Snowy Peak Adventures

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

A friend of BD by the name of Davo runs the FB page called Snowy Peak Adventures. He does a lot of survival training and also manufactures Ferro rods for fire lighting. Here’s some back ground on him and some info on the Ferro rods.

So it may be interesting to people who know me how I became interested in the outdoors and woodcraft, as I abhorred going out on field exercises during my military years.

Vast nothingness on display in Mt Bundy

Although some good times were had out at Mt Bundy training area and on Talisman Sabre, the thought of doing military style field exercises still make me cringe to this day. I grew up watching Les Hiddins’ Bush Tucker Man and then later on enjoyed Bear Gryll’s Man Vs Wild and after discharging from the army in April 2012 I found myself wanting to get away from the technological madness of working in an office. I began spending most of my weekends heading out into the middle of nowhere eating grubs, sleeping on the ground next to a raging fire and chopping huge pieces of wood. It almost became an obsession spending most of my spare time watching YouTube videos on survival knives, hunting, trapping, foraging, reading the SAS survival manual by Lofty Wiseman and using my military knowledge that I had gained to really challenge myself and remove myself from 21st century drama.​Some things have changed in the years since then. I no longer eat every bug I find and only eat foods that I know are safe, have taken a more realistic approach to camping and no I generally sleep in a hammock, mat and sleeping bag instead of the on the ground. I follow a more holistic approach now, which can be described as bushcraft, which was popularised by Les Hiddins and Ray Mears. I’m also a bit of a knife nut and have accumulated more than 50 knives over the last few years, selling those that I don’t use and forever on the hunt for the perfect knife, a quest that is never complete. I’ve modified my gear list over the years from Spartan, to light loads, to heavy load outs and back again to a minimalist approach to gear list. I rely on the bare essentials without sacrificing comfort and I’m always learning new techniques and skills. It is my hope to perhaps create a survival school in Tasmania one day in the future.

​I’m currently living in the Huon Valley with my wife and two daughters, the eldest being 7 and youngest 2. We have a property overlooking rural houses, fields of blackberries and cows and only just recently had our road sealed. The great thing about Tassie is that we haven’t been hit too badly by price rises so most houses down this way are reasonable affordable and still have decent sized backyards for kids to play in.

For the last few years I’ve been working with different types of woods to create ferrocerium rods, knife handles, wooden spoons, pendants and restoring items like chopping boards and old knives etc. These are just some of the tools and items I’ve been producing as a direct result of realising that you can not only have something that is functional, but that they can be beautiful as well. The ferrocerium rods seen in the pictures are made using Tassie timber and antler. The antler handle is from Fallow Dear and the other is one of my favourites, Huon Pine. The Ferro rod is a frequently used tool in the outdoor community, especially those who are into bushcraft and survival. The Ferro rod (also referred to as a flint and steel, which is technically incorrect) is a modern replacement for traditional matches and lighters, as the average sized Ferro rod can theoretically light 8000 fires and are less affected by the elements.

Time to spark up 

USE: The Ferro rod needs to be struck with a sharp piece of metal or stone at about a 45 degree angle to create a spark, using a slow downward drawing motion. It can be used to light gas bottles, cotton balls, twine and natural tinder’s including back and leaves.
I recommend watching some videos by Mike McQuilton from MCQBushcraft on YouTube as he has some really informative videos on correct fire steel technique using both strikers, knife spines (not knife edge) and utilising different tinder’s. In terms of maintenance, there is very little to worry about. I would recommend limiting Ferro rod contact with water as they do corrode if left in moisture rich environments over time.

Happy fire making!


Please check out Snowy Peak adventures at FaceBook






Feature image: viewed 04APR18 1857

tank image: viewed 03APR18,1505,

All other images: ©BelligerentDigger 2018

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Defending Amiens: The Australian Imperial Force during the German Spring Offensive, March-April 1918.

