Category Archives: January to June 1915

37. “They Rose To The Occasion” : the AIF’s image emerges victorious

This post looks at the narrative of the AIF at Gallipoli as it was presented in 2 newspapers of the time: The Argus as a Melbourne metropolitan daily and the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, published twice weekly, as the local paper for the Shire of Alberton.

At the time, newspapers were the only media source of information. From the very start of the War they were subject to strict censorship, and the release of information covering ‘war news’ was highly controlled. In Australia, there was intense interest in the AIF’s fortunes, matched with the understanding that its first engagement in the War would represent a defining moment in the young nation’s history. Before Gallipoli there were 2 overriding preoccupations: would the AIF prove itself as equal to the British army on the field of battle; and how would the AIF mark itself as a distinctive Australian fighting force? Further, the first major campaign involving the AIF represented the chance to counter the negative publicity it had drawn to itself in Egypt. Overall, even before the first shot was fired, the legendary status of Gallipoli was assured.

The first reports of the landings at Gallipoli came very early. On Monday 26 April 1915 The Argus reported on the ‘allies’ landing in the Dardanelles. The troops were described as British and French and the Australians were not specifically listed. There were significant inaccuracies in relation to the landing sites given. Two days later – Wednesday 28 April – there were more accounts of the landings: they had taken place at several points on the Gallipoli Peninsula, covered by a naval force. The reader was reassured, falsely, that:

In spite of serious opposition from the enemy behind strong entrenchments and entanglements, the Allied forces were completely successful.

On 30 April there was a map of the Dardanelles with landing sites, but there were still major inaccuracies.

On 4 May came the first indication of casualties – the Roll of Honour – giving the AIF dead as 10 officers and 42 other ranks, plus another 96 wounded. In the same edition came the first of the congratulatory telegrams. The Governor General was reported to have congratulated Birdwood on the Australian troops’ … successful entry upon active field service. Birdwood’s cable responded that the … troops have all done splendidly. Importantly, there was also reassuring praise from the British. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking on behalf of the Admiralty, cabled praise for the Australian troops. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Churchill) was reported as extending congratulations to both Australia and New Zealand … on the brilliant and memorable achievements of their troops in the Dardanelles. Churchill was also reported as claiming that Admiral de Roebeck in charge of the British Fleet had expressed the fleet’s … intense admiration of the feat of arms of the Australian land forces.

On 6 May there was an article with the headline Heavy Losses of Officers. The death toll had doubled to 108, the majority of whom were officers. The Argus noted that if so many officers had been killed the number of deaths from the other ranks must have been far greater. It stated that despite the level of casualties, people appeared determined to see the campaign through; and it claimed that the true extent of casualties needed to be revealed as soon as possible. The tone of grim determination was being established.

On May 7 The Argus gave the first account of the actual Australian landings on 25 April. It was sourced from the Reuter’s correspondent in Cairo and it claimed to be the … first report of the actual fighting during the landing of the Australasian troops at Gaba Tepe. There was an accompanying map, showing the point of landing near Suvla Bay. The key headline was “Nothing Stopped Us”. The account highlighted the fighting qualities of the Australians:

When approaching the shore the Australians and the New Zealanders jumped from the boats into water that was often neck deep, and waded to land. They found the Turks occupying the ridges, and took three of these in succession in a running fight, extending over a length of three miles.

The picture of the Turkish defenders was far less complimentary. Prior to the campaign it been widely and popularly believed that the Turks, an inferior race, would be no match for the superior forces of the white British Empire. Now this seemed to be exactly what had happened:

One Australian said afterwards: – “Nothing stopped us. Our big lads lifted some of the Turks on the end of their bayonets and the other Turks ran screaming and howling in fear.”

The inferior Turks were also uncivilised:

The ambulance men were under fire, the Turks making a dead set against them, and shooting them down mercilessly. … It has been established that the Turks used dum-dum bullets.

The Turkish losses were great:

The Turks’ losses were enormous, the bayonet rushes of the Australians and New Zealanders causing great slaughter.

The same article made the incorrect claim that Krithia was practically captured.

May 7 also saw the first article in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – to do with the Gallipoli campaign. There was a brief reference noting that the list of dead was increasing and that as only officers’ names had been released to that point, the true casualty rate must have been far greater and worse news was to come. There was a local connection because one of the dead officers, whose name had been published, was a Major Hamilton from Malvern who had married a local girl – Una Bland, daughter of Mr & Mrs W Bland of – Yarram. He was described as … a brave man who had died for his country.

The local paper was always keen to promote the link to the local community and one of its preferred options was to include the letters sent back to Australia from local men serving in the AIF.

The same edition of the local paper reprinted an article from the The Age about men flocking to recruiting stations as the list of casualties grew. Rates of volunteering seemed tied directly to casualty levels. This was said to be the British way and another example of true British determination in the faced of tragedy:

Last week the recruiting figures were growing smaller and smaller, and fears were raised that there were few men left to come forward voluntarily. On Monday [3 May], simultaneously with the publication of the lists of Australia’s killed and wounded, the men came forward again in the old way, eager to do their part in the fighting.

Then on 8 May – some 2 weeks after the event – The Argus published the extensive account by Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett of the initial landing on 25 April. This piece turned out to be one of the most significant newspaper reports in Australia’s history.

Ashmead-Bartlett was a war correspondent for the British. He had seen service as a lieutenant in a British unit in the Boer War in and had worked as a war correspondent in the Russo-Japanese War (1904). In its introduction to the article, The Argus emphasised his credentials, noting that he was … chosen to represent the British press at the Dardanelles … and claiming that he was at … the very forefront of war correspondents. This claimed status as the British expert was employed to give credibility to his account. Ashmead-Bartlett went ashore at Gallipoli on the night of 25 April.

Any reader of the account by Ashmead-Bartlett would have been left in no doubt that the Australians had proved themselves on the field of battle to be the equal of the British troops. Apart from anything else, the claims were highlighted in the headlines of the article: They Rose To The Occasion and No Finer Feat in the War. Equal to Mons and Neuve Chapelle.

The article described in detail the fighting qualities of the Australians who had morphed into a race of athletes:

The Australians rose to the occasion. Not waiting for orders, or for the boats to reach the beach, they sprang into the sea, and, forming a sort of rough line, rushed the enemy’s trenches.
Their magazines were not charged, so they went in with cold steel.
It was over in a minute. The Turks in the first trench were either bayoneted or they ran away, and their Maxim was captured.
Then the Australians found themselves facing an almost perpendicular cliff of loose sandstone covered with thick shrubbery. Somewhere, half-way up, the enemy had a second trench, strongly held, from which they poured a terrible fire on the troops below and the boats pulling back to the destroyers for the second landing party.
Here was a tough proposition to tackle in the darkness, but those colonials, practical above all else, went about it in a practical way.
They stopped for a few minutes to pull themselves together, got rid of their packs, and charged their magazines.
Then this race of athletes proceeded to scale the cliffs without responding to the enemy’s fire. They lost some men but did not worry.
In less than a quarter of an hour the Turks were out of their second position, either bayoneted or fleeing.

He was impressed by the reckless and ruthless pursuit of the enemy – But then the Australians whose blood was up, instead of entrenching, rushed northwards and eastwards, searching for fresh enemies to bayonet. – and the courage of the wounded. He claimed he had never seen the like of it before:

The courage displayed by these wounded Australians will never be forgotten. Hastily placed in trawlers, lighters and boats, they were towed to the ships, and, in spite of their sufferings, cheered on reaching the ship from which they had set out in the morning.
In fact, I have never seen anything like these wounded Australians in war before.
Though many were shot to bits, without the hope of recovery, their cheers resounded throughout the night. You could see in the midst of the mass of suffering humanity arms waving in greeting to the crews of the warships.
They were happy because they knew that they had been tried for the first time and had not been found wanting.

While the Turks were referred to as a brave enemy, there were other less flattering descriptions of them:

Amidst the flash of bayonet and the sudden charge of the Colonials, before which they broke and fled, and amidst a perfect tornado of shells from the ships, the Turks fell back, sullen and checked.


Early in the morning of April 26 the Turks repeatedly tried to drive the colonials from their position. The colonials made local counter-attacks, and drove off the enemy at the point of the bayonet, which the Turks would never face.

