The flag on Anzac House by Joe Maxwell
Joseph Maxwell (1896 - 1967)
I found this article last night in an old Reveille journal from June 1930. Apart from the photos which I've added, the text remains as published. The author was Joe Maxwell, the very same who won a DCM as a warrant officer near Westhoek, just a few days after the action described below. The following year he would win the Military Cross twice, and just before the end of the war, the Victoria Cross at the Hindenburg Line.
'Anzac House' was a large German Pillbox captured by Maxwell's battalion (18th) during the Battle of Menin Road (on 20 Sept). It lay on Anzac Ridge between Zonnebeke and Polygon Wood, but much nearer the latter.
The Flag: Anzac House by Joe Maxwell The Reveille, June 1930, p 11.'A few minutes after we had captured our objective on September 20, 1917, Corps Headquarters was informed: “Objective reached. Australian flag flying on Anzac House.”
The Australian papers featured this episode, and months later we received glowing accounts of a Digger rushing forward holding aloft an outsize in Australian flags. Illustrated papers devoted a full page to feature the deed in colour – a deed which stirred the imagination of every patriotic Australian. The French and English papers also elaborated on the initiative and bravery of this lone Australian soldier.
The artistic impression which Maxwell mentions above. The action portrayed relates to the taking of the 'Anzac House' pillbox during the Menin Road battle (20 Sept), not the Polygon Wood battle (26 Sept) with which it was sometimes confused.
It may interest readers of “Reveille” to know the facts: Anzac House was the objective of B. Coy (18th Battalion), of which I at the time was company sergeant-major. It was an exceptionally strong pill box, and our O.C. (Captain Jack O’Donnell) decided it would make an ideal company headquarters. It contained a goodly supply of German schnapps, whisky and field dressings.
When a man was wounded he was promptly carried to Anzac House for attention. I particularly remember one fellow, whose arm was blown to a pulp by a whiz-bang [shell from a German 77 mm artillery piece]. He was carried in on a stretcher, and, in addition to the wound, was suffering terribly from shock. Between groans he prayed to be allowed to die. We dressed his wound and poured about a pint of schnapps down his throat. A few minutes later he jumped off the stretcher, helped himself to another “spot,” and remarked, “This’ll do me for a Blighty,” and headed it in that direction.
Everyone in “B” Coy. will remember little Teddie Bell (“Ding-Dong,” as he was affectionately called), who was 17 years of age. His people had sent him a parcel in which was an Australian flag about 4 inches by 3 inches.
Teddie was a company runner, and during a break in his message carrying, stuck the flag in a tin of bully beef and placed it on the corner of Anzac House, from where it fluttered until blown to pieces by a shell later in the day.
A pillbox known as Anzac Strong Post.
In April, 1918, I stood by a stretcher, in the Fifth Field Dressing Station, on which little “Ding-Dong” lay. My mind travelled back to the incident at Anzac House. But “Ding-Dong’s” shattered arm did not auger Blighty for him. As the evening shadows lengthened he died. In the distance the rhythmic rumble of artillery seemed to sound a requiem to the spirit of one of the bravest little soldiers ever.’