Over the Top with the Third Australian Division by G. P. Cuttriss - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.


At the outbreak of the World War in August, 1914, the Australian as a soldier was an unknown quantity. It is quite true that in the previous campaigns in the Soudan and in South Africa, Australia had been represented, and that a sprinkling of native-born Australians had taken service in the Imperial armies. The performances of these pioneers of Australia in arms were creditable, and the reputation which they had earned was full of promise. But, viewed in their proper perspective, these contributions to Imperial Defence were no true index of the capacity of the Australian nation to raise and maintain a great army worthy and able in all details to take its place in a world war, beside the armies of the great and historic civilizations of the Old World.

No Australian, nor least of all those among them who had laboured in times of peace to prepare the way for a great national effort, whenever the call to action should come, ever doubted the capacity of the nation worthily to respond; but while the magnitude and quality of the possible effort might well have been doubted by our Imperial authorities and our Allies, and while it was certainly regarded as negligible by our enemies, the result in achievement has exceeded, in a mighty degree, the most optimistic hopes even of those who knew or thought they knew what Australia was capable of.

For, to-day, Australia has, besides its substantial contribution to the Naval Forces of the Empire, actually in being a land army of five divisions and two mounted divisions, fully officered, fully equipped, and stamped with the seal of brilliantly successful performance; and has created and maintained all the hundred and one national activities upon which such an achievement depends.

We are still too close to the picture to realize the miracle which has been wrought, or to understand in all their breadth the factors on which it has depended; but, fundamentally, and overshadowing all other factors, the result is based upon the character of the Australian people, and upon the personality of the Australian soldier.

It is the latter factor which, to one who has been for so long in intimate daily contact with him, makes the closest appeal. It is from that close association, from the knowledge born of experience of him in every phase of his daily life, that the Australian can be  proclaimed as second to none in the world both as a soldier and as a fighting man. For these things are not synonymous, and the first lesson that every recruit has to learn is that they are not  synonymous; that the thing which converts a mere fighting man into a soldier is the sense of discipline. This word 'discipline' is often cruelly misused and misunderstood. Upon it, in its broadest and truest sense, depends the capacity of men, in the aggregate, for successful concerted action. It is precisely because the Australian is born with and develops in his national life the very instinct of discipline that he has been enabled to prove himself so successful a soldier. He obeys constituted authority because he knows that success depends upon his doing so, whether his activities are devoted to the interests of his football team or his industrial organization or his regiment. He has an infinite capacity for 'team' work. And he brings to bear upon that work a high order of intelligence and understanding. In his other splendid qualities, his self-reliance, his devotion to his cause and his comrades, and his unfailing cheerfulness under hardship and distress, he displays other manifestations of that same instinct of discipline.

Some day cold and formal histories will record the deeds and performances of the Australian soldiery; but it is not to them that we shall turn for an illumination of his true character. It is to stories such as these which follow, of his daily life, of his psychology, of his personality, that we must look. And we shall look not in vain, when, as in the following pages, the tale has been written down by one of themselves, who has lived and worked among them, and who understands them in a spirit of true sympathy and comradeship. The Author of these sketches is himself true to his type, and an embodiment of all that is most worthy and most admirable in the Australian soldier.