Summing up so far:
In Australian and New Zealand war reportage during and after the First World War the word ‘plonk’ was used to describe a variety of projectiles, their sounds or their effects. Instances below from Australian and NZ newspapers show this word being used also in violent and non-violent applications outside the war environment.
‘Vin blanc’ and a number of variations including ‘Von Blink’, ‘vin blank’, ‘vim blong’, ‘plinketty-ponk’, ‘point blank’ and ‘Jim Blonk’, were used, but apparently not ‘plonk’, to describe white wine, during the war and in reminiscences afterwards.
Australians were familiar with the term ‘vin blanc’ and it was used widely. Not so much in New Zealand newspapers: from currently available OCR (high quality) in the NZ newspapers archive I can find only 3 citations of ‘vin blanc’ 1914-18.
In several situations in postwar Australian newspapers, where one might expect to see a slang term, the straightforward ‘vin blanc’ is used. Some of these appear after the documentation of ‘plonk’ for cheap wine (1927).
Anglophone soldiers appeared to not enjoy French white wine, at least in their memory:
“Sauntering over to a French canteen, we were initiated into the mysteries of “Jim Blonk” [vin blanc], and “Vin Rouge”, neither of which appealed to our English palates.” Strange, J D. The Price of Victory, 1930, quoted in Hiddemann, H. Untersuchungen zum Slang des Englischen Heeres im Weltkrieg, 1938
And see previously quoted:
Vin Blanc, the pale variety, isn’t even good to look at, and it resembles vinegar in taste, appearance and smell.
The Gungadai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser 22 Aug 1922
Does the term ‘Von Blink’ indicate any semantic link between vin blanc and the enemy? Probably not, given the existence of ‘Jim Blonk’ and others, which seem to indicate that this was more a case of playing around with the sounds, either to make a nonsensical term (‘plinketty-plonk’), or to create something more recognisable (‘point blank’) – it could be compared to the way placenames were changed (‘Ypres’ being morphed into ‘Wipers’).
So, some material:
1. Firstly, the earliest example of ‘plonk’ meaning cheap wine I have been able to find in the Australian press:
Welter of Taxation
A characteristic contribution to the debate was made by Mr Collins. He objected to the Government “plonking on” the taxation.
“Give us a definition of ‘plonk’?” asked Mr McMillan.
“Yes, I can do that.” Replied the obliging Mr Collins.
“It is a cheap wine produced in Mr Crosby’s district.” Loud laughter greeted the sally.
News (Adelaide) 8 December 1927
2. Alternative forms for ‘vin blanc’, the first three spotted and supplied by @hugovk via twitter, and my thanks to him:
Cable – “A wine ship with free samples will shortly leave France for Amrica and Australia”.
Sing hey for the good ship Claretcup,
Sing ho for the cargo carried;
Her anchor’s weighed and her peter’s up,
Too long she’s tacked and tarried.
Her bulkheads burst with bonza booze,
Van blong, van rouge and sherry,…
Sunday Times (Perth) 26 March 1922
Van blong and van rouge at a French café came along as a top-off and two hours later Ted S- and his mate got aboard the rattler for Perth, Ted having a large parcel of fish under his arm.
Sunday Times (Perth) 20 July 1924
Reminiscences of France
The Australians, partly through irony and partly for practical reasons, deformed many French terms, and substituted either an English word or syllable at the end of a phrase. Thus instead of the French “Comment allez-vous!” (How are you?) the Australian said – “Comment allez plonk?” The same thing was done by the French themselves, and the French word for German, “allemand”, was altered to “alleboche”, the final syllable of which became in time an independent and universally used word. Proper names were mutilated in the same fashion, and instead of “Marguerite” one heard “Margarine”, and “Simone” became “Cinnamon”. In Flanders people drank beer, and on the Somme white wine. This was first called “vim blong”, then “vim blank”, and afterwards “Point blank”. It would be interesting, the lecturer said, to revisit this district later and see how many of these words had remained in the dialect.
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) 16 July 1923
[Note the incidental use of ‘plonk’ in ‘digger-French’.]
But ‘vin blanc’ was also used without difficulty:
Behind the Lines
You can get French beer at 1d a glass – very second-rate stuff – while “special” at 2d a glass and “Boche” at 1 franc per bottle are better, but are all very light. Spirits are, of course, practically “taboo”, but vin rouge and vin blanc (red and white wine respectively) are popular drinks, but the quality is doubtful. Champagne may be had everywhere, and at varying prices.
Press 28 July 1917 (NZ)
3. Uses of the word ‘plonk’, to do with hitting/projectiles, from Australian and NZ newspapers. Clearly the sound is being imitated in many cases:
Hill time after time thwarted Edward’s good intentions by plonking a left to the face.
Truth (Melbourne) 25 Dec 1915
[A woman gives her husband] a resounding smack in the face . Plonk!
Pukekohe & Waiuku Times 24 December 1915
“Whizzy Plonk” – Metal from the Skies
All we have heard was “whizzy plonk” [talking about falling anti-aircraft shells]
Auckland Star 12 May 1917
I was coming up the sap one day conveying mails, when a Taube aeroplane flew high, over our heads. Of course our guns must fire on her, so we, being directly underneath, got thre full benefit of the stray bits. I was walking along with a chap and both of us were watching her as she passed when all of a sudden – bang! And almost immediately a faint pur-r-r of falling pieces. We landed together under the shelter of a bank, and ‘plonk’ came the pieces all around us.
Poverty Bay Herald 28 March 1916
[The sounds of projectiles]
Zip-zip, hissing and cracking of bullets. …. plonk – only a Hun bullet which has buried itself
Marlborough Express 21 Oct 1916
… the dull ‘plonk’ of a gun in the enemy’s lines …
Poverty Bay Herald 19 Oct 1916
[Naval guns] “plonk” two or three shells in a trench [and later] “plonk” some shrapnel above them
Evening Post 8 July 1915
At about 11 a.m. plonk came two or three shells bursting on top of me, and burying me four or five [feet] deep. …
Did I see the tanks? Of course I saw them, and they are absolutely out on their own, and very strange to watch, crawling along at four miles an hour.
Press 12 Jan 1917 (NZ)
The regular “plonk, plonk”’ of the feet of a woman swimming …
Auckland Star 15 April 1916
And the Taranaki Daily News for 1 July 1915 reported on a concert with a rendering of the song ‘Plink, Plonk’ – this was writen in 1911 by Murphy & Lipton for George Formby, its full listing being George Formby’s Famous Guitar Song ‘Plink-Plonk!’ (The Skin of a Spanish Onion).
Outside the usage of ‘vin blanc’, the word ‘blanc’ occasionally caused problems:
It looks as if the restaurant-keeper’s education was sadly neglected or else that they entertain a profound contempt for French. One well-known Bourke-Street restaurateur writes it “Balmonge,” while another, not far away, puts it down as “Blank manjy.”
Truth (Melbourne) 26 June 1915
Actually I reckon the etymology still holds good for the second case.
@Fieldmeasurer kindly contributes this excerpt from Agony’s Anguish self-published in 1931 by George Barker:
An officer emerges from a pillbox, and with a whisper tells us to make for the distant ruins of a farm. Panting with nervous fear we each make for it, and our steps are shaky as we proceed. I try to run but my limbs are like lead. Plonk za! A near shave that time. Some of us manange it, others get hit and join their unfortunate companions in death.
‘Plonk za’ seems to belong in the linguistic experiments of Futurism. Noitceable also is the phrase ‘a near shave’, not the first time this has turned up in this context.