France’s South Pacific Soldiers in Sydney
The First World War was truly a global war. What brought this home to Australians was seeing troops from other countries, including France’s Pacific colonies, passing through their country on their way to the Front.
Steeds and shellfire on the Western Front
The horses that were sent to the Western Front during the First World War faced many of the same difficulties as the soldiers that they served. Horses were used to transport officers, heavy artillery and other equipment to the front lines. The artillery conveyed by these horses was an essential element of the military strategies that developed on the battlefront. The Battle of the Somme in 1916 in particular saw the first widespread use of the ‘creeping barrage’, a strategy designed to provide cover for an advancing line of infantry.
Leonard Leary was a law student in Wellington who first served in Samoa after joining up in 1914 and then joined the British Royal Artillery and fought at the Battle of the Somme. In this 'Spectrum' radio documentary from 1982 he recalls both the trials of controlling horses amid the confusion of a battlefield and the use of the creeping barrage at the Somme.
Australian artillery on the Salonika Front
The camera operator is unusually close to the artillery action in this British-made newsreel. It shows an Australian gun crew operating their weapon gun beneath a canvas shelter in the Greek port town of Salonika (now Thessaloniki). Opposing them are Bulgarian forces who, together with Germans, had forced the Serbian Army from the port. This Australian artillery crew seems comparatively relaxed in comparison to the usual grim scenes of battlefront action from this period.
Household pets join the forces
Ena Ryan of Wellington was a young girl when war was declared in August 1914, but she vividly recalled the excitement of those days. In this 1985 interview she describes watching the Main Body marching through the streets of Wellington to the departing ships. She noticed that one of the men had a kitten buttoned into his tunic. Once they arrived at the battlefront the men adopted other pets, including dogs, donkeys and goats found in and around battlefields. These animals helped to keep up the mens’ spirits, and some became official mascots.