177. H B Chenhall

CHENHALL Harold Beecher 6482
5 Machine Gun Battalion DoW 12/8/18

Harold Beecher Chenhall was born in Devon, via Yarram in 1893. His parents – John Egbert (Alf) Chenhall and Elizabeth Hardie Chenhall (Grundy) – had been in the local area since the early 1890s when the father had been appointed as head teacher of the state school at Jack River. By the time Harold enlisted, the family had significant land holdings – nearly 200 acres – at Jack Creek and were involved in dairy farming.

It appears that an older brother – Edric – enlisted before Harold. In fact, he appears to have enlisted twice. The first time was at the very start of the War – September 1914 – and the second in May 1916. In both cases the enlistment was effectively cancelled and the second cancellation, at least, was prompted by concerns that the family’s farm could not function without him. This second episode was after Harold had also enlisted (26/8/15). By this point, presumably, the issue of help for the family farm had become more acute. The arrangement appears to have been that the oldest son stayed to help with the farm and the younger one enlisted.

Harold Chenhall was well known as a footballer (Devon) in the local area. In fact, he had attracted a certain notoriety. In August 1914, he had been involved in a serious on-field clash with another player (C Dessent) in a match between Devon and West Alberton. He was given a 2 match suspension. However the issue was pursued in the local court as well and there is a report in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (14/8/14) of the case before a police magistrate. B P Johnson appeared for Chenhall and argued that the issue was minor and that both players involved were locals of good character. However, the magistrate was unimpressed. He convicted both of them and fined them £5. The report in the paper makes it clear that the magistrate was very mindful of the recent death of a local player (Post 1) following an injury in another local match. The magistrate was determined to make an example. He noted:

This district was noted for foul football. Only recently a young man lost his life through foul play in this district.

Private Harold Chenhall enlisted as reinforcement for 7 Battalion in Melbourne on 26/8/15. He was 22 yo and single. On his enlistment form he neglected to acknowledge his recent (1914) conviction. He gave his occupation as farm labourer but, presumably, he was working on the family farm. His religion was given as Methodist and, in fact, his name is recorded on the honor roll for the local Methodist Circuit. Next-of-kin was given as his father of Jack River. His father was also sole beneficiary of the will.

The details of Private Chenhall’s early service, immediately after enlistment, are not entirely clear. It appears that in October 1915 he was hospitalised – influenza – in the Clearing Hospital Royal Park. There was more hospitalisation in the first half of 1916. Initially he was in the Clearing Hospital Castlemaine (Feb 1916) and then in August 1916 he was transferred to the Isolation Hospital Langwarrin. This particular medical institution had been set up earlier, in 1915, to treat AIF members being returned home from Egypt suffering from VD. It appears he was finally discharged from hospital for active duty on 1/9/16, just one month before he left for overseas.

Private Chenhall reached Plymouth in November 1916 (16/11/16) and served in 2 Training Battalion until he was sent to France in April 1917 (10/4/17) where he was finally taken on the strength of 7 Battalion (19/4/17). Whilst in England there was a brief period of hospitalisation (28/1/17 – 17/2/17) for some undisclosed sickness.

In early 1918 he was hospitalised in France and then repatriated to England. It appears that this time it ‘Trench Fever’. The period of hospitalisation lasted from very early January to early April 1918. After this he was taken on the strength of the Machine Gun Corps and then when he returned to France in early June (4/6/18) he joined 5 MG Battalion (7/6/18). This particular unit had only been formed in March 1918.

Private Chenhall was wounded 9 August, 1918, the first day of the Battle of Amiens. He died from his wounds 3 days later on 12/8/18. The Red Cross report indicates that he was wounded on the morning of 9 August and then taken immediately to the Regimental Aid Post. One witness statement described how he had returned for ammunition to the dump at Harbonnieres when he was wounded by a bomb. The other witness statement had the same location but described how Private Chenhall was on ‘gas guard’ when he was wounded by an ‘aerial bomb’.

Private Chenhall was buried at Bayonvillers on the same day, with the Rev. J. A. Jeffreys officiating. The information about the burial and the grave site was given to the family in February 1919 (19/2/19) and, in the same letter, they were advised that a photograph of the grave would be sent ‘when available’. However, for some unknown reason, the grave must have been ‘lost’ because there is now no record of any grave site and, instead, Private Chenhall’s name is recorded on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

There was a long delay in informing the family in Gippsland of Private Chenhall’s fate. The letter informing the family that he had been wounded was not sent until 23/8/18, by which time he had been dead for 2 weeks. Further, the cable advising of the death did not come through for another month (20/9/18). The following letter from the father – written on 28/9/18 – highlights the difficult position faced by the family back in Gippsland from the time they were advised that he been wounded right through to the time they received notice of his death.

Your notice of the death through wounds of our son Pte H. B. Chenhall duly received.
I write to ask you if it possible for you to get any particulars. Would you please do so. The first notice of No. 6482 Pte H. B. Chenhall being wounded came Aug 23rd & then the death notice not till Sep 20th. We feel it hard not to know anything further & would be thankful for any news you could get.

As indicated, there was a letter in February 1919 with some additional details. Unfortunately, as matters transpired, this letter gave incorrect information about the grave site.

News of Private Chenhall’s death appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 25/9/18:

Deep sympathy was expressed for Mr. J. E. Chenhall and family on Saturday when it became known that his gallant son, Corporal (sic) Harold Chenhall, had died of wounds. A short time ago he was reported wounded, and hopes were entertained that his condition was not serious, but as his death took place on 12th Aug., we are informed that he did not last long after being carried from the battle front. Harold was a friend of everybody in this district, a keen sport, and a prominent member of the Devon football Club. He died the glorious death of a soldier at the age of 25 years. He was about two years at the front.

A death notice appeared on 4/10/18:

Chenhall – Died on Aug. 12th from wounds received in action, Harold Beecher, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Chenhall,”Gnarrah,” Jack River.

