Category Archives: January to June 1918

165. F L Harrison

HARRISON Frank Lionel 760A
22 B   DoW 19/5/18

Frank Harrison was born in East Ham, London. His parents were George and Bessie Harrison of Upton Park, London. When his father – George Harrison – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he indicated that his son had attended a grammar school – Upton Manor? – in London. The father also indicated on the form that his son had gone to Australia when he was 17 yo. Possibly, he reached Melbourne in March 1915 as an ‘unassisted passenger’.

At the time of his enlistment (May 1917), Frank was working as a farm labourer for Henry Prescot Rendell (‘Cloverdale’) at North Devon. At the very most, Frank could only have been working and living in the Shire of Alberton for 2 years prior to enlistment.

Frank was 19 yo when he enlisted (16/5/17). There were other cases where underage British migrant workers were allowed to enlist without parental permission but in this case there was formal permission and it came in the form of a letter from the father which is included in the service file. The letter , dated 24/2/16, reads as if the son had written home requesting approval to join the AIF. The relevant part of the letter was underlined:

As for joining up, I [the father, George Harrison] leave that entirely to your own wish. Certainly everyone will have to do their bit before we come out victorious.

Even though the father effectively gave his permission in mid 1916, Frank did not enlist for another year. The enlistment, including the medical with Dr Rutter, took place at Yarram. The Shire Secretary issued him with a railway warrant on 19/5/17.

The occupation on enlistment was ‘farm labourer’ and his address was given as ‘care of H.P. Rendell, Devon North, Victoria’. Rendell farmed approximately 100 acres at Devon North. Private Harrison was single and his religion was listed as Church of England. At the same time, his name appears on the honour roll for the local Methodist congregation of North Devon. The Rendell family was Methodist, and the 2 sons of H P Rendell who also enlisted appear on the same roll.

Private Harrison joined as reinforcements for 1 Machine Gun Company. He left Australia in late October 1917 and reached England in late December. At this point he was transferred to 22 Battalion and then spent the next 4 months training. In early 1918 he was hospitalised with mumps. Finally, on 22 April 1918, he joined 22 Battalion in France.

Private Harrison was killed less than one month later (19/5/18) which, by cruel irony, was virtually the first anniversary of his enlistment.

The official record shows that Private Harrison died of wounds. However the following 2 witness statements indicate how fine the line between ‘died of wounds’ and ‘killed in action’ could be:

Pte Harrison was hit on the head near Ville-sur-Ancre. He was put in a shell hole, but started breathing again so they called the stretcher bearers, who took him to the D/S where he died.   Private Julius Snider (767A) 3/9/18

We were making a small advance at 2.30 a.m. May 19th and were just digging in having advanced 1000 yards – when Fritz got his [ ? ] going and one landed about 7 or 8 yards from Harrison. He was badly hit. The nose of the shell split his forehead open. He was unconscious. He lived for about ½ an hour. The stretcher bearers attended to him and he was taken to the Dressing Station.   L Scutcheon (768) 29/8/18

There is a detailed account (Appendix XII) in the war diary of 22 Battalion of the fighting in which Private Harrison died. The action was centred near Ville-Sur-Ancre about 30Km from Amiens and 7Km from Albert. As the diary notes, the action, which began at 2.00AM on 19/5/18, was intended to ‘straighten the line’. In effect, it involved the battalion moving forward some 1,000 yards on a front of 1,250 yards and capturing several critical German posts. There was thorough preparation for the attack and overall it was a success.

In the advance from 2.30 AM, some units met less resistance and moved ahead more quickly than others. However, these advancing troops came under the fire of their own artillery. The war diary makes it clear that it was ‘friendly fire’:

Reports of short shooting by our artillery were received from “B” Coy at 4 a.m., from “C” Coy at 4.55 a.m. and again at 7 a.m. Brigade were informed at once. The Casualties suffered from our own artillery fire were regrettable, and marred an otherwise very successful operation.

Another witness statement from the Red Cross report for Private Harrison specifically has his death as the result of ‘friendly fire’:

He was of A. Company. 1 Platoon. On May 19th in morning about 4 o’clock during our attack at Ville Sur Ancre – was hit by piece of shell from our own guns whilst digging in after attack. I was about 12 yards away at time. I helped to lift him out and place him in a shell hole. Was hit in head just above the right ear, was unconscious. Was taken to D/S by S/B – know nothing of burial. Had just joined up in the battalion and did not know him well.    Private J Robertson (4773) 28/8/18

For ‘an otherwise very successful operation’ there were still 192 casualties for the battalion, whose strength at that point – before the operation – was just 523. There were 20 killed, 3 who died of wounds – one of whom was Private Harrison – with another 165 wounded and, lastly, 4 who were classed as ‘missing’.

Private Harrison was buried initially at Heilly No. 2. Military Cemetery and then the body was re-interred at Ribemont Communal Cemetery Extension, approximately 2Km from where he was killed.

Following his death, all communication was with his father, as next of kin, who was living in London (10 Aintree Avenue, East Ham, London). The will listed the sister – Miss Livinia Blanche Harrison, also of London – as the sole beneficiary. Personal kit was returned very early – July 1918 – but, strangely, there is no record of the actual inventory in the service file.

Private Harrison’s name is recorded on the Alberton Shire Roll of Honor. However this record does not describe him as ‘killed’. More significantly, his name is not recorded on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. Presumably, his memory was ‘lost’ because there no continuing link with the Shire. The fact that all medals and memorabilia, the photographs of the grave and the kit were returned to the family in London also helps explain why the memory disappeared.

However, there is some evidence that Private Harrison’s memory lasted at least a short time. In June 1918 (30/6/18) – just a few weeks after the death – H P Rendell, from North Devon, wrote to Base Records specifically to enquire about Private Harrison’s fate,

In one of the latest Casualty Lists Private F. L. Harrison, England, is reported to have died of wounds on the 19th May 1918. Pte F. L. Harrison, an English lad, enlisted from here, and I am very anxious to know if this is the same lad. Could you kindly give me his Regimental Number and any particulars you may have concerning his death, and I will be most grateful.

Base Records replied, providing the regimental number and indicating that the father in England as next of kin would receive further advice as it became available.

Rendell must have passed this information to the local paper because on 17/7/18 – 2 months after the death – the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative reported:

Word has reached Mr. H. P. Rendell, North Devon, of the death from wounds of Private Frank L. Harrison, 22nd Battalion, late 1st Machine Gun Company. This young soldier, who was highly respected, worked for Mr. Rendell, and enlisted from North Devon. The late soldier’s father visited both Clyde and Perce Rendell while lying in hospital wounded.

It appears that when Rendell’s 2 sons – Percy and Clyde – were recuperating in hospital in England in October 1917 they had been visited by Harrison’s father. Percy was in hospital with serious shrapnel wounds (right shoulder and head) and Clyde with trench feet/trench fever (second occasion). Percy would be repatriated to Australia and medically discharged – late May 1918 – because of his wounds. Clyde would return to the front and he too would be killed in action, on 6/7/18. As indicated, the date that this report appeared in the local paper was 17/7/18 and the date of the cable advising the Rendell family of the Clyde’s death was 16/7/18.

There was another reference to Private Harrison’s death in the local paper on 25/9/18. It was in a letter from the brother (Archie) of Mr Fraser Forbes of Yarram. The date of death was incorrect but it was clearly Private Harrison:

Rendell from North Devon is in the same company as myself. Frank Harrison, who worked for the Rendells was unlucky, and was killed on the 19th June in a stunt.

There was also an in memoriam for Private Harrison in the local paper on 16/5/19 for the first anniversary of his death.

However, by the time the names were added to the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial in April 1929 – nearly 11 years later – , the memory of Private Harrison – a young, English farm worker, from an apparently middle-class background, who had worked in the Shire for 2 years before enlisting – had obviously been lost.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

National Archives file for HARRISON Frank Lionel
Roll of Honour: Frank Lionel Harrison
First World War Embarkation Roll: Frank Lionel Harrison
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Frank Lionel Harrison

164. C B H Johnson

JOHNSON Cyril Ben Hamlyn 3333
6 B KIA 14/5/18

Cyril Johnson was the son of Ben Percival Johnson, local solicitor, and arguably the most high profile and outspoken Imperial Loyalist in the Shire. Previous posts have detailed the extent of his involvement – and more importantly, leadership – in all areas to do with support for the War, including recruiting and the drive for conscription. He was also closely identified with support for the men returning from the War.

The father also played a prominent role in many other areas of local life. In his younger years he had been heavily involved in local sport – football, cricket, tennis – and local drama and arts initiatives – Yarram Amateur Minstrels, Yarram Choral & Orchestral Society – and he was an active member of the local Church of England (Holy Trinity). He was also involved with the ANA and the local Masonic Lodge.

In addition, Cyril’s mother – Emily Kate Johnson (McKenzie) – was a daughter of Donald Thomson and Mary Ann McKenzie. D T McKenzie, of ‘Calrossie’, was one of the leading graziers in the district. The McKenzie family was very well known. Cyril’s grandmother – Mary Ann Mckenzie – died about 3 weeks after he was killed. A detailed in memoriam published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 12/6/18, noted that the news of her death … had the effect of casting a gloom over the whole district, as there is no family better known in this portion of the State.

