Feature

Coraki digger who kept the trains on their tracks under fire

SOLDIERS at Westhoek Ridge waiting for Decauville light railway to be repaired.
SOLDIERS at Westhoek Ridge waiting for Decauville light railway to be repaired.

THE more one researches the people who went to the First World War the more one learns about the history of the War itself, especially the animals and machines which were used to transport equipment and sometimes men.

Usually, of course, men had to walk. Road transport often got bogged down so horses and mules were used. Motor vehicles were new to warfare, and rather primitive tanks were not there initially. Most Generals still preferred the foot-slogger anyway!

There were railways of course but these were often blown up by shells and were difficult to repair.

However, there was one railway which had proved itself excellent for military work and that was the Decauville Light Rail or Tramway.

This was invented by Paul Decauville, a Frenchman, and consisted of ready-made sections of light, narrow gauge track fastened to steel sleepers. The track was light enough to be carried easily from place to place and could be dismantled and moved if necessary.

The Decauville Manufacturing Company also built engines and cars to run on the railway and, from 1875, it had been exporting the system to many countries.

By the end of the 1880s the French military had become interested in the system and began using it for moving artillery and ammunition during military exercises and campaigns, especially in its colonies.

However, it was in the First World War that the system was truly tested, at first by the French and British, but later also by the Germans. The tracks could also be laid through trenches and apparently thousands of miles of track were laid in this way.

Men of the Pioneer Battalions (as part of the Engineers) normally looked after the building and maintenance of these tracks and we see a little of what they had to do from one of our local soldiers who fought in the First World War.

This was Sergeant Robert Leslie Busteed, who, before enlisting, was a shop assistant at Coraki.

His mother had married again and was a Mrs E. Gully. The family apparently ran the Commercial Hotel at Coraki for some time.

Sgt Busteed had been born at Croydon in Sydney in 1891 and enlisted in 1915.

Initially he was attached to the 20th Infantry Battalion but later transferred to the 5th Pioneer Battalion. It was here that he became involved with the Decauville railway.

As a senior NCO he had to make sure that his men kept the railway repaired as it provided a vital link in communications as well as bringing in much needed supplies.

On 20 October 1917 Robert Busteed earned himself a Distinguished Service Medal as well as several mentions in despatches. Apparently he was in charge of a party repairing two breaks in the line caused by enemy shelling.

This was near Westhoek, east of Ypres, Belgium.

The party was forced to withdraw three times because of particularly severe enemy shelling but Busteed persevered and returned to the work, taking with him as few men as he could possibly use.

The line was repaired finally.

It is said that he had displayed exceptional coolness and set a splendid example to his men under the most trying conditions.

Robert Busteed returned to Australia in October 1918 and in 1920 he married Annie Johnstone Napthali. They had three children. He died in 1932 aged only 41.

Topics:  anzac-centenary history light rail



Anzac Cup kicks off the new season for soccer

READY TO GO: Greg McMahon of Tursa and Richmond Rovers coach Todd Jones with the Anzac Cup men's premier trophy this week. The competition will kick off tonight.

THE Anzac Cup soccer competition is in it's 68th year

Senator urges residents to fight for more govt jobs

Northern Star Photographer Jay Cronan flys from Lismore to Lennox, then to head south along the coast in the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter to take aerial photographs of the Northern Rivers. Richmond River, Ballina Bar Emigrant Creek Pacific High way Teven Interchange. Photo Jay Cronan / The Northern Star

Richmond electorate can lobby for relocation of Commonwealth agency

Police block business for on-line drug supplier

Drugs that were to be sold online.

Man arrested after investigations into internet drug business

Local Partners

Orientation gets an A from Sydney students

AFTER just four days of living in Lismore, mates Flynn Colby and Ryan Jones are having the time of their young lives.


Anzac Cup kicks off the new season for soccer

READY TO GO: Greg McMahon of Tursa and Richmond Rovers coach Todd Jones with the Anzac Cup men's premier trophy this week. The competition will kick off tonight.

THE Anzac Cup soccer competition is in it's 68th year

Netball champion to have breakfast in Lismore

Liz Ellis will be in Lismore for a breakfast event.

Business owners are invited tobreakfast event with Liz Ellis

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Bindi Irwin's birthday tribute to her dad

BINDI Irwin has paid tribute to her late dad, Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin, on what would have been his 55th birthday.

Reality TV show gives Maryborough a boost

*WARNING EMBARGOED until 9.15pm Monday January 30* Sean Hollands and Susan Rawlings pictured after their wedding on the TV series Married At First Sight. Supplied by Channel 9.

Maryborough looks good on reality TV show.

Buderim dad rejects gay son's emotional plea for second time

LOVERS: Grant and Chris have been together for more than three years, and Chris' parents refuse to acknowledge their son's fiance.

Son’s emotional plea rejected again by unmoved father

What's on the big screen this week

Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the movie T2: Trainspotting.

This week's new releases offer plenty of variety for movie buffs.

REVIEW: Under the Gun doco looks at right to bear arms

ARMED: A still from the 2016 documentary film Under the Gun by Stephanie Soechtig.

An in-depth look into America's gun culture.

Hodges proud to be part of first channel dedicated to NRL

Justin Hodges is gearing up for his new gig on Fox League.

Footy star hopes to provide a voice for players on new NRL channel

Selling Houses renovate for Salvos in 100th episode

Charlie Albone, Andrew Winter and Shaynna Blaze return for season 10 of Selling Houses Australia. Supplied by Foxtel.

Selling Houses launch 10th season in volatile property market

$140k damage: landlord says property trashed, contaminated

He had what he calls "the tenants from hell"

Submarine, buses and 3000 tyres removed in $100K clean up

The list of things removed from this property is beyond astonishing

Popular island resort sells to loaded international investor

OUR PICK: Chris Foey's colourful shot of one of Gladstone's great tourism hot spots, Heron Island.

International investor snaps up piece of Gladstone paradise.

Potential home buyers punished for doing the 'right thing'

Should I go to university or buy a house?

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!