9th Infantry Brigade AIF

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George Laing Duthie 1917

34th BATTALION A.I.F.

Sergeant: 748 George Laing DUTHIE.


Born: 1892. Aberdeen, Scotland.

Died: 5th April 1918. Killed in Action Cachey via Villers Bretonneux, France.


Father: John Duthie.

Mother: Bella Laing Duthie. nee:.


INFORMATION

George Laing Duthie enlisted with the 34th Battalion on the 21st January 1916 at Newcastle, N.S.W. and was an original member of the Battalion. Until the 10th of March, early training and formation of the Battalion was in progress. On that day the Battalion marched to the newly pitched camp at Rutherford and was completed with the exception of the Transport. These joined later and came from the Army Service Corps camp near Sydney. Here strenuous training was carried out. The men were very keen and fit, whilst their comfort and health were made a special study. Food was good and ample and sports and recreation were not overlooked.

Maitland Camp at Rutherford 1916

MAITLAND CAMP RUTHERFORD N.S.W. 1916.

On 1st May 1916, the Battalion left by Train from Farley Station for the Showground in Sydney, equipped with kit bags and neccessary clothing, and was reviewed in Moore Park by General: Gustave Mario RAMACCOTTI. On the following morninng, 2nd May 1916 the men embarked on the transport HMAT A20 "HORORATA" and sailed at 4:00pm".

HMAT A20 Hororata

H.M.A.T. A20 "HORORATA"

The Battalion disembarked at Plymouth at 1:00pm and entrained during the afternoon for Amesbury, arriving at midnight and marching to hutments at No: 1 Camp, Larkhill. Here the Battalion settled down to hard training, which included Route Marching, Trench Digging, Bomb Practice, Musketry and general Camp Routine. Later the Battalion moved to the No: 25 Camp and finished off their training, which included six days' battle practice and field work at the Bustard Trenches.

George was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 21st August 1916 whilst at Larkhill and proceeded overseas for France on the 21st November 1916. The 34th Battalion left Larkhill on the 21st November and entrained at Amesbury for Southampton, embarking on the S.S "Arundel". The transport section left by S.S. "Princess Victoria". The Battalion arrived at Le Harve, France on the 22nd November 1916. Disembarkation commenced at 8:00am and the Battalion marched to No;1 camp on the Hill, arriving at 2:00pm. The men carried heavy loads, in some cases amounting to miniature Q.M.' Stores. The march over cobblestones was very tiring, notwithstanding the many route marches which had been carried out at Larkhill. However, after bathing their feet and receiving treatment, as well partaking of a good meal, some spent a comfortable night.

The following morning the Battalion moved to Le Harve Railway Station, leaving D Company behind. On arrival at the Station entraining commenced at 8:00am and the train left at 11:15am. The journey was slow and occupied until 4:30pm on the 24th. On arrival at Bailleul the men detrained and marched to Outtersteene. D Company arrived at 4:00pm the following day. The Battalion rested here in billets for two days previous to taking over garrison duties in the Line at Armenties. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. with the Adjutant, Company Commanders, N.C.O's and Specialists went into the Line to inspect Trenches, Stores, Plans and to arrange for the taking over this Section of the line on the following day.

The specialists and N.C.O's remained in the Line. On 27th November the Battalion went into the Line in the L'Epinette Sector. The men were taken up by motor lorries as far as the Square near Houplines Station, and marched via Butterne Avenue and Willow Walk to the Line, carrying their packs and blankets into the trenches. Lewis Gun ammunition was taken into the Line with the tin cases. The going was difficult owing to the conditions of the Trenches and the heavy and bulky loads. Later the blankets were dumped near Tussage Dump, from which most of them disappeared. This was the main incident of our relief in the Line.