There was a delay with the return of Private Chenhall’s personal effects and when by April 1919 the father had not received them he wrote to the AIF suggesting that he would have to take the issue up with his local MHR. He received a reply in early May (6/5/19) that pointed to the shipping difficulties of the time,

It is pointed out that owing to the lack of shipping facilities, considerable delay has been experienced in the despatch of effects from overseas. Large consignments are now coming to hand and should any of your son’s property be included same will be promptly transmitted to you.

In late May the package finally arrived:

1 Scarf, 1 cap comforter, 3 Handkerchiefs, 1 Wrist strap, 8 Pair socks.

The father wrote the very next day (25/5/19) about a missing watch:

I am enclosing receipt for 1 package received. There is no mention of his watch.
He had a wristlet watch presented to him when leaving, and you will understand we are anxious to get anything in the nature of a present.
Hoping that it will come to hand…

There is no record of the missing watch being returned to the family. Sadly, in the end, the family was left with no grave and no keepsake.

Harold Chenhall’s name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It also appears on the honour roll for Stacey’s Bridge as well as those for the Yarram Club and the local Lodge (207).

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 CHENHALL Harold Beecher
Roll of Honour: Harold Beecher Chenhall
First World War Embarkation Roll: Harold Beecher Chenhall
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Harold Beecher Chenhall

176. W H Sutton & H B Murray

SUTTON William Henry (1559)
49 B KIA 11/8/18

William Henry Sutton was the older brother – by 6 years – of David George Sutton who was killed on Gallipoli in May 1915 (Post 36) . The 2 brothers appear on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honour and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.

There was a third Sutton brother – Thomas Sutton 1228 – who survived the War. Thomas was evacuated from Gallipoli in late 1915, suffering from enteric fever and pneumonia. He was repatriated to Australia and discharged.

Both William and David enlisted, within a month of each other, in Queensland. As noted, David was killed at Quinn’s Post on 29/5/15. William was involved in the same fighting and he wrote home with details of his brother’s death. The letter was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11/8/15.

It [his brother’s death] happened on the morning of the 29th May. We made a bayonet charge to re-take part of our trench from the Turks. They had mined it and blown it up, with the Australians in it at the time, killing some, and then rushed the trench with bombs which drove out the remaining Australians, and got in the trench themselves. We soon pulled them out with the bayonet – not one escaped. It was just after we had charged the trench that George was hit with two bombs. His right leg was broken above the knee, and left leg blown off above the ankle almost half way to the knee. He died from loss of blood three hours afterwards. I did not see him at all, and did not know it had happened (and he was only 50 yards from me) until next afternoon, 30th …

Even though the brothers enlisted in Queensland, and had been there working for some time, they were certainly regarded as ‘locals’ from the Shire of Alberton and both were given the Shire Medallion. Their parents – Thomas James and Marie Louisa Sutton – had a dairy farm at Devon North and had been in the district since the mid 1880s. The boys were born at Devon North and had attended a range of local state schools: North Devon, Lower Whitelaw, Tarra Valley, Balook and Lower Bulga. Their names are also on the honour roll for the local Methodist Circuit, even though, on their enlistment forms all 3 brothers gave their religion as Church of England. On their enlistment forms the 2 brothers in Queensland described themselves as labourers. At the time, both were single.

William Sutton enlisted in Brisbane on 28/1/15, one month after his younger brother. He was 28 yo. Both brothers joined as reinforcements for 15 Battalion and left Australia for the Middle East on 13/2/15.

Just over 2 weeks after the death of his brother, William was hospitalised for a week with ‘skin eruption/phlebitis’ [inflammation of a vein – blood clot]. He referred to this episode in a letter home in June 1915 which was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11/8/15. The content is somewhat ironic given what was to come.

Just a few lines to let you see that I am still alive and kicking, although I am in hospital on the Island of Lemnos with a bad arm, but it is just about right now. It was the outcome of a few slight wounds on the hand on 29th May, which I did not get fixed up for some days afterwards; my own fault if it had been a bit more serious.

In late July 1915, he was taken off the Gallipoli Peninsula with a ’sprained back’. Initially he was hospitalised in Malta but then transferred to a hospital in the UK. He rejoined his unit in Egypt in January 1916. Then in March he was transferred to the newly formed 47 Battalion and in June 1916 proceeded to France. At this point he appears to have been appointed to the position of driver.

In September 1916, there was another week of hospitalisation with ‘nitral regurgitation’ [nitral valve not closing properly]. Then, one year later, on 26/9/17 he was wounded – GSW face – and admitted to hospital in the UK on 2/10/17 where he remained for 2 months. A medical case sheet describes the wound as ‘Shell Wound Left Cheek. Severe’ and ‘Large jagged wound left cheek’. The wound subsequently became septic and he was given ‘anti-tetanus serum’. The wound did eventually heal, with, no doubt, a distinctive scar.

After discharge from hospital (7/12/17) he remained in England until May 1918. In this period – probably, December 1917 – he married an English girl – Florence Emily Sutton – from South Kensington, London.

At the end of May 1918, 47 Battalion was disbanded to reinforce the other 3 battalions of 12 Brigade and Driver Sutton was transferred to 49 Battalion. He was deemed to be fit for overseas service and eventually rejoined his new unit in France in late May. However, on 14/5/18, not long before returning to France, he was charged with being AWL for 4 days and was given ’12 days F.P. No 2’ and lost 16 days pay.

Driver Sutton joined his new unit (49B) in France on 26/5/18. But 2 days later he reported as injured and it was at this point that he was charged with wounding himself. The injury was listed as ‘cellulitis back of left fore-arm’ and the claim, by medical staff, was that the injury had been ‘wilfully self-inflicted’. A court martial was held just 10 days later (8/6/18), presided over by Major W.J.R. Scott DSO, 20 Battalion. Sutton pleaded not guilty but the charge was upheld and he was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with hard labour. The sentence was confirmed by G.O.C. Australian Corps (Monash) on 11/6/18.

In the file there is a copy of Army Form W.3428 Report on Accidental or Self-Inflicted Injuries with the following declaration by Major J. Malcolm A.A.M.C. –

Cellulitis back of left forearm, due in my opinion to injection of foreign substance, self-administered.

