35. Image problems for the AIF before Gallipoli

Typical souvenir sent home from Egypt, 1916.

Typical souvenir sent home from Egypt, 1916.

Prior to 25 April 1915, the AIF was an army in search of an image. The basics of the image were there from the start and the AIF was created to be a national (Australian) army within the greater (British) Imperial army. The name – Australian Imperial Force – succinctly defined the basic building blocks for the image.

All the volunteers for the AIF enlisted as British subjects. Many of its early officers were British. Organisation, training, equipment, weaponry  – all matched the British standard. All essential components were designed so that the AIF could function effectively as a module of the British Army.  In its infancy, the AIF was not capable of acting as an independent military force and relied, for example, on British intelligence and artillery.

At the same time, the AIF was a national army. It was the first, genuinely national military force that the new Commonwealth of Australia had created. While it was created to demonstrate Australia’s total commitment to Britain and the Empire, it still had to reflect a distinctively Australian character. The 20,000 men who landed in Egypt from late 1914 represented the first, large-scale collection of Australian soldiery on the world stage, and it was inevitable that those back home, the soldiers in Egypt, and the rest of the world would try to define this new army in ways that made it unique. The quest was on to define its distinctive national character and explain how it differed from the British Army, and also other Dominion forces, particularly the Canadians and New Zealanders.

The struggle to define the essential character of the AIF began as soon as it was formed and continued throughout the War and in the years after the War. Indeed, it is still a concern today, principally because it has always been argued that the character of the AIF goes to the core of what defines Australia as a nation.

One of the most important commentators on the early AIF was the official war correspondent Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean.  Bean’s own life matched in many way the pursuit of the distinctly Australian (male) character. Born in Australia, Bean was an avowed Imperialist and spent many years at school and university (Oxford) in England; but, once back home in Australia, he became committed to identifying the distinctly Australian national type, and like so many others he was drawn to the itinerant, rural worker.

Bean started his war reporting with a distinctive Australian type in mind. You can see this in some of his earliest reports from Egypt. The following passage is taken from copy he wrote on 22 December 1914. It was published in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 3 February 1915. Immediately prior to this section of the article, Bean had explained how the Australians, because of their higher pay, were being feted all over Cairo, even in the most exclusive hotels. However, it was not just the pay, because Bean also intimated that the Australian, even at the rank of private, had a natural presence and authority to him that promoted respect:

It is a study to see the Australian from beyond the wheat belt with his weather beaten brown wrinkled old face and his rather ill fitting khaki suit sitting at a table in a big grill room amidst over-gorgeous columns and salmon coloured upholstery, surrounded by wealthy Turkish merchants, Italian students, French and Syrian clerks and smartly dressed women, and drinking his coffee or whisky with his mate and waited on by a tall Berber blackfellow in enormous red Turkish pantaloons and wreathed with twice as much gold lace as a field marshall.

Bean captures what he sees as the essential image: the tough, hardened, no-pretence Australian soldier and his mate might appear out-of-place but, in fact, the whole scene revolves round them. However it is all rather simplistic, and for all his efforts to make the connection between the rural working class and the newly formed AIF, Bean must have appreciated that the lifestyle of the rural, working-class male was not ideally matched to the world of military discipline.

In fact, all was not well in Egypt at that time with the AIF.  The Australians were forging a reputation for drunkenness, debauchery and hooliganism and their lack of regard for military discipline was an ongoing concern for their commanders.  For a more detailed account of Australian ‘high jinks’ at the time see Stanley (2010) and in particular his account of the ‘Battle of Wazza’ on Good Friday , 2 April 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops attacked the brothel district of Cairo.

Australian behaviour in Egypt did not reflect well on either the AIF or Australia. Bean was even asked to write a sort of ‘how to behave in Egypt’ for the newly arrived AIF troops – What To Know In Egypt. It masqueraded as part tourist brochure, part good-health guide and part handbook on understanding-the-local-culture, but it was intended principally to curb the sort of behaviour that was creating a negative image for the AIF. The section on VD was clearly intended to keep the men out of the brothels:

Lastly, Cairo has itself a name in the world as a hotbed of both gonorrhea and syphilis. There is a reason for this. Egypt is not a country under the full control of its government. The Egyptian officials even though they had able British administrators to help them have possessed little control over the foreigners who live here. Egypt has been one of those countries which European nations have only admitted to their circle as probationers, as it were.  …The consequence is that although Cairo has long been a resort of foreign women riddled with diseases it has been almost impossible to check this disease. Egypt has been an ancient home of syphilis – it was certainly here in Roman times; and there is found in the skull bones of mummies a disease which is almost certainly syphilis. Modern Cairo with its mixture of women from all nations, East and West has long been noted for particularly virulent forms of disease. Almost every village contains syphilis. And if a man will not steer altogether clear of the risk by exercising a little restraint, his only sane course is to provide himself with certain prophylactics beforehand to lessen the chance of disastrous results.

However, stronger action was required and Bean was then pressured to write a newspaper piece that left the reader back home in no doubt that there was a problem with the AIF’s image in Egypt. It was written at the very end of December 1914 and it appeared in Australian newspapers about 3 weeks later. Locally, it appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 22 January 1915. Bean emphasised that he was only describing the actions of relatively few men, and he was keen to talk up the great potential of the AIF, but it was a most uncomplimentary picture. It appeared under the headline: Our Soldiers in Egypt.  High Jinks At Cairo.   “Do All Australians Drink So Much.”

There is only a small percentage – possibly one or two per cent – in the force which is really responsible for the occurrences about which Cairo is beginning to talk; the great majority of the men are keen, intelligent, well restrained young Australians, whom you will meet enjoying their hours of leave in front of the cafes or in the museum or the zoological gardens or the post card shops, dressed as neatly as any of the other soldiers in the town, and behaving themselves in the way in which any rational Australian on a holiday would behave. They have the material in them not merely for as good a force as the New Zealanders or the Territorials, but, to one’s own thinking, of a better force, because the Australians here, besides having the best physique, are, man for man, more highly strung, and, if anything, quicker witted.