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Part 3:

The fighting at Villers–Bretonneux had been a near run thing, but it was not the only crisis developing in the approaches to Amiens. No sooner had the rattle of rifle fire began echoing in the woods around Villers–Bretonneux, two and a half German divisions hit the 12th and 13th Brigades holding the railway embankment outside Dernancourt in what was probably the heaviest attack experienced by the AIF on the Western Front. Utilising the cover of a thick mist that had settled in the flats before dawn, German storm troops silently probed the Australian positions between the two brigades and succeeded in infiltrating the thin defensive screen set up along the railway embankment. They made their way towards a chalk quarry further up the hill, where the gunners of the 21st Machine–Gun Company were positioned to deal with any further German attacks developing in the area, but had received orders not to have their guns set up for fear of being observed and subject to bombardment. The gunners were captured without firing a shot: ‘The Germans had surrounded the chalk pit and had full command of the only entrance to it. We surrendered, there was no alternative. The Germans motioned us to move out of the pit, and on towards Dernancourt’.

With the key to the Australian defenced disabled, German troops assaulted the railway embankment and overran parts of the 12th Brigade’s positions, killing and capturing the defenders and causing troops on their flanks to withdraw to the main line of Australian defence further up the hillside. Striking for the Albert–Amiens Road, they came under sustained rifle and machine–gun fire from 45th Battalion occupying the main line of defence several hundred metres behind the railway embankment, and later that day, carried out a successful counter–attack that prevented the Germans from reaching the road. His position having been spared the brunt of the German assault, Sergeant Stan McDougall gave almost a repeat performance of his Victoria Cross action just days earlier by snatching up a Lewis gun, racing to an exposed position and pouring fire on assaulting German units as they spilled over the embankment. When a bullet pierced the gun’s cooling jacket, McDougall crawled 180m under intense fire to retrieve another gun which he got into action, then later led his platoon in a counter–attack where they helped to stop the Germans from advancing up the hill. For this latter action, McDougall was awarded the Military Medal (originally being recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal). An excerpt from his citation described him as ‘absolutely fearless’ and ‘his contempt of danger … amazing’.

Detail of the Lewis gun team depicted in the Dernancourt diorama, on display in the Australian War Memorial.

The attacks of 4–5 April marked the end of Operation Michael and concerted German efforts to capture Amiens. While German troops captured important ground that threatened the stability of the allied front, their attacks had been had been costly in men and materiel amid stiffening resistance from British and French formations. For the Australians, the 2nd and 5th Divisions still in the north were brought down to bolster British defences between Albert and the Lucre River. Between 5–7 April, as the line began to settle, Australia troops of the 5th and 6 thBrigades clashed with German troops over the possession of Monument, Lancer and Hangard Wood south of Villers–Bretonneux.

With Amiens now a forlorn hope, senior German commanders were able to keep momentum going by launching Operation Georgette further north against the British positions along the River Lys in Flanders on 9 April, seeking to capture the important railway junction at Hazebrouck. With the main assault hitting the poorly trained 2nd Portuguese Division around Neuve Chapelle, the line collapsed, causing German troops to spill through to the already–shattered British 40th Division and beyond.

Armentières, Fleurbaix and the positions the Australians had recently occupied at Messines were abandoned, bringing the Germans to within striking distance of Hazebrouck. No sooner had the 1st Australian Division arrived in Amiens to join the Australian Corps on the Somme, it was ordered to return to the north, taking up positions outside Strazeele where 1 and 2 Brigades repulsed wave after wave of German infantry throughout 13–14 April. According to one man of 3rd Battalion, it was like ‘firing into a haystack – one could not miss’. In the end, French troops arrived to bolster the allied defences, and after further attempts to try and penetrate further to the north at Kemmel, German forces were unable to exploit their breakthrough any further. Like Michael, Georgette had also failed.

Over the following weeks, the Australian divisions bolstered their defences in their respective sectors to thwart any further German progress. The 5th Australian Division was moved south of the Somme River, with the 15th Brigade at Blangy–Tronville to the west of Villers–Bretonneux and the 14th Brigade occupying positions on the ever–important Hill 104. Villers–Bretonneux was occupied by British troops of the 8th Division, which had suffered exceptionally heavy casualties during the fighting in March and had been replenished with recruits who had been rushed across the English Channel having received little to no real training. While the Germans lacked the manpower and resources to make one final thrust on Amiens, they attacked Villers–Bretonneux and the important high ground that led to the heights of Hill 104. With the town now reduced to rubble, it was deluged with gas and high explosive before Germans troops assaulted Villers–Bretonneux through a dense fog on the morning of 24 April. Their attack was spearheaded by thirteen A7V tanks, which clashed with British tanks on the outskirts of town and caused the young and inexperienced soldiers of the 8th Division to break. By mid–morning, the Germans held the southern end of Hill 104 and Villers–Bretonneux, and to the south, both Monument Farm and Hangard Wood.

