Brigalow Cricket Club Boys

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Enlistment Address

Gulargambone

Unit

24th Battalion

Information

The Brigalow Cricket Club Boys

(A talk given by Charlie Andrews at the Gulargambone ANZAC Day Service 2018)

In September 1916, ten young men from Gulargambone enlisted in the army at Dubbo. On the 30th October 1916 they embarked together on the ship, ‘Argyllshire’, as part of the 17th Reinforcement of the 24th Battalion. Eight of the young men were members of the Brigalow Cricket Team; the Brigalows is half way to Baradine on the Gulargambone to Baradine Road. It had a church, school, hall and sports ground, there is nothing there now. They were Walter Hourn (6069), Arthur King (6082), Jack Andrew (John Henry 6030), Sam Andrews (Samuel Charles 6029), Albert Strudwick (6133), Roy McGill (6097), Ernest Owens (6103) and Harry Keogh (enlisted as O’Neal ). They were all in their early twenties, going on a great adventure, on the other side of the world, not really knowing what hell they were going into on the Western Front.

They first saw action in the battle of Bullecourt on the 3.5.1917. With the 24th Battalion, they fought in Ypres, the Somme, Viller-Bretonneux, Mont St Quentin-Peronne, and Montbrehain. Sam Andrews was killed at Ypres and Albert Strudwick was killed at the Somme.

This year marks one hundred years, since they fought in two crucial battles that hastened the end of world war one, the battles of Mont St Quentin – Peronne and Montbrehain.

Normal battalion numbers were 550 to 1,000 men, but by 1918, some Australian battalions had only 100 men, so when they attacked Mont St Quentin – Peronne, the Germans greatly outnumbered them and they held the high ground of Mont St Quentin and the invincible fortress town of Peronne, also the Australians had to cross the Somme River.

After a failed attempt to take Mont St Quentin on the 31st August 1918, by the Australian 5th Brigade, the 21st, 23rd and 24th battalions moved into position in captured German trenches that night.

At 8pm, two heavy German artillery shells landed in a trench they were in and killed 18 and wounded 25 men. Food was taken up to the men in the front line by ration parties. A ration party walked into German soldiers, who had infiltrated the rear trenches. They were carrying food, tea and rum, the food, especially the white bread was stolen and eaten by the Germans, because by this stage of the war, the Germans were given only black bread. Men from the 24th Battalion had to go and rescue the ration party.

Arthur King and Jack Andrews were out in no-man’s land, looking for wounded Australian soldiers in the night, when they came across a dead Australian, who had bad wounds on his lower body, but had been killed by a gunshot wound to the head. Arthur said to Jack ‘somethings not right here’, then they heard soeone calling out, ‘is that you Jim?, it’s me Harry, I’m badly wounded’. At that moment, an artillery shell went off and in the light, they could see that the man, who had been calling out to them in English, was wearing a German officer’s uniform and holding a pistol, so Arthur shot him and put an end to his game of deception.

At 6am, on the 1st of September, 1918, the officers roared ‘over’ and as one man the long and very thin line of khaki jumped over the parapet, The hill was alive with machine guns and every man instinctively advanced in short rushes, from one shell hole to another They advanced through the village of Feuillicourt, but the attack was eventually held up by withering machine gun fire.

Lieutenant Towner of the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion got forward with 3 Vickers machine guns and opened a destructive fire on the Germans, taking five of their machine guns out.

Lieutenant Sedgwick of the 24th Battalion led the final attack on the summit of Mont St Quentin, with bayonets fixed and using hand grenades, they took the summit after a savage hand to hand fight.

One commander said, ‘the Australians attack, so few in comparison with the enemy strength, appeared almost hopeless; indeed it seemed absurd. It was, however, a wonderful testimony to the daring and optimism of our troops.’ The 24th Battalion had 48 killed and 91 wounded in the battle.

The 24th Battalion soldiers had a break away from the front for 3 weeks, when they returned to the front, they attacked and captured the village of Beauvoir on the 3rd of October 1918, suffering only five casualties. They then received the shock news on the 4th October, they they were to attack Montbrehain the next morning. Montbrehain had a garrison of 1,500 Germans, so they were greatly outnumbered again. With fierce fighting and suffering heavy casualties, they took Montbrehain on the 5th October 1918, it was the last battle the Australians fought in World War One. Germany surrendered the next month.

Tragically, on this last day, Walter Hourn, Ray McGill and Ernest Owens were killed. Jack Andrews was severely wounded, with shrapnel wounds to his head and leg. He was taken back to Cambridge Hospital in England and took months to recover.

Of the eight Brigalow Cricket Team men that went to war, only three survived the war to return home, Arthur King, Jack Andrews and Harry Keogh. We can be very proud of the contribution and sacrifice by the Gulargambone men who fought in World War One.

Charlie Andrews

ANZAC Day 2018