However there is another statement on the same form by Sutton’s commanding officer at the time – D. Campbell, Capt, 4th. Aust. Div. Rft. Wing – that has a very different account:

Pte. Sutton was carrying a mess tin full of tea in his right hand when he tripped and fell. In trying to save himself he fell on his left arm which doubled up under him. I am of opinion that the fall as stated … was accidental and no one was to blame.

There is nothing in the CO’s statement that rules out the possibility that Driver Sutton, after the fall, aggravated his injury in some deliberate way. However, it is significant that the CO was offering a defence on the part of one of his men. It would appear that he at least did not want the issue pursued.

But this officer’s opinion was in turn overruled by his superior – Lt. Col H Clayton – who wrote:

I am emphatically of opinion that this is a self-inflicted wound and have arranged that this man be tried by F.C.C.M.

The family back in Australia was informed in mid July 1918 of the action taken by the AIF against their son. The advice they received indicated that he had been injured but that this injury had been ‘wilfully, self inflicted’. It appears that they involved a local lawyer – B P Johnson – who communicated with the Federal Minister seeking further information. The response received was essentially on the lines of the formal process needing to run its course. Overall, the family back in Gippsland would have known of the charge of self-inflicted wounding and the formal conviction and sentence.

However, on 26/6/18, just over 2 weeks after the court martial, the sentence was suspended and Driver Sutton remained serving with 49 Battalion. One explanation for the decision to suspend the sentence and allow Driver Sutton to continue to serve with the battalion could appear to relate to the actions of the family back in Gippsland taking up the issue with the Federal Minister. In the file there is correspondence suggesting that the Minister’s office was keen to learn the ‘full particulars’ of the case. Given the family background – 3 sons had enlisted, one (David) had been killed, one (Thomas) repatriated to Australia sick, and this particular soldier (William) had already been wounded and suffered significant health issues – the Minister would have been sensitive to claims of what effectively amounted to cowardice. However, the problem with this theory is that the date on the relevant correspondence (23/7/18) indicates that the Minister became involved after the sentence had already been suspended. Presumably, the real reason was that the sentence having been imposed, and the example made, it made more sense, particularly given the acute shortage of men, to suspend the sentence and have the soldier continue to fight with his unit.

Driver Sutton was killed in action on 11/8/18, 2 months after his conviction. By this point of the Battle of Amiens, 49 Battalion was fighting in the area near Etinehem, still held by the Germans. The war diary for the battalion does not provide much information. In fact for 11/8/18 there are no casualties reported. It simply notes that the … general consolidation of positions gained, proceeded. The only casualties appear to have occurred the day before (10/8/18) when supported by tanks, and with American troops on one of their flanks, 12 Brigade had made a successful advance. However, even for that action, the diary records only 3 casualties.

There is a Red Cross report of the death with 2 witness statements. Both witness statements agree that Driver Sutton was killed on the morning of 11th August by machine-gun fire. Presumably, the following statement by Private T Dobe (2158) of Cooyar, Queensland, is the more credible because of the claim that he was with Sutton at the time he died.

At Bray about 9. a.m. while engaged as stretcher bearers. We were going back for more wounded when he was shot through the left breast by a machine gun bullet. He lived about half an hour and I stayed with him till he died. I do not know where he was buried.

Driver Sutton was buried in Beacon Cemetery, Sailly-Laurette, Bray-sur-Somme, Picardie.
The cable advising of the death was dated 22/8/18. It would have gone to the wife in London, as well as the father in Gippsland.

A death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 4/9/18:

Sutton. – Killed in action on the 11th August. William Henry Sutton, beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Sutton, dearly beloved husband of Florence (England), brother of Mrs. W. Ryan, Thomas (returned after 3 1/2 yrs. service), Charlotte, George (killed in action), Minnie, and Jane. Age 31 years.

Earlier, on 30/8/18, the paper had reported the father’s response to his son’s death. It is tempting to see the father’s comment as heavy in irony:

Whatever the feelings were of Mr. Thos. Sutton, Mack’s Creek, on Wednesday morning, when he informed us of the death of his second soldier son at the front, he betrayed not the slightest emotion. Like a worthy sire, he remarked, “It’s a glorious death to die for one’s country.” But for such a man is felt the deepest sympathy. All his three sons went to the war. The first to fall was Private D. G. Sutton, in mid 1915, one was returned wounded, and the third, Private W. H. Sutton, was killed in action on 11th inst. The latter was married only last December to an English lass. How terribly glad we shall all be when this terrible conflict is over.

In October 1918, the wife in England received the items – unspecified – of personal kit belonging to her husband, Driver Sutton. She was the sole beneficiary of his new will and she would also have received a pension from Australia. Sometime after the War, probably 1920, she moved to Australia, presumably to be with her in-laws. Perhaps there was a child born in England. There is correspondence in the file that indicates that in August 1921 her address was Tarra Valley, locked bag via Traralgon and then in November 1922 she was living in Yarram.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SUTTON William Henry
Roll of Honour: William Henry Sutton
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Henry Sutton
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: William Henry Sutton

 

 

 

MURRAY John Bridge 3192
8B KIA 11/8/18

John Murray was another immigrant from the UK – Scotland in this instance – who enlisted in the AIF. He was born in Caithness in the north of Scotland and came to Australia as a twenty-five-year-old around 1908. He had been to school at a public school, presumably in Caithness. His parents were recorded as Thomas and Hellin Georgeson Murray. At the time of enlistment, he was married – Esther Murray – and living in Yarram. His wife appears to have been Esther Coghill. The Coghill name was known in the local district but it is difficult to link Esther to the various branches. The Murray couple had 3 children, the oldest of whom was 5 years. John Murray gave his age as 32 yo and his occupation was recorded as ‘labourer’. His religion was Presbyterian.

John Murray took his first medical in Yarram with Dr Crooks on 7/8/15 and was re-examined in Melbourne where he formally enlisted on 20/8/15. He joined as reinforcements for 24 Battalion and left Melbourne 3 months later (26/11/15). It appears that while in Egypt (Serapeum) and immediately before moving to France he was transferred to 8 Battalion (24/2/16). Private Murray’s unit reached Marseilles at the end of March.