Interspersed with the account of the fighting there was more commendation from the British. The British PM (Asquith) was quoted as declaring in the House of Commons:

The landing of the Australians and New Zealanders was opposed by a heavy fire at point-blank range, but they carried their positions with a rush, and their attack was pushed forward with the greatest dash.

Lastly, there was the greatest of claims, under the headline, No Finer Feat in the War. Equal to Mons and Neuve Chapelle.

There has been no finer feat in this war than this sudden landing in the dark and storming the heights, above all holding on whilst the reinforcements were landing.
These raw colonial troops in these desperate hours proved worthy to fight side by side with the heroes of Mons, the Aisne, Ypres, and Neuve Chapelle.

Both the tone and intention of Ashmead-Bartlett’s account were that of the Imperial Boys-OwnAt 3 o’clock, when it was quite dark, a start was made for the shore. There was suppressed excitement. Would the enemy be surprised or on the alert? – but the more relevant point is that the report suited the time perfectly. Here was what was accepted as definite, independent and expert proof from a British war correspondent that the AIF had come though its ‘baptism of fire’ and could count itself as a genuine part of the British Army. Moreover, here also was the beginning of something special: a fighting force that had its own, unique qualities. And now that the ‘truth’ had been presented in the paper it could never be undone. Ashmead-Bartlett’s account became the incontestable foundation for everything that was to follow.

There was more of Ashmead-Bartlett in The Argus on 10 May. Again he portrayed the Turks as not having the nerve to stand up to the Anzacs. And under the heading “These Colonials are Exceptions” he wrote:

Most troops, when under fire, especially volunteers with only a few months’ training, keenly feel losses at the beginning, more especially if these occur before they have had time to settle down, but these colonials are the exception to the rule.
Despite their heavy losses, the survivors were as keen as ever.

There was more praise for the AIF from Birdwood:

General Birdwood told Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett that he could not sufficiently praise the courage, endurance, and soldierly qualities of the colonials. The manner in which they hung on to the position day and night was magnificent, considering the heavy losses, the shortage of water, and the incessant fire of shrapnel to which they were exposed in a position where they were without cover. They also had to face incessant infantry attacks of the enemy, after they retired to a contracted line. They set their teeth, and refused to budge a foot.

Ashmead-Bartlett found the Australians reckless, careless and dismissive of danger. He wrote, under the headline, Bathing Under Shrapnel Fire:

These colonials are extraordinarily good under fire, often exposing themselves rather than take the trouble to keep under shelter of the cliff. One of the strangest sights was to see the numbers bathing in the sea with the shrapnel bursting all around them.

On 11 May, in The Argus under the headline – The Dardanelles Australians’ Bravery. Disdain Of Cover. – an unnamed correspondent continued the same theme of reckless indifference:

An account has been received at Athens from an eyewitness of the recent fighting in the Dardanelles. He states: “The heaviest losses were borne by the Australians and New Zealanders, whose one fault was a complete disdain of cover. Their bravery and dash were amazing. In some cases the men, after rushing the first Turkish trenches in ten minutes, charged ahead despite the appeals of the officers, penetrating several miles inland and suffering heavily when Turkish reinforcements compelled them to retreat.

Back in Gippsland, the account by Ashmead-Bartlett was published, in full, in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 12 May, 4 days after it appeared in The Argus. The same edition ran a short report on local casualties. It gave total losses to that time as 172 dead and 936 wounded and specifically referred to several locals who had been wounded:

Private A .W. C. Avery, son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo Avery, Port Albert and Private F. W. Butler, Jack River and Private H. George, Murrumbeena, who some years ago was a resident of Port Albert, and later was employed in a store at Yarram.

Both Butler and George were subsequently killed. Avery was discharged as ‘medically unfit’ in 1917.

The local paper also began to publish its own accolades for the AIF. On 14 May, it reported a Reuter’s cable:

The “Times” states: – ‘The essence of the Dardanelles enterprise is the resource and vigour of the Australians and New Zealanders, who have been asked to carry out a task which would test the mettle of the most seasoned soldiers. They have already done well, and are now facing more deadly obstacles with the passion of enthusiasm.

In The Argus, Bean’s account of the Gallipoli landing did not appear until 15 May and by that point Asheamd-Barlett’s account had already effectively written the history of the event. Bean’s report – dated Alexandria, May 13 – was introduced as an account of the later stages of the landing of the Australian troops at Gaba Tepe. It was described as supplementing the earlier account by Ashmead-Bartlett. Bean’s account was more precise and while it lacked the jingoism of Ashmead-Bartlett’s style it did reinforce the heroic efforts of the AIF:

“Early on the second morning the 8th Battalion (Victoria) repelled four Turkish charges, and the 4th Infantry Battalion (New South Wales) made a most gallant attack with the bayonet. They drove the Turks back through the scrub till they came on the Turkish camp. Nine-tenths of our men went straight through that, until they were faced by three machine-guns in position farther back, and came under the fire of a battery. This battalion (the 4th) was afterwards ordered to retire somewhat, as its position was difficult to support.

On 19 May in The Argus there was more from Ashmead-Bartlett. This time he was keen to present failure as success. The British had been well and truly been checked in the south (Cape Helles) but he managed to represent this defeat as follows:

”The British,” he reported, “are not yet in possession of Achi Baba, at the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsula, but have forced the Turks to disclose the strength and character of the defences, and we are in a position to estimate the difficulty of the task.

For Ashmead-Bartlett the failure had been a stunning success:

Our successful landing administered a staggering blow to the Turco-Germans, who, not without reason, regarded the peninsula as impregnable.

Also, on this occasion, Ashmead-Bartlett acknowledged that the Turks had fought with extreme bravery.

On 19 May, the local paper featured more international congratulations for the AIF. Under the heading of War News an unsourced report noted:

General Sir Ian Hamilton says the Australian troops are fit to meet any troops in the world. Outside the Guards they are the largest and heaviest army in the world.

Another also unsourced report claimed:

The heroism of the Australians at the Dardanelles is stated to be unique in the history of modern war.

The paper reported casualty levels as 255 dead and 1841 wounded. Intentionally or otherwise, the casualty level was increasing in proportion to the praise bestowed on the AIF.

The first poem to feature in The Argus on the action in the Dardanelles did so on 20 May. Predictably it touched on death in the cause of the Empire, with gallant souls set free by death in battle.

On 2 June, Bean’s account of the death of General Bridges featured prominently in the local paper. The tone was heroic: Bridges had scorned danger and had been dodging snipers for months. When he was hit, he did not want his men endangered taking him down to the beach:

General Bridges had proved himself a capable and strong commander, absolutely imperturbable amidst the turmoil of operations and wholly without fear.

There was a reference to the Turks not firing on the stretcher as Bridges was evacuated:

The enemy, probably because he saw it was a party carrying a wounded man, did no fire any shots in this direction till the stretcher had passed.
We have noticed that the Turk, whilst not always a scrupulous or humane fight[er], has sometimes acted very fairly and humanely. It probably depends on the individual.

In the same article Bean wrote about the Turkish attack on the morning of 19 May and the huge losses:

Our men were in magnificent spirits, never shooting without a good target, even sitting on the parapet or traverse, laughing and firing as fast as they could load. The next morning the Turks lying in front of our position were far thicker than I have ever seen. There cannot be less than 1500 dead. Our loss was trifling – certainly not more than one to ten of the enemy, and probably only one to twenty.
I have never seen men in better fighting form. They are earnestly hoping the Turks will attack again, which probably they will in spite of the severe lesson, as they are ready to stake a great deal on driving the Australians into the sea.

In The Argus on 7 June there was a report that set out to explain why earlier optimistic forecasts about the British and allied fleet’s ability to destroy the forts and force the Dardanelles had been wrong. The forts were proving too hard to hit and destroy and the mines and guns of the Turks were too great an obstacle and had caused major ship losses. Therefore the current land invasion, supported by artillery, was required. But the Turkish force by itself was only ever portrayed as a second-rate opponent. Without the leadership of the Germans it would have failed:

The Turkish soldier fights very well behind entrenchments, but he is a very bad gunner, and possesses absolutely no knowledge of the science of war. Had the defence of the Straits been left in his hands alone the Allied fleet would most probably have taken Constantinople by now. But the Turkish army, directed by highly trained German officers, and having advantage of their science and technical skill, is a very different enemy.

