RED AND WHITE DIAMOND Authorised History of the Twenty-fourth Battalion AIF' by Sgt. W J Harvey MM.
Prior to WW1, Sgt Walter Harvey was a journalist with the Echuca based Riverine Herald. No doubt, a profession which enabled him to write such precise and detailed narrative for this history. He continued to write articles back to the Riverine Herald while he was on the frontline - some are shown in margins.
Harvey joined the AIF on the 15/4/1915, he was allotted the 24 Battalion enlistment number 2465. Soon after enlisting he come down with meningitis. Thus he did not embark for overseas service with the Battalion until the 5th reinforcements. He was with the Battalion at Pozieres where on the 15th August 1916 he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. He was a Stretcher Bearer who continually entered no man's land under heavy fire to recover wounded - it was said that he was the last 24th Stretcher Bearer to leave the Pozieres Battlefield.
Harvey has written a full History of the 24th Battalion which received its 'baptism of fire' upon reaching Gallipoli on the 5th September 1915. On the 10th September 1915, the Battalion entered the Lone Pine Trenches. It remained at Lone Pine for 16 weeks, due to the dangerous position Battalions were rotated every day. After the Gallipoli evacuation, the 24th Battalion transferred to the Western Front where the main battles fought were at Pozières in July 1916 and Mouquet Farm in August 1916, the costly 2nd Battle of Bullecourt and the offensive at Broodseinde Ridge during 1917.
During the latter 1918 Offensive, the Battalion suffered casualties which were not being replaced, it has become a distinction of the Battalion that it fought in the last Australian Battle of WW1 at Montbrehain on the 5th October 1918.
They did not know it at the time, but this would be the last WW1 Battle that any Australian would take part. This was the final stage of the war, the Battalions had been fighting for the past two days and the troops were expecting to be relieved.
This attack order came as some surprise, it was said, that the troops regarded it as the “bombshell, which did not come from the enemy”.
On the eve of the Battle, nine Officers of the 24th Battalion joined an impromptu parody singsong in the trenches.
’D’ Company, Captain John Fletcher and ‘A’ Company, Captain John Mahony MC sang I’m Courting Bonnie Lizzie Lindsay Noo and Fletcher alone sang The Bells Of St Mary’s. Fletcher and Mahoney were life long friends from Bendigo where Fletcher was a School Teacher. They had both fought at Gallipoli and endured the worst battles on the Western Front. At Mouquet Farm in 1916, Mahoney was distinguished with the awarding of the Military Cross.
Another 24th Officer in the trenches that night was Lieut. John Gear MC who was also a Victorian Teacher from Ballarat. During the war, Gear had continued his teaching showing how to kill a man by sniping.
The next day, the 5th of October was a tragic day for the 24th Battalion Officers, Fletcher and Gear both of ‘D’ Company were killed in the same attack. Mahoney was mortally wounded and died several days later on the 9th of October 1918.
|"Mates to the Last" joined together 1915, survived Gallipoli, Mouguet Farm,Western Front until 5th October 1918, knocked on the same day... Fletcher (center) and Mahoney (right).|