115. E J McCarthy

Edgar James McCARTHY (5422)
8 Battalion   DoW 22/4/1917

Edgar James McCarthy is something of a mystery. There is an E McCarthy on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. However, there is no McCarthy at all on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. In terms of the national record,  there is only one E McCarthy who was killed on active service. On this basis, the E McCarthy on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial must be Edgar James McCarthy who died of wounds on 22/4/16. This person was born and grew up in in Rosedale. According to the Embarkation Roll, he was living at Rosedale when he enlisted and his name is recorded on the honour rolls of both the Shire of Rosedale and the state school at Rosedale. When the father, Henry McCarthy, completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he gave Rosedale as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. In the Traralgon Record on 8/5/17 there was an in memoriam to Edgar James McCarthy … dearly loved only child of Harry McCarthy, Rosedale and loving nephew of Mr. and Mrs. Grace, Traralgon. The notice was inserted … by his Auntie Dollie and Uncle Jack, Traralgon. Yet for all the obvious connection to Rosedale, there must also have been some link to the Shire of Alberton. Presumably, he was working in the district as a farm labourer immediately prior to enlisting.

When Private McCarthy enlisted in Melbourne on 10/2/16 he gave his occupation as labourer. He was single and his religion was listed as Church of England. At the time he was only 19 yo and his father had to give consent.  Ordinarily, both parents had to sign, but on the enlistment papers, the local recruiting officer had written that the mother – Alice Emily McCarthy – was ‘not mentally fit to sign’. There is other official correspondence indicating that in the early 1920s the mother was a patient at Kew Hospital for the Insane (Kew Asylum).  Possibly the uncle and aunt referred to above had looked after the boy when he was growing up. Certainly, it appears that the father might not have always been there. In the service file, the father’s address changed many times (Rosedale, Upper Pakenham, Cranbourne, Carrum Downs, Cockatoo) and by the mid 1920s the authorities were not able to trace him.  Overall, it appears that Edgar McCarthy would have had a difficult childhood and youth.

Private McCarthy joined as reinforcements for 8 Battalion. He left Melbourne for overseas service just 2 months later (4/4/16). There was further training in the UK – 2 Training Brigade –  and he then joined 8 Battalion in the field in February 1917. He was wounded in action 2 months later (16/4/17) and died from his wounds in hospital on 22/4/17. The hospital report suggests that he had little chance of surviving,

He was suffering from very severe Gunshot wounds of the head and back, his spine being badly injured.

He was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.

On the day he was wounded (16/4/17), 8 Battalion was located on the front line near Morchies. This was the day after the German counter-attack on the Australian positions along the Hindenburg Line. The German advance was halted and they were pushed back to their original line by the close of that day (15/4/17). The day after this major German attack (16/4/17), the war diary for 8 Battalion records the casualties as 3 killed and 10 others wounded. Private McCarthy must have been one of the 10 wounded.  There is a Red Cross file for Private Edgar James McCarthy 5422, but it does not provide any additional information.

It appears that the family was advised of his death on 26/4/17. The personal kit – Wallet, Letters, Cards, Photo, Note Book, Fountain Pen, 2 Shaving Brushes, Metal Cigarette Case, Comb –   was returned in March 1918.

Unlike the great majority of those who were killed on active service, there is no correspondence from the family – or any other interested party – in the service file of Private McCarthy. The father did sign for the receipt of the personal kit but that is the apparent extent of his communication with the AIF over his son’s death. It seems that Private McCarthy was pretty much by himself.

Sadly, there is not much detail on the life and service of Edgar McCarthy. Yet there must have been a link to the Shire of Alberton.

References

Traralgon Record

National Archives file forMcCARTHY Edgar James 5422
Roll of Honour: Edgar James McCarthy
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Edgar James McCarthy
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Edgar James McCarthy

114. O Patterson

Owen PATTERSON (3221)
8 Battalion   DoW 21/4/1917

Owen Patterson is one of the more surprising omissions from the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. Also, while his name is included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor he is not marked as ‘killed’. At the same time, his name and death are recorded on the honor roll of Stacey’s Bridge. Overall, there was only limited recognition of the true nature of his sacrifice.

He was born and grew up in Melbourne and when he enlisted he gave his address as care of his sister in South Melbourne. The address of his father, as next-of-kin, was also in Melbourne.

However, he was definitely living and working in the local area when he enlisted. His name is even recorded on the Electoral Roll (1915) as a labourer of Jack River. His first medical (24/7/15) was in Yarram. His enlistment was noted in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 28/7/15. There are also other references in the same paper to his involvement in local sport, particularly football. He played for the local Devon team. In March 1915 he was on the committee for the Womerah & District Sports.

The last local reference to Owen Patterson appears to be a ‘soldier’s letter’ written by ‘Private J. D. Loriman, formerly of Whitelaw’s Track’ which was published on 24/11/16. In the letter there is a reference to Owen Patterson as one of those locals who ‘came out all right’ from Pozieres.

Private Patterson enlisted on 2/8/15. He was 24 yo, single and he gave his occupation as ‘farm labourer’. His religion was Church of England. He joined as reinforcements for 24 Battalion and left Melbourne 26/11/15. After further training in Egypt he transferred to 8 Battalion on 24/2/16 and left for Europe. His unit disembarked at Marseilles on 31/3/16.

Private Patterson spent 10 days in hospital in December 1916 with bronchitis. He rejoined his unit in mid December.

