44th Infantry Battalion (WA) 11th Brigade, 3rd Division, AIF

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About This Unit

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The 44th Battalion was raised at Claremont in Perth's suburbs, and quickly became known as "Old Bill's Thousand" after its CO, Lieutenant Colonel William Mansbridge.   It was to  be the fourth battalion of the 11th Brigade drawn from the smaller States.  Its colour patch tells the story;  the eliptical shape denoted the 3rd Division, the light blue lower half the third brigade of the division and the white upper half the fourth battalion of that brigade.

 

 

Battle / Campaign / Involvement

 

 

If you have specialised knowledge of the unit and would to contribute more detail to the story on this site we would like to hear from you. We are particularly keen to hear from unit associations and keepers of unit heritage and traditions. Contact admin@vwma.org.au (mailto:admin@vwma.org.au)to find out how.

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Stories

The Last Game A Big Raid 44th Battalion WW1 14 March 1917


Saturday 13 May 1916 Perth and East Fremantle played at the WACA Oval - the game was the best of the day. Perth won, being captained by Jimmy Foy. It was Sergeant Foy's last game before leaving Australia on 9 June 1916 for the Western front with the 44th Battalion. Foy had proved to be an excellent instructor within the Battalion for bayonet fighting and physical training.

On the night of the 13th/14 March 1917 the 44th Battalion had planned a ‘Big Raid’ in the Armentieres sector of the Western Front. The raid would consist of 6 officers and 400 men. Foy immediately volunteered for the raid. Lieutenant ‘Sammy’ Taylor an extremely popular officer would be in charge of the assault.

Luck was against the Battalion on this occasion. For days prior to the raid it rained incessantly and no man’s land was amass of mud ditches and shell holes full of water. While the large group of Raiders were assembling in no man’s land they were seen by a German Searchlight. At midnight the Australian barrage in support of the raid opened up German front line. Almost immediately the Germans replied with artillery targeted onto the Raiders assembled in no man’s land. So accurate and sudden was the artillery that it was apparent to everyone concerned that the first element of success – surprise - was not with the attackers. The raid went ahead but only for a short while as the German machine gun crews were trained ready on the 400 of the 44th Battalion.

Sammy Taylor gave his last order, an order to retire before being shot through the neck and dying shortly after. Another casualty of the 20 killed and 45 wounded during the raid was Sergeant “Jimmy” Foy the superb athlete from Perth who had played with the East Perth Football Club. Returning from the front line Foy was wounded through the thigh, his mate said that he was in great pain and asked to be left. The very next time they talked to him he had died

It was said he was another soldier whom the Battalion could ill afford to lose

Both men are buried at Bonjean Cemetery.

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The 43rd and 44th attack at Le Hamel

At ten minutes past three our barrage came down with ferocious suddenness upon the enemy’s front line area, and pounded, battered, and chopped it to pieces with shells of every caliber – light, medium, heavy, gas, shrapnel, high explosive, and phosphorous shells. The Boche [German] here suffered four minutes’ hell before the barrage began to lift in hundred yards’ stages every minute, allowing our first wave (43rd Battalion) to advance to the attack with the cooperation of the ‘tanks’ which smelt out the vicious machine guns in the enemy strong-points, and summarily dealt with them in their own quaint manner.

Not many minutes passed before the first waves (43rd Battalion) had taken the first objective, and the on-coming tide of the 44th Battalion swept over it and on up the coveted ridge, ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies working round the left and ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies round the right of the village of Hamel, leaving the village to the mercies of Hotchkiss and the Pounder aboard six ‘tanks’. Three ‘tanks’ accompanied each half of the battalion around the village.

Whilst our advance was in progress the enemy followed his usual procedure by filling the air with Verey lights and rockets – white, red, green, golden and showers – but whatever their significance, this barrage remained particularly feeble, and our boys advanced with practically no resistance from artillery, the machine guns giving the most trouble. A kind spurt from the uncanny ‘tank’, however, soon disposed of the defending ‘gallants’.

A feature of the offensive was the effectiveness of the smoke barrages which were used on either flank to cover our advance. These consisted of thick white clouds of smoke which were worked across the front by the action of the wind.

The first ‘tank’ flying the Tricolour [French flag] denoting its return, was seen moving back at ten minutes past four apparently delighted with its success and leaving the village behind blazing furiously.

As darkness gave place to day, our men could be seen working their way steadily but surely to the crest of the ridge, whilst eight tanks wobbled here and there over the slopes and summit of the ridge clearing the Boche out of his strong defences commanding our old forward area.

By twenty-five minutes to five the ridge was ours, and, with ‘C’ Company in support, the remainder of the battalion commenced to consolidate their new front line, an old Boche trench just below the summit on the eastern slope. No.1 Platoon moved out on the left and dug an outpost about a hundred yards in front of the front line. ‘B’ Company in the centre also pushed out an outpost whilst ‘D’ company secured the right flank.

From ‘Narrative of Hamel Offensive, July 4th-6th 1918’, War Diary, 44th Australian Infantry Battalion, 23/61/22 Part 1, July Appendices, AWM4

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