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COOEE - All quiet on Western Front

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January 21, 2017

This week the continuing cold resulted in little action on the Western Front except raids.

Frequent raiding parties on the other side’s trenches were used to keep soldiers ‘‘gingered’’.

These raids were brutal, merciless affairs often carried out using knives, knuckledusters and studded clubs.

Artillery bombardment was used to prevent and limit these raids. Consequently, casualties continued.

This week, a Canadian raiding party of 860 specially trained men attacked German lines in daylight at Calonne near Lens.

They captured more than 100 prisoners; four soldiers were awarded the Military Medal and two officers were awarded either the DSO or Military Cross.

No other results were achieved except 175 Canadian casualties.

On the Eastern Front, snow and cold did not slow the fighting.

The Germans attacked in great strength at Focsani and across the Fogaraser mountain range in what is now Romania.

The Romanian army pushed them back eventually after ferocious fighting.

In Russia, it became clear the assassination of Rasputin would not be enough to save the Tsar.

When the ‘‘is it treason or is it stupidity?’’ speech circulated throughout the country despite the efforts of the Tsarist censors, the population had decided Nicholas’ mismanagement was treason.

Tsar Nicholas’ ‘‘hands-on’’ management of the war and his personal dealings were hopelessly compromised.

As the Duma or Russian Parliament readied itself to come back from its new year recess, the Tsar Nicholas found that he had lost the support of even the Duma’s ultra-conservative monarchists.

Today, in 1917, to prevent the Duma and his previously tame Council of Ministers reconvening, Nicholas postponed their sittings until February 27, 1917. Thus he prolonged his reign another month.

Correspondence between Nicholas and his wife reveals no treason today.

Instead it shows a weak, stupid man, hopelessly out of touch with events.

Nicholas had delusions of competence given to him by his title.

Meanwhile, in Benalla this week only six men attended a Recruiting Committee.

The Director-General of Recruiting was informed and was asked to send speakers for any later meetings.

What we know today was that nearly all eligible Benalla men who were fit enough had joined the Army by September 1916.

A Benalla shire councillor who wanted all Germans in the area prohibited from voting and who claimed that a local German music teacher treated his dog ‘‘better than our men in the trenches were treated’’ was mocked in newspapers across the state.

Anti-German feeling ran high, but apparently the councillor had exceeded that feeling.

Taminick Road, the then border between Wangaratta and Benalla, was overgrown with scrub and its surface washed out as a result of heavy rains.

Fruitgrowers had to cut through the scrub to ferry their produce out.

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

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