This post continues the analysis of the essential characteristics of all those associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The preceding posts are:
Post 23: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 57: Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 63: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 83: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 103: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 128. Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
Post 146. Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history
There were 12 who gave their religion as Church of England, 9 who gave it as Presbyterian and there was 1 Roman Catholic. There were no Methodists in this particular cohort. The numbers are too small for meaningful comparisons with earlier cohorts, other than to note that the predominance of Church of England and Presbyterian recruits had been a feature since August 1914 and this feature itself reflected the relative breakdown in the 1911 census.
From early 1918, enlistments were assigned to general groups of reinforcements, rather than specific AIF battalions. Even when they embarked they were still listed in these general groups. For example when Private Harold Proctor – he had enlisted on 4/4/18 in 5 General (Victorian) Reinforcements – embarked from Melbourne on 23/7/18, he was referred to as belonging to 1 to 17 (VIC) Reinforcements (March-November 1918). There were some in the cohort who enlisted in more specialist units, eg artillery, medical corps and even the flying corps (McGalliard).
As noted, none of this cohort reached the fighting, either in the Middle East or on the Western Front, before the hostilities finished. Two of the group – Cottrell and Cummings – did not even embark. Another 4 men – Callister, Davis, English and Summerfield – were on troop ships that were recalled. Of the rest, it appears that while most reached the UK they did not proceed to France. Two of the group – Chambers and Clarke – did reach France, well after the fighting, and worked with the Graves registration Unit.
Even though they were spared the fighting, there was still high level of hospitalisation for the group, and 4 of them – Cummings, McGalliard, Neilson and Summerfield – were discharged on medical grounds. Many of the instances of hospitalisation related to influenza and at least 2 of those discharged for medical reasons – McGalliard and Neilson – had experienced complications from the influenza. The prevalence of influenza, and the complications from it, are evident in the case of Norman Spokes who enlisted in Yarram in June 1918 as an 18 yo. In August 1918 he came down with influenza on the troopship to the UK. He was hospitalised again in September with colic and again in October with mumps. In April 1919, there was further hospitalisation – Pleurodynia (Bornholm disease) with attendant injury to the ribs – and then in May he again came down with influenza. He returned to Australia on 27/11/19 and was discharged – termination of period of enlistment (TPE) – on 20/12/19.
The dates of discharge for this group are generally very late. Many were not discharged until well into 1919 and 3 of the group – Chambers, Hill and Lay – were not discharged until 1920, with Hill not even returning to Australia until August 1920 before being discharged the following month. At the other end of the scale, those on the troopships that were recalled to Australia after hostilities ceased were generally discharged much earlier, at the start of 1919.
None of the men who enlisted from the Shire of Alberton in the first half of 1918 saw active service abroad. At the same time, when they enlisted there was certainly the expectation that they would see active service and they were recruited at a time of ‘national crisis’ when the military situation in Europe was dire. There were desperate appeals for recruits made at the time and this particular cohort demonstrates that those who answered the call tended to be the very young – 18 -21 yo – and those both older – in their 30s – and/or married. What is also worth noting, yet again, is the high number of those who came forward to enlist only to fail the medical test. For this group of 22 men who did meet the medical standard, there were at least 10 who did not.