Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

  The 7th Reinforcements for the 10th Infantry Battalion arrive at the Battalion Headquarters (BHQ) on Artillery Road in Victoria Gully.

'The enemies artillery has been very active, especially from Kaba Tepe, but the damage done was very slight compared to yesterday. They put one of our field guns out of action and disabled the crew. One of our seaplanes* has been very busy attempting to locate the enemy battery behind Kaba Tepe. Reinforcements have been arriving all day in destroyers.’

*Air support was important for conducting reconnaissance. This information helped plan attacks and select targets for Allied artillery.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

A group of Turkish soldiers in a deep trench with one soldier cutting another's hair.

‘A Turkish officer came into our lines at about 11am on the extreme right flank with a white flag and information was obtained from him to the effect that the enemy intended to heavily bombard our positions. Immediately afterwards a battery of field guns behind Kaba Tepe opened fire on out bivouacs and gave us an extremely hot time for a couple of hours. Where we are situated is on the rise just above the No2 ASC depot on Brighton beach and in full view of the enemies observation station on Kaba Tepe. The enemy can enfilade the whole Brighton beach from Hell Spit to our right flank and observe any movement on the beach at all. Dug into the shelter of the cliffs at the No2 ASC depot are our horse and mule lines and upon these the enemy seemed to direct his attention through shell after shell exploded over and around out bivouacs, keeping us under cover like rabbits. As many of their horses and mules that could be let loose were cut loose form the lines but we lost 20 mules and 12 artillery horses and suffered a number of casualties. We shall have to find another position for our bivouacs in a safer and more sheltered position if this new battery of the enemies is not knocked out of action. The battleships have been shelling it and one of our seaplanes has been up trying to locate it but without success, they cease fire when the plane goes over and immediately open up again when it descends.’

65 years ago a very special operation began to provide food to the starving civilians in the German occupied Netherlands.  During the harsh winter of 1944-1945 the Dutch population endured a major famine. Known as the ‘hungerwinter’ it was concentrated in the densely populated urban areas bounded by Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. By 1945 the daily ration had been reduced to 600 calories – a third of what it had been in 1941.

Loading up a Lancaster bomber for Operation Manna

On 29 April 1945, RAF aircraft took off from England to take part in the first of several missions to drop food to the starving Dutch. The British poetically named this mission ‘Operation Manna’, in reference to the ‘food from heaven’ in the Bible. The Americans began their food drops from 1 May, calling their involvement ‘Operation Chowhound’.

A photograph showing the total load of one Lancaster

Although the operation began on 29 April, negotiations with the Germans to allow Allied aircraft to fly over their occupied territories was not finalised or signed until 2 May. Despite this the early missions successfully flew over German occupied territories and dropped their cargo.

460 Squadron June 1945

On 30 April, the RAAF also became involved, with 21 aircraft from 460 Squadron setting out on the first of seven food drops over the Netherlands. The first plane took off at 2.24 pm, dropping its load over The Hague at 4.15 pm.  In only seven minutes, these 21 aircraft dropped a combined total of over 50,000 kilograms of food from only 150 metres above the city!

For some air crew, it was a change from the destructive bombing missions over Germany and occupied Europe. For others it was their only opportunity to take part in an operational mission. Near the end of the war, air crew numbers were high but there was not enough aircraft available for them.

The format of the Manna flights were very different from the normal bombing missions. The aircraft had to fly within designated areas and at low altitudes. They were within easy reach of any German weapons, including small arms. The German soldiers had instructions not to shoot the aircraft flying within the designated zones (although it occasionally did occur, there were no fatalities as a result of the arms fire).

The aircraft flew at such low levels because the amount of silk required to make parachutes for the food parcels was unavailable. The parcels were crammed into bomb bays and held in place during flight by the aircraft’s hydraulics. To disperse the supplies, the Bomb Aimer simply opened the bomb doors and free dropped the food over the designated area.

