GLANFIELD William Donovan 191
8 LHR Died of Illness 15/10/18
William Glanfield was the last of the Shire men to die in the War. He was also one of the ‘originals’ who had enlisted in September 1914 which meant that he survived on active service for just over 4 years.
William Glanfield was born in Fitzroy and attended the state school at Preston. When his father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he specifically identified Preston as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. While William grew up in Melbourne he must have moved to Alberton several years before he enlisted. His enlistment papers show that he was working as a ‘telegraph operator’ at Alberton and his occupation on the 1915 electoral roll appeared as ‘railway employee’. Other forms described his occupation in terms of ‘assisting station master’. Presumably he had started in the Victorian Railways after school and when War broke out he was working at the Alberton Railway Station, which was the station from which the first mass group of volunteers from the Shire of Alberton – including William himself– departed in September 1914.
William’s father – George H Glanfield – was listed as next-of-kin and at the time of the enlistment the father was living in Sydney. There was another, younger, brother – George Frank Glanfield (6230) – who also enlisted, in Sydney. He survived the War and returned to Australia in March 1919.
While William Glanfield may only have been working in the Shire for a short period before he enlisted, his name was included on both the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial and the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor.
In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative in 1914, there are many references in the local paper to William Glanfield playing football for the Alberton team. In fact he was often in the best players and he was even referred to as the team’s ‘topnotch’ player. He also played district tennis for Alberton. Also, over the course of the War, Glanfield wrote letters back to people in Alberton and these were sometimes published in the local paper. The publication of these ‘soldiers’ letters’ shows how important such information was for people at home. For example, on 23/2/16 the local paper published extracts from one of Glanfield’s letters – he had written to Mr. Geo. Barry of Alberton – under the headline: Soldiers’ Letter (sic) Tidings of District Lads. The letter was written at Heliopolis. It described how … a good many Yarram boys are camped here with the Brigade and it specifically – by name – mentioned 17 local men. One man mentioned was Edgar Appleyard. Private Glanfield also described how relieved the men were to be out of the trenches and looking forward to the next stage of fighting, given that it was to be on their terms:
We are now, with the aid of reinforcements, to go once more (mounted this time) in to the firing line to avenge our fallen mates. It will be fighting after our own style, not the monotonous trench warfare of Gallipoli.
In the same letter there was an account of the stunning success of the evacuation from Gallipoli – a marvellous piece of strategy . There was also outrage over the killing of Nurse Cavell and the pledge to defend Australian women. Overall, the tone was positive and proud but also naive:
By all accounts our boys are having great sport on the western frontier (sic), and we are hoping they will have us into it. They have worked our brigade pretty hard, but we will take all they can give us, and we have the name of giving more than we get.
There was also the suggestion of resigned prescience:
The boys are looking forward to the time when they will return, and I hope they all do, but it will be a lucky man who does.
There was another report in the local paper on 10/8/17 which detailed how Sergeant Glanfield had written to the parents of Edgar Appleyard (above) who had died of wounds on 3/8/17. In fact, the various articles in the paper suggest that Glanfield played an important role in maintaining contacts across all the various locals serving in the Light Horse.
There was also a specific reference in the local paper – 25/8/16 – to William Glanfield himself. No indication of the source of the information was provided.
Footballers will be pleased to hear that Glanfield, who is at the front, received a commission as lieutenant. He scored in the examination 99 1/2 out of a possible 100 points.
Like others who ‘rose through the ranks’, before enlisting in the AIF, Trooper Glanfield had held ranks in the senior cadets/citizens forces. On his enlistment papers he indicated that he had had previous military experience. There is a note that he had been Colour Sergeant, Cadets at the Alfred Crescent State School and he had also held the rank of Petty Officer in the Preston Naval Brigade.
As indicated, William Donovan Glanfield enlisted in Yarram on 16/9/14. He had his initial medical with Dr Pern and was re-examined in Melbourne, where it was noted that his ‘teeth [needed] to be attended to’. As with most of the other ‘originals’ who enlisted at the same time he was put down for South Gippsland Light Horse. However, in Melbourne he formally joined 8 Light Horse Regiment. He was 22 yo at the time, single and he gave his religion as Church of England.
His unit left Melbourne for Egypt on 25 February 1915. The embarkation roll shows him as holding the rank of corporal (signaller).
He reached Gallipoli in May 1915 but after 2 months he was taken off with influenza and admitted to hospital on Mudros (26/7/15). He returned to Gallipoli in August (22/8/15) but was taken off again the next month (13/9/15) with colitis and ‘Acute dysentery’ and did not return to duty until early December.
In June 1916 he was made 2nd Lieutenant and it appears he was appointed the Regimental Signal Officer. Then in September he was back in hospital, with another bout of dysentery. He did not get back to 8 LHR until the end of October (31/10/16).