The 5th Australian Division carried out a counter–attack the following day in what ultimately became a defining moment in the AIF’s battle experience on the Western Front. By the time the Australians arrived, however, British troops had borne the brunt of the German attack and the German units in and around Villers–Bretonneux were exhausted from the previous days’ fighting. In the early hours of 24–25 April 1918, on what was the third anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, the 13th and 15th Brigades advanced on Villers–Bretonneux in a pincer–like manoeuvre and assaulted the German positions with bayonets under the cover of a dense pre–dawn fog. Private Walter Downing of 57th Battalion described how ‘German flares of all kinds shot into the air’: 

 ‘A snarl came from the throat of the mob, the fierce, low growl of tigers scenting blood. There was a howling as of demons as the 57th, fighting mad, drove through the wire… The wild cry rose to a voluminous, vengeful roar that was heard by the 13th Brigade on the far right of Villers–Bretonneux… They killed and killed. Bayonets passed with ease through grey–clad bodies, and were withdrawn with a sucking noise. The dozen English we had with us, mere boys, and without arms till they could find a rifle, were fighting with fists and boots, happy so long as they knew where to find the Australian put in charge of them.’


(Try and observe the bayonet technique in the lower-left of the painting. Technique training may vary at Kapooka these days, but the 13th Brigade was particularly adept at the 'throat jab' back then.)

By dawn, the two Australian brigades had linked up on the western edge of Villers–Bretonneux. Monument Wood remained in German hands, but the town had been saved a second time, and with that, Amiens was no longer under threat.

The AIF lost heavily in the battles of March and April 1918, suffering over 18,400 battle casualties, which included 3,500 dead across five already depleted infantry divisions. Amiens had been saved and the Germans were prevented from achieving any further breakthrough in the north of France, but the Australian Corps lacked manpower and was forced to disband battalions within three brigades to bring others up to fighting strength. While these losses had significant consequences for the Australians and their ability to withstand further losses in 1918, they had not been as severe as those within British formations that had borne the brunt of the German offensive. The British had suffered a staggering 255,000 casualties during Operation Michael and a further 82,000 during Georgette, with the certainty of much harder fighting in the months to come.

The series of actions fought by the AIF in France throughout March and April 1918 are little known in Australia today, perhaps a reflection of the disparate series of battalion and brigade actions they fought in support of British formations across a relatively wide front. Costly though these actions were, they helped blunt any further German attempt to achieve a decisive breakthrough. With their backs against the wall, Australian troops had contributed to the defence of Amiens, which in turn, allowed the British Army to prepare for its own counter–offensive less than four months later and the victory it achieved towards the close of the year.

Dr Aaron Pegram is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial.





Featured image: German prisoners arriving at a temporary POW camp near Amiens, viewed @ 1229, 16/03/18,, sourced:

First insert image: Detail of the Lewis gun team depicted in the Dernancourt diorama, on display in the Australian War Memorial, ART41021 ©AWM2018

Second insert image: William Longstaff's painting, Night Attack by 13th Brigade at Villers-Bretonneux, ©Australian War Memorial, ART03028


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Defending Amiens: The Australian Imperial Force during the German Spring Offensive, March-April 1918.