On 16 June, the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published a lengthy soldier’s letter home from the young – 18 yo – Syd Collis who was serving in the Medical Corps. He had written it in early May to his father, Mr Geo. Collis of Alberton. At the time, he was based at Heliopolis. He described his work tending to those who had been wounded at Gallipoli:

Soldiers will be returning to Australia now disabled, some with arms and lefts shot off. I saw a chap get his leg amputated. Some have their toes and hands shot off. It was awful that some of them got shot before they landed. Shrapnel is doing the damage. They are standing the pain like Britons, and wishing to get back to the front – quite as anxious as we are. Light Horse is no good, and all of them have volunteered to go to the front as infantry, our crowd included.

Collis focused on the claimed perfidy of the Turks. He told his father that the general consensus was that if you were wounded you needed to keep a bullet to shoot yourself:

They all say keep one bullet for yourself, because if you see the Turks coming and are wounded shoot yourself, because they have gouged our boys eyes out, and cut their heads off with the bayonet.

He also claimed the Turks also shot stretcher bearers, and they were scared of the Australians and ran from them:

The Turks run when the Australians make the bayonet charge. The Australians slaughtered thousands of them, and took lots of prisoners. They have great name and intend to keep it up.

Another report from Bean – dated 13 May, Gallipoli – appeared in The Argus as late as 18 June 1915. It gave a detailed account of the landing and fighting on the first day. The detail covered the specific action of each battalion on the day and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of individual officers. The language was more restrained than Ashmead-Bartlett’s. Bean described how the men pushed inland, with the Turks reluctant to face their bayonets:

With a shout the first boat-loads fixed bayonets, on the inner edge of the beach, and rushed straight up at it, and the Turks did not wait. Later he wrote: The enemy could be seen quite thick upon the third ridge, but they did not attack. … They did not advance; on the contrary, when parties of our men overshot the general line on the second ridge and went up to the third, they retreated before them and waited for reinforcements.

Bean also made the point about the battalions being mixed up and how the men formed small parties and then headed inland under the command of any available officer. It was an example of the men themselves exercising judgement and initiative in the heat of battle. These were troops who could think for themselves.

On 11 August the local paper featured more reports from Ashmead-Bartlett. He was keen to emphasise not just the physical prowess of the Australians:

The colonials are of amazing physique. No European nation possesses anything to compare with them. The Prussian Guard consists of picked men, but they are fat and ungainly. The colonials are great big-limbed athletes, with not a pound of superfluous flesh among the lot.

but also the collective and independent way they discharged their military responsibilities:

It is not so much an army as a community which has come together for the job, and framed its own laws to carry it out. They work in little groups, which are united either by home ties or mutual regard. These groups discipline themselves.

The preceding analysis shows how, in the weeks following 25 April 1915, Australians reading their newspapers were left in no doubt that the AIF’s first major engagement of the War had been an outstanding success. The men of the AIF had proved themselves to be true ‘Britons of the South’. They were at least the match of the British soldiers. They had proved their worth to the Empire. They had also began to craft a distinctive identity: ruthless in battle; contemptuous of danger; physically bigger and stronger than other soldiers; self-disciplined and enterprising; and with a natural cynicism that brought out the larrikin. It was a very tough, reassuring picture of the AIF, infinitely preferable to that of out-of-control, poorly disciplined rabble destroying Cairo, trashing the reputation of Australia and even being sent home in disgrace with VD. It was also a picture that both helped offset the grief generated by rapidly increasing casualty levels and promoted a surge in enlistments.

The preceding analysis also suggests that what was lacking over this period was any independent, objective analysis of the campaign. The reports were filtered through tight censorship, the tone was celebratory and jingoistic and no criticism of the campaign was even entertained. There was no place in the press for doubt, disbelief or question, at least at this early point. The simple motif throughout was the heroic struggle of the Australian soldier, in difficult circumstances, against an enemy who was in every way inferior and who could be treacherous.

Future posts will show how doubts over the worth of the Gallipoli campaign inevitably arose and a complex play of blame and counter-claim developed to cover what came to be seen as an unqualified military disaster. Indeed the historical debate over Gallipoli – certainly in Australia – continues to the present. See, for example, Robin Prior’s defining work, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth.

At the same time, there has never been any chance that the qualities of the AIF, identified and pushed so hard in the popular press in the first few weeks of the campaign, would ever be seriously questioned or significantly qualified.  True, the Turks could be humanised, over the years, to become a more worthy and noble foe; but, realistically, there was little, if any, chance that the hyperbole of Ashmead-Bartlett and others, once published, could ever be scaled back.

For the press of the time, Gallipoli established Australia’s complete loyalty to the Empire, and proved to all back home that its soldiers were at least the equal of the British. For Australia, Gallipoli was – and has continued to be –  more a proof of national character than a military campaign.


The Argus

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Prior, R  2009, Gallipoli: The End of the Myth, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney

36. David George SUTTON 1552

David George Sutton (1552) enlisted in Brisbane on 31/12/1914. He joined the 15 Battalion. At the time of enlistment, he gave his occupation as labourer. He had been born in Gippsland (Devon North) and at the time of enlistment his father – Thomas Sutton – as next of kin, was living at Tarra Valley. According to the 1915 Rate Book for the Shire of Alberton, the father was a dairy farmer with 71 acres at Devon North. There were 3 Sutton brothers who enlisted, with David the youngest. When he enlisted he gave his age as 22yo but when his father completed the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave his son’s age at death as only 19yo so it would appear that he had put his age up by a couple of years when he enlisted. The father also indicated that his son had attended Max Creek State School and he gave Yarram as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Of the 3 brothers who enlisted, it appears that 2 of them had moved to Queensland for work, probably not very long before they enlisted, while one had stayed behind to work on the family farm. The 2 brothers who enlisted in Queensland both described themselves as ‘labourers’, although the father specifically described David’s occupation as ‘bush labourer’. Presumably, there was not enough work for all the sons on the family dairy farm so 2 brothers had moved to Queensland – the most common destination for young men from Gippsland – to start out on their own.

Private David George Sutton was killed on 29/5/1915. The war diary for 15 Battalion reveals that very early (3.15AM) on 29 May the battalion was rushed from Monash Valley to Quinn’s Post where the Turks had ‘blown in’ some of the Australian trenches and occupied them. Some 100 men of the 15 Battalion were ordered to charge the occupied trench. The men were successful in re-occupying the trench but in the engagement the enemy threw a large number of bombs which inflicted severe casualties. 17 Turkish soldiers surrendered and the bodies of another 23 were removed from the trenches. On the Australian side there were 11 men killed – including Major Hugh Quinn himself – and another 14 wounded.

Private Sutton was buried the same day in the New Monash Valley Cemetery, with the Rev. Green (Church of England) officiating. The New Monash Valley Cemetery became in time the Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.

On the face of it, there was little chance of either error or confusion over Private Sutton’s death. However, on 18 June 1915 – some 3 weeks after the death – the father, as next of kin, was advised by cable that his son had been wounded. The cable stated: Regret Son Private D. G. Sutton Wounded Not Reported Seriously No Other Particulars Available Will Immediately Advise Anything Further Received. This was followed up by a letter on 31 August 1915 stating that No. 1552, Private D. G. Sutton, 15th Battalion, was wounded on the 29th June (sic), and there is no further report regarding him. It was not until 29 October 1915 that a formal report of his death, stating that he had been killed in action on 29 May 1915, was issued. Presumably, even though the final, formal report stated that he had been killed in action, Private Sutton must have been wounded on 29 May and this detail was recorded and passed on, prompting the cable a few weeks later. The fact that he actually died from the wounds on the same day must not, again presumably, have cancelled the advice about being wounded. It is hard to believe the mistake but, once again, the episode points to the poor record-keeping on the part of the AIF in the opening months of the fighting. More than this, both the enormity of the error and the length of time it continued, suggest that the battalion commanders were struggling to keep up with what was happening to their men.

