Category Archives: July to December 1917

146. Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

This post continues the analysis of

Post 23: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 57:  Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 63: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 83: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 103: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Post 128. Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

It continues the ongoing work to describe and interpret the essential character of all those associated with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1.


The numbers are too small to continue the previous statistical analysis. Of the 10 enlistments, 8 gave their religion as Church of England and of the other 2 one was Methodist, and the second Roman Catholic.


Of the 9 men who made it overseas, 2 went as reinforcements, to the Middle East, for the 4th Light Horse Regiment.  The other 7 joined several infantry battalions, with the single largest number (3) joining 39 Battalion, which had been formed in Ballarat in February 1916.

Service History

While the numbers are too small for meaningful statistical analysis, it is clear that even those who enlisted in the final year of the War did not have it easy.

For this group of men there was no sense that the fighting was tapering off, notwithstanding the constant reassurances in the press that the Allies were forever gaining the upper hand.  They knew – either directly from siblings and other friends already serving, or indirectly from the extensive casualty lists in the papers – what the risks were. Indeed, one of the 9 who served overseas – Robert Cross – would be killed. He survived the fighting to late August 1918 when he was killed in action. He was only 19 yo when he was killed. In addition, 4 would be wounded, with the most common wound being ‘gassed’.

Six of the 10 who enlisted were to be discharged on medical grounds, as a result of being wounded or from some disease. In fact, only 3 of the group of 10 made it through ‘untouched’ right to the end; and the ‘end’ was nearly one full year after the fighting ceased, with all 3 discharged as TPEs (Termination of Period of Enlistment)  in either August or September 1919.


As pointed out several times already, the cohort was very small. However, the figures certainly at least suggest that so far into the War- the fighting by then had been raging for 3 full years – the burden was still falling, disproportionately, on young – often very young – single men. The War itself had become a rite of passage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The number in this cohort is very small and it is difficult to draw definite conclusions. However the same general features observed with the earlier, larger cohorts appear to apply. Only about half were born in the Shire of Alberton and, of those born in the Shire, several had moved out of it by the time they enlisted.

This is the first cohort not to feature anyone born in the United Kingdom. All previous cohorts have featured men, usually young men, who had been born in the UK and immigrated to Australia, in most cases, as farm workers. They had enlisted in the AIF and returned to fight for the ‘mother country’ or, more correctly, their ‘home land’. In all, there had been at least 100 such cases.  It appears that by the end of 1917 this particular group was exhausted.


There were 3 of the cohort linked in some way to the family farm. As usual, the relationships were complex. Lee Furlong described himself as a ‘labourer’ but, according to the 1915 shire rate book, his father held 12 acres at Won Wron. Similarly, Leonard Jeffs described himself as a ‘labourer’ but his father held 170 acres at Boodyarn. The exception was Ernest Gay who described himself as a ‘farmer’. But it was his mother who had the 35 acres at Devon North. All 3 men were either 21 or 22 years old so it seems reasonable to presume that all had some sort of association with a family farm. There was also another of the men – Reuben Godfrey – then living and working in West Australia, who described himself as a ‘farmer’. He was 34 yo. It is not known if he held the farm in his own right or he was working as a ‘farm labourer’ or on a family farm; and as has been pointed out, it was possible for men to work on the family farm and also on the farms of others in the district. Besides the 4 linked to farming in some form or other, with one exception – James Rodgers, the young bank clerk – the rest were employed in manual work of various skill levels.


Again the numbers are too small to make statistical significance of them. The table below shows the ages for this cohort.

Ages of volunteers – second half of 1917
18-20         4
21-25         4
26-30          0
31-35          2
36+              0
total          10

One of the common criticisms raised by the civic elders at local recruiting drives was that the ‘older’ single men – those in their twenties and thirties – refused to enlist and left the burden of service to the very young. The table, with 8 of the ‘men’ 22 yo or younger – and 4 of these were 20 yo or younger – does tend to support the claim. As mentioned, the other dynamic probably at play here was the appeal that the heroic ideal of the soldier’s life – particularly the life of those serving in the AIF – held for the younger generation. Enlistment at a young age offered the chance to attain manhood instantly.

Marital Status

Only one of the men was married. William Mason first enlisted in January 1916 but he only lasted one month before being discharged as medically unfit. At the time of this first enlistment he was married. When he enlisted again in December 1917 he was a widower. By then he was living with his mother in Prahran. If there were children, possibly the mother looked after them when he enlisted. When he returned to Australia (March 1919) he was again discharged on medical grounds (pleurisy).


Arguably, with this very small cohort, the most telling observation is that the War – or more correctly, the appeal of life in the AIF – was still a powerful attraction for the young.


144. Enlistments in the second half of 1917

This post presents the table of those with an association with the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in the second half of 1917. It builds on the work of 6 earlier posts that have analysed enlistments, in six-monthly intervals, from August 1914:

Post 21: Enlistments to the end of 1914: identifying the ‘locals’ ,

Post 55: Enlistments in the first half of 1915 ,

Post 61: Enlistments in the second half of 1915 

Post 81. Enlistments in the first half of 1916.

Post 101. Enlistments in the second half of 1916.

Post 126. Enlistments in the first half of 1917.

The most striking feature of the table below is the very low number of enlistments. Admittedly, there could be one or two men who have been missed. For example, there was a George Davis who was reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative –  on 1/7/17 as having enlisted, but it has not been possible to trace him. As well, there were 3 men – John Henley, Arthur Lindseay and Thomas Race Pryke – who were given railway warrants by the Shire Secretary to travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process but for some reason – most likely they failed the second medical – the enlistment did not go ahead. The last of these men – Thomas Race Pryke – was a labourer of Alberton, in his forties. His wife had recently died and there were 6 children with the youngest an infant. It is not hard to see why his enlistment did not proceed.

The following summary shows enlistments from 1914. The total figure to the end of 1917 was 734.

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

The table shows how enlistments declined dramatically from mid 1916. The most obvious interpretation for the decline is that the pool of available recruits from the Shire of Alberton gradually disappeared. Indeed, a constant claim was that the Shire of Alberton – as for the rest of Gippsland, and country Victoria generally – had proudly and enthusiastically done its share and there was effectively no one – or hardly anyone – left to enlist. The problem was Melbourne with all its ‘shirkers’.

