Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
'The Battles of the Nations': being an account of war service in France, 1916 / composed by J.H. Stettler and written by private P.J. Stettler
The Battles of The Nations
Composed by J.H.Stettler
Written by P.G. Stettler Parramatta
Jan 10 1916
We left Australia on 1st/8/16 amid cheers and shouts for we were going to an unknown land to face danger some of us never to return again but we left with smiling faces we had a joyful time on the voyage we finally reached our destinstion after eight weeks we arrived at Plymouth after 12 hours travelling we arrived at our camp were we went through 3 weeks training orders were then received to entrain for France thence to Boulongne thence to Etables were we were given the taste of the actual warfare consisting of bully beaf strong tea and bullet proof biscuits it was very refreshing after travelling but we finally reached our battalion at beaue after a few days rest we were sent with our battalion to the lines
But we suffered very slight casualities has these Germans generally use their long ranger guns at chance shots were there are any likely movements of troops arriving at communication we were at times forced over exposed buried bodies of English and Germans while a scattered along the Parket here an there were dozens of lifeless heroes who had received their final blow in clearing the way for others to pass while here and there score upon scores in places were the trench had been levelled to the ground scores upon scores were stretched out while charging close by were the bodies of seven germans and two kharkie Tommys who before they died evidently settled the other 7 germans scenes like these were very numerous and this had happened about a week previous an in some cases a burial was impossible while heavy fighting was in progress you can imagine the order an some of the boys had to content them selfs and terrible sights and later eating and sleeping among partly exposed bodies but such is war an one cannot realize these happenings actural engaged on arriving we took up position in the main supports trench while others battalions had the front firing lines while in these supports
We were allways more or less under bombardments and being in a good position and well dug in we suffered very slight casualities losing a few killed and wounded on Saturday 22nd on being informed a that at a certian time we were to advance and take new lodgings fronting the ruined town of Pozierriers we were patiently awaiting to be let loose and be for hostilities began looked defeat impossibility three parties each having a special opportunity for duty to perform were told off and there were told off to advance and told the positions the remainder of the 54th Btn to imeadiately is follow on in support as the track to be taken was almost on leaving rough and broken country there being little protection from bombardments while the first parties advanced to take the position hundreds of our pioneers were working generusingly in communication trench being all the time exposed to heavy stiff fire being one of the first party good luck favoured us and we reached our destination in the best possible way the 2nd and 3rd sorties were also well favoured by this time the larger party were advancing the enemy must have grown suspicious an sent forth a deluge of shrapnel an gas shells and many of our brave officers and men met their doom before the main events began.
Commenced being settled down a few feet behind the first firing line all were anxiously awaiting the bombardment of our great artillery every minute seemed an hour while on every side jokes were cracked others could not rest laughing and al was pleasure shells from the enemy was buzzing over our heads travelling back to our communications and a occasionly on our positions some dealing one death wounds others trusting harmlessly on vacant soil on our right the 3rd brigade covering a frontag of about 1200 yds our brigade the 1st being in the centre on our left were part of a division of English Territorials the enemy in front did not suspect a great attack for when they sumrised and such doings keeps the darkest night Brilliant with their numerous Flares at this particular time an occasionly shoot upwards on speck
Suddenly there comes hell at on Earth comes the terrible roar of the guns from the greatest Artilly Darkly ever known shells in hundereds are falling every minute from the 12 inch down to the 9 pounder) this took place on our Right first the Germans were taken by surprise and more beautifull sights could be no 5 over
Witnessed on hundereds of Red white and blue and green flares were shooting upwardly each one coloured a signal for their artilly etc but this sight did not continue long these flares were loosing there positions were enormously the great moment had arrived and our gallant boys were over and fighting with great Determination immediately our frontage received similar bombardment and in less than five minutes seen Australian straffing boys in a similar manner what remained among there germans after these few minutes of hell if hell is any worse treated it must be terrible were soon wiped out with Bayonets and bombs while these tussels were going on the first advanced had reached their Destination amidst Rifle and machine gun fire were busily Engaged digging and swinging the pick and shovels with all speed others were arriving and with in a short time we all had cover Despatch carriers were kept continually going to an from our main line which had Previous belong to the germans.