Cyril grew up in the local area and attended both Devon North and Yarram state schools and his name is the honor rolls for both schools. He then attended Sale Agricultural High School and his name is also recorded there, in the school’s Honour Book. Lastly, he went to Wesley College in Melbourne. When he enlisted (July 1915) he was a student (Law) at Melbourne University. He was, presumably, intending to take up his father’s profession. Despite studying and living as a young man in Melbourne he maintained close contact with Yarram. In fact, he even attended the first meeting of the Yarram Recruiting Committee in June 1915. This was just before his own enlistment.

Private Johnson enlisted in Melbourne as reinforcements for 6 Battalion in July 1915 (5/7/15). At the time he was 20 yo which meant that he needed his parents’ permission. The permission, in his service file, is dated July 3, 1915 and typed on the official note paper of B. P. Johnson, Barrister and Solicitor, Yarram Yarram.

We the undersigned the parents of C. B. H. Johnson hereby consent to his enlisting in the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces.

His religion was given as Church of England. He was single and gave his ‘trade or calling’ as ‘student’.

Based on information from the (National) Roll of Honour and his enlistment papers, it appears that Cyril had served 4 years in the Senior Cadets and 2 years in the Melbourne University Rifles prior to enlistment. His father indicated that he had held the rank of corporal in the Melbourne University Rifles.

On his enlistment papers, Private Johnson had replied in the negative to the question, Have you ever been rejected as unfit for His Majesty’s Services? However, on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour, his father stated, … enlisted June 1915 after having been twice rejected. Presumably Cyril had not drawn attention to previous rejections for fear of compromising the latest attempt. There is nothing in his medical notes that suggests any ground for rejection.

There was a formal farewell from Yarram on 24/9/15 which was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 29/9/15. People there spoke of early memories of Sergeant Johnson. At the time, he was referred to as holding the rank of sergeant.

Mr. Lalor said he felt sorry it was necessary our boys should have to go to fight, but the was confident they would give a good account of themselves. His first recollection of Sergeant Johnson was, when a little fellow of about eight years of age, he had handed him a Bride rose. It seemed like yesterday, yet today we were farewelling him as soldier.

B P Johnson, as both the father and one of organisers of such functions, gave his usual line on duty:

Mr. Johnson … said Cyril expressed a wish to go, and his mother felt she was doing her duty not to stop him. (Applause.)

Sergeant Johnson gave a typical response:

Sergeant Johnson thanked them for the kind words uttered, and remarked that he felt he had the best wishes of all of Yarram and district. He was confident that all who were going away to fight would keep up the honour of Gippsland. (Applause.) The thoughts of the farewell behind them, and a welcome in front, would help them fight a jolly side better. (Applause.)

Private Johnson left Australia in October 1915. The details of his service in Egypt are sketchy. It appears that he left Alexandria in May 1916 and then, once in England, he was attached for a while to the Army Postal Corps where he was in the Finance Section. While he was in this position he received extra duty pay and also had the rank of corporal. This work came to an end in late 1916 and he was sent to France in January 1917. At this point he was again given administrative responsibility and again attracted extra duty pay and also the rank of acting corporal. A complication with this short-term appointment was that it appears he had the rank of sergeant but with the pay of corporal. He finally joined 6 Battalion in the field, as a private, in April 1917.

From April 1917, when he joined his unit, right through to January 1918 Private Johnson suffered from repeated scabies infections, and was hospitalised 5 times: in April for one week; in May for two weeks; in July for three weeks; in late December for one week; and in January 1918 for one week.

There was a two-week period of leave to London in February 1918 and, like many others in the AIF, Private Johnson was charged for 2 days absent without leave because he failed to report back on time. The punishment – again, fairly standard – handed down by the CO 6 Battalion was confinement to camp for 7 days and the forfeiture of 3 days pay.

Private Johnson was killed on 14 May 1918. The cable advising of his death was dated 27 May 1918. At the time 6 Battalion was in the front line near Strazeele about 5Km from Hazebrouck, and 30Km from Ypres. On 13 May they had relieved 10 Battalion. The war diary of the battalion has 14 May as a relatively quiet day and there is no mention of casualties.

Dull morning. Enemy remained very quiet during the day. During the night our men patrolled the front actively; the enemy were found to be very alert.

There is nothing in the diary about the shell that killed at least 3 men, one of them Private Johnson.

There were many witness statements included in the Red Cross report of Private Johnson’s death. They make it clear that he was killed by shell fire. One was by Private Alexander John Lewis (3842) who enlisted about the same time as Private Johnson and who came from Port Albert. He had been a motor driver. He survived the War and returned to Australia in December 1918.

I knew him well he came from Yarrim (sic) same place as myself. Private J. Miller, S/Bearer, C. Coy. told me he was killed by a shell in front of Merris. He was carried out & buried behind the lines. His father is a solicitor at Yarrim. (28/8/18) [Merris is about 5 Km south of Strazeele]

The statement from Private J. Miller (3406), referred to by Private Lewis, suggests that enemy shelling meant the bodies of those killed were not buried for several days.

C.B.H. Johnson was well known to me as he was of the same reinforcement as myself. He was a machine gunner. He was killed in the trenches outside Frazielle [Strazeele]. I helped to bury him and three others who had been dead about 4 days. We were under heavy shelling at the time, but a cross was put up later this was about 200 yards from the trenches.

Private Johnson was finally buried in Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul, about 2 Km from Merris.

One witness described Pte Johnson as ‘tall, dark, a fine fellow’ and another as ‘tall, well built and well educated. He was called ‘CBH”. The most personal statement came from Private M. J. Cahill (7471) from West Rochster near Echuca.

I knew him very well. He was a very good fellow, all round decent chap. Very helpful to his comrades, thorough gentleman. On night before his death he told me he had seen Brig. General. He was expected to go to England to take his commission, and the general promised him that he should go at once. He said “I expect this will be my last turn on the line for a few months. This was on or about May 14th in front of Strazeele Station, Flanders. We were in front line trenches and he was asleep at the time. A shell fell (one of two only) and dropped close to him and killed him and two others. I was about three yards away and buried by the explosion. It was a lovely death, as he knew nothing of it. We buried him near [?] The ground was held.

There is nothing in the service file to back up the story about officer training back in England. However, when the father gave information for the (National) Roll of Honour he also noted that his son, Had been strongly recommended for a commission and warned that he was to go to England to the O.T.C. immediately. There is no way of knowing the timing being referred to here. It is reasonable to believe that someone with Johnson’s background – his time in the Melbourne University Rifles as a corporal, the series of acting promotions in the UK and France, and also the social background – would have been keen to secure a commission.

There is some additional evidence that Private Johnson was pursuing a commission. In the son’s service file, there is an extensive collection of correspondence between the father – B P Johnson – and Base Records in Melbourne. The exchange began in June 1916 and went through to March 1917. At some point it also appears that Johnson even wrote to the secretary for Defence on the same topic. The basic issue was to do with pay. Essentially, Johnson’s version of the situation was that his son was not being paid at the proper rate for his particular duties. According to Johnson, his son left Australia as a sergeant. Then when he reached Egypt he undertook training for non commissioned officers at Leitoun and gained a first-class instructor’s certificate. He was later appointed acting sergeant major. Clearly, in Johnson’s mind, the son was moving quickly through the ranks. However, in a letter dated 27/6/16, he detailed how his son’s fortunes slipped:

Sometime in February [1916], his arm got bad and the Doctor said he would have to take a ‘soft job’ till he became well, and he was placed in the Army Pay Corps where he was, at least, in April. I have since heard that he has arrived in England but have no particulars as to how he is, and what he is doing. I shall be much obliged if you will inform me as to whether he is still in the Pay Office, or has rejoined his unit, and if you have any information as to how his arm is. I shall also be glad to know if he received his Sergeants pay, as I understand a man passing through above school retains his stripes, and that men in the Pay Office rank as Staff Sergeants. His allotment of Special Duty pay has been received up to February, and I have been wondering why more has not come to hand.

The detailed correspondence continued. According to Johnson the extra pay for his son’s rank as sergeant had not been paid after 8 February 1916. He seemed particularly upset because … my son (who is well educated & has had office experience) has, since his injury, been doing work that is paid for [in Australia] at the rate of 10/- to 12/6 per day.

Base Records assured him that the matter was being investigated. As the time dragged on, Johnson’s tone became more critical. Then in January 1917 (17/1/17) he made a direct comparison between the shameful way his ‘patriotic’ son had been treated and the easy life of the ‘shirker’ back in Australia. The moral weakness of the ‘shirker’ was a favourite theme that Johnson used commonly in his public speaking in the Shire. Again, Johnson refers to the commission for which his son strives:

A little while ago I had a letter from my son saying that all the time he has been in the Pay Office he has been only getting 6/- a day. This seems to me an encouragement to shirk. A man enlists to fight – he is unable to do so & as a clerk (though of experience) gets 6/- a day while a man who will not fight gets 10/- to 12/6 a day & overtime. My son gave up his career to serve his country got to acting S. M. recommended for a commission & that is how he is treated. He is bitterly disappointed at being unfit to fight thro’ an old dislocated elbow troubling him & it does not ease matters that he has been underpaid.