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Part 2:

Having arrived on the Western Front in late 1916, the troops of the 3rd Division under Major General John Monash had never been to the Somme. They were bitterly disappointed to receive orders on 25 March to move to Ypres where it was initially planned for them to be held in reserve, but at the last hour the division was ordered to move south by rail to Doullens. They arrived to secure the town while a particularly tense conference between British and French High Command took place over plans to stem the German breakthrough. No sooner had the conference ended, a crisis developed on the VII Corps front immediately south of Albert. Unexpected troop movements attributed to the misinterpretation of orders left a 16km stretch of ground in the bare, high triangle defined by the rivers Somme and Ancre undefended beyond a scratch force holding the old Amiens defence Line. Monash’s troops were immediately sent to plug the gap, finding themselves the only traffic moving forward towards the Germans. French civilians and British soldiers streamed past in the opposite direction. Time and again they were told by passers–by that they had no chance of stopping the advancing German Army. By mid–morning on 27 March, the 3rd Division’s 11th Brigade relieved the few exhausted British troops on the northern banks of the Somme, while the 12th and 13th Brigades from the 4th Australian Division took over from the exhausted Scots of the British 9th Division at Dernancourt on the River Ancre.

The two Australian divisions clashed with German troops in the following days with mixed success. At noon on 28 March, Monash’s troops, in the triangle between the two rivers, carried out an assault towards Morlancourt village that sought to add depth to the existing British defences and shore up positions from which a further attack could be launched. Drawing on battalions from two brigades, the plan ultimately lacked cohesion and adequate artillery support. 40th Battalion on the left conducted a formal assault while 42nd and 43rd Battalions on the right sought to bite off ground through aggressive patrolling. The latter attack started late, leaving the 40th in the drizzling rain without flanking support when it bumped into two advancing German regiments. On the right, 44thBattalion received instructions to slip off the heights to capture Sailly–Laurette on the northern banks of the Somme, where it was hit by German troops about 270m short of its objective. Within hours, the 3rd Australian Division had lost around 300 men for a relatively modest gain.

The two brigades of the 4th Division near Dernancourt had more success, albeit under a very different set of circumstances. Set up along the railway embankment, 47th and 48th Battalions poured devastating fire on German troops who succeeded in infiltrating parts of the Australian positions and threatened to roll up their flanks in the early hours of 28 March. Stan McDougall single–handedly broke up an enemy probe that advanced over a railway crossing, but the main German attack hit the 47th Battalion further north along the line.

Captain George Mitchell of 48th Battalion formed part of the Australian defences immediately south of Albert, and described ‘lines of grey–clad men doubled out of the sunken roads towards us. Waist–high over the bank we met them with rapid fire’:

 ‘Our Lewis gunners, disdaining the frontal attack, hammered with staccato bursts to the right, where black masses moved to the 47th. Weaker and weaker became the advancing lines before our flailing fire, till at eighty yards all movements ceased. Our Lewis guns still chopped away at the right, where the main attack was. I was blazing away with a rifle, having a lovely time, sending a swear word with each bullet.’

 Advancing German troops had penetrated 60km into British territory and were almost within striking distance of Amiens. Even though the outer suburbs of the city were on fire from long–range shelling by German rail guns, by 28 March, it was clear the German drive towards Amiens was beginning to lose momentum. Germany’s rapid advance across the devastated Somme battlefields strained logistical infrastructure, with bottlenecks caused by a shortage of horses and lack of motorised transport making it difficult to bring up stores and supplies. Casualties among German units were exceptionally heavy, especially among the skilled and experienced junior officers and NCOs who led the offensive from the front. The long–term effects of the war were also playing on the advancing German infantry who plundered British and French supply depots after years of material shortages, wartime rationing and ersatz foodstuffs. German attacks were beginning to wane, being nowhere near as formidable or successful as they had been over the previous days. On 30 March, for example, men of the 11th Brigade on Morlancourt Ridge broke up a concerted German attempt to penetrate the British line near Sailly–Laurette.

Exhausted, German troops were able to muster one final drive towards Amiens, with fifteen divisions assaulting the British north of Albert and towards the Avre River on 4 April. Senior German commanders made the decision to strike at the outermost defences of Amiens that centred on the town of Villers–Bretonneux. From Hill 104, just north of Villers–Bretonneux, German artillery had a direct line of sight on Amiens and could shell it with long–range guns, hampering the vital railway hub that played such a prominent role in British and French operations in northern France. Days earlier, Australian troops of the 9 Brigade (3rd Division) had been sent to bolster the British 61st Division positions east of Villers–Bretonneux, falling in between the 14th Division to the north and the 18th to the south.