The food parcels were not aerodynamic, and their dispersal often caused dents in the leading edges of the tail plane and fins when they collided with the rear of the aircraft (causing the rear gunners to instinctively shrink out of the way as the supplies whizzed around them!).

For their own safety, the local population were instructed to remain indoors during the food drops, but many were too excited to follow the instructions; air crew reported seeing people outside, cheering and waving as they flew past. Although the supplies generally landed in the designated area (often a field or sports oval), sometimes they were dropped too soon or too late. In some instances parcels damaged buildings, and in some very unfortunate incidents, civilians were killed when they were hit by falling food parcels.

The final Manna run by 460 Squadron, on 7 May 1945 was also the largest for the squadron, with twenty eight aircraft taking part. With the end of the war in Europe on 8 May, Operation Manna concluded. Further food supplies were brought in by land. Although the situation in the Netherlands was still extremely difficult, Operation Manna provided a major morale boost for the occupied nation.

Over 340,000 kilograms of food in total was dropped over the Netherlands by 460 Squadron alone, which would have been enough to feed 400,000 people for one day.

Date  Number of aircraft  load per aircraft (pounds)  Approx Load per aircraft (kilograms) total load for mission (pounds)  Approx total load for mission (kilograms)  Dropping zone 
 30/4  21  5739 lbs  2603 kg  120,519 lbs  54,666 kg The Hague
 1/5  23  5739 lbs  2603 kg  131,997 lbs  59,872kg Rotterdam Area
 2/5  23  5310 lbs  2408 kg  122,130 lbs  55,397 kg Rotterdam Area
 3/5  24  5310 lbs  2408 kg  127,440 lbs  57,805 kg Rotterdam Area
 4/5  10  5310 lbs  2408 kg  53,100 lbs  24,085 kg Rotterdam Area
 5/5  10  5310 lbs  2408 kg  53,100 lbs  24,085 kg Leiden Airfield
 7/5  28  5310 lbs  2408 kg  148,680 lbs  67,440 kg Rotterdam Area
             
Total Aircraft  139   Total loads dropped 756,966 lbs 343,350 kg  

 

Further Reading:

  • Operation Manna/Chowhound : the allied food droppings April/May 1945 / Hans Onderwater, Romen Luchtvaart, Unieboek, c 1985.
  • AWM64 1/295 Operations Record Book No 460 Squadron RAAF January 1944 to October 1945
  • The Hunger Winter: Occupied Holland 1944-1945 / Henri van der Zee, University of Nebraska Press, 1998

This ANZAC Day marks the 95th anniversary of the start of the Gallipoli campaign, when tens of thousands of British, French and Dominion troops landed on the Turkish coast.

To acknowledge this anniversary, the Australian War Memorial’s Research Centre is displaying previously unseen original letters and diaries relating to the campaign. The Research Centre’s collection is a rich source of records that tells the story of Gallipoli in the words of those who experience it.

The display is titled Gallipoli Landings and reminds the visitor that few of those Australians who served on the peninsula landed in that initial wave of 1,500 men from the 3rd Infantry Brigade. Many experienced their own ‘landing’ in the hours, days and months that followed, while others, including nurses, served on the ships and islands off-shore. Despite great efforts over eight months and the loss of many lives, little progress was made. The ANZACs were evacuated in December 1915. By January 1916, the last British troops had been withdrawn from their positions at Cape Helles, and the campaign abandoned. 

The varied experiences of those who served at Gallipoli can be seen in the letters, diaries and private papers from the Memorial’s Private Records collection. The Memorial began collecting wartime letters and diaries during the 1920s and continues to collect the private records today.

 

The items in Gallipoli Landings were selected from recent Gallipoli acquisitions generously donated to the Memorial by members of the public. Some of the Private Records material has been digitised and made available through the Memorial’s catalogue, for example, the note book of Chaplain Keith Single and diary of Private Harry Conigrave. We hope to provide access to more Private Records material online in the future.