Even though official confirmation of the death did not come until October 1915, the family back at Tarra Valley knew by early August 1915 what had happened. As for so many other families, news of the death came from a letter sent by a relative or friend. In this case, the letter was from one of his brothers – William Henry Sutton – who was in fact in the same battalion. He had also enlisted in Brisbane, but not until January 1915. The letter was published in full in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11 August 1915. The other Sutton brother referred to in the article was Thomas James Sutton (2025) who enlisted in Melbourne in June 1915. The ‘W. Sutton of Yarram’ who was witness to David Sutton’s death on 29 May at Quinn’s Post, was William Owen Sutton (1253) who had enlisted at Yarram on 16 September 1914. He was serving in the 14 Battalion. He had been born in Footscray and, as far as is possible to determine, he was not related to the 3 Sutton brothers. The article was headed: Private D. G. Sutton Killed. Letter from His Brother.

Mr. Thos. Sutton of Tarra Valley, who had three sons in the firing line, received a wire on June 19th from the Defence Department: – “Regret son, Private D. G. Sutton, wounded, not reported seriously. No other particulars available. Will immediately advise anything further received.”
No further information was received, until a letter came to hand last week from Private W. H. Sutton, to his mother, giving an account of his brother’s death.
June 22nd.
Private W. H. Sutton writes:- Just a few lines to let you see that I am all right, and I am hoping this will find all well at home. I have not been able to write since I landed at the front, 2nd May, and I have been wondering whether you were cabled about George being killed. It happened on the morning of 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; but he died alongside of W. Sutton, of Yarram, who told me about it. The few things found on him were handed to headquarters to be sent home to you by the Church of England chaplain who buried him. His deferred pay is left to you in a will in his pay book. No doubt you will be notified about it. I hope you have been cabled, as I suppose you have been by this anyway.

This account confirms that Private David Sutton had, strictly speaking, not been ‘killed in action’(kia) but, rather, ‘died of wounds’ (dow).

Of the 3 Sutton brothers – David George Sutton (1552), William Henry Sutton (1559) and Thomas James Sutton (2025) – only Thomas James Sutton, the middle brother, survived the War. William Henry Sutton – the oldest of the brothers – survived right through to the second half of 1918. He was killed in action on 11 August 1918. By that point he had been wounded 3 times. All 3 Sutton brothers appear on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll, with both David and William recorded as killed; and both David and William are listed on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial.

Notwithstanding his brother’s comments about the recovery of personal items after the death, there were no personal belongings returned to the family. But then in 1920 the family received a letter advising them that, per separate post, they were to receive … a Bible, the property of your son, the late No. 1552 Private D. G. Sutton, 15th Battalion, which was discovered amongst the personal effects of the late No. 1214 Private N. Matheson, 15th Battalion. Private Matheson was killed in the same action as Sutton. While it is possible that Sutton had given Matheson his copy of the bible, the more likely scenario is that when others went looking for the personal belongings of both men the various items were mixed up. The bible only came to light because the authorities were not able to locate a next-of-kin for Matheson – he was an immigrant from Scotland – and, again presumably, at some point in the multiple handling of his personal belongings someone finally noticed that the name in the bible was Sutton’s not Matheson’s. This also raises the possibility that other items in Matheson’s kit – ring, wallet, papers, cards, medals – belonged to Sutton. Both this apparent confusion over the personal property of the men, and the far more significant confusion over Sutton’s death, point to the highly problematic quality of the AIF’s organisational capacity at the time. On this point, the letter from William Owen Sutton published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11 August 1915 also highlights the significant problem that men were having with mail deliveries. The sense of frustration, if not anger, is evident:
You people complain of us not writing, but we were always writing and getting no letters in return in Egypt. I wrote 17 letters home to you people. George would not get his photo taken, as he said nobody would write to him, so I did not get mine taken when he would not have his done.
The editor of the paper added as a footnote:
Mr. Thos. Sutton informs us that letters were written from home every day, and he is at a loss to account for the non-delivery. The authorities appear to be at fault.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

War Diary of 15 Battalion, May 1915

National Archives file for SUTTON David George

First World War Embarkation Rolls: David George Sutton

Roll of Honour: David George Sutton

WW1 Red Cross files: David George Sutton

Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume 1 – The Story of ANZAC from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, 11th Edition.
Chapter VII – May29th -The Turks break into Quinn’s

35. Image problems for the AIF before Gallipoli

Typical souvenir sent home from Egypt, 1916.

Typical souvenir sent home from Egypt, 1916.

Prior to 25 April 1915, the AIF was an army in search of an image. The basics of the image were there from the start and the AIF was created to be a national (Australian) army within the greater (British) Imperial army. The name – Australian Imperial Force – succinctly defined the basic building blocks for the image.

All the volunteers for the AIF enlisted as British subjects. Many of its early officers were British. Organisation, training, equipment, weaponry  – all matched the British standard. All essential components were designed so that the AIF could function effectively as a module of the British Army.  In its infancy, the AIF was not capable of acting as an independent military force and relied, for example, on British intelligence and artillery.

At the same time, the AIF was a national army. It was the first, genuinely national military force that the new Commonwealth of Australia had created. While it was created to demonstrate Australia’s total commitment to Britain and the Empire, it still had to reflect a distinctively Australian character. The 20,000 men who landed in Egypt from late 1914 represented the first, large-scale collection of Australian soldiery on the world stage, and it was inevitable that those back home, the soldiers in Egypt, and the rest of the world would try to define this new army in ways that made it unique. The quest was on to define its distinctive national character and explain how it differed from the British Army, and also other Dominion forces, particularly the Canadians and New Zealanders.

The struggle to define the essential character of the AIF began as soon as it was formed and continued throughout the War and in the years after the War. Indeed, it is still a concern today, principally because it has always been argued that the character of the AIF goes to the core of what defines Australia as a nation.

One of the most important commentators on the early AIF was the official war correspondent Charles Edwin Woodrow Bean.  Bean’s own life matched in many way the pursuit of the distinctly Australian (male) character. Born in Australia, Bean was an avowed Imperialist and spent many years at school and university (Oxford) in England; but, once back home in Australia, he became committed to identifying the distinctly Australian national type, and like so many others he was drawn to the itinerant, rural worker.

Bean started his war reporting with a distinctive Australian type in mind. You can see this in some of his earliest reports from Egypt. The following passage is taken from copy he wrote on 22 December 1914. It was published in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 3 February 1915. Immediately prior to this section of the article, Bean had explained how the Australians, because of their higher pay, were being feted all over Cairo, even in the most exclusive hotels. However, it was not just the pay, because Bean also intimated that the Australian, even at the rank of private, had a natural presence and authority to him that promoted respect:

It is a study to see the Australian from beyond the wheat belt with his weather beaten brown wrinkled old face and his rather ill fitting khaki suit sitting at a table in a big grill room amidst over-gorgeous columns and salmon coloured upholstery, surrounded by wealthy Turkish merchants, Italian students, French and Syrian clerks and smartly dressed women, and drinking his coffee or whisky with his mate and waited on by a tall Berber blackfellow in enormous red Turkish pantaloons and wreathed with twice as much gold lace as a field marshall.

Bean captures what he sees as the essential image: the tough, hardened, no-pretence Australian soldier and his mate might appear out-of-place but, in fact, the whole scene revolves round them. However it is all rather simplistic, and for all his efforts to make the connection between the rural working class and the newly formed AIF, Bean must have appreciated that the lifestyle of the rural, working-class male was not ideally matched to the world of military discipline.

In fact, all was not well in Egypt at that time with the AIF.  The Australians were forging a reputation for drunkenness, debauchery and hooliganism and their lack of regard for military discipline was an ongoing concern for their commanders.  For a more detailed account of Australian ‘high jinks’ at the time see Stanley (2010) and in particular his account of the ‘Battle of Wazza’ on Good Friday , 2 April 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops attacked the brothel district of Cairo.

