79. Pozieres: 2 Division, 4-5 August – J E McINTOSH, P J DAVIDSON, G V AUBREY, A G INSEAL & G T MORLEY

James Edward McINTOSH 3897
23 Battalion KIA 4/8/16

James McIntosh was born at Heidelberg. At the time he enlisted in Melbourne (12/8/15) he was 30 yo and single. He had tried to enlist in Yarram earlier but had failed the medical. He was one of the many who were initially rejected by the local doctors but then subsequently passed by army medical staff in Melbourne. At the same time, he did not acknowledge that he had in fact failed an earlier medical. His name was on the electoral roll as a butcher of Alberton. There is no evidence that he owned property at Alberton, or anywhere else in the Shire of Alberton, so as a ‘butcher’ he was most likely to have been an employee rather than the proprietor. His name is recorded on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor but his death is not acknowledged. Nor does his name appear on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial.

When he completed his enlistment papers he noted that both parents were dead, and as his next-of-kin he gave his brother, John Thomas Macintosh of Clifton Hill. The same brother, with the same address, was also listed as next-of-kin on the embarkation roll. However, the address that Private Macintosh gave for himself on the embarkation roll was Miss Margaret Macintosh, care of J. Dawson, Burgundy Street, Heidelberg. His religion was Roman Catholic.

Private Macintosh embarked for overseas service in early February 1916. He reached France, via the Middle East, at the end of March 1916. His time in the front line was very short. He was admitted to hospital with bronchitis on 13/5/16 and did not rejoin his unit until the end of July 1916. 23 Battalion was involved in the 2 Division attack on the German lines at Pozieres on 4 August from 9.15 PM. The action was rated as more ’successful’ than earlier attacks but 2 Division suffered more that 6,000 casualties in not much more than a week.

At the more personal level, Private Macintosh was one of the many who disappeared at Pozieres. Initially, he was described as ‘wounded and missing’. The status was finally changed to ‘killed in action’, but not until 17/12/17, nearly 18 months later. The cable back to Australia advising of the death was dated 6/1/18.

Incredibly, in September 1916, about 1 month after the battle, the next-of-kin (his brother, John McIntosh) was sent formal advice that Private J E McIntosh had been ‘wounded’. The letter did not specify the nature of the wound. Nor was is it able to give the name of the hospital where he was being treated. However, it did advise that there was no real concern – It [the wound] is not stated as being serious and in the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that all wounded are progressing favourably.

But one year later, In September 1917, the brother was sent the standard form from the AIF asking for any information which the family might have received that could throw some light on what had happened. There was no longer any suggestion that Private Macintosh was recuperating in some unknown hospital somewhere in France or England.

I shall be glad if you will return this letter to me with a statement as to whether you have obtained any news of the soldier from any other source.

If letters or post cards from the soldier have reached you SINCE THE DATE THAT HE WAS POSTED MISSING, the last you have received should be enclosed; it will be returned to you.

If you have received from soldiers or others reports that the soldier is dead or a prisoner of war, you should state the names and addresses of the people who informed you; if they were soldiers you should give their names, numbers, and regiments; if they sent you letters, the letters should be forwarded. Any letters you send will be returned to you in due course.

There was no reply to this request. In fact, it appears that communication with the brother had either already broken down or broke down near the time of this communication. There is no correspondence in the service file from the brother. Also, the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour, sent to the brother, was not completed. A few items of person kit – 3 Knives, Belt – were forwarded to the brother in September 1918 but, again, there is no indication that he received them. Certainly, by early 1920, when the authorities were trying to issue medals they were unable to make contact with the brother as next-of-kin. Mail was returned as ‘not at this address’.

It appears that the authorities then placed a notice in the press – December 1921 – calling for relatives to come forward. They also sought to identify if anyone was receiving any war gratuity or pension in relation to Private McIntosh. The Department of Repatriation duly advised that there was no record of anyone submitting a pension claim.

