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This week in history: our wartime heritage.

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DVA 41 Monday 9 April, 2001

This Week in History - Our Wartime Heritage

Issued by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, to foster awareness of Australia’s wartime history and heritage during the Centenary of Federation.

April 13 -19

13 April 1941: Corporal John Edmondson, 2/17th Battalion, 2nd AIF, born in Wagga Wagga, NSW, was posthumously awarded the first Australian Victoria Cross of WWII for his actions during the Siege of Tobruk.  German forces established themselves inside the allies’ defensive wire and Corporal Edmondson, one officer and five privates attempted to dislodge the enemy with a bayonet charge.  During this counter-attack, Corporal Edmondson was wounded in the neck and stomach, but he advanced and killed one enemy.  Later, the officer was attacked by two men, but the wounded Corporal Edmondson came to his assistance and killed both of them, saving the officer’s life.  Corporal Edmondson died the next morning from his wounds.

15 April 1918: Lieutenant Charles Pope was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Battle of Lagnicourt.  German forces of 16000 attacked Australian positions early in the morning.  Lieutenant Pope commanded a crucial post well forward on a protruding spur in the centre of the Australian line.  This post was quickly overwhelmed.  Lieutenant Pope sent a runner back to get more ammunition, but supply lines were  blocked.  Isolated and low on ammunition, Lieutenant Pope ordered his men to fight on to the last. He was killed defending his post.  The German attack was eventually repulsed by fewer than 4000 men of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions.

17 April 1917: Second Battle of Gaza, Palestine, began.  The British command decided on a direct frontal assault by three infantry divisions: the Imperial Mounted Division, the Imperial Camel Corps and the Anzac Mounted Division (all half Australian).  This attack was even less successful than the first attempt three weeks earlier, as the Turks were now both better prepared and numerically stronger than before.  The attackers lost 6000 casualties.  The attack never seriously threatened the Turkish defence of the town, and, far from helping British aims in the area, gave a significant boost to enemy morale and convinced them that they could continue to hold southern Palestine.

18 April 1942: General Sir Thomas Blamey, the new Commander-in-Chief of Australian Military Forces, was appointed C-in-C Allied Land Forces in the South-West Pacific under General Douglas MacArthur.

19 April 1968: Prime Minister Sir John Gorton dedicated the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial at Anzac Parade, Canberra.  It is a replica of the memorial dedicated in Port Said, Egypt in 1932 to all Australians and New Zealanders who served in Egypt, Syria and Palestine during World War I.

Media Contact:   Mark Croxford  02 6277 7820 or 0408 645 787


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