136. Broodseinde, Oct. 1917: T M Bolger, H J Missen, R E Power & J Francis

Broodseinde 4/10/17

Following Menin Road and Polygon Wood, Broodseinde was considered another ‘success’. The close and intense artillery support and the limited objectives of the ‘step by step’ or ‘bite and hold’ approach continued to prove effective. The large number of German prisoners again fed the conviction that the German forces were demoralised and on the verge of collapse, if only the pressure could be increased even more. But the battle was not without cost. The German artillery, in preparation for what was to be their own attack, fell on the allied troops in the assembly positions. The AIF casualties were 6,500. This figure, for a ‘victory’ of such limited objectives, was extreme. It was also unsustainable when set against the enlistment rate back in Australia. There were also ominous signs. The artillery cover was becoming less effective, the Germans were adjusting their own military tactics to counter the British attacks and, most concerning, the rain, limited as it was at that point, quickly turned the ground to a quagmire. The weather of October was now a critical consideration on the battle field.

The war diaries of the battalions involved in the fighting at that point – early October 1917 – reveal how the AIF itself saw the success of its operations. Despite the continuing high level of casualties, the dominant tone of the diaries is one of optimism and pride. The men are described as fit, well trained and highly disciplined. The tone of the writing itself is heroic and celebratory. The following short extract is from the diary of 37 Battalion. It describes the movement of men to the assembly points immediately before the attack:

The batteries were firing their usual vollies and the slow moving figures of men silhouetted against the sky from the flashes of the guns presented an awe inspiring spectacle. Not a sound could be heard of these heavily laden men as slowly but surely they wended their way along this unbeaten track. Every man knew his job, knew what was required of him and played the game. At a time like that men realise what they are up against.

…There were 4 Battalions roughly of 500 men each, laden with bombs, grenades, rifles, bayonets, sandbags, stretchers, picks, shovels and equipment, systematically forming up in attack formation right under the nose of the enemy without being seen or heard. ’Tis incredible but nevertheless a hard, solid fact – due to only thing – DISCIPLINE. The men were fast filling the shell holes in the Assembly area and by 1.20 a.m. the Battalion [37] was correctly formed in Battle formation patiently awaiting the zero hour of 6 a.m. when it should spring on the merciless Hun.

The implied difference between the larrikin fighters at Gallipoli and this new breed of highly professional and disciplined soldier is stark. However such descriptions were written by the officer class.

In large part, this blog focuses on the deaths of individual Australian soldiers. The men described in the posts were obviously victims of the War. They lost their lives in the fighting. The focus is on the circumstances of their deaths and the impact of the individual death on the family and community. And there are all manner of questions about the nature and meaning of the ‘sacrifice’ and how it was interpreted at the time. However, the same battalion war diaries remind us that the men of the AIF, generally young men, in a very short period of time had been trained as professional soldiers, and the business of war meant killing other men, in this instance the so-called ‘merciless Hun’. The following extract, again from 37 Battalion, highlights just how effective the men were in their new role. The account is set just after the battle of Broodseinde, when the troops have been relieved (early on 6/10/17):

Later in the day the Battalion moved further back about 1 1/2 miles south of Ypres to hutments where the men washed and threw off the shackles of the last 3 days fighting. Here was an opportunity of learning experiences and hearing tales of gallantry and bravery displayed by individuals in the attack of the 4th. Lieut. R. J. Smith of B Coy. had single handedly rushed a machine gun position shot the crew with his revolver and captured the gun, later he had again attacked a ‘Pill Box” & killed the occupants (6) with the bayonet; he also led attacks on 3 separate “dug-outs” & captured the occupants as prisoners. Lance Corporal Roy Newport Frazer of “C” Coy captured a German officer, rushed a machine gun position and killed the crew; Private C. J. McCoy “A” coy. rushed at an officer and 50 Huns with his bayonet; the officer fled and the men surrendered to him. Corporal Patrick McCarthy “C” Coy annihilated a machine gun crew with his bayonet. These are but a few of the heroic deeds that were done by individuals and mentioned quite casually in the after-battle talk. … ’Tis after the Battle that the sense of pride most strongly asserts itself and now was here this body of men – haughty in the extreme – needing no thanks, no special commendation from the world, but perfectly content to retain their self satisfaction as their only reward for the glorious deeds they had achieved.

