bar.

MC: The Military Cross (TM) is the third highest military decoration awarded to Commonwealth land forces officers. (source wikipedia)

MM: The Military Medal is a military decoration created on 25 March 1916 by King George V. It is awarded to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men and women of the British Army and other Commonwealth Armed Forces in recognition of one or more acts of bravery, on the recommendation of a commander-in-chief in the field ("acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire").
It can be awarded twice - MM and bar - or more, exceptionally. (source wikipedia)

DSO: The Distinguished Service Order (DSO), a British military award, was established by Queen Victoria on 9 November 1886, in recognition of meritorious or distinguished individual service in wartime.
It is a military order with only one rank, that of companion (Companion), to which only senior officers are eligible, usually from the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
For all ranks below the rank of Major, the Military Cross is awarded.  The DSO is awarded for outstanding bravery, the next honour is the Victoria Cross.  It is awarded since 1 January 1917 only for bravery under enemy fire. (source wikipedia)



 



 

On 28 March, the battalion remains in Contay. There are showers.

On 29 March, the Australian artillery is active all day, and a little less during the evening. Allied planes are very present above enemy positions, unlike German planes.

On 30 March, the 51st Battalion took over the front line of Buire Dernancourt, while the 50th took the place of the 52nd.

On 31 March, the situation is calmer. Australian artillery fire on Merlancourt, Dernancourt and Ville s / Ancre.

1st April

Enemy artillery and aviation are active all day. The airfield of the D.16.C is bombed. A squadron of 16 enemy planes crosses our lines without going very far.

2 April

Company C replaces Company B in the trenches west of Lavieville. The B returns to the airfield. Allied artillery is active on Dernancourt and Morlancourt. That of the enemy is not as much as usual. 4 officers and 36 men of the rank reintegrate the battalion after leave in Great Britain. They were stuck in Calais too long. (Arthur Clifford Stribling was probably one of those men)

On 4 and 5 April, despite constant bombing, the positions and the valley of Laviéville, Bresle to Ribemont are not abandoned. It's raining a lot, almost all the time.

5 April

Direct fire hit a hangar occupied by Company D around 9 am, causing 52 casualties, including 9 dead. At 9:30 under the cover of heavy artillery, the enemy attacks, in a very determined way, the advanced positions of the brigade. During a second wave of assault, the enemy progressed on the other side of Dernancourt. The brigade must move back to the left. The right flank remains intact. At 14:35, the 50th Battalion was ordered to occupy the line at Bresle Wood, then at 15:35 to advance on the Dernancourt-Laviéville line. At 17:15, the 49th Battalion receives the order to counterattack. It's a success; heavy machine guns are taken from the enemy.

6 April

The 50th takes place between the 52nd and 51st battalions. This line starts from "Buire Halte". Patrols run through it and report hearing the enemy cutting trees south of the river. Staff is in Quarry (impossible to understand which village it is). Querrieu seems a little far.

7 April

The companies of the battalion are redistributed on the line. Orders arrive announcing relief during the night, by the 27th.

8 April

The battalion marches on the south of Lahoussoye. They arrived at 5:30 in the morning. Hot tea is served upon arrival. The battalion rests until 3 pm. It's cold and wet. There is no shelter. The battalion arrives at Corbie at 5 pm Company C occupies posts in Aubigny and Fouilloy, as well as two bridges on the Somme. Company D is positioned east and south of Hamelet and on a floating bridge over the Somme. Companies A and B are located in cellars on the east side of Corbie. The 50th Battalion covers a line of 6000 yards. We do not know the company of Arthur Clifford Stribling.

9 April

Companies are swapping their positions. The reserves go from Bavelincourt to Daours.

10 April

The engineer inspects the line and requests that additional defenses be established. Work is undertaken. The Hamelet is heavily bombed. Upon arrival in Corbie, the men are in poor condition. The delivery of 400 pairs of socks and two days in the shelter should significantly improve their condition.





