This Week In History | Week 40By The Cove September 27, 2020
Week 40 | 21 September - 04 October
29 September 1918 | Captain George Wilkins awarded bar to Military Cross
Captain G H Wilkins, official Australian Imperial Force photographer was more adventurer than photographer. Wilkins was sometimes a participant in, as well as an observer of, war. In June 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross for helping wounded under fire and, on 29 September, earned a bar to the award for leading a group of inexperienced American soldiers through a dangerous action. He is the only Australian official photographer to have been decorated.
To learn more about Captain Wilkins click here to go to the Australian War Memorial website.
30 September 1918 | Lance Corporal Ernest Corey, wins third bar to Military Medal
Lance-Corporal Ernest Albert Corey, a stretcher bearer with the 55th Battalion, wins a third bar to his Military Medal, first won on 5 May 1917. The winning of four Military Medals is a unique feat.
The citation for his forth Military Medal reads:
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as NCO in charge of Battalion stretcher bearers during an attack on the Hindenburg Line north of Bellicourt on 30 September 1918. Although enemy machine gun and shell fire were intense, this gallant NCO directed the operations of the Battalion stretcher bearers with the utmost skill and bravery. Regardless of personal danger, he, on numerous occasions although the enemy were firing upon him and other bearer parties, attended to men and carried them from the most exposed positions. His efforts were untiring and he set a splendid example to all ranks until he was severely wounded. It was mainly due to his magnificent work that the wounded were safely removed from the danger zone.”
Want to learn more about this extraordinary feat? Follow this link for the full story.
01 October 1918 | Australian Light Horsemen take Damascus
Damascus was the capital of Turkish occupied Syria and Palestine and the first objective of the great offensive launched by Allied forces on 19 September 1918. There has been some dispute over the years as to which troops were the first to enter the town. The honour probably goes to a patrol of the 4th Light Horse Regiment early in the morning of 1 October 1918. They were followed by the 10th Light Horse Regiment that rode into the city around 5 am. Emir Said, who had been installed as Governor of Damascus the day before, surrendered Damascus to Major Arthur Olden, the regiment's second-in-command. At 9 am T.E. Lawrence, also known as "Lawrence of Arabia", and the Arab forces of Faisal, son of the Sherif of Mecca, entered Damascus.
03 - 08 October 1951 | The Battle of Maryang-San
In early October 1951, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), in conjunction with British Commonwealth troops, attacked a group of hills near the Imjin River. The attack was named after the biggest of these hills and became known as the battle for Maryang-San or “Operation Commando”.
The operation began on 3 October with a British assault on one of the other dominant features, Hill 355 (known as Kowang San or "Little Gibraltar"). Then, on the morning of the 5th, 3RAR attacked Hill 317 (Maryang-San). The Australian force approached Hill 317 through rugged countryside at 4 am, under a heavy cloak of mist. At 10 am, the mist began to lift, exposing the Australian advance. However, the communists briefly hesitated before firing, which allowed 3RAR to capture the first line of defences in a fierce burst of fighting. The following morning 3RAR drove the communist forces from their position atop the hill, but they had to resist enemy counter-attack. The crest of the Hill 317 was secured on 6 October, after which the Australians assisted the British to take a lesser feature, Hill 217. This was finally achieved on the morning of 8 October.
Operation Commando was strategically important to the UN forces because if Maryang-San was secured, the Chinese would be forced back two or three kilometres, thus losing their view of the Imjin salient. This battle was also significant as it was thought to be the last chance for the UN forces to position troops before the ceasefire and armistice negotiations.
There had been two previous attempts to take Maryang-San by American troops, both of which had been unsuccessful. However, over a fiercely fought battle, against superior enemy numbers, UN troops were able to gain and secure the hills 317 and 355.
By 5 November, after the Australians were withdrawn to recuperate, Maryang-San had been recaptured by the Chinese. It was a terrible blow to morale for those who had fought long and hard to capture it. The tactically important ground of Maryang-San remained in the hands of Chinese forces for the rest of the war.