But there is in the Australian ranks a proportion of men who are uncontrolled, slovenly, and in some cases – what few Australians can be accused of being – dirty. In a certain number of cases it is noticeable that these men are wearing the South African ribbon. Possibly they are the men who since returning from that war, have never had any skilled occupation, and who therefore were the first to enlist when recruiting for the present force was begun; or it may be that the discipline in the South African campaign was very much slacker than that required of troops before they will be permitted to go to the front in the present class of warfare. Or it may be merely that a certain class of old soldier is given to the very childish habit of showing off before the young soldier, and giving him examples of the sort of thing that he thinks may with impunity be done by anyone who knows the ropes. Whatever the reason it has been noticed by too many people to admit of doubt that whilst many of the most capable and splendid members of the force are men with South African experience, there is a class of old soldier who, so far from being the most suitable member of the force, is the least suitable of any. Many young soldiers take these men at their true worth. “It’s the likes of them that are going to spoil the game for the rest of us and lose us our leave,” I heard one youngster say a few days since. “The fellows are getting a bit fed up with them down amongst our lot.” But they are really doing a very much more serious thing than losing other soldiers their leave – they are losing Australia her good name in the outside world, and those Australians who happen to be living in Cairo or are in touch with the world outside the camps have the mortification of looking on whilst day by day the reputation of Australia slowly vanishes before the actions of a handful of rowdies who do not really represent the country. The Territorials have not our physique, and some of the Lancashire regiments seem to be composed largely of mere children; but by dint of hard work they have become thoroughly smart soldiers; and although both amongst them and the New Zealanders there has been a certain amount of the hard living which will always be found where great numbers of men are collected, none who is not deaf can hide from himself the fact that the talk at present current in Cairo attaches to the Australian force rather than to the Territorials, or as far as I can judge to the New Zealanders.

One does not want to give the impression that things have reached the stage of a scandal or anything approaching it. Steps will doubtless be taken to correct it, as they have been taken before, and the Australian force will be doing itself credit before it has finished its training, and be worthy of the majority of men comprised in it. The New Zealanders have just taken steps to get rid of a certain number of men who were doing little good in their force, and the same, or some similar steps, will no doubt be taken with the Australians. But it is just as well that the Australian public should be aware of the reason for the return of the majority of the men who are returning, or have returned, since the expedition sailed. It is easy for a man to return to his native village and reap a certain amount of hero worship on the ground that he was invalided, or to pitch a story before an admiring crowd at the local hotel of how he was going to show them that he was not going to stand any nonsense, and finally “pitched in” his resignation. The facts are that a certain number of men have been invalided through serious sickness or accident, neither of which was their own fault. A certain number also were sent back some time ago from Albany and Colombo, because some of them – no doubt on conscientious grounds or for reason best known to themselves – refused to be vaccinated. A few others have been, and will be, sent back because they contracted certain diseases, by which, after all the trouble of months of training and of the sea voyage, they have unfitted themselves to do the work for which they enlisted. And a percentage will probably find their way back from here, the reason for whose return has been that they have damaged their country’s reputation, and a few of them have been got rid of as the best means of preserving it.

The tone of the piece is cautious and hesitant and the language is qualified, indirect and oblique, if not obtuse. You had to read into it, for example, that men were being sent back to Australia because they had contracted VD (certain diseases).  In the context of Egypt and the the triumphalism of the White Australia Policy, references to Australians being ‘dirty’ would have had all sorts of offensive associations. The attempt to pin responsibility on the veterans of the Boer War was bound to win enemies but, presumably, it was preferable to target this specific group of older men than suggest there was a problem right across the force. You can sense Bean’s wariness in writing the piece; and the article was, potentially, a career-ending move for him. In fact, his reputation with the troops was severely damaged and it was only his bravery in the subsequent action at Gallipoli – he was recommended for the Military Cross and mentioned in despatches for his work with wounded men – that restored his standing.

Some idea of the fury that the article sparked amongst the troops in Egypt at the time, comes from another piece published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative  on 30 April 1915. By this point the local paper was regularly publishing extracts of letters sent home by soldiers serving overseas. This particular letter came from Athol Woods who was the son of (former) Major Woods of Woodside. Alexander Thomas Woods was a grazier of Darriman and his son – Harry Athol Woods – had enlisted as a 34yo in Brisbane on 27 August 1914. It appears he was farming on the Darling Downs prior to enlistment.  Overall, Athol Woods was critical of the way newspapers were reporting events from Egypt, and he specifically targeted Bean. He described Bean’s articles as unjustifiable and unpardonable and he wanted Bean severely dealt with. He was prepared to admit that there were some Australians who were a problem, but he did not want their actions to be publicised, in any way:

Of course, in a body of men like we have here, there are sure to be a few who go over the odds, but it is a very poor percentage, and even these few have not done anything very dreadful. It seems hard that all we Australians should be termed a disgrace to the Empire and Australia by an animal wearing the stars of a captain who has not got the nous of a mule. But enough of this. I think the people of Australia will treat these articles with the contempt they deserve.

The barely concealed rage evident in the letter home from Athol Woods points to just how sensitive the whole issue of the AIF’s image was. Everyone – the troops in Egypt, their officers and all those back home in Australia – knew how critically important the image of the AIF was to the image of the nation as a whole.  Prior to Gallipoli, the fear that the AIF was creating the wrong image weighed heavily on people’s minds. And Bean had come to understand that using the Australian press to hammer home lessons to the troops on how they should behave was not going to work.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Stanley, P 2010, Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force, Pier 9, NSW

C E W Bean: entry in Australian Dictionay of Biography

Bean, C E W 1915, What to Know in Egypt: A Guide for Australian Soldiers, Cairo

The ‘Souvenir of Egypt’ is held by the Cashen family. It was sent to Marie Ziesing from Alfred Carr – both of Mile End, SA – in 1916.

34. Sydney FERRES 194 and Frederick KIELLERUP 1047

Both Ferres and Kiellerup were in 6 Battalion (C Company) and both were killed on 8 May 1915, at Cape Helles in the ill-fated push to take the village of Krithia. In both cases the body was never recovered; and the two names are on the Helles Memorial. There is no Red Cross report for either of the men and nor is there any war diary entry of the 6 Battalion for that period, so details of their deaths are limited.  The war diary entries of the other battalions in 2 Brigade (5, 7 and 8 Battalion) indicate that there were heavy casualties – about one-third of the Brigade – from heavy shelling and machine gun fire from the Turkish side. They also show that communication between units was poor and the movement of troops within the battle zone was confused. It was also very difficult to retrieve the dead and wounded from the exposed battle field. The casualties, chaos and confusion of the battle are all summed up in the war diary of 2 Brigade, with its explanation for not having any record of the battle: During action of May 8th/9th the whole of the Bde. Staff became casualties & all documents appear to have gone astray.

Yet despite the background chaos, and the absence of bodies, there was no suggestion that the 2 men were ‘missing’. The cables informing their families back in Australia that they had been killed in action came relatively quickly. For both of them the date appears to have been 16 June 1915, about 5 weeks after they had been killed. In both cases a small amount of personal kit was returned to the families. For Ferres it was a gift-box, post cards and some photos. For Kiellerup it was a hymn book, letters, pocket-book and 1 photo.