On 30 March, the 9th Brigade carried out a successful but costly bayonet assault against German troops who had gained ground near Hangard Wood, and on 4 April, were in the thick of the fighting when two divisions of German infantry hit the 35th Battalion’s positions after deluging Villers–Bretonneux with gas and high–explosive:

‘From the thick mist masses of German infantry appeared. We were ready for them and every rifle, Lewis gun and machine gun came into action instantly. We had no wire or defences but the German troops sagged and withered under our fire… All was going well when the troops on our left started to retreat and went back at the run, abandoning everything.’

 Faced with overwhelming odds, British troops of the 41st Brigade melted under the German fire, creating a gap in the line that stretched to the village of le Hamel and the River Somme. With their left flank fully exposed, the men of 35th Battalion were forced to withdraw to a support line occupied by 33rd Battalion on the outskirts of Villers–Bretonneux; there they held ground against repeated German attacks until the gap was filled with British cavalry. Australian field guns on Morlancourt ridge on the northern banks of the Somme then poured devastating enfilading fire on all remaining German attempts to spill through and advance towards Villers–Bretonneux.

Dr Aaron Pegram is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial.


General Sir John monash, image, seen 2208 12/03/18

Gas attack.jpg: German storm troops with a messenger dog during a gas attack on British positions near St Quentin, France, c. March 1918. Image courtesy of Brett Butterworth.

Australian lewis gunner, seen 2225, 12/03/18.



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Defending Amiens: The Australian Imperial Force during the German Spring Offensive, March-April 1918.

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

Part 1

Sergeant Stan McDougall of the 47th Battalion single–handedly broke up a German attack near Dernancourt in northern France before dawn on 28 March 1918. The exhausted battalions of the Australian 12th Brigade were stretched out along a railway embankment outside Dernancourt village where they and elements from the British 35th Division formed a thin defensive screen that sought to blunt German forces advancing on the northern city of Amiens.

McDougall had allowed his men to stand down when he heard German troops moving around in the dark, forming up to attack. Running along the top of the embankment, he saw a party of enemy in the misty half–light, advancing towards his portion of the line. McDougall roused a nearby Lewis gun team, but they were killed in the opening volley of fire before they had a chance to get their gun into action. Snatching up their gun, McDougall began firing from the hip as German troops spilled over the embankment. After a dozen or so sustained bursts, the gun’s cooling jacket began to sear itself into McDougall’s hand, but he managed to keep it in action until its ammunition eventually ran out – he then collected a rifle and put a bayonet through a German officer levelling his automatic pistol at two Australian soldiers. In the end, concerted and vigorous fire from the 47th Battalion’s positions caused the assaulting German infantry to waver in confusion and their attack to fail. For his actions that morning, Stan McDougall was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The fighting at Dernancourt saw some of the most intense infantry combat involving the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the German spring offensive of 1918. One hundred years on, it is worth considering the actions fought by the Australians during this critical phase in the First World War that culminated in an Allied victory just several months later.

Gas attack: German storm troops with a messenger dog during a gas attack on British positions near St Quentin, France, March 1918.

Following Russia’s withdrawal from the war in the spring of 1918, the German Army transferred more than a million troops to the fighting on the Western Front, and on 21 March, launched a major offensive in the St Quentin sector, south of Arras, that succeeded in ending over three years of trench warfare. Known to the Germans as Operation Michael, this offensive was one of four that materialised in the west in 1918. Michael took place on the old Somme battlefields; Georgette on the Lys and at Ypres; Blücher– Yorck against the French in the Champagne region, with Gneisenau an extension of the latter offensive, seeking to draw in allied reserves and link up with the German troops on the outskirts of Amiens. Michael was considered the main thrust of the overall offensive, and sought to capture the vital supply and logistical hub of Amiens which would effectively sever all links between the British and French armies along the Somme River and allow the Germans to advance to and capture the channel ports.