11 April

The weather is warmer. The enemy planes are very active and fly very low over Corbie. The enemy bombs close to the church of Corbie, around 9:30 pm.

12 April


General Birdwood visits the brigade. New positions are established.

13 April

Baths are installed for men in a deserted factory. A complete change is provided to each man. The 4th Army warns of the possibility of an attack on the front for the next day. At this announcement, all the kitchens located on the south bank of the river move on the north shore, then to La Neuville.

14 April

Ammunition is distributed in large numbers. Hamelet and the surrounding area are shrapneled at regular intervals all day long.

15 April

Defensive preparations continue. New barbed wire is arranged.

16 April

Staff bring together the battalion commanders. Fighting takes place in Vaire-sous-Corbie.

17 April

Company C relieves company A in Aubigny.

18 April

A pedestrian bridge is completed near Fouilly (Fouilloy)

19 April

Quiet day. Low artillery fire on Hamelet. Nice weather.

20 April

Enemy artillery very active. Vaire, Hamelet, Fouilloy and Corbie are regularly bombed. A fire starts in Fouilloy, as a result of incendiary shells, 4 houses are destroyed. Aviation is very present.

21 April

German artillery is particularly active. Corbie gets shelled at 2 pm. Bombs are dropped near Hamelet at 11pm. A single-seater red plane is shot down by a machine gun fire at J.19.b (not sure if you can decipher it must be a position on a map). This is probably the Baron Rouge plane.




22 April

The battalion moves from Corbie to Daours at 11 o'clock in the morning. The whole troop is cantoned, either at Daours or at Vecquemont.

23 April

The companies are reorganized and a special training of the Lewis Gun is given to all men. They must take over from the battalions of the 11th brigade north of Sailly-le-Sec, on the 25th.

April 24

At 3.30, the enemy began a huge artillery fire on a line from north Albert to Hangard. At 4:10, the command ordered the battalion to be ready to move forward. The battalion consists of 39 officers and 762 men. At 6 o'clock, orders are given everyone must be ready to advance as quickly as possible. At 11:30 am instructions are given ordering everyone to move to Blangy-Tronville, where other orders will be given. At 6 o'clock the enemy began to fire moderately on Daours. At 10 am, the companies leave the village. There are 6 victims. At noon, the battalion walks 50 yards between each section. It arrived at Blangy-Tronville at 1:15 pm. Orders were given for the battalion to camp in the Blangy Woods. The battalion is deployed in artillery training and waits where it is.





An adjudant goes on reconnaissance. The enemy is lightly bombarding several localities between Blangy Wood and Blangy-Tronville. A route is selected to avoid these localities. New recognitions are organized. The battalion marches through Blangy, 50 meters between each section and follows the chosen route through the fields, in artillery formation, to the edge of the Blangy Wood, where it arrives at four o'clock. The bivouac consists mainly of small trenches covered with branches, and some tents.

At 19:50 orders dated 18:45 are given, giving instructions for a counter-attack on Villers-Bretonneux. The attack begins at 22 pm. The distance to be covered is 4000 yards, and 3000 for the reserve battalion (the 50th). At 8 pm, company commanders verbally receive their orders and a copy of a map showing the objectives. Their attention is drawn to the fact that they must expect to be engaged by machine guns on their left flank, in the wood of Aquenne.
The battalion leaves Blangy Wood at 9:30 pm, walking in line. The back of the 52nd is visible in front. A battalion of the 53rd Brigade marches in parallel on the right of the 50th Battalion. Other formations are around. The road is congested.





The attacking battalion seems to have left a little late. At the passage of the Bois d'Aquenne, the 50th is the target of machine gun fire from his left (Bois d'Aquenne) and also from the right, from the Hangar Wood.





 

J06242
If the moment and the precise place where the soldier Stribling is wounded is not known, one can suppose that it is between the wood of Aquenne and the station of Villers-Bretonneux that he was touched.
Injured in the neck and legs, he is brought back to Blangy-Tronville, where he is taken care of by the 24th field ambulance.
He died 4 hours after being wounded on 25 April. His military record specifies multiple GSW, which means, he was shot multiple times. Another part of his record states that these are leg injuries.


