Cooee - Bullecourt hit again

May 09, 2017

Today, 100 years ago, troops from 2nd Australian Division supported by a British Division attacked the village of Bullecourt for the second time.

Although the British gained only a toehold on the southern side of the village, the Australians captured the first German trench line east of the village and hung on.

In the first Bullecourt battle, Australians had captured the same trenches but had been forced back, losing 1170 as prisoners.

This would be the largest group of Australian prisoners captured until Singapore in 1942.

Second Bullecourt lasted a fortnight.

Two other Australian Divisions would be thrown into the battle, along with two more British Divisions.

They would hold the captured trenches and capture the second line against ferocious and repeated counterattacks by Germans with grenades and flamethrowers.

However, the capture of these trenches had no strategic value.

It was merely a diversionary attack to draw off German forces from the British attack further north at Arras which, in turn, was a diversionary attack for the main French attack on the ridge at Chemin des Dames in the south.

This diversion for a diversion cost 7000 Australian lives.

The ‘‘blood tub’’, as these two Bullecourt battles were called by the men who endured them, has the capacity to arouse angry words even today for its careless waste of lives.

The disaster that was the French attack would result in 17000 dead, total casualties of 102000 and widespread mutiny by French troops.

Careless talk had meant that the Germans were ready for the French attack.

This week also saw the US Congress authorise the raising of a 500000 volunteer force.

Meanwhile, Benalla heard this week that J.J. Lloyd, a native son, was being returned invalided to New Zealand.

Lloyd had enlisted in the New Zealand Field Artillery Brigade.

He saw service on Gallipoli and in France.

Enlisting in foreign armies could be dangerous.

At least three Australians serving in other armies were shot for desertion during the Great War.

Benalla’s Button Fund raised $101.89 for returned soldiers this week.

With only two days until polling day for one of the most bitterly fought Federal Elections, local newspapers nailed their colours to the mast.

The Independent supported Peter Leckie and the ‘‘Win the War’’ Party of Billy Hughes.

It did this, it said, despite Hughes’ scandalous personal abuse of Hugh Mahon.

Mahon had been the Minister for External Affairs until Hughes’ defection.

In 1920, Hughes would arrange for a vote to expel Mahon from Parliament.

The Benalla Standard supported Parker Maloney and the rump Labor Party left after the defection of Hughes and most of his ministers.

In Indi, a woman candidate was standing.

The Independent claimed any votes cast for her would be wasted.

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

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