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THE BIG FIGHT
FROM AUSTRALIA TO THE FRAY
When great historians with their learned pens shall come to set forth the complete story of the most sweeping and horrible war the world has ever known, I figure they may perhaps have need of such evidence, information and material as a man like myself can give. I mean a man who has been through the red hell of the vast conflict in places where it has flamed most fiercely, a soldier who has been eye-witness of its superb heroisms, its stupendous tragedies, scientific marvels, has undergone its tense emotional and psychological experiences, bears on his body its wounds, has seen at first hand with the amazement all civilization has felt, the cowardice, bestiality, utter moral abandonment to which a nation may fall in a mad dream of the conquest of the world.
My name is David Fallon. I am of the County Mayo, Ireland. And I'd ask your pardon for a word or two by way of boasting in stating that my ancestors for a pretty-long journey back into history, have always figured in the man-sized battles of their generations. My father, a naturalist, rushed away from gentle scientific pursuits in 1870 to bear arms for France against the Prussians. And it isn't only because I'm Irish that I fought to get into this present big fight--and I did fight to get into it--but for the pertinent and additional reason that it was in France father met Mlle. Sarah Voltaire who not very long thereafter became Mrs. Fallon.
And small wonder, with my boy's mind stirred so many an evening by the exciting stories of the Franco-Prussian battles my father and mother would tell us of in the glow of the old library fireplace, that I had no trouble electing the course of my life. I left the University of Dublin to enlist in the British army. I joined a Northumberland regiment, Nov. 19, 1904, and the military examiners were not at first quite so enthusiastic about the performance as I was for I offered them no Hercules. I was then only eighteen years old, a little under medium height and slim as a whalebone. A weighing machine as far as I was concerned escaped with the small effort of marking one hundred and ten pounds. But I was sound of eye, tooth, blood and heart and so they cordially handed me my uniform--even if they did have to trim off the sleeves of the tunic a bit.
It is only fair I should say for myself that I was a rather good boy--that the temptations besetting youths in the army have never left their marks on me. Not, believe me, that I was a sanctimonious kid--a good many miles away from that. But I was lucky in having a keen love of athletics and a pride of achievement in many branches of sport. There's nothing like such a disposition to keep a boy clean and straight. Soccer, Rugby, swimming, wrestling, running--the opportunity for such games and contests was constant in the army and made me devoted to military life.
And boxing! Good heavens, the whalings I took! But by the same token, the whalings I handed out! There is no use my telling myself that just about here I should be content to hide my light under a bushel somewhat. I'll not do it. The fact is I rose to the dizzy splendor of champion featherweight of the British Army in India.
Just a few words more in order to place myself at the time when the vast war began. I saw brief, uneventful service in China, then spent years in India, took part in many of the "hills scraps," sporadic uprisings of the mountain tribes, dangerous and exciting enough encounters we regarded them then, petty memories now; stood before Lord Minto, then Viceroy, in Calcutta, 1908, and received from him the Indian Frontier medal, was promoted to sergeant-major and with the rank of staff sergeant major was detailed to the Royal Military Academy at Dunstroon, New South Wales, as instructor in athletics, general physical exercises, deportment and bayonet drill. This was my station when Germany began its brutal attack upon its neighbors.
And let me say right here that while in any event Australia would have made a sturdy response to Britain's call, what Germany can put into its long-stemmed, china-bowled pipe and "smoke it," is that were it not for the appalling, cowardly, barbarous crimes committed against the defenseless--the women and children of Belgium, there would never have been, as there has been, such tremendous outpouring of fighting men from splendid Australia; 400,000 of them out of a population of men, women and children numbering 5,000,000! All volunteers, you understand? It is the volunteer record of the war--not forgetting Canada's mighty showing of 550,000 out of a population of 7,000,000!
It was not until Germany gave atrocious evidences of her disregard of humanity, not until its army had stalked in its giant size, a red-stained, moral idiot, through little Belgium, crucifying old men and women and children to the doors of their homes, ravishing girls and women, murdering the parents who tried to protect them; not until this enormity of degeneracy had passed into the history of mankind, did Australia take fire.
I know because at the very beginning of the war I was sent out to Sydney and Melbourne as a whip for enlistment--made scores of speeches daily in halls, parks, street corners and other public places. My hearers were many and they were earnest and thoughtful but deliberate as well. Enlistments came and numerously but not with anything approaching a rush. Your prospective soldier debated a good deal with his own personal interests, before he signed up.
But after Belgium! The crowds I addressed took the arguments for enlistment away from me--made the talk themselves, swarmed to join. Social ranks broke completely and almost instantaneously. Everybody flocked to the army--artists, actors, lawyers, merchants, clerks, larrikins, miners and the men from the vast, open places of Australia.
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