Chaplain Single landed at Gallipoli on 22 August 1915 and kept a record of all the burial ceremonies he conducted, from his landing at Gallipoli until just before the withdrawal from the peninsula on 20 December 1915.  Private Conigrave's diary records both the spectacle and the danger of landing at ANZAC Cove.  Conigrave arrived at Gallipoli just over two weeks after the initial landing and he expresses his admiration for the men who landed on 25April 1915.

Also displayed, in the Research Centre’s treasures showcase, will be an original diary and notebook of Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent for the First World War. The notebook and diary on display feature Bean’s impressions of the landing on 25 April 1915 and make fascinating reading.

Bean in a Trench at Gallipoli

Bean was later appointed the Australian official historian for the First World War. His papers are considered to be one of the most important sets of records created by a single Australian. The collection, now displayed in its entirety on the Memorial’s website, includes 286 volumes of diaries and notebooks.

To view the displays visit the Research Centre’s showcases near the entrance to the Research Centre Reading Room.

In the lead up to Anzac Day on 25 April, the thoughts of many Australians  often turn to members of their own family who served during the First World War. The Australian War Memorial's databases hold a rich source of detail for  families who may want to learn more about the service of their relative.

I was asked recently by ABC radio about what can be found online and in the Memorial's collections to help tell us the story of someone's military history. I was given the name Private Leonard Granrott to use as an example. The following story has been pieced togther from Private Granrott's personal service record, the published unit history of the 38th Battalion and the Memorial's online collections. The links to the online source material thoughout this story represent only a small cross section of the Memorial's total online collections.  

The story of Private Leonard Granrott:

Private Leonard Granrott was 25 years of age and working as a painter in Brunswick, Victoria when he enlisted on 8 March, 1916. He was to serve with the 38 Infantry Battalion which was a Victorian unit. Although Granrott was from Melbourne the 38th was very much a country unit with its heart in the Australian bush. The men trained at the Epsom racecourse at Bendigo and Leonard would have practiced jumping in and out of trenches there and slept in one of the many white tents pitched under the gum trees.

When his training was completed Leonard Granrott embarked for overseas with the rest of his unit. The 38th Battalion left on 20 June, 1916 from Melbourne on the HMAT Runic. Relatives and friends of those who sailed crowded the Port Melbourne pier to wave good bye.  Every vantage point of HMAT Runic was described as being covered with khaki as the men swarmed up into the rigging. The story and official history of the 38th Battalion A.I.F describes that from the pier hundreds of reels of coloured paper ribbon were thrown aboard and “thousands of flags, scarfs and handkerchiefs gladdened a scene which could so easily have been a sad one”.

Leonard and his younger brother Jack were brought up by their mother Florence after their father died of Appendicitis in 1903. Only a few days after the Runic sailed from Melbourne, Leonard’s brother also enlisted to serve. Jack however, was discharged as medically unfit before he could embark.

On the journey over Leonard became ill with influenza and had to spend many months recovering in hospital in England. It wasn’t until February 1917 that he was recovered enough to rejoin his unit in France. He left from Folkstone, England for France on 4 February and spent at few days at the 3rd ADBD in Etaples before rejoining the 38 Battalion on the 9th February 1917. Many Australians were stationed at Etaples during the war and the place was often nicknamed “eat apples”.

During the harsh winter of 1916–17 the battalion was involved in several raids of the German trenches. In March, Leonard moved with his unit out to the Belgium front.  From 13 May the men of the 38th Battalion were moved into Ploegsteert wood in Belgium. The unit history of the 38th Battalion describes entering the wood was like walking into fairy land. It was mossy green and sunny and carpeted with flowers. Not far from Ploegsteert wood, however, the men of the 38th Battalion would soon fight their first major battle at Messines between 7–9 June, 1917.

The Messines Ridge overlooked the British Salient at Ypres. The Germans who occupied this high ground could see the British positions. The objective of this battle, therefore, was to remove the Germans from the ridge. On 7 June the 38th Battalion moved through four well-marked and reconnoitred routes via Ploegsteert wood through to the front. On this night the woods were less like fairy land and more like a nightmare.  During this battle 500 men of the 3rd Division were exposed to phosgene gas in Ploegsteert Wood. When the men of the 38th heard the “soft pat pat” of exploding gas-shells they put on their gas masks. They marched past gasping horses and mules and struggled to breath themselves in their masks. The heavy load of rifle, ammunition, tools, and rations, and the excitement of the occasion, caused heavy breathing and much distress.