The men are on neither the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll nor the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Ferres appears on the honor roll for Alberton State School and Kiellerup on the honor roll for Yarram State School. Ferres is shown as having been killed but Kiellerup is not.

Sydney Eversley Ferres

Sydney Ferres was born at Ararat but his family must have moved to the Yarram area when he was young because he attended the Alberton State School.  His older brother – Harold Dunstan George Ferres – also attended Alberton SS. By his late teens it appears that Sydney’s family had shifted to Toora where he worked as a butter and cheese maker for 6 years. He was also in the Toora Rifle Club for the same number of years. Toora was identified on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

When Ferres enlisted in Melbourne on 22 August 1914, he was single and 25yo. The family had moved again and the address of his father, Robert Ferres, as his next-of-kin was given as Emerald. The father represented the riding of Emerald in the Ferntree Gully Shire. By the end of the War the family had moved, once more, to Prince Street, Kew. This last move probably came after the death of the mother – Caroline Elizabeth Ferres –  in June 1916. As an indication of how well-known the family was, the following ‘personal’ note appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 30 June 1915, soon after Private Ferres’ death was confirmed:

Signaller Sydney E. Ferres, who met his death at the war is the fifth son of Mr. R Ferres of Brookdale Farm, Emerald, and late of Toora, South Gippsland. He was a grandson of the late Mr. J Ferres, for many years Government Printer, and was 26 years of age. He was for six years butter maker at Handbury’s factory, Toora.

The father received a war pension of £52 per annum from 21/8/15 and there was also a life policy with The National Mutual Life Association of Australia, which appears to have been finalised relatively quickly, by August 1915.

Frederick Charles Kiellerup [sometimes written KILLERUP and even KEILLERUP]

Frederick Kiellerup was born in Narrandera, NSW. He attended Yarram State School and when he was killed at Gallipoli the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative ran a note – 21 July 1915 – on his death, in which he was referred to as having been the Wertheim’s representative in Yarram. This suggests he lived in the town possibly into his twenties. Or perhaps he returned to the town for this work. He was a member of an unnamed rifle club for 3 years and, possibly, this was also from his time at Yarram. When he enlisted in Melbourne on 24 September 1914, his occupation was given as ‘traveller’ and as he was nearly 32yo at the time it is likely that he had spent a lot of time in country Victoria. On the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour, the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ was given as Euroa.

Unlike the great majority of volunteers at the time Kiellerup was married. His wife – Alster Kiellerup – was living in Richmond. Moreover, he enlisted as someone with 2 children: a son – Frederick Theodore Kiellerup –  and daughter – Doris Freda Kiellerup. The wife received a pension of £52 per annum from 21/8/15 – the same as for the father of Sydney Ferres – and the 2 children also received pensions: the daughter as the eldest child received 20/- per fortnight and the son 15/- per fortnight. The wife remarried by 1920 and then lived at Moe. It was the daughter who completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour.

The service file for Kiellerup reveals a revealing side story. In 1969, the son, Frederick Theodore Kiellerup, wrote to the Army requesting new ribbons for his father’s medals. He related how the medals had been damaged in the bush fires on Black Friday (13/1/39) and stated that he wanted to restore them before passing them to his son – Frederick Denis Kiellerup – who in turn planned to pass them to his son, Frederick Steven Kiellerup. In the space of not much more than 50 years the medals of a volunteer – who, with a wife and 2 children, was never expected to enlist – were committed to at least the next 3 generations, all of whom had been given the same name. The Army replaced the damaged medals.

Family enlistments: more brothers answer the call

Ferres and Kiellerup were the first from the family to enlist. The pattern of subsequent enlistments of brothers was to become common.


The older brother of Sydney Ferres – Harold Dunstan Gordon Ferres – was 30yo when he enlisted in January 1915. Unlike his younger brother who had given his occupation as ‘butter maker’, the older brother gave his occupation as ‘grazier’ and indicated that he had had a secondary education at Barclay College, Ararat. It was as if the brothers, 5 years apart in age, came from different families. The older brother’s career in the AIF was remarkable. He was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant as early as May 1915, just a few months after enlisting, and by the end of 1918 he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He also held the following decorations: Military Cross, Bar to Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Mentioned in despatches. It was an extraordinary military career. His younger brother, on the other hand, had been killed, as a private, in the opening weeks of the AIF’s war. But it was the younger brother who had enlisted first.


For the Kiellerup family it was a case of younger brothers following the oldest son’s example. There were 2 other brothers who enlisted after Frederick Charles Kiellerup. Genius Rudolph Kiellerup enlisted on 22 May 1915. He was only 18yo – and possibly even younger – when he enlisted. It is hard to believe that he knew then that his older brother had been killed just 2 weeks earlier, but at the very least he would have been influenced by his older brother’s enlistment.  The other brother was Otto James Kiellerup who was 20yo when he enlisted on 10 July 1915. He definitely would have known of his older brother’s death and this must have been a factor in his decision to enlist. Apparently, there was yet another brother who enlisted – perhaps a step-brother – but it is not possible to identify him. The existence of the third brother is supported by the decision taken by the AIF in late 1917 to return the youngest brother – Genius Rudolph Kiellerup – to Australia, and discharge him on compassionate grounds. The background to this highly unusual action is revealed in the following request written by Corporal G R Kiellerup 3163, 59 Battalion, on 5 November 1917:

I hereby apply for permission to return to Australia to attend to business matters, having received word of the death of my father. I have had three brothers killed in action (one unofficially reported) and I have one brother at home who owing to physical defects, is unable to look after my family. I enlisted 24th June 1915 [it was actually 24 May]. Wounded 19th July, 1916. Fleur Baix. Age at present 18 11/12 years.

The father had died, the mother was in dire circumstances – the AIF even agreed to the family’s pleas to not publish details of the second son’s death for fear it would kill her – and there was no one to help. With 3 of the 4 brothers who had enlisted dead, the AIF agreed to repatriate the surviving son. While it is not possible to identify the third son killed, the first son to die was Sydney Kiellerup (8/5/15) and the second – the one then referred to as ‘unofficially reported’ – was Corporal Otto James Kiellerup who was killed at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. Note that the youngest son – Cpl Genius Kiellerup was also wounded at Fromelles (the battle was still then being referred to as Fleur Baix) and there is a statement from him in the relevant Red Cross report – 3160 Corporal Otto James Kiellerup – that describes how the two brothers parted company in the middle of the battle:

On July 19th 1916 the brother [Cpl Otto James Kiellerup] and I [Cpl Genius Kiellerup] went over the top together and on getting out towards the German lines we came across a ditch. Immediately to our front barbed wire stopped our progress from wading through the water. There the brother asked me to come to the left; but I seeing a better opening on right wouldn’t go so we parted.