Following a five–hour hurricane bombardment firing over a million shells across a 100km front, elite Stormtrooper units trained to infiltrate and bypass the allied defences, succeeded in penetrating the allied front line, ending over three years of trench warfare on the Western Front. The British Third Army in the Arras sector and Fifth Army on the old Somme battlefields were caught by surprise; they became divided and were forced to withdraw, allowing German troops to advance on Amiens. In five days Germans succeeded in recapturing all the ground lost during the battle of the Somme in 1916. Towns and villages where Australians had fought and died throughout the bitter campaigns of 1916 and 1917 were now well behind German lines, including Bullecourt, Bapaume and Pozières.

The British suffered exceptionally heavy casualties in the opening onslaught and the withdrawal that followed, but the AIF was fortunate in that it was spared much of the fighting during this period. The only AIF units then engaged were the airmen of the Australian Flying Corps whose SE5as and Sopwith Camels bombed and strafed the advancing German columns from sunrise to sunset. Captain Arthur Cobby of No. 4 Squadron AFC described the skies around St Quentin being ‘full of aircraft, and continuously while shooting up the troops on the ground we would be attacked by enemy scouts … The smoke of battle mixed with the clouds and mist above rendered flying particularly dangerous’. The infantry were still in Belgium where they had spent the previous winter months recovering from the 77,000 casualties incurred the previous year in bitter fighting at Bullecourt, Messines and in the Third Battle of Ypres. Although this had been a time of relative quiet, the AIF was still badly understrength and reeling from its shocking losses in the fighting at Ypres. The situation was exacerbated by voluntary recruiting being at an all–time low, conscription being twice rejected in bitterly–contested referendums, and the usual winter wastage through illness. All told, the AIF began the final year of the war short by about 18,000 men.

Command of the five Australian divisions had been centralised when the Australian Corps was formed in November 1917 (under British commander, Lieutenant General Sir William Birdwood). But such was the seriousness of the situation developing in France that the Australians were sent south to defend Amiens as separate divisions, brigades and battalions attached to a variety of British formations.

What the AIF lacked in numbers it made up in confidence, with the men of the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions said to have been beginning to ‘strain on the leash’ upon hearing the news of the fighting in the south. The 4th Australian Division was rushed by bus to Hermaville, northwest of Arras, with its 4th Brigade sent to relieve the shattered remnants of the British 19th Division defending the village of Hébuterne, where a gap had opened on the Third Army front. The 4th Brigade was attached to the British 62nd Division, and on 27 March, repelled multiple attacks in the form of German field guns blazing away in the open and infantry advancing in waves in short rushes through long grass where they fell prey to a few British guns. For the men of the 13th Battalion, holding the line at Hébuterne was ‘purely bayonet work’. ‘The holding of it for the first few strenuous days was as purely rifle work, for not only had we no artillery, but our ammunition supplies were so short that we could not afford to use machine–guns freely; and our bomb supply was soon exhausted’. Fortunately, no further German attempts were made at Hébuterne, nor were they successful in exploiting the gap. Such was their success that the British commander of IV Corps was unwilling to entrust the defence of Hébuterne to anyone other than the 4th Brigade.


About the Author: Dr Aaron Pegram is a historian in the Military History Section at the Australian War Memorial.



Featured image; Gas attack.jpg: c. March 1918. Image courtesy of Brett Butterworth.

inset; Studio portrait of Sergeant (Sgt) Stanley Robert McDougall VC MM, 47th Battalion. Sgt McDougall, viewed 2140, 05/03/18 copyright public domain.


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Queensland retailer for Belligerent Digger

Posted by Belligerent Digger on

As part of our plan to expand in 2018, we are happy to announce that we have a retail stockist for our PT shorts in QLD. Maxforce tactical has decided to stock a range of sizes in the PT shorts, so if you are posted in the area and want to check out our shorts in the flesh, then head over to their retail shop to try some on.


The PT shorts are better value than our retail price on the website and not having to pay postage means that Maxforce is the place to go. Maxforce tactical is a veteran owned business and provides defence members with a great range of kit. Their website is

 If you want to stop by, they’re located at 17/254 South Pine Rd, Enoggera, 4051, Queensland right near Enoggera Barracks.

-BD Actual





Maxforce. (2017). website. Available: Last accessed 26th Jan 2018.

All images © Maxforce tactical 2018


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