Finally, in February (27/2/17) after receiving information from England, Base Records gave the formal reply to Johnson. It pointed out, in a rather abrupt manner, that Private Johnson had … never held any substantive rank higher then “Private”. It acknowledge that when he left Australia (11/10/15) until 18/2/16 he had held the temporary rank of sergeant and been paid ‘extra duty pay’; and then for 2 months between 1/9/16 and 1/11/16, when he was attached to 1 Australian Army Pay Corps, he was given the rank of ‘temporary 2nd corporal’ and the relevant higher pay. This version of the service record was less impressive than the father’s version. When he replied in March 1917 Johnson thanked Base Records for their ‘courtesy in the matter’ but he was not prepared to give up his criticism of the shirker or ‘stay at home’:

My objection chiefly was that an educated man who had really given up his career to go & fight for his country was only paid 6/- a day for work for which any stay at home gets a minimum of 10/- a day & extra for overtime.

Post 147 noted that at one of the welcome home meetings (July 1917) Johnson had had to defend himself from disparaging comments about his son having gained a safe appointment in the UK, away from the front. The claim was that Johnson had used his influence to take care of his son. Presumably, people like Johnson – the local solicitor – set themselves up for criticism because of the high moral tone they adopted.

There was further correspondence (14/1/19) after the son’s death. This time it involved the kit returned. The kit was returned in January 1919 and consisted of – 2 Discs, Photos, Letters, Wallet, Notecase, 2 Fountain Pens, Metal Cigarette Case, 2 Lodge Invitations, Ship’s Paper, Paper Cuttings. The problem was that a particular item– a Savage automatic pistol – was missing, one with which the father was very familiar and equally keen to recover:

I notice that my son’s automatic was not included in his parcel although one of his comrades wrote me that he had seen it taken from his dead body and wrapped up with his other effects by his O.C. I shall be much obliged if you will have enquiries made as this automatic was prized by my boy and if it does not come to hand we shall be forced to the conclusion that someone in the forces or the department has been guilty of the most contemptible act of robbing the dead. Such a rotter should be found out and dealt with promptly.

Base Records replied (20/1/19) with the usual slight hope that the missing item might turn up – In the event of your son’s revolver coming to hand later, it will be promptly forwarded to you – but it did not address the morality of the situation.

Later in the year, in November (15//11/20), the father wrote again seeking any further advice re the missing automatic and pointing out:

Someone must have robbed a dead man or else the parcel is amongst the unclaimed articles. May I ask that a search be made. We have lost our boy and do prize his belongings, they are all we have.

Base Records (23/11/20) replied that essentially there was nowhere to search because the items returned to the family matched the inventory of the effects forwarded from 6 Battalion two weeks after the death. The implication was that if something was missing it was taken back at the battalion. The reply concluded that – In view of the length of time that has elapsed since the soldier’s demise. It is considered improbable that any other articles will now be received in his name.

On 13/5/18, the day before his son was killed, Johnson as chair of the local recruiting committee, spoke at a formal welcome to an AIF unit, accompanied by a 16-member military band, which had arrived in Yarram as part of a state-wide recruiting drive. Johnson had organised a reception for them. The men arrived by train and were to tour Gippsland as part of the recruiting campaign.

In the account reported in the local paper on 15/5/18, Johnson cited the patriotic example of Port Albert and wished success for the campaign:

He [Johnson] had been informed that in Port Albert there was not one eligible man left. It was up to the rest of the district to do likewise. He hoped the soldiers would obtain a record number of recruits.

News of the death of Private Cyril Johnson was published in the local paper on 29/5/18. In the report, the date on which the cable reached the family was given as 25/5/18.

The very sad and regretful news was conveyed to Mr. B. P. Johnson, of Yarram, on Saturday last that his son, Cyril B. H. had been killed in action. Although a hero’s death, it came as a severe blow to Mr. Johnson and family. He was about 24 years of age, and sailed for Europe in October 1915, thus he has served his King and Country for two and a half years. We mourn the loss of men of his stamp, whose long-continued service marks them as men possessed of true British blood. The last letter received from Private Johnson, who was a Lewis machine gunner, was from Ypres. The death of the hero is further saddened by the fact that his mother is at present under treatment for illness in Melbourne.

Johnson withdrew, temporarily, from public life after his son’s death. He did not attend a welcome home held on 29/5/18, and in the report in the local paper (31/5/18) one of the other committee members of the group organising such welcomes extended the community’s sympathy:

Mr. G. F. Sauer said he regretted the circumstance that cause Mr. B. P. Johnson being absent, and he thought all would sympathise with Mr. Johnson in his sad bereavement. He mentioned the fact as Mr. Johnson was one of the leaders at the farewell and welcome functions and he thought the gathering was a fitting place to express the sympathy of the public.

The name of Cyril Johnson is probably the most commemorated in the Shire of Alberton. It appears on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It appears on the honor rolls for both Yarram and Devon North state schools, as well as on the honor roll of Devon North District. Additionally, it appears on the honor rolls for the local Lodge (207), the Yarram Club and the local branch of the ANA. Lastly, there is a stained glass window in Holy Trinity Church (Yarram) to his memory.

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 2, The Alberton Project

National Archives file for Johnson Cyril Ben Hamlyn
Roll of Honour: Cyril Ben Hamlyn Johnson
First World War Embarkation Roll: Cyril Ben Hamlyn Johnson
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Cyril Ben Hamlyn Johnson

 

163. F P Booker

BOOKER Frederick Peter 3126

51 B  KIA 24/4/18

Frederick Booker was one of 11 children of William and Emma (nee Bullett) Booker who were resident in the Shire of Alberton from the late 1870s. He was born at Yarram and attended the state school at Devon North. There were 2 other brothers – Robert James and Herbert Francis – who also served in the AIF. Both these brothers survived the War, although Robert was seriously wounded and repatriated to Australia for a medical discharge at the end of 1917. It is not clear when the father died but he was dead at the time the first son enlisted – Robert, in July 1915. Possibly the mother had remarried because on his enlistment papers Robert gave his mother as Mrs E Paterson of North Devon. However this was subsequently amended to to Mrs E Booker and her address then became Port Melbourne. When the second son enlisted — Herbert in June 1916 – the mother was given as Mrs E Booker at the same Port Melbourne address. Each of these brothers, on enlistment, gave his own address as in the Shire of Alberton, Robert at Devon North and Herbert at Alberton West and both appear to have been farm labourers.

Frederick was the last of the brothers to enlist and when he did it was in Western Australia and he was married. There is no indication of when he moved to WA. He was 25 yo and he gave his occupation as ‘motor-driver’. His wife – Gertrude Magdalene Booker – was living at Subiaco. All three brothers gave their religion as Roman Catholic.

He enlisted on 18/9/16 and joined as reinforcements for 51 Battalion. He left Perth just 3 months later on 23/12/16. He spent 1917 in the UK training. There was a brief period of hospitalisation with mumps in April 1917. It appears that during his training in the UK he transferred for a short time to 17 Field Ambulance but then he returned to his original unit and was finally taken on strength with 51 Battalion in France in early March 1918. He was killed in action in the assault on Villers-Bretonneux on 24/4/18, just over one month after joining the battalion.

The war diary for 51 Battalion records how the ‘counter attack to recover Villers Bretonneux and restore the line as held up to this morning’ was to commence at 10 pm on 24/4/18. Prior to the attack the village of Villers Bretonneuex was to be bombarded by artillery and, as well, the Royal Air Force was to bomb it. Events moved quickly, and the orders for the counter attack did not reach 51 Battalion until 7.30 pm on the day. The war diary describes the casualities caused by the enemy machine guns in the action and also describes the value of the British tanks in the assault. The tanks was by now a formidable and effective weapon.

At 7 a.m. on 25/4/18 3 tanks were sent into the Bois De Aquenne to clear enemy M.G. Posts there and also from valley on West of Villers Bretonneux. These tanks did splendid work and it was mainly due to their excellent work that the wood was finally cleared of the enemy. Enemy M.G. Posts in sunken road O.34.d. were mopped up by some of the tanks.

Casualty figures for 51 Battalion over the period of the attack and its subsequent time in the line (24-27 April) were very high: a total of 389 with 76 killed, 253 wounded and 60 missing.

The Red Cross report for Private Booker makes it clear that he was one of the many killed by machine gun fire in the first few hours of the action:

He was in C. Company. 10th Platoon. 5ft 11. medium to dark , and over 30 [He was 27 yo at the time]. At Villers Bretonneux on April 24th 1918 at about midnight we were attacking near a Sunken Road when Booker was killed instantly by machine gun fire. I saw him dead in the road way. I know nothing of his burial. The Headquarters Pioneers did that work. H. E. Link 7744. 51st Battn. 11/1/19

Came from Subiaco, Perth. W. Australia. At Villers Bretonneux on April 24/18 in the hop over just before midnight, Booker who was close beside me was killed instantly by machine gun fire. I saw him fall & later went to him but he was dead. I know nothing of his burial. [name and regimental number unclear] 21/2/19

The body was never recovered and Private Booker’s name appears on the memorial at Villers Bretonneux.