He died of ‘wounds received in he field’ on 21/4/17. This description of the cause of death suggests that he was wounded on 21/4/17 and died the same day. The witness statements in the Red Cross file provide some additional information. At the time, he was working  in the company quarter master store, assisting with the distribution of rations. He was possibly in the reserve trench at the time he was wounded. He was hit by a shell and he died at a dressing station very shortly after. The dressing station was just yards from where he was hit. He was buried nearby, but recollections of exactly where he was buried were confused and the grave was lost. Shortly after his death, the lieutenant in charge of the QM store was in communication with his father and sister. As indicated earlier, Patterson gave his father as next-of-kin and the address of his sister as his address on enlistment.

The following statement from Pte J A Wheeler 5772 gives the essential details:

I knew him. His name was Owen. He was Q.M’s assistant. He came from Yarram, Gippsland. He was very young [perhaps he had put his age up by a few years on enlistment] pretty dark and about 5 ft 4” in height. He was guiding a ration party coming up with rations at Lagnicourt, and a shell burst behind him, and hit him under his tin hat. It knocked him senseless, and he died at a dressing station near Lagnicourt within an hour or two.

There is no specific detail in the battalion war diary about Private Owen’s death. The battalion was near Lagnicourt. There is a report of 3 men wounded and 1 missing on the day before (20/4/17); and, on the day after (22/4/17), the casualties for a patrol that attacked German positions were 1 dead and 14 wounded. No casualties were recorded for 21/4/17; but the diary does state, Enemy shelling fairly active during the day.

The cable advising the family of his death was dated 11/5/17. No one in the family completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour. With no grave, Private Patterson’s name was included on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

Personal kit reached his father in early November 1917: 2 Identity Discs, Cap Comforter, Tie, Writing Pad, Card.

Owen Patterson enlisted in Yarram as a young, itinerant farm labourer. At the time he was exhorted to enlist and do his duty, and he was promised, solemnly, that his name and sacrifice would never be forgotten. Unfortunately, there was only ever partial recognition of his story.

Note: Owen Patterson’s personal history has been compromised even more by the fact that his name in the National Archives has been entered, incorrectly, as PETTERSON. Also, the wrong service number (3121 instead of the correct 3221) has been ascribed for the search on the AWM’s First World War Embarkation Rolls.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for PATTERSON Owen 3221 (see note above)
Roll of Honour: Owen Patterson
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Owen Patterson (see note above)
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Owen Patterson

113. C J Sweeney

Cornelius James SWEENEY (1449)
15 Battalion   KIA 11/4/1917

Cornelius Sweeney was the brother of Patrick Joseph Sweeney who had been killed in 1915 at Gallipoli (Post 45).  Besides the 2 brothers who were killed, there was another brother- William Henry Sweeney (645) – who survived the War. William was badly wounded, also at Gallipoli. It was described as a ‘bombwound’ and it was obviously severe:  compound fracture skull and left tibia burns and wounds face and left arm. He was repatriated to Australia after medical treatment in the UK and discharged on medical grounds at the end of 1916. In all, this particular family suffered great loss.

The Sweeney family, Irish-Catholic, had been in the local district from the late 1850s or early 1860s. Two brothers – Cornelius and Patrick – both born in Ireland, had moved to the settlement at Alberton after serving their sentences as convicts transported to Van Dieman’s Land. This first generation of the family established themselves as successful farmers in the local district. The success of the second generation of the family was more qualified. One line was definitely successful and, in fact, this success continued through to the third generation. For example, in 1915 this branch of the family had extensive land holdings – approximately 500 acres – of land at Woranga. At the same time, success for the family branch which took in the 3 brothers who enlisted in WW1 was more problematic. Initially, their father – Patrick Sweeney 1855-1932 – was a successful business man in a stock-agency partnership. He was also prominent in local politics. For example, in 1889 he was president of the Yarram branch of the Australian Natives’ Association. In 1901 he was Shire President. He was described as a grazier of Waronga. However, from the early 1890s his fortunes appeared to change. He gave up his partnership in the business. Unlike the other branch of the family, there is no indication that his family held any land  at the time of WW1 and, in fact, the 3 brothers who enlisted simply gave their occupation as ‘labourer’. Admittedly, on one enlistment form, one of them did refer to himself as a ‘dairy farmer’; but, as indicated, there is no evidence that any of them held land and, most likely, they were all working as farm labourers on other properties, possibly even on an uncle’s farm.

Obviously, all 3 brothers were well-known in the district. All had their names recorded on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and the 2 who were killed – Patrick Joseph Sweeney (8/8/15) and Cornelius James Sweeney (11/4/17) – had their names included on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. All 3 were also included on the honor roll for the Yarram State School. The father gave Yarram as the location with which his son – Cornelius – was ‘chiefly connected’.

Cornelius Sweeney enlisted on 16/9/14 as one of the original group from Yarram.  He was 35 yo and single. He had been in the Stacey’s Bridge Rifle Club prior to enlistment.

When Dr Rutter carried out the medical examination at Yarram, he wrote on Private Sweeney’s enlistment papers that he was ‘strongly recommended’ with ‘splendid stamina’. Like others from that first group of volunteers, it appears that Private Sweeney enlisted in the belief that he was joining the ‘Light Horse Gippsland’, but in fact he was taken on the strength of 15 Battalion. He left for Egypt on 22/12/14.

