FLEMING Robert Victor (3228)
29 B KIA 8/5/18
Robert Fleming was born at Brunswick. The information for the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed so there is no information on his early life. When he enlisted he gave his father – Robert Fleming – as his next of kin. At that time, the father’s address was given as Blackwarry – the same as for the son – but by the time the will was made (2/6/18), the father’s address was Carlton. The father had died by the time of the medal distribution in late 1922 early 1923 and it appears that the mother had predeceased him.
The enlistment forms had Robert living at Blackwarry. Robert Fleming – labourer of Bulga – also appeared on 1915 electoral roll. However this could have been the father as both were Robert Fleming. Robert, the son, was certainly known in the district and played football for Devon. He was a popular player and there is a somewhat cryptic article in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (12/5/15) about his unsuccessful attempt to get a clearance from Devon to play for North Devon. He also played cricket locally and competed in wood chopping events.
When Robert Fleming enlisted he was 30 yo, single and he gave his occupation as farm labourer. His religion was Presbyterian.
He had his first medical in Yarram and then received a railway pass from the Shire Secretary – dated 2/3/16 – and completed the enlistment in Melbourne on 14/3/16.
Private Fleming joined as reinforcements for 29 Battalion. His unit left Melbourne on 4/7/16 and reached England in late August (23/8/16). After further training in England he was sent to France in December 1916. He was taken on strength in 29 Battalion on 13/3/17.
In April 1917, Private Fleming had a run in with authority and was charged with … conduct prejudicial to good order and Military Discipline, in that he ate his emergency ration without permission of an officer. He was given 2 days of field punishment number 2 (confined to barracks). The breach of military discipline did not seem to affect his chance of promotion. He was made lance corporal in June 1917 (12/6/17), corporal in October and then sergeant in November of the same year (10/11/17).
At the start of 1918 he had two weeks leave in England (9/2/18 – 24/2/18). He was killed in action, not much more than 2 months later, on 8/5/18. He was buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, about 7 Km from Sailly-Le-Sec. The cable advising of death was dated 30/5/18.
Back in the Shire of Alberton, Sergeant Fleming’s death was reported in the local paper on 5/6/18:
The sad information has been conveyed to us of the death of Sergt. R. Fleming, killed in action in France on 8th May. He was the only son of Mr. R. Fleming, of 47 Neil Street, Carlton, and enlisted for active service 2 1/2 years ago. Prior to offering his services to his country he was a resident of Devon, and amongst the members of the Devon Football club was regarded as one of their most prominent men, and besides being a general favorite he was acknowledged as a clean sport. His many friends here will regret the news at his having paid the supreme sacrifice.
Sergeant Fleming’s name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His name also appeared on the roll of honor for Blackwarry.
The very limited number of personal effects – 4 Notebooks, Photos, Cards – reached Australia in January 1919. His father was still alive at this point.
Unfortunately, there is no Red Cross report on the death. The only information comes from 29 Battalion’s war diary. This shows that at the time the battalion was on the front line near Sailly-Le-Sec, near Amiens. On the night of 7 May there was a successful operation to extend the front line and a German strong point was taken. There are references to heavy German artillery over the next day (8/5/18), as well as the use of special patrols to establish German intentions. However, there is only one reference to 29 Battalion casualties, and this refers to them as being ‘slight’.
As indicated, records in the service file show that by late 1922, the father was deceased. At the same time, the standard form covering the distribution of medals – the one that listed the sequence of eligibility, beginning with the father and going through 16 categories to end with Aunts on his mother’s side (stating eldest) – revealed that the mother was also deceased and there were no siblings. The immediate family ended with Robert’s death.
The service medals, Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll were issued to Sarah Ann Cook of Balook, via Traralgon who was the wife of Thomas Anderson Cook. She was an aunt – the eldest – on the mother’s side. There was another, unsuccessful claim, for the same medals from Mrs A J Chapple of Ascot Vale. As ‘aunts on his father’s side’ had precedence over ‘aunts on his mother’s side’, this lady must have been a younger aunt on his mother’s side. Presumably, she could also have been a cousin. Both ladies also applied for a war gratuity on behalf of Private Fleming but while Mrs A J Chapple’s claim was unsuccessful there is no indication about what happened with Sarah Cook’s application.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for FLEMING Robert Victor
Roll of Honour: Robert Victor Fleming
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert Victor Fleming