Australian behaviour in Egypt did not reflect well on either the AIF or Australia. Bean was even asked to write a sort of ‘how to behave in Egypt’ for the newly arrived AIF troops – What To Know In Egypt. It masqueraded as part tourist brochure, part good-health guide and part handbook on understanding-the-local-culture, but it was intended principally to curb the sort of behaviour that was creating a negative image for the AIF. The section on VD was clearly intended to keep the men out of the brothels:

Lastly, Cairo has itself a name in the world as a hotbed of both gonorrhea and syphilis. There is a reason for this. Egypt is not a country under the full control of its government. The Egyptian officials even though they had able British administrators to help them have possessed little control over the foreigners who live here. Egypt has been one of those countries which European nations have only admitted to their circle as probationers, as it were.  …The consequence is that although Cairo has long been a resort of foreign women riddled with diseases it has been almost impossible to check this disease. Egypt has been an ancient home of syphilis – it was certainly here in Roman times; and there is found in the skull bones of mummies a disease which is almost certainly syphilis. Modern Cairo with its mixture of women from all nations, East and West has long been noted for particularly virulent forms of disease. Almost every village contains syphilis. And if a man will not steer altogether clear of the risk by exercising a little restraint, his only sane course is to provide himself with certain prophylactics beforehand to lessen the chance of disastrous results.

However, stronger action was required and Bean was then pressured to write a newspaper piece that left the reader back home in no doubt that there was a problem with the AIF’s image in Egypt. It was written at the very end of December 1914 and it appeared in Australian newspapers about 3 weeks later. Locally, it appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 22 January 1915. Bean emphasised that he was only describing the actions of relatively few men, and he was keen to talk up the great potential of the AIF, but it was a most uncomplimentary picture. It appeared under the headline: Our Soldiers in Egypt.  High Jinks At Cairo.   “Do All Australians Drink So Much.”

There is only a small percentage – possibly one or two per cent – in the force which is really responsible for the occurrences about which Cairo is beginning to talk; the great majority of the men are keen, intelligent, well restrained young Australians, whom you will meet enjoying their hours of leave in front of the cafes or in the museum or the zoological gardens or the post card shops, dressed as neatly as any of the other soldiers in the town, and behaving themselves in the way in which any rational Australian on a holiday would behave. They have the material in them not merely for as good a force as the New Zealanders or the Territorials, but, to one’s own thinking, of a better force, because the Australians here, besides having the best physique, are, man for man, more highly strung, and, if anything, quicker witted.

But there is in the Australian ranks a proportion of men who are uncontrolled, slovenly, and in some cases – what few Australians can be accused of being – dirty. In a certain number of cases it is noticeable that these men are wearing the South African ribbon. Possibly they are the men who since returning from that war, have never had any skilled occupation, and who therefore were the first to enlist when recruiting for the present force was begun; or it may be that the discipline in the South African campaign was very much slacker than that required of troops before they will be permitted to go to the front in the present class of warfare. Or it may be merely that a certain class of old soldier is given to the very childish habit of showing off before the young soldier, and giving him examples of the sort of thing that he thinks may with impunity be done by anyone who knows the ropes. Whatever the reason it has been noticed by too many people to admit of doubt that whilst many of the most capable and splendid members of the force are men with South African experience, there is a class of old soldier who, so far from being the most suitable member of the force, is the least suitable of any. Many young soldiers take these men at their true worth. “It’s the likes of them that are going to spoil the game for the rest of us and lose us our leave,” I heard one youngster say a few days since. “The fellows are getting a bit fed up with them down amongst our lot.” But they are really doing a very much more serious thing than losing other soldiers their leave – they are losing Australia her good name in the outside world, and those Australians who happen to be living in Cairo or are in touch with the world outside the camps have the mortification of looking on whilst day by day the reputation of Australia slowly vanishes before the actions of a handful of rowdies who do not really represent the country. The Territorials have not our physique, and some of the Lancashire regiments seem to be composed largely of mere children; but by dint of hard work they have become thoroughly smart soldiers; and although both amongst them and the New Zealanders there has been a certain amount of the hard living which will always be found where great numbers of men are collected, none who is not deaf can hide from himself the fact that the talk at present current in Cairo attaches to the Australian force rather than to the Territorials, or as far as I can judge to the New Zealanders.

One does not want to give the impression that things have reached the stage of a scandal or anything approaching it. Steps will doubtless be taken to correct it, as they have been taken before, and the Australian force will be doing itself credit before it has finished its training, and be worthy of the majority of men comprised in it. The New Zealanders have just taken steps to get rid of a certain number of men who were doing little good in their force, and the same, or some similar steps, will no doubt be taken with the Australians. But it is just as well that the Australian public should be aware of the reason for the return of the majority of the men who are returning, or have returned, since the expedition sailed. It is easy for a man to return to his native village and reap a certain amount of hero worship on the ground that he was invalided, or to pitch a story before an admiring crowd at the local hotel of how he was going to show them that he was not going to stand any nonsense, and finally “pitched in” his resignation. The facts are that a certain number of men have been invalided through serious sickness or accident, neither of which was their own fault. A certain number also were sent back some time ago from Albany and Colombo, because some of them – no doubt on conscientious grounds or for reason best known to themselves – refused to be vaccinated. A few others have been, and will be, sent back because they contracted certain diseases, by which, after all the trouble of months of training and of the sea voyage, they have unfitted themselves to do the work for which they enlisted. And a percentage will probably find their way back from here, the reason for whose return has been that they have damaged their country’s reputation, and a few of them have been got rid of as the best means of preserving it.

The tone of the piece is cautious and hesitant and the language is qualified, indirect and oblique, if not obtuse. You had to read into it, for example, that men were being sent back to Australia because they had contracted VD (certain diseases).  In the context of Egypt and the the triumphalism of the White Australia Policy, references to Australians being ‘dirty’ would have had all sorts of offensive associations. The attempt to pin responsibility on the veterans of the Boer War was bound to win enemies but, presumably, it was preferable to target this specific group of older men than suggest there was a problem right across the force. You can sense Bean’s wariness in writing the piece; and the article was, potentially, a career-ending move for him. In fact, his reputation with the troops was severely damaged and it was only his bravery in the subsequent action at Gallipoli – he was recommended for the Military Cross and mentioned in despatches for his work with wounded men – that restored his standing.

Some idea of the fury that the article sparked amongst the troops in Egypt at the time, comes from another piece published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative  on 30 April 1915. By this point the local paper was regularly publishing extracts of letters sent home by soldiers serving overseas. This particular letter came from Athol Woods who was the son of (former) Major Woods of Woodside. Alexander Thomas Woods was a grazier of Darriman and his son – Harry Athol Woods – had enlisted as a 34yo in Brisbane on 27 August 1914. It appears he was farming on the Darling Downs prior to enlistment.  Overall, Athol Woods was critical of the way newspapers were reporting events from Egypt, and he specifically targeted Bean. He described Bean’s articles as unjustifiable and unpardonable and he wanted Bean severely dealt with. He was prepared to admit that there were some Australians who were a problem, but he did not want their actions to be publicised, in any way:

Of course, in a body of men like we have here, there are sure to be a few who go over the odds, but it is a very poor percentage, and even these few have not done anything very dreadful. It seems hard that all we Australians should be termed a disgrace to the Empire and Australia by an animal wearing the stars of a captain who has not got the nous of a mule. But enough of this. I think the people of Australia will treat these articles with the contempt they deserve.

The barely concealed rage evident in the letter home from Athol Woods points to just how sensitive the whole issue of the AIF’s image was. Everyone – the troops in Egypt, their officers and all those back home in Australia – knew how critically important the image of the AIF was to the image of the nation as a whole.  Prior to Gallipoli, the fear that the AIF was creating the wrong image weighed heavily on people’s minds. And Bean had come to understand that using the Australian press to hammer home lessons to the troops on how they should behave was not going to work.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Stanley, P 2010, Bad Characters: Sex, Crime, Mutiny, Murder and the Australian Imperial Force, Pier 9, NSW

C E W Bean: entry in Australian Dictionay of Biography

Bean, C E W 1915, What to Know in Egypt: A Guide for Australian Soldiers, Cairo

The ‘Souvenir of Egypt’ is held by the Cashen family. It was sent to Marie Ziesing from Alfred Carr – both of Mile End, SA – in 1916.

34. Sydney FERRES 194 and Frederick KIELLERUP 1047

Both Ferres and Kiellerup were in 6 Battalion (C Company) and both were killed on 8 May 1915, at Cape Helles in the ill-fated push to take the village of Krithia. In both cases the body was never recovered; and the two names are on the Helles Memorial. There is no Red Cross report for either of the men and nor is there any war diary entry of the 6 Battalion for that period, so details of their deaths are limited.  The war diary entries of the other battalions in 2 Brigade (5, 7 and 8 Battalion) indicate that there were heavy casualties – about one-third of the Brigade – from heavy shelling and machine gun fire from the Turkish side. They also show that communication between units was poor and the movement of troops within the battle zone was confused. It was also very difficult to retrieve the dead and wounded from the exposed battle field. The casualties, chaos and confusion of the battle are all summed up in the war diary of 2 Brigade, with its explanation for not having any record of the battle: During action of May 8th/9th the whole of the Bde. Staff became casualties & all documents appear to have gone astray.