Private Sweeney was wounded twice, both times seriously, before he was killed at Bullecourt on 11/4/17. On Gallipoli in July 1915, he suffered a shrapnel wound to the back of his neck and was taken off the peninsula to hospital in Malta. He did not rejoin his battalion until October that year. The battalion moved to France the following year (June 1916) and he was again wounded, 2 months later, with another shrapnel wound to the right hip. His hip was fractured. This time he was hospitalised in England and did not rejoin the battalion until February 1917, some 6 months later. Then 2 months later he was killed in action at the first battle of Bullecourt.

The war diary of 15 Battalion for April 11 is depressing reading. There is a separate ‘narrative of action’ , dated 15/4/17, included in the diary which details the attack on the ‘Hindenburg Line South of Riencourt on morning of 11th. April 1917’.  Tanks were supposed to cut he barbed wire defences. The narrative explains how the tanks could be heard clearly by the enemy as they laboured towards the first stretch of wire. The tanks then failed to reach their objectives and the wire remained intact. Subsequently, the attacking troops, moving forward without the tanks, were cut down on the wire by enfilade machine gun fire. The report details 100 casualties on the first stretch of wire, and the losses on the second stretch were also heavy. Despite the losses, the battalion made it to the second German line and was part of the brigade that managed to seize about 900 yards. However, it proved impossible to hold the ground gained. The Australian troops were subjected to enemy bombing parties and enfilade machine gun fire down the trench and they were effectively cut off from their line, and supplies – particularly bombs and rifle grenades – could not reach them. The report details all the failed attempts to establish communication and supply lines between the troops in the German lines and their own forward lines. As the report grimly noted,

No runners have returned from Front Line and judging by the number of enemy Machine Guns playing in enfilade fire across No Man’s Land it was impossible to get back from captured position.

At round 11.00 in the late morning, the report noted that the men began to fall back to their lines, across the murderous no-man’s-land. There were more casualties. The battalion was relieved that night and moved back to Favreuil, approximately 10K from the front.

The overall casualties for the battalion from the single day’s fighting were severe: ’19 officers and 364 other ranks’. The following brief note from the report gives a stark assessment of the fate of those who took part in the assault and made it through to the German line.

None of the officers who reached objective returned and of the troops who took part in the assault only 52 have returned.

It appears that Private Sweeney made it across the two stretches of wire to the second German trench. He was then wounded by one of the bombs thrown by German bombing parties who were gradually dislodging the Australians from the captured position. He was one of many left behind when the battalion withdrew. There were many prisoners taken, but he was not one of them. The following is a witness statement from the relevant Red Cross file. It was given by Cpl. T McBratney (1973) on 26/2/18.

There was a Sweeney in B. Co. killed on 11th April. I knew him well. He was a 1st. or 2nd. Rft. And his number started 14… He was of medium height and dark. We called him Paddy. He was hit during the German counter attack at Bullecourt about 11 a.m. by a bomb in the stomach. This was in the German positions which we had taken earlier in the morning. I was alongside him when he was hit. Lt. Jones B. Co. (since killed) bandaged him. He had to be left behind in the trench when we retired.

There is no way of knowing when Private Sweeney died from his wounds but, most likely, it was within a short time of being was wounded. Certainly there is no record of him being taken as one the many prisoners. He was listed as missing after the battle and then a court of enquiry in early November (2/11/17), seven months later, determined that he had been killed in action on the same day. The family was advised by cable on 8/11/17. Presumably they had prepared themselves for this news over the intervening months. The fact that he was ‘missing’ was reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative–  as early as 11/5/17.

About a month after receiving formal advice of his son’s death, Private Sweeney’s father – Patrick Sweeney – wrote (8/12/17) to Base Records in Melbourne asking for help in locating and administering the will:

As your Department has informed me some weeks ago of the unfortunate death of my son (C. J. Sweeney) and he has a few belongings (horses, jinker etc) will you kindly do me a favour by letting me know if there is a will and whose duty it is to administer. I consider it is mine but I ask you as a special favour to let me know at your earliest convenience all particulars and you will confer a very great favour on
Yours truly
P. Sweeney
Father of the late C. J. Sweeney

There is no record of the response from Base Records and the father eventually employed the services of B P Johnson, one of the local solicitors, to manage the business of the will. The will left …the whole of my property and effects to my Mother & two sisters.

Surprisingly, there is no record of any personal kit being returned to the family.

There was no grave and Private Sweeney’s name appears on the Villers-Bretonneux memorial.

On Anzac Day 1918, there was a commemoration held at Yarram State School and one of the returned soldiers who was there that day, as a former student, was Trooper W H Sweeney. It was just over one year since his second brother had been killed on active service at Bullecourt and about two and a half years since his first brother had been killed at Gallipoli. Much was made in the speeches that day about the sacrifices made by families, like his, where so many sons had enlisted. As much was made of the idea that the ‘spirit of Anzac’ was ‘self sacrifice’ and  that, as Rev C. J. Walklate put it, … the 25th April three years ago was the beginning of Australian history. Sentiments like these were meant to comfort those families, like this one branch of the Sweeney family, where the losses had been so devastating.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

National Archives file for SWEENEY Cornelius James 1449
Roll of Honour: Cornelius James Sweeney
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Cornelius James Sweeney
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Cornelius James Sweeney

112. H M Raymond

Harold McCheyne RAYMOND (2675)
12 Battalion   KIA 9/4/1917

Harold McCheyne Raymond was born in the Melbourne suburb of Brighton. He attended Melbourne Church of England Grammar School [Melbourne Grammar School] and Geelong College. As a boy and young man, he had no contact with the Shire of Alberton and his father gave Melbourne as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Harold Raymond’s name is not recorded on any memorial in the Shire of Alberton. However, there was a very strong indirect connection to the local area because Harold Raymond was the son of Reverend Arthur Rufus Raymond who, between January 1917 and October 1918, was the Church of England minister in Yarram.