But someone had already come forward claiming to be a family contact. In early 1918 (28/1/18), Miss Margaret McIntosh, care of Mr J Dawson of Burgundy Street Heidelberg – the same person and address identified on the embarkation roll – had written to Base Records, Melbourne stating that she was the mother … of the late No 3897 Private J E McIntosh. Subsequently, on 2 occasions – February 1918 and May 1920 –  Base Records wrote back, noting that Private McIntosh had given his brother as his next-of-kin and that he had also stated that both parents were dead, and requesting that she provide both a statutory declaration and birth certificate to support her claim. There is no evidence in the service file that such documentation was provided.

Like so many others, Private McIntosh disappeared at Pozieres. With no grave, his name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. However, it also appears that his disappearance in France served to magnify family dislocation back in Australia. On the face of it, in the end, for Private McIntosh, there was no real formal link to anyone.

References

National Archives file for McINTOSH James Edward 3897
Roll of Honour: James Edward McIntosh
First World War Embarkation Rolls: James Edward McIntosh
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: James Edward McIntosh

 

 

Percy James DAVIDSON 140
22 Battalion KIA 5/8/16

Percy James Davidson was one of the first 20 who enlisted at Yarram on 16/9/14. He was only 18 yo at the time and his mother, as his next-of-kin, who was living at Clifton Hill, had to telegraph her permission for his enlistment. His enlistment form indicated that he was to join the ‘Light Horse Gippsland’ but when he reached Broadmeadows he was appointed to 14 Battalion. His medical report indicated that his teeth had to be ‘attended to’.

Percy Davidson gave his occupation as gardener. He had been born at Auburn in Tasmania. His religion was Church of England.

Private Davidson’s first stint in the AIF did not last long because he was discharged as ‘medically unfit’ on 29/10/14. When his mother completed the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour she explained what happened:

This young lad joined up Sept 1914.  … was injured through over lifting and rendered unfit for duty discharged, four months under medical treatment at home joined up again Feb 1915.

When he enlisted the second time on 8/2/15 Percy Davidson recorded his previous service and the fact that he had been discharged as ‘medically unfit’. This time he was appointed to 22 Battalion, A company.

22 Battalion left Melbourne on 10/5/15 and joined the campaign at Gallipoli at the end of August 1915. After the evacuation it arrived back in Alexandria at the start of January 1916 and then left for France on 19/3/16 and disembarked at Marseilles on 26/3/16.

In France, Private Davidson was hospitalised with influenza at the end of March and early April. At the end of July he was promoted to temporary Corporal.

On 5/8/16 he was listed as missing and after more than one year, as a result of a court of enquiry held on 26/11/17, he was found to have been killed in action on the day he was first listed as missing.

22 Battalion went to the front line trenches at Pozieres on 27/7/16 and was involved in the attack from 9.15 PM on 4/8/16. The attack was successful but it provoked an intense artillery barrage that was responsible for heavy causalities. The war diary of the battalion shows that the casualties for the period 27 July to 8 August were 650, with 90 killed, nearly 150 missing and over 400 wounded. The war diary also noted that on 10 August, the battalion – or what was left of it – was inspected, en route, with the rest of 6 Brigade, by His Majesty King George V.

There is a Red Cross report for Corporal Davidson but there is only one witness statement:

At Pozieres in the 2nd Line in Reserve he was killed by a shell. It buried three or four but he was the only one killed. We were about [?] yards away from him at the time and word came down about it.

The statement came from Private Waters 278, 22 Battalion on 11/10/16, two months after the fighting. Private Waters was in hospital in England having been wounded in the same action. There is some confusion over the date when Private Waters was wounded and, as a consequence, it is possible that Private Davidson was killed on 4/8/16 rather than 5/8/16.

In mid August 1917, Corporal Davidson’s mother received from the AIF Kit Store in London some of his personal belongings: Photos, and Hair, Cards, Letters, Diary, 3 Note Books, Prayer book, Wallet, Scissors, Alabaster, Strop, 3 Brushes, Pouch, Metal ring, Handkerchief, Pipe.