He goes on to describe how his brother’s way was across a small bridge covered by German machine guns, and there was no hope for anyone who took it.

Overall, this post is a salutary reminder that the deaths at Gallipoli were just the beginning. There was far worse to come and more brothers were prepared to enlist. It is also striking how, back in Australia, death overseas produced a rippling effect of grief, hardship and irrevocable change.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

War Diary of 2 Infantry Brigade, May 1915


National Archives file for FERRES Sydney Eversley

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Sydney Eversley Ferres

Roll of Honour: Sydney Eversley Ferres


National Archives file for KIELLERP Frederick Charles

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Frederick Charles Kiellerup – Killerup

Roll of Honour: Frederick Charles Kiellerup

Red Cross Wounded and Missing: Otto James Kiellerup

Photograph of KIELLERUP, Frederick Charles, from WW1 Pictorial Honour Roll of Victorians

33. Donald CAMPBELL 32

Private Donald Campbell (32), 2 Battalion, was another of the local men killed early in the Gallipoli campaign. According to the formal record he was killed in action on 2 May 1915.

Donald Campbell was born at Tarraville and went to the local state schools (Tarraville and Balloong). Later, he left the district and moved to New South Wales for work. When the War broke out he enlisted in the Sydney suburb of Kensington (9 October 1914). At the time, he was 23yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘motor mechanic’. However, even though he had moved to NSW, he was well-known in the Shire of Alberton and his father was still living in Tarraville. When the telegram of his death arrived in late May 1914, the report in the local paper on 24 May 1914 – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative –  read:

On Thursday last, May 18th, the postmistress, Tarraville, received the sad news that Private D. Campbell was killed in action on May 2nd, and asking her  to kindly inform father, Mr. D. Campbell, of Tarraville, of the sad news …. The late Private D. Campbell was 25 years of age, and was a native of Tarraville, where he was well known and highly respected.

In the same edition of the paper there was a death notice for …  Donald McGregor Campbell, late of Tarraville, South Gippsland; and Yass, N.S.W., age 25 years.  The notice was inserted by … C. and T. Livingston, Yass, N.S.W., and T. and J. Collins, Balloong.

Thomas and Jane Collins were farmer and wife from Balloong and it appears that Donald Campbell worked for them. Similarly, it appears he subsequently moved to NSW with C and T Livingston for work. C and T Livingston appear to have been brothers who left the district for Yass in NSW. Overall, Campbell must have worked for some time as a farm labourer both in the district in which he grew up and then in country NSW, before shifting to Sydney.

Campbell’s name appears on the honor rolls for the 2 schools he attended, and in both cases his name is recorded as one of these killed. His name also appears on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll but he is not marked as one of those killed. His name is not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial.

Campbell’s father – D. Campbell – was living at Tarraville at the time his son enlisted and he was still there when word of the death came through. However in mid 1916 he moved to Modialloc and from that point it appears that he became uncontactable and, despite the efforts of the AIF, untraceable. The last entry that covers attempts to contact the father is dated early 1924, nearly 10 years after the son’s death. He obviously knew of his son’s death, but there is no sign of any correspondence from him, or on his behalf, to the AIF requesting details of the death, the existence of any will, the return of personal belongings etc. In fact, there is not a single piece of correspondence from any family member or friend. Because the father effectively disappeared there was no pension, and his son’s medals were never distributed. Similarly the Memorial Plaque was returned unclaimed in 1922. The simple entry on the file was ‘untraceable’. The father’s address for the (National) Roll of Honour was also given as ‘untraceable’.

The details surrounding the death of Private Campbell are similarly limited. There was a definite date – 2 May 1914 – and the death was confirmed relatively quickly, with the father notified in less than 3 weeks. However, the body was never recovered – Private Campbell is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial – and details from both the battalion war diary and the Red Cross report are contradictory. Even more contradictory is the fact that a court of inquiry into his death was held on 24 March 1916 and, as a result, his status was changed from ‘missing’ to ‘killed in action – 2/5/15’. Yet his father had been informed by telegram nearly one full year earlier that he had been killed. The father had never received the advice that his son was ‘missing’.

The war diary for 2 Battalion does not record any casualties for 2 May, although it does report 2 men killed the next day (3/5/15). The 4 witness statements in the Red Cross report claiming to present the details of Private Campbell’s death contradict each other. They also suggest that the official date given for the death could have been incorrect.

The first statement – Corporal A K Jamieson (61), 2B – suggests that Campbell disappeared very early in the fighting at Gallipoli:

Informant was in the same platoon with Campbell, and last saw him on Monday, April 26th. He then left to take up another position, and was never seen again. The position he went to was afterwards shelled, and was previously under machine gun fire. It was never occupied either by our troops or the Turks.

The second statement – T Smith (469), 2B – has Campbell killed by shell fire on 15 May:

I knew Campbell, he was in the original Batt. and was cook for the Orderly Room. I last saw him cooking outside a dug-out on May 15th before the attack on the 19th when a shell came over from the direction of Olive Grove and blew him to bits. I am quite sure it was Campbell. I saw the stretcher-bearers collect his remains in pieces in an overcoat. I do not know what Coy he was in nor where he came from.

The third statement – H H Winley (698), 2B – confirmed the account in the second statement and gave particulars on Campbell’s appearance. Campbell, on enlistment, was just under 6 ft, of fair complexion and about 13 stone (82 kg). The complexion here is apparently wrong but, after several months in Egypt, the general description could still be be a match:

I confirm the above report, but think Campbell was batman to Capt. now Colonel Steven. Campbell was bout 5 ft 8, rather dark, slim, and I think he came from Newcastle, N.S.W.

The fourth statement – Sgt. E C H Haxby (52), 2B – appears to support the basic line in the first statement:

Informant states that on or about 25th April 1915 in landing on Peninsula, Campbell landed in 15th Plt. with Informant with many others. He dashed on ahead of the main body of troops and has never been heard of since. In all probability killed by machine gun fire and still unburied.

All the statements were dated July or August 1916, at least 15 months after the landing at Gallipoli and several months after the court of enquiry had determined that Private Campbell had been killed in action on 2 May 1915. They were written by men who either were then serving in Europe or had been invalided back to Australia.

The recorded details of Private Campbell’s death are incomplete and contradictory, and his case typifies the difficulties the early AIF faced in coping with the number of casualties experienced. As the War progressed it would become far more proficient in managing the business of death in battle.

