AS ROUGH AS BAGS AUSTRALIAN HISTORY 6TH BATTALION AIF
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As Rough as Bags: The History of the 6th Battalion
When the 6th Battalion men sailed from Australia in October 1914, little did they realise, that for the next four years they would travel on a sacrificial journey to Turkey, France and Belgium - that is if they survived the journey many did not.
The performance of our enthusiastic citizen soldiers at Gallipoli, mesmerised the British Command. However by 1918, the AIF had become a professional battle hardened army.
The 6th Battalion was typical of the Australian infantry battalions, and it could be argued that it was one of the best. The 6th Battalion's maturity as a fighting battalion, was sometimes described as being 'as rough as bags'.
The history of the 6th Battalion is vividly described as the author Mr Ron Austin, research included extensive use of diaries, letters, interviews with veterans, and member photographs, many of which have never been published before. The inclusion of many appendices makes this history a notable addition to Australian military Book Histories.
Several member rolls complete this 6th Battalion History including Nominal Roll Gallantry Award Roll Officers Roll to name a few.
Little History of the 6th Battalion AIF
The 6th Battalion was recruited solely from Victoria, with Melbourne and towns to the inner north being well represented. Recruitment was completed within 2 weeks of the commencement of WWI in August 1914. The 6th Battalion sailed with the 1st Division less than 2 months later.
The 6th Battalion landed at Gallipoli as part of the 2nd wave on the 25th April 1915. Later they transferred to Cape Helles to take part in the charge on Krithia ( click here if you would like to see the Ron Austin’s book White Ghurkhas written on this attack). Although the boys made a brave advance the ground was flat without feature which offered no protection. Sergeant Neville Rollason of the 6th Bne wrote of the attack, “We attacked the enemy, advancing under a terrible fire from rifles, machine guns and shrapnel for a distance of 800 yards. When I say ‘we’ I mean the others for I only got 600 yards when I got in the way of a machine gun.” The Battalion suffered heavy casualties within an hour 133 members lay dead.
They returned to Anzac, during the August Offensives, the 6th Battalion made an attack on the German Officers trench opposite Steele’s Post. Although a daring attack from tunnels in no man’s land the advance failed. It was estimated that 63 men actually made it into the enemy's German Trench as their bodies were never recovered. The attack was reminiscent of The Nek Light Horse Charge. As the Officers of the Battalion wished to call off the attack but were urged by superiors to once again attack.
6th Battalion Heroes at Anzac A 6th Battalion hero of the 2nd attack was Captain Alf Jackson his CO recommended Jackson for a posthumous bravery award which was never awarded the citation read,”He worked well in a dark underground tunnel organizing and when the advance commenced by his fearless bravery helped the men forward under heavy fire. Even after he was hit,he continued his work until his leg was very badly smashed"
Their first major action in France was at Pozières in July 1916, during which they lost 102 men killed. The 6th Battalion suffered horrific causalities. 6th Battalion member Corporal Thomas later wrote,” Pozieres will never be forgotten – a Valley of Death….it was awful, dozens being killed, blown to bits.”
The 6th Battalion then fought the Second Battle of Bullecourt, before taking part in the Battle of Menin Road in September 1917, where Lieutenant Frederick Birks earned the 6th Battalion's only Victoria Cross.
During the latter part of 1918 the 6th Battalion made an important successful advance on Lihons.
During the war the 6th Battalion lost 1,066 killed and 2,017 wounded
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