The Plugstreet Archaeological Project
The 38th Infantry Battalion.
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The 38th Battalion, 10th Brigade, 3rd Australian Division, was raised the Epsom Racecourse at Bendigo in Victoria on the 1st of March 1916. A severe outbreak of cerebro-spinal meningitis in the camp brought early training to halt and the healthy recruits were transferred to a camp at Campbellfield and reinforced with new volunteers.
The 38th Btn departed for England from Melbourne on the 20th of June 1916 onboard the Runic. A further 7 reinforcements would follow, the last leaving Melbourne on the 22 of December 1917. Arriving in England the 38th battalion spent the next few months training and crossed to France to take up positions on the Western Front in late November 1916. In February 1917 the 38th Battalion provided 400 troops, to form a special raiding battalion, along with with 400 men from the 37th Battalion. After several weeks of specific training they staged a single raid on the night of 27th February and was then disbanded, but it would set them in good stead for the main offensive.
Their first major action was the Battle of Messines, launched on the 7th of June 1917, when the battalion attacked over ground near Ploegsteert Wood, close to the Ultimo and Factory Farm mines. The faced a 3 mile march from their camp which lead them through the wood under shelling from the enemy and a gas attack which slowed progress and claimed casualties. The battalion reached their jumping off points just in time for the start of the battle, signaled by the explosion of nineteen huge mines laid beneath a nine mile stretch of the enemy front line. The delay in the wood meant that many of the men went straight over the top, without pausing for the refreshments which had been planned.The 38th Battalion went onto the Battle of Passchendaele where they suffered 62 per cent casualties. In 1918 they saw action in the Spring Offensive when the enemy pushed through the lines.
The 38th Battalion disbanded in April 1919
Those who served with The 38th Btn
at the Battle of Messines.
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