Two weathered postcards sent from northern France to West Melbourne late in 1917. Peter Delaney was a ‘fair dinkum’ – in that he enlisted despite the long casualty lists coming back from Gallipoli. The incentive of ‘getting in on the adventure coz it might be finished before Christmas’ was no longer valid. The truth was out that too many men were dying at the prerogative of these new machine guns at the rate of 100’s a minute.
So for this single 25 year old inner-city baker, joining the Australian Imperial Force was a serious leap into the unknown. Although Peter would have most likely done some military training at school, he certainly doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a six-foot tall bronzed Jackaroo from the inland wielding bayonet and bomb. However he knew horses. Perhaps in his work with O’keeffe’s Bakery in North Melbourne he made daily deliveries with a horse and cart? Either way, by the time he sailed from Australia in mid-1916 he was a ‘Driver’ with the new 3rd Division, under the command of Major General John Monash.
Peter had a brother Gabe, and two younger sisters, Alice & Vera.
Belgium Oct 9 1917
My Dear Sister Vera
Your dear letters to hand & I am so glad to know you are well as it leaves me at present. Now dear I haven’t got your doll yet but it wont be long now. I am glad you like school & learn elicoution (elocution?) Well learn all you can so you can tell me a lot when I get back home for I wont be long now. I hope you had a good time at Ida place. Well dear be a good girl to Mum Dad & Al & give them a big kiss for me. You ever loving brother Pete. Xxxxxxxxx
France Dec 12 1917
My Dear Sister Vera
Just a line hoping it finds you & all well as it leaves me just the thing how are you doing at school alright I hope Have you nicked home yet or played the wag if you do wag it don’t tell mum. Well Dear Ver before I say bye bye don’t forget to give Dear mum Al & George a kiss for me with fond love from your loving brother Pete xxxxxxxx P Delaney
There is a great sense of urgency as these men charge their wagon and team away from a possible artillery attack.
Men from all kinds of backgrounds who were capable of taking responsibility for a team like that above filled a vital role in supply. Driver Peter Delaney spent two years supplying frontline 3rd Division Units as they moved from location to location, taking part in numerous battles – Messines, Ypres, Morlancourt, Villers Bretonneux, Amiens, Hindenburg Line & the Beaurevoir Line. Except for a few days in hospital with influenza and two well-earned leave breaks in Paris and Nice, Delaney was consistently at work throughout 1917 & 1918. He returned to Australia late in 1919.
In the image above a narrow gauge railway can be seen but they were a semi-permanent fixture that could only go where the rails were laid. On the other hand a large or small horse & wagon team could go almost anywhere –
The following image is a classic that shows an artillery attack with a driver racing his team away to safety.
Finally, there is always the lighter side of the job – transporting foot weary mates to their billets? Note the insignia painted on the side of the wagon.