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6th Battalion Diary Extract, September 1917

Photograph - Private Albert Edward Kemp

Image: Photograph - Private Albert Edward Kemp

Source: Museum Victoria

Albert Edward Kemp, #6800,  died 21 September 1917 at Glencorse Wood. The following extract from the 6th Battalion diary provides a context for his death.

On 15 September 1917, the 6th Battalion headquarters received orders that included the instruction: '6th Battalion will capture and consolidate RED Line. - FITZCLARENCE FARM : GLENCORSE WOOD?The 6th Battalion will capture, mop up and consolidate ground between present line and RED Line.' The attack was to be launched on a two-Company front, with two Companies in support. (It it not clear which was Albert Kemp's Company).

On the nights of 18 and 19 September, the 6th Battalion Companies were to move up to the trenches. After midnight on the morning of 20 September the Companies were to move quietly up to the front line. Care was to be taken to prevent tools rattling or visibility on the skyline. When in position at the 'tape' lines the code word 'SEMMENS' was to be issued. Pigeons were on hand to report the failure (or otherwise) to establish positions, as telephone communication would not be available. At 3am watches were to be synchronized.

At zero hour, 5.40am on 20 September, a barrage was intended to land 150 yards ahead of the line, and the Companies would immediately move forward in two lines. The barrage, including smoke shells to screen the soldiers from the enemy, was to then project progressively further ahead of the moving troops until they reached their red line objective.

The action went, for the most part, according to plan. The 19th passed without casualties, and the tapes were in place by 10.30pm. By 1.30 am on 20th, the companies were in position in the trenches. The rain eased off to drizzle for the rest of the night. The enemy began shelling at 4am, but without causing casualties. The barrage began at zero hour. Some of the shells caused casualties as they fell short - 'which they did throughout the whole advance'. At one stage 'a few batteries' accidentally pounded the Australians for a whole hour. Some resistance was met as the advance began. Soon Fitzclarence Farm was captured, and dugouts along the edge of Glencorse Wood were attacked. The diary notes that they 'captured some prisoners and shot a number of retreating Germans'.

By midday on the 20th, the enemy began a strong counter-attack. The battle continued all day and throughout the next night, except for a lull 2.30-4.30 on the morning of 21 September. Before dawn, allied aeroplanes flew over enemy lines and fired with machine guns. From 4.30 the allied guns began another barrage, and 'the enemy replied vigorously'. One shell burst in a post of D Company, killing Lieut Birks (who was awarded a VC for his bravery in this action) and four 'other ranks'. The enemy kept shelling throughout the day 'but the casualties he caused were slight'. Shelling became heavier in the evening, but no gas was used. Shelling almost ceased after dark.

That night, 6th Battalion was relieved. Casualties in the 6th Battalion amounted to 10 officers and 247 'other ranks'. One of those 'other ranks' who did not return from the front was Albert Kemp.

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