Australia and the First World War

Made by students from Alcide d'Orbigny High School, in commemoration of Anzac day.

During the First World War, Lieutenant Clifford Sadlier and Sergent Charlie Stokes were decorated for their bravery in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 24 April 1918. In their honour, every year the Australian embassy organizes a competition to commemorate the heroic actions of the Australian soldiers in WWI. The schools, which take part in the competitio, have to create a project about it.

Within the scope of the English European section in our school we decided to be part of this competition. In this way, it will give us the opportunity to understand the role of Australian soldiers in the First World War and to commemorate them.

Australia was a dominion of The British Empire which was an ally of France. Australia and New Zealand were Allied Powers. That’s why Australia participated in the Battle of the Somme.

ANZAC, meaning Australian New-Zealand Army Corps, was formed during World War 1. It was also used during the Second World War to commemorate all Australian lives lost.

It started with the landing on Gallipoli (Ottoman Empire) in 1915. During the war, the city was part of Central Powers. On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New-Zealander forces which landed on Gallipoli, met violent resistance from the Ottoman Turkish forces. At the end of 1915, allied forces were evacuated by the peninsula and both sides suffered casualties.

On arrival in France, the divisions were organized into I ANZAC Corps (1st Division, 2nd Australian Division and New-Zealand Division) and II ANZAC Corps (4th and 5th Australian Divisions). In March 1916,the Australian Imperial Force arrived in France. Then, in July and August the Australians were heavily involved on the Western Front. In 6 weeks of operations, the Australian divisions suffered approximately 28 000 casualties. In November 1916, the 3rd Australia Division arrived in France from England while II ANZAC Corps was sent to the trenches during the winter of 1916-1917.

In 1917, the Australians were heavily engaged, in March at Bapaume, in May and June at Bullecourt and Messines, and from September to November, in the great battle of the Ypres offensive (in the North of France).

In March and April 1918, the Australian Corps played a prominent part in the defence of Amiens, Hazebrouck and Villers-Bretonneux (between Paris and Dunkirk, near Belgium’s borders).

The Australians were engaged in a number of battles as the Allies drove the Germans back towards their eventual defeat. This period is named “The Hundred Days”. When the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918, The Corps, which had been fighting continuously since March, was in reserve rebuilding for the next offensive.

While the Australian Imperial Force strength in France varied in response to battle casualties and problems with recruiting, it never fell below 117 000 men.

46 000 men died and 16 000 were gassed. 114 were wounded and 4 000 were taken prisoners. Australian Imperial Force figure was 145 per 1000 men– the highest of all the British Commonwealth armies.

The Anzac spirit embodies the qualities of courage, camaraderie and sacrifice which were demonstrated in Gallipoli.

The Australian War Memorial is proud to host Anzac Day commemorations annually on 25th of April. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Anzac forces during the First World War.

Clifford W. K. SADLIER

Full name : Clifford William King Sadlier
Function : soldier, clerk, commercial traveller

Date and place of birth : 06/11/1892 at Camberwell, Melbourne,Australia

Date and place of death : 04/28/64 at Busselton, Australia

Wives, child : childless, Maude Victoria Moore (1922-1934), AliceEdith Smart (1936-his death)

He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1915. He served with the 1st Australian General Hospital. In 1916, he returned to his nursing duties. On November 9th, he became acting sergeant for the 51st Battalion. In France, May 13th, he joined the 51st battalion, 13th brigade, then he got promoted to corporal. On July 14th, he was promoted second lieutenant, and on the 1st of April 1918, he became lieutenant.

He was part of the 51st battalion Australian Imperial Forces awarded with the Victoria Cross for bravery during a counter attack by his battalion at Bois L'abbé,Villiers-Bretonneux (with gas and German tanks), even if he was wounded he enabled his platoon to advance by killing the crew of 4 enemies machine-gun. His coolness and utter disregard of danger inspired all. After the war the government destroyed all the archives with the attached account which talked about his actions and bravery. The government destroyed it because it became too sensitive to risk being made public. Instead of that, the official paper which told about him have survived remarkably. 