Lest We Forget

 

 

 

 


 Petit Kangourou


#60, 15 April 2018, Blangy-Tronville, Somme, France

Dear readers of the leaping marsupial,

60 minutes is an hour, but this hour is hundreds of hours of work, Sunday after Sunday.

Since January 2017, we have travelled a large part of the world, laughing. Since December (No. 40), I have taken the hand of Arthur Clifford Stribling so that he can tell what he probably lived from his engagement in July 1916, to the last day of his life, in April 1918 in Blangy-Tronville.

To get there, I read through his military file, freely available on the Internet at the following address: https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8094603

The file provides information on his physique, his state of health, his successive displacements. Thanks to the many pieces that make it up, it was a good starting frame that I completed thanks to the journal of his unit, the 50th Infantry Battalion. You can consult it on the internet: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1339165 without forgetting that it was written, day after day, by officers, sometimes close to the front, sometimes under fire artillery. Reading and translation are sometimes difficult. The use of acronyms does not make it easy and I had to seek help from Australian correspondents.

Most of the photos used come from the website of the Australian War Memorial, which is extraordinarily beautiful, as its content is unique in the world. These photos are royalty-free, as long as there is no commercial use of their reproduction.

I admit, and I hope the authors will forgive me, that I borrowed some very rare pictures on websites, which I tried to reference each time.

I also went through dozens of pages of names of Australian soldiers in order to find those that Arthur (I have the impression that I know him now and so I am able to call him by his first name) could have met at Mitcham camp, or on the boat. They have existed, and the details given about them are true.

The details about the photography in a soldier's life are accurate, but I do not know if photography really interested Arthur or his brother, or even if one or the other had a camera.

During the initial research done three years ago, I already had a lot of information, some of which was used for the illustrated album, but some will not appear in the album or in the letters. I had the list of personal belongings returned to Arthur's mother, but they never reached their destination, the boat carrying them sunk (by the way, I have the name of the boat, and the position of the wreck). Only a Bible, forgotten and sent by another boat, arrived in Tarlee.

The beautiful and sad story that ends today will continue next weekend, with encounters that I imagine will be just as beautiful and happy.

New friendships will be formed. For me, it's already the case, with a large part of a pretty village of the Somme, but also with some Australian correspondents met by the miracle of the internet and who helped me (as a Frenchman) to understand some of the more difficult points. Nick Smyth and Patrick Kelleghan are amateur historians, they will not be with us on 22 April for which they regret.

A little anecdote to help you understand the mood of the Australians about the memory of veterans. As I began to explain in one journal what the YMCA was, Patrick told me that AC Stribling, according to the list of his disappeared belongings, possessed a YMCA wallet. Absolutely unaware of what it was, Patrick showed me on Ebay a sale announcement of a YMCA wallet of the First World War, having belonged to an Australian soldier. By some chance in history, the portfolio was in Canada. A few weeks later, I discovered it, very surprised, in my postbox.

There is also Russell Patterson, whom I know because we have a common passion (nothing to do with military history). Russell, although not French speaking, reads every minute since No. 1, which gives rise to many email exchanges, whether it is about Coober pedy or Australian animals. Russell is also very generous in preparing our commemorations. It is to him that we owe the arrival of new pastry cutters for cakes, an Australian flag as it existed in 1918, a Eureka flag (which we will not be able to exhibit on 22 April 22) and much more.

Thank you all, thank you to my family who saw me disappear every Sunday afternoon (and more) when I took to writing on behalf of Arthur Clifford faced with an empty screen.

Thanks to Aisling Achoun who has kindly translated the AC Stribling letters into English.

Now, I put my pen in my pocket, which has been filled with so much for the past three years ...

Sylvain Halgand, alias Petit Kangourou.

 


 

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Photos : DR / Internet / AWM