52. Update 3

Memorial at Bourgues. Both wars are given equal prominence on the face of the memorial but, as is the case everywhere in France, the great majority of the names of the dead come from WW1.

Click to enlarge. Memorial at Cher (Bourges), September 2015. Both wars are given equal prominence on the face of the memorial but, as is the case everywhere in France, the great majority of the names of the dead come from WW1. For a dramatic illustration of this point, click on the slide of  Estaing 1 below.


I was in France for September and the research and writing had to be put on hold. But now it is time to return to the blog.

One of the first tasks over the next few weeks will be to identify all the men from the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the first half of 1915. I will provide a detailed analysis of this group, employing the same methodology as for posts 22 and 23 when I looked at the group that enlisted prior to the end of 1914. Then, early in the new year, I will cover all those who enlisted in the second half of 1915; and I will continue to apply this six-monthly analysis through to the end of the War.

Additionally, I am going to continue the earlier theme on the more extreme forms of patriotic behaviour that started to manifest themselves in the local community from early 1915. I specifically want to look at the anti-German feelings that arose. This will complement posts 38 and 41.

It is also appropriate to analyse the first farewells for men leaving the shire. There were significant differences between the formal farewell staged in Yarram and the more social and inclusive farewells in the various townships.

Similarly, it is now relevant to look in detail at the early recruiting committee established in Yarram: its composition, agenda and success.

However, more immediately, I want to reflect a little on my month in France. The major activity was a 200K walk in a fairly isolated region in France. It was the ‘Via Podiensis’ or the first 200K of the pilgrimage route of the Camino – ‘le chemin’ in French – from Le Puy en Velay to Conques. It is a stunning walking trail through a part of France that few people see. In fact, probably the only reason any traveller would ever be there would be to walk this particular section of the centuries-old pilgrimage route of St. Jacques, or St. James, which runs all the way to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

It is very rural and the country is rich in both agriculture – the famous green lentils of Le Puy – and dairying. But like so many other rural areas it seems to have experienced significant population movement, as the youth, in particular, have moved to larger cities. It was most noticeable when walking through the small villages or hamlets that there was hardly anyone to be seen. Overall, there were similarities with Gippsland, or at least the part of the Gippsland that was covered in the former Shire of Alberton.

One similarity that struck me immediately was that even in the smallest village or hamlet there was a memorial to those who were killed in WW1. As is the case in Australia, these memorials also incorporated names from WW2 – and, additionally for the French, names from the wars in Indochina and Algeria – but by far the greatest number of names recorded the dead from WW1.  I have included a gallery of some of the memorials. Most of these towns now have only small populations. One hundred years ago there would have been more people living in them – just like the equivalent places in Gippsland – but most were only ever small towns or villages in an isolated part of France. Yet every one of them has a substantial memorial, with the names of those locals who were killed in WW1.  In both Australia and France, people from the local area, however it was defined, felt the powerful need to record the names of their dead. In France, the convention appeared to be that the dead were described as ‘children’ (enfants). Correspondingly, we often referred to our soldiers as boys, but not usually in the formal context of memorials.

The presence of all these memorials  – not just the ones I saw on the walk but also those in the larger towns and cities I visited, like Toulouse and Bordeaux – also reminded me of the incredible struggle that France faced in WW1. The nation was invaded by Germany in 1914 and the whole of the War, at least on the Western Front, involved French efforts first to withstand and then drive back the invading German army. It was a struggle on a scale never before seen. The numbers are staggering: with conscription, the French forces, including colonial troops, reached 7.5M . The generally recognised figure for combat deaths is in the order of 1.4M and the number of those wounded is commonly given as 4M. The scale of losses from key French battles is as shocking. For example, the largest war cemetery in France is at Notre Dame de Lorette (Ablain-Saint-Nazaire) near Arras. In one year, between October 1914 and October 1915, some 100,00 French troops were killed in the immediate vicinity.  Verdun is an even more sobering example. The monumental ossuary there – Douamont – contains the bones of some 130,000 men killed at Verdun between February and December 1916. Over the same period, the total number of French killed was 162,000. The German dead numbered 143,000.

What also played on my mind was the question of what the French made of WW1, in this the centenary year. Obviously, like us in Australia, they have had special commemorations. But my concern was not so much the question of the scale of the commemorations but rather their deeper meaning.

In Australia, this year’s WW1 commemorations – or, more particularly, the Gallipoli commemorations – have focused on national identity. Gallipoli, according to accepted truth, proved our national identity, defined our core values and even gave ‘birth to the young nation’. So, as a nation, our stake in WW1 has always been, and still remains, fundamentally important and very positive. At the same time, it will be interesting to see, as the next few years unfold, if our commemoration of events on the Western Front will be as significant. What happened to the AIF on the Western Front was far worse than at Gallipoli, but how will we commemorate it? And how will we remember what happened in Australia over the same period?  How, for example, will we commemorate the two conscription referenda when the nation voted against the wishes of the government-of-the-day, and when the No vote was represented as a betrayal of the soldiers at the front? Did those votes tell us anything about national character? Or will they pass unremarked? Similarly, will we pay any attention at all to the centenary of the Easter Rebellion in Ireland?

I cannot claim to know how the French interpret WW1 one hundred years on, but I can make the case that they do not have such a one-dimensional and simple take on it as we do. For example, in keeping with our historical preoccupation with WW1 as an exercise in nation building and the definition of national character, we make much of the larrikin spirit of the AIF and in particular the reluctance to submit to military discipline and respect the officer class. For the French however there was Verdun, where the slaughter was so great and so unrelenting that the Army mutinied. It is far harder to gloss that particular historical reality into any celebration of national character. Also for the French, the victory in 1918, at such dreadful cost, was followed, not much more than 20 years later, by defeat and occupation. That occupation saw resistance, but also collaboration. 200,000 people were deported from Vichy France. The difficult legacy of those times is still evident in French society and politics today. I was struck, for example, by schools that record – at the very front of the school so that every student sees it – the names of Jewish students deported to death camps. It is a legacy that also touches on questions of national character, but in ways that are more problematic and contested than our simpler, commemorative version of national history. Then there is the obvious truth that Europe 100 years on from WW1 is a very different place. For a start, Germany, even though defeated in 2 world wars and divided for 50 years has clearly emerged as the dominant political and economic powerhouse of Western Europe.

