Frederick Arthur Bird 599, 4 Light Horse Regiment was wounded – shrapnel wound to the head – on 6 August 1915. He was taken to a casualty clearing station but died of wounds the same day. He was also buried the same day at Beach Cemetery, with Rev McPhee officiating.
At the time, the 4 LHR was based at Ryrie’s Post, not far from Lone Pine. Acccording to the history of the 4 LHR (Holloway, 2011 p. 76) at 4.30 a.m. on 6 August, Frederick Bird’s squadron (A) was involved in action at Lean’s Post which was further south near the end of the Anzac perimeter. The Turkish forces attacked to counter the ongoing demonstrations that the Australians were carrying out at the time to hold them in their positions. These demonstrations were diversions prior to the major offensive in the north. Presumably, Trooper Bird was wounded very early in the attack and then taken to the casualty clearing station where he died. He was then buried on the same day. Not surprisingly, there was no Red Cross report completed for him.
The significance of this detail is that the parents generally referred to their son being killed at Lone Pine. Lone Pine was given as the place of death when they completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour and they referred explicitly to Lone Pine in correspondence with the Army. The family also gave Lone Pine as the place of death in their in memoriam notices. However, the action at Lone Pine did not commence until late afternoon of the 6 August and in all probability Trooper Bird had been buried by that point. It seems that Lone Pine took on some sort of generic identity for deaths in the general vicinity. Army correspondence only ever referred to very general locations, e.g. Gallipoli, Ottoman Empire or Anzac, Gallipoli Peninsula.
Fred Bird had his medical and enlisted in Yarram on 19 September 1914. He was single and 18yo. In fact, his mother gave his age at the time of his death as only 18 years and 6 months, suggesting that he was not even 18yo when he enlisted. He gave his occupation as farmer and he would have been working with his father – James Bird – who was a local grazier with land at Alberton East (100 acres) and Woranga (51 acres). His mother – Ada Jane Bird – also had land in her own name, 15 acres at Yarram. On the Electoral Roll she was described as ‘home duties’. The family was Church of England. While Fred had been born in Leongatha, he had grown up in the Yarram district and had attended the Yarram State School. Yarram was given as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ on the Roll of Honour form. His name features on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial and also the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll.
In one sense, Trooper Bird’s death was a relatively straightforward matter: the soldier was wounded, evacuated to a casualty clearing centre, unfortunately died of wounds and was then immediately buried, with the burial details recorded. However, as in so many other cases, the official communication of the death was problematic. It appears that on 18 August, nearly two weeks after his death, his father James A Bird received a cable advising that his son … Private F. A. Bird wounded 6th August not reported seriously no other particulars available will immediately advise if anything further received. The cable advising that Trooper Bird was dead appears to be dated 21 August. The official report of death was completed on 28 September 1915 and in November the same year the family were given some additional details of the death: …he died of shrapnel wound, head, at Australian Casualty Clearing Station, Anzac, Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 6th August, 1915. Advice about the burial arrangements was not received until 12 June 1917. After the War the parents received a photograph of the grave.
In May 1916 personal belongings were returned in 2 lots. The first consisted of – watch (damaged), knife, handkerchief. – and the second – Disc, Purse, Religious books, Note-book, Cards, Letters.
The death of Trooper Bird was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 1 September 1915:
Mr. and Mrs. Jas. Bird received word on Saturday [28 August] that their son Frederick Arthur, aged 18, had been killed in action at the Dardenelles. He was reported wounded, but it seems he was killed on 12th August.
It is not clear where the date of 12 August came from. Also, if the parents did not receive word of the death until Saturday 28 August then it took a full week for the cable to reach them.
At the end of 1915 when Private George Silver returned to the district wounded – he had survived Lone Pine – he gave the following comment on Fred Bird. It was not much but it would have meant a lot to the parents and family:
I met Fred Bird on the Peninsula, who was always in good spirits. I was not in action with him, as he was in the Light Horse, but he was reckoned a good soldier. Not till I got home did I know he was amongst the slain.
In early August 1916 (4/8/16) there were 2 in memoriams in the paper for Frederick Bird. One was from his parents and family which concluded that he was … still very sadly missed. The other was from his aunt – Miss Annie E Bird (dressmaker of Yarram) – who included a short verse:
Men of Anzac, not in vain
All the battle sweat and pain
Of the brave young lives that fell
Gashed and torn by shot and shell
Death in battle was still heroic. It was hardly surprising, given that the families were so far removed from the reality of the War. They were certainly unaware that so many of the men were dying in diversionary actions.
Just a couple of days before Trooper Frederick Bird was killed, his brother, James George Bird, enlisted in the 9 Light Horse Regiment. He enlisted on 3 August 1915 and he was 19 and 6 months, one year older. He was fortunate to survive the War and returned in August 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.