Yet despite the background chaos, and the absence of bodies, there was no suggestion that the 2 men were ‘missing’. The cables informing their families back in Australia that they had been killed in action came relatively quickly. For both of them the date appears to have been 16 June 1915, about 5 weeks after they had been killed. In both cases a small amount of personal kit was returned to the families. For Ferres it was a gift-box, post cards and some photos. For Kiellerup it was a hymn book, letters, pocket-book and 1 photo.

The men are on neither the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll nor the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. Ferres appears on the honor roll for Alberton State School and Kiellerup on the honor roll for Yarram State School. Ferres is shown as having been killed but Kiellerup is not.

Sydney Eversley Ferres

Sydney Ferres was born at Ararat but his family must have moved to the Yarram area when he was young because he attended the Alberton State School.  His older brother – Harold Dunstan George Ferres – also attended Alberton SS. By his late teens it appears that Sydney’s family had shifted to Toora where he worked as a butter and cheese maker for 6 years. He was also in the Toora Rifle Club for the same number of years. Toora was identified on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

When Ferres enlisted in Melbourne on 22 August 1914, he was single and 25yo. The family had moved again and the address of his father, Robert Ferres, as his next-of-kin was given as Emerald. The father represented the riding of Emerald in the Ferntree Gully Shire. By the end of the War the family had moved, once more, to Prince Street, Kew. This last move probably came after the death of the mother – Caroline Elizabeth Ferres –  in June 1916. As an indication of how well-known the family was, the following ‘personal’ note appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 30 June 1915, soon after Private Ferres’ death was confirmed:

Signaller Sydney E. Ferres, who met his death at the war is the fifth son of Mr. R Ferres of Brookdale Farm, Emerald, and late of Toora, South Gippsland. He was a grandson of the late Mr. J Ferres, for many years Government Printer, and was 26 years of age. He was for six years butter maker at Handbury’s factory, Toora.

The father received a war pension of £52 per annum from 21/8/15 and there was also a life policy with The National Mutual Life Association of Australia, which appears to have been finalised relatively quickly, by August 1915.

Frederick Charles Kiellerup [sometimes written KILLERUP and even KEILLERUP]

Frederick Kiellerup was born in Narrandera, NSW. He attended Yarram State School and when he was killed at Gallipoli the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative ran a note – 21 July 1915 – on his death, in which he was referred to as having been the Wertheim’s representative in Yarram. This suggests he lived in the town possibly into his twenties. Or perhaps he returned to the town for this work. He was a member of an unnamed rifle club for 3 years and, possibly, this was also from his time at Yarram. When he enlisted in Melbourne on 24 September 1914, his occupation was given as ‘traveller’ and as he was nearly 32yo at the time it is likely that he had spent a lot of time in country Victoria. On the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour, the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ was given as Euroa.

Unlike the great majority of volunteers at the time Kiellerup was married. His wife – Alster Kiellerup – was living in Richmond. Moreover, he enlisted as someone with 2 children: a son – Frederick Theodore Kiellerup –  and daughter – Doris Freda Kiellerup. The wife received a pension of £52 per annum from 21/8/15 – the same as for the father of Sydney Ferres – and the 2 children also received pensions: the daughter as the eldest child received 20/- per fortnight and the son 15/- per fortnight. The wife remarried by 1920 and then lived at Moe. It was the daughter who completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour.

The service file for Kiellerup reveals a revealing side story. In 1969, the son, Frederick Theodore Kiellerup, wrote to the Army requesting new ribbons for his father’s medals. He related how the medals had been damaged in the bush fires on Black Friday (13/1/39) and stated that he wanted to restore them before passing them to his son – Frederick Denis Kiellerup – who in turn planned to pass them to his son, Frederick Steven Kiellerup. In the space of not much more than 50 years the medals of a volunteer – who, with a wife and 2 children, was never expected to enlist – were committed to at least the next 3 generations, all of whom had been given the same name. The Army replaced the damaged medals.

Family enlistments: more brothers answer the call

Ferres and Kiellerup were the first from the family to enlist. The pattern of subsequent enlistments of brothers was to become common.


The older brother of Sydney Ferres – Harold Dunstan Gordon Ferres – was 30yo when he enlisted in January 1915. Unlike his younger brother who had given his occupation as ‘butter maker’, the older brother gave his occupation as ‘grazier’ and indicated that he had had a secondary education at Barclay College, Ararat. It was as if the brothers, 5 years apart in age, came from different families. The older brother’s career in the AIF was remarkable. He was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant as early as May 1915, just a few months after enlisting, and by the end of 1918 he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He also held the following decorations: Military Cross, Bar to Military Cross, Distinguished Service Order and Mentioned in despatches. It was an extraordinary military career. His younger brother, on the other hand, had been killed, as a private, in the opening weeks of the AIF’s war. But it was the younger brother who had enlisted first.


For the Kiellerup family it was a case of younger brothers following the oldest son’s example. There were 2 other brothers who enlisted after Frederick Charles Kiellerup. Genius Rudolph Kiellerup enlisted on 22 May 1915. He was only 18yo – and possibly even younger – when he enlisted. It is hard to believe that he knew then that his older brother had been killed just 2 weeks earlier, but at the very least he would have been influenced by his older brother’s enlistment.  The other brother was Otto James Kiellerup who was 20yo when he enlisted on 10 July 1915. He definitely would have known of his older brother’s death and this must have been a factor in his decision to enlist. Apparently, there was yet another brother who enlisted – perhaps a step-brother – but it is not possible to identify him. The existence of the third brother is supported by the decision taken by the AIF in late 1917 to return the youngest brother – Genius Rudolph Kiellerup – to Australia, and discharge him on compassionate grounds. The background to this highly unusual action is revealed in the following request written by Corporal G R Kiellerup 3163, 59 Battalion, on 5 November 1917:

I hereby apply for permission to return to Australia to attend to business matters, having received word of the death of my father. I have had three brothers killed in action (one unofficially reported) and I have one brother at home who owing to physical defects, is unable to look after my family. I enlisted 24th June 1915 [it was actually 24 May]. Wounded 19th July, 1916. Fleur Baix. Age at present 18 11/12 years.

The father had died, the mother was in dire circumstances – the AIF even agreed to the family’s pleas to not publish details of the second son’s death for fear it would kill her – and there was no one to help. With 3 of the 4 brothers who had enlisted dead, the AIF agreed to repatriate the surviving son. While it is not possible to identify the third son killed, the first son to die was Sydney Kiellerup (8/5/15) and the second – the one then referred to as ‘unofficially reported’ – was Corporal Otto James Kiellerup who was killed at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. Note that the youngest son – Cpl Genius Kiellerup was also wounded at Fromelles (the battle was still then being referred to as Fleur Baix) and there is a statement from him in the relevant Red Cross report – 3160 Corporal Otto James Kiellerup – that describes how the two brothers parted company in the middle of the battle:

On July 19th 1916 the brother [Cpl Otto James Kiellerup] and I [Cpl Genius Kiellerup] went over the top together and on getting out towards the German lines we came across a ditch. Immediately to our front barbed wire stopped our progress from wading through the water. There the brother asked me to come to the left; but I seeing a better opening on right wouldn’t go so we parted.

He goes on to describe how his brother’s way was across a small bridge covered by German machine guns, and there was no hope for anyone who took it.

Overall, this post is a salutary reminder that the deaths at Gallipoli were just the beginning. There was far worse to come and more brothers were prepared to enlist. It is also striking how, back in Australia, death overseas produced a rippling effect of grief, hardship and irrevocable change.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

War Diary of 2 Infantry Brigade, May 1915


National Archives file for FERRES Sydney Eversley

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Sydney Eversley Ferres

Roll of Honour: Sydney Eversley Ferres


National Archives file for KIELLERP Frederick Charles

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Frederick Charles Kiellerup – Killerup

Roll of Honour: Frederick Charles Kiellerup

Red Cross Wounded and Missing: Otto James Kiellerup

Photograph of KIELLERUP, Frederick Charles, from WW1 Pictorial Honour Roll of Victorians

33. Donald CAMPBELL 32

Private Donald Campbell (32), 2 Battalion, was another of the local men killed early in the Gallipoli campaign. According to the formal record he was killed in action on 2 May 1915.