Clearly, the fighting was very close, close enough to favour the use of the bayonet. The killing is described in terms of ‘feats’, ‘glorious deeds’ and ‘tales of gallantry and bravery’ but it is killing, of the most personal and visceral kind. It is also worth noting that the same young men were expected to return to Australia, leave the AIF, pick up their previous life, return to their civilian work, marry and have children. There was, of course, only limited understanding of what we now refer to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and even less in the way of diagnosis and treatment.

References

Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume IV – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917, 11th Edition 1941

Chapter XX – Third Step – Broodseinde Ridge

For a general background on Broodseinde see,

Beaumont, J 2013, Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW. [p 350 ff]

Carlyon, L 2006, The Great War, Pan Macmillan, Sydney NSW
[Chapter 31]

 

Thomas Michael BOLGER (5798)
21B KiA 4/10/17

Thomas Bolger was born at Mount Hope in 1881. When his mother completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour she did not give the name of any school he attended so there is no clear indication as to where he grew up. However, by the time the 2 Bolger brothers enlisted – Thomas enlisted in September 1915 and his older brother, John Patrick Bolger, enlisted in March 1916 – the family was well established in the Shire of Alberton. For the (National) Roll of Honour, the mother listed Yarram as the town with which Thomas was ‘chiefly connected’.

On his enlistment papers, Thomas Bolger gave his occupation as ‘farmer & grazier’. His mother also gave ‘farming’ as his ‘calling’. However, there is no entry for Thomas Bolger in the relevant rate book for the Shire of Alberton. His older brother had some land – 10 acres at Devon North – and his mother had earlier held 145 acres in the same area but there is no entry for Thomas Bolger. It is also surprising that there is no entry for Thomas Bolger on the relevant electoral roll, yet his brother does have an entry. Also relevant is the observation that the will left by Private Thomas Bolger was detailed, suggesting that there was an estate of at least some significance. Overall, it is likely that Thomas Bolger was a farmer in his own right, but not in the Shire of Alberton. At the same time, the family was recognised as local and he too was seen as a local. His name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial; and, as indicated, his mother gave Yarram as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

At the time Thomas Bolger enlisted his father was dead. He gave his mother – Catherine Bolger, nee Herrick – as his next-of-kin. He was 34 yo, single and he came from a large family of 10 children. His religion was Roman Catholic.

Private Bolger enlisted in Melbourne on 3/9/15. His medical record – the medical was also taken in Melbourne – indicated that he was very tall, 6’6”. There are various references to him being one of the tallest men in the AIF. After enlistment, he moved between several different units in Australia – at Albert Park and also Maribyrnong – for a full year before he left Australia on 2/10/16 as reinforcements for 21 Battalion.

Private Bolger arrived in England mid November 1916 (16/11/16). After another 4 months of training in England, he finally joined 21 Battalion in France on 25/2/17. Not much more than 2 weeks later he was wounded – near Bapaume – as the battalion was pursuing the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. The wound was a gunshot wound to the back and there is a note in his file that it became septic. He was transferred first to a hospital in France and then to the 3rd London General Hospital. He did not rejoin 21 Battalion for nearly another 4 months; and then 3 months later (4/10/17) he was killed in action on the first day of the fighting at Broodseinde.

There was no Red Cross report on his death. The cable advising of his death was dated 18/10/17 and the formal report of death 20/12/17. A report of his death was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 26/10/17:

Last evening Rev. Father Stirling received a wire briefly announcing the death of Private Thomas Bolger, who was killed in action on 4th last., with a request that he break the news to his mother. The sad news came as a shock to his aged mother and sisters, for whom the utmost sympathy [is] felt. Private Bolger was a man of [?] height, one of the tallest Australian soldiers. He enlisted about June 1915, and after a year in camp was sent to Salisbury Plains. He reached the firing line, and in March last was wounded. After three months’ absence in England he was returned to the front, about August, and met his death with a number of our brave men, who have made a name for valor. His brother, Private John Bolger, is in the Veterinary Corps. Our readers will extend to Mrs. and Misses Bolger their heartfelt sympathy in the loss of their son.

