Show cover of WW1 Digger History Podcast

WW1 Digger History Podcast

Phil Mannell presents true accounts by soldiers of the Great War (World War 1 / WWI ). This is primary history as told by the soldiers themselves, mostly Australian diggers but possibly tommies, poilus, doughboys, kiwis or others, with additional commentary and definitions.


Episode 0.0 There were skeletons of horses too
This is the introduction to my new podcast which aims to bring primary source material originally written by soldiers and other combatants in The Great War or World War One (WW1), if you prefer. These will be mostly the memoirs or diaries of Australians, at least at first, that is why it is called The WWI Digger Stories Podcast. The Australians fought in famous campaigns and battles like Gallipoli, The Somme, Ypres, Pozieres, Fromelles, Passchendaele and in the middle east at Gaza and Beersheba. They also served in less well known places like German New Guinea and at sea. Background material son the events described by the soldiers and biographical information on the individuals mentioned will be included. This is the intro redux recorded in January 2017, much improved over the early 2016. Phil Mannell
07:56 2/19/16
Episode 1.1 The Memoirs of Corporal Len Jones
This is the first episode in a series presenting the memoirs written by Warwickshire born 21 year old Leonard Jones. Len describes his early life as a merchant seaman, his voyage to Australia and his brief life in Sydney, Wondai ans Temora before enlistment. He describes basic training and signalling training at Liverpool and Broadmeadows Camps, his embarkation, stay in Egypt and his own personal landing at Gallipoli.
31:15 3/7/16
Episode 1.2 Fighting Johnny Turk
In this episode, Len Jones describes life in the trenches at Gallipoli before the withdrawal and the Battalion's time in Egypt and on the Suez Canal. Len is sniped at and nearly blown up. He also just about bayonets a Brigadier General. He finishes with the trip to France and the "mob" landing at Marseilles. He introduces many of his cobbers and gives us some fine anecdotes particularly about the adjutant "Joe" Burrett.
43:35 3/18/16
Episode 1.3 Pink Patches
"Righto Don Company, over you go". In this episode, Len takes your on a train trip through 1916 France, then into the trenches of the Western Front for the first time. We here about life in the trenches near Fromelles before the famous battle and anecdotes about the Aussie digger mates he has made. Len takes us through the rear areas of The Somme and into the jump off trench near Pozieres. He then leaves us with a cliff hanger as he rushes from the trenches.
23:08 3/30/16
Episode 1.4 Toc's Premonition Pozieres
This is it, the Battle of Pozieres. Len describes the taking of this infamous French Village between the 22nd and 27th of July 1916. Toc Oates had a premonition of death at Gallipoli. Now you can see what happens! But, Len loses several mates at Pozieres, not just "Toc". 126 men from Len's Battalion were killed, a true decimation. He also describes being blown out of a trench, digger buried men out, holding a man who died in his arms, killing a German with the butt of his rifle and another with a bayonet.  Finally, we go with Len as the Battalion is finally relieved and moves out of the line.
35:19 4/9/16
Episode 1.5 Shaking Hands With Fritz
In this episode Len takes us back to the Somme in front of Pozieres at Moquet Farm. We also meet a couple of Germans. A very amusing little Saxon bloke and a possiblr spy. Len ends up at Ypres in Belgium. My apologies about the variable sound quality in this episode. I had problems with my old laptop!
33:33 5/8/16
Episode 1.6 Rats as big as cats
Len takes us through the dismal winter of 1916-1917 at Ypres and on the Somme, in this episode which I almost called A for ANZAC. Find out why. We experience the death of the well loved Colonel Howell-Price, amongst other men. Joe Weger and his mates take prisoners in a trench raid on Hill 60 and Len describes action at Flers and sightings of some beings 'from another planet'. Meet Sergeant Yorke, Snooksie, 'Cock' and others that Len could never forget. This is the longest episode in the Len Jones series, so my apologies if it is too long for you. That is how Len wrote it.
82:16 5/31/16
Episode 1.7 Fritz saves his sausage
In this episode of Len Jones' memoirs, Len recounts the 3rd Battalion's activities in 1917. He also describes the reaction of his family and friends when he goes on 'Blighty' leave. We hear about attacks at Hermies and the Lagnicourt, the German 'retreat' to the Hindenberg line in early 1917, boils, sausage balloons and the Red Baron. This episode is shorter than the last epic so come along for the ride.  