The cable advising Private Booker’s wife in Perth of his death was dated 9/5/18. When she completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour she gave Perth as the location with which her husband had been ‘chiefly connected’. She received his few personal belongings – 2 Discs, Metal Chain, Religious Medallions, Wallet, Photos, 2 Certificates, Cards, Gold ring. – in February 1919. At this stage she was still Mrs Booker but by 1923 she had remarried (Ritchie).

His name appeared on The Roll of Honor published in the (Perth) Sunday Times on 2/6/18 – F. P. Booker (Canning Bridge).

Back in the Shire of Alberton, the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published news on his death on 29/5/18:

The information has reached us of another former resident of the district having made the supreme sacrifice for King and Country. We refer to Sergeant Frederick Peter Booker, whose name appears on the North Devon honor roll. The sad and regrettable feature of the brave young hero’s end is that he leaves a widow and three children, who are at present residing in Western Australia. He was a son of Mrs Booker, of Port Melbourne, and has been on active service for a very long time, and had attained the age of 28 years. The name of a brother, Pte. R. J. Booker, appears on the Yarram honor roll, and [sic] who recently returned from active service abroad. He intends visiting Yarram within the next fortnight.

In the same edition of the paper there was a death notice:

Booker. – On 26th April, 1918. Sergeant Frederick Peter Booker, aged 28 years, dearly loved son of Mrs. E. Booker, of Port Melbourne.
Oh, could I have raised his dying head,
Or heard his last farewell,
The blow would have not been so hard
To his wife and children he loved so well.
His resting place, a hero’s grave,
To know and to love, and then to part,
Is the saddest part of a human heart.
– Inserted by his loving mother and brother Bob.

The date of death is incorrect in the death notice and there does not appear to be any record of Private Frederick Booker ever having held the rank of sergeant. The brother – Robert James Booker – did not return to the district until mid September 1918 when he was given a welcome home at North Devon. This brother settled back in the local district after the War.

Private Frederick Booker’s name is recorded on both the honor roll for the state school at Devon North and also the equivalent roll for the Devon North district. His name is not recorded on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. As for the 2 other brothers, only Robert is listed on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor, although both are listed on local schools’ honor rolls – Robert for Devon North and Herbert for Yarram.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for BOOKER Frederick Peter
Roll of Honour: Frederick Peter Booker
First World War Embarkation Roll: Frederick Peter Booker
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Frederick Peter Booker

162. R V Fleming

FLEMING Robert Victor (3228)
29 B KIA 8/5/18

Robert Fleming was born at Brunswick. The information for the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed so there is no information on his early life. When he enlisted he gave his father – Robert Fleming – as his next of kin. At that time, the father’s address was given as Blackwarry – the same as for the son – but by the time the will was made (2/6/18), the father’s address was Carlton. The father had died by the time of the medal distribution in late 1922 early 1923 and it appears that the mother had predeceased him.

The enlistment forms had Robert living at Blackwarry. Robert Fleming – labourer of Bulga – also appeared on 1915 electoral roll. However this could have been the father as both were Robert Fleming. Robert, the son, was certainly known in the district and played football for Devon. He was a popular player and there is a somewhat cryptic article in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (12/5/15) about his unsuccessful attempt to get a clearance from Devon to play for North Devon. He also played cricket locally and competed in wood chopping events.

When Robert Fleming enlisted he was 30 yo, single and he gave his occupation as farm labourer. His religion was Presbyterian.

He had his first medical in Yarram and then received a railway pass from the Shire Secretary – dated 2/3/16 – and completed the enlistment in Melbourne on 14/3/16.

Private Fleming joined as reinforcements for 29 Battalion. His unit left Melbourne on 4/7/16 and reached England in late August (23/8/16). After further training in England he was sent to France in December 1916. He was taken on strength in 29 Battalion on 13/3/17.

In April 1917, Private Fleming had a run in with authority and was charged with … conduct prejudicial to good order and Military Discipline, in that he ate his emergency ration without permission of an officer. He was given 2 days of field punishment number 2 (confined to barracks). The breach of military discipline did not seem to affect his chance of promotion. He was made lance corporal in June 1917 (12/6/17), corporal in October and then sergeant in November of the same year (10/11/17).

At the start of 1918 he had two weeks leave in England (9/2/18 – 24/2/18). He was killed in action, not much more than 2 months later, on 8/5/18. He was buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, about 7 Km from Sailly-Le-Sec. The cable advising of death was dated 30/5/18.

Back in the Shire of Alberton, Sergeant Fleming’s death was reported in the local paper on 5/6/18:

The sad information has been conveyed to us of the death of Sergt. R. Fleming, killed in action in France on 8th May. He was the only son of Mr. R. Fleming, of 47 Neil Street, Carlton, and enlisted for active service 2 1/2 years ago. Prior to offering his services to his country he was a resident of Devon, and amongst the members of the Devon Football club was regarded as one of their most prominent men, and besides being a general favorite he was acknowledged as a clean sport. His many friends here will regret the news at his having paid the supreme sacrifice.

Sergeant Fleming’s name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His name also appeared on the roll of honor for Blackwarry.

The very limited number of personal effects – 4 Notebooks, Photos, Cards – reached Australia in January 1919. His father was still alive at this point.

Unfortunately, there is no Red Cross report on the death. The only information comes from 29 Battalion’s war diary. This shows that at the time the battalion was on the front line near Sailly-Le-Sec, near Amiens. On the night of 7 May there was a successful operation to extend the front line and a German strong point was taken. There are references to heavy German artillery over the next day (8/5/18), as well as the use of special patrols to establish German intentions. However, there is only one reference to 29 Battalion casualties, and this refers to them as being ‘slight’.

As indicated, records in the service file show that by late 1922, the father was deceased. At the same time, the standard form covering the distribution of medals – the one that listed the sequence of eligibility, beginning with the father and going through 16 categories to end with Aunts on his mother’s side (stating eldest) – revealed that the mother was also deceased and there were no siblings. The immediate family ended with Robert’s death.

The service medals, Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll were issued to Sarah Ann Cook of Balook, via Traralgon who was the wife of Thomas Anderson Cook.  She was an aunt – the eldest – on the mother’s side. There was another, unsuccessful claim, for the same medals from Mrs A J Chapple of Ascot Vale. As ‘aunts on his father’s side’ had precedence over ‘aunts on his mother’s side’, this lady must have been a younger aunt on his mother’s side. Presumably, she could also have been a cousin. Both ladies also applied for a war gratuity on behalf of Private Fleming but while Mrs A J Chapple’s claim was unsuccessful there is no indication about what happened with Sarah Cook’s application.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for FLEMING Robert Victor
Roll of Honour: Robert Victor Fleming
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert Victor Fleming

161. Anzac Day 1918: For England

This post looks at the celebration of Anzac Day in 1918. At the same time, it also traces the intimate relationship between the celebration of Empire Day and Anzac Day over the course of the War and notes how Anzac Day grew from, and eventually eclipsed, Empire Day.

Post 3 looked at Empire Day (24 May) in the Shire of Alberton in 1914 when celebrations for Empire Day in 1914 were relaxed, even if the spectre of trouble in Ireland – potentially even civil war – was present.

One year later, Australia, as part of the Empire, was at war and Empire Day was celebrated  almost exactly one month after the landing at Gallipoli. The timing inevitably raises questions about how much of the Anzac story was known by that point and how did the very recent events at Gallipoli influence the celebration of Empire Day.

In terms of what was known of the events at Gallipoli by the time of Empire Day 1915, it appears that there was certainly sufficient detail for at least the core of the Anzac story to have been fashioned.

First official word of the landing on Gallipoli came in the Federal Parliament on 29 April, 1915. The Australasian on 1/5/15 reported the PM (Fisher) stating,

Some days ago the Australian War Expeditionary Forces were transferred from Egypt to the Dardanelles. They have since landed, and have been in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula. News reaches us that the action is proceeding satisfactorily.

Fisher quoted the cable message he had received from the (British) Secretary of State for the Colonies. This cable also spoke of the success of the operation and the ‘gallantry’ of the men. Fisher also quoted the response from the Governor-General:

The Government and people of Australia are deeply gratified to learn that their troops won distinction in their first encounters with the enemy. We are confident that they will carry the King’s colours to further victory.

Overall, the first official commentary on Anzac, less than a week after the landing, presented the action as a success and hailed the fighting quality of the AIF. Critically, there was also official confirmation that the Australian troops had proved themselves in battle. The more expansive and laudatory descriptions of the AIF in action at Gallipoli began to appear within a week. For example, Ashmead-Bartlett’s account appeared in The Argus on 8/5/15. Casualty lists began to appear from early May. However it was not until mid to late June that the papers were full of personal accounts by soldiers recovering in hospital in Egypt. Further, Bean’s account did not appear until mid June. It appeared in The Argus on 18/6/15.

In the Shire of Alberton, the basic story was picked up very quickly. The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published Ashmead -Barlett’s account on 12/5/15. The comprehensive account appeared under the headlines: Gallant Australians. Full Story Of Their Fight. Troops Landed In Darkness. Attacked On Seashore. Heroes Of Mons Equalled.