The inventory list referred to her son as ‘the late 140 Pte Davidson. P. 22 Batt’n. A.I.F.’ She immediately wrote back:

I see per inventory he is spoken of as the late etc. I have never been notified by the defence department of my Son’s death. Would you give me Official information of the same if you have it.

The official reply on 24/8/17 was that there had been a ‘typographical error’ and there was still no official confirmation of the death.

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your communication concerning No. 140 Corporal P. J. Davidson, 22nd Battalion, and have to state that so far no report other than “Missing 5/8/16” has yet come to hand. The endorsement on the inventory which appears to indicate that [he] is no longer alive is evidently a typographical error on the part of one of the clerks in the London Office. It is understood the overseas authorities are endeavouring to obtain all the evidence there is possible with a view to finalizing these unsatisfactory cases at an early date, and any later reports received will be promptly transmitted.

Official confirmation of Corporal Davidson’s death would have reached his mother in late November 1917. His name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

Even though he was one of the first to enlist at Yarram, Percy Davidson’s name is not included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. Nor is his name on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial; and when his mother supplied the information for the (National) Roll of Honour of Australia she gave North Fitzroy as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

At the same time, there were clear links to Yarram. He was living and working in the district when he first enlisted. As well, he was known to the locals. For example, on 18/4/16 he wrote to the parents of Lance-Corporal Percy Wallace of Goodwood expressing his sympathy at the death of their son and giving an account of the circumstances of his death. He related how close he had been to Percy – I mourn his loss very much , as we have been like brothers to each other – and he closed the letter,

If there is anything I can do to make his last resting place comfortable, be assured I will do it. When I find out where he has been buried, I will write and let you know, also any particulars I get. I shall be glad to hear from you when you have time.

The letter, in its entirety, was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 23/6/16.

As already indicated Corporal Davidson gave his mother – Mrs Louie M Davidson – as next-of-kin. He also listed her as sole beneficiary of his will. She was the one who communicated with the AIF authorities. However, instructions under the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918 meant that the mother was not the automatic recipient of her son’s medals. The AIF informed the mother, The provisions of a Will have no bearing upon the distribution of Medals unless they are specifically mentioned therein… and in the required order of distribution, the father took precedence over the mother. In line with this policy, the AIF, on 18 October 1920, requested details of the father’s address.

The mother replied immediately (23/10/20) and explained that she did not have the father’s address. But she also went considerably further and challenged the integrity and decency of the very policy:

… I am unable to give you the information you require [the father’s address]. I held no communication whatsoever with Mr James Davidson for the past eight years and I certainly dispute his rights in anything relative to my Boy.

As you say my Boy left everything to his Mother. I was all He had. He was only eighteen when he enlisted and you will see it was My consent He obtained thereto. And in spite of all laws My Boy’s wishes I consider should be given effect to.

How could such things be mentioned in a will when the poor lads did not possess them or know anything about them.

What funny laws our politicians make, but you Sir are a soldier & I think my claim will meet with approval.

In the end her claim did meet with approval and all medals and memorial items were sent to her.

References

National Archives file for DAVIDSON Percy James 140
Roll of Honour: Percy James Davidson
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Percy James Davidson
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Percy James Davidson

 

 

George Victor AUBREY 546
22 Battalion KIA 5/8/16

George Aubrey was born at Heyfield. When he enlisted in Melbourne on 15/2/15 he had been living and working in Gormandale for some time. He had also attended school there. He noted on his enlistment papers that he had been in the Gormandale Rifle Club for 6 years. His mother gave Gormandale as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberon Shire Representative on 4/6/15 he was named as one of the … Gormandale boys who are on active service or in training.

