149. R J Trigg

TRIGG Robert John 2429
29 B  DoW 29/12/17

Robert John Trigg was 25 yo when he enlisted on 21/8/15. He was a farmer who, with another brother, – Joel William Trigg – farmed approximately 180 acres at Alberton West. At the time of the enlistment, both parents – James Frederick Trigg and Jessie Trigg (nee Cuppage) – were dead. The father had been one of the original directors of the local co-operative store set up in Yarram in 1911.

The next-of-kin was given as his brother, Joel William Trigg. There was a sister, Mary Trigg who was much younger. There was also another brother, Arthur Thomas Trigg. Unlike his siblings, this brother – Arthur – did not appear on the electoral roll. Nor did his name appear in the rate book. Yet in Robert’s will he is specifically referred to as a farmer of West Alberton. Apparently, Robert as the oldest brother enlisted while the 2 younger brothers continued to work the farm, and it is possible that Arthur returned to the district specifically to help in this pursuit.

Robert Trigg appears on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and his name is also on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His name also appears on the memorial for the local ANA branch and the Methodist Circuit. On the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour his brother gave Yarram as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. Before he enlisted, he was the secretary of the Gelliondale Rifle Club and was very involved in local sports associations.

He completed his initial medical in Yarram with Dr Crooks (30/7/15). He was single and gave his religion as Methodist. He had been born in Warrnambool. He enlisted as reinforcements for 29 Battalion.

His unit left Melbourne on 14/3/16 and he spent some time in the Middle East before reaching England in late July 1916. At this point he was attached to 8 Training Battalion and began to receive short-term promotions. He spent some time in the School of Instruction in early 1917 and also served on the headquarters staff of 8 Training Brigade. The appointments in England meant that he did not leave to join his unit in France until early 1917. By the time he did join the battalion (17/3/17) he held the rank of corporal. He was again detached to join the headquarters staff of 8 Infantry Brigade in June 1917 for 2 months and when he returned to 29 Battalion he held the rank of sergeant.

Sergeant Trigg was wounded in action on 22/10/17. The wound was described as ‘G.S.W. Knee, Arm & Chest’. He passed from ambulance train to field casualty centres and thence to hospital in England (1st Eastern General Hospital Cambridge) which he reached on 29/10/17.

Sergeant Trigg died from his wounds on 29/12/17, two months to the day after being admitted to hospital in Cambridge. It appears that his family was not formally advised of his condition until 21/11/17. At that time they received advice that he was ‘suffering from gun shot wound knee and forearm’ and that his condition was ‘severe’. There was another cable on the 28/11/17 advising that he was ‘now dangerously ill’. Then on 7/12/17 the advice by another cable was that he was ‘progressing favourably’ and again on 13/12/17 the advice was ‘still progressing favourably’. Then just over 2 weeks later, on 4/1/18, without any further advice, the family received the cable informing them of their brother’s death. The family was also asked to give permission for a post mortem.

The post mortem had been conducted on 31/12/17. It found,
Thin man: right leg amputated – upper third of femur. Clots from recent haemorrhage in stump. Femoral artery tied. Pus in hip joint’.

The post mortem gave the cause of death as, GSW left knee. Septicaemia Secondary Haemorrhage.
There is an apparent contradiction here in that the initial wound was consistently described as GSW left knee while the post mortem refers to the right leg having been amputated.

The war diary for 29 Battalion gives some background to the action in which Sergeant Trigg was wounded. The battalion had been quartered in the Ypres area following the action at Polygon Wood in late September when it had suffered some 350 casualties. On the afternoon of the 21 October it had moved from near Ypres to the front line to relieve 54 Battalion. This was in the front line east of Molenaarelsthoek. 29 Battalion remained in the line until the evening of 25/10/17 when it, in turn, was relieved by 57 Battalion.

Sgt Trigg was wounded the day after his battalion moved into the line but the diary does not record casualty figures for any of the six days in the line. However, it does record, in detail, the ferocity of the enemy shelling of the line. In the 6 day period there were no fewer than 44 separate reports of enemy shelling, and on the 22/10 – the day Sgt Trigg was wounded – there were 9 individual reports of shelling. It is also clear that much of the enemy barrage consisted of high explosive shrapnel shells and, given that the first report of his wounds referred to knee, arm and chest, it is more likely that Sgt Trigg was hit by shrapnel than rifle or machine gun fire, as recorded in his file.

As Sgt Trigg died in hospital in England there was a formal military funeral and he was buried in the Cambridge Borough Cemetery. In fact, extensive details of the funeral were relayed to the family back in Australia. The following letter was sent to the brother as next-of-kin from Base Records in Melbourne on 15/5/18:

The deceased soldier was accorded a full Military Funeral. The coffin of good polished elm with brass fittings, was draped with the Union Jack Flag. Firing Party and Bugler were supplied by No. 5 O.C.B. Australian Cadets stationed at Cambridge. Pallbearers were supplied by the R.A.M.C. 1st Eastern General Hospital, Cambridge. Several beautiful wreaths were placed on the coffin by friends. Prior to the internment a service was held in the Hospital Chapel. Miss Stephen (Friend) Australian Red Cross, Newnham College, Cambridge, was present at the funeral.
The grave will be turfed and an oak cross will be erected by the A.I.F. London.
Administrative Headquarters, A.I.F. London, were represented at the funeral.

Presumably, Miss Stephen supported him in hospital in her Red Cross role.

A death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 9/1/18. Just over a week later on 9/1/18 a detailed tribute appeared in the same paper. In part, it noted:

He [Robert J Trigg] will be remembered as secretary of the Gelliondale Rifle Club and West Alberton Sports Club, and in other ways was a useful resident of that district. He followed the occupation of a farmer, and when the call came left his two brothers on the farm to go to the front in defence of his country.

Then on 18/1/18 the paper published a letter which had been written by Sgt Trigg on 3/11/17, about one month before he died. The letter had been written from hospital and it was addressed to the newspaper itself. Sgt Trigg explained that he had been wounded … in the knee, arm and face. But he was confident that he was … progressing as well as possible, but don’t think I will be much use for some time, as my knee got a good crack. He described the conditions on the front line as … simply hell pure and simple. He also noted that they … got all objectives and gave Fritz a good hiding. He ended up with the season’s greetings:

Xmas is very nearly on us again, and will be over ere you get this, so although perhaps a little late, I will wish you and all Gippsland friends a Merry Xmas and bright and prosperous New Year.

Sgt Trigg’s personal effects were returned later in November 1918. Interestingly, the list of effects was far more extensive than for others who were killed in the field. Presumably this was because Sgt Trigg spent 2 months in hospital before he died.

1 wallet (containing: – Letters, 2 Keys, Heather, Coins, 1 Lanyard, 4 Australian penny stamps, Post cards, Photos, 1 Wounded stripe), 2 writing pads, 1 mirror, 1 Note Case, 2 Handkerchiefs, 1 Wrist Watch (damaged) 1 cover & strap, 2 Pipes, 1 Hair Brush, 1 Cigarette case, 1 Fountain pen, 1 Pr Nail Clippers, Badges, 1 Match box cover, 1 Comb, 1 Disc & medallion, Pencils, 1 Shaving brush, Shaving Soap, 1 Razor, 1 Pr Braces, 1 Pr Sox, 1 Balaclava, 1 Stationery Wallet.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for TRIGG Robert John 2429
Roll of Honour: Robert John Trigg
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert John Trigg

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

 

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