You could extend this line of thought and consider how other major powers involved in WW1 now see and commemorate it, for example, Germany and Russia.  And if I was walking in Ireland and started to muse on how WW1 and its legacy played out in that particular nation’s history I would find anger, frustration and two markedly different versions of a powerful sense of betrayal.

The walk in rural France is over and it is time now to return to the blog on the social history of the impact of WW1 on a particular community in Gippsland. But is is worth keeping in mind that the commemoration of history is never a politically neutral exercise.


For more background on French commemorations, memorials etc, see Chemins de Memoire There is a (partial) English translation.

Specific French memorials:

Notre Dame de Lorette
Douamont  (Battle of Verdun)

For a comprehensive account of the British Empire’s approach to the burial and commemoration of its war dead in France see:

Crane, D 2014, Empires of the Dead: How one man’s vision led to the creation of WW1’s war graves, William Collins, London.


51. Walter George Peel 962

Walter George Peel was born at Stratford.  He grew up in the Blackwarry district in the Shire of Alberton and attended the state school at Blackwarry. His parents – Ernest William and Maria Peel – operated a family farm in the district and before he enlisted in the AIF, Walter worked on the farm. On his enlistment papers, he gave his occupation as ‘farmer’. The family was well known in the local area. On the (National) Roll of Honour form, Blackwarry was given as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

He completed his medical and enlisted at Yarram on 27 November 1914. His age on enlistment was 19 years and 10 months and so parental permission was required. It was dated 25 November 1914: I hereby give my consent to my Son Walter Peel enlisting in the expeditionary force.

He was single and his religion was given as Church of England. He was issued with a railway warrant (64) for travel to Melbourne on 30 November and he joined the 4 Light Horse Regiment reinforcements.

Prior to leaving for overseas, he was given a community farewell at Blackwarry. On 10 March 1915 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative detailed a farewell for a young local patriot, Walter Peel which had been held at the Blackwarry hall the previous week.

A subscription list was taken round the district, and all showed their gratitude and patriotism by liberally responding to the call. The local hall, though large, was taxed for space with friends and relations, who had a merry time. Mr Cooke presided, and ably addressed the gathering in a neat speech in favour of the chocolate soldier. Mr. Peel responded thanking everyone for their kindness. He did not expect anything, but thought it everybody’s duty, who was young, able and free, to help the British Empire.

The reference in the article to ‘chocolate soldier’ is odd. Presumably, it is an idle reference to the German operetta The Chocolate Soldier (1908) which was based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man. At some point, and certainly in WW2, the term took on the uncomplimentary meaning of ‘not a real soldier’.

Trooper Peel embarked from Melbourne for overseas on 7 May 1915 and joined 4 LHR on Gallipoli on 5 August 1915. Within less than a month – 2 September – he was badly wounded at Lone Pine – Gunshot [probably shrapnel] wounds leg, eye, nose and neck. Dangerous. He was evacuated from the Peninsula but died of wounds – carotid aneurysm r. side of neck –  in hospital at Alexandria on 5 September. He was buried the next day (6/9/15) at Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, with the Rev. C.P. Triplett officiating. On the (national) Roll of Honour form, his mother gave his age at the time of his death as 20 years and 8 months.

At the time he was injured, the war diary for 4 LHR indicates that the 2 Light Horse Brigade was drawing men from each of the light horse regiments to garrison Lone Pine. It was done on a rotation basis and each group of men went in for 48 hours before being replaced. Approximately 20 men from 4LHR were on duty at Lone Pine on 2 September 1915. The diary indicates that 2 September was quiet with ‘nothing to report’. However there were 2 casualties and one of these must have been Trooper Walter Peel. He was probably hit by a Turkish ‘bomb’ or hand grenade. The detailed history of 4 LHR (Holloway 2011, p.90) notes that Trooper Walter Peel died from wounds on 5 September. He had been with the regiment less than a month when severely wounded by shrapnel in the leg, eye, nose and neck. Given that Trooper Peel joined the regiment on 5 August this account matches him being wounded on 2 September at Lone Pine. On the (National) Honour Roll the mother also recorded Lone Pine as the place where her son was ‘killled or wounded’.

A certificate of death, with the date of death as 5 September 1915, was issued by the civil authorities in Alexandria on 6 September. The official AIF report of death, with the same date of death, was not issued until 6 October, but the cable advising of the death appears to be dated 12 September 1915 and the parents appear to have been informed round 16 September. Personal effects were sent to the parents in April – Disc, Handkerchief. – and May 1916: Testament, Note-Book, Cards, H’chief.

The family placed a death notice in the local paper on 24 September 1915:

On Active Service
PEEL- On the 5th September, died of wounds, at the Dardanelles, Private Walker [sic] George, 5th Reinforcements, 4th Light Horse Regiment, dearly loved son of Maria and Ernest William Peel of Blackwarry. Aged 20 years 8 months.

You answered to your country’s call,
But the voice of the cable tells
That a dauntless boy in khakee clad
Died at the Dardanelles.

On the first anniversary of his death there were 2 in memoriams for him in the local paper. They were obviously from close personal friends, and there is again the strong sense of the young life lost.