At the time of enlistment he was 29 yo and single. He gave his occupation as labourer and his religion was Church of England. His mother – Adelaide Jane Aubrey – was listed as his next-of-kin and there are references to the father being dead, but it is not clear when he died; and it could have been after the time of his son’s enlistment. The father was definitely deceased by 1920, and the medals  were returned to the mother.

Private Aubrey embarked for overseas service on 10/5/15 and saw action on Gallipoli. He was medically evacuated from the Peninsula in mid December – Cellulitis (legs) – not long before the complete evacuation of Australian troops. He had been promoted to lance corporal in August 1915 but then in France in May 1916 had ‘reverted to the ranks’ at his own request.

He was initially reported as ‘missing’ on 5/8/16 and then, one year later, following a court of enquiry convened on 11/8/17, the status was changed to ‘killed in action’ on the same day. The following extracts from witness statements from the Red Cross report, some of which were included at the court of enquiry, make it clear that he was killed, notwithstanding some significant differences in the specific circumstances.

… a shell burst and I saw him struck over the heart by a piece that killed him instantly.

He [my brother] told me that he saw Aubrey blown to pieces. We both knew George Aubrey well.

I was at Pozieres on Aug. 5th.1916 when Pte. Aubrey 546 was killed. The Germans made a counter attack. A bullet struck him in the head. He was not buried as far as I know, but left in the trench.

He was killed at Pozieres on August 5th. according to information given to me by Pte. Hoye… . I believe Hoye was near him when he was killed and buried by a shell. When he was dug out he was dead.

McDonald, Machine Gunner told me Aubrey was on a stretcher wounded and was being brought in by Sergt. Williams when a shell killed both of them, blew them both up.

The body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. In terms of the Shire of Alberton, his name is recorded on the Roll of Honor but he is not marked as ‘killed’ and he is not included on the War Memorial. His name is also listed on the honor roll for Gormandale SS and the war memorial in Gormandale, and in both instances his death on active service is acknowledged.

The mother received his kit – Diary, Cards, Letters, 2 Religious Books, Mirror, Dictionary, Brush, Knife, 3 Handkerchiefs – in October 1917. Even though the court of enquiry in August 1917 – 2 months earlier – had determined that he had been killed in action, the inventory list for the personal kit still referred to him as ‘reported missing’.

The mother applied for a pension but the claim was apparently rejected, on the basis that … claimant [mother] was not dependent on the earnings of deceased 12 months prior to enlistment. Possibly he had not been living with his mother at Gormandale for one or more years before he enlisted. Or, more likely, the mother’s financial position prior to enlistment was such that she had not had to rely on support from her son. In relation to this scenario, the timing of the father’s death could have been a consideration.

References

National Archives file for AUBREY George Victor 546
Roll of Honour: George Victor Aubrey
First World War Embarkation Rolls: George Victor Aubrey
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: George Victor Aubrey

 

 

Arthur George INSEAL 1914
22 Battalion KIA 5/8/16

Arthur Inseal was born 23/1/1891 at Felton, near Hereford, England. He migrated to Australia and prior to enlisting he was working as a farm labourer in Carrajung. He must have been in the district for some time because his name is recorded in the 1915 electoral roll for the sub division of Yarram. On the (National) Roll of Honour, Carrajung is given as the ‘place of association’.

He enlisted in Melbourne on 16/6/15 and gave his age as 25 yo. He was single and his religion was stated to be Church of England. He gave his mother – Emma Inseal – as next-of-kin. She was living near Worcester, England.

Private Inseal embarked from Melbourne on 26/8/15 and served with 22 Battalion at Gallipoli. He was repatriated to Australia in early January 1916 for 3 months after having contracted enteric fever. He returned to duty on 21/3/16, re-embarked on 29/3/16 and eventually rejoined 22 Battalion in early July 1916. He was killed one month later.

As for so many at Pozieres, he was initially listed as ‘missing’ on 5/8/16. A court of enquiry held on 26/11/17, more than one year later, changed this to ‘killed in action’.