Both nationally and locally, May 1915 saw an increasing flow of information on the Gallipoli campaign. The basis of the Anzac story was established very quickly and universally. The essential features of this story were: the campaign had been a success, even if the notion of ‘success’ had to be increasingly qualified and portrayed in terms broader than military objectives; the AIF had ‘proved itself’ in battle as at least the equal of British troops; the AIF had shown itself to have a distinctly Australian character; Australia’s national identity and the essential character of its people were tied to the AIF; Gallipoli had been a defining moment in Australia’s short history; Australia was robustly and selflessly defending the Empire; and, lastly, it had always been Australia’s manifest destiny to fight for the Empire, and therefore the death and sacrifice of Anzac were inevitable. Critically, Anzac and Empire were intimately linked. The story of Anzac was an extension of the story of Empire.

One way of demonstrating how the Anzac story was so intimately tied to the fundamentals of love for and duty towards the Empire is to look at how, just one month after Gallipoli, the story of Anzac was handled at the Empire Day celebrations in Yarram in 1915. These particular celebrations were directly driven by the local community, in the sense that several prominent locals, despairing that the local council had not taken the initiative to highlight the importance of Empire Day that year, had come together to ensure that due recognition was given. In their planning session – reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 19/5/15 – they referred to the belief that Empire Day that year had … far greater significance and there were references to the ‘present crisis’ and the fact that this year was … more than an ordinary occasion. The present crisis was both the parlous situation in Europe and, of course, the fighting at Gallipoli. Both events underlined the fundamental link between Australia and the Empire or, more accurately, the seamless whole of the relationship.

The celebrations took place on the evening of Empire Day (Monday, 24/5/15). They were reported in the local paper on 26/5/15 under the bold headline: Monster Public Gathering. At the outset, the local council was again criticised for its lack of patriotic spirit. Post 59 has already looked in detail at this event but it is worth recalling just how strong the commitment to the Empire was.

On the night, there were numerous accounts of the greatness of the Empire. In fact, there were so many speakers lined up that several had to give up their turn because the event was proving too drawn out for all the children there. One stirring speech was made by a visiting Presbyterian minister (Cadwallader Jones) who extolled the 1,000 year Empire:

There was something about the British Empire which appealed to Australians, and in the present crisis a sense of its power and grandeur was felt by all. It sent a thrill of independence through us, and we gloried in the legacy which our forefathers had left us; they who had shed their blood to overcome every hindrance which beset them. The flag that had braved all breezes, and all wars for the past thousand years would still be kept flying, and vindicate our right to the Divine possession. (Applause).

After promising that in the present fighting the allies would … triumph as sure as there is a God in heaven, Cadwallader Jones turned his attention to the very recent events at Gallipoli, praised the great deeds of the AIF – the idea of the Anzacs deeds living forever was already clearly apparent – and located the fighting in terms of a broader Imperial struggle against evil, in this case the corrupt Ottoman Empire. At this point the revision of the status of the Turkish enemy – Abdul – was still some time away. Specifically, Cadwallader Jones condemns the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians, an unresolved issue 100 years on:

We have reason to be proud that our nation is having vengeance on the Turks for those awful Armenian atrocities, and will wipe out the Ottoman Empire. He [Cadwallader Jones] never dreamt that he would live to see the day when the Australians would go forth to avenge that awful wrong. What magnificent deeds they had done in the Gallipoli Peninsula cutting off the enemy and trampling them under feet, though at terrible cost, for we are overwhelmed with grief when we read the casualty list. Though our men are laying down their lives to avenge the wrong we will not forget them, their names will be engraved in the hardest tablet of stone, so that our children, and our children’s children, shall know of the heroism and noble deeds of our men in the cause of justice, ever ready to face death itself. (Applause).

The resolution passed by those gathered that night clearly placed the triumph of Gallipoli within its proper Imperial context. Gallipoli had realised the Nation’s Imperial destiny:

This meeting of citizens of Yarram and district, affirms its confidence in the solidarity of our Empire and the integrity of our cause, and while expressing its unbounded admiration of the gallantry of our representatives at the front, and its deepest sympathy with those bereaved, urges upon (sic) all our people to rise to a realisation of our Empire as exemplified by the conduct of our men upon both land and sea.

Besides the speeches and songs that night, there was plenty of visual reinforcement of the ideals of Empire.

A pretty scene was presented when over thirty Yarram school children marched on to the stage, each carrying Union Jacks. The girls were attired in white frocks, and the boys wore red, white and blue ties. The popular songs “Red, White and Blue” and “Sons of the Sea” were given with considerable vim, the choir and audience taking up the chorus.

Whereas the first Anzac Day was, in effect, celebrated as part of Empire Day, by 1918 Anzac Day was a national day in its own right, even if it did not become a public holiday in all states and territories until the end of the 1920s. Moreover, while Empire Day continued to be celebrated it was obvious that in just 3 years the celebration of Anzac Day had already eclipsed that of Empire Day. However, there was a major qualification to this observation, in that it was definitely not the case that by 1918 the celebration of the Empire had in any way diminished. Rather it was just the case that it made more sense – seemed more natural – to focus on the celebration of the Empire as part of Anzac Day. In effect, Empire Day, even though it continued to run as a separate and distinct celebration until the late 1950s – morphed with Anzac Day, just as Anzac Day had been celebrated as part of Empire Day in 1915.

The shift to Anzac Day is very evident in the local paper. There are very few reports of specific Empire Day activities in the local district for May 1918. The paper reported on 31/5/18 of Empire Day Celebrations held at Stacey’s Bridge. The report was very brief and just noted that a … social evening and dance was held on Empire night to raise funds for the Education Department’s April-May appeal. On 5/6/18 there was a report on the success of fundraising by the local Methodist church for Empire Day. There was also a special service for the Methodist congregation for ‘Empire Sunday’.

The detailed reporting of local celebrations for Anzac Day offered a stark contrast. On 19/5/18, the paper published the full school program for Anzac Day. Two days earlier, the paper had published a report of how the (Federal) Minister of Recruiting had requested state education departments to promote bonfires on Anzac night:

… in addition to any other celebration that might be proposed, the head master of public and private schools be asked to arrange that bonfires be erected in school grounds or selected positions with due regard to safety and in charge of responsible officers, and all to be lit simultaneously at 7.30 on Anzac night. He suggested that patriotic songs be rendered by the children, and in view of the seriousness of the present position [The German Spring Offensive], the ceremony be made as impressive as possible.

The 2 references to the schools serve to remind just how important the (Victorian) Education Department was, not just in establishing the practice and form of Anzac Day but in also fashioning the very story of Anzac. There were obviously other influences – for example, the 1916 publication of The Anzac Book edited by Bean – but the role of the various state education departments was critical. Triolo (2011) covers the role of the Victorian Education Department in great detail. And prior to Gallipoli, the Education Department had fashioned and taught the Empire story. Essentially, the state education departments over the course of WW1 – and before and after it – were highly influential in shaping the attitudes of not just the students but their families and the wider community to the War. These departments through their own publications – in Victoria it was the School Paper – also provided an ongoing commentary, if not narrative, of the War. The account was unmistakably Imperial.

As well as the school preparations for Anzac Day, the local paper gave notice (24/4/18) of what was planned by way of other activities on the day. There was advice that between 12 and 2.00 pm local stores would be closed and that a united (Protestant) church service would be held in Thompson’s Hall. In the afternoon, attention was to shift to the school (Yarram SS) for its program and at the same event a number of district soldiers were to be formally welcomed home. At night, a bonfire had been arranged at Port Albert. Lastly, the local Returned Soldiers’ League was to stage a smoke social in Thompson’s Hall. There was concern that the bonfire at Port Albert was going to keep some returned men from the smoke social in Yarram. The smoke social will be covered separately in a coming post as it revealed yet more division and conflict over the issue of repatriation.

The report covering all the events appeared in the local paper the day after Anzac Day.

The welcome home ceremony was a central component of the prescribed school celebrations for Anzac Day 1918.  On the day there were 12 returned soldiers present and of this number 4 were very recently returned. The welcome home meant that a large crowd of locals also assembled at the school for the ceremony. Having the school as the centre of the celebration obviously raised the status and gravitas of the day. As well, the presence of the returned men helped formalise the solemnity. Their presence also had an obvious impact on the speeches made. The opening remarks made by the head teacher – E A Paige – were full of praise for the Anzacs. Their efforts had not only been comparable to the best of the Empire but had in fact exceeded them.

Mr. E. A Paige, head teacher, extended a cordial welcome to all, and addressing the children impressed upon them the importance of commemorating Anzac Day. It was the day our Australian boys landed at Gallipoli against well-armed enemies. They had read of the charge of the Light Brigade, but what the Australians had done put that feat in the shade, when they landed against such odds on 25th April 1915. He extended a hearty welcome to the returned men, and hoped Anzac Day would be solemnly celebrated every year.

