Young dairyman Arthur Walsh and his mate, Allie Watterson, went to war together. Posted to the same machine gun company, the pair embarked on their adventure with almost consecutive service numbers and sailed from Melbourne on the same ship as the war entered its final year.
Arthur was 19 and an orphan when he enlisted on July 24, 1917, six weeks after Allie, a teamster who worked around Beaudesert where Arthur was employed at Nindooinbah Station.
With both his parents deceased and being under 21, Arthur needed the signed consent of his guardian, his friend, Michael O’Donohoe, of Nindooinbah Station, to enlist.
From Brisbane, Private Walsh traveled to Victoria where he joined Allie Watterson at the Machine Gun Depot at Seymour on August 27. Allie had arrived at Seymour three weeks earlier and the men continued to train at Seymour until late November.
Arthur and Allie embarked on the Indarra, which sailed from Melbourne for the Middle East on November 26.
The ship docked at Port Said on December 29 and on January 9, 1918, the friends boarded the HMT Kashgar for Taranto, Italy, as part of the journey to England.
They arrived in Taranto on January 20, but four days later Arthur was admitted to hospital with measles – the same day Allie and the other men of his company boarded a train to Cherbourg, France.
Arthur was released from hospital on February 16 and continued his journey to England, arriving at Southampton on March 4.
He marched into the 15th Training Battalion at Codford the following day, rejoining his mates who had been there for the past month.
On April 4, Arthur was taken on strength of the Machine Gun Training Depot at Grantham and continued to prepare for the Western Front.
He finally embarked for overseas service on June 4 from Folkestone, joining the 4th Machine Battalion in the field two days later. The battalion had been formed in February with the merger of the 4th, 12th, 13th and 23rd Machine Gun Companies.
As part of the 4th Division, the battalion fought at the Battle of Hamel on July 4. With victory achieved in just 93 minutes – three minutes more than estimated by its architect, General Monash – the battle was regarded as a textbook success and a turning point of the war.
A month later, on August 8, the battalion was part of another successful, all-arms effort, the Battle of Amiens, in the Somme.
Once again, infantry, artillery, aircraft and tanks were used in concert to achieve an unprecedented advance of 12 kilometres on the first day of the three-day offensive after the German front line had been over-run in three hours.
Described as the “black day of the German Army” by General Ludendorf, August 8 saw the capture of more than 29,000 enemy prisoners.
According to the 4th Machine Gun Battalion war diary, many of the German prisoners were young, being new recruits under the age of 19, and admitted to having been taken by surprise in the attack.
The last major action of the war for the 4th Division was in September when the German defences of the Hindenburg Line were finally breached. A memorial near the small town of Bellenglise marks the place where the 4th Division played its last role in the theatre of war that was the Western Front.
The war had been over for almost seven months before Arthur returned to Longbridge Deverill in England, on June 5 1919, where he continued the wait to return to Australia.
His mate Allie Watterson, who had been evacuated to England in August 1918 with a mystery fever, had been invalided back to Australia six months earlier.
Arthur returned on the HT Takada which left England on July 18. He arrived in Melbourne on September 7 and was discharged from the AIF on October 2.