140. A E Rust

RUST Albert Ernest (1277)
38B KiA 15/10/17

Albert Rust was born in Clifton Hill, Melbourne. His family must have moved to Gippsland when he was young because he was a student at the state school at Traralgon, and his name is recorded on the honor roll for this school. His name also appears on the war memorial in Traralgon. Additionally, when his father – George Rust – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave Traralgon as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. On the enlistment papers, Albert Rust’s address was given as Traralgon and his father’s address, as next-of-kin, was also Traralgon. Lastly, Albert had served at least 2 years in the senior cadets at Traralgon. He had held the rank of sergeant.

At the same time, for all the obvious links to Traralgon, there must have been a strong connection with the Shire of Alberton because Albert Rust’s name appears on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldier’s Memorial. On his enlistment papers, Albert gave his occupation as ‘draper’ and on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour his calling was described as ’salesman (softgoods)’. His occupation appears to provide the explanation for the link to the Shire of Alberton. It appears that for some period, presumably just before his enlistment, he was in the employ of G F Sauer, draper of Yarram. Sauer was very prominent in groups that worked for the welfare of men who enlisted from the Shire, and it seems natural that his former employee would be acknowledged on the relevant shire memorials

Albert E Rust enlisted in Melbourne on 15/2/16. He was 21 yo and single. His religion was Church of England and he gave his father as next-of-kin.

Private Rust enlisted as reinforcements for 38 Battalion. His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on 20/6/16 and reached England in mid August 1916. Presumably because of his previous military experience – even if he was relatively young – he quickly gained promotion. He was made corporal either on enlistment or very soon after. In January 1917 he was promoted sergeant. Then in June 1917 he became company sergeant major and a few months alter, in September 1917, he was promoted regimental sergeant major. He was still only 22 yo at this point.

He was killed at Ypres on 15/10/17 and buried in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

There is a very short Red Cross report. The only statement in the report is from an officer of 38 Battalion in March 1919:

I cannot give an accurate description of Casualty but I was detailed to find out full particulars of Casualty. He was killed at St Pierre’s Church, Ypres by a H.E. shell. Wounds were multiple. Dead on admission to Ypres Dressing Station. He was buried at Ypres Prison Cemetery [Ypres Reservoir Cemetery].

The cable advising of his death was dated 27/10/17. On 4/12/17 the following bereavement notice appeared in the Traralgon Record:

Mr and Mrs Geo. Rust and Family desire to tender their sincere Thanks to their many kind friends for their visits, letters and verbal expressions of sympathy in the loss of their dear son and brother, Reg. Sgt.-Major A. E. Rust, killed in France, October 15th, 1917.

There had been earlier advice in the same paper – on 23/11/17 – of his death. The short note told how the flag at the state school had been flown at half-mast after news that … Sergt. Bert Rust was reported as having made the supreme sacrifice in France.

Personal effects – Letters 3, Photos 2, Pocket book, Photo wallet, Religious Book, Scapula, Religious medallion – were returned to the family in February 1918. The family also received the various warrants associated with his appointment as regimental sergeant major.

By any standard RSM Rust was very unlucky. 38 Battalion had been involved in both actions at Passchendaele: Poelcappelle on 4/10 and Passchendaele on 12/10. In the first action there had been 184 casualties and in the second the figure had doubled to 382. Over little more than one week the battalion had lost 45 killed, 413 wounded and 108 missing, with many, if not most, of the missing dead. Those in the battalion who survived would have counted themselves very lucky when they were relieved on the night of 13/14 October. On that night, the remnants of the battalion moved back, about 10 Km, to the outskirts of Ypres. It appears that they remained there (Potyze) on 14 October and then the next day they took motor buses to Senlecques, well away from the front. It was on the march to the point where the buses were waiting that RSM Rust was killed, when a high explosive shell exploded nearby.

There is no reference to his death in the war diary of 38 Battalion. However, as indicated above, there was a very brief Red Cross report. The ‘St. Pierre’s Church’ – or ‘Pieterskerk’ – referred to in the report was a Romanesque church built in the 12-13 C. It was a visible landmark in Ypres and was shelled heavily, with only its arches surviving.

A more personal account of RSM Rust’s death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 25/12/17. The same account had previously been published in the Traralgon Record. It featured a letter written to the father by Thomas Stewart Milligan, 5133 (23 Battalion). Milligan, before enlisting, had been a storekeeper at Traralgon and knew the father.

Dear Mr Rust – I feel I must write to you at once, and give you what particulars I can concerning Bert’s death, news of which you will doubtless have officially received. I am with a working party quartered amongst the ruins of the town [Ypres], and each morning we go up near the front line and get our job finished, getting back about 10.30 a.m. As we were coming back this morning we noticed that the Germans were putting a few in the vicinity of our quarters, and on coming into the town found he had been putting the shells right amongst them, and that some of the 38th Battalion boys, who were passing on their way out to the front line (sic), had been killed, and others wounded. We gathered the personal effects of the killed, and on seeing the name Sergeant A. E Rust, I thought possible it was Bert, and to my sorrow, on looking in his pay book, found it to be only too true. I was able to identify him. Poor Bert, he was probably congratulating himself on getting out of a rather tough engagement, and then to get killed here. We forwarded his personal effects to the battalion, who will, no doubt, forward them on to you. He was buried this afternoon in a military cemetery about 1 1/2 miles from where he met his death. I noticed in his pay-book that he had been promoted to first-class Warrant-Officer. At a time like this, one feels that it is difficult to express one’s feelings, but I would like you to know that you have my deepest sympathy in this your sad loss. I did not know Bert in military life, but his promotion is significant of the fact that he has been doing his duty well, and his death will be a severe loss to his Battalion and his country.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Traralgon Record

National Archives file for RUST Albert Ernest 1277
Roll of Honour: Albert Ernest Rust
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Albert Ernest Rust
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Albert Ernest Rust

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