On the 17th of May 1917 the Germans tried to raid the 34th Battalion at Le Touquet. The enemy this time employed the British method of a very short, though heavy, preliminary bombardment. The preliminary registration however had been observed and the Australian counter-barrage came down within 10 seconds of the S.O.S signal fired by Lieutenant: 4559 Frederick Murchison WAUGH. M.C. 34th Battalion. A party of Bavarians attempted to enter by a gap in the front line. One climbed the parapet and said "Hands Oop!" He was at once shot, and fell dead into the trench. Lewis Guns, in particular that of Private: 1416 Joseph Edward KIRK. M.M 34th Battalion, drove the enemy off.

On the 18th of May the previous night's attempt against the 34th Battalion was repeated after a short heave bombardment. On the S.O.S. being fired by Lieutenant: 1118 William Wright EDMONDS. M.C. 34th Battalion, the protecting barrage again came down instantly, but the enermy entered a gap near a sector in which cylinders had been installed for an impending release of gas. Working alone the line, they bombed a Lewis Gun Team, wounding three. The remaining men, Lance Corporal: 1530 James HAM D.C.M. 34th Battalion and Private 1248 Bertram Guy TAYLOR M.M. 34th Battalion, continued to fire, and killed all five intruders.

Lieutenant: Benjamin Greenup BRODIE and the scouts afterwards went out, driving back the German covering party and stretcher-bearers, brought in a wounded Baverian Pioneer, and evidence and identification from 11 Germans who had been killed.

( History of World War 1. Vol IV. Bean) Charles Edwin Woodrow BEAN

Private: 418 William EAGLES. M.M. B Company 34th Battalion was recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal This man showed Great Courage and Devotion to Duty on the night of 17th under a severe enemy Bombardment, he carried Messages overland from right to left Centre Companies and back to Battalion Headquarters, accomplishing a journey over a mile and a half while the whole area on which he travelled was being subjected to heavy H.E and shrapnel fire.

1st June 1917.

PLOGSTERT WOOD 2:30am. Small silent Raid with a strength of 2 Officers, 2 NCO's and 22 men was put over from "B" Coy's Sector against the enemy's front line. Object to gain identification Kill Bosches and destroy dugouts. The Raiders were divided into two parties. Lieutenant: Ernest SHANNON with 12 men to enter the enemy trench from the right Lieutenant: 717 Benjamin Greenup BRODIE. and 12 men to enter from the left. Both parties to work towards the center. The enterprise was intirely sucessful and was only mared by the death of Lieutenant: SHANNON a very gallant and efficient Officer.

The Right party entered enemy's trench without opposition but after bombing the first dugout, were attacked by a number of the enemy who issued from the rear of a second dugout. Lieutenant: Ernest SHANNON was killed by a bomb thrown by one of his own party. Our men immediately attacked the enemy and forced them back to the dugout, where they destroyed them by throwing in bombs.

The left party Lieutenant BRODIES met considerable opposition in passing through the enemy wire, but succeeded in entering the trench and destroying two dugouts and the enemy who occupied them. As it was now broad daylight and the enemy opposition increased, the parties withdrew to our own front line. The men of Lieutenant: SHANNON's party displayed great determination and bravery in bringing back his body in broad daylight under heavy fire from the enemy trenches. The original time set down for this enterprise was 1:30am but by order of higher authority it was postponed to 2:30am to coincide with other enterprises which were supported by artillery fire on ur right flank.

As our own enterprise was a silent one, and it was in broad daylight at 3:00am this only allowed 30 minutes for the crossing of "No Mans Land". The negotiation of the enemy's wire and the cleaning up of his trences. This restriction of time was a great handicap to the enterprise. Enemy artillery active battert work on our batteries in rear of Plogsteert Wood. 5:00pm Headquarters partially destroyed by enemy artillery fire. Lieutenant: SHANNON buried in Military Cemetery in rear of the wood.

2nd June 1917.

11:00am. Relieved from Ploegsteert Wood by 11th Brigade, relief completed by 12:30pm marched to Billets in Nieppe.

(34th Battalion War Diary)

George Laing Duthie and family 1917

Rear Left; brother Andrew Duthie, sister Dolly Duthie, mother Bell Duthie and George Duthie in uniform. Front Left; sister Jean Duthie (with hat), sister Nora Duthie aged 13 years.