He won the Victoria Cross for an " extraordinary bold attack on german machine-gunners" during the 2nd battle of Villers-Bretonneux on 24-25 april 1918.

On 24 October, he was invalided to Australia and his AIF appointment ended in March the 4th 1919. In August the 23th 1922, he married Maude Victoria Moore. He worked as manufacturer agent, in 1929 he ran his own indent agency. In 1934 he got divorced and in 1936 he married Alice Edith Smart. From then he became a clerk in perth . As he was invalided, he moved to Busselton, he gardened and it became his mainactivity. He died there on 28 April 1964 and was cremated, he had suffered for years from emphysematic bronchitis.

William Charles Albert Stokes

William Charles Albert Stokes (Charlie) was born in 1889 in the town of Newcastle on the East South of Australia near Sydney. Australian sent about 420.000 soldiers. By 1918, nearly 40 percent of the military-age male population had enlisted and this from and isolated country on the far side of the world. Among these soldiers, 400 aboriginals fought in the Australian army. Four squadrons of the Australian flying corps were deployed during war. Nearly 60.000 Australian soldiers died and 150.000 were wounded. The First World War shows the birth of Australia as an independent nation.

2253 Sergeant Charles Albert Stokes (Charlie) enlisted on 27 march 1916 from Subiaco, western on Australia to North of France. He served with 51th battalion AIF (infantry), he returned to Australia on march 21,1919.He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his action at Villers-Bretonneux in April 1918.

William Charles Albert Stockes, W.J Stockes’ son, was a labourer in Australia. He was 18 years old and single when he enrolled in army in Canada Chinchilla in Queensland in Australia the 7th of September 1915. He entered in the Australian Imperial force in the 4th infantry brigade, 15th battalion and the 12th reinforcements. His religion was church of England, which is a protestant anglican religion.

This battle happened after the battle of the Somme in 1918. It took place from April, 24 to 25 1918.

  • In March 1918: Australian units helped the British defend Villers-Bretonneux. The German arrived from the north east. Then they forced them to go out of the town. So the Australians had to go back because they were enveloped. In the afternoon → the Australinas withdrew to the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux. At the crucial moment, the Australian 36th battalion dashed: the Germans had to go back to their old trenches 2km away from Villers-Bretonneux.

    24 April: British troops were defending Villers-Bretonneux. The germans attackedat the dawn with 13 tanks (they used it for the first time) and captured the town. The same day, at 10pm, the Australians led a counter-attack to the northand the south and they envelopped Villers-Bretonneux. They try to join forces to the East of the Town. Many Germans could escape because they didn’t manage to join up in the dark. Australians entered in the town by the east and British by the South and the North after dawn. There is no enemy troops anymore on 25th April, the third anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. This action marked the end of the German’s offensive which they had started a month earlier.

  • Reports from the Australian force unit war

    Reports from the Australian force unit war can be found. They were basically war diaries from the different Australian brigades during the war.

    We studied the ones coming from the 51st Australian Infantry Brigade who fought in the 2nd battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

    In the early hours of the 24th April 1918, the 51st Australian Infantry Brigade received the order to be prepared to move out of its positions at short notice from their Head Quarter. Later that day, they were ordered to dump all their belongings (packs and blankets) and march to Blangy, a town between Amiens and Villers-Brettoneux.

    It was not until night that they received the order to counter attack on the enemy positions at Villers-Bretonneux to take back the village which had been taken by the Germans earlier that day. They attacked with the 50th and 52nd Australian Infantry Brigade.

    The 25th April 1918, the 51st Aust Inf Brigade reported heavy shelling coming from the enemy artillery, they wrote that it lasted all the morning.

    They also reported the arrival of two German officers who came to them under a flag of truce. They delivered a message coming from their Commander: it stated that as the Australian and English troops were surrounded from all the sides, which was a lie, the German troops were asking them to surrender. This request was, of course, refused and the Australians sent the two messengers to their Head Quarter under escort.

    The war diary also reported very active machine guns fire on their front line trenchers, they said it caused casualties.

    Finally, they noted the passage of the officers from the French 8th Regiment, to do a reconnaissance of their front at the end of the day.