As the local Church of England minister over 1917 and 1918, the father was called on to deliver the fateful telegrams informing the next-of-kin of the death of their loved ones. For example, the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – reported (27/4/17) the following in relation to the death of Gunner John Gellion who was the focus of the last post (Post 111):

The sad news reached Yarram on Wednesday evening of the death of Gunner John T Gellion, killed in action on 3rd April. The Rev. Mr. Raymond, Church of England minister, received a telegram from the Defence Department, asking him to kindly inform his brother, and to convey the sympathy of King and Queen and Commonwealth.

More ironically, the local paper reported (13/4/17) Rev. Raymond playing the same role for the parents of Private Percy David Boddy – Post 109 :

The Rev. Mr. Raymond performed the sad duty on Monday [9/4/17] of breaking the news to Mr. and Mrs. Boddy, Balloong, of the loss in battle of their son Reginald (sic).

The cruel irony was that, most likely, Rev. Raymond’s own son – Harold Raymond – was killed on 9/4/17 (Easter Monday, 1917), the very day he (Rev. Raymond) delivered the telegram to the Boddy family.

When it came the turn of Rev. Raymond himself, a fellow clergyman – Rev Tamagno, the local Presbyterian minister – delivered the telegram. The local paper (2/5/17) reported it thus:

The Rev. F Tamagno on Monday night had the sad duty of breaking the news to the Rev. A. Raymond, Church of England minister, Yarram, of the loss of his son in battle on 10th ultimo. Private H. McC. Raymond enlisted in Queensland, and would have attained his 25th birthday on 21st Inst. … The deepest sympathy will be extended to Mr. and Mrs. Raymond in the loss of their youngest son.

As indicated, Private Raymond enlisted in Brisbane, on 13/7/15. He was 23 yo and single and he gave his occupation as bank clerk. His father, given as next-of-kin, was then the Church of England minister in the town of  Ross in Tasmania. This was 18 months before the father moved to Yarram.

There was a brother – Rev. Charles Hedley Raymond – who was also a Church of England minister, at Parkville, Melbourne. Religion was a significant influence in the young man’s life and the father, on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour noted that, He was a loyal churchman & a Christian and that, He enlisted in response to a powerful appeal made in his own parish church in Brisbane by the present Bishop of Tasmania, Dr. Hay.

Private Raymond joined as reinforcements for 26 Battalion but he transferred to 12 Battalion in March 1916. He was hospitalised – I. C. T. Feet – in July 1916 and then rejoined his unit on 16/9/16. He was killed 6 months later. There was some doubt over the circumstances of his death. The Roll of Honour has his death as ‘killed in action’ on 9 April 1917 but the official report of death has the date as ‘between 6th /10th April’. There is no record that he was initially listed as ‘missing’. The body was never recovered. His name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. According to information in the service file, there was also, for a short time at least, a memorial cross erected in the Hermies Hill British Cemetery.

There is a Red Cross report for Private Raymond and there is also a detailed report in the war diary of 12 Battalion for the action at Boursies from 7-10 April 1917. At the time, the Australians were pushing the Germans as they were withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line. The Germans managed to inflict very heavy causalities as they gave up ground. In the 4 days of fighting, the casualties for 12 Battalion were 62 dead, 184 wounded and 10 missing. The fighting was also at close-quarters and brutal. For example, the war diary records that early on Sunday 8/4/17 (Easter Sunday) a party of 6 Germans surrendered to the Australians but then one or more of the group threw a percussion bomb. The diary records that the German prisoners were … immediately killed as a result.

In terms of the Red Cross report, the most reliable witness statement, dated 13/11/17, came, arguably, from Sgt. Huxley (4957). Sgt. Huxley, like Pte. Raymond, was in 12 Platoon, C Company of 12 Battalion:

He was in my platoon. No. 12. and was killed on Easter Monday [9/4/17] morning riddled with machine gun bullets, death was certainly instantaneous. I saw him just after. I saw the burial party going out the same morning. I know he was buried on the field. I do not think there was any proper cross or that  the grave would be registered, though I know the exact spot between [Louveral] and [Boursies] … Our Sgt. Major and several others wrote to his people and have had an acknowledgement. I think they have all possible particulars.

As indicated, word of the death reached the family in Australia at the very start of May 1917. The personal kit – Wallet, Photos. 2, Letters, 2 Discs, Wrist watch & strap (damaged), Wrist strap, Pendant, Photo, Scarf, 3 Handkerchiefs, 3 Testaments, Comb, Purse, Razor, Prayer Book. – arrived in January 1918.

Faced with the death of his son, Rev. Raymond continued to call for enlistments and support for the War. Three months after his son’s death, the local paper reported (11/7/17) his comments at the farewell of an another local, J L Dennison, from Womerah:

Rev. Mr. Raymond said his whole heart went out to the men who fought for the Empire, Home and Country, and referred to the death of his son at the front. Private Dennison was going to do his part. May God go with him and keep him safe, and may he return decorated with a Victoria Cross.