At the time the death was reported, there was no indication of any burial or grave of any kind. However there is a marked grave for Private Bolger – Plot 3, Row B, Grave 3, Dochy Farm New British Cemetery Langemark (Belgium). It appears that the body was identified, exhumed and reburied after the War, probably in 1921.

21 Battalion’s war diary tells how the enemy barrage came down on the troops at 5.25 a.m. on 4/10/17 as they were preparing to launch the attack. Not surprisingly, the barrage led to significant disorganisation as the troops surged forward trying to get clear of the ground where the German shells were falling. The diary does not make much of the level of casualties but they were very high. Of the 275 casualties on that single day, 45 were killed, 215 wounded and there were 15 missing.

There are two letters in the file written by the mother in February and July 1918 requesting the return any ‘personal belongings’ of her son. Base Records replied to the mother in July 1918 pointing out that the personal belongings that had been returned to Australia had already been passed on to the executors of her son’s will. Presumably there had been no communication on the issue of the personal belongings between the executors, one of whom was a brother, and the mother. The items that had in fact been returned were: Leather case, Religious book, Letters, Photos, Note book.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for BOLGER Thomas Michael 5798
Roll of Honour: Thomas Michael Bolger
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Thomas Michael Bolger

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project

 

Harold Joseph MISSEN (7031)
37 B KIA 4/10/17

Harold Missen was born in Gormandale and grew up there. He attended the state school at Gormandale and when he enlisted he gave his address as Gormandale. When his mother completed the details for the (National) Roll of Honour, she also gave Gormandale as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

On enlistment he gave his occupation as ‘farmer’ and it appears that he was working on the family farm. In the 1915 rate book for the Shire of Alberton, the father – William Joseph Missen – is recorded as having 56 acres at Willung. There is no entry for the son.

Private Missen enlisted at Warragul on 18/10/16 and was taken on as reinforcements for 7 Battalion. He gave his mother as next-of-kin. He was 23 yo and his religion was given as Church of England. There was a formal farewell for Private Missen held in the hall at Gormandale on 11/11/16. A cousin, Joseph Missen, who had enlisted with him at Warragul on the same day was also farewelled that night.

Private Missen embarked for England on 23/11/16 one month after enlistment and reached there at the end of January 1917. There was further training in England – 2 Training Brigade – and a brief period of hospitalisation, but it is not clear what the problem was. In April 1917, still in England, he transferred to 67 Battalion. But then in August he moved to France as reinforcements for 37 Battalion and was finally taken on the strength of this battalion in France at the start of September. He was killed one month later (4/10/17). It was 2 weeks short of a year since he had enlisted in the AIF.

There is a detailed Red Cross report covering his death. One of the witness statements was from his cousin – Joseph Missen, 7034 – who was in the same company in the same battalion (37). The cousin survived the War. Joseph Missen’s account in the Red Cross report has him coming across the body of his cousin – Private Harold Joseph Missen – a few hours after he had been killed. He observed bullet wounds – left knee and shoulder – but he believed that death had been caused by ‘concussion’ from a shell. This explanation was supported by another witness – H. G [?], 3260 – who stated:

This [the death of Private Missen] was up at Ypres near Passchendaele. After we had gone over the top that day I passed him [Missen H. J. 7031] lying in a shell hole near our objective, wounded in the leg. We won our objective and some of us went beyond it. When we had come back and had dug ourselves in we started looking for souvenirs and then I found him lying dead in the same place. He must have been killed by concussion I think, because we had a good look over him and could not find a trace of any fresh wound. He was a Victorian man and a cousin of his was in the same Coy. B. 13/3/18

Most of the witnesses could not give details of any burial. They simply indicated that if he had been buried it would have been where he fell. However, there was one witness statement that did give specific details about a burial. It came from the Platoon Sergeant Joseph Patrick O’Carroll and was dated 28/2/18.