it was now drawing in Day break and it was Easily seen the Enemy moving among the Ruins which here and there at counter attack was soon silienced our boys always being victorious while our fine machine gunners lost no opportunity to lay them low looking around we were in the midst of Ruined Buildings By small Portions of walls remained while the soil was ploughed up in all Directions and the trees which were pretty Numerous battered to the ground the Enemy were sending over further from among the Ruins a continous of rifle and machine gunfire we were not in the least troubled for we had accomplished all that was required the orders came to advanced we were confident of A still greater sucess Throught but all this trying time there were Numbers among us who were out so hard did perform there duties while others had slight wounds an suffered Entense Pains but continued with Smiling Faces and in one Particular being a Sergeant of the Platoon I belong who just Previous to the charge was buried along with others suffered from a laccerated leg and swelled hands but who would not think of leaving for the Dressing station while any danger Existed along with others who at times was exposed to greater danger than ours for when any danger were likely to arrive it was a common sight to see them do take no heed of a narrow trench shelter but glide along the Parket and carry out their duties more speedily.
Despatch carriers at times Deserved great Praise the scouts and in the maner Disregarded any danger and the germans received not a appitie Each man had a round of steak and quarter of good tea but after digesting a tin of bully beaf for a come bullet proof biscuits and some water we left like new men. No 8 and after a little sleep now and then we were Progressing Fabourally on about the 25th the Enemy sent a continuous stream of high Explosives and Schrapnell which Never ceased down till next morning the majority landing on Vacant soil but here and there some would land in a good Position doing some damage to our trenches and putting a fair number out of action at times could see the Enemy advancing with bombs a counter attack but the glittering steal was Ever ready at any importance occured throughout the day at night we were kept very bursily renewing the Parket swept away leaving a very serious job an some times the Evening of the 24th had set in word came along that the Enemy was advancing in small Parties away in the Distance some were noticed to be carring the white flag others with a red cross with laden stretches these germans had all means to put them in touch with us these Plans would not work as we were all ready and prepared
whil the 2nd brigade advanced 200 yds in our front an dug in our colnel and officers could be Distinguished well on our left front deligented studying the Enemys movements orders came to Every man in our trench for Everyman to stand with fixed Bayonets and Two bombs were issued to Every man silentilly awaiting again for the next order bu the Enemy did not advance as there was another call our battalion the 54th having arrived held this Portaned position since the Actural Charge of midnight of Saturday 22nd we were about to be relieved of a Position since the 2nd brigade and retire to the second line and later on to support this would mean a much needed Rest having performed the greatest of hardships Imagineable one continous stream in single till pushed on it to the Support trench.
we left some of our men in the second trench Some of our Noblest mates to a Endless rest Some of them men who took Part in Eventful day in the landing at the Peninsula but are now unfortunate heroes who were loving to see it through and to do their Duty till the final day of victory came but such is war on arriving back we were obliged to make ourselfs Compfortbly as possible but warned to be on the alert but little Could be had for the bursting shells at A about 2 oclock our Artilly gave Fritz a lively few minutes and we received word that our Relieving battalion had advanced Farther Later the heavest bombardments from the commencement of the advance the heavest guns were pouring in from three sides of Perfect deluse of shelling and Particular rough time for us advanced among Schrapnell men falling like Rain some wounded and killed outright and a vast number were put out of action a common Sight were Enemies are drawn together in heavy conflict with hand to hand fighting it was then that some of our bravest officers and men met their doom
Written By Pte p.g. Stettler Parramatta
Composed by J H Stettler Parramatta
[Transcribed by June Pettit for the State Library of New South Wales]