Importantly, there was always the next generation to appeal to: the boys who were only 15 or 16 years old when the War started.  Of the 10 ‘men’ in this group, six were 21 years or younger and 2 were 19 yo and one was 18 yo.

The cohort of 10 is very small, but it is interesting that half of them had at least one brother who was already serving in the AIF. ‘Sibling’, as opposed to ‘imperial’ or ‘national’, loyalty would have been a factor in enlistments.

Again, the ‘quality’ of recruits was also down. The 3 oldest men in the group – R C Godfrey (34), W H Mason (31) and E H Gay (22) – had all been previously rejected on medical grounds. Even one of those not yet twenty-one – K A Neilson (19) – had been rejected (‘chest measurement’).

The numbers show that by the end of 1917, the system of voluntary enlistment had effectively finished in the Shire of Alberton. While it had not been formally abandoned or closed down, it was no longer capable of attracting recruits, principally because the available pool had dried up. This was the background to the second referendum on conscription.


143. R Yon

YON Robert Henry 6410
21 B  KiA 11/11/17

Robert Henry Yon was born in Crystal Brook, South Australia. He grew up in the local area and attended the Crystal Brook State School. He came from a large family and three of his brothers also served in the AIF. Two of these – Charles Albert and Harry – enlisted nearly 2 years before Robert and the third – Percival Edward – much younger, did not enlist until near the end of the War (1/6/18). Unlike Robert, the 3 other brothers joined units in South Australia. They all survived the War. There was a fifth, older brother – Ernest – who did not enlist. He lived in Adelaide.

When he enlisted on 25/10/16 Robert was living and working in Yarram. His name appeared on the electoral roll (1915) as ‘labourer’ of Boodyarn. He gave Yarram as his address on the enlistment papers. He had his medical and enlisted in Warragul but he was definitely local to the Shire of Alberton. The local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – included his name in a short report on 15/11/16 detailing locals who had recently been presented with the shire medallion. He had been given it personally when he was back in Yarram on final leave. His name is featured on both the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. But for all the obvious links to the Shire of Alberton, when the oldest brother – Ernest – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he stated that the town or district with which his brother Robert was ‘chiefly connected’ was Crystal Brook.

Robert Yon’s enlistment papers show that he had tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist at least once before. Possibly he had been rejected because of his height, which was given as 5’ 3”.
On enlistment Private Yon gave his religion as C of E. However 2 of his brothers gave their religion as Roman Catholic and the third as Methodist. Such variation between siblings was not common. He was single at the time of enlistment and he gave his father as his next-of-kin. A letter in his file, written by his older, married sister – Alice James – indicates that the father died not long after the enlistment and that the mother was already deceased.

Private Yon enlisted as reinforcements for 21 Battalion and left Australia on 23/11/16, one month after enlisting. His unit reached Plymouth at the end of January 1917. In England his group of reinforcements was attached to 6 Training Battalion and he did not leave for France until June. He finally joined 21 Battalion in France on 24/6/17. While in training in England he spent a month in hospital with ‘tracheitis’. In France there was another month’s hospitalisation (2/8/17-6/9/17) but there are no details on the illness.

Private Yon was killed in action on 11/11/17, two months after leaving hospital and rejoining the battalion. The family was advised by cable dated 3/12/17. The date of the completion of the formal report of death was 19/1/18. He was buried in the field, in an isolated grave South West of Zonnebeke & 3 ¾ miles E of Ypres. In 1920 the family was advised that his body had been exhumed and re-interred in Aeroplane British Cemetery. The cemetery is a few kilometres north-east of Ypres.

Correspondence in the file reveals that the notification of death was made to the older sister, Alice James of Crystal Brook, and the information was relayed to her by 4 Military District in Adelaide. As indicated, the father – given as next-of-kin on enlistment – was by this point dead.

The battalion diary for 21 Battalion reveals that it was moved to the front line on 7/11/17 in the Westhoek Ridge area near Zonnebeke to relieve 18 Battalion (AIF). It remained in the line until 11/11/17 when it in turn was relieved by 6 Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. In the 5 days at the front, the battalion served in various working and carrying parties. The diary specifically records the men making “Pill Boxes” gasproof. These were the German defensive concrete strongholds captured in the recent fighting.

There are no casualties recorded in the dairy on the specific day that Private Yon was killed and in fact for the period the battalion was in the line (7/11 – 11/11) the diary records only 1dead (not Private Yon) and 8 wounded. Unfortunately, there is no Red Cross report, so the circumstances surrounding the death are unknown, accepting that the family might have received information from others in his battalion.

Private Yon had a will, drawn up exactly 5 months before his death (11/6/17), that left everything to his older brother, Ernist (sic) Yon of 2 Queen Street, Adelaide. However, as already indicated, notice of his death was made to his married sister, Mrs Alice James of Crystal Brook. On the attestation papers the first entry for next-of-kin recorded the father. Then after his death the name of the married sister had been added. However even later (mid 1921) her name had been crossed out and replaced by that of Ernest Yon, ‘eldest brother’. For this family the issue of next-of-kin was contentious.

Essentially, the oldest sibling in the family was the daughter Alice (James) and the oldest son was Ernest (Yon). As indicated, initially correspondence was directed to Alice as the next-of-kin. However the the issue of the distribution of medals – under the ‘Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act, 1918’ – was a separate matter and precedence had to be given to Ernest as the ‘oldest surviving brother’. When faced with this situation, Alice was indignant. In July 1921, when she was informed that the medals had to go to her younger brother – as the oldest surviving brother – she wrote,

In reply to your letter of witch (sic) I received last week [I want to state] that my Brother Private R. H. Yon 21st Battalion No 6410 [h]as nobody older than myself living. he [h]as a brother next to me none older. he [h]as no father or mother living [.] I am the Eldest and his Next to Kin[.] the Brother that is younger than me lives in Adelaide at No 2 Queen Street. I cannot make out why my Brother witch is younger than me should get the Medal or anything concerning the late Pt R H Yon 21st Battalion No 6410[.] I trust you will carefully read this and kindly oblige.

Base Records determined that the ‘war medals etc ‘were to go to the brother.

It is obviously not possible to uncover the family dynamics involved here but the case does point to the potential for family conflict over the estate and memorabilia of the deceased son or sibling. In this particular case the oldest brother – Ernest Yon – received the Memorial Scroll, the Memorial Plaque and medals. He also received, in September 1918, his brother’s identity disc, the only piece of personal kit that was returned.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for YON Robert Henry 6410
Roll of Honour: Robert Henry Yon
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert Henry Yon

142. C Hibbs / A Goodwin

HIBBS Clifton (Clifford) / GOODWIN Arthur 2867
23 B KiA 10/11/17

Private Arthur Goodwin was killed in action on 10/11/17. At the time he was with 23 Battalion in the front line near Passchendaele. The war diary for 23 Battalion reveals that the battalion moved to the front line late evening on 7/11/17. It was relieved on 12/11/17. On the first day, there were 6 men killed as positions were taken up but the next 2 days were relatively quiet, even though patrols were sent out each night. However on the morning of 10/11/17 there were 4 men killed – one of them Private Goodwin – by enemy shelling. The diary explains that the men were killed when the Germans retaliated to a British barrage that had been fired at 6 a.m.

There is a detailed Red Cross report covering his death. There are the usual inconsistencies but, overall, the account was that Private Goodwin and 4 others were killed when a high-explosive shell hit the shell hole they were in. It was a direct hit and the other 4 were killed instantly. Goodwin, badly wounded, lived for about an hour. The fighting was too intense to remove the body and he was buried where he died. Those who made the statements spoke highly of him. He was described as ‘very popular’ with a ‘nice disposition’ and a ‘fine cheerful lad’.

Even though Private Goodwin was buried on the battlefield his body was recovered and he was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. No personal kit was returned.

The cable advising of his death was dated 1/12/17. It was sent, presumably, to the next-of-kin identified on his enlistment papers, his father – William Goodwin, 30 Regent Street, North Richmond. Private Goodwin had given the same address as his own when he enlisted. At the time he enlisted he was 21 yo and single. He gave his occupation as labourer. He had not had any previous military experience.

He had enlisted in Melbourne on 3/7/16 as reinforcements for 2 Pioneer Battalion and he embarked from Melbourne on 20/10/16. When he finally reached France in August 1917, after further training in England, he was attached to 23 Battalion. He was taken on strength on 1/9/17 and was killed just over 2 months later.

On the information given so far, there is nothing to tie Private Goodwin to the Shire of Alberton.
However, in May 1918 Mrs Thomas Hibbs of Tarraville wrote to Base Records asking if there was any information regarding her ‘grandson’, Private A Goodwin 2867, 23 Battalion who had been killed in action on 10/11/17. She wanted to know if there was a will and what the situation was with his deferred pay.

Base Records replied that there was no further information – other than that he had been killed on 10/11/17 – and gave her the contact for issues to do with pay. But it was to be another year before the full story of Private Goodwin began to emerge.

It is not entirely clear what happened next but it appears that round September 1919 a Mrs Edith Campbell, also of Tarraville, wrote to Base Records asking if any ‘personal property’ of Private Goodwin had been recovered. As indicated, no personal belongings were returned and Base Records replied (5/9/19) stating that it was unlikely any property would be recovered.

Inevitably, Base Records had to make contact with the next-of-kin – given as the father – in order to issue war medals and the memorial plaque. However, communications that were sent to 30 Regent Street, North Richmond – the father’s address given by Private Goodwin – were returned. At this point Base Records wrote to the Mrs Edith Campbell who had written to them in May 1918. It appears that in addition to her previous correspondence on the return of personal belongings, Base Records had also identified her from what was taken as Private Goodwin’s will: an extract from a letter to her (‘Dearest Edith’) from him (‘Arthur’) dated 6/8/17, in which he had stated:

I had to make my will today and I made it out in favour of you so if I get killed over here you will get all my Deferred Pay.

On 7/1/21, Base Records wrote to Mrs. E. Campbell, Tarraville:

If you are aware of the present address of next-of-kin of the late No. 2867 Private A. Goodwin, 23 Battalion, shown as – Father, Mr. William Goodwin – kindly furnish same, as a communication forwarded to him at – 30 Regent Street, North Richmond, Victoria, has been returned unclaimed.

The reply from Mrs Campbell was dated 12/1/21:

Having received a communication from you regarding the whereabouts of Mr William Goodwin shown as next of kin of No 2867 23 Battalion Private Arthur Goodwin, I must inform you that he is deceased about 18 mts. ago. I would also like to state that Mr William Goodwin was not his next of kin, but he is his brother in law, as Private Arthur Goodwin enlisted under the name of Goodwin. His rightful name being Clifford Hibbs. His father & mother is (sic) still living at Tarraville. His father’s name is Thomas Hibbs, & mother’s name, Mary Ann Hibbs. Hoping this information may be some use to you.

In the letter Mrs Campbell did not reveal that she was the youngest sister of Clifford Hibbs (Arthur Goodwin) but she did disclose his ‘true’ identity and the real next-of-kin.

On 17/1/21, Base Records wrote to Thomas Hibbs in an obvious attempt to settle the true identity of Private Arthur Goodwin:

I understand you are the father of the late No. 2867 Private A. Goodwin, (correct name stated to be Clifford Hibbs), 23rd Battalion, and shall be much obliged if you will favour me confirmation of this in the form of a Statutory Declaration, in order that I may be in a position to properly dispose of deceased’s war medals, etc.

The father replied immediately (20/1/21):

In replying to your communication of the 17th Re. (2867) Pte A Goodwin, I wish to state that I am his father & that his correct name is Clifford Hibbs, & I consider myself entitled to any articles which the deceased may have left or any army medals or colours due to said soldier.

However, Base Records (7/2/21) was not prepared to accept the father’s claims so readily, particularly given earlier correspondence from his wife (May 1918). They definitely wanted a statutory declaration:

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 20th January concerning the affairs of the late No. 2867 Private A Goodwin (correct name stated to be Hibbs), 23rd Battalion, and to state that it is noted from the file that Mrs. Thomas Hibbs wrote to this office in 1918 claiming the soldier as her GRANDSON, so that unless you are prepared to make a Statutory Declaration, setting forth the full facts, I am afraid I am unable to reconcile the two statements. In any case such a document would be necessary before I could make any amendments to the records, and, as the disposal of deceased’s war medals, etc., hinges on this matter, I shall be glad if you will let me have the desired declaration at the earliest possible moment.

But the father did not provide the required statutory declaration. Instead he wrote the following, dated 11/2/21:

Having received your communication regarding the late No 2867 Private Clifford Hibbs, 23 Battalion I wish to state that my son enlisted for Active Service in Melbourne without our knowledge and took his sister’s name (Goodwin). I also wish to state once again that I am the father of deceased and his mother’s name is Mary Ann Hibbs. My son was born at Tarraville, on 5th November in the year 1894 so if this statement is not sufficient I think it should be.

As a post script he added:
P.S Will not carry on any further with this business.

The father never supplied the requested statutory declaration but it appears that this letter put an end to the question of Clifford Hibbs’ identity. The matter does not appear to have been pursued further and the war medals were sent to the father.

There is no way of knowing if people in the local community knew that Clifford Hibbs had enlisted as Arthur Goodwin. However, the family made sure that death notices and in memoriams appeared only in the name of Clifford Hibbs. For example, the following death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (12/12/17), about 10 days after the ‘bogus’ next-of-kin (of Arthur Goodwin) had been advised of the death:

Hibbs – Killed in action on 10th Nov., Private Clifford Hibbs, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Gibbs, Tarraville.
Killed in action said the cable.
That was all that it could tell
Of a life so nobly given,
Of a son we loved so well.
Though our hearts are full of sorrow,
And our eyes are dimmed with tears,
There is something we are proud of,
He went as a volunteer.
Midst the roaring of the battle,
Midst the rain of shot and shell,
Fighting for God, King and loved ones
Poor Cliff like a hero fell.
– Inserted by his sorrowing parents and brothers and sister.

On the face of it, there appeared to be a strange double-standard at work at the time. As far as the AIF was concerned, the family appeared to be reluctant to come forward and correct the issue of their son’s identity and it was only when confronted with the issue, several years after the War, that they admitted the alias. The family then explained it in terms of the son having enlisted without telling the parents. However, in the local community, immediately after news reached them, the family was forthright in informing everyone that their son – Clifford Hibbs – had been killed in action in France.

There was another twist in this story that might explain the double standard. On 27/7/15 a young man named Clifton Hibbs enlisted. He had his initial medical at Yarram and then completed the enlistment process in Melbourne. He gave his father – Thomas Hibbs of Tarraville – as his next-of-kin. He gave his age as 21 years 7 months and he was single. His occupation was given as ‘farm labourer’. This enlistment was written up in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – at the time (21/7/15) and the young man concerned was identified by his full name: Clifton Hibbs.

Clifton Hibbs did not last in the AIF. He was reported to be a deserter from 1/9/15. He left from the Training Depot at Ascot Vale. The report written on his desertion noted simply that he had been in service for less than six months. Interestingly it gave the address of his father – Thomas Hibbs – as Yarraville. It was in fact Tarraville. The confusion between Tarraville and Yarraville was very common.

It seems reasonable to suggest that Clifford Hibbs was Clifton Hibbs. Clifton was the eighth of the 11 children of Thomas and Mary Ann Hibbs of Tarraville.

The reason(s) behind Clifton’s desertion are unknown. If the father’s statement about this son’s date-of-birth is correct then he was just under 21 yo when he enlisted and, in theory, he should have had his parents’ written permission; but there is no trace of this in his file. However, it does not appear that there was any problem with the initial enlistment. As indicated, he had his first medical in Yarram and the enlistment was written up in the local paper.

Interestingly, when an article on the unveiling of the honor roll for Tarraville State School appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11/7/17 – two years after Clifton Hibbs had enlisted (17/7/15) and one year after Arthur Goodwin had enlisted (3/7/16) – the name was given as Clifford Hibbs. The roll was updated later to show that he had been killed. This suggests, that as far as the family was concerned, Clifton became Clifford not long after Arthur Goodwin enlisted. Presumably, if he had been known as ‘Cliff’, the shift in name would have hardly been noticed.

The full story will probably never be known but what is beyond dispute is that a local from Tarraville – Clifton Hibbs/ Arthur Goodwin/ Clifford Hibbs – was killed in action on 10/11/17. His sacrifice was as great as any other local who was killed but his name is not featured on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. He is buried under two of his names – Clifford Hibbs and Arthur Goodwin – in Tyne Cot Cemetery.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for GOODWIN Arthur 2867
National Archives file for HIBBS Clifton Depot
Roll of Honour: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs
First World War Embarkation Roll: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur Goodwin/Clifford Hibbs

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project

141. Beersheba 31 Oct, 1917: R H Morley, A Wilson & A S Tregilgas

Beersheba, October 31, 1917

There was far more to the capture of Beersheba on 31/10/17 than the assault by 2 mounted regiments – 4 and 12 – of the Australian Light Horse on the evening of the battle. However it was this charge by the Australian horsemen, with drawn bayonets, overrunning the Turkish entrenchments that created the most vivid image of the day’s fighting, both for those there and, in turn, all those who came to read about the battle, both in the media at the time and the many histories that followed.

For those at the time, here was a military victory from another time – a throwback to the past glories of the Empire – one that was so different from the industrial slaughter on the Western Front. The casualties were negligible. The men, as both horsemen and fighters – were superb. The charge itself was reckless, daring and unstoppable. For those who saw it that day – and perhaps also those who could imagine it – it was also such an over-powering spectacle.

Beersheba proved that highly mobile, lightly-armed cavalry was still very effective, at least in that particular theatre of the War. In the euphoria, other factors tended to be downplayed or overlooked: the accurate artillery support provided, the lack of barbed wire in front of the Turkish trenches and, of course, the strategic victories won on the same day by the infantry, and also dismounted horsemen from other (Australian and New Zealand) light horse regiments.

The following short extracts from Bean’s account of the charge in the Official History begin to explain how and why Beersheba – or more correctly the charge of the light horse at dusk in the battle for Beersheba – came to play such a revered role in the Anzac story:

The fine exploit of the 4th and 12th Regiments, although it occupied less than an hour, and although only 400 or 500 light horsemen actually made touch with the enemy, had a far-reaching effect on the whole campaign. (p403)

This dazzling success of galloping horsemen against an enemy in entrenchments was of vital significance to an army commander who had at his disposal a great force of three mounted divisions. It was a shining precedent to every divisional, brigade and regimental leader. (p 403)

A German staff officer captured in Beersheba said that, when the 4th Brigade was seen to move, its advance had been taken for a mere demonstration. “We did not believe,” he said, “that the charge would be pushed home. That seemed an impossible intention. I have heard a great deal of the fighting quality of Australian soldiers. They are not soldiers at all; they are madmen.” From then to the end of the war the Turks never forgot Beersheba; their cavalry, always shy of the light horsemen, from that hour practically faded out of the war, so afraid were they of a blow from these reckless men who had ridden their big horses over strongly armed entrenchments; and the enemy infantry, when galloped, as after Beersheba they frequently were, invariably shot wildly and surrendered early in the conflict.
The charge had dealt a heavy wound to the enemy morale, from the High Command down to the men in the ranks. (p 404)


Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume VII – The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914 – 1918, 10th Edition 1941
Chapter XXIII – The Battle of Beersheba

For a general background on Beersheba see,
Beaumont, J 2013, Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW. [p363ff]

See also the article in the most recent edition of Wartime-Official Magazine of the Australian War Memorial, Issue 80 Spring 2017:
‘Beersheba and its Myths’, J Bou


Robert Herbert MORLEY (1501)
4LHR KiA 31/10/17

Robert Morley was the third of the Morley brothers from Gormandale to be killed. George Thomas Morley (Post 79) had been killed on 5/8/16 and Ernest Edward Morley (Post 119) on 14/5/17. They were the sons of Mrs Sarah Morley. It was Mrs Morley who unveiled the honor roll for the state school at Gormandale in December 1918. As noted in the earlier posts, while the family was from Gormandale, none of the 3 brothers appears on the memorials in the Shire of Alberton, apart from that for the Gormandale school.

The circumstances of the Morley family of Gormandale have become clearer since the last 2 posts, referred to above. The additional detail comes from an application for leave to return to Australia made by Charles Victor Clyde Morley (1494, 4 LHR) in January 1918. Charles VC Morley had enlisted in the 4 LHR with his brother, Robert H Morley. The application for leave makes it clear that, in all, 5 brothers had enlisted. It also states that by January 1918, three brothers – George Thomas Morley (4479), Ernest Edward Morley (5662) and Robert Herbert Morley (1501) – had been killed, and another brother – Archie Cortnage Morley (5883) – had been discharged as ‘permanently disabled’. The application was for the fifth brother, the youngest, – Charles V C Morley – to return home. This brother had written on his request for the leave:

Ill health of my family at home. Widowed mother, invalided sister and brother. Mother being well aged and failing in health. Brother requires to undergo operation otherwise he will probably lose his eyesight, which would mean my mother and sister being left at home alone, therefore I think they urgently need me.

The request for the special leave was approved, but the paper work was not completed until May 1918. The son returned to Australia at the end of July and was finally discharged in early September 1918. The case is a striking example of the impact of the War on one family.

Robert Morley enlisted 28/6/15. He was 24 yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘farmer’ but it is more likely that he worked as a farm labourer. His religion was given as Methodist. His father was dead and his mother was listed as the next-of-kin.

As indicated, he enlisted as reinforcements for 4 Light Horse Regiment and his younger brother – Charles Morley – enlisted with him. Both had been members of the 13 Gippsland Light Horse based at Traralgon. The brothers embarked for Egypt on 29/10/15.

Trooper Robert Morley was taken on strength with A Squadron, 4 LHR at Heliopolis on 2/1/16. There are few details of his service but he was hospitalised with mumps in late January 1916.
He was killed in action at the Battle of Beersheba on 31/10/17 and buried in the Beersheba War Cemetery.

The cable advising the family back In Gippsland of his death was dated 8/11/17. News of the death appeared in the Traralgon Record on 13/11/17:

Our Gormandale correspondent writes, Word came through on Friday last [9/11/17] that another of the local soldier lads had been killed in action in Palestine in the recent fighting. This was Private Rob. Morley, who with his brother Charles, left Australia for the front in October 1915. Both lads were in the Australian Light Horse, and had been in action several times. This makes the third of the Morley boys who have forfeited their lives in the fight for right and honor. The relatives, especially the aged mother, have the respectful sympathy of their neighbours and the former comrades of the fallen one.

The family placed a bereavement notice in the same paper on 4/12/17:

Mrs Morley and Family desire to convey their sincere Thanks to their many kind friends and relations for visits, letters and cards of sympathy in their recent sad bereavement, the loss of their loved son and brother, Trooper Robert Herbert Morley, killed in action in Palestine, October 31st, 1917.

Personal belongings were returned in May 1918: 1 Money belt containing 22 coins & badges, 1 aluminium cap, 1 testament, 1 towel, 2 Handk’fs, 1 Muffler, 2 Prs. Socks, 2 Housewives, 1 bundle P’cards, 2 Negatives (in Testament).

There is correspondence in the service file that sheds some light on the memorial plate (below) to those of the light horse killed in the Beersheba charge. It appears that the plate, described as ‘a metal inscription plate’, which was fashioned at the time to commemorate those killed, was returned to Australia in 1924. Base Records wrote to the families of those men whose names appeared on the memorial:

The plate has been detached from a temporary cross erected in the Beersheba Military Cemetery which was doubtless removed following the provision of individual headstones, and with a view to its future preservation it is suggested that same be handed over to the custody of the Director of the Australian War Museum. Before proceeding to dispose of it in this manner however, I should be glad to learn whether you concur with the above proposal as it is not desired to take any action in the matter that might not commend itself to the relatives of the soldiers concerned.

Mrs Morley wrote back indicating that was ‘quite willing’ for the plate to be entrusted to the War Museum. Presumably the other relatives also agreed.

There is no Red Cross report for Trooper Morley and the war diary for 4 LHR is sparse. For 31/10/17 it simply notes:

The Regiment reached Iswaiwin where it rested till 1600. Headed by A Squadron, followed by B Sqdn with C in close support, the Regiment charged at the gallop the Turkish trenches E of Beersheba, which were carried and Beersheba was taken by 1800.

The other light horse regiment involved in the mounted attack was 12 LHR. According to Bean, the total casualties for 4 LHR were 2 officers and 9 other ranks killed – Morley would have been one of the latter – and 4 officers and 15 other ranks wounded.


Traralgon Record

National Archives file for MORLEY Robert Herbert 1501
Roll of Honour: Robert Herbert Morley
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Robert Herbert Morley

O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project

R H Morley, courtesy Gippsland Memorial Park

4 LHR Beersheba Memorial, Courtesy Australian War Memorial


Alexander WILSON (209)
4LHR KiA 31/10/17

Alexander Wilson, also of 4 Light Horse Regiment, was also killed in the mounted assault at Beersheba on 31/10/17. There was no Red Cross file completed for him so the only details of his death are that he was one of the 9 other ranks killed in the mounted charge at on that day. His name is also on the memorial plate referred to above. He is also buried in the Beersheba War Cemetery.

There was a brother – Adam Wilson – who also enlisted. He survived the War. Both brothers were included on the roll of honor for Blackwarry. Beyond this single connection, the link to the Shire of Alberton was tenuous and the location both men most closely identified with was Traralgon, where they were both born and where their parents were living at the time they enlisted.

When he enlisted very early in the War on 19/8/14 at Broadmeadows, Alexander Wilson was 21yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘labourer’. When his mother – Alice Wilson – completed the information for the (National ) Roll of Honour she described his ‘calling’ as ‘assistant bacon curer’. She also noted that he had attended the state school at Traralgon.

He was another local who had also served in the 13 (Gippsland) Light Horse based in Traralgon. He joined the 4 Light Horse Regiment.

Alex Wilson gave his religion as Methodist and his mother, after the War, gave as a referee for the (National) Roll of Honour the Methodist minister – W H Scurr – who had known her son in Traralgon. In fact, tributes written after his death focused on the young man’s commitment to his religion. For example, the following appeared in the Traralgon Record on 13/11/17, just after his death became known in the community:

We regret to announce the death of Warrant-Officer Alex Wilson, oldest son of Mr and Mrs R.A. Wilson of Traralgon, who was killed in action in Palestine on 31st October. ‘Alex” as he was popularly called, was one of the first to volunteer for active service when the war broke out, and the call came to Australia’s sons. We well remember when he entered the ranks of the Methodist Young People’s Union, and became a helper in the church, and prior to leaving Traralgon for the front occupied the pulpit. Deceased was a young man of great promise, and what is more, and perhaps the highest tribute that can be paid to his memory, is the fact that he lived up to his profession. Amidst all the horrors, temptations and hardships of the campaign, in Egypt, where he was stationed for some time, Alex Wilson’s life was an example to others, and many of our brave soldier lads will mourn the loss of a good officer and a faithful friend, who was always ready to do what he could to lead them in the right way. Warrant-Officer Wilson was a man amongst men, respected and honoured by all with whom he came in contact. The sympathy of all will be extended to Mr and Mrs Wilson and family.

The same paper announced on 23/11/17 that a special memorial service was to be held for Warrant Officer Wilson:

A memorial service for the late Warrant-Officer Alex Wilson will be conducted by the Rev. W. H. Chapman in the Methodist Church on Sunday evening next at 7 p.m. Specially appropriate hymns and selections will be given by the choir and orchestra.

The family’s death notice published in the paper on 16/11/17 also featured a strong religious emphasis:

WILSON. – Officially reported killed in action at Palestine on October 31st. 1917, No. 209 Warrant-Officer Alexander Wilson, loved eldest son of R. A and A. Wilson, of Traralgon, and loving brother of May, Bob (munition worker), Adam (on active service), Jim and Bosie. Aged 24 years and 5 months.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Trooper Wilson rose through the ranks. By June 1915 he was corporal. He was promoted to sergeant in September the same year. By May 1916 he was squadron sergeant-major and then regimental sergeant-major by March 1917. The actual warrant for this final appointment was returned to the family in May 1918.

The cable advising of his death was dated 8/11/17. Personal belongings were returned to the family in June 1918:

1 suit Pyjamas, 7 Prs Socks, 6 Handk’fs, 2 Knee warmers, 1 Pr Mittens, 2 Towels, 1 face cloth, 2 combs, 1 Muffler, 1 Balaclava Cap, 1 Tin ointment, Envelopes, 2 Testaments, 9 Devotional books, 1 Tin containing Note paper & pencils, 1 Diary, 1 Mirror (broken), 1 Electric torch, Writing paper, 1 pipe, 1 key chain, Cotton, Australian badges, 1 note book, 14 Military training books.

In June 1918, the mother – Alice Wilson – wrote to Base Records in Melbourne to inquire if she were eligible for any sort of ‘pension’ or ‘allowance’. In the letter she made it clear that at the time her son was killed she did not apply for any pension … as I was not dependent on my late son at the time of his death. However, since then family circumstances had changed dramatically and she was keen to know if she was entitled to any support. At the same time, she stressed that she was not prepared to claim that, at the time of her son’s death, she had been dependent on him. As she stated in the letter:

I have been told that I could get a pension by virtue of my son being killed in action but if I had to make a declaration that he (my son) was my support I will never do that, for truth above all things is what I have taught my sons & is what has been my comfort in my bereavement to know that my late son was loved & trusted by all in the Regt. for his truthfulness and clean life.

The advice she received from Base Records was to contact the relevant authorities: Deputy Commissioner of Pensions (pension) and District Paymaster, Victoria Barracks (separation allowance). The contents of the service file do not give any further details as to any outcome.

The letter also detailed the changed circumstances the family faced and revealed just how dependent families were on the labour and support of their sons. In this particular family, the War took the labour of 3 sons – 2 enlisted and 1 went overseas as a munition worker – and, in effect, the family farm was lost. Admittedly, the mother gives a range of contributing factors – floods, injuries to both herself and her husband which limited their ability to work on the dairy farm – but the key factor was the lack of support from the sons. The ‘heavy payments in wages for hired labor’ forced them to give up the farm. This was another variation on the ‘sacrifice’ that families made to support the War effort.

On 14/12/17, about one week before voting for the second referendum on conscription, the Traralgon Record published a poem entitled The Anzac Call which was … written by the late Warrant-Officer A. Wilson. There is no indication when it was written – and how it came to be supplied to the paper – but the sentiment and intentions are clearly evident from the first of its 4 verses:

Why don’t they come when we call them?
Why do they linger a day?
They promised us all sorts of things on the wharf,
On the day we sailed away.
Old pals farewelled us with handshakes and cheers
And told us never to fret
They said they’d be with us to help us soon
But thousands have not come yet.

Additional information

Linda Barraclough pointed to a letter in the Trarlagon Record 15/1/18 which offered more information on the details of RSM Wilson’s death. According to the writer – H F Bolding – Wilson was killed after the charge had taken place. He was escorting 2 Turkish prisoners when one of them shot and killed him.


Traralgon Record

National Archives file for WILSON Alexander 209
Roll of Honour: Alexander Wilson
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Alexander Wilson

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

A. Wilson, courtesy Old Gippstown, Moe


Archibald Sturt TREGILGAS (1762)
3LHR DoW 1/11/17

Archibald Sturt Tregilgas is another person with only a limited connection to the Shire of Alberton. On the honor board for the district of Devon North there is an A S Tregilgas. Similarly, on the honor roll for the state school at Devon North there is an entry for A Tregilgas. The name Tregilgas is not common in the National Archives AIF data base. There are only 13 entries. And there is only 1 entry for A Tregilgas and that is (Trooper) Archibald Sturt Tregilgas (1762, 3 LHR).

Apart from this obvious Devon North link, there is nothing else to tie him to the Shire of Alberton at the time of the War and when he enlisted he did so in Adelaide. Further, his place of birth was also given as Adelaide (Sturt) and the location was even used in his name. Also, on the (National) Roll of Honour, his school was given as Strathalbyn, in country SA.

At the same time, there were Tregilgas in the Shire of Alberton – at both Yarram and Devon – in the 1880s and 1890s and it appears that there were links with the Tregilgas family in South Australia. It is possible that as a child/youth he spent time at Devon North with another branch of the family. Also, his occupation – ‘stockman’ and ‘drover’ – suggests a highly itinerant life and he could well have worked with relatives in Gippsland.

As indicated, he enlisted in Adelaide on 20/9/15. At the time he was 31 yo and single. His parents were living in Prospect, a suburb of Adelaide. He gave his religion as Church of England.
Trooper Tregilgas enlisted as reinforcements for 3 Light Horse Regiment. His group of reinforcements left Adelaide on 18/11/15. Initially in Egypt he was attached to 1 LHR but then he was taken on strength in 3 LHR in June 1916. In March 1917 he qualified as ‘1st class gunner’ (Lewis Gun). A more detailed account of his service was provided by his brother on the (National) Roll of Honour:

Took part in every engagement from Romani across the Sinai Desert including Romani, Katia, Bir-el-Abd, El Arish, Magdhaba, Rafa, and the second battle at Gaza Palestine.

The younger brother – Thomas Ernest Tregilgas – who completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour also enlisted and also served in 3 LHR. It appears that he too had links to the Shire of Alberton because there is a T Tregilgas on both the Devon North District Honor Board and the honor roll for the school at Devon North; and there was only one T Tregilgas who enlisted in the AIF.

Archibald Tregilgas died of wounds – ‘G.S.W left thigh’ – on 1/11/17. He had been wounded in the assault on Beersheba the day before. There is a brief note that suggests that he was ‘dead on admission’ when he reached the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance. He was buried at Beersheba on 5/11/17. The cable advising of his death was dated 3/11/17.

There is no Red Cross report of his death. At Beersheba on 31/10/17, 3 LHR had been involved in the ground assault on Tel El Saba, not the mounted assault on the Turkish trenches outside Beersheba. The casualties for the day were light: 1 officer and 4 other ranks killed, 24 other ranks wounded and 1 missing; and 12 horses killed and 11 wounded. However, there was a single incident which was very costly. At 1715 that day an enemy aircraft bombed the regiment’s lines. This action was responsible for the greater part of the casualties – to both the troops and horses – that day. It is ironic that on a day when a cavalry charge proved successful, the threat of aerial bombing was so real. Bean wrote:

All day the German airmen were bold and effective in their bombing. (p 406)

Personal kit reached the family in May 1918:
2 Watches in case, 1 Shaving tidy, 1 Tobacco-pouch, 5 Handk’fs, 2 House wives, 1 Cigarette holder, 1 Jack knife, 1 Pr Scissors, 1 bell, 2 Tins of insect powder, Writing paper, Australian badges, 1 piece Aluminium, 1 spoon, 1 shaving brush, 1 brush, 2 combs, 1 toothbrush, 4 Prs Socks, 1 Pr Mittens, 1 Muffler, 2 Balaclava caps, 1 body belt, 1 Pr braces, 1 wallet, Post cards, a bottle of tabloids, 1 canvas holdall containing powder, bandage pins etc.

It appears that for those killed in Egypt, the packages of personal items returned from the front were greater than the equivalent ones being returned from France.

After the War, in October 1922, the AIF had to write and apologise to the family for entering ‘Archibald Stuart Tregilgas’ on the Memorial Plaque. They wanted to make sure that the second name was indeed Sturt, and not Stuart; and they also asked the family … in the event of the Plaque being incorrectly embossed, if you are prepared to accept same in its present form. Otherwise it will be necessary to arrange for the provision of a fresh Plaque, and I am afraid some considerable time must elapse before this can be obtained.

The mother replied:

With reference to the late No 1762 Driver A. S. Tregilgas his second christian name was Sturt, not Stuart, but if the plaque is made out in that way we are prepared to accept it in its present form.


National Archives file for TREGILGAS Archibald Sturt 1762
Roll of Honour: Archibald Sturt Tregilgas
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Archibald Sturt Tregilgas

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

140. A E Rust

RUST Albert Ernest (1277)
38B KiA 15/10/17

Albert Rust was born in Clifton Hill, Melbourne. His family must have moved to Gippsland when he was young because he was a student at the state school at Traralgon, and his name is recorded on the honor roll for this school. His name also appears on the war memorial in Traralgon. Additionally, when his father – George Rust – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave Traralgon as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. On the enlistment papers, Albert Rust’s address was given as Traralgon and his father’s address, as next-of-kin, was also Traralgon. Lastly, Albert had served at least 2 years in the senior cadets at Traralgon. He had held the rank of sergeant.

At the same time, for all the obvious links to Traralgon, there must have been a strong connection with the Shire of Alberton because Albert Rust’s name appears on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldier’s Memorial. On his enlistment papers, Albert gave his occupation as ‘draper’ and on the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour his calling was described as ’salesman (softgoods)’. His occupation appears to provide the explanation for the link to the Shire of Alberton. It appears that for some period, presumably just before his enlistment, he was in the employ of G F Sauer, draper of Yarram. Sauer was very prominent in groups that worked for the welfare of men who enlisted from the Shire, and it seems natural that his former employee would be acknowledged on the relevant shire memorials

Albert E Rust enlisted in Melbourne on 15/2/16. He was 21 yo and single. His religion was Church of England and he gave his father as next-of-kin.

Private Rust enlisted as reinforcements for 38 Battalion. His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on 20/6/16 and reached England in mid August 1916. Presumably because of his previous military experience – even if he was relatively young – he quickly gained promotion. He was made corporal either on enlistment or very soon after. In January 1917 he was promoted sergeant. Then in June 1917 he became company sergeant major and a few months alter, in September 1917, he was promoted regimental sergeant major. He was still only 22 yo at this point.

He was killed at Ypres on 15/10/17 and buried in the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

There is a very short Red Cross report. The only statement in the report is from an officer of 38 Battalion in March 1919:

I cannot give an accurate description of Casualty but I was detailed to find out full particulars of Casualty. He was killed at St Pierre’s Church, Ypres by a H.E. shell. Wounds were multiple. Dead on admission to Ypres Dressing Station. He was buried at Ypres Prison Cemetery [Ypres Reservoir Cemetery].

The cable advising of his death was dated 27/10/17. On 4/12/17 the following bereavement notice appeared in the Traralgon Record:

Mr and Mrs Geo. Rust and Family desire to tender their sincere Thanks to their many kind friends for their visits, letters and verbal expressions of sympathy in the loss of their dear son and brother, Reg. Sgt.-Major A. E. Rust, killed in France, October 15th, 1917.

There had been earlier advice in the same paper – on 23/11/17 – of his death. The short note told how the flag at the state school had been flown at half-mast after news that … Sergt. Bert Rust was reported as having made the supreme sacrifice in France.

Personal effects – Letters 3, Photos 2, Pocket book, Photo wallet, Religious Book, Scapula, Religious medallion – were returned to the family in February 1918. The family also received the various warrants associated with his appointment as regimental sergeant major.

By any standard RSM Rust was very unlucky. 38 Battalion had been involved in both actions at Passchendaele: Poelcappelle on 4/10 and Passchendaele on 12/10. In the first action there had been 184 casualties and in the second the figure had doubled to 382. Over little more than one week the battalion had lost 45 killed, 413 wounded and 108 missing, with many, if not most, of the missing dead. Those in the battalion who survived would have counted themselves very lucky when they were relieved on the night of 13/14 October. On that night, the remnants of the battalion moved back, about 10 Km, to the outskirts of Ypres. It appears that they remained there (Potyze) on 14 October and then the next day they took motor buses to Senlecques, well away from the front. It was on the march to the point where the buses were waiting that RSM Rust was killed, when a high explosive shell exploded nearby.

There is no reference to his death in the war diary of 38 Battalion. However, as indicated above, there was a very brief Red Cross report. The ‘St. Pierre’s Church’ – or ‘Pieterskerk’ – referred to in the report was a Romanesque church built in the 12-13 C. It was a visible landmark in Ypres and was shelled heavily, with only its arches surviving.

A more personal account of RSM Rust’s death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 25/12/17. The same account had previously been published in the Traralgon Record. It featured a letter written to the father by Thomas Stewart Milligan, 5133 (23 Battalion). Milligan, before enlisting, had been a storekeeper at Traralgon and knew the father.

Dear Mr Rust – I feel I must write to you at once, and give you what particulars I can concerning Bert’s death, news of which you will doubtless have officially received. I am with a working party quartered amongst the ruins of the town [Ypres], and each morning we go up near the front line and get our job finished, getting back about 10.30 a.m. As we were coming back this morning we noticed that the Germans were putting a few in the vicinity of our quarters, and on coming into the town found he had been putting the shells right amongst them, and that some of the 38th Battalion boys, who were passing on their way out to the front line (sic), had been killed, and others wounded. We gathered the personal effects of the killed, and on seeing the name Sergeant A. E Rust, I thought possible it was Bert, and to my sorrow, on looking in his pay book, found it to be only too true. I was able to identify him. Poor Bert, he was probably congratulating himself on getting out of a rather tough engagement, and then to get killed here. We forwarded his personal effects to the battalion, who will, no doubt, forward them on to you. He was buried this afternoon in a military cemetery about 1 1/2 miles from where he met his death. I noticed in his pay-book that he had been promoted to first-class Warrant-Officer. At a time like this, one feels that it is difficult to express one’s feelings, but I would like you to know that you have my deepest sympathy in this your sad loss. I did not know Bert in military life, but his promotion is significant of the fact that he has been doing his duty well, and his death will be a severe loss to his Battalion and his country.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Traralgon Record

National Archives file for RUST Albert Ernest 1277
Roll of Honour: Albert Ernest Rust
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Albert Ernest Rust
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Albert Ernest Rust