Just over one year later in early May 1917 (8/5/17) Private Murray was wounded in action – gunshot wound, right leg – and repatriated to England for treatment. He was discharged in late June (25/6/17) and after a furlough he was sent to the Overseas Training Brigade at Perham Downs.

He eventually made it back to his battalion in France in early September (9/9/17) but within a few weeks he had been wounded again – either shrapnel or gunshot wound to right eye – and was hospitalised in 25 General Hospital at Camiers on the French Coast. After further convalescence, he rejoined 8 Battalion at the start of January 1918 (6/1/18).

At the end of that month (31/1/18) he was promoted to the rank of lance corporal and then in March he spent a month in the Brigade Infantry School. In late June (27/6/18), he was again hospitalised, this time with influenza.

Lance Corporal Murray rejoined the battalion on 7/7/18 and was killed in action just over one month later (11/8/18). While there was a map reference to where he was buried on the battlefield, his body was never recovered. His name is recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. The cable advising of his death was dated 24/8/18.

Back in Gippsland, Private Murray’s death was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 4/9/18:

Word was received at Devon North on Monday last that Lance-Corporal John Murray had been killed in action, after nearly two years’ active service in France. He leaves a widow and three young children to mourn their loss. Sympathy for the bereaved family is expressed on all sides. A native of Scotland, and of a family of four brothers, all are or have been at the front since the outbreak of the war. Two have paid the supreme sacrifice. The other two, Robert, of the Seaforth Highlanders, and Daniel of the Black Watch, have been wounded several times. The sisters of these brave men are all enthusiastic war workers.

The death notice had appeared on 28/8/18:

Murray – Killed in action on 11th. Aug., 1918, after three years’ active service, Lance-Corp. John B. Murray, the dearly loved husband of Mrs. Murray, North Devon. Aged 34 years. Loving father of Willie, Nellie and Nancy.
His sacrifice what he has gained
Mine what I have lost
-Inserted by his loving wife – E. Murray

His wife received his few personal belongings – 1 Cigarette Case, 1 Wallet, Cards – in July 1919.

As for the action on 9 August when Private Singleton (Post 175), also of 8 Battalion, was killed, there is an equally detailed account in the war diary of 8 Battalion of the operation over 10 – 11 August. At 4.00 AM on the morning of 11 August, 8 Battalion was involved in a whole brigade attack towards the village of Lihons. The objective was to advance some 3,000 yards on a front of 2,000 yards. Six tanks were to support the operation and there would be an artillery barrage to hold down the enemy in Lihons until the infantry were close enough to take it. Despite the fact that the tanks did not materialise, the assault began well and there was such a rapid advance that pockets of German snipers and machine guns were left in the rear. Command was compromised by a heavy ground mist across the battlefield that cut communication and made it very difficult for commanders to establish if positions had been reached. Yet, by 8.00 AM commanders were confident that the ‘blue line’ had been reached and Lihons had been occupied. At this point the battalion’s line was some 600 yards in front of the Lihons-Chilly road. However, the pockets of Germans in the rear, which had effectively been bypassed by the advancing AIF, were still a problem and, as well, over the rest of the day there was a series of German counter-attacks against the newly consolidated line. The diary notes that German snipers were very active. It also notes that casualties in the battalion had been ‘remarkably light’ up to the time the blue line had been taken … but during the counterattacks that were made later the numbers increased considerably. The figures given were 19 dead and 49 wounded. The battalion was relieved on the night of the 11-12 and was out of the line by 7.00AM on 12 August.

The war diary emphasises the physical hardship faced by the men on 11/8/18:

For several days prior to the commencement of the operations herein described, the men had had very little and broken sleep. Two days previously they had engaged in a steady and determined fight over 3,500 yards of ground, and that immediately after a hasty march of 11 miles. During the whole of the 10th they were standing to in readiness to reinforce the 5th and 6th Battalions. The morning of the 11th therefore found them in anything but a fit condition for an attack, but under the excitement they rallied wonderfully and made a fine spirited fight which lasted practically until the moment of relief. When seen in the front line a little after noon during a lull in the fighting at a time when the heat of the sun was greatest, a reaction had set in and signs of intense drowsiness and fatigue were very apparent. The poor lads dozed as they stood at their posts.

The same commentary features a very revealing insight on the number of German prisoners not taken by the Australians:

It is impossible to estimate the number of prisoners taken during the day, but judging by the temper of our men and in view of the fact that numerous prisoners would have been not only an encumbrance but also a menace it is believed that the number taken was not great. At Lihons however a German medical officer and his staff were captured.

There is a Red Cross report for Lance Corporal Murray. The following account by an officer – Lieutenant A J Rice, on 4/7/19 – was supported, at least in all the key details, by the other witnesses. Several insisted that the shot that killed Murray was fired by a sniper. Others also pointed out that he was in fact in charge of a machine gun and, as such, he would have been a target for snipers.

I knew casualty, he was a well built man, about 5’5” in height, fair complexion, about 30 yrs of age, known as Jock. Casualty was in the front line at the right of Lihons. Just after the advance the enemy counter-attacked and while helping to repel the attack, casualty was shot in the head by a bullet at close range, which killed him instantly. I was alongside him at the time of his death and he did not speak but fell back dead. He was buried near where he fell. A cross was erected over the grave, with his name, number and unit on it.

Lance Corporal Murray is remembered on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His name also appears on the local honor roll for the Presbyterian Charge.

Murray enlisted as a married man with children. The challenges facing the wife left behind with young children would have been considerable, particularly if she herself did not have family support behind her. This appears to have been the case with Esther Murray and a future post will look at this situation in more detail. For present purposes, even before the death of her husband, Esther Murray was appealing for financial support. In 1917, she applied for financial assistance from an agency set up to support returned soldiers. In turn, the (Victorian) State War Council wrote to the Local War Service Committee in Yarram – effectively this was the local recruiting committee – seeking a confidential report on her situation. In her claim, Esther Murray had indicated that she was supporting 4 children – not 3 – and that she had no cash or property assets and that she needed £12 to cover rent. As significant as the obvious issue of the support required for such families was, the practice of using local committees of various kinds to assess the eligibility and deservedness of the families was as important. In this case, the local committee was advised to seek the opinion of the local police as well as other local societies. Moreover, the level of any support to be offered had to be set against the following stricture laid down by the State War Council:

It is obvious that in view of the numerous demands which must arise before and after the declaration of peace, the amount of aid in each case must be kept within reasonable limit.