The first was placed on 6 September 1916:

In Memoriam
On Active Service
Died of wounds at Gallipoli, 5th Sept., 1915. Private W. G. Peel
A hero he lived, a hero he died,
Though only a lad, he fought for his side:
He gave his young life for a cause that was true,
Fighting for his country – what more could he do.
A better pal never lived, not one so true and kind,
His equal in this world we very rarely find.
-Inserted by his dear friends, M.M. May, E. May, and Little Henry.

M. M. May was probably Margaret May of Mack’s Creek and E. May, Elizabeth May of Stacey’s Bridge

The second was placed on 8 September:

In Memoriam
PEEL – In fond and loving remembrance of my dear friend, Walter George Peel, who died of wounds at Gallipoli, Sept. 5th, 1915.
Dear is the grave where my friend is laid,
Sweet is the memory that will never fade;
Gone and forgotten by some you may be,
Others may have forgotten you, but never by me.
-Inserted by his loving friend. Clarice Warren, Tarwin Meadows.

Tarwin Meadows was near Inverloch.

As indicated the family was well known in the local district and the son’s name is included on both the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and War Memorial. His name is also included on the Blackwarry Kjergaard Roll of Honor 1914-1918.

Another son – Allan Peel 2440 – enlisted in July 1915. This was before his younger brother had been wounded, or even seen action. Allan Peel was 23yo and single. He had his medical in Yarram and completed his enlistment in Melbourne. He joined 23 Battalion. He was wounded – severe – on the Western Front but survived the War and returned to Australia in January 1919.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Holloway, D 2011, Endure and Fight: A detailed history of the 4th Light Horse regiment, AIF, 1914-19, The 4th Light Horse Regiment Memorial Association.

National Archives file for PEEL Walter George

Roll of Honour: Walter George Peel

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Walter George Peel

War Diary of 4 Light Horse Regiment


50. David Jeffrey WILLIS 62nd Company

David Willis’ service in the AIF lasted only 6 weeks. He enlisted at Rosedale on 14 July and died in the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne on 26 August 1915. He was a victim of the 1915 outbreak of cerebro-spinal (meningococcal) meningitis and was in the Seymour training camp when he contracted the disease.

On enlistment he gave his age as 26yo. He was married – Edith Ann Willis – with 2 children. He had been born in Alberton but he gave his address as Rosedale. His occupation was labourer and his religion was recorded as Presbyterian. He was in 62nd Company at Seymour.

He was one of 4 siblings to enlist. Two brothers had already enlisted: Sydney Walter Willis on 18 January 1915 and Albert James Willis on 22 May 1915. Both were in their early twenties and single. The third brother, Henry Victor Willis, enlisted, at Yarram, the same day – 14 July 1915 – that his older brother, David, enlisted at Rosedale. Henry Victor Willis was also single and he was 20yo. He was killed at Fromelles on 21 July 1916.  All 4 brothers gave their occupation as either ‘labourer’ or ‘farm labourer’.

The 3 single brothers all gave their mother – Mrs Janet Willis of Alberton – as their next of kin. The mother also signed the necessary permission for her underage son – Henry Victor Ellis –  to enlist, and after his death all his medals went to her. There is no reference to the father in any of the service records of the sons.

All 4 Willis brothers appear on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and the 2 who died – David and Henry – are included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Additionally, all 4 appear on the honor roll for  the state school at Alberton and the honor roll for the local Presbyterian Charge. The brothers were obviously well known in the local community.

The meningitis epidemic that hit in August 1915 was particularly virulent. While the organism responsible for meningococcal meningitis had been identified by the late 19C, there was no vaccine available at the time.  The disease was especially alarming in the community because it had such a high mortality rate, and throughout August and September the names of those who had died from the disease were routinely published in the press. Invariably, the names of those who died were soldiers in the various training camps. David Willis’ name appeared in The Age (p.8) on Friday 27 August 1915.  The headlines were: Meningitis Outbreak. Five More Deaths. Fourteen Fresh Cases.

The improved weather has not brought with it the abatement of the meningitis outbreak that was expected to accompany it. Fourteen fresh cases were yesterday admitted to metropolitan hospitals, and five deaths were reported at these institutions. Of the new cases, nine were soldiers, one was a civilian, two were women and two were children. With one exception, the deaths were all of patients who had been not more than two days in hospital.

There are now at Alfred Hospital 65 patients under treatment. Ten were admitted yesterday – four from Seymour camp, five from Broadmeadows camp, and a civilian case from Glen Huntley.

The article gave the particulars for Private Willis, one of the 5 who had died the day before: Private DAVID WILLIS, aged 28, of Rosedale. Admitted on 13th inst. from Seymour camp. Interestingly, he was the single exception to the observation in the article that victims died within one or two days of being admitted to hospital. According to the article, he lasted for 2 weeks before he died. In fact, the official death certificate noted that he had had the disease – cerebro spinal meningitis – for 3 weeks before his death.

Day after day, more cases and more deaths were reported in the metropolitan papers. Medical authorities did know that the disease was spread by human contact – coughing, sneezing etc – and they also knew that it was prevalent in crowded conditions, which was exactly the environment created in the military camps that had sprung up. In fact, there were equivalent outbreaks of the disease in military camps in many other countries at the start of the War. One strategy applied in Melbourne was to reduce the size of the largest camps – the one at Seymour seemed to have a very high incidence of the disease – and send the men to smaller metropolitan and country centres. In some cases men were sent home on leave. Potential carriers were isolated. The Alfred Hospital had to be taken over as a military hospital and there was talk of it needing to accommodate 600 men. The outbreak meant major disruption to the AIF’s training program. The focus on personal hygiene – including on behaviours such as teeth cleaning – was intensified. Doctors advocated the therapeutic benefits of eucalyptus oil.

As already demonstrated – see Post 48 on the death of Private Leslie John McLeod on the troopship HMAT Kyarra – men also came down with the disease on troop transports as they sailed to the Middle East. It was even more difficult to separate and isolate men on these ships.

