THE BRITISH ADVANCE
THE AUSTRALIANS' PART
"OFFERING SUDDEN DEATH WITH A SMILE”
London. September 22.
The special correspondent of the "Daily Express,” Mr. Percival Phillips, emphasises that the Australians were in the centre of the attack.
He says:- "There was much hard fighting between the Roulers Railway and the Menin-road before they cleared Glencorse Wood and Nenneboschen Wood and planted a Commonwealth flag on Anzac Redoubt. They drove nearly half-way through Polygon Wood, yet nearly all their programme was fulfilled to time-table. They went over at forty minutes past five o'clock amid heavy shellfire because the distress signals had called all the German batteries into action. The barrage did not check the first waves at Glencorse Wood, but caught some of the stretcher-bearers carrying wounded men.
Fifty Germans surrendered just inside the wood; but the redoubt on the edge of the wood enfiladed the infantry until the flanking bombers put it out of action. The appearance and grit of the Australians utterly surprised the Germans. Little groups of snipers crouching in the shellholes ran at the sight of the slouch-hatted men, stripped of their packs, but festooned with bombs and moving lightly through the mire, their bayonets poised in a nonchalant, yet deliberate, manner, offering sudden death with a smile. Some of the Huns, caught like rats in a trap, fought wildly until they fell. The garrisons in the redoubts clung bravely to the machine guns and put up a fight which the Australians appreciated. These determined oversea men never doubted that they would reach their goal.
After hoisting the flag on Anzac Redoubt and traversing Glencorse Copse and Nenneboschen Wood, they entered open ground, 400 yards broad, between them and Polygon Wood. All these were in the Australians' hands by eleven o'clock. The flag was raised on Anzac Redoubt before ten o'clock.
During the halt before Polygon Wood an Australian officer, fearing that his men might be bored, sent up Tuesday's newspapers, pictorials, and cigarettes. Throughout the barrage the Australians sat calmly in the shellholes and broken trenches, reading and smoking, until the order was given to re-advance.
The final phase of he Australian advance involved brisk encounters with enemy parties on the southern tip of Polygon Wood. The Germans crept into the open with machine guns, sniping industriously. Their opposition was so strong that the first occupation of Polygon Wood did not give a straight line. Fresh troops were sent up to overcome the opposition, but they were not needed. The first line had already cleared out the snipers and bombers and had straightened the front.
Many good stories are told of individual encounters. A typical example was a hot duel at a group of concreted craters on the edge of Polygon Wood. The holes were full of German bombers. The Australians lay on the edge of the wood and as fast as the Germans flung their bombs the Australians hurled them back. Meanwhile other Australians crept behind the craters and rushed the enemy, netting thirty prisoners.
There were many dead among the machine guns, which the Australians turned against the enemy with excellent effect for the remainder of the day. Elsewhere on the front the captured machine guns and stores of bombs were turned against the enemy.
The Australians and others carried their own machine guns and mortars in large numbers, and a constant and unprecedented supply of small arms ammunition passed uninterruptedly to the advanced posts all day long. The Australians had a quiet night after the hard day's work.
One counter-attack at noon was easily broken by artillery fire, also a second at two o'clock. The enemy was reported at seven o'clock this morning to be massing for a fresh effort. Our guns found them and no one was able to approach the Australians.
The British victory is even greater than it appeared yesterday. Six counter-attacks were repulsed with exceedingly heavy losses. There is a notable change in the Prussian prisoners' attitude. Their officers are polite and complimentary. On said, 'it is a great day for the English. You have gained a very great victory - far greater than Messines.'”