Donald Campbell was born at Tarraville and went to the local state schools (Tarraville and Balloong). Later, he left the district and moved to New South Wales for work. When the War broke out he enlisted in the Sydney suburb of Kensington (9 October 1914). At the time, he was 23yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘motor mechanic’. However, even though he had moved to NSW, he was well-known in the Shire of Alberton and his father was still living in Tarraville. When the telegram of his death arrived in late May 1914, the report in the local paper on 24 May 1914 – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative –  read:

On Thursday last, May 18th, the postmistress, Tarraville, received the sad news that Private D. Campbell was killed in action on May 2nd, and asking her  to kindly inform father, Mr. D. Campbell, of Tarraville, of the sad news …. The late Private D. Campbell was 25 years of age, and was a native of Tarraville, where he was well known and highly respected.

In the same edition of the paper there was a death notice for …  Donald McGregor Campbell, late of Tarraville, South Gippsland; and Yass, N.S.W., age 25 years.  The notice was inserted by … C. and T. Livingston, Yass, N.S.W., and T. and J. Collins, Balloong.

Thomas and Jane Collins were farmer and wife from Balloong and it appears that Donald Campbell worked for them. Similarly, it appears he subsequently moved to NSW with C and T Livingston for work. C and T Livingston appear to have been brothers who left the district for Yass in NSW. Overall, Campbell must have worked for some time as a farm labourer both in the district in which he grew up and then in country NSW, before shifting to Sydney.

Campbell’s name appears on the honor rolls for the 2 schools he attended, and in both cases his name is recorded as one of these killed. His name also appears on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll but he is not marked as one of those killed. His name is not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial.

Campbell’s father – D. Campbell – was living at Tarraville at the time his son enlisted and he was still there when word of the death came through. However in mid 1916 he moved to Modialloc and from that point it appears that he became uncontactable and, despite the efforts of the AIF, untraceable. The last entry that covers attempts to contact the father is dated early 1924, nearly 10 years after the son’s death. He obviously knew of his son’s death, but there is no sign of any correspondence from him, or on his behalf, to the AIF requesting details of the death, the existence of any will, the return of personal belongings etc. In fact, there is not a single piece of correspondence from any family member or friend. Because the father effectively disappeared there was no pension, and his son’s medals were never distributed. Similarly the Memorial Plaque was returned unclaimed in 1922. The simple entry on the file was ‘untraceable’. The father’s address for the (National) Roll of Honour was also given as ‘untraceable’.

The details surrounding the death of Private Campbell are similarly limited. There was a definite date – 2 May 1914 – and the death was confirmed relatively quickly, with the father notified in less than 3 weeks. However, the body was never recovered – Private Campbell is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial – and details from both the battalion war diary and the Red Cross report are contradictory. Even more contradictory is the fact that a court of inquiry into his death was held on 24 March 1916 and, as a result, his status was changed from ‘missing’ to ‘killed in action – 2/5/15’. Yet his father had been informed by telegram nearly one full year earlier that he had been killed. The father had never received the advice that his son was ‘missing’.

The war diary for 2 Battalion does not record any casualties for 2 May, although it does report 2 men killed the next day (3/5/15). The 4 witness statements in the Red Cross report claiming to present the details of Private Campbell’s death contradict each other. They also suggest that the official date given for the death could have been incorrect.

The first statement – Corporal A K Jamieson (61), 2B – suggests that Campbell disappeared very early in the fighting at Gallipoli:

Informant was in the same platoon with Campbell, and last saw him on Monday, April 26th. He then left to take up another position, and was never seen again. The position he went to was afterwards shelled, and was previously under machine gun fire. It was never occupied either by our troops or the Turks.

The second statement – T Smith (469), 2B – has Campbell killed by shell fire on 15 May:

I knew Campbell, he was in the original Batt. and was cook for the Orderly Room. I last saw him cooking outside a dug-out on May 15th before the attack on the 19th when a shell came over from the direction of Olive Grove and blew him to bits. I am quite sure it was Campbell. I saw the stretcher-bearers collect his remains in pieces in an overcoat. I do not know what Coy he was in nor where he came from.

The third statement – H H Winley (698), 2B – confirmed the account in the second statement and gave particulars on Campbell’s appearance. Campbell, on enlistment, was just under 6 ft, of fair complexion and about 13 stone (82 kg). The complexion here is apparently wrong but, after several months in Egypt, the general description could still be be a match:

I confirm the above report, but think Campbell was batman to Capt. now Colonel Steven. Campbell was bout 5 ft 8, rather dark, slim, and I think he came from Newcastle, N.S.W.

The fourth statement – Sgt. E C H Haxby (52), 2B – appears to support the basic line in the first statement:

Informant states that on or about 25th April 1915 in landing on Peninsula, Campbell landed in 15th Plt. with Informant with many others. He dashed on ahead of the main body of troops and has never been heard of since. In all probability killed by machine gun fire and still unburied.

All the statements were dated July or August 1916, at least 15 months after the landing at Gallipoli and several months after the court of enquiry had determined that Private Campbell had been killed in action on 2 May 1915. They were written by men who either were then serving in Europe or had been invalided back to Australia.

The recorded details of Private Campbell’s death are incomplete and contradictory, and his case typifies the difficulties the early AIF faced in coping with the number of casualties experienced. As the War progressed it would become far more proficient in managing the business of death in battle.

Private Campbell also typifies the lot of the son whose legacy was lost to his family: the details of the death were incomplete and contradictory; there was no grave; no personal kit was ever returned; information for the (National) Roll of Honour was never provided; neither medals nor the Memorial Plaque were ever distributed; and there was no pension or gratuity for any family member. Commonly, the legacy of those killed lived on in the shared memory of the family, often over many generations.  Here was a case where even this limited blessing appeared denied. It can only ever be speculation, but perhaps the father’s grief could not be contained in the conventional ways, and he too was a casualty, but of a different kind.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for CAMPBELL Donald

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Donald Campbell

Roll of Honour: Donald Campbell

WW1 Red Cross files


32. The telegrams begin: William WILSON 515 and Albert Edward WIDDON 803

Lance-Corporal William Wilson (515) was killed in action on 27 April 1915. With no Red Cross report, the only source on the circumstances of his death is the war diary of the 14 Battalion. This indicates that the 14 Battalion landed as reserve troops on 26/4/15. The next day, 27/4/15, it was sent to occupy – and then entrench – the locations that became known as Quinn’s Post and Courtney’s Post. There was heavy fighting and the Turks tried to counter-attack. The fighting that day claimed 32 killed, including 1 officer. Another 65 were wounded. Wilson would have been one of those killed. He was buried on 29 April at Quinn’s Post. The chaplain was Rev. Captain Andrew Gillison, who was himself killed on 22 August 1915. In Wilson’s service file, the site of the grave is described as at the foot of Quinn’s Post (13/8/17) but after the War, the Imperial War Graves Commission workers could not locate the grave and his name was recorded on a tablet in Courtney’s and Steele’s Cemetery.

Private Albert Ernest Widdon (803) was killed in action on 30 April 1915. As for Wilson, there was no Red Cross report so the only insight on the circumstances of his death comes from the war diary of 15 Battalion for 30/4/15. It appears that on that day, most of the 15 Battalion was holding the line near Pope’s Hill and in the afternoon they repelled a major Turkish attack, with their … machines guns inflicting severe casualties amongst the enemy. However on same day, part of 15 Battalion – C Company and 1 platoon of B Company – was fighting under Captain Quinn, in support of the right flank of 3 Brigade. As Widdon was in B Coy, and he is buried at Quinn’s Post Cemetery, it is most likely that he was killed in the fierce fighting at Quinn’s Post.