Private David Willis was buried at Coburg Cemetery.

News of his death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 1 September 1915:

One of the Alberton soldiers, Private David J. Willis, fifth son of Mrs. Janet Willis, succumbed to meningitis in the Alfred Hospital on Thursday last [26 August]. He leaves a widow and two young children.

One year later an in memoriam appeared in the same paper:

On Active Service.
Willis – In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Private David Jeffrey, who passed away at the Alfred Hospital on 27th August, 1915. Age, 26 years.
– Inserted by his loving mother, sisters and brothers.

Your picture hangs upon the wall,
The dear face we love to see;
And in the hearts of those you loved
It ever dear shall be.

Silence is no certain token
That no hidden grief is there;
Sorrow that is seldom spoken
Is the hardest grief to bear.

It is not clear why the family gave the date of death as 27 August because the death certificate and all AIF correspondence has the date as 26 August 1915. Another inconsistency in the records concerns the number of his children. While the attestation papers clearly state that he was married with 2 children, pensions were allocated to his wife – Edith Ann Willis – 2 daughters – Mavis Beatrice Jean Willis and Isabel Edith Willis – and a son, David J Willis. All were from Rosedale. Presumably, one of the children was born after his death. This would mean that the wife was left with 3 young children. At this point in the War it was very unusual for a married man with children to enlist. Possibly, David Willis was desperate to join his three brothers, and he simply discounted the fact that he was married with young children.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for WILLIS, David

Roll of Honour: David Geoffrey Willis


For more information on the graves of those members of the AIF who died in the meningitis outbreak in 1915 and were buried in the Coburg Cemetery, see this following post from the blog:

Fighting the Kaiser: Coburg and the First World War

49. William Scoones DEWELL 1153

Wliiam Dewell was another English immigrant farm worker. He enlisted on 8 October 1914. He had been born in London (Hackney). He was single, described himself as ‘labourer’ and gave his age as 20 years and 10 months. He had completed some military training in England –Territorial Forces – before coming to Australia.

It is possible that his parents were both dead because he gave his next-of-kin as an aunt, Miss Jane Scoones of London. She also completed the (National) Roll of Honour form – she gave his occupation as ‘clerk’ – and all his military decorations went to her, as did his personal kit – Brass Bowl, Hair & Clothes Brushes, New Testament, Military Books, Shaving Brush, Photos, Letters. She also applied for a pension after his death but this was rejected. Unfortunately, there is no family correspondence in his service file so it is not possible to uncover his personal circumstances or the impact of his death on those back in England. Like many of the young, immigrant English farm workers, he was very definitely on his own in his newly adopted country.

He was first reported ‘missing’ on 21 August 1915 and then, after a court of enquiry held at Serapeum (Egypt) on 28 April 1916, his status was changed to ‘killed in action’. The cable to his aunt officially notifying her of his death was dated 10 May 1915.

The action in which Private Dewell lost his life was part of the last major campaign on Gallipoli. Both Australian and British units were involved. The war diary for the 14 Battalion describes how 3 lines of men from both 13 B and 14 B attempted to move on Hill 60 immediately after a heavy artillery bombardment, mid afternoon of 21 August. All the lines suffered heavy casualties from Turkish machine gun fire and the third line was not able to make any movement at all. The troops had to dig trenches and fortify their positions that night, but they were well short of their objective. The men from 14 B who were out in the advanced position under heavy fire from the Turks, were relieved by 16 B very early in the morning of 23 August. Presumably, Private Dewell was killed on 21 August but his body was not recovered when his unit withdrew. The casualties just for 14 B were given as 103.  There was a Red Cross report completed for Private Dewell. One witness – Pte A Stuckey 129, A Co., 14th Btn. – described Dewell’s fate:

Witness said Dewell was killed on Aug 21, on the left toward Suvla. Pte W. Hartigan, 1472, A Co., 14th Btn., was wounded at the same time. Hartigan told witness soon after the charge that as he was lying wounded he saw Dewell drop, shot dead near him. Dewell was running down the hill in the charge at the time. He was a young fellow of 20, with fair hair.

Hartigan’s service record indicates that he was wounded the same day – ‘abdominal wound’. He also was first listed as missing on 21 August, but at some point he must have been able to get back to the Australian lines.

Prior (2009, pp 206-207) is highly critical of these last actions of the Suvla campaign:

A common feature of these operations was their poverty of purpose. All of them were designed only to improve the local tactical situation on various parts of the line. None were attempts to seize the Anafarta Ridge and so could have made no substantial difference to the overall position of the IX Corps. What they did was add to the casualty bill.

When his aunt completed the (National) Roll of Honour form, she indicated that her nephew, William Scoones Dewell, came to Australia  as a 20yo. This suggests that he had only been in Australia for a short period – only months – before he enlisted. Obviously, his time in Australia – before enlisting, going overseas and dying on Gallipoli – was very short. In such circumstances, his chances of ever becoming a ‘local’ in some specific location were very limited. Certainly his service file gives no indication that he had an association with any location, and his aunt just listed Melbourne as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. Similarly, she merely gave the ‘Dardanelles’ as the place where he was killed.

But there is one specific piece of evidence that ties William Scoones Dewell to the Shire of Alberton. In the correspondence files of the Secretary of the Shire of Alberton – G W Black – is a letter from William S Dewell, dated 18 November. He had tried to enlist at Yarram but was told by Black to go to Melbourne.

I applied to you for enlistment but as you were not enlisting at that particular time you advised me to apply to the A.A.G. Victoria Barracks.

Presumably, after the large group of volunteers enlisted in late September 1914, there was something of a hiatus, and in this interval extra volunteers were told to report to Melbourne.

Prior to enlisting Dewell had been working at Wonyip. As indicated, he could not have been working in the district as a farm labourer for long, but he definitely was working in the Shire before he enlisted.