Another speaker that day was the Rev C J Walklate, the local Methodist minister and another leading Imperial Loyalist. Walklate made the claim – commonly being made by this point – that Anzac Day was not just a significant event in Australia’s history it was in fact the beginning of Australian history, which history, at least in his view, was very simplistic:

… the 25th April three years ago was the beginning of Australian history. They had read of the exploits of our explorers, who mapped out the land for civilisation to come and make homes for the present generation. But the tragic landing at Gallipoli eclipsed everything else.

The presentation of Gallipoli as some form of ‘tragedy’ had been well established. Sacrifice had been an essential element of this tragedy and the ideal of sacrifice had been instilled in the Anzacs as young boys at school – just like the school children there on that Anzac Day in 1918 – who had read of the glories of the Empire. The Anzac story was the next inevitable chapter of the Empire story. As Walklate put it,

The spirit our boys displayed [at Anzac], was moulded by reading the doings of other brave men in past years.

Another speaker that day was Inspector Greenwood. He told the students that, On 25th April 1915 Australia leaped into history. He spoke about the … records of the deeds of these brave boys. And he described them in an Australian style as ‘dinkum Anzacs’.

Clearly there was an emerging nationalist focus evident: Australian history only begins with Anzac; the AIF is not just the equal of the British Army its troops are better; Australia has effectively ‘come of age’.

However, just as Empire Day and Anzac Day were intimately connected, the new sense of Australian nationalism was still most definitely contained within the broader commitment to Empire. For clear evidence of this seamless connection consider the song – For England – which was prescribed in the formal school program for the day and was to be was sung by the students. Arguably, it was even more suitable for Empire Day than Anzac Day. Moreover, it had been written by an Australian – James Drummond Burns (1895-1915). Burn’s poem had been set to music by L A Adamson, the headmaster of Wesley College. Burns, a corporal in 21 Battalion, was killed at Gallipoli in September 1915. He was 20 yo at the time. He had been born in Victoria and had been a student of Scotch College. In many ways the young Burns embodied the qualities of the Rev George Cox’s ‘Soldier of Christ’ (Post 26).

The song, For England is reproduced below. Its Imperial sentiment and sentimentality are unmistakable. It was created within the environment of the Victorian elite public school but it was sung on Anzac Day in 1918 in all state schools.

For England

The bugles of England were blowing o’er the sea,
As they had called a thousand years, calling now to me;
They woke me from dreaming in the dawning of the day
The bugles of England – and how could I stay?

The banners of England, unfurled across the sea,
Floating out upon the wind, were beckoning to me;
Storm-rent and battle-torn, smoke stained and grey,
The banners of England – and how could I stay?

O England, I heard the cry of those who died for thee,
Sounding like an organ-voice across the winter sea;
They lived and died for England, and gladly went their way,
England, O England – how could I stay.

There are uncanny similarities here with the comments made above by Rev Cadwallader Jones at the Empire Day celebrations in Yarram on May 24,1915. The poem itself appeared in the school’s paper, The Scotch Collegian in May 1915.

One hundred years on, our own celebrations of Anzac Day do not recognise the Imperial basis for the history of the event – indeed, we celebrate it as a distinctly national and nationally-defining event – but in 1918 its Imperial genesis was fundamental, unmistakable and unchallenged. At the time, Anzac Day was an extension of Empire Day. Over time, it effectively replaced it; but the historical drift from Imperialism to Nationalism took a long period of our history. In another irony, in a post-Brexit world, the UK appears keen to reach back to an earlier version of its relationship with Australia, when it was still its ‘Mother Country’.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
The Australasian
The Argus

Triolo, R 2012, Our Schools and the War, Australian Scholarly Publishing, North Melbourne

For more detail on James Drummond Burns and For England see The Scotch College World War I Commemorative Website

 

160. A E Barlow

BARLOW Albert Edward (725B)
5B KIA  19/4/18

The Barlow family had been living in the district from the late 1850s. Albert Edward (Bill) Barlow was a grandson of Thomas Barlow (c 1830-1917) who was the patriarch of the family. Thomas had been, variously, a local mailman, contractor, labourer and he had operated a coach service as well as having land at Woranga. He had married Mary Kent and there were 10 children.

Even though Thomas had 7 sons, by the time of WW1 the number of potential Barlow enlistments was limited. Only 5 of the 7 sons were still in the district: Thomas, Charles, Henry/Harry, Caleb and Albert. Moreover, the ages of this second generation were generally too old for enlistment and, at the same time, the ages of the next generation were too young.  Also, Thomas – the second of Thomas’s sons – had 3 daughters. Realistically, there was only a handful of local Barlow men who could have enlisted in WW1: two sons of Charles Barlow – Albert, born 1887 and Frederick, born 1892 – and one son of Caleb Barlow – Albert Edward, born 1897.

More than for most other families, the issue of enlistment was of fundamental significance for the Barlow family. Principally, this was because of the activities of Charles Barlow, brother of Caleb and uncle of Albert Edward Barlow. Charles Barlow was one of the most outspoken Imperial Loyalists in the Shire of Alberton. He was on the local recruiting committee. He spoke regularly at soldiers’ farewells and welcomes. He participated and officiated in all manner of pro-War and Imperial functions, from recruiting drives and pro-conscription campaigns to memorial services and the unveiling of honour rolls at local schools. He was also a local councillor and had served as Shire President just before WW1, and he was elected to the same position in 1918. He also served on the local JP court. Obviously, he had a very high profile in the local community. Yet it appears that neither of his sons enlisted. Rather, it was his nephew, Albert Edward Barlow who enlisted as an eighteen-year-old and who made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’.  Post 147 and Post 148 described how Barlow himself expressed public regret at his sons’ reluctance to enlist and noted how his authority to speak on issues such as sacrifice and patriotism was being questioned, particularly by returned soldiers.

There was yet another twist to this background because it appears that prior to his son enlisting – in January 1916 – Caleb Barlow had himself attempted to enlist. Caleb Barlow, who gave his age as 45 – he was in fact 47 yo – had his medical in Yarram on 16/7/15. Not surprisingly, given his age, his enlistment did not go ahead. However, unlike his brothers – Charles was only 2 years older – Caleb did make the attempt to enlist; and his young son was the only one from the Barlow family at that time who did enlist. It is also possible that Caleb Barlow’s family had not enjoyed the same social and financial success as that of his brothers’ families, particularly the family of Charles Barlow.

Albert Edward Barlow was born in Devon, grew up in the local area and went to North Devon State School. Another student from the same school – Edwin Alford (Post 158) – was killed at Hazebrouck, only a few kilometres from where Barlow was killed 5 days later.  In another cruel link, Albert played football for Devon North and Patrick Sexton (Post 159) , also a keen local footballer, played for the opposing Devon team. Sexton was killed at Mont Kemmel only 2 days before Edward’s death, and, again, only a short distance away. Probably the last football match in which these 2 local footballers played against each other was in early July 1914, when Devon beat North Devon.

Private Barlow enlisted in late January 1916 (29/1/16). He was nearly 19 yo. He had his medical in Yarram with Dr Crooks and was then re-examined in Melbourne. He variously gave his occupation as ‘labourer’ and ‘farm labourer’. His father had a small farm at North Devon so it is likely that besides helping his father, Edward worked on other local farms. On the enlistment form he gave his religion as Church of England but others in the extended Barlow family appear to have been strong Methodists.

The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published on 5/5/16 a detailed account of the send-off for 4 young soldiers – Albert Barlow, Henry & George McKenzie and Clyde Rendell – from Devon North. The event was held at the local school and it was very well attended. Cr Barlow, Albert’s uncle, attended to award the shire medallion and card – each man also received a wristlet watch from the community – and he was the key speaker. He used the occasion to speak for conscription and asked, Why should not the burden be borne by all, and not by a few. He also offered that, Conscription is the only means of ending this terrible war. He also specifically drew attention to his nephew, noting that, He was glad to see one Barlow representative going – he will not be the last – and these fine men will not be the last lot sent form here. (Applause).

Others there that night gave the usual stirring reminders to the young men:

And remember, boys, if the worst comes to the worst, and you are to die for your country, do it with your back to the wall; ask no mercy and give none. (Loud applause).

The individual soldiers responded and thanked their well-wishers. Albert Barlow … thanked all the ladies and gentlemen, and hoped to be be back once more with them after the war.

However, of the 4 men farewelled that night, Barlow and Rendell were killed and George Mckenzie was seriously wounded and discharged on medical grounds. Only Henry McKenzie survived intact.

Private Barlow joined 37 Battalion and left for England on 3/6/16. He undertook further training in England and then moved across to France in September 1916. At that point, he was taken on strength of 5 Battalion and remained in that unit until his death.

There was an extended period of hospitalisation – he was transferred to hospital back in England – with trench feet from mid December 1916. The convalescence lasted 52 days and even when he was discharged in mid March 1917, the medical notes recorded,

Circulation poor and fairly painful. Feet still tender.

He rejoined his unit in France in early May 1917. However, there were still problems with his feet and at the start of 1918 there was another brief period of hospitalisation.