In normal circumstances the reference to winning the Victoria Cross would have seemed odd. Certainly, many local men had received military awards but the possibility of winning the VC was always very remote. However, at that time, 2 VCs had been recently awarded for the very action in which Private Raymond had been killed. One of the recipients was Captain James Ernest Newland, in charge of A Company,12 Battalion. Captain Newland himself had no direct contact with the local area; but he was the brother of the local recruiting sergeant, William Andrew Newland. There was also another Newland brother – Alfred Lindsay Newland – who had been killed in action at the end of 1916. He had also lived and worked in the local district before the War. Overall, the Newland family was well-known locally and, not surprisingly, the award was written up in great detail in the local paper (13/6/17; 21/9/17). It must have also been weighing on the mind of the Rev. Raymond.

As indicated, Rev Raymond left the Shire of Alberton at the end of September 1918. He served less than 2 years. There were many farewells and, on the face of it, he was was well-liked and respected. He was praised, in particular, for his work in improving the finances of the local church: a feat his predecessors had not achieved. People spoke of his genuine interest in, and care for, his parishioners. However, for all the praise, a letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 16/10/18 which suggested another side to the shift from Yarram. It was anonymous – just signed ‘Church Goer’ – but the fact that it appeared was significant. Rossiter, the editor, was closely involved with the local Church of England. He had been, and was probably still serving, on the Board of Guardians for the local Church of England and it seems hard to believe that he would have tolerated the following anonymous letter if there was nothing to it. In fact, it is conceivable that Rossiter himself wrote it. The casual or background racism in the letter is reflective of the time.

Sir, – In your issue of Wednesday last I was very pleased to notice an allusion to Rev. A. R. Raymond, and the esteem in which he was held. The wonder is with so many warm friends (as shown in the practical manner described by you) that he got the move on. Surely it must have been a very small minority that was the cause of it. Well, I do not envy them their success, or would like to incur their responsibility, for in my humble opinion Mr. Raymond was one of the best ministers that ever came to Yarram. Possibly he was too evangelistic for them. It is the fashion in these days for some ministers to preach smooth things, so as not to ruffle the feelings of their hearers. Mr. Raymond was not of that sort. This small minority would probably delight in a more fashionable church with a parson to match; something like one in America, of which it was said that an old darkey wished to join. The minister thought it was hardly the correct thing to do. Not wishing to hurt the old chap’s feelings, he told him to go home and pray over it. In a few days the darkey came back. “Well what do you think of it by this time?” asked the preacher. “Well, sir,” replied the darkey, “I prayed and prayed, and da good Lawd, He says to me, Richard, I wouldn’t bother ma head about dat no more. I’ve been trying to get into dat church myself for da last twenty years, and I aint had no luck at all.”

Rev. Raymond had been one of the local clergymen to push for the local Co-Operative Store to give up its licence to sell alcohol as part of the renewed push to promote temperance in WW1. Perhaps that position cost him some support. Perhaps he had pushed too hard for financial contributions from the locals. Whatever the case, it does seem that there was some sort of pressure exerted behind the scenes for his move. In his farewell speeches he certainly gave the impression that he was disappointed to be be moving after such a comparatively short time.

But beyond the local politics of the church, you cannot but wonder – to continue a theme initially presented in Post 26: Soldiers of Christ   that the bigger challenge facing Rev. Raymond was to reconcile, at every Easter that followed, the death of his son for ‘Empire Home and Country’ with the joyous celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for RAYMOND Harold McCheyne 2675
Roll of Honour: Harold McCheyne Raymond
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Harold McCheyne Raymond
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Harold McCheyne Raymond

111. J F Gellion

John Farquhar GELLION (846)
4 FAB  KIA 3/4/1917

John Farquhar Gellion was the grandson of one of the first squatters in Gippsland. His grandfather (John Gellion 1811-1884) drove cattle overland from Melbourne to Port Albert in 1844. Gellion’s trip took 6 weeks and was one of the first such cattle drives from Melbourne. At the time, most cattle were coming in to Gippsland from the ‘Sydney side’. John Gellion had been born in Scotland and arrived in Victoria in 1840. ‘One Tree Hill’, the Gippsland station he established, was on the banks of the Albert River. Rev George Cox featured the exploits of the pioneer John Gellion in one of his articles – ‘Notes on Gippsland History’ – in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 17/9/15. The article appeared just a couple of months after the grandson had enlisted in the AIF.

The father of John Farquhar Gellion – Farquhar, was the grandmother’s name – was also John Gellion (1852—1892)  and he too was a grazier at West Alberton. Indeed, there were several brothers from the same – the second – generation who were also graziers and farmers in the district.

John Farquhar Gellion – the third generation of the Gellion family in Gippsland – continued the family tradition and variously described himself as farmer or grazier. He held land (128 acres) at Alberton West. Obviously, the name Gellion – the township of Gelliondale was named after the family – was well known throughout the Shire of Alberton.

Not surprisingly, John Farquhar Gellion’s name was included on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It also appeared on the honor rolls for Stacey’s Bridge, the Yarram Club and the Alberton State School. When his wife – M C Gellion – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, she gave Alberton as the location with which her husband was chiefly connected.