Re 7031 Pte. H. J. Missen, B. Coy, 37th Battn Killed 4.10.17. He was buried in the field at or near Judas House, Sheet 28, N.E. 1. D. 21. B. 80. 80. There is no distinguishing mark on the grave, all I can say is that he received a proper burial at the hands of Chaplain House, R.C. Padre 10th Bgde. I doubt if he could give any further information. I might add that although he was only in my platoon for a short while he was a general favourite, and died in the attack.

The grave was subsequently lost and Private Missen’s name was recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial. The reference to Chaplain House is not entirely correct. The chaplain was in fact William Howes. Father Howes, from Ballarat, had enlisted in March 1916 and was the Chaplain for 40 Battalion. He saw service in France and was hospitalised in England in July 1917 with ‘trench fever’. He returned to France and was the Chaplain for 10 Infantry Brigade at the time he conducted the burial of Private Missen. He survived the War and returned to Australia late in 1919.

The family was advised of the death by a visit from the local clergyman on 25/10/17. This was 2 days after the cable advising of the death (23/10/17) reached Australia. The death was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 31/10/17. The same report also advised of the death of another local, Sergeant-Major R E Power. In customary tone, the report noted … the death of two more of our brave young men who have been fighting for King and Country. It finished … Both young men were highly esteemed by all who knew them, and great regret will be felt at their death, as well as much sympathy for their parents and relatives.

On receiving the news of her son’s death, the mother wrote (1/11/17) to Base Records requesting more information on the death and received the following reply (7/11/17),

In reply to your communication of 1st inst., I have to state the only information yet available at this office, concerning your son, No. 7031 Private H. J. Missen, 37th Battalion, is that contained in the brief cable message – killed in action, on 4/10/17. It is confidently anticipated however, that further particulars re death and burial, will come to hand by Mail, and these on receipt will be promptly transmitted to you.

In May 1918, the mother received from the Red Cross a copy of the statement made by Sergeant O’Carroll – referred to above – which gave details of the burial and grave site. She assumed, based on this information, that her son was buried in a marked grave. It was not until 1923 that she learnt finally that there was no grave.

… I have to inform you with regret that despite the most searching enquiry and investigation, the Imperial War Graves Commission have not been successful in recovering the remains of this soldier and his name has accordingly been inscribed on the Memorial Arch at Menin Gate, Ypres, in common with those of upwards of 6,000 other members of the Australian Imperial Force who fell in Belgium and have no known graves.

When the mother forwarded the Red Cross letter to Base Records she wrote on its margin My son was a member of the Church of England. She also made the same statement in the accompanying letter. The obvious point she was making was that while her son was Church of England he had in fact been buried by a Roman Catholic priest. Presumably, this was of some concern to her.

The mother received her son’s belongings – just a YMCA New Testament – in October 1918.

As indicated, the mother was given as next-of-kin. She was also the sole beneficiary of her son’s will – made in July 1917 and witnessed by his cousin, Joseph Missen, and another farmer from Carrajung, Arthur J Somers – and she was the one who corresponded exclusively with Base Records. However, when it came to the distribution of the war medals the ‘Deceased Soldiers Estates Act 1918’ applied. For this reason Base Records needed to know if the father was still alive. It wrote to her in 1921 (12/5/21), setting out the specific requirements:

It is noted that you are registered on the records of the late No. 7031 Private H. J. Missen, 37th Battalion, as next of kin, but, in order that the instructions under the “Deceased Soldiers Estates Act 1918” may be properly complied with when disposing of War Medals. &c., I shall be glad to learn whether there are any nearer blood relations than yourself to the above-named, for instance, is his father still alive, if so I shall be much obliged for his name and address at your earliest convenience.

The provisions of a Will have no bearing upon the distribution of Medals unless they are specifically mentioned therein, such mementos being handed over in the following order of relationship, unless good and sufficient reasons for varying the procedure are stated: –
Widow, eldest surviving son, eldest surviving daughter, father, mother, eldest surviving brother, eldest surviving sister, eldest surviving half-brother, eldest surviving half-sister.

