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What was it like to experience WW1 as an Australian soldier?

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Brock Smith

on 9 September 2013

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Transcript of What was it like to experience WW1 as an Australian soldier?

What living conditions did the Australian soldiers experience during WW1?
What was it like to experience WW1 as an Australian soldier?
- World War 1 was Australia’s first major conflict, it is often called our “Baptism by fire”
- Most volunteers thought that it was a way to spend time traveling the world with their mates, help their country and make England proud.
- This war would cause many soldiers to either be wounded or become mentally ill from the constant threat of being under attack, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no rest at all.
Two of the main places that Australia fought in was France and Gallipoli, these places were extremely different to rural Australia.
What did it feel like to fight in such different environments?
temperatures were high and remained high all night which prevented rest. This caused fatigue and lose of concentration.
In winter there were many blizzards which caused frostbite. To prevent frostbite the Australian soldiers huddled together, they only had the uniforms which had lasted them all summer, these were torn and were wearing thin so they did not provide any insulation whatsoever. In France the environment was very flat and empty, all of the trees were snapped in half and the ground was full of decaying bodies. As stated earlier the environmental conditions were extremely different to what the Australian soldiers were used to. Thi would have made the Australian soldiers feel extremely home sick and some of them would have even pretended to be wounded just so they could leave the broken landscapes.
Figure 2:
- Shows that the trench was only very small and it had no roof so it had no covering from both the rain and the snow.
Figure 3:
- The picture shown shows a few Australians trying to get some rest and have a break, although they have nowhere to go and have a nice cup of tea and biscuits, they have to just sit down in a small trench that is extremely narrow and try to squeeze in together.
- It was harsh, it consisted of blizzard and rainstorms
- Summer temperatures rose and stayed high all night.
- It was not uncommon for the men who were on duty to freeze to death at their posts. Some needed to have their toes or feet amputated.
- Torrential rainstorms flooded the trenches and made the battlefields resemble dams of mud. The Turks were used to the climate and temperature so it was not an issue. Many of them were from a rural background and quite well adapted to enduring the elements. Even the rain was not as much of a problem for the Turks as their trenches were always situated on higher ground than those of the ANZACs and were not prone to flooding.
How were Australian soldiers affected mentally and physically by WW1?
- Soldiers who abandoned their battalion were called cowards, despite new research showing that these soldiers actually had mental illnesses from the constant 24 hour threat of dying.
- As seen in this picture above, only 3 of the 300 – 500 soldiers survived, and those 3 were seriously injured. These 3 soldiers would have felt seriously depressed, this would have given the soldiers who survived mental illnesses, from the sights of their battalion getting massacred from the machine gunners of the Germans.
- Lieutenant Ronald McInnis (From Mackay. A Gallipoli veteran of the 53rd Battalion, in his diary at the Battle of Fromelles, 19 July 1916. Returned to Australia 1919.) “We thought we knew something of the horrors of war, but we were mere recruits, and have had our full education in one day”.
- A British physician, Charles Myers, used the words ‘shell shocked’ to describe the symptoms that many of the Australian and British soldiers experienced during WW1.
- By the end of WW1 there were 80,000 cases of “shell shock” in Australia alone. This accounted for 1 third of a discharges in the army. - Another way that soldiers dealt with the threat of dying 24/7 was self-harm and abandonment. In fact there were over 3,000 cases of abandonment which in 300 of those cases resulted in the death sentence.
Figure 2: An Australian trench in WW1.
Figure 3: Australians having a break during the Great War
Figure 4: Australian men during summer
France during WW1
Gallipoli during WW1
Figure 1: 19th of July 1916/; Men of the 53rd Battalion waiting to don their equipment for the attack of fromelles. Only 3 of the 3,000 survived and they were seriously injured.
- The conditions were both inhumane and dirty.
- It would never happen again.
Thank You For Listening.
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