CHRISTENSEN Allan Patrick 2824
2 FAB KIA 28/9/18
Allan Christensen’s father – Anton Christensen – was an immigrant from Norway. The father married Mary Ann Margaret Sherry at Devon in 1890. It appears that the family ran a dairy farm at Alberton in the 1890s. There were 7 children and Allan, born in 1896, was the fourth. A second brother – Walter – also enlisted and survived the War, although he was seriously wounded and had his right leg amputated.
The children grew up in the local area and attended several local state schools. Allan’s name appears on the honor rolls of both Devon North and Yarram state schools. His name also appears on the honor roll for the district of Devon North. And it is also on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. On the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour, Yarram was listed as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.
Allan Christensen had his initial medical and enlisted at Yarram on 2/2/16. On his enlistment form there is a handwritten note signed by A(llan). Christensen:
Father born in Norway & naturalized. Mother’s address unknown.
While the mother’s address was, apparently, unknown, the father was working in the local area. He appears on the electoral roll (1915) as a carpenter of Mullundung. Similarly, he was also listed as next-of-kin on the enlistment papers where his address was given as the Goodwood Timber Company at Mullundung. Allan Christensen’s occupation was simply listed as labourer.
On enlistment Private Christensen was single and he was nearly 21 yo. His religion was given as Roman Catholic. However, his brother’s religion on enlistment was given as Church of England.
Private Christensen enlisted as reinforcements for 4 Light Horse Regiment and his group of reinforcements left Melbourne in late July (28/7/16). The details of his time over the next year are sketchy but, presumably, he spent the latter part of 1916 in Egypt.
At the very end of 1916 his file shows that he was in hospital in the UK. It is not clear why he was sent to the UK from Egypt – perhaps he was already ill – but he definitely was hospitalised after arrival ( 26/12/16) in the UK. The condition was described as ‘bronchitis’ and ‘influenza’. An extensive period of sickness and hospitalisation followed, through to the end of September 1917.
Over the first 6 months of 1917, when he was in hospital in the UK, Private Christensen was obviously very sick. In his file, there is a detailed medical report from Tidworth Hospital, dated 15/3/17, which lists his condition as ‘T.B. of lung’ and dates the disability from December 1916. The report states:
Patient states that he was never ill previous to enlistment. Was ill on boat en route for England from Australia for a few days with Influenza and one week after arrival here he was taken ill with present complaint. He complained of weakness, cough and pains in chest and abdomen.
The same medical report gave ‘exposure’ as the cause of the ‘disability’ and found that it had been ‘aggravated by military service’. The report also noted that he was ‘very anaemic’, was experiencing ‘night sweats’ with elevated temperatures and had lost some 2 stone in the past 2 ½ months.
The recommendation of the Medical Board at the time was that Private Christensen be discharged. However this obviously did not take place. Possibly the TB was a mis-diagnosis, in as much as there is a references in the report that … (4) Sputum looks tubercular though so far no TB germs have been found.
Far from being repatriated to Australia for medical discharge, Private Christensen was discharged from hospital mid 1917 and returned to duty. Interestingly, there is a reference to him in a letter sent by Laurence Irvine. The letter was dated 5/6/17 and it was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 3/8/17. Irvine , before he enlisted, had worked at the local Co-Operative Store in Yarram and he was writing to his fellow workers in Yarram informing them of other locals they would have known. Irvine was stationed at Candahar barracks at the same time as Christensen. Clearly, in Irvine’s opinion, Christensen was suffering from chronic ill health, there was little chance of his recovery and he should have been repatriated:
Allan Christensen was boarded to go home, but was found fit for duty, but I think that as soon as the cold weather comes he will be in hospital, where he was this last four months.
In late August 1917, when he was still in the UK, stationed at Candahar Barracks, Christensen was picked up by the military police in Tidworth and charged with being AWL. His punishment appears to have been nothing more than an admonishment.
In September 1917, Gunner Christensen, now attached to the Artillery – 2 Field Artillery Brigade – moved to Larkhill and in November he proceeded to France where at the very start of December (1/12/17) he was finally taken on the strength of 102 Battery.
Gunner Christensen was sent to France in mid November 1917. Then in February 1918 he was again repatriated to hospital in the UK, this time suffering from ‘trench fever’. After recovery he was posted back to France and rejoined his unit mid June (14/6/8). He was subsequently killed in action less than 4 months later on 28/9/18.