100 years on, it is hard to understand the motivation behind the letter. There was certainly no requirement to advise the Shire Secretary that he had enlisted. Presumably, this young man wanted someone, from the district where he had been working and living, to know, officially, that he had enlisted. Perhaps, away from his own family, he was simply after some acknowledgement: his patriotic action counted and someone needed to know.

However, as things turned out, the letter did not do much good. His name is not recorded on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll, nor the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. There was no Shire Medallion. Without the evidence of the letter, there would be no association whatsoever with the Shire.

As indicated, Private Dewell’s body was never recovered. His name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial. He passed with hardly a trace, first in Australia and then on Gallipoli.


Correspondence, Shire Secretary.
Shire of Alberton Archives, Archive One, File Number 703B, Recruiting & Enlisted Men (Box 398)

Prior, R  2009, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney

National Archives file for DEWELL William Scoones

Roll of Honour: William Scoones Dewell

First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Scoones Dewell [surname is, incorrectly, DOWELL on this record]

WW1 Red Cross files: William Scoones Dewell

War Diary of 14 Battalion

48. Alexander John McLEOD 1709 and Leslie John McLEOD 1077

Tragically, the 2 McLeod brothers died within 11 days of each other. Alexander John McLeod 1709 was killed in action at Lone Pine on 18 August 1915 and his younger brother, Leslie John McLeod died on 29 August 1915 of disease. He was on the transport ship HMAT Kyarra when he died of ‘cerebro spinal meningitis’ just before it reached Fremantle on the voyage to Egypt.

The 2 brothers were the sons of Senior Constable Alexander Mcleod who had been appointed to Yarram in September 1914. There was a brief note in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 25 September 1914 relating to his appointment.

The new “senior” made his first appearance in the court, and was greeted with words of welcome from the bench and clerk of courts. In returning thanks he expressed a determination to do his duty fearlessly, and to put down the use of obscene language in the town.

The issue of obscene language in the town will be taken up in a later post.

Obviously, Senior Constable McLeod was very well known in the local community. However, the extent to which his 2 sons were commemorated in the Shire was limited. Alexander John McLeod is not included on either the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll or the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. His younger brother, Leslie John McLeod, is included on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll but he is not noted as ‘killed’, and nor does his name appear on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Presumably there are 2 reasons for this situation. The first is that the family did not arrive in Yarram until September 1914 and it was as soon as January 1915 – just a few months later – when the older brother, Alexander, enlisted in Melbourne. It was perhaps too short a period of time for him to be regarded as ‘local’. Perhaps he never even lived in Yarram. He gave his occupation as clerk and, even though he was only 18yo at the time of enlistment, perhaps he was boarding with relatives in Melbourne and working there. However he certainly gave Yarram – his father’s address – as his address when he enlisted. Moreover the younger brother – Leslie – was definitely living in Yarram because he was given a railway warrant – number 117, dated 24 June 1915 – to travel to Melbourne to enlist. The second reason for the limited recognition of the 2 brothers was the fact that the family moved out of Yarram at the end of the War when the father was posted to Daylesford. There was no one there in the period after the War to represent the interests of the family in acknowledging their sons’ service..

Whilst the brothers might not have been well known in the Shire of Alberton, the picture below indicates that they were certainly remembered in Yarra Glen. Yarra Glen was, in fact, given by the parents on the (National) Roll of Honour form as the place with which both sons were ‘chiefly connected’. Presumably it was the place where the father had had a previous posting. The picture is of 3 stained glass windows in St Paul’s Anglican Church Yarra Glen. The windows commemorate the 2 sons – Alexander John and Leslie John – killed in WW1 and also a third son – Othel (Keith) McLeod – who was killed in WW2.

Alexander John McLeod

Alexander McLeod enlisted 5 January 1915. He was 18yo, single and, as indicated, he gave his occupation as clerk. He had spent 2 years in the senior cadets at South Melbourne. On the enlistment form his religious denomination was entered as ‘Pres’. The permission from the father for his under-age son to enlist simply stated: I hereby give my permission to my son joining the Expeditionary Force. 1/1/15

His unit – 7 Battalion reinforcements – left Melbourne 0n 13 April 1915 and he joined the battalion on Gallipoli on 26 May . At the same time, his appointment as lance corporal was cancelled and he reverted to private. There was no explanation for this reversion. His file does not indicate that it was at his request, which was a relatively common practice.

He was killed in action on 16 August and buried the same day at Beach Cemetery, Shrapnel Gully by Rev. W. E. Dexter. Walter Ernest Dexter was a Church of England chaplain in the AIF. He was from South Melbourne and was 41yo. He had served previously in South Africa.

At the time, 7 Battalion was involved in the ongoing fighting at Lone Pine . The action described in the war diary for 16 August is, by the standards of the time, rather low key.

During yesterday we sniped a good deal inflicting losses on the enemy. The enemy was evidently annoyed at out activity & replied with frequent bursts of Machine Gun fire which damaged our sand bags a good deal & about 4pm the enemy’s 75mm fired 6 rounds which however did no damage. During the night a few bombs were thrown by each side. We also secured some rifle grenades which we fired with good effect into the enemy’s trenches. Improved and deepened our trenches.

The only casualties recorded that day were: 1 killed, 2 slightly wounded. The one killed must have been Private Alexander John Mcleod.

It appears that the parents received advice about their son’s death on 11 September 1915. Even after 100 years, the following letter – dated 14 September 1915, Yarram – from the Rev George Cox, the local Church of England minister, reads as a desperate cry from the mother for it all to be wrong. It cannot be her son:

I am writing on behalf of Mrs McLeod of Yarram to ask if you think any mistake has been made in notifying her of the death of her son for the following reasons.