John Gellion was born in Alberton (1888) and grew up in the area. As indicated, he attended the local state school. However, given the family background, it was hardly surprising that, first, he continued his education beyond primary school and, second, that he undertook it at Geelong Grammar. He also attended Hawkesbury Agricultural College. At the time he enlisted he was back in the Shire of Alberton where he was working with his brother, Henry Gellion. The two brothers jointly held the land at Alberton West and, presumably, there was an agreement that John would enlist while Henry stayed behind and managed the property. Henry was given as the initial next-of-kin. John had also been a member of the rifle club at Gelliondale.

John F Gellion was 27yo when he enlisted in July 1915 (8/7/15). He was taken on as reinforcements for 13 Light Horse Regiment. The initial medical was at Yarram on 7/7/15. At the time he was single and, as indicated, he gave his brother, Henry Gellion, as his next-of-kin. His religion was Presbyterian.

Two months later, on 7/9/15, Trooper Gellion married Mary (Molly) Bodman. She was the daughter of William Edward Bodman, one of the largest and most successful graziers in the Shire of Alberton. Bodman’s property was ‘Trenton Valley’ and the family also had a residence (‘Bangalore’) at Toorak in Melbourne. Gellion’s mother had in fact been a Bodman herself — Emily Alice Bodman – but she had remarried – James McKenzie – after John Gellion’s death in 1892. She lived in Melbourne at her residence, ‘Lianos’ at Brighton. Obviously it was a wedding that featured 2 of the most notable families in the Shire and while the ceremony itself was small and celebrated in Melbourne – St. John’s Toorak – there was a detailed report in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 17/9/15. The reception was held at the bride’s parents’ residence at Toorak. There was a short honeymoon in Ballarat. The report noted that the bridegroom was expected to leave shortly for the War.

In fact, Trooper Gellion left for overseas service on 10/9/15, just 3 days after the wedding.  On the embarkation roll his wife was listed as next-of-kin and her address was given as that of her parents’ Melbourne residence: Bangalore, Toorak.

Trooper Gellion served in Egypt in both the Composite Light Horse Regiment and 13 Light Horse Regiment to March 1916 when he transferred to the artillery (2nd Divisional Ammunition Column) and embarked for France. He reached France in late March 1916 and then in July that year he transferred to 4 Field Artillery Brigade. He was serving in this unit (12 Battery) when he was killed in action on 3/4/17.

Gunner Gellion’s death occurred at the time of the Australian push to the Hindenburg Line over the period late March to early April 1917. Presumably, the death was the result of a German artillery barrage directed at the Australian artillery which was covering the Australian advance.

There is no war diary available for 4 Field Artillery Brigade for the time of Gunner Gellion’s death. The reason for this shortcoming makes for grim reading. The war diary of 4 FAB appears only to start with an entry dated 10 April 1917 at Vaulx, the immediate area where Gellion was killed just one week earlier. This first entry records that on that day (10/4/17) in the afternoon … a high velocity shell about 15cm calibre landed in the Office of Brigade Headquarters. All the officers of the Brigade’s headquarters were killed instantly. The entry also noted … At the same time all records and documents relating to the Brigade were destroyed. Presumably, all previous war diaries were destroyed in this incident.

There was a report of Gunner Gellion’s death in the local paper on 27/4/17, nearly one month after he had been killed. It noted that word of the death was passed to the brother – Henry Gellion – by Rev Raymond, the local Church of England clergyman. There were references to how well known Gunner Gellion was in the district and how he had married just before he left for overseas. It also noted how the young wife had only very recently returned to her mother at Toorak. She had been staying at Trenton Valley for the past several months.

In June 1917 (22/6/17), the local paper published a detailed, first-hand account of the actual death; but, oddly, it was all based on unidentified sources:

A Yarram soldier [unidentified] writing from France, thus refers to the late lamented death of Trooper [sic] John Gellion: – There is bad news to tell this time. Poor old Jack Gellion got a piece of shell in the head and was killed instantly. He was on scout duty, and was putting in his time cleaning the gun. There were no shells falling near at the time, but just by chance a stray one landed a couple of yards away, and he got a big piece of it in the back of his head. We are thankful to know that he did not suffer at all. He would hardly have known there was a shell coming. We went up and saw him decently buried, and are getting a substantial cross made. We have an artist, and a man that is pretty good at carving, in the tent with us, and between them they are going to do it up in a manner that will last. Don’t let this make you any more anxious about us. Another soldier boy [unidentified], writing home, says that Jack Gellion was the best liked in the whole regiment.

It is possible that the information for the story in the local paper came from a cousin, Henry Crawford Bodman (1253) who was also in the artillery.  He enlisted within a fortnight of his cousin and, although seriously wounded in August 1918, he survived the War. The claim is based on a letter from this cousin, Henry C Bodman, written after the War, in 1922. He wrote, from Darriman, seeking information on the location of his cousin’s grave. Specifically, he wanted to know if the body of his cousin … was ever recovered and moved to one of the central cemeteries for soldiers in France. He noted that his cousin – J F Gellion No. 846 of the 12th Battery A.F.A. – … was killed at Vaulx-Vraicourt, France and buried there by myself and friends. In reply, Base Records informed him that the body had been exhumed and re-interred at Vaulx Hill British Cemetery.

The cable advising of the death was dated 20/4/17, just over two weeks after the death. The formal AIF report of death was completed on 10/5/17. Personal kit was returned in March 1918: Letters. Gospel. Air cushion. Photos. Even though the records indicate that the change in the next-of-kin had been noted, the kit was returned to the brother – Henry Gellion – who had been the next-of-kin prior to the wedding.