Private Barlow was another victim of shell fire. However on this occasion, his unit was well behind the front line, near Meteren some 20 Km S-W from Ypres. They had been withdrawn from the front line that very day and one witness statement had the troops as far back as 3 miles from the front. The war diary for the battalion records that on the night of the 19th April,

Billets of Bn. Shelled at night caused casualties 4 ORs killed and 9 ORs wounded.

Private Barlow was one of the 4 killed.

There were numerous witness statements concerning his death. Essentially, he was hit by HE shellfire at about 8.30 pm when the troops were in their billet, an old mill. There was one explicit account that had his head blown off; but another had him hit by a ‘piece of shrapnel to the heart ‘which killed him instantly; and yet another had him ‘hit by a piece of shell through the head’. While these are significant differences, there was consensus that death was instant.

There were several references to the others killed in the same bombardment:

I saw him [Barlow] killed by an H.E. shell which killed 4 and wounded 5 others. 2 kilos out of “Caestres” near River Somme. Buried at Borre, cemetery – cross on grave. Enlisted Victoria 3-6-16. Left with 37th Battn. About 20, 5ft 9ins, stocky built, dark, nicknamed Ben (sic). Came from Gippsland – his people – farmers.    Barnes H. C. 540B    5th Battn H.Q. 7/9/18

I did not see him killed but I helped to dig “Bill” Barlow’s (D. Company) grave in the new cemetery at Borre near Hazebrouch (sic), he was buried with 4 others in the same grave (Pte. Woldron, Pte. Brown, one British soldier who we could not identify and an Australian). I saw the cross giving particulars.    Pte. J. Kendall    5th Battn. 5/9/18

Private William Waldron (7340) was also in 5 Battalion. He was from Stawell. He was killed on the same day as Private Barlow, as was Private Thomas Sheridan Brown (3731), also of 5 Battalion, from Bendigo. Privates Brown, Barlow and Waldron are all buried in Borre British Cemetery. They are all in Plot I, Row A, in graves 14, 15 and 16 respectively.

There were several references in the witness statements to Private Barlow being a good sportsman: footballer, athlete and boxer. One even referred to the fact that his front teeth were missing. He was described as … very well known and liked in the Battn.

It appears that the cable advising of the death came in early May (7/5/18) and news of his death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 10/5/18:

The sad and regretful news came through on Wednesday [8/5/18] that Private A. Barlow, the eldest son of Mr. Caleb Barlow, had been killed in action in France. Naturally a shock came to the parents, when they were informed that the supreme sacrifice had been paid by their son, who was a fine athletic young man, and had enlisted nearly two years ago.

The following death notice appeared in the same edition:

BARLOW – Killed in action on 19th April, somewhere in France, Albert Edward, eldest son of Caleb and Dinah Barlow, brother of Daisy, Percy, Harold and Thomas, aged 20 years and 1 month. On active service 1 year and 11 months. [At that time, Percy would have been either 18 or 19 years old.]

He marched away so bravely,
His young head proudly held;
His footsteps never faltered,
His courage never failed.

When on the battlefield
He calmly took his place;
He fought and died for Britain,
For country and his race.

The midnight stars are shining on a grave I cannot see,
There sleeping without dreaming is the one so dear to me.
No matter how I pray, dear Albert, no matter how I call,
There is nothing left to answer but your photo on the wall.
– Inserted by his loving parents, North Devon.

The personal effects to reach the family in September 1918 were:

Disc, Silver medal, Metal wrist watch (damaged) & strap [presumably the one presented at his farewell], Testament, Wallet, Photos, 3 Cards.

In May 1919, the local solicitor, BP Johnson wrote, on behalf of the mother, to Base Records to ascertain if she was eligible for the ‘mother’s badge’ [First World War Mothers’ and Widows’ Badge]. In June, Base Records replied, attaching a … form of application for the badge issued to the nearest female relative.

Albert Edward Barlow’s name is featured on both Shire of Alberton memorials – roll of honor and soldiers’ memorial – and it also appears on the honor rolls for the state schools of Devon North and Alberton and also on the roll for the district of Devon North.

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 BARLOW Albert Edward
Roll of Honour: Albert Edward Barlow
First World War Embarkation Roll: Albert Edward Barlow
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Albert Edward Barlow
Honour and Awards: Albert Edward Barlow

159. P J Sexton

SEXTON Patrick john  640
XXII Anzac Corps Mounted Regiment KIA 17/4/18

Patrick Sexton was the second of my wife’s great uncles to be killed in WW1. The first was Patrick Mills (see Post 80). Both these men were from the Shire of Alberton and their personal stories were the initial incentive for the blog, Shire at War. My wife’s grandmother – Maggie Sexton – was one of 2 sisters of Patrick Sexton.

Patrick Sexton was born in Yarram and his family ran a dairy farm at Stacey’s Bridge. The family were long-term residents of the district. Patrick’s grandfather, originally from Ireland (Kilrush), had been in the Alberton district from the mid 1850s. Patrick’s father – John Sexton – had been born at Yarram in 1862. Patrick had been born there in 1895. In the 1915 rate book, the father was described as a dairy farmer with approximately 200 acres at Alberton West. Patrick’s mother was Caroline Sexton (Cauley).

There was a younger brother – Norman – who was born in 1901 and was consequently too young to enlist. Norman was often mentioned in the local paper as the accompanying musician (pianist) at various fund-raisers and concerts during the War. There were also 2 sisters – Molly and Maggie.

As a young man Patrick Sexton was certainly well-known in the district. There was a detailed report in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (6/11/14) on the farewell held at Stacey’s Bridge for Pat Sexton and 2 other young men – Jack Cantwell and Aloysius Cotter. The report noted that all three had been members of the Stacey’s Bridge Rifle Club. Additionally, Patrick Sexton had been very involved in the local football competition and played for Devon. One other local who had enlisted with this group but who was not able to get leave to attend that night was William Edward Babington. Babington had been the captain of the Devon football team. Sexton, Cantwell and Cotter were Catholics and Babington was Presbyterian.

The farewell that night was one of the very first held in the district and the comments made reflected the early innocence of what was to come. As pointed out that night, the lads were very young and there was still the chance that they would not even get overseas to fight. Even if they did fight, the clear expectation was that those wishing them well would … welcome them home again safe and sound (Applause).

It was a credit to the Stacey’s Bridge district that four young fellows had volunteered, and they might well feel proud of them. It did not seem so long ago that they were boys going to school. They could not help calling them boys now, for they were only 18 or 19 years of age. A word of praise was due to their parents, who did not raise the slightest obstacle to their sons’ desire to go to fight. If they did leave Australian shores they would look back on the gathering here with a great degree of pleasure. When in other climes their thoughts would fly to the land of their birth, and the many friends in the little corner of Stacey’s Bridge, who had met to do them honor.

Of the four farewelled that night, Sexton and Babington would be killed: Babington at Messines in 1917 (Post 121) and Sexton at Mont Kemmel in 1918. Cotter and Cantwell both survived the War and they returned to Australian in early 1919. Cotter died in 1930, at the age of 34 years. He had suffered from pleurisy in the Middle East.

Patrick John Sexton enlisted as one of the large, initial group of volunteers from the Shire (Post 11). This was on 16/9/14 and the group was farewelled from the Alberton Railway Station on 22/9/14.

At the time of enlistment Patrick was 19 yo and therefore permission was required from his parents. There is a note from his father, John Sexton, dated 3 days after the enlistment, giving such permission,

This is to certify that I am willing for P.J. Sexton to join the Expeditionary Force Light Horse.

Trooper Sexton on enlistment 1914. Courtesy of Marie Sexton, niece of P J Sexton, daughter of Norman Sexton.

Trooper Sexton enlisted in the 4 Light Horse Regiment. His group left Melbourne on 22/12/14. Unfortunately, Trooper Sexton’s service file does not record his movement over 1915. His own short diary states that he reached Egypt on February 4, 1915. His unit, 4 Light Horse Regiment, served on Gallipoli from late May 1915 to the evacuation in December. His diary also records that he was on a troopship off Gallipoli on 25/4/15. However, he did not disembark and after a week aboard on the transport, the ship returned to Alexandria.  The diary suggests that he spent most – if not all the period from May to December 1915 – in Egypt. Some men were held back in Egypt to care for the regiment’s horses. However, the more likely explanation was that he was assigned to other duties.  In his service file, there is a brief reference to him rejoining his unit (4LHR) on 22/1/16 after a temporary attachment to Anzac HQ in Cairo. Additionally, his own diary records several attempts by him over the second half of 1915 to be re-assigned to 4 LHR.   It also appears that at least one of those he enlisted with – Jack Cantwell 607 – was also assigned to Anzac HQ at some point. The same might have even applied to another friend, Aloysius Cotter 606. As well, there is also the possibility that some or all of these men had served some time on Gallipoli before being attached to Anzac HQ (see Holloway 2011).

Trooper Sexton’s diary also records that he spent some time with his brother-in-law, Richard Slater, also of 4 LHR, in late September 1915 before he – Slater – was sent to Gallipoli. Slater had enlisted about 3 months after Sexton.

Patrick Sexton and his brother-in-law Richard Slater in Egypt 1916. Slater had been a teacher at Stacey’s Bridge. He married Molly Sexton. Courtesy of Pamela Cashen, great niece of Patrick Sexton.

