3rd BATTALION, A.I.F.

A GLOWING HISTORY.

(BY F. M. CUTLACK.)

Aptly enough for Anzac Day, Captain Eric Wren, late of the 3rd Battalion, A.I.F., has written his history of the battalion under the title of “From Randwick to Hargicourt”. (pub-lished by Ronald G. McDonald, Sydney). General Sir Nevill Smyth, V.C., writes a foreword, and there are messages of congratulation to survivors of the old battalion from the late Major-General Sir Horace Walker (who formerly commanded the 1st Division) and Brigadier-General Lesulle (formerly com- mander of 1st Brigade). Captain Wren has had to collect the material for this story from many sources within and without the ranks of the unit. It might, have been written, he states, sixteen years ago, but for good and sufficient reasons was not. He thinks that the story can now be told better. In the “mellowed perspective” of twenty years after; and certainly this writer, who has read many war reminiscences and unit histories, is convinced that It could not be told better than Captain Wren has told it here.

It is no easy task to write the war record of a unit which shall fulfil the special demand of what is almost a family history, and. yet shall by its narrative force command the Interest of general readers. Captain Wren has accomplished that task. A test of it is the skill with which he has contrived to reveal the difference between the battalion atmosphere of Gallipoli and that of the Somme, the first gruelling in war and the second, the gradual growth In efficiency, understanding of combined action, and esprit de corps. The trick is not so easy as Captain Wren’s simple and lucid style would suggest. The search for descriptions of battalion life in records pos- sessed by survivors or left by the dead, senior officers, or privates, has apparently been very thorough; and the bare bones of the battalion diary, the essential framework of honest history, is adorned constantly with living personal narratives of each notable event or experience.

It is a far cry from the flint assembly at Randwick to the final retirement from the fighting line after Hargicourt; and in the icy mud of the Somme winter, when the Mena sands and the Pyramids seemed to belong to a pre-hisloric age, Australia remoter still, was indeed, another world. The battalion was constantly bereft of sterling leaders, officers, and n.c.o.’s, and of its most experienced soldiers killed in action; and was as regularly replenished from cadre. Sir Nevill Smyth records that the 3rd Battalion lost more men killed in action than any other Australian regiment. It lost In the three days’ fighting at Lone Pine in August, 1915, nearly three quarters of its numbers. Only six officers out of 27 were not casualties, and 277 other ranks out of 856. Again in the murderous first attack on Pozieres the battalion’s casualties were 14 officers (five killed) and 510 men (144 killed or missing). Second Bullecourt was another costly action. But, the enemy responsible for these losses on each occasion suffered damages of equal severity.

There are several amusing stories of battalion life, of the sort that every Australian battalion could retail. The book is liberally illustrated with photographs, some of them reproductions which many Australian soldiers will treasure, and there is a nominal roll of all who served in the battalion, numbering some 5400 names

‘3rd BATTALION, A.I.F. – A Glowing History’, The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842-1954), 25 April 1935, p. 14,
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article17153053

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