Sunday, August 17, 2014

Letter Home from the Front

Source:  Trove
"WITH THE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS Creswick Advertiser
(Vic. : 1914 - 1918) - 24 Nov 1916: Page 3
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132684799.
WITH THE AUSTRALIAN
TROOPS
--(o)--
SOLDIER'S LETTER.
Writing to his father, Mr R. Jones, of Spring Creek Road, Daylesford, from France, Private R. Jones (a native of Creswick) states that he was away from the continual roar of the guns doing a seven days course at a Lewis Gun School. At the end of that period he would return to the trenches. Any one who had come out of the previous month's heavy fighting could shake hands with himself.
He had never expected to emerge alive. After he had gone back to the trenches, after being wounded, they had a very warm time. 

One night at about seven o'clock, just as it had become dark, the Germans started a heavy bombardment and for an hour and a half he was lying in a shell hole under the heaviest fire he had ever heard or seen. A small piece of shell slightly wounded him on one of his fingers. Then the British guns started. The noise of a battery was only as a tin dish to it. 

Archie Anderson was wounded the same morning and he went and brought up a stretcher for him. There was only one of his crowd from Daylesford left and that was Karl Rocky. He saw Stan Coutts the night they were relieved by the latter's battalion, but did not stop to speak to him, as the writer did a fast sprint down the trench. Young Coutts looked alright. He had been speaking to Tom McGuiness and Jim Campbell and a few other Daylesford boys. Young [Neye] was better from his wounds and was back with his battalion. 



Robert Jones enlisted 17th July 1915
The writer was now able to say that he had been in a bayonet charge and in the German 
trenches and that he had had a good go at Fritz. The night they charged there was one deep dug out from which they hunted the Germans. The latter had evidently thought that they were going to hold that part of the world for good, as they had dugouts 40 feet deep and beds in them. "But we soon settled this.'' the writer continues. "We threw some poisonous gas bombs' down and when the Germans came up we got them. One chap was running up rubbing his eyes and crying 'Mercy comrade Australia. Bon-Bon-Bon." The latter is French for good. But we gave him mercy with the bayonet and bombs.

I have heard chaps who were at Gallipoli talking and they reckoned that it was a home to this. I got wounded but those wounds have healed now and I have had a go since then and have to have another yet, but I don't mind as something tells me that I am going to come right through. Whenever I go into the trenches I am never downhearted, I always go in with the intention of coming out again. My word our boys are brave lads, frightened of nothing. I have seen nearly every different type of soldier in the world but give me the old Australians and I am satisfied.'' The writer stated that he had received 31 letters in one batch and concluded by saying that it might not be long before he was with his father again - never [to] leave in a hurry. There was no place like home and he knew it."

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According to the Defense records, Bob Jones was injured in France and admitted to hospital on 5th August 1916.  Was it the Battle of the Pozieres (Somme Offensive) that Bob referred to in his letter home?  It seems very likely. 


Archie Anderson (2112), a chemist assistant, mentioned in Bob's letter, unfortunately didn't recover from his wounds and later died on 25th August 1916 from "Gunshot Wound to the head and right arm" and is buried in Puchevillers British Cemetery (Somme, France).

Karl "Rocky" Rochstein (2038), a baker, who had lived on the same road as Bob,  made it through until 6th July 1918, when he died due to shrapnel wounds to the abdomen.  He is buried at St Pierre cemetery, Amiens (Somme, France).  His brother Fritz Rochstein made it home.

Stan Coutts (5358), an 18 year old brickmaker, was also "Killed in Action" and is buried at Villers-Bretonneux (Somme, France).


Tom McGuiness (1758), a miner, was "Killed in Action" on 22 July 1918 and is also buried at Villers-Bretonneux.  

Jim Campbell (1074), a grocer, was listed as missing on the 5th August 1916 (the same day that Bob was admitted to hospital).  He was later confirmed "Killed in Action" and is also buried at Villers-Bretonneux.

Source:  Trove
"WITH THE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS Creswick Advertiser
(Vic. : 1914 - 1918) - 24 Nov 1916: Page 3
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132684799.