Incredibly, in addition to Henry Crawford Bodman the cousin referred to above, there were another 3 cousins – David J Gellion (4240), Thomas John Gellion (34999) and Alfred Charles Gellion (38967) –  who served in the artillery. It appears that this branch of the Gellion family had moved out of Gippsland by WW1. Their names do not appear on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and all three gave their address as Toorak, Melbourne on their enlistment forms. It is another example of the complex web of enlistments within a family. In this particular case, of the 5 cousins who served in the artillery, only John Farquhar Gellion was killed.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project

National Archives file for GELLION John Farquhar 846
Roll of Honour: John Farquhar Gellion
First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Farquhar Gellion

110. A H Whitford

Albert Henry WHITFORD (5103)
21 Battalion KIA 20/3/1917

Albert Whitford was born in Won Wron in 1887 and grew up in the Shire of Alberton, attending no less than 4 local state schools: Alberton, Devon North, Won Wron and Yarram. His name is recorded on the honor rolls for all 4 schools. It also appears on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It is also on the separate honor roll for the Devon North District. His mother gave Yarram as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

The Whitford family name was well known in the district. The father –  John Joseph Whitford Jnr – had been born  in Gippsland (1854). He had been a selector with land at Boodyarn and Won Wron. But he faced significant health problems and had sold his properties just before he died in 1899. His wife, Mary Jane Whitford, retained a house in Yarram and 12 acres at Devon.

There were 10 children in the family. The oldest – Emily, born 1876 – died as a 5 yo from burns she received in a bushfire in 1881. Of the 6 sons, 3 enlisted and the other 2 – Thomas Joseph Whitford and Reginald James Whitford – survived the War.

At the time of his enlistment in January 1916, Albert Whitford gave his occupation as labourer. Presumably, he was working on farms in the local area. He was 28yo and single. He listed his widowed mother – Mary Jane Whitford – as his next-of-kin. She was living in Church Road, Yarram. He gave his religion as Church of England.

The first medical was in Yarram and he was then re-examined in Melbourne 2 days later (24/1/16) when the enlistment was completed. The medical papers indicate that he was missing the second finger on his left hand.

Private Whitford joined 21 Battalion and left Melbourne on 3/7/16. After an additional training in the UK, his group of reinforcements were taken on strength in France in late November (22/11/16). In late January 1917 he was wounded and hospitalised for two weeks. He rejoined the battalion on 7/2/17.

Private Whitford was killed in action on 20/3/17. However there was initial confusion over his fate. He was reported as both ‘wounded’ and ‘missing’. The family received advice in mid April (13/4/17) that he had been wounded. It was the standard form letter that did not provide any details, but reassured the next-of-kin that the case was not serious and that … it is to be assumed that all wounded are progressing satisfactorily. The cable advising the mother that her son had in fact been killed did not reach Australia until mid May (15/5/17) nearly 2 months later.  When, later that same month (May, 1917), the Devon North State School honor roll was unveiled, the name of A H Whitford appeared with a cross, as one of the ‘brave boys who have paid the supreme sacrifice’ (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, 25/5/17). The formal report of death was not completed until 3/9/17.  The body was never recovered and Private Whitford’s name is recorded on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

The war diary for 21 Battalion in mid March 1917 traces the movement of the battalion to the Hindenburg Line in pursuit of the Germans as they staged their tactical withdrawal as part of Operation Alberich.  On March 18, in the early afternoon, the battalion passed through Bapaume and by 11.30 that night they had reached and occupied Vaulx-Vrarcourt, and were only about 10 K from the Hindenburg Line itself. The next day they encountered enemy patrols near Ecoust-St-Mein when they pushed forward another 5 K and then on the 20 March – the day Private Whitford was killed – the battalion came under artillery and machine gun fire from the villages of Ecoust, Longatte and Noreuil. An attack planned for Noreuil on that day ‘failed to develop’. There was enemy shelling all afternoon. The casualties were heavy: 21 killed, 139 wounded and 11 missing. All this fighting was taking place very close to the Hindenburg Line and not far from the village of Bullecourt where the next great tragedy for the AIF was soon to unfold.

Witness statements from the Red Cross file for Private Whitford tell how he was shot near Longatte and buried, with others, near the village. Even though the grave was identified, it was subsequently ‘lost’.

He was in B Co. I knew him in Victoria. I come from the same town, Yarram, Gippsland. He was killed on March 20th, 1917 at Longatte and buried on the right hand side of the road near the village close to a big crater. There are a number of graves there. His grave has a cross on it. I could point out the spot.    Pte. T Paterson 5066

Private Thomas Paterson (5066) enlisted in 21 Battalion round the same time as Private Whitford. Paterson was from a farming family from Darriman and would have grown up with Whitford. He survived the War and returned to Australia in July 1919.

Another witness statement – Cpl D Matheson – provided additional details:

I saw him wounded in the leg at a place called Langote (sic). It happened during an advance. I was told by Pte. W.[?] Smith, 21st Battn. B. Coy 8th Platoon that while he was crawling back endeavouring to get to the dressing station, the Germans turned their Machine guns on to him and killed him. I saw his grave near place of casualty, and it was marked by a cross bearing his number, name and unit.