By 3:10 am on the 7th June, the 38th Battalion were in position to attack. They were divided into three waves for the battle. Leonard Granrott was to be in the first wave. The men jumped off from their positions wearing gas masks and reached their objective ‘Ungodly trench’. The 2nd and 3rd waves were to pass through ‘Ungodly trench’ and their objective was the ‘Black Line’.

The men advanced behind a timed artillery barrage. The signal to start was a massive explosion created by 123,500 pounds of explosives of ammonal, placed in 19 tunnels which had been dug under the German lines during the preceding two years by Canadian, Australian and English miners. The mass explosion obliterated the enemy and the advance was largely unopposed. The height overlooking the Ypres Salient were now able to be occupied.

By the morning the 38 Battalion had two major strong points established. The black line had been dug 7ft deep and was fire stepped in places. During this advance the 38th captured 7 machine guns and two 7.7 cm field guns.

It is unclear from the sources when Leonard was hit but on the 7th he was severely wounded. He received multiple gun shot wounds including one which punctured his right lung. He was evacuated to London and spent a year recovering in hospital. He was eventually discharged to Australia in 1918 as medically unfit.

He received the British war medal and the Victory Medal for his service.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds. Australian soldiers in a dust storm.

‘Church Parade was interrupted this morning by a really severe storm* commencing in the middle of it, it has been almost unbearable during the day.’

*Extremes in weather experienced in the Egyptian desert were nothing compared to the conditions they would face at Gallipoli. Over the 8 months of the campaign the men would face blistering heat and sub zero temperatures.

Please note: Care has been taken to transcribe these entries without alteration to preserve the original language of Herbert Vincent Reynolds.

'Camp stories' By H Septimus Power‘Spent the morning on a route march and has the afternoon free of parades.’

 

Private Thomas Cosgriff, 59th Battalion, of Albert Park, Victoria, was one of 1,701 Australians killed at Fromelles on 19/20th July 1916. His remains and those of 74 others were positively identified through DNA testing.

Earlier this week the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Allan Griffin announced the results of the first Joint Identification Board held to identify the remains of 250 Australian and British soldiers killed during the battle of Fromelles on the night of 19/20 July 1916. The remains were recovered from a recently discovered mass grave at Pheasant Wood where 203 were identified as Australians, and through DNA testing, 75 were identified by name. News of the results bought closure for the families of the men who had been officially missing for nearly 94 years and have now been reinterred in the newly-created Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. A final burial will take place during a ceremony to mark the 94th anniversary of the battle on 19 July 2010.

In December 2008, the Memorial’s official magazine Wartime ran several feature articles on the discovery of the mass grave at Pheasant Wood by key researchers involved in the project: Lambis Engelzos, a retired Victorian school teacher, wrote of his research which ultimately led to the discovery of the mass grave at Pheasant Wood; Dr Tony Pollard, the Director of Battlefield Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, wrote the story of the archaeological excavation conducted in May 2008; and Peter Barton wrote of his research in the archives of the Bavarian Kriegsarchiv in Munich, Germany. Memorial historians Ashley Ekins, Nigel Steel and Peter Pedersen gave accounts of the battle itself.

Due to the high level of public interest, copies of Issue 44 of Wartime are no longer available, but the magazine can be accessed here in digital form free of charge.

It is intended that the Joint Identification Board will continue DNA testing until 2014. People who believe their relative may be buried at Fromelles and have not already registered should do so at http://army.gov.au/Our-work/Unrecovered-War-Casualties/Fromelles/The-Australian-Fromelles-Relatives-Database or by calling the Australian Fromelles Project Group on 1800 019 090.

