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Prime Minister visits Benalla

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August 24, 2016

This week in 1916, Karl Liebknecht, co-founder of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany was sentenced to four years imprisonment for high treason.

He had led a anti-war demonstration by the Spartacists in Berlin.

Under an amnesty, Liebknecht was released in October 1918.

As the War ended, Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg led a Communist coup against the fledgling German Weimar Republic.

The coup teetered on the brink of success until elements of the German Army and Freikorps threw their weight behind the Weimar Republic.

Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops in January 1919, tortured and then shot.

Their bodies were left in the street.

A ‘‘L-L Demo’’ is still held every year in January in Berlin.

Fourteen-thousand attended the 2016 rally.

Friedrich Ebert, President of the Weimar Republic, would be later abused and vilified by the Freikorps for his stab in the back of the German nation, the Dolchstossvertrauenlegende.

He had been one of the German signatories to the hated Versailles Treaty of 1919.

Earlier this week, the German High Seas Fleet made another attempt to tease the British Navy from its home bases.

So that the Fleet could not be surprised by the British Grand Fleet, Zeppelins were deployed ahead of the German ships.

Twenty-four German submarines lurked in the North Sea.

A small British fleet of 25 ships, including five light cruisers, sallied out while battleships were being mustered.

Within hours of leaving their base, two of the light cruisers were sunk by German submarines.

The action was then abandoned.

The German fleet returned to its bases.

The action only proved to both sides that the risks to their battle fleet from submarine attack were too high.

From now on, naval warfare would be conducted by submarines.

Meanwhile, this week in Benalla, the Prime Minister’s train stopped at Benalla.

Campaigning was just beginning for the first Conscription referendum.

The referendum had been called by Billy Hughes, despite opposition from Hughes’ own party.

Losses from Gallipoli, Pozières, Fromelles and Mouquet Farm had weakened Australian battalions dramatically.

Casualty rates had caused recruitment to stall.

And yet Prime Minister Hughes had promised the British another 50000 troops with 5500 reinforcements monthly.

The Shire President, W.B. Smith, welcomed him with an obsequious speech that today makes the reader cringe.

Hughes took the opportunity to promote the ‘‘yes’’ vote. Then he was gone.

The Independent gave an indication of its position this week with an editorial headed ‘‘Compulsion’’.

It argued that conscription was nothing more than equality of opportunity.

Compulsion, it argued, was the basis of unionism, which it strongly supported.

The editorial leaves it unstated just what opportunity was being offered.

— John Barry, Anzac Commemorative Working Party. Coo-ee — Honouring our WWI Heroes

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