But this statement did not line up with the one actually given by the same Pte. W Smith:

I am pleased to say that I can give you all the information required as I was close to him when he was killed. I am pleased to say he died without pain as he shot through the heart. I would have seen that he was buried properly only the circumstances did not permit., as it was he was buried after the charge on the filed near some of his mates. There can be no doubt as to his identity as I was in camp with him and his brother Reg for over 12 months.

When she completed the Roll of Honour information, the mother – Mary Whitford – listed 4 cousins of her son who were also were killed in the War. It is a striking illustration of how families, and the wider local community, were affected. Three of the cousins appear on the Soldiers’ Memorial in Yarram: the Sweeney brothers – Patrick and Cornelius- and George Jeffs. The fourth cousin killed – Roy Whitford – grew up in Won Wron but by the time the War started he was farming in Western Australia at Narrogin. There was also a younger brother, Reginald James Whitford, who also enlisted in 21 Battalion within a month of Albert. He reached the rank of corporal, survived the War and returned to Australia in September 1919.

The relevant personal kit – 3 Testaments, Gospel, 3 Military Books, Novel, Razor strop, Housewife, Wristlet watch strap, Writing pad, Mouth organ, Photos. – was returned to the family in early March 1918.

In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 20/3/18, the first anniversary of Private Whitford’s death, the following in memoriam appeared:

WHITFORD – In sad and loving memory of my dear son, Pte. A. H. Whitford, killed in action in France on 20th March, 1917, aged 30 years. Sadly missed.

He sleeps not in his native land,
But under foreign skies
Far from those who loved him
In a hero’s grave he lies.
No loved ones stood around him
To bid a fond farewell,
No word of comfort could we give
To him we loved so well.

– Inserted by his sorrowing mother, sisters and brothers.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

National Archives file for WHITFORD Albert John 5103
Roll of Honour: Albert John Whitford
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Albert John Whitford
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Albert John Whitford

 

109. P D Boddy

Percy David BODDY (4983)
24 Battalion KIA 13/3/17

Percy Boddy was born in Balloong in 1890. He grew up in the Shire of Alberton, attending the state primary schools at Balloong and Woodside. His name is recorded on the honor rolls of both schools.  His name is also recorded on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His father gave Yarram as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’.

When he enlisted in early 1916, Private Boddy gave his father – David Boddy – as next of kin. The father was farming (55 acres) at Balloong. According to the 1915 rate book, Percy Boddy also had a small holding – 5 acres – at Balloong. The son also gave his occupation as farmer and, presumably, he was working with his father.

On his enlistment papers Percy Boddy was 25 yo and single. However, there are papers in his service file which indicate that there was an ‘ex-nuptial’ child, a son. The file shows that after the War this child and the child’s mother both received pensions against Private Boddy’s death on active service. The boy was living with his mother from the early 1920s but there was a period prior to this when he had been in the care of the Neglected Children’s Department in Melbourne. There is no indication in the file that Private Boddy’s parents knew of the child and it is possible that Private Boddy himself never saw his son. In June 1922, it appears the mother thought the medals should go the father (David Boddy) who, in fact, died in 1923.

Private Boddy enlisted in Melbourne on 10/2/16. He joined as reinforcements for the 24 Battalion and left Australia in late July (28/7/16). After further training in England, he reached France in the middle of November (17/11/16) and was finally taken on strength on 10/2/17. He was killed in action on 13/3/17, just over one month later. The father would have been advised by cable in early April (5/4/17) of his son’s death and the formal report of death was completed on 18/4/17. The death was reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – in April (18/4/17):

Private Percy David Boddy, son of Mr. David Boddy, of Balloong, killed in action in France on 13th March, was well-known in this district as owner of The Barb trotting stallion, and took a great interest in trotting stock. One of his many friends the other day remarked that at Easter 1916, they were only talking together over the war, and Perce was wished good luck across the sea. It proved to be his last Easter. [Presumably, Percy Boddy had gone home on leave for Easter 1916].

The war diary for 24 Battalion indicates that Private Boddy was one of 5 killed and 18 wounded on the day. On the day, the battalion was operating in the area round Grevillers/ Le Barque (near Bapaume), employing patrols to probe the German line as the Germans themselves were systematically falling back to the newly created Hindenburg Line.

The picture below shows the original grave of Private Boddy. Its location was described as ‘between Le Sars and Le Barque 2 3/4 miles s.w. of Bapaume’. In time, the remains were exhumed and re-buried at Warlencourt British Cemetery. The picture also suggests the difficulties associated with retaining the precise identity of those buried in such temporary graves, and it does appear that there was some confusion during the exhumation process. However, in July 1926, the Imperial War Graves Commission determined that Private Boddy 4983 was buried in ‘Plot VIII, Row “D”, Grave 49. Warlencourt British Cemetery’.

In September 1918, one and a half years after his son’s death, the father wrote to Base Records in Melbourne enquiring why he not received any of his son’s kit. The reply from Base Records pointed out that a package containing the personal effects had in fact been sent via ‘registered packet’ in February that year. The father was advised to contact the local Post Office (Woodside). The file does not reveal what subsequently happened; but it does reveal that the inventory of the personal effects, as despatched from the AIF Kit Store in London, showed that the only items returned to Australia were a ‘Testament’ and ‘3 photo proofs’.

 

 

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project

National Archives file for BODDY Percy David 4983
Roll of Honour: Percy David Boddy
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Percy David Boddy