Harold McCheyne RAYMOND (2675)
12 Battalion KIA 9/4/1917
Harold McCheyne Raymond was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton. He attended Melbourne Church of England Grammar School [Melbourne Grammar School] and Geelong College. As a boy and young man, he had no contact with the Shire of Alberton and his father gave Melbourne as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Harold Raymond’s name is not recorded on any memorial in the Shire of Alberton. However, there was a very strong indirect connection to the local area because Harold Raymond was the son of Reverend Arthur Rufus Raymond who, between January 1917 and October 1918, was the Church of England minister in Yarram.
As the local Church of England minister over 1917 and 1918, the father was called on to deliver the fateful telegrams informing the next-of-kin of the death of their loved ones. For example, the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – reported (27/4/17) the following in relation to the death of Gunner John Gellion who was the focus of the last post (Post 111):
The sad news reached Yarram on Wednesday evening of the death of Gunner John T Gellion, killed in action on 3rd April. The Rev. Mr. Raymond, Church of England minister, received a telegram from the Defence Department, asking him to kindly inform his brother, and to convey the sympathy of King and Queen and Commonwealth.
More ironically, the local paper reported (13/4/17) Rev. Raymond playing the same role for the parents of Private Percy David Boddy – Post 109 :
The Rev. Mr. Raymond performed the sad duty on Monday [9/4/17] of breaking the news to Mr. and Mrs. Boddy, Balloong, of the loss in battle of their son Reginald (sic).
The cruel irony was that, most likely, Rev. Raymond’s own son – Harold Raymond – was killed on 9/4/17 (Easter Monday, 1917), the very day he (Rev. Raymond) delivered the telegram to the Boddy family.
When it came the turn of Rev. Raymond himself, a fellow clergyman – Rev Tamagno, the local Presbyterian minister – delivered the telegram. The local paper (2/5/17) reported it thus:
The Rev. F Tamagno on Monday night had the sad duty of breaking the news to the Rev. A. Raymond, Church of England minister, Yarram, of the loss of his son in battle on 10th ultimo. Private H. McC. Raymond enlisted in Queensland, and would have attained his 25th birthday on 21st Inst. … The deepest sympathy will be extended to Mr. and Mrs. Raymond in the loss of their youngest son.
As indicated, Private Raymond enlisted in Brisbane, on 13/7/15. He was 23 yo and single and he gave his occupation as bank clerk. His father, given as next-of-kin, was then the Church of England minister in the town of Ross in Tasmania. This was 18 months before the father moved to Yarram.
There was a brother – Rev. Charles Hedley Raymond – who was also a Church of England minister, at Parkville, Melbourne. Religion was a significant influence in the young man’s life and the father, on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour noted that, He was a loyal churchman & a Christian and that, He enlisted in response to a powerful appeal made in his own parish church in Brisbane by the present Bishop of Tasmania, Dr. Hay.
Private Raymond joined as reinforcements for 26 Battalion but he transferred to 12 Battalion in March 1916. He was hospitalised – I. C. T. Feet – in July 1916 and then rejoined his unit on 16/9/16. He was killed 6 months later. There was some doubt over the circumstances of his death. The Roll of Honour has his death as ‘killed in action’ on 9 April 1917 but the official report of death has the date as ‘between 6th /10th April’. There is no record that he was initially listed as ‘missing’. The body was never recovered. His name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. According to information in the service file, there was also, for a short time at least, a memorial cross erected in the Hermies Hill British Cemetery.
There is a Red Cross report for Private Raymond and there is also a detailed report in the war diary of 12 Battalion for the action at Boursies from 7-10 April 1917. At the time, the Australians were pushing the Germans as they were withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line. The Germans managed to inflict very heavy causalities as they gave up ground. In the 4 days of fighting, the casualties for 12 Battalion were 62 dead, 184 wounded and 10 missing. The fighting was also at close-quarters and brutal. For example, the war diary records that early on Sunday 8/4/17 (Easter Sunday) a party of 6 Germans surrendered to the Australians but then one or more of the group threw a percussion bomb. The diary records that the German prisoners were … immediately killed as a result.
In terms of the Red Cross report, the most reliable witness statement, dated 13/11/17, came, arguably, from Sgt. Huxley (4957). Sgt. Huxley, like Pte. Raymond, was in 12 Platoon, C Company of 12 Battalion:
He was in my platoon. No. 12. and was killed on Easter Monday [9/4/17] morning riddled with machine gun bullets, death was certainly instantaneous. I saw him just after. I saw the burial party going out the same morning. I know he was buried on the field. I do not think there was any proper cross or that the grave would be registered, though I know the exact spot between [Louveral] and [Boursies] … Our Sgt. Major and several others wrote to his people and have had an acknowledgement. I think they have all possible particulars.
