Eric Nightingale LEAR (10966)
3 Divisional Train DoW 24/7/1917
Eric Nightingale Lear’s name appears on the honor roll for Won Wron SS. However, it does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His link to the shire is complex and hard to uncover.
Eric Nightingale Lear was born in Fryerstown in 1891. It appears that his father – D’Arcy Connor Lear – who had been a teacher at Tarraville, shifted to Fryerstown, near Castlemaine, in 1890. The father had been born in the district (Tarraville, 1862) and was a prominent local. He held many civic offices – Secretary, South Gippsland Rifle Club; Treasurer, Tarraville Mechanics’ Institute … – and was even said to have been one of the organisers behind the development of the local football association. He was also the convenor of the local union of state school teachers. He married Florence Mary Nightingale in 1890, the same year he shifted to Fryerstown. Florence Nightingale was also definitely local. Her family was also from Tarraville. Her younger brother, Charles Frederick Nightingale, would in time become one of the local councillors for the Shire of Alberton. When the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – reported (10/8/17) the death of Sergeant Eric Lear, it made the connection between the 2 local families:
Yesterday, Cr. Nightingale received word that his nephew, Sergeant Eric N. Lear, son of Mr. D’Arcy Lear, had died of wounds. … Mr. Lear has lost his oldest son.
As well as the connection to his mother’s family (Nightingale) in the local district, Eric Lear had many cousins in the wider Lear family in the Shire of Alberton.
Notwithstanding the obvious sets of family connections to the Shire of Alberton from his parents’ generation, it is difficult to uncover the precise links to the district that Eric Lear had. As indicated, he attended the state school at Won Wron but, surprisingly, it does not appear that his family was in the district at the time. It appears that the parents and other 5 younger children were in Fryerstown. Possibly, for some reason or other, he was sent to live with his uncle – Charles Frederick Nightingale – and during this period he attended the school at Won Wron. It remains a mystery but the reality is that there was only one E N Lear who enlisted in the AIF and that person was Eric Nightingale Lear who was born at Fryerstown in 1891 and whose name appears – as killed – on the honor roll of Won Wron SS.
Eric Lear enlisted on 17/5/16. Prior to enlistment he was serving with the senior cadets at Carlton and according to his enlistment papers he held a commission in his unit. There are also forms in his file indicating that prior to enlistment he applied and was recommended for a commission in the AIF. This was in February 1916. However, he left Australia (3/6/16) with rank of driver, in the 3rd Divisional Train and was not promoted to the rank of sergeant until June 1917.
When he enlisted in Melbourne, Driver Lear was 24 yo and single. However, he married – Annie Lear – before he embarked for overseas. His wife’s address was South Yarra. His occupation was given as clerk in the Federal Public Service. He gave his religion as Church of England. There are other references in his file which show that he had been a student at Wesley College and that he had been a ‘scholarship’ student. His family also spoke of his sporting – cricket and rowing – prowess.
As indicated, Eric Lear married just before embarking for overseas service. In his file there is a communication written on behalf of his wife which highlights the way that such women had to come to terms with the real possibility that the husband would be killed. The letter was written by Rev J T Lawton, the Presbyterian clergyman at South Yarra, the church where the wife worshipped.
Mrs. Lear, a member of my congregation, desires me to request that you will be good enough to notify me in case of death of her husband
No. 10966 E. N. Lear
3rd Div. Train
and to prevent any mistake such instruction might be inserted on his attestation sheet.
The letter also pointed out that the husband had probably given his religion as Church of England [he had]. Hence the need to adjust the record to reflect the wife’s wishes. The requested changes were made.
Driver Lear reached England in July 1917 and after further training eventually proceeded overseas to France in February 1917. By this time he held the rank of sergeant. In France, the 3rd Divisional Train was responsible for ensuring the movement of supplies to the front line. At the time the 2 basic modes of transport were the ‘trench tramways’ and ‘pack transport’, with mules. The latter was a more dangerous proposition because the mules were used to carry the essential supplies closer to the front line. There is no Red Cross report for Sgt. Lear but the relevant unit diary – Supplies & Transport, 3rd Australian Divisional Train – indicates that on 15/7/17 Sgt. Lear was detached to serve with pack transport. This was in the general area of Messines. The same diary records his death over the period 23-25 July:
No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E. N., admitted to No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, suffering from G.S.W
No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E.N., died of wounds at No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, and struck off N.C.O’s., supernumerary strength.
Another record describes the wounds as: GSW. R. Axilla, arm, thigh, buttock, knee, calf.
From the same unit diary, it appears that the supplies Sgt. Lear was transporting to the front line at the time he was wounded included 60 duckboards, 4,000 sand bags and 60 small A-frames. The diary also gave a breakdown of casualties – including the mules – for the month of July: 4 mules killed and 4 wounded and 5 men killed and 15 wounded.
The cable advising those back home of the death was dated 31/7/17. Presumably, the information was delivered by Rev. J T Lawton.
Interestingly, the amount of personal kit returned was considerable. It came in 3 lots.
April 1918: 2 Discs, Knife, Cigarette Holder, Pencil, Pipe, Match Box Cover, 6 Coins, Card, Photos, Lanyard, Whistle, Post Office receipts, French Book, Note-Case, Pocket Book, metal Cigarette Case, Wallet, Gospel, Metal Watch.
April 1918: 1 Suit Case, 2 Keys, Tunic, Mirror (damaged), Pipe Rack, Cigarette Case, Badges & Shoulder Titles, Tie Pin, Razor strop, piece Cobblers Wax, Wallet, Shaving Paper Case, Canvas Bag, Letters, Unit Colors, Cards, Photos, 3 Brushes, pr. Spurs, Photo Wallet, London Guide, Suit Pyjamas, Pipe, Burnisher, 2 Kt bag Handles, Note Book refills, Testament, 3 Handkerchiefs, 2 Collars, 2 Neck Ties, Razor Hone, Notebook, Pin, 2 pencils, 2 match Box Covers, book (Novel), Sam Browne Belt.
May 1918: 2 Pipes, Pouch, Razor in Case and Blades, Razor Strop, Knife, Fountain pen, Belt, 1 pair Leather Gloves, Metal Wrist Watch (damaged), and Strap, Electrical Torch, Combination Knife, Fork and Spoon in Case, Comb.
Both the size and specific contents – eg Sam Browne Belt – suggest an officer’s kit rather than a NCO’s. Probably some of the kit reflected his time as a officer in the senior cadets (60th Infantry). It is also possible that those serving in a Divisional Train were better able to manage the logistics of holding and moving greater amounts of personal kit.
Sergeant Lear was buried at Trois Arbres Military Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord Pas de Calais.
On the (National) Roll of Honour, his wife gave Parkville as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.
A brief death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 10/8/17:
LEAR – Died of wounds at the front on 24th July, Eric Nightingale Lear, eldest son of D’Arcy Lear, North Melbourne. Age 26 years.
As reported in the local paper (7/8/18), his name was read out at the unveiling of the Won Wron school honor roll on 31/7/ 18.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project
National Archives file for LEAR Eric Nightingale 10966
Roll of Honour: Eric Nightingale Lear
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Eric Nightingale Lear