Three Australian officers at Gallipoli, identified from left to right: Lieutenant Roy Kernot of the 1st Division Engineers; Lieutenant Edward Stanley Whitehead of the 3rd Field Company Engineers and Lieutenant Louis Willyama Avery (later MM) of the 1st Division Engineers. The three friends were all associated with the Silverton Tramway Company in Broken Hill and survived the war. image courtesy Australian War Memorial P00244.001
Avery, Louis Willyama – February 1917
We are camped near a Scottish regiment, they wear the kilt & we hear the bagpipes. We heard the bugle call, retreat or sunset at 5 oclock. The irony of it. There was no sun to set in this wilderness of lead sky & snow. We hear that this is the coldest winter experienced in France for 20 years or more…
The Orderly Room telephone broke down today. I was sent to fix it up & was lucky to discover the fault. One up for me.
Left at 5 pm. With a party of 4 men to erect a barbed wire entanglement just north of Pozieres in our second line. We had to use screw pickets which are easy, but with frozen ground it is a different story. First of all we had a dig a hole in the frozen ground until we broke through. The ground was like granite. Star shells from the Huns lines were most disconcerting & we had to remain still to prevent observation. There was also a gas alarm…
A surface thaw is now taking place & it is easier to screw in the pickets. Jerry Sprayed us with a machine gun tonight getting some “very nears”…
Being very foggy today we went out to work on the entanglements soon after midday instead of at night. Jerry could not know that we were there. This was a good brain wave…
The thick fog continued & we all went off again. It cleared suddenly soon after noon & we had to beat a sudden retreat. Jerry soon got to work & his guns plastered the supports. At each salvo we took to earth & waited for the shower of mud to fall. No one was hurt.
… We are now issued with a special preparation of soap now for washing our feet instead of whale oil to counteract trench feet.
… Our blankets were sent away today to be fumigated. About time. We have a suspicion that the Huns are evacuating their front line. The 9th Battalion are going to raid his trenches tonight to find out.
Very foggy again. While working on the entanglements Brig. General Leslie came along telling us to stop work & to get in touch with our C.O. He informed us that Fritz had given us the slip evacuating a stretch of country on a 9 mile front & 2 miles deep… Our whole line has advanced. Our artillery is moving up into advanced positions. Only the heavy artillery is in action now & the quietness is strange after the constant din… We are bound to go forward now & hope it is decent country free of shell holes & this eternal slush & mud.
… Fritz is blowing up Bapaume so he intends going further back. I would not call it a retreat but rather a shortening of his line to straighten a deep salient. We must have tramped at least 25 miles today.