As indicated, word of the death reached the family in Australia at the very start of May 1917. The personal kit – Wallet, Photos. 2, Letters, 2 Discs, Wrist watch & strap (damaged), Wrist strap, Pendant, Photo, Scarf, 3 Handkerchiefs, 3 Testaments, Comb, Purse, Razor, Prayer Book. – arrived in January 1918.
Faced with the death of his son, Rev. Raymond continued to call for enlistments and support for the War. Three months after his son’s death, the local paper reported (11/7/17) his comments at the farewell of an another local, J L Dennison, from Womerah:
Rev. Mr. Raymond said his whole heart went out to the men who fought for the Empire, Home and Country, and referred to the death of his son at the front. Private Dennison was going to do his part. May God go with him and keep him safe, and may he return decorated with a Victoria Cross.
In normal circumstances the reference to winning the Victoria Cross would have seemed odd. Certainly, many local men had received military awards but the possibility of winning the VC was always very remote. However, at that time, 2 VCs had been recently awarded for the very action in which Private Raymond had been killed. One of the recipients was Captain James Ernest Newland, in charge of A Company,12 Battalion. Captain Newland himself had no direct contact with the local area; but he was the brother of the local recruiting sergeant, William Andrew Newland. There was also another Newland brother – Alfred Lindsay Newland – who had been killed in action at the end of 1916. He had also lived and worked in the local district before the War. Overall, the Newland family was well-known locally and, not surprisingly, the award was written up in great detail in the local paper (13/6/17; 21/9/17). It must have also been weighing on the mind of the Rev. Raymond.
As indicated, Rev Raymond left the Shire of Alberton at the end of September 1918. He served less than 2 years. There were many farewells and, on the face of it, he was was well-liked and respected. He was praised, in particular, for his work in improving the finances of the local church: a feat his predecessors had not achieved. People spoke of his genuine interest in, and care for, his parishioners. However, for all the praise, a letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 16/10/18 which suggested another side to the shift from Yarram. It was anonymous – just signed ‘Church Goer’ – but the fact that it appeared was significant. Rossiter, the editor, was closely involved with the local Church of England. He had been, and was probably still serving, on the Board of Guardians for the local Church of England and it seems hard to believe that he would have tolerated the following anonymous letter if there was nothing to it. In fact, it is conceivable that Rossiter himself wrote it. The casual or background racism in the letter is reflective of the time.
Sir, – In your issue of Wednesday last I was very pleased to notice an allusion to Rev. A. R. Raymond, and the esteem in which he was held. The wonder is with so many warm friends (as shown in the practical manner described by you) that he got the move on. Surely it must have been a very small minority that was the cause of it. Well, I do not envy them their success, or would like to incur their responsibility, for in my humble opinion Mr. Raymond was one of the best ministers that ever came to Yarram. Possibly he was too evangelistic for them. It is the fashion in these days for some ministers to preach smooth things, so as not to ruffle the feelings of their hearers. Mr. Raymond was not of that sort. This small minority would probably delight in a more fashionable church with a parson to match; something like one in America, of which it was said that an old darkey wished to join. The minister thought it was hardly the correct thing to do. Not wishing to hurt the old chap’s feelings, he told him to go home and pray over it. In a few days the darkey came back. “Well what do you think of it by this time?” asked the preacher. “Well, sir,” replied the darkey, “I prayed and prayed, and da good Lawd, He says to me, Richard, I wouldn’t bother ma head about dat no more. I’ve been trying to get into dat church myself for da last twenty years, and I aint had no luck at all.”
Rev. Raymond had been one of the local clergymen to push for the local Co-Operative Store to give up its licence to sell alcohol as part of the renewed push to promote temperance in WW1. Perhaps that position cost him some support. Perhaps he had pushed too hard for financial contributions from the locals. Whatever the case, it does seem that there was some sort of pressure exerted behind the scenes for his move. In his farewell speeches he certainly gave the impression that he was disappointed to be be moving after such a comparatively short time.
But beyond the local politics of the church, you cannot but wonder – to continue a theme initially presented in Post 26: Soldiers of Christ – that the bigger challenge facing Rev. Raymond was to reconcile, at every Easter that followed, the death of his son for ‘Empire Home and Country’ with the joyous celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for RAYMOND Harold McCheyne 2675
Roll of Honour: Harold McCheyne Raymond
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Harold McCheyne Raymond
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Harold McCheyne Raymond
This post shows the results of excellent research to reveal a fascinating personal story in the thick of battles on the homefront and the Western Front. The discovery and use of the anonymous quote from the local paper is inspired.