We detrained at St. Roch station, Amiens, on the evening of the 7TH
October and marched 10 miles to billets in La Chaussee and Tirancourt. We had passed
through many vicissitudes since we arrived at the same station just six months before.
Then, with faces set with grim determination we had been hurried out along the road to
Albert, the last resource of the British Army. Now we returned, tired, war worn, more
veterans than ever as a victorious army, which had shown the world by its final campaign
what Australia could do when she was up against it.
At La Chaussee, the battalion could not muster more than one decent
sized company for parade and when we were again ordered to sink our identity as the 21st
Battalion and join the 24th Battalion as "C" and "D"
Companies, we could see the inevitability of the move. Our career as an independent unit
ended at 10 am on the 13th October when the C.O. officially handed us over to
Major W. H. Ellwood, M.C. of the 24th Battalion.
We continued to live together at Tirancourt Chateau, both Companies
being entirely officered from the 21st Battalion. The C.O. 24th
Battalion (Lieut.-Col. W.E. James, D.S.O.) was most considerate to us and we made friends
with the other companies very quickly. Musketry and football were the chief forms of
amusement, our "D" Company only being beaten by a strong H.Q. team for a
football cup. Number 10 Platoon of "C" Company under Lieut. B. Besemeres won in
succession the Battalion, Brigade and Divisional Championships over a 400-Yard Bullet and
Bayonet course. The billets were roomy and amid lovely surroundings, also we were issued
with mattresses for the first time on record. On the whole, it was a great spell and we
were just thinking of our move back to the line when the news of the Armistice arrived on
11th November. There was no noisy demonstration, such as took place in the
cities outside the war zone, the fact was too stunning for us to realise, surrounded as we
were with all the usual routine of war.
On the 20th November, the 24th Battalion with its
two new companies entrained at Vignacourt for Busigny in the occupied territory, but,
owing to a delayed mine blowing up the railway, detrained short of its destination. We put
in the night at a neighbouring camp and on successive days marched to Busigny, St.
Souplet, and Boulogne-sur-Helpe, when we arrived on the 24th November and
stayed for three weeks. The weather was bad and the billets were crowded but we extracted
entertainment from football and the stories of the German occupation, which we heard from
the inhabitants. While here, was formed the "1915 Company" composed of original
members of the unit who were to be sent home first.
On 17th December we marched towards our winter quarters in
Belgium, near Charleroi, staging at Solre-le-Chateau (15 miles), Solre-le-Gerv (10 miles),
Alcourt (10 miles), to Nalinnes (5 miles) where we arrived with colours flying, giving as
good an imitation of the conquering hero as we could in the rain. Our billets here were
roomy and clean. The inhabitants showed us every kindness and we enjoyed the Christmas
season in spite of the cold weather. Each Company had its own Christmas dinner and all
were voted successful. Charleroi was 11kilos away by train and leave was plentiful.
Brussels leave also became available in January 1919 and a Brigade Club was opened
in that city with the profits made by the brigade cinema, which proved a popular form of
diversion in out little community.
The first draft for Australia left on the27th December 1918 and the
remainder of the original men and nine officers left on 13th January 1919.
These were quickly followed by all those who embarked in 1915 after which the Battalion
was brigaded under Lieut.-Col. A.R.L. Wiltshire, C.M.G. D.S.O. M.C. 22nd
Battalion, first for Gourdinnes and later Marcinelles.