The Great War Part 201, June 22nd 1918

A nzacs Great Record During 1917321 became insistent. New Zealand had early in 1916 adopted by Act of Parliament a measure of conscription providing for the reinforcement of her existing brigades by com­pulsory draft chosen by ballot. Mr. Hughes gradually carried the country forward to another conscription referendum. His Ministry had been returned by an overwhelming majority at the elections in May 1917 and the prospects of securing an affirmative vote seemed good. After a whirlwind campaign in which both sides professed their thorough loyalty to the Empires war aims and the anti-conscriptionists claimed that they were differing from Mr. Hughes merely on a question of procedure the electors again rejected Australia again compulsory service. The arguments— rejects conscription that Australias vast work in supplying the Allies with food wool and metals and that her own defensive interests could not be reconciled with a more searching form of reinforcement— won the country. The echoes of Bullecourt had not died when the Second Anzac Corps became engaged as part of Sir Herbert Plumers Second Army in the great offensive of Messines. The corps had been stationed here throughout the winter, and their strong aggressive tactics had made the period little less trying and wearying than that of their country­men on the Somme. Though the work was mainly preparatory and though the 3rd Australian Division had arrived only in November from their training depots on Salisbury Plain the corps maintained a hot pace in raiding, sniping and artillery shoots. In particular a great raid was made by the 10th Brigade of Victorians when nearly a full battalion went “over ”the top eight hundred Germans were killed and many prisoners taken. The area from slightly north of Messines to the River Douve, close to the manufacturing city of Armentieres was subjected to the closest study and experimental shooting or infantry work against all the German posts was carried through so that their strength could be ascertained and the offensive planned accordingly. Much of the success was due to this thoroughly scientific planning of the barrages and the infantry advances. In the final attack upon Bullecourt men of the 5th Australian Division following a hail of trench-mortars and Stokes bombs rushed the German strong points on the eastern side and the British line was thrown round the village. For most of the Australian force many weeks of rest followed the final assault upon Bullecourt. These were sunny happy days. The divisions were grouped in pleasant billets within reach of French cities. Training was maintained and large-scale manoeuvres were practised. The opportunity was taken to send a large percentage of officers and men through special courses of instruction. The Anzac Corps School which had been founded in a few hutments on the banks of the Ancre grew to the size of a township. In the chalky valley amid woods which rang with the axemans strokes it reminded its homesick occupants of a mining camp at home. A steady flow of reinforcements was coming across the seas from the Australian preliminary training camps and these brought the divisions up to full strength. These days were among the most pleasant spent by the Anzacs during their wander­ings. They found the sympathetic French life entertaining, they found sport in the fields on the rivers in the canals they found time to study and read and above all to deal with those masses of correspondence which kept so tight the ties between Australia and her Pleasant days soldiers. The Australians were famed as in billets letter-writers and “mail day ”was as great an event in the Army as it was in the distant bush settlements where the folks at home waited anxiously for the ever-fresh written signs of affection. A t home the question of reinforcing the Army was arousing feverish controversy. Mr. Hughes great effort to secure conscription at the end of 1916 had failed. Since then recruiting had been sufficient to maintain the for?es in the Outfield. of a total population of five millions about 450000 men had offered their services at the recruiting offices and some 330000 had been found medically fit. Nevertheless the conscience of the com­munity was uneasy and the movement for conscription KING GEORGE VISITING HIS NEW ZEALAND TROOPS IN TRANCE. At the end of March 1918 King George visited many of his armies along travelled over three hundred miles by motor-car among his troops and the French front who had been sternly engaged in staying the great in the photograph is seen on a visit which he paid to some of the New German offensive. During two crowded and inspiring days his Majesty Zealand forces in the fighting area.
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