South Australians at War
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Conflicts : World War One : South Australians on the Western Front

The first Australian troops arrived on the Western Front in March 1916. By this time French and German armies were already at an impasse and locked into debilitating trench warfare. The trenches extended from the coast of Belgium to the Swiss border, across Belgium and north eastern France. With the development of modern weaponry, including the machine gun and other artillery, defence had become easier than attack. Attacks often resulted in little territorial gain and major loss of life, thus the stalemate continued. As at Gallipoli, the conditions in the trenches were appalling, particularly in the wet and freezing winter months, and disease was prevalent. Some conditions were particularly associated with the trench environment and became known as trench foot, trench fever and trench mouth. The stalemate continued up to the last months of the war.

On 26 February 1916, Victor Voules Brown wrote to his mother from 'somewhere in France' where,

the ground was practically one big mud hole at times we were up to our middles in it quite common to be up to our knees needless to say it is impossible to keep ones feet dry. And when we left to come out again well I am sure you would not have known me, As we were practically covered in mud. I also had about 10 days growth of beard on, which did not improve matters as far as appearance Anyway we arrived out of the stunt with few casualties, and at present are camped in huts a few miles out of it. It is glorious to be able sit down dry, & practically away from the roar of guns.

Len Hussey, from Port Elliot in South Australia, also fought on the Western Front. On 3 June 1917 he wrote to his friend Wally, 'This is an awful business, Wal, a horribly barbarous way of settling an argument'. Despite being wounded and needing lengthy convalescent periods in England, and knowing the appalling conditions they would face, the diaries and letters of Len Hussey, Jack Jensen and Victor Voules Brown show their determination to return to the Front.

A total of 46,970 Australian lives were lost on the Western Front, and a further 131,406 men were wounded.

Behind the lines : one woman's war, 1914-18 [extracts]
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Letter from A. H. Peake, Premier of South Australia to
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Letter reporting Private Alfred Duncan wounded in actio
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Letters from Len Hussey
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Letters written by Victor Voules Brown
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Postcard from Alfred Duncan to his mother
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Sweet remembrance : Postcard from Alfred Duncan to his
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Telegram reporting Private A. E. J. Duncan officially m
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The 'Fighting Leanes' of Prospect
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War diaries of Frederick Leopold Terrell - Volumes 3-5:
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War diary of Louis Willyama Avery
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World War 1 diaries of James Churchill-Smith - Volumes
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