The war diary for 2 Field Artillery Brigade gives a picture of the situation at the time of Gunner Christensen’s death. The unit was involved in the major assault on the Hindenburg Line near Jeancourt on the morning of 28/9/18. The assault also involved American units. Over the period of the afternoon of 27 to the morning of 28 September, Gunner Christensen’s unit – 102 Howitzer Battery – fired some 600 rounds at the wire of the Hindenburg Line trying to cut ‘lanes’ for the attacking troops. When the attack began at 5.50 a.m. on 28 September, with a covering barrage, the diary records how the advancing American troops were able to move through the wire that had been cut. The unit diary also highlighted the perils of their over-enthusiasm:
As the barrage lifted the American attacking troops kept well up but after passing the wire and trenches to the West of Bellicourt, the attacking troops got into our own barrage and many casualties were inflicted by shrapnel. This was apparently owing to eagerness on their part and no fault of the artillery.
The German response to the barrage on the morning of 28 September was described as ‘weak’. Similarly, the day before, the German response to the wire cutting efforts of 102 Battery had been only ‘intermittent’. Notwithstanding these qualifications, Gunner Christensen was killed on the morning of 28 September by German artillery fire. It appears that he was the last man of his unit to die in action.
There is a Red Cross Report which provides a detailed account of Gunner Christensen’s death:
I was on the same gun with him. We were at a place which was called “Dan’s Gully”, between Jeancourt and Nouroy, when a shell landed on the dugout in which Christensen was resting. He was killed instantly. I pulled his body out which was taken away, but I know nothing of the burial place.
D. Worrell (9997) 2 Field Artillery Brigade 2/5/19
I saw Christensen of 102nd How. Bty. Killed instantly by gas shell (hit in back) in a dugout abt. 7 or 8 a.m. between Jeancourt and Bellicourt (near Jeancourt). I don’t know about burial but I think he was buried in Hancourt. He was the last man in the Bty to be killed in action.
Dvr. A. C. Collins (29716) 102 How. Bty. 28/4/19
I saw Christensen’s (of 102nd How. Bty.) body after he was killed by shell through back in a dugout near Jeancourt abt. 7 a.m. He was the only man in the dugout. We got him out unconscious and he died a minute of two after. I don’t know where buried. Padre Major Webb will have buried him.
Gnr V. K. Clark (31842) 102 How. Bty. 14/5/19
Gunner Christensen was buried at Hancourt British Cemetery, 6 ½ miles from Peronne.
The cable advising of the death was dated 2/10/18. The death was reported in the local paper on 18/10/18:
We regret to record the death of Gunner A. P. Christensen, son of Mr Anton Christensen, who was killed In action on 28th Sept. last. Gunner Chrlstensen, who enlisted in Yarram, had seen just over two years’ service. The sad message was sent to his mother, 412 William St., West Melbourne , on 11th inst.
The mother inserted a death notice in the same edition of the paper:
CHRISTENSEN.- No. 2824, Gunner A. P. Chrlstensen, killed in action on 28th Sept.,1918, after two years and two months’ service.
A soldier and a man, sadly missed.
One of the best, a loving son.
So kind and true,
So dearly loved, so sadly missed, by everyone he knew.
The hardest part is yet to come,
When the other boys come home, .
For we’ll miss among the happy throng, dear Allie,
Who will never come.
-Inserted by his loving mother.
There is no record of any personal kit being returned, nor any request from his family regarding same. The AIF had difficulty in tracing the father, as next-of-kin, to receive the medals and other memorials. The father changed address at least 3 times over the period from the end of the War to the early 1920s. In the end, it appears that the medals were entrusted to the mother.
The brother, Walter Christensen, was given a medical discharge in early 1920. That year, on the second anniversary of his brother’s death he inserted the following in memoriam. It appeared in the local paper on 29/9/20:
CHRISTENSEN – In sad and loving memory of my dear brother, Gunner Allan N. C. (sic) Christensen, killed in action 28th Sept.,1918, at Grandprie[l] Wood, France.
His King and country called him,
The call was not in vain;
On Australia’s roll of honor,
You will find my dear brother’s name.
– Inserted by his loving brother, Wallie (late A.I.F.)
Gunner Christensen was the last of the Shire of Alberton men killed on the Western Front.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for CHRISTENSEN Allan Patrick
Roll of Honour: Allan Patrick Christensen
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Allan Patrick Christensen
WW1 Red Cross files: Allan Patrick Christensen
O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project
Additional family information provided by Di Christensen, relative.