Owen PATTERSON (3221)
8 Battalion DoW 21/4/1917
Owen Patterson is one of the more surprising omissions from the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. Also, while his name is included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor he is not marked as ‘killed’. At the same time, his name and death are recorded on the honor roll of Stacey’s Bridge. Overall, there was only limited recognition of the true nature of his sacrifice.
He was born and grew up in Melbourne and when he enlisted he gave his address as care of his sister in South Melbourne. The address of his father, as next-of-kin, was also in Melbourne.
However, he was definitely living and working in the local area when he enlisted. His name is even recorded on the Electoral Roll (1915) as a labourer of Jack River. His first medical (24/7/15) was in Yarram. His enlistment was noted in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 28/7/15. There are also other references in the same paper to his involvement in local sport, particularly football. He played for the local Devon team. In March 1915 he was on the committee for the Womerah & District Sports.
The last local reference to Owen Patterson appears to be a ‘soldier’s letter’ written by ‘Private J. D. Loriman, formerly of Whitelaw’s Track’ which was published on 24/11/16. In the letter there is a reference to Owen Patterson as one of those locals who ‘came out all right’ from Pozieres.
Private Patterson enlisted on 2/8/15. He was 24 yo, single and he gave his occupation as ‘farm labourer’. His religion was Church of England. He joined as reinforcements for 24 Battalion and left Melbourne 26/11/15. After further training in Egypt he transferred to 8 Battalion on 24/2/16 and left for Europe. His unit disembarked at Marseilles on 31/3/16.
Private Patterson spent 10 days in hospital in December 1916 with bronchitis. He rejoined his unit in mid December.
He died of ‘wounds received in he field’ on 21/4/17. This description of the cause of death suggests that he was wounded on 21/4/17 and died the same day. The witness statements in the Red Cross file provide some additional information. At the time, he was working in the company quarter master store, assisting with the distribution of rations. He was possibly in the reserve trench at the time he was wounded. He was hit by a shell and he died at a dressing station very shortly after. The dressing station was just yards from where he was hit. He was buried nearby, but recollections of exactly where he was buried were confused and the grave was lost. Shortly after his death, the lieutenant in charge of the QM store was in communication with his father and sister. As indicated earlier, Patterson gave his father as next-of-kin and the address of his sister as his address on enlistment.
The following statement from Pte J A Wheeler 5772 gives the essential details:
I knew him. His name was Owen. He was Q.M’s assistant. He came from Yarram, Gippsland. He was very young [perhaps he had put his age up by a few years on enlistment] pretty dark and about 5 ft 4” in height. He was guiding a ration party coming up with rations at Lagnicourt, and a shell burst behind him, and hit him under his tin hat. It knocked him senseless, and he died at a dressing station near Lagnicourt within an hour or two.
There is no specific detail in the battalion war diary about Private Owen’s death. The battalion was near Lagnicourt. There is a report of 3 men wounded and 1 missing on the day before (20/4/17); and, on the day after (22/4/17), the casualties for a patrol that attacked German positions were 1 dead and 14 wounded. No casualties were recorded for 21/4/17; but the diary does state, Enemy shelling fairly active during the day.
The cable advising the family of his death was dated 11/5/17. No one in the family completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour. With no grave, Private Patterson’s name was included on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
Personal kit reached his father in early November 1917: 2 Identity Discs, Cap Comforter, Tie, Writing Pad, Card.
Owen Patterson enlisted in Yarram as a young, itinerant farm labourer. At the time he was exhorted to enlist and do his duty, and he was promised, solemnly, that his name and sacrifice would never be forgotten. Unfortunately, there was only ever partial recognition of his story.
Note: Owen Patterson’s personal history has been compromised even more by the fact that his name in the National Archives has been entered, incorrectly, as PETTERSON. Also, the wrong service number (3121 instead of the correct 3221) has been ascribed for the search on the AWM’s First World War Embarkation Rolls.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for PATTERSON Owen 3221 (see note above)
Roll of Honour: Owen Patterson
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Owen Patterson (see note above)
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Owen Patterson