Private Campbell also typifies the lot of the son whose legacy was lost to his family: the details of the death were incomplete and contradictory; there was no grave; no personal kit was ever returned; information for the (National) Roll of Honour was never provided; neither medals nor the Memorial Plaque were ever distributed; and there was no pension or gratuity for any family member. Commonly, the legacy of those killed lived on in the shared memory of the family, often over many generations.  Here was a case where even this limited blessing appeared denied. It can only ever be speculation, but perhaps the father’s grief could not be contained in the conventional ways, and he too was a casualty, but of a different kind.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for CAMPBELL Donald

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Donald Campbell

Roll of Honour: Donald Campbell

WW1 Red Cross files


32. The telegrams begin: William WILSON 515 and Albert Edward WIDDON 803

Lance-Corporal William Wilson (515) was killed in action on 27 April 1915. With no Red Cross report, the only source on the circumstances of his death is the war diary of the 14 Battalion. This indicates that the 14 Battalion landed as reserve troops on 26/4/15. The next day, 27/4/15, it was sent to occupy – and then entrench – the locations that became known as Quinn’s Post and Courtney’s Post. There was heavy fighting and the Turks tried to counter-attack. The fighting that day claimed 32 killed, including 1 officer. Another 65 were wounded. Wilson would have been one of those killed. He was buried on 29 April at Quinn’s Post. The chaplain was Rev. Captain Andrew Gillison, who was himself killed on 22 August 1915. In Wilson’s service file, the site of the grave is described as at the foot of Quinn’s Post (13/8/17) but after the War, the Imperial War Graves Commission workers could not locate the grave and his name was recorded on a tablet in Courtney’s and Steele’s Cemetery.

Private Albert Ernest Widdon (803) was killed in action on 30 April 1915. As for Wilson, there was no Red Cross report so the only insight on the circumstances of his death comes from the war diary of 15 Battalion for 30/4/15. It appears that on that day, most of the 15 Battalion was holding the line near Pope’s Hill and in the afternoon they repelled a major Turkish attack, with their … machines guns inflicting severe casualties amongst the enemy. However on same day, part of 15 Battalion – C Company and 1 platoon of B Company – was fighting under Captain Quinn, in support of the right flank of 3 Brigade. As Widdon was in B Coy, and he is buried at Quinn’s Post Cemetery, it is most likely that he was killed in the fierce fighting at Quinn’s Post.

Unlike others killed at this time, the news of these 2 death appears to have been relayed back to Australia reasonably promptly. The cable with the news of Widdon’s death death was sent on 23 May, less than 1 month after he had been killed. The date of the cable for Wilson appears to be 2 days later on 25 May. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative of 2 June 1915 there is a brief note that tells how Reverend George Cox had been delivering telegrams from the Defence Department to families where the son had been killed. Even though others had been killed by this point, these telegrams were the first confirmed news of the deaths of local men.

One of the families visited by Cox was Albert Widdon’s:

On Sunday [30 May], the relatives of Private A. E Widdon, who enlisted in Queensland, were informed that he had been killed in action on 23rd May. He was the son of Mr. J. E Widdon.

The date – 23 May – obviously related to the date of the telegram, not the date of his death.

The other family to receive a telegram via Cox was Wilson’s. It was delivered to his sister:

Mrs. Jas. Miller of Yarram, was also acquainted of the loss of her brother, Private Wilson.

William Wilson

Little is known of William Wilson. His name is not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial and while there is a W A Wilson on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll, this person is not listed as ‘killed’ on the roll, nor is there any reference, in his service file, to a second name for William Wilson. Notwithstanding the limited evidence to tie him to the district, Yarram was identified as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected ’on the (National) Roll of Honour.

He was born at either Trentham or Talbot. When he enlisted on 12 September 1914 at Daylesford, he indicated that both his parents were dead. He was 37yo and single. His occupation was listed as timber-cutter. He gave his eldest brother – Frederick Wilson of Yarram – as his next-of-kin and all AIF correspondence over the War, right through to the early 1920s, was with this person. The few personal belongings – disc, diary, wrist-watch and gold ring – were also sent to the brother in Yarram. Frederick Wilson of Yarram is on the 1915 Electoral Roll but his occupation is not included.

As indicated, the telegram of his death was delivered to his sister ‘Mrs. Jas Miller’ of Yarram. There is no explanation as to why the telegram was delivered to her rather than her older sibling who was the designated next-of-kin. Mrs. Jas Miller was Maria May Miller, wife of James Alfred Miller, carter of Yarram. Given his occupation, William Wilson had probably worked in the timber industry in the district. Certainly his sister’s family – Miller – worked in the timber industry because on 20 April 1915 her son, James Miller junior, was killed in a tree-felling accident when he was working in a party of sleeper-hewers in Won Wron State Forest. Incredibly, she lost both a son and brother over the period of one week.

There was another individual who appeared in the correspondence, a Mr A Miller of Lyonville. Perhaps this person was related to the Miller family in Yarram. In any event, on the Embarkation Roll, the address given for Wilson is Lyonville PO, suggesting that at the time of his enlistment he was living with this person.

The picture of William Wilson’s identity is incomplete but there is enough evidence to indicate that he was certainly known in the district.

Albert Edward Widdon

Albert Edward Widdon had been born in Yarram in 1892 and attended Devon North and Yarram State Schools. He had also been also active in the Methodist Church in the area. His father was John Edward Widdon, a farmer with land at Devon North. Clearly, Albert was a local boy in the sense that he had grown up in the district and his family was established in the local community. However, by the time the War came and he enlisted, he was living and working in Queensland. He had land at Canaga via Jandowae (near Dalby) Queensland.

He enlisted at Dalby on 21 September 1914. He was 22 yo at the time. It appears that having worked on the family farm at Devon North, probably until his late teens, he had gone out by himself and was setting himself up as a farmer in Queensland. This was a relatively common practice – the sons of established farmers shifted elsewhere – most commonly to Queensland and Western Australia – and tried to set up by themselves. What he did with his farm when he enlisted is not known; but it is possible that he had only been there a short time and hardly anything had been done on the land, and it was relatively easy to leave it. Perhaps he had an arrangement with another local farmer.

Under the terms of his will, everything went to his father. The father moved to Queensland, presumably to sort out his son’s estate, and for a short time his address was Canaga, Queensland. The father then returned to Devon North. This is a striking example of how an individual family’s fortunes could be compromised by the War: where before the War there was expansion and opportunity, the son’s death brought loss and contraction.