7th June 1917.

THE BATTLE OF MESSINES

The 3rd Australian Divisions first major offencive was at Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917. The Australian 3rd Division was a part of the II Anzac Corps which was allotted to the first assault. The 25th New Zealand, 3rd Australian Division with the 4th Australian Division in reserve. The 4th Division were battle hardened troops who had fought many major battles.The 3rd Australian Division were having problems getting to the "jump off" point. The day before the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades were bombarded by German Gas-Shells around Hill 63 and Plugstreet Wood. Many of the Aussies were not wearing gas masks, but dispite this they pressed on even though they received 500 casulties.

They made it to the "jump off" point but only just with some of the men from the 9th and 10th going straight over the top without stopping. The mines went up and the attack commenced behind a protective barrage. The II Anzac Corps were attacking on the right with their objective being the southern shoulder of the ridge which included Messines, the Dover and St Yves areas as far south to the east of Plugstreet Wood.

Major General Sir John MONASH's 3rd Division had to contend with a tricky 3 mile approach out of Plugstreet Wood and after the German gas attack, but they were not detered. The 9th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General: Alexander JOBSON and the 10th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General W R NICHOLL had just made the jumping off point but some of the men did not stop, going straight into the assault from the approach march.

Their objective lay between St Yves and the Douve. The mines at Trench 127 and Trench 12 at Factory Farm were laid to aid this task. The explosions erupted a few seconds before zero hour and created craters of 200 feet in diameter, completely obliterating the German defence line as the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades went over the top. The mine crates forced the 9th and 10th Brigades to veer to the left and right which caused some confusion with the main assault. It is testimony to the quality of training that every man knew the ground, tasks and objectives so well.

Private: 1804 John CARROLL 33rd Battalion, rushed the enemy's trench and bayoneted four of the German occupants. He then noticed a comrade in difficulties and went to his assistance, killing another German. He then attacked single handed a German Machine Gun Team, killing all three of them and capturing the gun. He later rescued two of his comraded who had been buried alive by German Shell Fire, and in spite of heavy shelling and machine gun fire he dug them out alive and saved them from certain death. John was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The German foward zone was completely engulfed and taken by the main assault. The two supporting battalions of each brigade then passed the leading battalion to continue the advance. The men were constantly re-supplied and the ridge was taken. There were many German prisoners taken during the offencive. The 3rd Division was well ahead with the 9th Infantry Brigade pushing on beyond Grey Farm, and on the right the 10th Infantry Brigade were veering left towards Septieme Barn north of Douve.

The German resistance was heavy but was generally brushed aside by tanks and artillery before the infantry had to become too involved.The 4th Bavarian Divisions Artillery had made little impact, but as the day wore on the 3rd Division and later the 4th Australian Division received many casulties from German artillery. (70% of all casulties during WW1 were from artillery).

By 9:00am nearly 6 hours after the assault began the Germans were in dissaray, but there was a major problem as the Australians received less casulties as anticipated and when ordered to dig into the ridge they had so many men, that some could not find shelter. the 35th battalion were dug in around Seaforth Farm.

The second phase of the operation was to take the Oosttaverne Line. The 3rd Australian Division would now be in reserve with the 4th Division attacking. The 9th Infantry Brigade (33-34-35-36Bn) were near Thatched Cottage facing Warneton. The river Lys was to their right and the Plugstreet Wood was now behind them.

Once their objectives were taken the troops consolidated. A barrarge to stop and counter attack was shortnened and caught three battalions which had to retire. By 9:00pm this part of the Oosttaverne Line was abandonded. At 10:45pm General Godley ordered the 3rd and 4th Divisions to retake it. This they did by the early hours of the 8th of June.

The Battle for Messines Ridge during May-June 1917 saw 35 officers and 1,631 other ranks loose their lives.