The mother replied within the fortnight (26/5/21) that her husband – William Joseph Missen – was still alive and living with her. They were by this point living at Woodside. Subsequently all medals were distributed to the father, who signed for their receipt.

Harold Joseph Missen’s name is recorded on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. However his death is not marked on this record. At the same time, his name does appear on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for MISSEN Harold Joseph 7031
Roll of Honour: Harold Joseph Missen
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Harold Joseph Missen
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Harold Joseph Missen

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project

 

Robert Ernest POWER (512)
37 B KIA 4/10/17

Like Harold Missen, Robert Power was born and grew up in Gormandale. He attended the state school there and was a member of the Gormandale Rifle Club. He was still living there at the time of enlistment. His father – Walter John Power – ran a large (239 acres) dairy farm at Willung. Most likely, Robert was working on the family dairy farm. He himself gave his occupation as farm labourer on his enlistment papers but his father, for the (national) Roll of Honour gave his son’s occupation as dairy farmer. He was single and nearly 29 yo at the time of enlistment. His religion was Church of England.

He enlisted in Melbourne in February 1916 (15/2/16); but his enlistment papers indicate that he had tried to enlist earlier only to be rejected for (bad) ‘teeth’. It appears that on enlistment he had a medical in Melbourne but was then re-examined a couple of days later at Seymour. He was taken on as reinforcements for 37 Battalion.

His group of reinforcements left Melbourne in early June (3/6/16) and by this stage Private Power had been promoted to the rank of corporal. The group reached England in late July and undertook further training there before shipping out to France.

Corporal Power was then promoted to the rank of sergeant, ‘in the field’ in April 1917. He was wounded – gunshot wound head – in early June 1917. The wound did not require hospitalisation or repatriation to England. He was treated at a field ambulance and rejoined his unit some 10 days later (19/6/17).

Sergeant Power was promoted again on 18/9/17. This time the rank was Company Sergeant Major. His rise through the ranks to such a significant position, in little more than one year of service, was very impressive.

CSM Power was killed in action on 4/10/17. There was a reference to a grave in a field north of Zonnebeke but the body was never recovered.

Interestingly, there was a charge of AWL against him in August 1917. He was AWL from midnight 27/8/17 to 9:00 AM 28/8/17. He was ‘admonished’ by the CO of 37 Battalion and lost one day’s pay. However, there is a note in his file, dated 10/10/17 – 6 days after his death – which instructs that the entry regarding the case of AWL be completely deleted.

The cable advising of the death was dated 23/10/17 and news of his death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 31/10/17. As indicated above, it was the same article that reported the death of Harold Joseph Missen.

There is a Red Cross report on his death. The witness statements do not indicate more than that he was killed, instantly, by a shell. The statement by a fellow sergeant – Sgt WJ Healey (510), B Coy 37 Btn – reveals how the family learned the particulars surrounding his death. It was dated 2/4/18. Sgt Healy himself had been wounded prior to Broodseinde, and he subsequently suffered poor health and many periods of hospitalisation. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged in August 1918.

He [Power] was C.S.M. of B. Coy. He was killed at Passchendaele (sic) on 4th Octr 1917. I wrote to his mother at Gormandale, Gippsland, Victoria, and gave her full particulars and she has answered my letter. It is possible Pte Hector Ronalds of the 37th Battn in the Cook House [?] may be able to give further particulars. He was a townsman of Powers and was with him when he was killed and was wounded by the same shell.

In fact, there is no witness statement by Private Hector Ronalds (741), who enlisted as a chaff cutter from Sale. However his service record does show that he too was wounded in action on 4/10/17.

One witness statement noted that CSM Power was called Charlie Chaplain on account of the likeness.

In 1920 the father received from the AIF the warrant that covered the appointment of CSM Power. It also appears that the family made representation through The Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia seeking information on the whereabouts of their son’s grave. This was in January 1922. The formal reply (26/1/22) to the League was predictable. It included the observation,

The surface of the whole battlefield area has been searched six times and some places twenty times since the Armistice, but it is possible that bodies will continue to be found for years as the work of re-construction progresses.

Failing the discovery and identification of the actual remains, it is the intention of the authorities to perpetuate the memory of these fallen by the erection of collective memorials upon which the full regimental description of the soldier and date of death will be inscribed.