Albert Widdon was not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial nor was he listed on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. Yet he clearly was regarded as a local. His death was reported locally. On 11 August 1915, the  Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative featured a soldier’s letter home from the Dardanelles written by Private W H Sutton. It reported on the men from Yarram. There was a simple note that Bert Widdon was killed. All the other Yarram lads are alive and well. His name was customarily read out at commemoration services held in the Shire for locals killed in the War. It featured at the major commemoration service written up in detail in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, 17 May 1918. Similarly, at the 1917 Anzac Day celebrations held at Devon North SS, his was the first name read out.  (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative 27 April 1917).



Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for WILSON William

First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Wilson

Roll of Honour: William Wilson


National Archives file for WIDDON Albert Edward

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Albert Edward Widdon

Roll of Honour: Albert Edward Widdon

Potograph of WIDDON, Albert Edward, from WW1 Pictorial Honour Roll of Victorians



31. ANZAC Day 1915: Walter TIBBS 946

Walter Tibbs was also killed on 25 April 1915. He was in 8 Battalion and while there are few records in his official service file it appears that there was less doubt about the location and time of his death. The first definite reference to his death is dated as early as 2 May 1915 and it states clearly that he was Killed in Action Gallipoli 25/4/15. Nor was there any court of enquiry, as there was for the other 3 men killed (Pallot, Tolley and Ellefsen). There is no Red Cross report for Tibbs so there are no details of his death. For 25 April, the war diary of 8 Battalion records a casualty level of 12 officers and 200 other ranks. It talks of heavy and accurate artillery fire for the whole day which inflicted considerable loss… and, most likely, Tibbs was one of these casualties; however he might also have been killed by one of the many Turkish snipers who were very active. He is buried in a known grave at Shell Green Cemetery.

Tibbs enlisted in Melbourne on 21 August 1914, which was considerably earlier than the first group of volunteers from Yarram (16/9/14). He was one of the very first from the Shire of Alberton to enlist. At the time of enlistment he gave his age as 21 years and 2 months. Like the other 3 men he was single. Also like the others he was a farm labourer, even though he described himself as a ‘farmer’ on the enlistment papers. Unlike the other 3 men, Tibbs went straight into the 8 Battalion. There was no suggestion that he was trying for the Light Horse. Also unlike the others, Tibbs had not been born in Australia. He had been born in Hunslet, near Leeds in the UK.

Fortunately, the parents of Walter Tibbs completed the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour at the end of the War. Without this form we would know virtually nothing about him. Because they did complete the form we know that he gave a false age when he enlisted. He was actually 18 and, he had only been in Australia for a few years. The AIF was not too concerned about the ages of immigrants trying to enlist so his claim to be 21yo would not have been challenged. His parents noted that he had come to Australia as a 15yo. Interestingly, they also indicated that he had attended secondary school – Castleford Secondary School – and had undertaken training as a ‘corresponding clerk’. They also backed up the claim, made on his enlistment papers, that before coming to Australia he had served 2 years in the Royal Engineers, Yorkshire in the area of ‘wireless telegraphy’. His parents also noted the he was an excellent violinist.

Against this remarkable background, when War broke out Walter Tibbs was working as a farm labourer at Tarraville. His parents indicated this on the form, and they gave Tarraville, Gippsland, Victoria as the location in Australia with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. On the Embarkation Roll, his address is given as Tarraville via Yarram. Effectively, these 2 explicit addresses are the only links that tie him to the Shire of Alberton. There are no references to him in the local paper and there are no references in his personal service file that link him to the Shire. Yet, clearly, he enlisted from the Shire. Perhaps he saw enlistment as a chance to return to his family in the UK. Perhaps he had had enough of his Australian adventure.

Beyond conjecture, the relevant point is that he was one of the four men from the Shire of Alberton who was killed in action on 25 April 1914. Of all of them, his death was, in one sense, the most clear cut and presumably – there is no correspondence in his service file from his parents to the AIF – his family was not subjected to the same level of distress that the others were. However, his personal tragedy was to be removed from the collective memory of the place where he had worked and lived. His sacrifice was never acknowledged: his name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll or the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. He is one of those still ‘missing’ in the Great War.


National Archives file for TIBBS Walter

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Walter Tibbs

Roll of Honour: Water Tibbs



30. ANZAC Day 1915: Thomas Elevious ELLEFSEN 1331

Private Ellefsen enlisted on 3/10/1914, at Ballarat. He was 24 at the time of enlistment. He was a labourer. He had been born at Yarram but, as indicated, he enlisted at Ballarat. His father, over the course of his son’s military involvement, lived at Ballarat, Yarram and Alberton. Thomas had attended the local state schools at Devon North and Lower Bulga. He had also been involved in the local Methodist church. The family originally came from Norway.

Private Ellefsen joined the 7th Battalion and embarked from Melbourne on 2/2/1915. Like many others, his papers suggest that he thought he was enlisting in the Light Horse.

The case of Private Ellefsen involves a major problem. The formal record shows that he was killed on 25/4/1915, the first day of the landing; however as for both Privates Tolley and Pallot this was not confirmed until there was a court of enquiry held more than one year later in France. For Ellefsen, the court of enquiry was held – in the field France – on 5 June 1916 . On the Roll of Honour in the Australian War Memorial he is also recorded as killed in action of 25 April 1915. There is no grave and his name is included on the Lone Pine Memorial. The problem is that the only witness statement, contained in the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing report, does not support either the official date or location of the death. Rather than being killed on 25 April 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, the witness statement had him killed at Cape Helles about 10 May 1915:

Witness states he knew him well in private life. Saw him lying dead at about 10 yards behind main trenches at Cape Helles about 10th May 1915. He was killed by shell fire. Very badly cut about, chest and shoulders almost blown away. Saw him fall, & seeing that he was dead went on. Ellefsen was about 22 years old, fair and very stoutly built. Came from Bendigo, Victoria. Came over with 2nd Rfts of the 7th Btn. Very quiet fellow but very popular. Left Melbourne 21st February 1915 [21st crossed out and replaced by 2nd], arrived Peninsula 25th April 1915.

The witness was Private James Leopold Julin (1361) and the statement was dated 26/4/16, a year after the events. Both Ellefsen and Julin had been in the same unit – 2nd Reinforcements, 7 Battalion – and both left Melbourne, on 2 February 1915, on the HMAT A46 Clan Macgillivray. They enlisted within a day of each other. There are some slight inconsistencies in Julin’s statement. Ellefsen, for example, enlisted at Ballarat, not Bendigo. Similarly, Ellefsen was closer to 25 years old at the time, but at the same time the physical description given by Julin matched that on the attestation papers. Julin also claimed that he knew Ellefsen in ‘private life’, implying he knew him before enlistment. For all these reasons, Julin would have to be regarded as a credible witness.

