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 – March 1918
Left Dumfries at midnight for London. … Reported to A.I.F. Hd. Qrs. then set off to find Tom Prince. He had married a London girl two weeks ago. He wanted me to be best man but I was unable to get away. He could not postpone the wedding as his father was being returned to Australia next day. He had enlisted in the railway corps, chiefly to see his sons in France. He managed to do this but at 64 was too strenuous.
Left London at 1.25 p.m. for the Royal Engineer Hd. Qrs. at Chatham. It has always been my ambition to visit this place & here we are in quarters at Brompton Barracks. We are to do an intensive course of heavy bridging.
We have had to build heavy bridges & attend lectures dealing with the theory of bridges. This has been the most interesting part of our training. The lecturer is by far the best I have ever listened to. Before the war he was a professor of Engineering at Cambridge. You could sit & listen to his all day & never lose interest. You cannot help learning from him, his dynamic personality compels you to pay attention. It was cold for handling the heavy steel members of the bridges.
Night raiders passed over on their way to London. We heard that 14 were killed & 40 wounded by their bombs. The anti aircraft batteries made a great noise but did no harm to the raiders.
Paid a visit to Rochester which is only a mile from Chatham, looking over the Cathedral & castle. Both places are wonderful works of Roman origin. … My old friend King John figures here again. He besieged the Castle & played a fine game with it. Cromwells men also visited this region & the Puritans whitewashed all the fresco work in the crypt of the cathedral, yet after all these years the fresco is visible owing to the whitewash wearing off. We saw Charles Dickens home & the hulk of an old ship which was famous for its voyages in discovering new lands…
… To finish off the day we decided to make up a party & go to the theatre. We tried to get into one place, but it was like a monkey house so we left & went to the pictures instead. It struck us as being a place where nice people do not go, so it is just as well we did not stay. Being a barrack town, full of soldiers, sailors & dock hands, they cater for their tastes & do not mind how low they go. At 12 o’clock there was a full parade at the Chatham Barracks, immediately after Church Parade. To my surprise my name was called together with another Australian & two English Corporals. We were paraded before General Mulally, Commandant of Royal Engineers, who made an address & decorated us with our medals. The Royal Engineers band was there in its red coats & busbies & they played us back to the parade. They looked magnificent & played beautifully. The orchestral part of the band has the reputation of being about the best in England, & the full band nearly as good as the Coldstream Guards Band.
Zeppelin raid on Kent.
This is my last night at Chatham & I am all packed up ready to leave tomorrow. While writing letters the air raid alarm sounded & the lights were dimmed. It is very difficult to see. The Zepps have passed overhead presumably on their way to London. It is not very pleasant to think that at this very moment these heartless brutes are dropping their vile bombs on innocent civilians, women & children, many of whom will not see the light of day tomorrow. What fiendish type of humanity are these German swine? … We sing songs about what we will do when we get to Berlin, but I am of the opinion if Germany asked for peace tomorrow the war would stop immediately. … We have a big job to do now & I only hope that the Big Powers, Britain, U.S.A, France & Italy will do their job in completely smashing, these ruthless, murderers, robbers, & baby killers for all time. If they dont, well, dont blame me. The next time I will be standing at the corner waving my little flag to the poor devils as they march away. That is quite an everyday saying amongst the troops, but I wonder would we. After some years of peace it is quite possible we would be just as keen to enlist as we were in 1914. No, not just as keen. There is a mighty big difference. We did not know then what we were in for, but at a future date we would have all the experience of the horrors & suffering of the past rising up like an unwelcome ghost to remind us of what to expect. I would not want a son or sons of mine or any other human being to undergo the hardships, privation & strain that has been our lot. Though I voted for conscription I can now see plainly why the A.I.F. in France voted against it. It would be terrible to think that due to our action we had forced one single human being to leave Australia against his will to go through all that we have had to put up with. For some considerable time now I have felt so fed up with the whole business that I would have welcomed the loss of an arm or leg to get back to Australia & out of it all for good. Yes, it would even be the end of all troubles & a great relief to pay the supreme sacrifice. But these Zepp. raids on harmless people far removed from the scene of battle has altered all that. If these good English people can take it standing up, cheerfully & bravely, well damn it all they are not going to show me how to face up to it. In a few weeks, perhaps in a few days, I may return to France, returning willingly & full of fight. The motto being, “we have a job to do, defeat the Hun, & let us get to it”. The sooner the better & may it not stop until this mad beast is soundly & permanently defeated in battle & not at the conference table. Tonight at Chatham I have changed my outlook mainly due to those those damn Zepps passing over.