In December (17/12/16) he was confirmed as full Lieutenant and it appears that throughout 1917 he undertook training at the Imperial School of Instruction (Zeitoun). He was back with his unit by the end of March 1918 and then in April he was given temporary command of 3 Signal Troop.
His service record shows that he was admitted to hospital (German Hospital in Damascus) on 8/10/18 and then died one week later on 15/10/18. The cause of death was given as cholera.
The war diary for the unit (3 Signal Troop) – the unit of which he was the commanding officer – throws some light on Lieutenant Glanfield’s fate. The general background involved the occupation of Damascus early in October 1918 and the major health crisis that followed with ‘broncho-pneumonia and malignant malaria’. Bean covered the situation in his Official History (Vol VII, Chpt XII). The situation in all the hospitals in Damascus at the time was dire and being admitted to hospital posed considerable risk. Bean gives a very bleak picture of the conditions in the hospitals in Damascus, for both the Allied and Turkish sick whose numbers ran into the thousands. The extent of the medical crisis is evident in the war diaries of the various units involved. For example, the diary for the 8 LHR shows that in October 1918 from an original troop strength of 391 officers and other ranks, 106 – nearly 30% – were evacuated to hospital.
As indicated, Lieutenant Glanfield had taken command of 3 Signal Troop in April 1918. When he was evacuated to hospital the former OC – Lieutenant Latham – re-assumed command (21/10/18) and it was this officer who completed the war diary for October 1918. In the diary there is a reference to Lietenant Glanfield’s medical evacuation:
(8/10/18) Lieut Glanfield (OC 3rd Signal Troop) evacuated sick to hospital.
It is clear from the diary that many men were coming down with sickness. In fact, the casualties were so high that the troop was having difficulty in discharging its responsibility to maintain the ‘cable lines’ between the various units. The ‘natives’ were constantly cutting out whole sections of the line.
(10/10/18) Continuous trouble through day on Divn line. Linesmen report many pieces of cable cut out by natives. Owing to evacuations to hospital unit now 12 deficient, making task of maintaining communications particularly difficult.
While the diary does refer directly to the death of one member of the unit – 3054 Sapper Gunter, S E – at the English Hospital Damascus on 15/10/18, there is no reference to the fate of Lieutenant Glanfield, who died the same day.
It is also worth noting that the cause of Gunter’s death was described as malaria. However, for Glanfield the cause was given as cholera. Bean makes the point that it was not until about 12 October that the medical authorities in Damascus had the facility to identify the true nature of disease and prior to this … Some cases of malarial diarrhoea were diagnosed as cholera (737).
Lieutenant Glanfield was buried in the Damascus Military Cemetery, which was in the grounds of the German Hospital.
The cable advising of his death was dated 22/10/18. All kit, medals etc were sent to the father as next-of-kin who, as indicated, was living in Sydney. As an officer, the personal kit was extensive. It came in 3 lots:
(1) one paper package:
one wallet cont. stars, badges, photos, & 1 letter.
(2) one small wooden box:
1 pr top boots, 1 woollen warm, 1 shirt, 1 pr. gloves, 1 balaclava, 1 pr. putties, Military books, 1 notebook.
(3) one black steel trunk in hessian:
1 pr. Scissors. 1 box Visiting cards. 2 shirts. 4 prs. Trousers. 1 pr. Breeches. 2 Sword frogs. 1 S.B. Shoulder strap. 1 pr. Braces. 1 pr. Suspenders. 3 prs. Socks. 1 Pack Playing Cards. 10 collars. 3 ties. Safety Razor & case. 2 prs. Shoes. 1 pr. Boots. 1 pr. Leggings. 1 Belt. 1 tin contg stars. Visiting cards. 1 testament. 1 Photo frame. 1 tunic. 1 military book. 2 writing pads maps. 1 luggage tag. Box contg. Photos. Military notes.
On 6/11/18, just 5 days before the Armistice, the following notice appeared in the local paper:
The sad intelligence has reached the many Alberton friends of the death on active service of Signalling (sic) Lieutenant William Donovan Glanfield, at the age of 26 years, after nearly four years active service with the A.I.F. in Palestine. Lieutenant. Glanfield was amongst the first to enlist from this district, prior to which he was employed by the Victorian Railways, in which capacity he was widely known to all for the courteous and civil manner in which he fulfilled his duties. As a man, apart from his many public duties, he was all that could be desired, and will be remembered by all the sporting fraternity of the district as one of the leading footballers of the Alberton Football Club, and was instrumental in placing this club at the head of the premiership list during the year that they were so fortunate in having his valued services.The community has, indeed, lost a valued friend, and extend to his relatives their sympathy in their sad bereavement.
As noted, Lieutenant Glanfield, one of the very first to enlist, was the last of the volunteers from the Shire of Alberton to die before the fighting ceased. Several deaths – from wounds or illness – occurred after the Armistice but he was the last to die on active service before the end of hostilities.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for GLANFIELD William Donovan
Roll of Honour: William Donovan Glanfield
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Donovan Glanfield