This model of having local committees judge the need and suitability of individuals and families in their applications for support was to be reproduced after the War in the soldier settlement scheme. Overall, the approach ensured that the power and influence of the established group of civic leaders – essentially the local Imperial Loyalists of WW1 – continued after the War. It also ensured continuing conflict and division in the community.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for MURRAY John Bridge
Roll of Honour: John Bridge Murray
First World War Embarkation Roll: John Bridge Murray
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: John Bridge Murray

175. J Singleton

SINGLETON James 1172/1138
8 B KIA 9/8/18

James Singleton was killed in action on 9/8/18. Even though he enlisted at Yarram, he is another young man whose name is missing from the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. At the same time, his name – Singleton, J – is included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor, but it does not have the marking for ‘killed’.

James Singleton was one of the large group who enlisted at Yarram in mid September 1914. He enlisted on 17/9/14 and was issued with railway warrant number 26 on 21/9/14. The list of railway warrants also has ‘killed’ against his name, Jas Singleton. His name also appeared on the list of those examined by the local doctors – as part of the enlistment process – to 31/12/14. It also appeared in reports in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative at that time – 21/9/14 and 23/9/14 – which described the departure of the men from the railway station at Alberton. According to the local paper, he was one of those selected to join the light horse.

When he enlisted he was 31 yo and single. He gave his next-of-kin as his sister – Martha Singleton – who was living at Flinders. He himself had been born at Flinders, Mornington Peninsula, and had attended the local state school there. He had had no previous military experience and on his enlistment form he acknowledged that he had been ‘fined for common assault.’ His religion was Presbyterian. His occupation was simply stated as ‘laborer’ and it appears that he was working in the local area at the time War broke out. There was a family of Singleton – Thomas Henry Singleton and Alice Singleton – who were farmers at Binginwarri. Possibly they were relatives and he was working on their farm.

Private Singleton enlisted as reinforcements for 7 Battalion and embarked from Melbourne on 22/12/14. However, by the time of Gallipoli he was attached to 8 Battalion. At the Gallipoli Landing on 25/4/15 he was wounded in the leg and evacuated. One version of the episode was that he was wounded in the neck, back and leg. He rejoined his unit (8 Battalion) in mid June but then in late September the same year he was hospitalised again and it appears that this was related to the ‘old wound’. The medical record is hard to follow but it appears that after rejoining his unit, he was again hospitalised. This time it was enteric fever and he was transferred to a hospital in the UK (Oxford) in early November 1915. He remained in the UK until late May 1916 when he was sent back to Egypt. Once back in Egypt, there was yet more time in hospital with ongoing problems from the initial bullet wound. The file has him returning to duty at the end of June 1916.

Private Singleton’s service file has copies of formal medical reports from the time he spent in hospital in the UK. The first one, dated 29/1/16, described the ‘disability’ as ‘G.S. Wound Right Calf’ . It noted that the disability occurred on 25/4/15 at Anzac and described how … He was struck on the front of the right leg, the bullet entering about the middle third. The bullet emerged on the inner side just above the ankle. There was no discharge from the wound and no fracture. The ‘present condition’ was that … He is complaining of pain round the ankle and up the leg on walking any distance. But the report concluded that … There is no permanent disability to be detected. The recommendation was … Home Service for three months. Then in late February/ early March 1916, a medical board determined that he was … Fit for Home Service light duty (6 months) in Egypt, which explains why he was returned to Egypt from the UK. In the period when he was in the UK, Private Singleton was charged with ‘resisting arrest’ – it is not clear why he was to be arrested in the first place – and he was placed in detention for one week (‘168 hours’) and lost 1 week of pay.

Private Singleton did not get his full 6 months of light duty in Egypt because in July 1916 he was dispatched to France. He was still with 8 Battalion. Again, the old wound caused problems and there was more hospitalisation, first in France and then, from December 1916, in England. He was finally released from hospital in February 1917 but almost immediately, after presumably a period of leave in London, he was back in hospital – 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital – where he spent 119 days (13/3/17 to 7/7/17).  He then rejoined 8 Battalion in France on 18/8/17.

Private Singleton’s run of poor health continued. In January 1918, he was accidentally injured – fractured rib – and again hospitalised, first in France and then In England. He remained in England until early June 1918 and then proceeded to France. He rejoined 8 Battalion in the field on 13/6/18. Less than 2 months later he was killed in action on 9/8/18 in the Battle of Amiens. The cable advising the family of his death was dated 21/8/18. Private Singleton’s body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

8 Battalion became involved in the fighting on 9/8/18 after an 11 mile march from near Villers-Bretonneux. As part of 2 Brigade, it moved into ground captured the previous day by 15 Brigade. The basic objective was the Red Line just before Harbonnieres, with the villages of Rosieres-en-Santerre and Lihons beyond. Essentially, the battalion had to advance across 3,500 yards of open, flat ground against German artillery and machine guns sited on a ridge which provided the enemy with excellent observations of the attacking AIF forces. Their snipers were able to inflict heavy casualties on 8 Battalion’s officers. To make matters worse, there were only 14 tanks and none of these made it past the first 1,500 yards. Also, the artillery support was first poor and then non-existent. The war diary stated:

The whole advance had taken place over a long flat plain ending at the ‘Red Line’ [immediately in front of Harbonnieres] with a pronounced rise – ideal ground for defence and very difficult for attack since the movement of very individual could be observed. In addition to this there was no artillery support. The mobile 18 pounder brought to cope with battery on ridge was completely put out of action after firing three shots. Therefore the fight was purely an infantry one against big odds in the shape of well concealed machine guns and splendidly placed field guns.

The heavy fighting on the second day of the ongoing Battle of Amiens was reflected in casualty figures. The war diary for 8 Battalion indicates that in the 3 days of fighting from 9 -11 August there were 49 killed and 233 wounded but that for the very first day – 9 August – there were 30 killed, 184 wounded and 9 missing. After the success on the first day of the battle, the AIF had moved to a more open-ground form of fighting, but the casualty levels were still very high.

