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.

References

National Archives file for TIBBS Walter

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Walter Tibbs

Roll of Honour: Water Tibbs

 

 

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