Friday, July 16, 2010

Moments in History: Lt F P Bethune

Special Orders to No.1 Section 13/3/18

(1) This position will be held, and the section will remain here until relieved.

(2) The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this programme.

(3) If the section cannot remain here alive, it will remain here dead, but in any case it will remain here.

(4) Should any man, through shell shock or other cause, attempt to surrender, he will remain here dead.

(5) Should all guns be blown out, the section will use Mills grenades and other novelties.

(6) Finally, the position as stated, will be held.

F.P. Bethune Lt

O/C No.1 Section

-  Orders issued by Lieutenant F.P. Bethune (1877 – 1942) to his group of seven men in No.1 section, 3rd Machine Gun Company, when sent to defend an exposed position at  Passchendaele in France in March 1918.

Bethune was a clergyman from Tasmania who had enlisted in the AIF in Hobart on the 1 July 1915. Interestingly, Bethune chose to enlist as a soldier rather than as a padre, seeing action numerous times, being wounded and also gassed twice.

After Bethune had issued  the above orders, the unit repulsed repeated attacks over an 18 day period. They were also subjected to constant artillery barrages of high explosive, shrapnel and gas shells. All survived. The orders were later circulated throughout the allied armies in France and embodied in British Army Orders until 1940. Twenty-two years later, after the fall of Dunkirk, they were reproduced as posters under the caption 'The spirit which won the last war' and displayed throughout England.

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