Private Singleton appears to have been killed in the early afternoon, not long after the advance began. The Red Cross Report suggests that he was killed by shellfire and buried in the trench/shell hole where he fell. A cross was erected but the grave site was subsequently lost. One of the witness statements – T McHenry 3337, 8B – described how Private Singleton had been hit by shell fire and killed instantly. He noted:

I knew him well, he had wandered around Victoria a good deal but I think he enlisted in Gippsland.

In 1920, following queries from the family, the AIF advised that there was no personal kit to return. Private Singleton’s will named his sister – Martha Singleton of Flinders – as the sole beneficiary. She had also been given as next-of-kin on enlistment. After the War, she also completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour which gave Flinders as the location with which her brother had been ‘chiefly connected’. As per normal, the military authorities questioned the sister – she was the oldest sister – if the parents were still living and if not if there were brothers. The sister replied (1920) that both parents were dead and that the oldest brother – George – was a patient at the Yarra Bend Asylum. She stated that she was the oldest sister and that she ‘would be glad’ to take care of the medals. In the end, it appears that the medals went to the next oldest brother – William – who also lived at Flinders. Obviously, there was a strong family link to Flinders and, in fact, Private Singleton’s name appears on the war memorial there (Singleton J). However, he was obviously living and working in the Yarram area at the time he enlisted and, as noted, there is a partial – or, more correctly, incomplete – record of his service and sacrifice in the Shire.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SINGLETON James
Roll of Honour: James Singleton
First World War Embarkation Roll: James Singleton
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: James Singleton

174. A Morgan

MORGAN Arthur MM 1776
16B KIA 8/8/18

Arthur Morgan’s name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. In fact, as far as can be ascertained, his name does not appear on any extant memorial in the Shire of Alberton. However, there is strong evidence of his association with the Shire.

The details retained by the Shire of Alberton on Arthur Morgan’s enlistment do not line up with those in his service file. As far as the Shire was concerned, he enlisted in November 1914. He was issued with railway warrant number 60 on 24/11/14 by the Shire Secretary. This was for train travel from Yarram (Alberton) to Melbourne. His name appeared in the lists of those locals who had enlisted, in both the South Gippsland Chronicle (5/1/16) and the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (16/7/15). His name also appeared on the list of those recruits who been medically examined by the local doctors to 31/12/14. Equally, it did not appear on the separate list of those rejected by the local doctors. Overall, as far as the Shire of Alberton was concerned, Arthur Morgan enlisted in Yarram in November 1914. However, the actual service file for Private Arthur Morgan indicates that he enlisted in Adelaide – nearly one full year later – on 18/10/15. The same record states that he had not previously been enlisted and nor had he been rejected as ‘unfit’. Presumably, for some unknown reason, Arthur Morgan did not go ahead with his enlistment when he reached Melbourne from Yarram in November 1914. At the time he was only 20 yo so the military authorities, most likely, were not interested in pursuing him. Then almost a year later he enlisted in Adelaide, without drawing any attention to his previous ‘enlistment’. He was then 21 yo and, conceivably, if there had been an earlier issue with parental permission it would no longer have been a problem.

On the face of it, the name of Morgan is so common that there would have to be the possibility that the Arthur Morgan who enlisted in Adelaide was not the Arthur Morgan who ‘enlisted’ in Yarram. But this does not appear to have been the case. The Adelaide Arthur Morgan was from Victoria. He was born in Boort (Victoria) and his next-of-kin, his father – Barnabas Morgan – lived in Port Melbourne. Moreover, when the father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave ‘Bullarah [Boolarra] Gippsland’ as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Most telling of all, in 1919, a teacher from Womerah State School – Miss E Linforth – wrote to the AIF seeking service details of former students. She was preparing a ‘school honor book’ – now unavailable – and she provided a list of names. The AIF replied that, in effect, they were only able to match 2 of the names provided. One was 2nd Lieutenant Walter Stephen Filmer – see Post 116 – and the other was Arthur Morgan, who had … enlisted Adelaide, S.A., 18.10.15.

Arthur Morgan must have grown up and attended school in the Shire. Presumably he was working as a labourer – ‘saw mill hand’ according to his father – in the Shire as a young man. He initially enlisted in the Shire but for some reason this enlistment did not proceed but then nearly one year later he enlisted in Adelaide. After the War, presumably because there were no strong, surviving family links to the Shire, his name ‘disappeared’, with the single exception of the school honor book for Womerah SS.

When he enlisted in Adelaide on 18/10/15 Arthur Morgan was 21 yo and single. He gave his religion as Church of England and his occupation was entered simply as labourer. He enlisted in 32 Battalion which had been raised in the Adelaide suburb of Mitcham. He embarked on 11/1/16. In Egypt, 2 months later, he was transferred to the reorganised 16 Battalion. His unit disembarked at Marseilles in early June 1916.

Private Morgan had several run-ins with military authority and invariably they involved drunkenness. In Egypt, in April 1916, he was punished – 14 days Field Punishment 2 and the equivalent number of days pay lost – for drunkenness and resisting the military guard. Later that same month he was ‘confined to barracks’ for 3 days for missing a parade. In France, In September 1916, he again lost 14 days pay for being drunk and creating a disturbance in camp. Finally, in March 1917, there was another 14 days of Field Punishment 2, and the equivalent number of days pay lost, for again being drunk and missing duty.

Apart from the drinking episodes, Private Morgan’s health held up well and there was only one short period of hospitalisation – influenza – in May 1916.

Private Morgan was awarded the Military Medal in July 1918 but, unfortunately, there are no details of the relevant action. The award itself was gazetted in late 1918 (London Gazette 21/10/18) and early 1919 (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 12/2/19). When the personal effects were returned to the father in February 1919 the ribbon for the Military Medal was included, so it appears the award must have been made not long before he was killed. The personal effects themselves were very limited:

1 Pocket Book, 1 Wallet, 1 “MM” Ribbon, Photos, Cards. Letters.

The father also received – April 1919 – a sealed envelope containing,

1 Letter from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (London) re – remittance £10 dated 14th March 1918.

Private Morgan was killed in action of 8/8/18. There is a brief Red Cross report and, allowing for the inevitable inconsistencies, the following account from D P Fisher (7458, 16 B) suggests what happened:

I was about three yards from him when he was going to fire a shot and his Sgt. Mjr. Philips spoke to him and he turned round and he was shot through the head and died instantly. This happened about 1 mile this side of Merricourt [Mericourt-sur-Somme] about half past 2 p.m. on 8th August 1918.

