Category Archives: July to December 1918

181. Returning home in 1918

This post examines the series of welcome home celebrations staged in the Shire of Alberton in 1918 to the end of hostilities in November. In all there were 29 such celebrations reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – over the period. On a few occasions a welcome home was combined with a farewell to one or more soldiers about to embark for overseas service. Of the 29 occasions, 8 involved welcome home events in Yarram and the rest were divided across the smaller towns and settlements in the Shire: Stacey’s Bridge (2), North Devon (4), Alberton (2), West Alberton (1), Port Albert (1), Won Wron (3), Wonyip (1), Binginwarri (1), Willing South (1), Stradbroke (1), Kjergaard (1), Carrajung (1), Lower Whitelaw (1), Lower Bulga (1).

Some men who had in fact returned prior to 1918 were also ‘welcomed’ again at some of the events in 1918. Also, men could be welcomed home in more than one location. Commonly, they would attend a welcome in Yarram and then they would also be welcomed home in their particular township, or even in more than one township. Some men returned to Australia before 1918 but they remained in hospital in Melbourne for extended periods and did not return to the Shire for an official welcome until some time in 1918. Lastly, there could have been some men who enlisted from the Shire of Alberton and who returned to Australia for medical discharge in 1918 but who never returned to the Shire. With all these qualifications in mind, it appears that over the course of 1918, 40 men were welcomed home in the 29 formal events referred to above.

By way of comparison, prior to the 40 men in 1918, 12 men had been formally welcomed home in 1917, 8 men in 1916, and one person – William Andrew Newland who became the local recruiting sergeant – in 1915. Clearly, over 1918, there was a dramatic increase in the number of men being discharged. Some would have seen this increase as incontrovertible evidence of the desperate need to provide reinforcements for the AIF. At the same time, all would have seen it as dramatic proof of the escalating human cost of the ‘sacrifice’ that had been exacted over the past 4 years.

The local state school was often used as the venue for welcome home celebrations. For example, there was a major function held at the Yarram school on Anzac Day 1918 when 12 men were welcomed not just home but also to their old school. It was the largest welcome home event staged in 1918. Other local schools involved in welcome home celebrations included Stacey’s Bridge, North Devon, Willing South, Lower Whitelaw and Lower Bulga.

There appear to have been a number of reasons why the school was such a popular venue. In the case of Yarram there was the ongoing issue about attendance at such functions. As noted previously, there was the constant complaint from speakers at these events that not enough locals were prepared to show up and demonstrate their support for the men, either those leaving for overseas or those returning wounded. At a welcome home as late as October 1918, Councillor Barlow was reported in the local paper (11/10/18) lamenting the poor attendance but, at the same time, acknowledging the presence of the school children. The lack of attendance was only really an issue in Yarram. Events staged in the other townships were invariably well attended. They also almost always featured a more expansive program which included a social and/or dance to ensure a genuine community celebration.

While staging the event at the school guaranteed an audience, much was also made of the appropriateness of the school per se. Speakers claimed that it was the local school that had formed the initial, critical character of the men who had enlisted. Rossiter, the editor of the local paper, expressed this argument when he spoke at a welcome home for Robert McKenzie at Devon North State School in February 1918. His comments were reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 22/2/18:

It is fitting that these send-offs and welcomes should take place in the school, for here, as in every country community, the school is the centre of local interest, and when we consider that in nearly every case it was in this school that these soldiers have received their early training in love of country, it is highly desirable that it should be in that building they should be bid “god speed” or “welcome’.

Rossiter’s comments placed the local school as a critically important institution in the formation of the Australian soldier’s character. In the report (26/4/18) of the 1918 Anzac Day welcome home ceremony referred to above, Rev. Walklate, another of the district’s outspoken Imperial Loyalists, highlighted the specific significance of the school curriculum. It is clear that the experience of WW1 was redefining the traditional (Imperial) narrative that had prompted such high levels of patriotic loyalty and duty at the outbreak of WW1. The claim that Australia’s true history only really began with Gallipoli was by then common place. Even Federation – less than 20 years earlier – had been replaced.

Rev. C. J. Walklate said that the 25th April three years ago was the beginning of Australian history. They [the school children there that day] had read of the exploits of our explorers, who had mapped out the land for civilisation to come and make homes for the present generation. But the tragic landing at Gallipoli eclipsed everything else. They had read of the charge of the Light Brigade, but what the Australians had done put that feat in its shade, when they landed against such great odds on 25th April 1915.

In general, the themes highlighted at the welcome home events were often identical to those used at farewells. For example, much was made of the sacrifice and heroism of those returning and both qualities were often contrasted with the self-interest and cowardice of those ‘eligibles’ who refused to go. B P Johnson, welcoming the returned soldiers, reflected pointedly at the same Anzac Day event:

Many have died, but their names will never die; memory of them will live far beyond those eligibles who remain at home.