What looks like "Young Neye", I now believe relates to Henry Noye (1591), who enlisted at Daylesford, Victoria, according to war records was injured but rejoined his Battalion in March 1916.  Henry made it back to Australia alive but I am unsure why he is not listed on the Daylesford Honour Avenue  like Robert (Bob) Jones and his comrades mentioned above.  Maybe because he was not born in the Daylesford area?


I now have a future project in mind.  One day, I will research all those on the Daylesford Avenue of Honour to determine their fate.









"Young Rocky"- Karl Rochstein
Died 6 July 1918
Source:  www.awm.gov.au
Tom McGuinness
Died 22 July 1918
Source www.awm.gov.au





























One of my favourite blog posts is about Robert Jones and can be read here.

This post was inspired by Sepia Saturday.  Please click to view more posts

16 comments:

  1. Mercy with a bayonet -- now there you go. But maybe it spared the soldier future agony, like putting down a horse with a broken leg.
    I like the photo of Young Rocky with the tent in the background -- gives a sense of time and place, doesn't it.

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    1. I have so many different letters that I could have blogged about but thought that this was very confronting but a true reflection of what war was like (unfortunately)!

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  2. Reading these passages makes for a heavy heart, these young lads, really, not much more than boys, had to grow up in a most terrible way. One forgets that that war and WWII were really and actually a WORLD WAR, bringing such young men and women to each of them. I have a picture of the grandfather (who died before I was born) in his uniform stemming from that time. But in WWII, I had 3 uncles who served and another uncle who served during the Korean War.

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    1. Yes I found this letter very disturbing and wondered if young Bob, who was only a boy, was having a brag (is that Aussie slang? I mean boasting) to his father? An unfortunate fact of war that would have happenned regularly but unusual as these things were not normally spoken about.

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  3. These amazingly graphic and detailed accounts are surprising in some ways, as we always seem to hear that men at the Front spared their families the worst; some didn’t even speak of it after the war. It’s always sad to see pictures of these brave young men and then hear that they didn’t survive.

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    1. I am surprised that the letter got through (as didn't they normally censor them?) with such a detailed account, which is rare. I am also surprised that the local paper published such a graphic account too.

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  4. The part about the German soldier begging mercy & being bayonetted in response bothered me. I know he was the enemy & had probably been firing at the Australian boys, but he was only doing his duty for his country as the Aussies were. That's what's so sad about war. A few people make a horrible decision and everyone else has to pay for it. If the potentates of the world who decide to war on another were actually made to fight the battle on their own, you can bet we'd see far fewer altercations between nations!

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    1. Yes it bothered me to and in the past I had not published it for that reason. However decided that sometimes the truth, no matter how terrible, needs to be told. I think it bothered Bob too as from all accounts, he was a different man (and troubled) when he returned (read the link).
      Yes totally agree with you!

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  5. It's sad when our dear soldiers don't make it home, but seeing their pictures and learning about who and what was happening in their life, is keeping their memory alive! Very nice photos.

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    1. Thank you Karen. Hoping that I can obtain some more photos of the Daylesford boys from WW1 for my future post/research.

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  6. I've seen other newspapers from 1914-18 that printed similar letters of soldier's news and letters. Given the distance and inevitable wartime delays, many families back home read these messages from other soldiers with great interest knowing that their boy likely saw the same action. It was a shared experience unique to this time as regiments were organized around recruits from the same communities. For some families it was surely a sad and tragic moment when they received news of a death after reading another soldier's letter of safe passage.

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    1. When I decided to research the other boys named in the letter, I found it very sad that beside Bob, only one of the other boys mentioned made it home. Very sad. I have promised myself that one day I will get the French cemeteries/memorials to remember them. I am getting too emotional as I get older!

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  7. Sharon I really like the sound of your project you have in mind. That would be great. Is the memorial just for those that died I wonder? Great post.

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    1. Thank you Alex. Now to get the time to do it!

      No the Honour Avenue (trees) wasn't just deceased soldiers as Robert (Bob) made it home and he has a tree planted. Suppose I will work it out when I have completed my research :)

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  8. A heart breaking letter. Even though Bob almost joked or bragged about the bayoneting, it is plain to me that he was only showing false bravado to his father. "I'm a man, Dad. I can take it." Good luck on your project. It sounds like a worthy one.

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    1. Thank you Sherri. I agree that he was putting on a show for his father, especially knowing the problems that he had when he returned.

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