The Battle of Amiens on 8/8/18 was a major success for the Allied troops – French, British, American and Australian – involved. German casualties – nearly 30,000 – were 3 times those of the Allies. The amount of enemy ground taken and the speed with which it was captured were both stunning in comparison with earlier battles. It was the largest tank battle of the War – the Allies committed more than 550 tanks – and it also saw a major aerial battle, with the Allies enjoying significant air superiority. The Germans rated their loss that day as the infamous ‘black day’ of their War.

At the level of the individual battalion, 16 Battalion spent most of the day in a support role, although the fighting intensified as they neared the outskirts of Mericourt-sur-Somme. Overall, 16 Battalion casualties were relatively light: 3 men – Private Morgan was one of them – were killed in action; 1 died of wounds and approximately 100 were wounded.

The war diary of 16 Battalion for 8/8/18 highlights the significance, at the time, that the AIF attached to the fact that Amiens saw all the Australian divisions fighting together, under Monash. Monash was knighted in the field by King George V on 12/8/18. The tone of the diary entry is striking:

This morning the Battalion actively participated in the SOMME OFFENSIVE, extending over a frontage of approximately 20 miles, and carried out by AUSTRALIAN, CANADIAN, and BRITISH TROOPS, operating on separate and defined sectors, but in conjunction.

This operation will always stand out among the British battles fought in FRANCE for two distinct reasons: firstly, because while the attack was made with the customary assistance of artillery, aeroplanes and tanks, it introduced an entirely new method of warfare – the transportation of Infantry machine-gun crews in tanks, thus assuring the arrival of a strong preliminary attacking force at points deemed most likely to seriously trouble the advancing infantry; secondly, because of the success which attended the whole operation – a result due to the wonderful stamina and aggressive spirit displayed by the troops, and the fact through magnificent and thorough organisation the attack came as a complete surprise to the enemy. But Australians, and particularly the fighting men of Australia, will remember the battle for a grander reason. it was the first time that the whole of the AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALIONS advanced together over the same battlefield, shoulder to shoulder as it were, to win through or die for the honor of “Australia, the Empire and our Cause”.

Private Morgan is buried at Heath (Military) Cemetery, near Harbonnieres.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
South Gippsland Chronicle

National Archives file for MORGAN Arthur
Roll of Honour: Arthur Morgan
First World War Embarkation Roll: Arthur Morgan
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur Morgan
Honours and Awards: Arthur Morgan

173. Enlistments in the first half of 1918: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

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

Religion

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.

Units

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).

Service History

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.

Overall

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.

172. Enlistments in the first half of 1918: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

This post continues the analysis, in six-monthly intervals, of several key characteristics of all those with a link to the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The relevant previous posts in the sequence are:

Post 22: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 56: Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 62: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 82: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 102: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 127: Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 145: Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

The specific characteristics covered in the attached table are: the place of birth, the place of enlistment, the address of the next-of-kin at the time of enlistment, the address of the individual volunteer at the time of enlistment, the occupation at the time of enlistment, and age and marital status at the time of enlistment. For a more detailed account of the methodology and sources refer to the earlier posts.

Movement

The cohort is obviously small but it does represent the most ‘local’ of all cohorts analysed to this point. Typically, this group of enlistments were either born in the Shire of Alberton and/or were long-term residents. There were no immigrant farm workers from the United Kingdom. There was not even anyone born interstate.

The only 2 of the group who did not appear to have established links to the Shire of Alberton – in the sense that their names are not recorded on any local memorial – were Sylvester M Callister and Wilfred J Chambers. At the same time, both men had their medicals and enlisted at Yarram. Additionally, Callister’s family had previously been residents in the district and he himself must have still been living there, as he was one of several who stepped forward at a patriotic concert/recruiting meeting in Yarram in mid May 1918. Not much is known of of Chambers but he definitely enlisted at Yarram on 9/3/18 and was given a railway warrant to travel to Melbourne on 13/3/18 to complete the process.

Occupation

There were 2 of the group – Ernest B Matches and Matthew S Thomas who were farmers in their own right, in the sense that they both held land in their own right, as recorded in the 1915 rate book. Both these men were older. There was a large group of 7 younger men who were associated in some way with a family farm. Once again, the association possibly also involved them working on other farms, or in other labouring jobs, depending on the size of the family farm and the number of siblings. The bulk of the remaining men described themselves as labourers or farm labourers. James English who had been in the district for 17 years worked as an ‘engineer’ for the local council. His position was also described as ‘electrician’. Andrew McGalliard was a university student – he had been in the Melbourne University Rifles – and the son of Thomas James McGalliard who had substantial land holdings and who also served as Shire President from July 1918.

Age

The following table gives a breakdown of the ages for this cohort.

Ages of volunteers – first half of 1918

ages

18-20         12

21-25         4

26-30          2

31-35          2

36+              2

total          22

Once again, the concentration of those of the youngest possible enlistment age is striking. Throughout the War, the military authorities had been tightening the system to prevent under-age recruits from enlisting, and certainly from enlisting without their parents’ permission. In the cases of the underage recruits in this cohort , their individual service files contain the signed permissions, from both parents. Typically, there is also a copy of the birth certificate to confirm the age. However, the overall intention in this matter was not to reduce the number of those enlisting under the age of 21- these young men were generally the most enthusiastic patriots and the ‘easiest’ target for recruiters –  but to make sure that when such enlistments did occur they were valid enlistments.

