The Great War 8-14 February, 1918
The 10th Battalion diary notes that the month of February was spent mostly in training and recreation, including a belated Christmas celebration in the middle of the month.
Despite this relatively quiet time on the Western Front, the diary entry of 14 February 1918 for the 48th Battalion AIF, reports “at 11.40pm one of our own mortar fell short near No. 106 post and killed one of our own men.” The reference is to Private Albert Charles Dobson, killed in action in Belgium and buried in the Spoilbank Cemetery, Ypres, Flanders. Albert was born in Balaklava and was educated at Spalding and Brighton Public Schools. He enlisted on 28 May 1917 and had been previously employed as a Chemist Assistant at the South Australian company, AM Bickford & Sons. At the time of his death, Albert had two other brothers still on active service, one of whom, Claude Edwin Dobson of No. 3 Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England, died of influenza on 6 February 1919. On 6 March 1920, General Birdwood presented Claude’s mother with his Meritorious Service Medal.
On 13 February 1918, the 32nd Battalion reported further casualties near Messines, Belgium including Private John Justin O’Leary, a former postal employee from Woodville who had been severely wounded at the Battle of Fromelles and after being evacuated to England for treatment and prolonged recuperation, had only just re-joined his battalion on the Western Front in late January 1918. Private O’Leary was killed in action at the age of 25. On the same day at Messines, Private Horace Ambrose Murray, a 20 year old farmer from Snowtown, was also killed in action. Private Ambrose had also been wounded during the Battle of Fromelles and evacuated to England for treatment before returning to the Western Front in late November 1917.
The Australian Flying Corps No. 1 Squadron was focussed on the railway station at Amman, which was the railhead of the Jordan defences. In view of coming operations, patrols were directed to the Jordan Valley between Jericho and Shunet Nimrin and tactical details were recorded. The number of tents at all camps was tallied and checked on each reconnaissance flight and the state of supply dumps, the movement of the railway at Amman and the condition of roads and tracks were closely watched in preparation for the advance on Jericho which was ordered for 19 February.
On 13 February Captain Ross Smith escorted a bomb raid to Kutrain on the Hejaz Railway east of the Dead Sea and recounted a near miss incident for another pilot with a flare hitting the instrument panel, falling onto the seat and burning its way through the floor, narrowly missing the fuel tank.
He also reports hosting photographer and film-maker Captain Frank Hurley, the first official photographer to the Australian Imperial Forces. While bad weather had prevented Hurley from getting photographs of the Australian Flying Corps on the Western Front, in Palestine he was more fortunate.
It was the peak of the summer heatwaves and fundraising for the war effort continued despite the general mood of despair and war weariness. More wounded soldiers returned home and Cheer Up Societies continued to provide support. Enlistment numbers were so low that consideration was being given to married men being offered additional inducements to join up and the Advertiser reported that “in informed circles it is considered that the physical standard insisted upon by the authorities is too severe and previously rejected volunteers may be considered”.
The Western Front Diaries – The Anzacs own story, battle by battle – Jonathan King
Bean, C. W. (1938). Official History of Australia in the war of 1914 -1918 Sydney.
Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War