Chapter XXXV
The Armistice and Afterwards
Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt (pages 329-331).

At 3.15 a.m. on September 23rd [1918] the Battalion arrived in the Roisel area, and the day was spent in resting and passing through the baths at Marquaix. Next day a route march by way of Peronne and Halle brought us to Biaches, where we went into bivouac. The nucleus joined us here, and on the 26th, about 2 p.m. , the whole battalion – 21 officers and 390 other ranks – entrained at La Chapellette for Longpre, from which at 6 o’clock it marched to Bellancourt, taking over billets there five hours later.

The battalion rested and trained at Bellancourt till October 6th, when it marched on Villers-sous-Ailly. Four days later it moved on to Epagne, where training exercises were continued, on November 8th marched to Pont Remy to entrain for Tincourt-Boucly, which was reached the following day. On the 10th the Battalion was again on the move, buses conveying it to Bazuel, near Le Cateau. The billets in this place were poor and comfortless. Many of the houses had been used as cages for prisoners of war, and on the walls of many of them were scrawled the regimental numbers and names of prisoners, including those of Australians. It was in these cheerless surroundings that we received the news of the Armistice.

There was now much speculation as to the future movements of the battalion. Popular opinion favoured the occupation of Berlin. On the 13th we marched to Busigny, on the 21st to Mazinghiem, next day to Prisches, and on the 25th to Solre-le-Chateau, where the educational scheme was first put into operation with a view to preparing the men for post-war work. On December 15th we at last crossed the Belgian border and went into billets at Barbencon. The following day Pry was reached. Then on the 17th we entered Gerpinnes, six miles south east of the city of Charleroi. In this town comfortable quarters were secured, and many weeks were spent here. To keep all ranks occupied, football matches and winter sports were arranged. A favourite pastime was tobogganing on improvised sledges in the snow.

In the meantime the repatriation of the A.I.F. went on steadily. On the 27th of February, 1919, it was decided to amalgamate the 1st and 4th Battalions at Acoz, and 2nd and 3rd at Bouffioulx, small villages on the outskirts of Chatelet, a suburb of Charleroi. The band on the 3rd Battalion rose to fame during these days, being one of the first British bands to play in Brussels after the war. It proved to be so popular that it was stationed in the capitol for some weeks.

At last, on May 6th, the battalion, together with the rest of the 1st Brigade, entrained at Charleroi on its way to the coast, en route to England, Lieut-Col D. T. Moore being in command and Major G. E. McDOnald second-in-command. Both officers had enlisted with the original battalion.

And so the 3rd Battlion closed its account with the Germans and their Allies. It had been a long road from Randwick Racecourse to Hargicourt, full of hardships, suffering and sacrifice, buth throughout it all that marveouls bond of comradeship, esprit de corps, and love of Australia moulded the 3rd Battalion officers and men into a glorious unit from which sprang epic deeds of heroism and bravery, both individual and collective. We share the glory of the A.I.F., the greatest thing Australia has yet produced – a force that gave Australia nationhood and Anzac.

If one man’s spirit lived throughout those years as an inspiration to the 3rd Battalion, it was that of our first commanding officer – Lieut Col R. H. Owner, C.M.G., dear old “Dad.” His high principles, courage, absolute fairness, and understanding of human nature, early gave the battalion an ideal, which was carried on by Bennett, McConaghy, Howell-Price and Moore.

We survivors of the 3rd as proud to have taken some part, no matter how small, in building up its glorious history – Anzac – Lone Pine – The Evacuation – Pozieres – Fler – Hermies – Bullecourt – Broodseinde – Passchendaele – Hazebrouk – Chignes – Hargicourt . . . . a veritable trumpet-sound of names.

To the present generation and to the generations unborn, we hand on unsullied the chocolate and green of the 3rd Battalion as a proud heritage, and to the everlasting glory of those who made the supreme sacrifice.

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