Unlike others killed at this time, the news of these 2 death appears to have been relayed back to Australia reasonably promptly. The cable with the news of Widdon’s death death was sent on 23 May, less than 1 month after he had been killed. The date of the cable for Wilson appears to be 2 days later on 25 May. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative of 2 June 1915 there is a brief note that tells how Reverend George Cox had been delivering telegrams from the Defence Department to families where the son had been killed. Even though others had been killed by this point, these telegrams were the first confirmed news of the deaths of local men.

One of the families visited by Cox was Albert Widdon’s:

On Sunday [30 May], the relatives of Private A. E Widdon, who enlisted in Queensland, were informed that he had been killed in action on 23rd May. He was the son of Mr. J. E Widdon.

The date – 23 May – obviously related to the date of the telegram, not the date of his death.

The other family to receive a telegram via Cox was Wilson’s. It was delivered to his sister:

Mrs. Jas. Miller of Yarram, was also acquainted of the loss of her brother, Private Wilson.

William Wilson

Little is known of William Wilson. His name is not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial and while there is a W A Wilson on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll, this person is not listed as ‘killed’ on the roll, nor is there any reference, in his service file, to a second name for William Wilson. Notwithstanding the limited evidence to tie him to the district, Yarram was identified as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected ’on the (National) Roll of Honour.

He was born at either Trentham or Talbot. When he enlisted on 12 September 1914 at Daylesford, he indicated that both his parents were dead. He was 37yo and single. His occupation was listed as timber-cutter. He gave his eldest brother – Frederick Wilson of Yarram – as his next-of-kin and all AIF correspondence over the War, right through to the early 1920s, was with this person. The few personal belongings – disc, diary, wrist-watch and gold ring – were also sent to the brother in Yarram. Frederick Wilson of Yarram is on the 1915 Electoral Roll but his occupation is not included.

As indicated, the telegram of his death was delivered to his sister ‘Mrs. Jas Miller’ of Yarram. There is no explanation as to why the telegram was delivered to her rather than her older sibling who was the designated next-of-kin. Mrs. Jas Miller was Maria May Miller, wife of James Alfred Miller, carter of Yarram. Given his occupation, William Wilson had probably worked in the timber industry in the district. Certainly his sister’s family – Miller – worked in the timber industry because on 20 April 1915 her son, James Miller junior, was killed in a tree-felling accident when he was working in a party of sleeper-hewers in Won Wron State Forest. Incredibly, she lost both a son and brother over the period of one week.

There was another individual who appeared in the correspondence, a Mr A Miller of Lyonville. Perhaps this person was related to the Miller family in Yarram. In any event, on the Embarkation Roll, the address given for Wilson is Lyonville PO, suggesting that at the time of his enlistment he was living with this person.

The picture of William Wilson’s identity is incomplete but there is enough evidence to indicate that he was certainly known in the district.

Albert Edward Widdon

Albert Edward Widdon had been born in Yarram in 1892 and attended Devon North and Yarram State Schools. He had also been also active in the Methodist Church in the area. His father was John Edward Widdon, a farmer with land at Devon North. Clearly, Albert was a local boy in the sense that he had grown up in the district and his family was established in the local community. However, by the time the War came and he enlisted, he was living and working in Queensland. He had land at Canaga via Jandowae (near Dalby) Queensland.

He enlisted at Dalby on 21 September 1914. He was 22 yo at the time. It appears that having worked on the family farm at Devon North, probably until his late teens, he had gone out by himself and was setting himself up as a farmer in Queensland. This was a relatively common practice – the sons of established farmers shifted elsewhere – most commonly to Queensland and Western Australia – and tried to set up by themselves. What he did with his farm when he enlisted is not known; but it is possible that he had only been there a short time and hardly anything had been done on the land, and it was relatively easy to leave it. Perhaps he had an arrangement with another local farmer.

Under the terms of his will, everything went to his father. The father moved to Queensland, presumably to sort out his son’s estate, and for a short time his address was Canaga, Queensland. The father then returned to Devon North. This is a striking example of how an individual family’s fortunes could be compromised by the War: where before the War there was expansion and opportunity, the son’s death brought loss and contraction.

Albert Widdon was not included on the Shire of Alberton War Memorial nor was he listed on the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll. Yet he clearly was regarded as a local. His death was reported locally. On 11 August 1915, the  Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative featured a soldier’s letter home from the Dardanelles written by Private W H Sutton. It reported on the men from Yarram. There was a simple note that Bert Widdon was killed. All the other Yarram lads are alive and well. His name was customarily read out at commemoration services held in the Shire for locals killed in the War. It featured at the major commemoration service written up in detail in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative, 17 May 1918. Similarly, at the 1917 Anzac Day celebrations held at Devon North SS, his was the first name read out.  (Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative 27 April 1917).



Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for WILSON William

First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Wilson

Roll of Honour: William Wilson


National Archives file for WIDDON Albert Edward

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Albert Edward Widdon

Roll of Honour: Albert Edward Widdon

Potograph of WIDDON, Albert Edward, from WW1 Pictorial Honour Roll of Victorians



31. ANZAC Day 1915: Walter TIBBS 946

Walter Tibbs was also killed on 25 April 1915. He was in 8 Battalion and while there are few records in his official service file it appears that there was less doubt about the location and time of his death. The first definite reference to his death is dated as early as 2 May 1915 and it states clearly that he was Killed in Action Gallipoli 25/4/15. Nor was there any court of enquiry, as there was for the other 3 men killed (Pallot, Tolley and Ellefsen). There is no Red Cross report for Tibbs so there are no details of his death. For 25 April, the war diary of 8 Battalion records a casualty level of 12 officers and 200 other ranks. It talks of heavy and accurate artillery fire for the whole day which inflicted considerable loss… and, most likely, Tibbs was one of these casualties; however he might also have been killed by one of the many Turkish snipers who were very active. He is buried in a known grave at Shell Green Cemetery.

Tibbs enlisted in Melbourne on 21 August 1914, which was considerably earlier than the first group of volunteers from Yarram (16/9/14). He was one of the very first from the Shire of Alberton to enlist. At the time of enlistment he gave his age as 21 years and 2 months. Like the other 3 men he was single. Also like the others he was a farm labourer, even though he described himself as a ‘farmer’ on the enlistment papers. Unlike the other 3 men, Tibbs went straight into the 8 Battalion. There was no suggestion that he was trying for the Light Horse. Also unlike the others, Tibbs had not been born in Australia. He had been born in Hunslet, near Leeds in the UK.

Fortunately, the parents of Walter Tibbs completed the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour at the end of the War. Without this form we would know virtually nothing about him. Because they did complete the form we know that he gave a false age when he enlisted. He was actually 18 and, he had only been in Australia for a few years. The AIF was not too concerned about the ages of immigrants trying to enlist so his claim to be 21yo would not have been challenged. His parents noted that he had come to Australia as a 15yo. Interestingly, they also indicated that he had attended secondary school – Castleford Secondary School – and had undertaken training as a ‘corresponding clerk’. They also backed up the claim, made on his enlistment papers, that before coming to Australia he had served 2 years in the Royal Engineers, Yorkshire in the area of ‘wireless telegraphy’. His parents also noted the he was an excellent violinist.

Against this remarkable background, when War broke out Walter Tibbs was working as a farm labourer at Tarraville. His parents indicated this on the form, and they gave Tarraville, Gippsland, Victoria as the location in Australia with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. On the Embarkation Roll, his address is given as Tarraville via Yarram. Effectively, these 2 explicit addresses are the only links that tie him to the Shire of Alberton. There are no references to him in the local paper and there are no references in his personal service file that link him to the Shire. Yet, clearly, he enlisted from the Shire. Perhaps he saw enlistment as a chance to return to his family in the UK. Perhaps he had had enough of his Australian adventure.

Beyond conjecture, the relevant point is that he was one of the four men from the Shire of Alberton who was killed in action on 25 April 1914. Of all of them, his death was, in one sense, the most clear cut and presumably – there is no correspondence in his service file from his parents to the AIF – his family was not subjected to the same level of distress that the others were. However, his personal tragedy was to be removed from the collective memory of the place where he had worked and lived. His sacrifice was never acknowledged: his name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll or the Shire of Alberton War Memorial. He is one of those still ‘missing’ in the Great War.


National Archives file for TIBBS Walter

First World War Embarkation Rolls: Walter Tibbs

Roll of Honour: Water Tibbs