Notification gives death of Private A. J. McLeod, but her son left here as a corporal.

The mother always signed as “A.” McLeod, the notice came addressed Mrs “E” McLeod. [The son had in fact given his mother’s name on his enlistment papers as ‘Elizabeth McLeod’. Her full name was Elizabeth Margaret Loftus McLeod]

The lad enquired after was in 4th Reinforcements 7th Batt. 2nd. Aust. Inf. Brig.

He was a confirmed member of the Church of England, as also is his mother, yet the notification was sent to the Presbyterian minister. [as indicated, ‘Pres’ was entered as his religious denomination on the enlistment forms]

Intimation came to hand last Saturday, 11th. inst.

Thanking you in anticipation

The formal reply came on 24 September. It discounted each of the apparent anomalies, and concluded:

It is regretted that there does not appear to be any doubt about the accuracy of the report conveyed to Mrs. Mcleod.

Personal items – Testament, purse, coins 2, letters  – were returned to the family at the end of 1915. In fact, additional items were sent at the end of 1916, but the mother had what must have been the distressing task of returning them to Base Records. She wrote on the form that the items did not belong to her son, and that, instead, they needed to be sent to the family of the late James McLeod 1787 of the same Battalion.

Leslie John McLeod

The service record for the younger brother, Private Leslie John McLeod 1077, is very brief. He enlisted in Melbourne on 1 july 1915 in the 9 LHR. His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on HMAT Kyarra on 20 August, and he died at sea just before the transport reached Freemantle –  or possibly it was when the vessel was moored in Freemantle Harbour – on 29 August. He was given a military funeral and buried in the Freemantle Cemetery on 30 August. His entire service was just short of 2 months.

It appears that the family were notified of the death on 31 August. Two weeks later, the family was to learn that the other son had been killed earlier, on 16 August.

When he enlisted Leslie gave his age as 18 years and 3 months. He was single and he gave his occupation, like his brother, as clerk. His religion was recorded as Church of England. Both brothers had attended unnamed state schools.

The following article from the local paper on 1 September 1915 gives more detail on his age:

Yesterday morning Senior-Constable McLeod received a wire, per the Rev. Geo. Cox, announcing the death of his son Leslie John on the troopship off Freemantle, at the age of just 16 years. The cause was meningitis. This lad had joined in Melbourne some months ago, in his 15th year, but was persuaded by his parents to leave camp on account of his youth. He had passed the Bankers’ Institute examination, and it was hoped he would accept a position in a bank. He came to Yarram, but his heart was fixed on a soldier’s life, and having gained the consent of his parents, again enlisted. Unfortunately he never reached the fighting line. His remains were to have been buried with military honors at Freemantle yesterday.

When his mother completed the (National) Roll of Honour form, she gave his age at death as 17yo.

The news of the death of the second son was reported on 15 September:

Our readers will sympathise with Senior-Cons. and Mrs. McLeod, of Yarram, who received word last week of the death of their second son, at the front. Only recently Private Leslie John McLeod died on the troopship, when off Freemantle, of meningitis. Closely following on the sad news came the announcement of the death of Private Alexander John McLeod, who was killed in the big battle at the Dardanelles on 18th August. He was 19 years 3 months old. The Defence department wired expressing regret and sympathy of King and Queen and the Commonwealth.

As indicated, there was a third brother killed in war. Othel (Keith) McLeod (VX 122632)  was born in 1909. He died on 9 September 1943 when serving in New Guinea. A US bomber loaded with bombs crashed on take-off and he was badly injured (burns). He died from injuries 2 days later. In his peacetime work he had been a bank-teller. He was single.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Alexander John McLeod
National Archives file for McLEOD Alexander John

Roll of Honour: Alexander John McLeod

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Alexander John McLeod

War Diary of 7 Battalion

Leslie John McLeod
National Archives file for McLEOD Leslie John

Roll of Honour: Leslie John McLeod

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Leslie John McLeod


47. John Henry ADAMS 31

John Henry Adams enlisted in Queensland – Enoggera – on 3 November 1914. However, like many others, he was from Victoria. He was born at Ballarat but the family must have moved to Gippsland soon after. On the (National) Roll of Honour form, his parents noted that he had attended the state school at Longwarry South and, in fact, they gave Longwarry as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

By the time John Henry Adams enlisted, his family had shifted closer to Yarram. On his enlistment papers, he gave his address – his father’s address – as Yarram.  On the electoral roll, both parents appear. The father, also John Henry Adams, is listed as a farmer of Jack River; and the mother, Bridget Adams, appears as domestic duties of Jack River.

The family was well known in the district. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative of 6 December 1916, there was a detailed article on the farewell provided to Mr. J H Adams and his wife who were leaving the district to go and live at Warragul. Their property was referred to as ‘Calrossie’ and the whole event was organised by the locals from Calrossie, not far from Yarram and one of the early farming areas in the Shire of Alberton. Judging by the nature of the event and the presentations made – … to Mr. Adams of a gold Albert chain and locket, and to Mrs. Adams silver teapot and silver cruet – the family was well regarded in the local community. Overall, John Henry Adams came from a well-known, local family. As a young man he had helped on his father’s farm – the parents refer specifically to this work on the (National) Roll of Honour form – but then, probably aged in his late teens, he went to Queensland. Whereas other lads in the same situation did have their names included on both the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and the Shire War Memorial, his name was omitted. Most likely, this was because the family moved out of the district in late 1916.

On his enlistment papers, John Henry Adams gave his occupation as ‘stockman’. In fact, he was serving in the (Australian) Army Service Corps, Remounts Section in Queensland. He had signed on for 5 years and, at the time he enlisted, had served 4 years. He was discharged at his own request so that he could join the infantry in the AIF.

On enlistment he was 22yo, single and he gave his religion as Roman Catholic.