38:41 6/9/16
Episode 1.8 Blinkin' bleedin' mad
This episode covers much of 1917 including The 2nd Battle of Bullecourt and "Passchendaele" or the 3rd Ypres offensive. Len as usual provides great insight into the life of a digger on the western front. His description of signalling during the Battles of Polygon Wood and Broodseinde Ridge are awesome. You'll never forget the "s"es beers! This episode covers Len's Chapter 8 of his memoirs and is quite long, but that is how he wrote it. Here is some of it: "In charge of a sergeant, off we went, quite a mob, for Division was also sending up a wireless set. We were loaded with scopes and lamps and we were shelled all the way. Heavy stuff. We missed a lot of congestion going across country, but the ground! It was quite spongy, for underneath were mules, horses, Fritzes and Tommies of 1914 vintage on. And the stench rising from cracked, drying ground was pretty awful. Many of the division chaps, new to this smell, were not looking too good and one chap was promptly very sick over some brand new accumulators he carried. We had some narrow escapes, for we just had to plod on heavily laden. Anyway, he was ‘sweeping’ all over the place. Looking across to that dreadful Menin Road, I saw mules, men and ammo go up with a roar. Noise everywhere and up aloft scores of planes: Fritz planes, very aggressive. In fact, he seemed definitely to be ‘on top’, new Fokkers, etc. The dog fights fascinated us but on we went."
80:07 6/29/16
Episode 1.9 The Yanks are coming
In this episode, Len takes us through the first half of 1918, at first on furlough in "Blighty" then he attends a training school when the Germans launch their final Spring Offensive.  Len provides us with more insights into life in the AIF and in wartime England. He gives his opinion on the quality of later recruits to the AIF and of the Americans he meets. It is also obvious how more mature and reserved  Len became toward the end of the war. Enjoy!
38:30 8/14/16
Episode 1.10 A cut of the cards
This final episode of Len Jones' memoirs takes us through the final battles of the Great War to the Armistice, including fierce battles through the Somme Valley.  Len then describes the very difficult trip home in early 1919 on the SS Somali, including an attempted mutiny by the soldiers at Adelaide. He takes up the story in July 1918, just before Ludendorff’s ‘Black day of the German army. Len finished the memoirs as World WarTwo started and he provides us with his thoughts on the new conflict.
53:48 8/31/16
Episode 2.1 The diary of Percy Smythe: Build up that chest
It is April 1915, you are 21 years old, you have two brothers in khaki and on their way to god knows where (Gallipoli), you have had a big problem at work and you are broke. What do you do? You join the AIF of course! This is part one of the diary of Percy Ellesmere Smythe, the third oldest of four brothers who go to war. This is the story of your experiences and those of your brothers through your eyes. Come on a journey through the Dardenelles and the western front with Percy and come home in an officer's uniform with a Military Cross. You can find out more about the Smythe brothers at the Smythe family website,    
55:33 9/15/16
Episode 2.2 Crimed for what?
In this episode Viv Smythe gets married before going to war, Percy renews old acquaintances at Taree and he gets charged with something he did not cause. We meet more diggers and learn more about camp life at Liverpool, including the infamous Colonel Kirkland.
52:12 9/22/16
Episode 2.3 Bert at ANZAC
This is an extra special episode. 15 Year old Tom Wark is guest presenter and does a fantastic job at presenting a letter written by Bert Smythe to his family where Bert recounts the landing and first few days at Gallipoli before he gets shot by a sniper. If you have any interest at all in the Gallipoli legend this is the episode to listen to. Bert gives a great account of the Turks, deaths in the First Brigade of the AIF, the work of the Third Brigade and Turkish attacks. This one is seriously not to be missed!
22:38 10/4/16
Episode 2.4 Through the heads
When I was a young man I carried a pack and waltzed me Matilda all over..... This is a tear jerker as Percy says goodbye to his family and sets sail on the SS Orsova for fate and destiny. Before he goes, his unit is set to Obelisk Bay in Sydney Harbour to fight fake Turks for the movie cameras, a clip of that movie is available at the Smythe family website if you care take a look... well worth it!
33:49 10/8/16
Episode 2.5 Baksheesh
Just a little warning. This episode includes content that could offend modern sensibilities. Some racist terms and descriptions are used. If you can handle that, Percy describes his trip to Egypt and stopovers in Melbourne, Freemantle, Aden and Suez. We finish with him spending his first night in Egypt. It is worth a listen if you don't mind the "N" word.
30:57 10/15/16
Episode 2.6 To Gallipoli
He is almost there! In this episode Percy spends time at Cairo, travels by train to Alexandria and finally by ship to Lemnos Island and Gallipoli. Percy explores the Cheops Pyramid, the Sphynx and the infamous "Wozzer" where ANZAC troops rioted twice in 1915. Percy is a good religious boy, though, and shuns the activites at the Wozzer (The Can Can is evil, my wife will like that comment) and is disgusted when he accidentally drinks a bottle of beer!
30:17 10/25/16
Episode 2.7 Dead Man's Gully and other charming places on Gallipoli
Percy is at ANZAC and settles in to the shells, flies, maggots, dead bodies, bullets, and other problems. He visits Lone Pine, Shrapnel Gully and Dead Man's Gully. He meets up with his brothers Bert and Vern. Bert is not so well and Percy starts to get sick himself. Vern has a stellar career and Percy learns of his brave actions at Lone Pine.
