Edgar James McCARTHY (5422)
8 Battalion DoW 22/4/1917
Edgar James McCarthy is something of a mystery. There is an E McCarthy on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. However, there is no McCarthy at all on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. In terms of the national record, there is only one E McCarthy who was killed on active service. On this basis, the E McCarthy on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial must be Edgar James McCarthy who died of wounds on 22/4/16. This person was born and grew up in in Rosedale. According to the Embarkation Roll, he was living at Rosedale when he enlisted and his name is recorded on the honour rolls of both the Shire of Rosedale and the state school at Rosedale. When the father, Henry McCarthy, completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he gave Rosedale as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. In the Traralgon Record on 8/5/17 there was an in memoriam to Edgar James McCarthy … dearly loved only child of Harry McCarthy, Rosedale and loving nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Grace, Traralgon. The notice was inserted … by his Auntie Dollie and Uncle Jack, Traralgon. Yet for all the obvious connection to Rosedale, there must also have been some link to the Shire of Alberton. Presumably, he was working in the district as a farm labourer immediately prior to enlisting.
When Private McCarthy enlisted in Melbourne on 10/2/16 he gave his occupation as labourer. He was single and his religion was listed as Church of England. At the time he was only 19 yo and his father had to give consent. Ordinarily, both parents had to sign, but on the enlistment papers, the local recruiting officer had written that the mother – Alice Emily McCarthy – was ‘not mentally fit to sign’. There is other official correspondence indicating that in the early 1920s the mother was a patient at Kew Hospital for the Insane (Kew Asylum). Possibly the uncle and aunt referred to above had looked after the boy when he was growing up. Certainly, it appears that the father might not have always been there. In the service file, the father’s address changed many times (Rosedale, Upper Pakenham, Cranbourne, Carrum Downs, Cockatoo) and by the mid 1920s the authorities were not able to trace him. Overall, it appears that Edgar McCarthy would have had a difficult childhood and youth.
Private McCarthy joined as reinforcements for 8 Battalion. He left Melbourne for overseas service just 2 months later (4/4/16). There was further training in the UK – 2 Training Brigade – and he then joined 8 Battalion in the field in February 1917. He was wounded in action 2 months later (16/4/17) and died from his wounds in hospital on 22/4/17. The hospital report suggests that he had little chance of surviving,
He was suffering from very severe Gunshot wounds of the head and back, his spine being badly injured.
He was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.
On the day he was wounded (16/4/17), 8 Battalion was located on the front line near Morchies. This was the day after the German counter-attack on the Australian positions along the Hindenburg Line. The German advance was halted and they were pushed back to their original line by the close of that day (15/4/17). The day after this major German attack (16/4/17), the war diary for 8 Battalion records the casualties as 3 killed and 10 others wounded. Private McCarthy must have been one of the 10 wounded. There is a Red Cross file for Private Edgar James McCarthy 5422, but it does not provide any additional information.
It appears that the family was advised of his death on 26/4/17. The personal kit – Wallet, Letters, Cards, Photo, Note Book, Fountain Pen, 2 Shaving Brushes, Metal Cigarette Case, Comb – was returned in March 1918.
Unlike the great majority of those who were killed on active service, there is no correspondence from the family – or any other interested party – in the service file of Private McCarthy. The father did sign for the receipt of the personal kit but that is the apparent extent of his communication with the AIF over his son’s death. It seems that Private McCarthy was pretty much by himself.
Sadly, there is not much detail on the life and service of Edgar McCarthy. Yet there must have been a link to the Shire of Alberton.
National Archives file forMcCARTHY Edgar James 5422
Roll of Honour: Edgar James McCarthy
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Edgar James McCarthy
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Edgar James McCarthy