Letters from France eBook

Charles Bean
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Letters from France.

And if there are not battalions, amongst the newest troops, which will go down to history with some of the very best Australia possesses—­then I am a German.  They have had a wonderful training of late—­a training which can only be compared in thoroughness with that of Mena Camp in Egypt where our first troops trained, and with the full experience of this war to back it.  The British authorities are equipping the new Australian drafts generously.  The discipline of Australians, once they come to understand their work, has never given the slightest real anxiety to those responsible for them.  The newest men have exactly the same straight frank look and speech as has every other batch that I have seen.  If there is any difference between them first and last I will be bound that it is beyond the keenest eye to detect it.

Indeed, if there is a difference between one Australian infantry battalion and another, it is, and has always been, a matter of officers.  A commander who can make all his subordinates feel that they are pulling in the same boat’s crew—­that they are all swinging together, not only with their own but with every other battalion and brigade; who can make them look upon themselves as all helping in the one big cause; who can make them regard the difficulty of another battalion merely as a chance for freely and fully assisting it—­a commander who can do these things with his officers can make a wonderful force of his Australians.  This may sound abstract and vague, but it is real to such an extent that it is the main reason of all differences that exist between Australian units.

Australian units have, like the Scots, a wonderful confidence in each other.  They have been proud to fight by the side of grand regiments and divisions; but I fancy they would rather fight beside other Australians or New Zealanders than beside the most famous units in the world.  Chaffing apart, that is the feeling of the oldest unit towards the newest.



France, November 28th.

“You don’t call us the Anzacs, do you?” asked the man with the elbow sling appealingly.  “You call us just Australians and New Zealanders, don’t you?”

I hesitated for a minute or two racking my brain—­it seemed to me that once, some months back, I had used that convenient term in a cabled message.

“Oh, don’t for goodness sake say you do it, too,” said the owner of the elbow sling pathetically.  “Isn’t Australians good enough?”

“I’m not sure—­once—­I may have.  Not for a long time, anyway.  I sometimes speak of the Anzac troops or the Anzac guns.”

“Oh, that is all right—­Anzac troops—­there’s no objection to that—­we are that,” went on the grammarian with the elbow sling, “but there’s no such thing as an Anzac—­the Anzacs—­it’s nonsense.”

I remember that day well.  It was the day before their first entry on the Somme.  The man with the elbow sling had stopped a shrapnel pellet one frosty morning eight months before at Anzac; the man who sat next to him had a Turkish shrapnel shell burst between his shins at Hell Spit.  They were some of the oldest hands, back again, and about to plunge with the oldest division into the heaviest battle the division had yet faced.

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Letters from France from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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