Julin was describing the fighting associated with the second battle of Krithia from 6 May 1915, in which the Australian 2nd Brigade was involved. Australian (and New Zealand) troops had been transferred from Anzac Cove to Cape Helles to take part in the battle. The 7th Battalion – together with the other battalions of 2 Brigade (5, 6 and 8)  –  was involved in fierce fighting on May 8. Prior (2009, p.144) rates this particular battle as particularly misconceived and notes that the 2 Australian Brigade suffered some 1,000 casualties, about half its strength.  The war diary of 7 Battalion for that day records casualties of approx. 250.  The troops remained in trenches for the next 2 days and were relieved on 11 May. If Private Julin’s witness statement is correct then Private Ellefsen was killed about 10 May 1915, and most likely 8 May. He was not killed on the first day of fighting in the area of Anzac Cove but nearly two weeks later in the infamous killing fields of Krithia.

Closer examination of the 7 Battalion’s war diary offers a possible explanation for the discrepancy. The entry for 25 April 1915 does give a breakdown of the officers from the battalion killed and wounded. It lists them – 18 in total – by name. But there is no detail on the other ranks. Rather there is a note in the margin – See 22.5.1915 for Casualty List. The approximate casualties for 25.4.15 was 400 killed, wounded and missing. Also, there are many references to the fact that in the general chaos all the battalions had become mixed together. Officers are referred to as trying to muster their men, and this continued for several days. Clearly, the battalion’s officers would have had great difficulty in accounting for their men, both living and dead, in the first few days of the fighting. It was not until 22 May 1915, well after Krithia, that the 7 Battalion gave the detailed breakdown of casualties for the period 25 April to 22 May 1915. The total figure given was 808 and the breakdown was as follows: Anzac – both officers and other ranks – 80 killed, 385 wounded and 70 missing (535 total); Cape Helles – both officers and other ranks – 50 killed, 175 wounded and 48 missing (273 total). This accounting rationalisation increases – by 100+ – the level of casualties for 25 April. Overall, it is clear that, at the battalion level, records of when and where men were killed were somewhat problematic. At the same time, it is hard to believe that this confusion could have lasted over a period as long as the nearly 2 weeks involved in the case of Ellefsen.

Against this background, it was inevitable that AIF communications with the family back in Australia would be deficient and this was again painfully obvious with Private Ellefsen’s family. As with Pallot, the family was informed that he had been wounded. The initial telegram advising that Private Ellefsen had been wounded was received on 9 June. It stated that the case was not reported to be serious and that they would be advised immediately once there were further details. The telegram did not state when he had been wounded. Nor were there any details about the hospital. The response from the family was appreciative in tone:

On behalf of my father Thomas Ellefsen, late of Ballarat now in Yarram Sth Gippsland, I thank you for the telegram concerning Private T. E. Ellefsen 1331 7th Batt 2nd Inf. Brig. Wounded in the Dardenelles (sic). Hoping to hear further progress.

There was another letter on 26 July from the family. They were now … very anxious about him. If he is well enough we should have had letters from him… and they asked specifically about the hospital: We would like to know what Hospital he is in… The response on 28 July stated that there had been no further report but they should therefore assume that he is progressing satisfactorily. The specific hospital … in which he is located is at present unknown.

Two months later, on 13 August 1915, with no additional information, there was another letter to Base Records, Melbourne. The tone was more urgent and someone had even claimed that they had seen Thomas in a procession:

Early in June you notified us that our brother was wounded, could you give us any particulars as we have not had a line from him for over eight weeks.

Someone said they thought they saw him in procession last Tuesday. Please let me know; suspense is dreadful.

The reply on 17 August 1915 was typically unhelpful and dismissive:

In acknowledging receipt of your inquiry dated the 13th inst. concerning your brother, No. 1331 Private T. E. Ellefsen, 7th Battalion, I beg to inform you that I am not aware that he has returned to Australia.

Your father was communicated with on 28th ult. and notified that your brother was not reported seriously wounded and in the absence of further reports it was to be assumed satisfactory progress was being made.

Four months later, at the end of 1915 Base Records informed the family (16/12/1915) that further requests on its part to the AIF in Egypt for details on the case of Private Ellefsen had only discovered that … he was reported wounded on 25th April, and his death cannot be confirmed.

Interestingly, one additional piece of information that was not apparently relayed to the family was that at least one letter addressed to Private Ellefsen serving with the AIF in Egypt was returned to Base Records in Melbourne endorsed  ‘killed’ on the envelope. There was no return address on the envelope and consequently it was returned to Base Records. The letter was actually posted in Yarram but it is not possible to make out the date it was posted. This was in November 1915 and possibly explains the reference in the letter to the family in December 1915 – quoted above – … his death cannot be confirmed. By this stage, of course, the family must have assumed that he had been killed.

As indicated, a court of enquiry convened in France on 5/6/1916 determined that Private Ellefsen had been killed in action on 25/4/1915. However, it looks as if the telegram formally advising of his death did not come until October 1916. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative of 1 November 1916 there is a small reference to Private T. E. Ellefsen’s parents, of Devon North, receiving a cable on the 27 October advising of his death in combat on 25/4/1915. The paper noted that the doubt over his death was finally cleared up in a sad way.

A death notice appeared in the same edition of the paper. It stated that Private T E Ellefsen who had previously been reported missing had been killed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was the third son of Thomas and Elese Ellefsen of Devon North.

The last word on Private Ellefsen comes from his father in 1921. As per normal practice he had been sent the standard form asking for any information or letters that might help in locating the body of the missing soldier. His reply – 21/6/1921 – is a last desperate plea for information; but given the level of confusion over his son’s death, including time and location,there was little chance that correct information was ever going to be forthcoming,

The last I heard from my son was a letter written at sea on the 24th April 1915. In the letter he stated that they had just received word that to be ready to land any time. His friend W. L. Taylor of the 8th battalion was talking to him at the time and both then wished each other good luck & going below then to write to home.
W.L. Taylor never saw my son again & he himself was wounded just a few days after the landing.
That is all I have heard of my son’s death. Trusting and hoping you will be able to find out further particulars.

The questions of where and when Private Thomas Ellefsen 7 Battalion was killed will probably never be truly resolved. However the case certainly highlights, yet again, the chaos that was Gallipoli and the suffering that flowed from this back to the families in Australia.


National Archives file for ELLEFSEN Thomas Elevious

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Thomas Elevious Ellefsen

Roll of Honour: Thomas Elevious Ellefsen

Red Cross Wounded and Missing: Thomas Elevious Ellefsen

Prior R 2009, Gallipoli:The End of the Myth, UNSW Press.