34:12 10/31/16
Episode 2.8 Chats Beachy Bill and other nuisances on Gallipoli
Percy describes his time at Anzac Cove dodging shells from "Beachy Bill", chats, Turkish bullets, diarrhoea and the 'flu. Did any of these horrors get him? Listen and find out! Here's a "snippet": After tea, I went for a walk up to Lone Pine. I met a couple of casualties on the way. They were 24th battalion men. A "75" had got four of them. The first one I met was wounded in several places, and the next was dead. He lay still and silent on the stretcher, and it made me feel quite "skeery" for a while.
30:22 11/9/16
Episode 2.9 Comin' thro' the rye .... at Malta!
In this episode Percy wants to die, no, really, he wants to die! He is sick, probably delirious with pneumonia, on a troop ship from Gallipoli and gets put off at Malta into a hospital for infectious cases. Find out what he gets up to, who he meets and how he gets on. You'll love Sister Suzie!
29:38 11/18/16
Episode 2.10 The Maltese Tourist
Percy does the tourist "thing" in Malta, moving from hospital to a convalescent camp. Come explore Valetta and other places around Malta. This episode was re-mastered in February 2019.
34:30 11/26/16
Episode 2.11 News of Gallipoli
Percy has almost recovered and is full of introspection, apprehension and a touch of mischief. This episode covers Christmas Dinner at St John's Hospital, New Years Eve, the death of an orange tree, or was it a peach tree? ... and the night the old cow died! My apologies to Paper Lace! Now I used some backing music,  here is a link to St Monicas Choir Facebook pageThey are a Maltese Choir and worth a listen. Okay, so hang a sock on Christmas Eve and see if Percy's Mum leaves half a crown in it!
29:37 12/9/16
Episode 2.12 A walk in the desert
Well do something Percy! He does, he goes to Egypt, meets up with his brother Vern, marches around the desert, looks at old battlefields and studies to become a non commissioned officer. This episode was re-recorded in May 2019.
31:11 12/26/16
Episode 2.13 Percy gets a stripe
Thirsty, huh, Perc? Chase after that "furphy" water wagon and watch out for the dead man's bones out in the desert. Percy does some time near the Suez Canal but when will they go to France? Oh, and yes he does get that elusive stripe.
25:21 1/10/17
Episode 2.14 A pretty face like a girl
Who does Percy think looks like a girl? Find out when he sees out his time at Suez and then travels to France, dodging submarines and circling around Malta. Yes, we finally make it to France!
31:17 1/17/17
Episode 2.15 Pity the 9th Battalion
Come with Percy into the reserve trenches at Sailly-sur-la Lys, which is near the soon to be infamous Fromelles. Listen to why Private Ogilvie nearly kills Private Williams and how does the 9th Battalion loses a lot of men without ever firing a shot! And finally Percy catches up with ..... no spoilers, but if you have followed every episode you will know who. This is the last episode recorded with my old microphone, good things to come.
41:40 1/29/17
Episode 2.16 Sniper to sniper
Well, finally Percy has us in the front line. Sniping and being sniped at, machine gun bullets over our heads in no-man's-land and heavy shelling behind the lines. Percy has no qualms about taking a dead man's water bottle or another's jack-knife. Percy is really becoming the old soldier now and .... his bad luck also holds out at the end!
40:01 2/7/17
Episode 2.17 Stripped of a stripe
In this episode, one man gets his head blown off while gas alarms brings out, "goggle faced ogres," who, "moved about in the moonlight and the shadows." Percy mellows on the puritanical side, feeling sorrow for a bloke with VD, avoids getting into a philosophical argument with chaplain and prefers to talk to a pretty blonde girl named Georgette, ooh-la-la. He visits Armentieres too! Oh and the Prime Minister visits and gives a speech .... yes, politicians were just as bad then as they are now!
40:31 2/17/17
Episode 2.18 Gas bombs and scared noobs
Stannard, Green, Hall, Wise etc etc all dead but why worry about that? Bad news from home worries Percy much more when he learns a couple girlfriends are drowned. Such is life!.... Hey, what a great title if only it hadn't been used before! Anyway, the boys get a hammering from a heavy barrage and worse than that, some are out in no-man's-land when friendly fire - if artillery can be friendly - kills a bunch of blokes. Ohh, and Nugget Byrne belts up a poor sniper he captures "Camerade, camerade!" Stiff luck old mate, he had a leave pass to go to Berlin the next day.
55:28 2/28/17
Episode 2.19 And should the Madonna fall
Jack Prior almost gets himself killed, but many others succeed without trying. The boys are moved to the Somme and the Battle of Pozieres looms large before them. What a charming place, Percy describes the dugout he and his Russian born mate, Alex Popoff, find, "There are some bodies buried just in front of our door, and having swollen, they have forced the earth up over them, and it is spongy and springy to walk on." Percy has hardened to a veteran and is disgusted with the waste of life on the 1st day of the offensive.
45:55 3/7/17

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