When the Australian infantry divisions left Egypt for the Western Front in early 1916, they were accompanied by small units of mounted troops drawn from the Light Horse regiments. Trooper Sexton was in one of 2 squadrons taken from 4 Light Horse Regiment for this purpose. There was also a New Zealand squadron and the unit became known as II ANZAC Mounted Regiment. On the Western Front these mounted troops served in a variety of roles from traffic control to reconnaissance. They were regularly attached to other units. Often they acted in dismounted roles. When the Australian Corps was formed in November 1917, the unit became XXII Corps Mounted Regiment (XXII Corps Light Horse Regiment). Throughout 1917, the unit was involved in heavy fighting, from Messines to Passchendaele.

For his part, Trooper Sexton appears to have undertaken extensive training in anti-aircraft defence with the (French) Hotchkiss gun. He also completed specialist training with the Lewis gun and by the end of 1917 was himself conducting training classes. At the same there there were observation duties in the front line. In October 1917, he was in charge of a forward observation and listening post at Passchendaele. There was constant bombardment and his bravery and effectiveness in maintaining communication saw him awarded the Military Medal (Holloway 2011). There was an exceptionally brief note in his own diary for 4/11/17: I was awarded the Military Medal. There was a more fulsome account reported in the local paper on 16/1/18:

Word has been received that Corporal Patrick Sexton, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Sexton, Stacey’s Bridge, has been awarded the military medal for devotion to duty on the field in France. Corporal Sexton was amongst the first to volunteer in this district, and left Australia in 1914. For the first 18 months he saw service in Egypt, and 20 months ago was amongst other men picked for despatch work and sent to France.

Corporal P J Sexton MM. 1917. Courtesy of Pamela Cashen, great niece of Patrick Sexton.

Corporal Sexton was killed on 17/4/18. The cable advising the family was dated 2/5/18.
It appears that at the time of his death, his unit had been sent to help defend the British lines at Mont Kemmel. As already indicated, there was an established pattern of troops from XXII Corps Light Horse Regiment being used to supplement other forces. Unfortunately, it is difficult to locate war diary records for the unit but it appears that Corporal Sexton was killed on the day the German launched their offensive against Mont Kemmel. The casualty rate for XXII Corps Light Horse Regiment in the fighting on Kemmel in April 1918 was the highest it experienced over the entire War.

The German attack on Mont Kemmel was preceded by intense bombardment. The initial assault was repulsed. However, the Germans did manage to overrun the positions later in April (25/4/18).

Corporal Sexton was killed in the German bombardment. There are many witness statements describing how he was killed by shellfire.

Sexton was a Cpl., a tall man, his home was at Stacey’s Bridge, Yarram, Victoria. On April 17 we were at Kemmel hill when a shell burst close to Sexton, and he was smothered by the debris. He received the full force of the shell in the back, his spine being broken. He was buried close to where he fell. A stick and indication disc were placed over the grave. I was only 10 yards away and saw him killed and buried.   Sgt Eric Buchanan, 1576   17.8.18

Re 640. Cpl. P. J. Sexton of D. Squadron XXII Corps Cavalry Regt. This N.C.O. belonged to my particular troop and I regret to state was killed some time ago at Mont Kemmel. He was buried on the field on the slopes of Mont Kemmel. If it will assist you at all I’d like to mention that I have just written to his mother in Australia, giving her all the particulars available.    Claude. E. Apps. Lieut. D. Squadron. XXII Corps Cavalry. Rgt. France    14-8-18

The temporary grave was lost, most probably when the Germans overran the position later in the month. Mont Kemmel was recaptured in September 1918, by US units.

Corporal Sexton’s name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial. In the Shire of Alberton, the name was recorded on both the Roll of Honor and the Soldiers’ Memorial. It was also recorded on the separate memorial for the district of Stacey’s Bridge.

There was extensive reporting in the local paper of Corporal Sexton’s death. Presumably, this was because he was so well known and also because he had been one of the very first to enlist. He had been in the AIF for more than three and a half years. On 8/5/18 the following detailed report was published in the paper:

The sad tidings reached Mr. and Mrs. John Sexton, Stacey’s Bridge, on Friday [3/5/18], that their son, Corporal Patrick Sexton, had been killed on active service. The news came as a great blow to the family and his many friends. Pat was in his 24th year, and had seen 3 years and 8 months’ active service. He left Australia at Xmas 1914 as a light horseman, but in Egypt was put in charge of a machine gun. He gained distinction on the battlefield, and for his bravery and devotion to duty was awarded the military medal. He was with his friend, E. Babington, when he fell in the Messiness battle [This was E (Ted) Babington the former captain of the Devon football team], and in all engagements up to the last Pat never received a scratch. It is thought he received the fatal wound at Arras, between 14th and 17th April [He was in fact killed at Mont Kemmel on 17/4/18], when the Australians did such splendid work. Pat. was a noted horseman, and for rough-riding at the Broadmeadows camp before embarking won a champion contest. None could compare with him. As a member of the Stacey’s Bridge rifle club he ranked amongst the best shots, and won quite a number of trophies. He also excelled as a footballer with the Devon team, eight of which have paid the supreme sacrifice, including their genial captain (E. Babington). Pat led an exemplary life, a strict teetotaller and non-smoker. This is the third member of the Stacey’s Bridge rifle club that has fallen.

On the same day (8/5/18), 2 death notices from the family appeared in the local paper. The first, ‘inserted by his sorrowing father, mother, sisters and brother’ noted that he had been killed in action ‘somewhere in France’. The second was inserted by his younger brother Norman – at the time Norman would have been 17 yo – and featured a poem which pointed to a strong Catholic faith.

Though my heart is full of sorrow,
And my eyes are dim with tears:
There is one thing I am proud of,
He went as a volunteer.

I pictured you safe returning, Pat,
And I urged to clasp your hand.
But God has postponed our meeting,
It will be in a brighter land.

Immaculate heart of Mary,
Your prayers for him extol;
O, sacred heart of Jesus,
Have mercy on his soul.

There was also a reference the same day to a ‘memorial mass for the repose of the soul of the late Corporal Patrick Sexton’ which was to behold ‘in Stacey’s Bridge hall on Sunday, 19th, at 11 o’clock’.

In July 1918 (3/7/18) the local paper reproduced 2 letters sent to the family with details of the death. The first was by an unnamed ‘comrade’.

A comrade, writing home, says that Trooper Pat. Sexton was “buried by a shell, and by the time they dug him out he was dead. The doctor said his back was broken, and that he must have been killed instantly. The shell that got him had gas in it, so if he had not been hurt, the gas would have smothered him. I was there at the time. All the boys thought the world of Paddy, and I can tell you he was one of the best.

The second was from Major Roy McLeish DSO who had been attached to ’22 Anzac Light Horse’ / ‘XXII Corps Mounted Regiment’ from the middle of 1917 and who appears to have been the CO at the time of Sexton’s death. The praise is fulsome. He wrote to the mother:

I hardly know how to write to you to tell you of the death of your brave son. He was killed instantly by a shell early on the morning of 18th (sic) April. His death has affected me most deeply, and also all my squadron. He was looked up to by everyone, and respected as the finest character in the regiment, and as being the bravest man we knew. I had been with him all day, and he had only left me a short time before to go to his trench. … Mrs. Sexton, I can’t write any more to you. I know how you must feel. My own mother died not long ago, and I know what a terrible grief it is. This awful war has saddened many homes. You have the consolation of knowing that your son died died in action after a glorious military career, regretted and mourned by everyone who knew him.

Corporal Sexton’s effects were returned to his family in December 1918: Pair of binoculars, prayer book, wallet, diary, photos, cards

The Military Medal was presented to his parents in Melbourne. Most likely this event took place at the time of the Melbourne Show as the mother indicated in a letter to Base Records in late August 1918 that ‘Show Week would suit’, otherwise the commitments of the dairy farm made it too difficult for both parents to make the trip to Melbourne. The Melbourne Royal Show in 1918 opened on Monday 23 September.

Sexton family history tells of the intense grief that followed Patrick’s death. The father died in 1924 and the family farm was sold not long after. It was the classic case of the son who had everything going for him and the son who should have taken over the family farm never returning from the War. After the sale of the farm at Stacey’s Bridge, the only member of this branch of the Sexton family to remain in the district was Maggie. In 1922, Maggie had married Frederick Mills, brother of Patrick Mills who was killed at Pozieres. Their farm was at Carrajung South.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SEXTON Patrick
Roll of Honour: Patrick John Sexton
First World War Embarkation Roll: Patrick John Sexton
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Patrick John Sexton
Honours and Awards: Patrick John Sexton

Holloway, D 2011, Endure and Fight: A detailed history of the 4th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, 1914-19 Gallipoli, Sinai and Palestine, France and Belgium, Dr David Holloway, The 4th Light Horse Regiment Memorial Association, Port Melbourne, Victoria.

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

Trooper Sexton kept a brief personal note-book of his time in the AIF, but the contents are sparse and confined to routine matters like the dates of pay. The tone of the writing is almost completely devoid of emotion. The single reference to being awarded the military medal – I was awarded the Military Medal – was typical.