Cooee: Hitler seriously wounded

October 11, 2016

5th Australian Division, badly damaged as a result of losses at Fromelles

Today, 100 years ago, Gefreiter (Lance Corporal) Hitler was injured when a shell exploded in a dispatch runners’ dugout of Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16.

The wound in his left thigh was serious.

He spent two months in hospital in Germany.

This week in 1916 saw two converted ocean liners, RMS Franconia and SS Gallia, torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Both were heading for the Salonika front in Greece.

Franconia was empty, apart from its 314 crew.

Twelve died. The rest were rescued by hospital ship Dover Castle.

Dover Castle itself would be torpedoed seven months later.

Gallia, on the other hand, was crowded with French and Serbian troops.

When Gallia was hit, ammunition onboard exploded. Panic broke out; lifeboats capsized.

No distress signal was sent as the ship’s wireless had been damaged in the initial explosion.

As many as 1800 may have drowned in what was one of the worst French maritime disasters.

This week, rebuilding of 5th Australian Division, badly damaged as a result of losses at Fromelles, was complete.

The unit rejoined other Australian Divisions.

Although no Australian unit took part in any major offensive until 1917 when the European winter was over, all units held stretches of the line, laboured or took part in aggressive raiding.

One, 24th Battalion, wore large white women’s nighties that it bought in Amiens as camouflage in snowy conditions when it undertook raiding.

Already trench conditions were unpleasant — cold, windy and wet.

The European winter of 1916 would be the harshest in nearly a century.

Meanwhile, in Benalla in 1916, the show was held yesterday and today.

Because of the recent flood and the War, the North Eastern Ensign thought that the show ought to have been cancelled.

However, the Show Committee was resolute.

The show would be held.

It must have been miserable. It was boggy underfoot and 50mm of rain fell over the two days.

The spring meeting of the Benalla Racing Club was planned for Saturday.

The stewards had inspected the track, declaring it fit for racing.

Then another 64mm of rain had fallen just before Saturday, making the track too soft for racing.

A poorly attended, but enthusiastic public meeting met on Saturday afternoon to establish a pro-conscription committee.

Although Benalla was stated to be ‘‘loyal’’, a term used for a pro-conscription stance, the local Member of Parliament opposed conscription.

Interestingly, the 1916 conscription ‘‘referendum’’ was actually a plebiscite.

As with the current same-sex marriage proposal, the Commonwealth Government already had the power.

It could conscript men to fight overseas.

However, the proposal was seen as controversial. It lacked clear parliamentary support.

A plebiscite was an attempt to gain the support of the electorate.

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

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