COOEE - Verdun battle ends

December 26, 2016

Amid snowflurries and high winds, French troops under their newly appointed Commander, Robert Nivelle, recaptured four forts in the Verdun sector this week.

The French had now pushed Germans back 7.5km from their original starting point.

This ended the Battle of Verdun. The Battle had cost more than one million casualties.

The carnage was only exceeded during the sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad in the Second World War.

Even today, the Verdun area has not returned to agriculture.

Forests now cover the cratered landscape and hide the remains of more than 100000 missing soldiers.

Defying reason, Billy Hughes blamed the Wobblies for the failure of his Conscription Referendum.

So, this week, his government enacted the Unlawful Associations Act.

The Act made it a criminal offence to be a member of the Industrial Workers of the World.

By early 1917, 103 Australian Wobblies would be imprisoned.

Hundreds more were sacked from their jobs.

Today, the Sopwith ‘‘Camel’’ or Sopwith F.1 made its maiden flight.

Five-thousand and forty-nine Camels were built. The aeroplane took its unofficial name from a hump in front of the pilot.

The hump was a metal fairing designed to protect its guns from freezing at high altitude.

The ‘‘Camel’’ was considered a mongrel to fly. While highly manoeuvrable, it was tail heavy with a strong tendency to fall into a fatal spin.

It killed many pilots while they were learning to fly it, but the ‘‘Camel’’ brought air superiority until almost the war’s end.

Howard Nelson, one of the soldiers named on Benalla’s Memorial, crashed a ‘‘Camel’’ badly during solo training. Although a court of inquiry found it to be an accident, he never flew again.

The crash had left Nelson with permanent double vision. He died in Britain of cerebro-spinal meningitis in September 1919.

Meningitis is extremely infectious. With soldiers living close together, it took many Australian lives.

Meanwhile, in Benalla, shops were closed on Sundays and on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1pm.

Although the Traders’ Association preferred this arrangement and claimed it was patriotic, correspondents to the local newspapers maintained a vitriolic campaign against the two half days and the association.

They maintained the half days inconvenienced farmers and those living outside Benalla.

The Queen Competition was the other talk of the newspapers and had been for most of 1916.

Queen of Peace held the lead with 29339 votes. Queen of the Traders was running second ahead of Queen of Music and Queen of the Friendlies.

The final winner was to be announced at the Queens’ Carnival to be held on Boxing Day. The Queens came from Benalla and small towns nearby. All money raised by the competition was to go to the Wangaratta Hospital.

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

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