9th Infantry Brigade Casulties.
33rd Battalion. AIF 8 Officers 382 Other ranks
34th Battalion. AIF 10 Officers 378 Other ranks
35th Battalion. AIF 5 Officers 431 Other ranks
36th Battalion. AIF 9 Officers 421 Other ranks
9th Machine Gun Company. AIF 2 Officer 17 Other ranks
9th Light Trench Mortor Battery. 1 Officer 2 Other ranks

Field Dressing Station, Messines 07/06/1917

FIELD DRESSING STATION, MESSINES 7th June 1917.

After the action at Messines, George was promoted to Lance Sergeant on the 20th June and to Sergeant on the 8th July 1917 when Sergeant: 1975 Harold Henry PAYNE M.M. received his Commission 4 days earlier to 2nd Lieutenant.

George was marched in the the 9th Training Battalion on the 3rd September 1917

George attanded the 40th Army Course of Physical and Bayonet Training at the Headquarters Gymnasium, Aldershot from the 26th November to the 21st December 1917.

Bayonet Training

No: 9 Class-Physical and Bayonet Training at the Headquarters Gymnasium, Aldershot. Xmas 1917. George is second from left, middle row.

George proceeded overseas for France on the 1st March 1918 via Southampton and rejoined his unit on the 9th March as the Battalion was moving towards Villers-Bretonneux.

At 10:30am 4th April the Battalion moved forward to a position of readiness to defend Villers-Bretonneux on the North. Moving off again in Artillery Formation, "A" Company on the right, "B" Company on the left, "C" Company in Support and "D" Company in Reserve. The enemy was shelling the Railway line and the Main Villers-Bretonneux Armiens Road. to avoid this the Battalion worked around the low ground and took up position behind terraces. At 1:10 pm the locality was heavily shelled, during which Lieutenant Colonel. Ernest Edward MARTIN., the Adjutant, Lieutenant: Augustus Gibson FARLEIGH. and Major: Harry Lambert Edward Dixon WHEELER, also several Runners and Signallers, became casualties.

The bombardment continued for over an hour, during which time the men suffered heavily. The Regimental Aid Post was also heavily shelled and many of the casualties, being Stretcher Cases, could not be moved. Captain: Charles Eric WATSON. Medical Officer, and his Staff performed gallant work in attending to the wounded under extreme difficulty, thereby saving many dangerously wounded cases. At 3:00pm Major: Walter Arnold LeRoy FRY. took command of the Battalion. A request was received from the 12th and 17th Lancers to supply Troops to stiffen up the Line in the vicinity. This could not be acceded to, as our role was counter attack. At 4:30pm an Order was received from Brigade to withdraw to hight ground in rear of the villiage, which gave a good field of Fire North and North West of Villers Brettonneux. Whilst moving to this position, a second Orderwas received to withdraw to the villiage, South of the Railway Line. At 5:10pm instruction was received to establish a Line connecting 33rd BATTALION on our left and the Cavalry on our right. This was completed by 9:00pm.

The enemy had established a Line on high ground West of the Railway Bridge with strong Machine Gun Posts, from which he could enfilade our Line North of the Railway and also command the approaches to the village. The position had to be cleared up and the Battalion was detailed to do so, by attacking and capturing the Railway Bridge and consolidating a new Line 250 yards in front. Zero was at 1:00am on the 5th April and the operation was entirely successful. "D" Company experienced very little opposition until the Bridge was reached, when the enemy endeavoured to outflank our right. However this Party was delt with and the Bridge was taken. "C" Company experienced strong opposition along the Railway Line, but succeeded in mopping up the enemy. In the advance the Lewis Gunners fired from their hips and the rapid Fire seemed to completely demoralise the enemy. 12 Machine Guns, 1 Officer and 22 Other Ranks were captured. The Line was consolidated and the rest of the night passed quietly, the 33rd, 35th and 36th BATTALION moving their Line forward to conform with ours. During the afternoon the enemy put over a heavy Barrarge of "Wiz Bangs" and 5.9's. The Trenches which had been dug during the night were narrow and placed in Platoon Posts, were difficult to hit and only a few casualties resulted. The ground was extremely flat and it was impossible to have any communication with the front Line during daylight.

