A REMARKABLE war story recounting the Anzac’s withdrawal from the Gallipoli peninsula during World War I, has surfaced in Pottsville this week.
The story has come up just prior to the 98th commemoration of the signing of the armistice on Friday, November 11, with many services taking place at local RSLs, Service Clubs, Twin Towns and Club Banora Point Twin Towns.
Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.
To discover more about the life of Anzacs and the hardships they endured, The Weekly met with Tweed Coast local John Baly whose late father has an extraordinary war story recounting Australia’s involvement in Gallipoli and the Egyptian campaigns.
Mr Baly visited The Weekly office on Tuesday to talk about his father Byron “Jack” Baly who took part in WWI under the 7th Light Horse Regiment.
The 7th Light Horse Regiment was among the toughest regiments in WWI serving in Egypt, Gallipoli, Sinai, Palestine and Jordan.
Jack, who enlisted and sailed for Egypt from Sydney, was an amazing writer and poet who documented a vivid account of his time during WWI including a rare account of the Anzacs withdrawing from Gallipoli.
Writing to his mother, Jack sailed from Sydney in June 1915 as a reinforcement for the 7th Australian Light Horse Regiment.
Jack wrote about the soldiers’ beloved horses who they cared for while sailing to Egypt.
“An old devil of a boat,” Jack wrote in June 1915.
“Very dirty, however am enjoying the trip in spite of a great deal of work with
While Jack’s trip would start well his writing soon reflected the darker horrors of the war and described in specific detail life on the front line.
While many soldiers wrote diaries and letters home, Jack also documented the withdrawal from Gallipoli which was considered by many war strategists to be the most successful withdrawal in modern war history.
“It was a bright moonlit night and at about 6pm the first lot of men were taken from the trenches, with boots muffled and not a word spoken,” Jack wrote on January 2, 1916, after the withdrawal was completed.
“We marched to the beach and so on all through the night silent mobs of men slipped out from the trenches and at four o’clock in the morning the last man was safely on a boat of some sort and the Turks apparently none the wiser. Every man carried as much as possible and everything of any value which could not be taken was destroyed.”
Jack wrote of the soldiers feeling at the time having to retreat while the graves of their fallen comrades remained behind.
“It was hard to have to come away and I don’t suppose there was a man who, in his heart did not feel a deep regret at leaving the well-kept graves,” Jack wrote.
“Of all the good fellows who had fallen, it did not seem right somehow and made a fellow feel a bit off.
“However, everything is done for the best and “he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day”.”
What many may not know, is that after the troops withdrew from Gallipoli the British Navy ambushed a confused Turkish advance.
“Well as I said, by 4am everyone was off Gallipoli and the Navy stood by to watch what happened and reported at 6am the Turks charged in full force all along the line,” Jack wrote.
“What a surprise to find empty trenches, of course our absence gave the Navy a free leg and they could pepper in wherever they liked and gave Abdul (sic) some hurry up.
“We came back on a P&O troopship and believe me it was great to feel free again, to be able to stand up and look about in the fresh air without ducking and dodging from shells. The glory of being able to go to bed without boots or trousers or puttees and to sleep soundly all night without gear and ammunition sitting on one’s chest. No jumping up all night to shoot and look through infernal loop holes, it was just beautiful.”
Jack would return home and raise a family, but remained tormented by the horrors of war and like many war veterans he carried the heavy burden of those years spent on the battlefields.
Jack’s letters, stories, poems and original medals were submitted to the Canberra War Museum and were also outlined in a detailed book by his eldest son Lindsay Baly called “Horseman, Pass By” in 2002 by Kangaroo Press.
One sentence in the book is of particular interest for Armistice Day which reads: “we who look back on long lives serenely lived, have so many reasons to be thankful.” It’s important all Tweed residents pause at 11am on Remembrance Day to acknowledge the great sacrifice made by our Anzacs and all Australian soldiers who not only took part in global conflicts, but also carry the burden or war long after they return home.
Remembrance Day enlists local youngsters
TWEED TEENAGERS have been recruited to keep the spirit of young Australians who served on the battlefields of World War I alive for Remembrance Day services at Tweed Heads and Coolangatta on Friday, November 11.
The teens will don historic uniforms worn by Australian medics who attended those injured at war for the ceremonies that will be staged by the Tweed Heads & Coolangatta RSL sub-branch an hour apart at 11am DST time in NSW and 11am AEST in Queensland.
November 11 marks the 98th anniversary of the Armistice Day which ended the First World War (1914-18).
Each year, Australians observe one minute’s silence at 11am in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.
The Tweed Heads and Coolangatta RSL sub-branch, with more than 1000 members is one of the largest in the nation.
Established to support those who served in World Wars I and II, members these days are more likely to have served in Korea, the Malaysian conflicts and Vietnam, with a smaller number having served in Middle Eastern conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tweed Heads Coolangatta RSL treasurer John Griffin said it would increasingly fall to the young to remember their military history and keep the spirit of the Anzacs alive.
Still, while wars were fought, there would always be a place for the RSL.
“The RSL was formed after World War I because there was no support for veterans. Though in recent years, the government has taken more responsibility providing pensions, our welfare work remains important,” he said.
“For those who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), we’re a place to go. We can help or arrange for others to help.
“So long as the spirit of mateship is alive in Australia, we’ll be the place where those people can find someone they can talk through an issue with, somewhere where a mate can help put you back on track.”
Tweed Heads Coolangatta RSL will hold services at Chris Cunningham Park, Tweed Heads (11am DST; 10am Queensland time) and at Queen Elizabeth II Park, Coolangatta (11am QLD time; noon DST).