He left Australia 22 December 1914. In action at Gallipoli on 23 May 1915 he was wounded – bomb wound back – and then hospitalised. He was discharged from hospital on 29 July and rejoined his battalion (15 B) on 2 August. Less than one week later, he was listed as ‘missing’ on 8 August. He held the rank of corporal.

In a letter home, dated 7 June Egypt, which was published in the local paper on 23 July 1915, Corporal J. H. Adams described the action in late May 1915 that saw him wounded:

… we got into the action quite soon enough. I lasted only two days, having got a bomb in the back, and so am in the hospital at present, but hope to be out of it inside three weeks. We have had a pretty warm time of it, but I think the hottest of it is over, and personally speaking I’m not sorry. It makes one think a little when when he sees all his pals going down, but the the experience gained makes up for it in one way.

The same article also featured an extract from another of his letters dated 11 June, 4 days later:

One can thank his lucky stars he is not like a lot of the poor fellows, crippled for life. There is a lot leaving here for Australia crippled. One never knows his luck. I might be wiped out next time. It is simply hell. The trenches where I got hit are only eight to 10 yards off the Turks trenches, and they don’t forget to use the bomb either night and day. It is one continual roar, night and day, of rifle and shell fire, shrapnel falling like peas. Then a charge and a hand to hand fight with the cold steel. But that is where our boys shine; the Turks don’t like the bayonets. They call us the “White Ghurkas,” and I think the boys have earned the name.

He even finished the letter with a call for volunteers:

We want every man who is able to carry a rifle. If he hasn’t got nerve enough to face the Turks he can take up ambulance work.

Incredibly, the formal death report for Corporal Adams was not completed until 21 June 1917, nearly 2 years after his death. This followed a court of enquiry in France on 18 April 1917. On 15 January 1917, the parents had written, respectfully, to Base Records in Melbourne:

Dear sirs just to inquire if there has been anything further heard of our son Corporal J H Adams 15th Battalion who was reported missing between 7th and 8th August 1915…

In normal circumstances they would have received the standard letter stating that nothing further had been received and so the status of ‘missing’ still applied. However, in this particular instance, presumably because of the extreme length of time that had elapsed, there was a far more considered response:

19th January 1917.
With reference to your communication… on the subject of the report regarding your son, Corporal John Henry Adams, 15th Battalion, I am directed to inform you that there is no definite official report of  this soldier’s death.
Looking however:-
(1) To the length of time which has elapsed since this soldier was officially reported “Missing”, viz:- 8th August 1915;
(2)  To the fact that Corporal Adams’ name has not appeared in any list of prisoners of war received to date;
the Military Board is regretfully constrained to conclude that this soldier is dead, and that death occurred on or about the 8th August 1915.

As indicated, the official report finally came in June 1917. There was no personal kit returned to the family. Almost certainly, the parents would have concluded that their son was dead once the letters stopped, but a probable complication in this case was that because he had enlisted in Queensland, the parents might have had only limited, if any, contact with men from his unit.

The parents seemed convinced that their son had been killed at Lone Pine. They specifically identified Lone Pine on the (National) Roll of Honour form as the place of death, and a lawyer acting on their behalf referred to Corporal Adams being killed at Lone Pine. In fact, at the time of his death, Corporal Adam’s battalion – 15 B – was fighting well north of Lone Pine. As part of the 4 Brigade it was involved in the action north at Sari Bair, supposedly pushing to Hill 971. The effort was a failure, with very high casualties. Prior (2009, p. 178) sums it up:

The story of the Australian effort on 8 August is soon told. In the dark they lost their way once again and made off in the direction of Hill 60, yet further away from Hill 971. More misfortune was in store. Essad had placed two regiments in this area, one from reserve and the other from Helles. (23) The concentrated machine-gun fire from these units decimated Monash’s leading battalions (14 and 15), which were also having trouble cooperating with each other. The 14th complained that when the Turks opened fire, support from the 15th simply ‘withered away’.(24) The 15th claimed that their call for support from the 14th went unanswered.(25) In the circumstances this ill-will hardly mattered. In a matter of minutes 600 casualties had been inflicted on the units. Monash had no choice but to disregard Cox’s instruction to advance on Hill 971 and return to the start line. There would be no further action by 4 Brigade that day.

The war diary for 15 Battalion for 8 August gives the following casualties: 100 killed, 188 wounded and 102 missing. Corporal Adams was one of the ‘missing’, either dead or wounded at that point.

Corporal Adam’s name is featured on the Lone Pine Memorial.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Prior, R  2009, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney

National Archives file for ADAMS John Henry

Roll of Honour: John Henry Adams

First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Henry Adams

WW1 Red Cross files: John Henry Adams

War Diary of 15 Battalion


46. George Thomas TYLER 2194

George Thomas Tyler enlisted in Yarram on 16 April 1915. He was born in Melbourne. On his enlistment papers, he gave his occupation as ‘cream cart driver’ and, according to a rate book entry, he also had land, about 15 acres, in the Yarram area. He might have been employed by one of the local butter factories, but the land holding suggests that it is also possible that he was operating as a small, independent contractor for local dairy farms.

His parents were George and Hannah Jane Tyler. Both parents are included on the 1915 Electoral Roll (Division of Gippsland, Subdivision of Yarram, Yarram). The father is featured as ‘labourer’ and the mother’s status is given as ‘domestic duties’ . Obviously both were living in the local area in 1915. Also, when the younger brother – Henry Bernard (Bert) Tyler 663, 14 B – had enlisted earlier, in September 1914, the father’s address was given as Yarram. However, when the older brother – George Thomas Tyler – enlisted in April 1915, he gave the father’s address as Boundary Road, North Melbourne. Subsequently, there were additional changes of address, in the Melbourne metro area; but there were also references to the family continuing to live in the Yarram area.