There is an extensive Red Cross report for Private Inseal. The eye witness accounts date from November 1916. From the start it was evident that men who had been with him had seen him killed.

Informant states the “Inseal was about 2 yards from me when he was hit right through the head by a machine gun and killed on the spot. He had only joined us about a month before. He was a short man and hump-backed.  December 1916.

He was killed outright just in front of me at Moquet Farm on August 4th [sic]. I was following him up in the same wave. He was killed by Machine Gun fire. His body had to be left there as we went on in the charge.   January 1917

Inseal was killed in action at Pozieres alongside me on the 4th Aug [sic]. He was hit by machine gun fire in the open. He fell beside me but I do not know whether he was picked up. We held the ground. He was short, stout, fair hair, clean shaven and about 28. He went to Australia from England some years ago.   January 1917

There were more eye-witness accounts, with most giving the date he was killed as 4 August rather than 5 August. There was no doubt that the witnesses knew Private Inseal and had observed his death at close hand.

Casualty was well known to me, called “Arthur”. He returned to Australia with enteric fever in 1915, and rejoined us on the 4th July, 1916, at Armentieres, and then went out to the charge at Pozieres on the Ridge on August 4th where I saw his dead body. He was not buried so far as I know, but I think he was bound to have been as the body was easily obtainable.  June 1917

As these witness statements were collected, the (Australian) Red Cross provided updates to the mother. She had made a formal request to the Red Cross in January 1917. The Red Cross always emphasised that the information was ‘unofficial’, but with every additional batch of witness statements they become more direct in their assessment of his fate. For example, in February 1917 they wrote,

We deeply regret to have to send you this information and if any further reports come to hand we shall at once inform you. In the meantime we can only offer you our sincere sympathy.

However, by October 1917 – this was still prior to the formal court of enquiry (26/11/17) – the outcome, as far as the Red Cross was concerned, was far more definite:

You will realise that this report is surely unofficial although we greatly fear that there is very little chance that your son is alive as more than a year has passed since his casualty occurred.

There is no correspondence from the mother in Private Inseal’s service file and she did not complete the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour. Kit was returned to her in February 1918 but there is no record in his service file of what personal items were in fact returned.

There is no grave and Private Inseal’s name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. Even though he was obviously living and working in the local area, Private Inseal’s name is not included on any Shire of Alberton memorial, with the single exception that his name is listed – spelled incorrectly – as Ensil – on a memorial to residents of the Carrajung district. On this list he is marked as having been killed.

References

National Archives file for INSEAL Athur George 1914
Roll of Honour: Arthur George Inseal
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Arthur George Inseal (1915)
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Arthur George Inseal (1916)
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur George Inseal

 

 

George Thomas MORLEY 4479
26 Battalion 5/8/16

George Morley was born at Gormandale and grew up in the local district, attending Gormandale State School.

However, by the time he enlisted (6/12/15) he was living and working in Queensland at Coalstoun Lakes via Biggenden. He was another of the many young men from the Shire of Alberton who had moved to Queensland prior to the outbreak of WW1. On his enlistment papers he gave his occupation as farmer but it is difficult to establish for this group of locals who went to Queensland whether they specifically held land or worked as farm labourers. Given that a lawyer from Brisbane acted in the execution of Private Morley’s will, it is likely that he did hold land.

When he enlisted Private Morley was 29 yo and single. He gave his religion as Church of England. He listed his mother – Sarah Ellen Morley of Gormandale – as next-of-kin. His father was dead.

Private George Morley was taken on in reinforcements for 26 Battalion and his unit embarked for overseas on 30/3/16. His service record indicates that his particular group of reinforcements only joined 26 Battalion in France, via Egypt, in early August 1916. The 2 Division attack at Pozieres on 4/8/16 would have been the very first, and last, action Private Morley saw. The fact that he had only recently joined 26 Battalion in France possibly explains why the Red Cross file for him is so scant. He would have been relatively unknown to others in his unit. The report has nothing more than the inclusion that he was reported missing as of 5/8/16 and that the status was changed to killed in action on 31/7/17, one year later. The actual date for the court of enquiry that determined this status was 29/6/17.