The Memorial holds a small, but important, collection associated with the sinking of the Hospital Ship Centaur, whose wreck site was discovered in December 2009.

Many of the survivors had little or no clothing after the ship sank. One, NX33029 Driver George McGrath, was in his underwear, which he lost when he leapt overboard and was left wearing only this watch when he made his way to a life raft. He later managed to cover himself with a Red Cross pennant he found among the debris. 

The hands are missing from the watch, but you can still make out the rust stains where the hands were located - they stopped at 4.10 [am] - when the ship sank. McGrath was a member of the Australian Army Service Corps, who was attached to the 2/12th Field Ambulance. He was one of only three men to survive from the AASC.

This flare handle was collected by NX97247 Private Fred Chidgey. He was woken by the explosions from the torpedo and after grabbing his life jacket, made for the deck with a cabin mate. The deck was already knee deep in water. The rafts closest to Chidgey were on fire and he could not easily get to the others, so he jumped overboard. He swam as far as he could from the ship, and managed to get on a raft holding other survivors. Pair of scissors from Hospital Ship Centaur medical kit

Items from a medical kit used by the only surviving Doctor, QX6475 Lieutenant Colonel Leslie MacDonald Outridge are also held in the collection. Outridge was also woken by the explosions. His life jacket, and the walls of his cabin caught fire. He tried to get to the deck, but was forced back by the flames. He made a second attempt to get through to the deck, which by now was covered in water. Water rushed down the companion way and filled the compartment where Outridge was located. He hit his head on the beams, but managed to find a pocket of air and made his way up to the deck. He got caught in some ropes, but managed to escape. Outridge boarded a loose raft and luckily a medical kit surfaced alongside him. He was assisted in tending the wounded by NFX76584 Sister Ellen Savage, the only Nurse to survive the sinking.

Interestingly, Outridge did not save any of the items from the medical kit. Instead he collected a small piece of the life raft he survived on (below) as a souvenir.

Life raft float from Hospital Ship Centaur

Some of the medical equipment he used was instead collected by the Centaur's Chief Butcher, Francis Thomas 'Frank' Reid.

Scalpel and tweezers from Hospital Ship Centaur medical kit

Reid was awake when the Centaur was torpedoed, as he had to get ready for work in the Butcher's Shop. Luckily his cabin was near the deck, and after the explosion he went up with his cabin mates. Reid had been unable to locate his life jacket before he went on deck, so while the other men tried to release a life raft, he returned to his cabin to look again. He located his jacket on the floor, while crawling on his hands and knees in the dark (sometimes the cabin was illuminated by the flames from the explosion) before returning to the deck. The men could not release the raft, so Reid jumped overboard with the Second Butcher, Frank Davidson. They managed to make their way to the main group of survivors, which eventually included McGrath, Chidgey, and Outridge. Reid's cabin mates also survived the sinking.

Of the 332 people on board, only 64 survived.