As indicated, the grave was never found and, as for so many other thousands, CSM Power’s name and details are recorded on the Menin Gate. His name is included on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for POWER Robert Ernest 512

Roll of Honour: Robert Ernest Power

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Robert Ernest Power

Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Robert Ernest Power

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 3, The Alberton Project

CSM R E Power, courtesy Yarram & District Historical Society

 

John FRANCIS (4498)
6B KiA 4/10/17

John Francis was born at Bulumwaal and grew up in that area, attending the local state school. However by the time he enlisted in early November 1915 he had been living and working in the Woodside area for 2 years. He was given a formal farewell from Woodside which was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 17/11/15. At the farewell it was said that he had been actively involved ‘in all classes of sport’ in the local area and that he was a ‘first class rifle shot’. He was a member of the Woodside Rifle Club and had previously been in the Bulumwaal Rifle Club. It was also noted that he was a member of the Woodside ANA branch.

He had his initial medical at Yarram on 27/10/15 and then completed his enlistment at Melbourne on 3/11/15. He had previously been rejected for ’teeth’. At the time of enlistment he was 38 yo and single. His religion was given as Roman Catholic. He recorded his occupation as labourer and his name appears on the local electoral roll also as a labourer, of Mullundung. He enlisted as reinforcements for 6 Battalion. He gave his father – J Francis of Bulumwaal – as his next-of-kin.

His group of reinforcements reached France in April 1916. He was hospitalised with ‘mumps’ in May 1916, then with ‘boils’ and ‘German Measles’ in March 1917. He was killed in action on 4/10/17.

There is no Red Cross file and little in his personal file that throws any light on the circumstances of his death. Nor does it appear that any personal kit was ever returned. The war diary for 6 Battalion reveals that casualties for the attack were as follows: 35 killed, 7 died of wounds, 155 wounded and 48 missing. Notwithstanding the nearly 250 casualties, the tone of the war diary was generally positive, at least in terms of the military objectives realised. It noted that … practically all [the casualties] happened during the enemy barrage on forming up lines and during the advance. Our casualties while consolidating and up till relief were very light.

It is not obvious from the service file why, but the cable advising the parents of the death of their son was not sent until 14/11/17, 6 weeks after this death. Possibly he was one of those designated ‘missing’, but there is no indication of this in his file.

As stated already, there was no personal kit ever returned. There was no recorded grave and Private Francis’ name is entered on the Menin Gate Memorial. His name does not appear on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial, even though he was obviously a local. Yet his name does appear on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll, but the entry does not acknowledge his death.

When his mother completed the information fore the (National) Roll of Honour she entered ‘I do not know’ in response to the question on the ‘place where Killed or Wounded’.

Tragically, Private John Francis was only one of 3 brothers killed in the War. Two brothers had died before him. Henry Frederick Francis (2893) had been killed in action on 27/11/16 and Reginald Francis (3989) had died of wounds on 20/9/17, less than one month before the third brother – John Francis – was killed.

The deaths of 3 sons from one family would obviously have a devastating impact on any family. Some indication of the complex pattern of grief on this particular family is suggested in a letter in the service file of Private John Francis. It was written by a sister, apparently on behalf of the mother, in 1922. The father, by this point, had died. Ostensibly, it concerned the appropriateness of the memorial plaques being sent to the mother. The daughter was keen to state that, from her position as the sole executor of her father’s estate, it was proper that the plaques went to the mother and that indeed that had been the case, with the full support of all the beneficiaries to the will.

However, the same letter also featured an apparently unnecessary and overtly hostile reference to another sister. The writer stated, categorically, that this sister – the oldest sister and the oldest surviving sibling – was not to receive any war ‘trophies’ – medals, plaques etc – … in respect of my Brothers who were killed in action on the ground that she and her family were hostile to any service to the country while we were faced with war and also on the ground that she had a son of her own of military age who did not enlist. Clearly, the anger and division within the family was set to last well beyond the War.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for FRANCIS John 4498
Roll of Honour: John Francis
First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Francis

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