The case of Wilfred J Chambers is typical. At the time he enlisted in Yarram (9/3/18) he was only 18 years and 3 months old. He stated that his father’s whereabouts was unknown and his enlistment form contained signed permission from his mother for him to enlist as someone under 21 yo. The mother lived in Heathcote.  On 20/3/18 the mother received a form notice – addressed to her in Heathcote – from the military authorities advising her that … your son has enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for Active Service Abroad, and has produced a document which purports to be your written consent.  The notice then asked if she gave her … consent to his going on Active Service before he reaches the age of 19? Otherwise he cannot be sent to camp until he is 18 1/2 years of age. The mother signed, Yes I will consent to his going before he is 19. The process was designed to ensure that the enlistment of those only 18 yo for active service abroad in the AIF would stand a challenge.

Marital Status

Two of the men – Robert A Neilson and Matthew S Thomas – were married and there was also one widower, James English. The 2 married men were in their early 30s, and one of them – Thomas – had a child. However, the widower – English – was 39 yo and he left behind his 4 year-old daughter. She was left in the care of a Mrs Wallace of the Goodwood Sawmills. Even if Mrs Wallace was a relative, the fact that the authorities were enlisting a 39 yo widower, with a young child, is a clear indication of how keenly they pursued potential recruits.

Overall

The numbers from the Shire of Alberton are very small but there is a suggestion at least that the perceived crisis on the Western Front from the end of March 1918 did prompt a lift in recruitment. However those who stepped forward tended to be the very young and the, relatively, very old and even married.

171. Enlistments in the first half of 1918

This post presents the table of those with an association with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the first half of 1918. It builds on the work of 7 earlier posts that have analysed enlistments, in six-monthly intervals, from August 1914:

Post 21: Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’
Post 55: Enlistments in the first half of 1915
Post 61: Enlistments in the second half of 1915
Post 81. Enlistments in the first half of 1916
Post 101. Enlistments in the second half of 1916
Post 126. Enlistments in the first half of 1917
Post 144. Enlistments in the second half of 1917

The following summary shows enlistments from 1914. The total figure to the end of June 1918 was 756.

To the end of 1914: 138 enlistments
First half of 1915: 102
Second half of 1915: 200
First half of 1916: 183
Second half of 1916: 70
First half of 1917: 31
Second half of 1917: 10
First half of 1918: 22

The table shows that there was a pick up in enlistments in the first half of 1918 – from 10 in the last 6 months of 1917 to 22 in the first 6 months of 1918. At the time, the call for recruits was desperate. The Allies were under great pressure on the Western Front. From the end of March to the end of April, major German attacks – and successes – on the Western Front posed the greatest threat since the fighting of 1914. In Australia, with conscription having been again rejected, the need for recruits was pressed in every conceivable way. The dire situation facing the Allies and the desperate news reports of the depleted state of the AIF did lead to a short-term boost in recruitment.

The number of enlistments also needs to be seen against the number of men who tried to enlist but failed. Roughly one-third of the potential recruits failed to meet the standard.  Typically, they stepped forward at a recruiting meeting but then failed the medical. There were at least 8 such cases: John Campbell (Yarram), Hugh Douglas (Won Wron), Frank Hutchinson (Yarram), Jack Masters (Yarram), Arthur William Murphy (Yarram), George Cameron (Won Wron) and William Hopkins (Tarra Valley). Arthur Cuffic Thomas of Jack River was 36 yo and he also failed the medical but was, at least, offered the option of joining the Home Service. There was also the case of John Henry Lewis. He must have passed the medical at Yarram because he was issued with a railway warrant but it does not appear that the enlistment was completed. Presumably, he failed the next (final) medical when he got to Melbourne.

There were also several instances where age was the issue. Alfred Joseph Baldwin of Gelliondale was too old at 47 yo. Frank Brown of Yarram was too young at 18 yo. There was also the strange case of William Henry Clemson of Tarra Valley. He claimed to be 19 yo and it appears that he even made it in to camp. Certainly he was farewelled on the basis that he had enlisted and was in camp. However, there is no service file for him and, in fact, it appears he was only 15 or 16yo. Presumably, when the military authorities found out his true age he was quietly discharged. To add to the confusion, there is a W Clemson on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. Presumably, his name was included because he had been given a formal farewell and, subsequently, no one realised that he had not served or served for only a very short time.

One striking case involved Tony D’Astoli. The story, from the local paper of the time, was that Antonio D’Astoli had been born in Australia of Italian parents. In 1917 he came to Yarram and took over the confectionary-fruit shop previously run by a family called Liuxxi. It also appears that he married the same year. Then in early 1918 he was called up by the Italian authorities and he then joined the Italian army. His wife stayed behind in Yarram to run the business. He was farewelled from Yarram in May 1918 (7/5/18) and then in January 1920 (7/1/20) he was formally welcomed back to Yarram, as a returned soldier.

As before, there were men in this cohort of 22 enlistments who had previously been rejected because they had failed the medical: Thomas A Clark (1917) and William H Pattinson (1915). Similarly there were others who had enlisted previously but who had subsequently been discharged on medical grounds: Lawrence H W Beagley and Albert J Cummings. In fact, Cummings had been discharged after just 2 weeks service in March 1917, and on this second enlistment, he lasted about 3 months before he was discharged as medically unfit (22/8/18). After this his second enlistment, Beagley, the other volunteer who had previosuly been discharged, managed to serve through to November 1919. There was also the case of Benjamin R Davis. It appears that he first enlisted in June 1916 when he was 18 yo. But he then deserted and was struck off the list. Presumably because of his age – and possibly his parents had not given permission – the military authorities were not interested in pursuing him. Then in May 1918 he re-enlisted. He was formally farewelled from Yarram in October 1918.

When the War commenced in August 1914 there was a common belief that the fighting in Europe would be intense but short and that the newly formed AIF might not even reach Europe before the War was over. When this particular group enlisted in the first half of 1918 – and this was particularly the case for those enlisting from April – the assumption was that they would most definitely be joining the fighting on the Western Front, fighting that had by then raged for nearly 4 years and which showed no sign of ending. Indeed the military situation appeared to be worsening. The irony was that not one of these recruits ever saw fighting. Some were on troopships that were turned back to Australia and while most did embark they did not reach the UK until after the Armistice. Subsequently, one or two did make it to France but they worked with the War Graves Unit.