Whist here the Battalion was congratulated on its grand work in the attack on 4th April, by Major Gerenal: Sir John MONASH and Brigadier General: Charles ROSENTHAL. In addition to those already mentioned the following Officers, who were either gassed or wounded, were evacuated during April. Lieutenants:- Lieutenant: 4 Thomas Clifton PITTAWAY  Lieutenant: 777 George Edward HODGES Lieutenant: Thomas BELLAMY. Lieutenant: Edgar Ernest BRUNKER. Lieutenant: Percy Warrick BEAUCHAMP  Lieutenant: Francis Henry Samuel LEE and Lieutenant: 1514 Frank William GIFFORD.

On the night 5th/6th April the Battalion was relieved by the 17th Battalion and marched to Bois d'Aquenne and dug in the side of a ridge for cover, the night being very cold and wet. The morning of 6th April was bright and clear and there was great activity in the air. Fights were frequent, with as many as 30 Planes on each side fighting it out. The Transport comming up with the rations was getting a particularly warm time from the heavy shelling. Whilst here dry socks and underclothing were obtained for the men from Villers Brettonneux. Despite the bad weather and heavy fighting during the last 12 days, the men were in fine fettle and their moral was excellent.

Short history of the 34th Battalion.

34th Battalion War Diary

George was Killed in Action leading No: 11 Platoon, C Company on the 5th of April 1918 during this action at Villers-Bretonneux during a counter attack at about 2:00am receiving a Single Machine Gun Bullet or Shrapnel to the Chest that killed him instantly and is remembered with honour and is commemerated in perpetuity by the Commonweath War Graves Commission at the Villers-Bretonneux War Memorial, France.

Villers-Bretonneux War Memorial, France

VILLERS-BRETONNEUX WAR MEMORIAL

18th October 1918.

Informant: Lieutenant: James SNEDDEN It is known in the Battalion that Sergeant: 748 George Laing DUTHIE was killed in action during a counter attack, about 2:00am (on date named I think) by a bullet, some 800 yards in front of Villers-Bretonneux and North of the Railway Line. He was buried where he fell. The ground was held.

3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth.

1st November 1918.

Informant; Sergeant: 799 James JACKSON.  Sergeant: 748 George DUTHIE was killed at Cachey. I know his number 748. Sergeant: WEST C company, now with this unit was there when DUTHIE was killed and gave information.

Officer Training College. Oxford, England.

5th March 1919.

Informant; Private: 853 William McKERSIE described Sergeant: 748 George Laing DUTHIE. as about 5'10" high, medium build, red faced, aged 25 to 26 years. His parents live at Aberdeen Scotland. Informant states that they were both in C Company, 12 Platoon. On 5.4.18 the Battalion was holding the line at Villers Bretonneux about 2:00am while DUTHIE was leadig his platoon to drive the Huns out of their line DUTHIE was killed outright by a bomb which struck him in the chest. Our chaps charged with the bayonet. Informant was alongside DUTHIE and saw him fall. He was taken back by the Battalion Pioneers and buried two or three days later, probably in the cemetery at Heily. They succeeded in driving the Huns out of their line.

Garrison Hospital, Victoria Barracks, Sydney.

Home address; Little Denison Street, Carrington via Newcastle, N.S.W.

Family Information

George was a single 24 year old Labourer from Robert Street, Wickham, via Newcastle, N.S.W. upon enlistment. Friend Arthur Luxford. his parents address was Findon School, Eberdeen, Scotland.

Dear David

I am the niece of George Laing Duthie. He was born in Aberdeen, Scotland and left home aged 14 to join the Merchant Navy. He settled in New South Wales and joined the AIF in 1916. He was killed on 4th April 1918 in Villers Bretonneux. I live near Edinburgh, Scotland and I am going with my husband and two sons to visit Villers Bretonneux for the first time in June 2017.

(Alison Laing Hutton. April 2017.)

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Under Construction; 25/01/2014.-09/04/2017


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