There is not much commentary provided in the war diary of 26 Battalion for the attack on 4/8/16. Casualty figures for the period 31 July to 31 August 1916 show 32 killed, 203 wounded and 148 missing. However the diary does reveal how difficult it was to retrieve wounded from the battle field and, presumably, why those dead had to left where they fell. It was this latter group who then became ‘missing’. The diary talks about the ‘great difficulty’ faced in evacuating the wounded. It argues that the allocation of ’8 stretchers and 16 bearers per battalion’ was ‘totally inadequate’.  This limitation was made much worse at Pozieres by the great distance the bearers had to cross – up to 2,300 yards – to get the wounded to the aid posts. On this particular occasion, 26 Battalion more than doubled the number of stretchers and bearers, and made extraordinary efforts over 2 days to make sure that all wounded had been removed from the battle field before the unit was relieved. The priority was obviously on the wounded, not the dead. Recollections of Pozieres always focused on the dead: those quickly or only partially buried and those not buried; and those buried but then uncovered by artillery fire.

The mother in Gormandale must have followed up the issue of kit because there is correspondence in the file stating that the personal items – 4 Brushes, Gladstone Bag – were returned to a Mr. H Driver of Coalstoun Lakes, near Biggenden, as per the provisions of her son’s will. All medals – including the Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque – were sent to the mother in 1922, after she had advised Base Records in Melbourne that there was no ’nearer relation’ than herself. She also noted that her husband had been dead for ‘many years’.

There is also extended correspondence in the service file from Miss J Marshall of Dundarrah via Biggenden. She was keen to hear any news of Pte. G. T. Morely of Coalstoun Lakes and her brother Pte. John Marshall of Cessnock, NSW. In response to her first letter of 8/9/16 she was informed (21/9/16) … No. 4479 Private G. T. Morley, 26 Battalion, reported missing since 5/8/16. Her brother was wounded and in hospital.

She wrote back on 2/10/16 seeking more information on Private Morley:

Dear Sir, the last letter I had from Pte. G. T. Morley No 4479 was dated 23rd July so he was not at the front then so could you please give me any information about Pte G. T. Morley if he has been to the Front since that date & will you kindly let me know, if you receive any later Information about the Missing Soldier
Anxiously awaiting the latest Report

But the letter she received from Base Records (16/10/16) made it very clear that there would be no further information:

In acknowledging receipt of your letter dated 2nd instant, I have to state since he was reported missing 5/8/16, no further particulars have been received concerning No. 4479 Private G. T. Morley, 26th Battalion. It is evident that this soldier went to the firing line after 23rd July.

As you are not shown as next-of-kin to above soldier, and as this Branch undertakes to advise the person so nominated only, your request that you also be advised of any later reports cannot be complied with.

When the mother supplied the information for the (National) Roll of Honour after the War, she gave Traralgon as the location with which her son was ‘chiefly connected’. She also noted that 3 of her sons had died in the fighting:

George Thomas Morely KIA 5/8/16
Ernest Edward Morley DOW 14/5/27
Robert Herbert Morley KIA 31/10/17

While George Thomas Morley is not included on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or War Memorial, the fate of the Morley brothers from Gormandale was well known in the district and was highlighted at the unveiling of the honor roll for Gormandale State School in late 1918, as reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 4/12/18:

The honor list of the Gormandale school contains 45 names of old scholars who enlisted, and two teachers, and of these six have been killed; and it is remarkable that three of these were members of the Morley family.

The body of Private George Thomas Morley was never recovered. His name is included on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

References

National Archives file for MORLEY George Thomas 4479
Roll of Honour: George Thomas Morley
First World War Embarkation Rolls: George Thomas Morley
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: George Thomas Morley

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