When George Thomas Tyler enlisted he was 29 yo and single. The family was Roman Catholic. It appears that there were 2 other siblings: a younger brother and a sister.

The (National) Roll of Honour form was not completed so there are no details about schooling. At the same time, neither brother is on any honor roll for the local schools, so it appears that the family moved to the Yarram district after their schooling.

Both sons had their medicals, and enlisted, at Yarram, and were issued with railway warrants for the trip to Melbourne. On the enlistment form there was a question (#9) which asked whether the person enlisting had … ever been convicted by the Civil Power? Almost universally there was never any response, but in the case of the Tyler brothers, both recorded that they had been fined for assault/fined for fighting. The medical report for George Tyler, completed by Dr. Rutter, noted facial injuries, including injury to bridge of nose, suggesting that the assault might have been recent.

The striking feature of Private George Tyler’s service in the AIF is just how short it was. As indicated he enlisted on 16 April 1915. He embarked for service overseas on 17 June 1915. He joined his battalion at Gallipoli on 5 August and he was killed on either 8 or 9 August 1915. From enlistment to death was less than 4 months.

The war diary for the 7 Battalion makes it clear what happened to the many men killed over the 2 days of 8-9August. At 1:30 on the afternoon of 8 August, the battalion was moved, as reinforcements, to Lone Pine. Immediately they were shelled. The C.O. of the battalion – H E (Pompey) Elliott – made a point of recording that the new recruits – Tyler would have been one of them – were greatly alarmed by the shelling of 75mm high explosive rounds because they thought they were hand-grenades. He noted that they were reassured when he told them they were shells not hand-grenades. In any case, it was all somewhat academic because the account goes on to detail the bombing raids and assaults that the Turkish forces then launched against the Australians. Elliott recorded his pleas for more bombs – send more bombs running very short.  The battalion was relieved by 5 Battalion in the early afternoon of 9 August. The intensity of the fighting in that 24 hour period, spread over 2 days, is evident in the casualty figures: 28 killed, 221 wounded and 108 missing.

Private Tyler was officially one of those ‘missing’. In fact, he was not officially designated as killed in action on 8-9 /8/15 until a court of enquiry was conducted in France nearly one year later, on 5 June 1916. The Red Cross report makes it clear that his mates had no doubt that he had been killed. For example, Pte. J Clark, 2125, 7 Battalion A.I.F. recovering in hospital in Heliopolis, Cairo stated in December 1915:

Informant who was in the same Co as Tyler heard from several of his mates who were near Tyler at the time, that he had been hit in the head by a bullet and killed instantly at Lone Pine on Aug. 9.

It appears that the family only received final confirmation at the end of 1916, well over one year from the time he was reported missing. In fact, when the family wrote requesting further information in mid July 1916 – this was one month after the court of enquiry in France had determined Private Tyler had been killed in action –  the official line from Base Records in Melbourne was still that he was ‘missing’:

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter (undated), [it was received 13 July] and, in regard to No. 2194 Private G. T. Tyler,  7th Battalion, to inform you no other report than that he is missing has been received up to the present.

I might state when a soldier is reported missing and cannot be satisfactorily accounted for a Court of Enquiry is held at a later date to collect all evidence of the case and record an opinion as to whether it is reasonable to suppose he is dead. It is not known here whether such Court has yet been held in connection with Private Tyler, but it is understood that steps are being taken to finalize these unsatisfactory cases.

In situations such as this it was normal for the family to learn from others in the same unit what had really happened to their son, long before there was official word from the military authorities. Once the letters stopped coming it was natural to fear the worst. However in this particular cease there was one sad twist. The following brief entry appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 12 November 1915.

Fears that George Tyler, reported missing, had been killed in active service, were allayed yesterday by a message to his parents at Yarram. Bert [Henry Bernard Tyler, brother] wrote to say his brother George was wounded in the arm. This indicates that he is in the hospital.

There is no explanation for why the younger brother – Henry Bernard (Bert) Tyler – believed his brother was in hospital and not, at the very least, missing. Perhaps he was clinging to something he had heard from someone. Perhaps he was trying to protect his parents. Then again, it is hard to believe that someone who was there on Gallipoli at the time, having heard about Lone Pine, would have been ignorant of the most likely outcome. At the time his brother went missing at Lone Pine, Henry Bernard Tyler’s battalion (14 B)  was involved in the main attack further north for Hill 971.

At that point- early November 1915 – the parents were said to be living again in Yarram. The address appears to have been Commercial Street, Yarram. It further appears that they left this address in November the following year (1916) and moved back to Melbourne. The movement of the family is difficult to understand and track. Perhaps one parent – the mother – stayed in Yarram, while the father moved back to Melbourne, possibly for work.

Another sad twist in the story involved the return of personal items. Such kit was returned to the family but the mother posted it back noting that it was not her son’s. No other kit was ever returned.

On 23 February 1916 the following in memoriam appeared in the local paper. It is interesting that the death has been, not for the Empire, but for Australia:

Tyler – Killed at Lonesome Pine 8th or 9th Aug., Geo. T. Tyler, beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Tyler, Yarram, and brother of Mrs. Rodgers, and Bert Tyler now at the front.

Australia called to her children,
Called them in honour’s name.
Our George gave his life as an answer;
That’s how he played the game.

Private Tyler’s name appears on the Lone Pine Memorial. His name is also on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Unfortunately,  on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll the names of the 2 brothers have been confused, and it is H B Tyler, not G T Tyler, who is shown as having been killed [in action].

The brother – Henry Bernard (Bert) Tyler – survived the War and returned home in September 1919. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and was awarded the Military Medal.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for TYLER George Thomas

Roll of Honour: George Thomas Tyler

First World War Embarkation Rolls: George Thomas Tyler

WW1 Red Cross files: George Thomas Tyler

War Diary of 7 Battalion