29. ANZAC Day 1915: Charles Samuel TOLLEY 1187

Like Ernest Ralph Pallot, Charles Samuel Tolley was a volunteer who enlisted in the large Yarram group on 16 September 1914. His rail warrant for the trip to Melbourne was number 23. He was twenty-one when he enlisted and his occupation was recorded as farm labourer. He had been born at Drouin and his mother, listed as next-of-kin, was living at Balook. She was a widow. He appeared in the Electoral Roll (Subdivision of Yarram Yarram) as a ‘farm labourer’ of Yarram. His mother – Mary Ann Tolley – was listed as ‘domestic duties’, Balook. Tolley had attended Balook State School and he had been active in the local Methodist church. He had also been a member of the Yarram Rifle Club.

Tolley was another of the group of enlistments at Yarram who was initially put down for the South Gippsland Light Horse but then, after 3 months at Broadmeadows, was assigned to 6 Battalion.

Also like Pallot, Tolley went ashore on 25 April in the second wave, sometime after about 05:30. However there is a significant difference between the circumstances surrounding each death. Pallot was in a group of men who had pushed well inland – in the direction of the ‘third ridge’ – after the landing. He was shot and killed and then, when his comrades had to fall back, his body was left behind. From that point he effectively ‘disappeared’. But with Tolley the ‘disappearance’ was even more surprising because it appears that he was shot and killed either on the beach or not far from it, just a few minutes after landing. He also then ‘disappeared’, but unlike Pallot his body was never recovered. His name is listed on the Lone Pine Memorial.

It is virtually impossible to establish what happened to an individual soldier in a battle that was so obviously chaotic: orders were imprecise and contradicted, troops from different units became hopelessly inter-mixed and the conventional chains of command broke down. As well, casualties were heavy. The fact that the 6th Battalion’s War Diary was not started until May 1915 – there is therefore no account of the action on 25 April – is also a complication. The only evidence to hand consists of 2 witness statements, made nearly a full year after the event. Both witnesses were in 6 Battalion at the time Tolley was killed.

The first statement was from Pte. William Moller 580. It was dated 21 March 1916.

Tolley was killed near the beach soon after the landing at Anzac had been effected. Bullets were flying everywhere. Tolley dropped suddenly, evidently dead. Witness saw and heard nothing further about him.

The second statement was from Cpl. Edward Trayner 526. It was also dated 21 march 1916.

Witness saw Tolley killed in the landing. They landed together and formed a firing-line. Tolley was killed within five minutes after the formation of the firing-line. A bullet went through his head. He was knocked right out and did not move again. This occurred on the right flank at Anzac. Tolley was a quiet fellow, not too robust as regards general health.

Combining the 2 statements it appears that Tolley was killed within minutes of reaching the beach. He was shot through the head and died instantly. Exactly where the firing line was is unclear, but the suggestion is that it was not far inland from the beach. Yet, remarkably, the body ‘disappeared’. Probably the most likely explanation is that the body, like many others, was just left where it fell until there was the opportunity to collect all the dead and bury them as quickly as possible in some protected place. But if this is what did happen there was, apparently, no attempt to keep a record of the men being buried. Or perhaps there was, but the record was lost. There is a lot of conjecture but the general situation certainly points to the chaotic nature of the Gallipoli landings.

It is also hard to understand why, if Tolley was killed on the beach and this was known by his comrades in the battalion, there was such a protracted process to establish that he had been killed in action. Like Pallot, Tolley was treated as ‘missing’ until the court of enquiry at Erquinghem on 24 April 1916.

Remarkably, the official record shows that Tolley was first recorded as ‘missing’ on 10 June 1915, at least 6 weeks after the event. The local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – picked up on this report and published it on 23 June 1915.

Amongst the “missing” in the casualty list published yesterday, appears the name of Charles Tolley, son of Mrs. Tolley of Balook. He left Yarram with the first contingent of about fifty.

It seems incredible that it took so long to establish that a member of the battalion was ‘missing’ when he went ‘missing’ on the first day, at the very point of the landing. Moreover, there is not even a record in Tolley’s file of any advice from the AIF to his mother that he was missing; however there is a reference from his mother indicating that she received notice that he was missing ‘about 3 months after the landing.’

Like so many of the others ‘missing’ at Gallipoli, the AIF explored the possibility that Tolley had been captured by the Turks. In May 1916 they advised Mrs Tolley that the possibility had been discounted:

“A communication has been received from the War Office in which it is stated that the American Embassy at Constantinople regrets to report that according to an official communication from the Turkish Foreign Office, under date of February 15th 1916, nothing is known of the fate of Private C. S. Tolley, 6th Battalion.”

One important difference between the cases of Pallot and Tolley was that whereas the entire Pallot family actively pursued the AIF for information about their son and brother, Tolley’s mother appeared reluctant to question the situation or make any demand of the AIF. There is no correspondence from her to the AIF requesting information about her son’s fate. The only correspondence came after he had been formally declared to have been killed in action (24/4/16). On 9 June 1916, Edward Wills – a dairyman of Balook – wrote on her behalf requesting the son’s personal belongings. On 10 July 1916, she wrote herself requesting what amounted to a formal certificate of death. The son had left no will and she needed such documentation to access some funds he held in a bank in Yarram. On 15 September 1916 she made another request for her son’s belongings and any ‘back pay’ due. There was a formal response on the issue of the son’s belongings which reassured her that, should any be located, they would be forwarded to her; but, given the length of time that had elapsed, it was unlikely that any such belongings would be found. No belongings were ever returned.

Tolley’s mother was sent, in June 1921, the formal request for any information she might have that could assist the work of the War Graves Unit. She replied:

The last letter I received from my Son was from Lemnos Island. After leaving there I received no further communication from him. About 3 months after the landing at Gallipoli I was advised that he was missing & 12 months later that the was killed. … Should you gain any further information as to how he met his death I will be very pleased if you will let me know.

News of his death passed through the local community. It was mentioned in the local paper on 18 August 1916 in a small piece on the Yarram Rifle Club where the captain of the club noted the death, with regret. He advised that Tolley had been killed in action at the Gallipoli landing but that official news was only issued a month or two ago. Earlier, in the edition of 9 June 1916 there had been a small piece, based on second and even third-hand reports from men on Gallipoli at the time (25 April 1915) that confirmed and linked the deaths of both Pallot and Tolley.

From 28 January 1916 Mary Ann Tolley was granted a pension as a ‘widowed mother’ of £2 per fortnight. It appears that Charles was the only adult child. His death, quite apart from the personal grief, would have been a serious threat to the mother’s livelihood.


National Archives file for TOLLEY Charles Samuel

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Charles Samuel Tolley

Roll of Honour: Charles Samuel Tolley

Red Cross Wounded and Missing: Charles Samuel Tolley

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative