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