A  unique and remarkable ceremony of Australian national significance will be conducted in France on 19 July 2010.  It will be the culmination of the long search for those killed, and whose bodies were never recovered, in the disastrous Battle of Fromelles in French Flanders 94 years ago.  Now discovered, 250 bodies are finally being laid to rest in the specially constructed Fromelles Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery.  The first burials of these Australian and British soldiers commenced on 30 January this year. After the fighting in 1916, the Germans had gathered the bodies into pits.  Now, these soldiers have been reinterred through February, one by one, with each subsequent day’s burials conducted as a formal military funeral with a bearer party and padre in attendance.  Evidence has been taken from each of the bodies which may lead to some of them being identified.  From April permanent headstones will be placed over the graves, and it is expected that some of them will bear soldiers’ names.  The main concluding ceremony in July will commemorate the battle, honour all those who took part, and formally mark the completion of the archaeological excavations and the reinterment of all those whose bodies which were found on the outskirts of Pheasant Wood at the edge of the small village of Fromelles.  A large attendance of dignitaries, families, locals, and public is expected. British, French and Australian media will cover the event.  I will have the privilege of attending the ceremony accompanying a battlefield tour group arranged by the Australian War Memorial, and Boronia Travel Centre.  Anyone can join the party, and you are encouraged to sign up early by contacting the agent ph. +61 (03) 9762 2111) or the Memorial ph. +61 (02) 62434 3243).  The occasion will have special meaning for me.  I have made the journey to the Western Front more than 20 times and have seen numerous battlefields.  But the Fromelles ceremony will be a unique event.  The war cemeteries adjoining battlefields are always deeply moving.  Sometimes I have had the honour of being in the company of veterans or those whose father or a relative fought there. Looking at the surviving evidence, after considering the battles that were waged and the lives that were lost, one also sees the immense effort that occupied a generation of workers to ensure that those killed were remembered.  The cemeteries are still meticulously maintained.  The new Pheasant Wood cemetery is a revival of that activity; it is the first Commonwealth War Graves Commission First World War cemetery constructed since the immediate post war years.   Travelling in an Australian battlefield group is sometimes emotional, often fun, and always fulfilling.  Joining a group with a common interest and mutual sense of pride creates strong bonds.  I will accompany the group in my familiar role as historian-guide.  Our agent, the most experienced in the field, is there to provide personal attention and to ensure a high standard of accommodation, meals, and travel.  It is reassuring to know that things will go right.  Fromelles, and the unique ceremony there, is the special focus for this tour.  However it is important to remember that this was just one of many major battles fought by the Australian Imperial Force on the Western Front.  Most were longer and in many the total casualties were higher.  Places such as Pozieres, Bullecourt, Ypres, Zonnebeke, Passchendaele, Amiens, Villers-Bretonneux, Peronne, and Mont St Quentin are among those of similar importance to Fromelles.  They too will be remembered.  The battlefield tour runs from 5 – 22 July.  It will go to all the First World War places of major importance to Australians.  We will visit the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux and participate in the Last Post ceremony at the historic Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.  I will be there to provide historical background, an explanation of each place visited and to introduce you to our friends in France.  There will also be time to see Paris and go to Verdun and the famous Champagne region.  Battle of Fromelles in brief: Australians were thrilled by the stories of their troops’ exploits on Gallipoli in 1915. The next year, in early 1916, the Australian divisions finally joined the British army in France and Belgium.  At last they had arrived in the war’s main battle theatre.  Here, on the Western Front, they met a new form of fighting.  At first the Australians were in a relatively quiet sector in France.  Still, there were periods of stiff fighting, shelling, and some heavy raids; by the end of June over 600 men had been killed.  But by now the British main efforts had shifted to the Somme 100 kilometres away to the south.  Resulting from heavy British losses, the Australians were soon drawn in. While three divisions went to the Somme, the most recently arrived division, the 5th, remained in French Flanders.  There it went into the trenches opposite the shattered village of Fromelles which sat on commanding ground behind the German front line.  British troops had fought around Fromelles in 1915, with heavy losses, but the village would soon give its name to a fresh disaster.  On the evening of 19 July the Australian 5th Division and the British 61st Division attacked the Fromelles ridge in a diversionary attack intended to draw German attention from the allies’ Somme operations.  In the front line with bayonet fixed, a soldier of the 53rd Battalion, 5th Division, is captured by the camera shortly before the disastrous attack at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. The two divisions chosen for this battle were both new to the sector and lacked local battle experience.  The men had to assault over open fields criss-crossed with drainage ditches and in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire.  Many fell, while others were overwhelmed by German counter-attacks.  The attack failed, with 5500 Australian casualties, and no ground was taken.  It was a cruel introduction to major combat, one from which the 5th Division was a long time recovering.  Brigadier General H.E. “Pompey” Elliott, a veteran officer who commanded the 15th Brigade in the battle, later said:

“Practically all my best officers, the Anzac men who helped build up my brigade, are dead.  I presume there was some plan at the back of the attack but it is difficult to know what it was”.

 Extract from: Peter Burness, Anzacs in France, 1916. (2006). Peter Burness is Senior Historian at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra More information:

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