Johnson would learn just one month later that his own son had been killed (14/5/18).

The soldier as the true son of the ‘pioneer’ was another common theme. There was a very large welcome home social – 170 in attendance – held at Won Wron in early May 1918. One of the speakers was reported (8/5/18) as declaring that … the character of the child came from that of the parents, so there was no need to wonder at it. These parents were the pioneers of Gippsland and assisted in making history for Australia, while their sons made history for the world.

The outstanding fighting qualities of the Australian soldier was another common theme. J J O’Connor (9/10/18) declared at a welcome home in Yarram that the … Australian soldier was recognised as the best fighter on the side of the Allies. It was a common claim.

Not surprisingly, the most common theme was that of ‘repatriation’. Speakers laboured the idea that the men returning, both those returning wounded and the thousands who would be discharged at the end of the fighting, had to be ‘looked after’. The details of any large-scale repatriation scheme were still sketchy but the ideal of ‘repatriation’ had become a given. There had to be both recognition and recompense. In 1918, civic leaders were fearful that the local community did not appreciate the size of the problem and would even be indifferent to the men’s situation, as they been indifferent to so many other aspects of the War. Just before the Armistice, at a welcome home to A J Martin in Yarram on 30/10/18, B P Johnson was reported in the local paper (1/11/18) as declaring:

There was a big thing facing the people of Australia in regards to the returned men, and that was repatriation: and as yet the public did not seem to grasp it. In this district it was not very apparent, as most of those who had returned had, in their independence of spirit, not asked for help. However, the time would come when men would return to the district who needed help, and the people must be ready with that assistance, for if anyone deserved a helping hand it was those men who had fought for us. It would not be conferring a favor but simply endeavoring to repay in a small measure a debt that was due. No matter what was done for the returned lads, it would only be as a drop in a bucket compared with what they had done for us.

In rural areas, the idea of repatriation equated to settling the returned soldier on the land. It was seen as a natural reward for their effort and it was commonly believed that returning soldiers would be the very type that could make a success of it. Also, the common labourers and farm workers amongst them had won the chance to better themselves by becoming land owners. At another welcome home at Won Wron on 11/10/18 – reported on 16/10/18 – one of the local farmers was reported as hoping that … the Government would do its duty by such as he [D’Arcy Brown, the soldier being welcomed home] who had risked his life for Australia. The boys had fought for it [land] and it was theirs, if the Government did right it would give, not sell to returned soldiers the land they required. They had gone forth and fought for it while others just as able remained at home, getting high wages and at ease.

While, not surprisingly, the common sentiments expressed at the welcome home events were those of relief and gratitude, the events also highlighted the ever-present division in the local community. This was particularly the case involving the larger more set-piece welcomes, especially those held in Yarram or those that featured leading Imperial Loyalists as the key speakers. In such instances, the welcome home presented a public platform to attack eligibles, press for recruits and chastise the community generally for not lending sufficient support for the War. A striking example of this behaviour was the welcome home at North Devon on 13/9/18. It was reported in the local paper, in great detail, on 18/9/18. The event, which was very well attended, had a dual purpose: to welcome home and present a special medallion to 8 recently returned local men and also to honour the … memory of those who had fallen. The returned men sat on the stage throughout. The event was organised by the North Devon ‘Old Boys’ Association’, a local committee that throughout the War had been very active in ensuring all those who left from and returned to the district of North Devon were recognised and celebrated. However, for some reason, the key speakers on the day were two of the most outspoken Imperial Loyalists from Yarram. Benjamin Couston was the bank manger of the Yarram branch of the Bank of Victoria and the Rev Cyril John Walklate was the Methodist minister from Yarram.

Couston started his long speech by praising the returned men on the stage. He declared that, Every heart should be pulsating for the men who had done their duty to their country and had returned home. He then noted that, The people did not appreciate fully what these brave men had done. He then declared that … these men are heroes, and no honor that is bestowed upon them would adequately repay them for what they had done. If the whole wealth of this prosperous district were handed to these men, it would not be one-tenth of what was their due.

Continuing in this effusive style, he could not pass up the opportunity to remind those in the audience that they themselves had been fickle:

They would remember when the lads left this district that there was cheering, singing and flag waving, but some of those who did those things soon forgot the lads.

The real target however was the man who refused to enlist. Couston, who invariably described himself at such gatherings as ‘the father of two soldiers’, saved his fiercest criticism for the eligibles, some of whom he had recently seen playing football at Yarram. There was menace in his remarks:

Why was it that some stood on one side? They were never touched with that patriotic feeling which should be within the breasts of all. When he saw a number of men assembled together the other day at Yarram playing football he asked himself the question. Why weren’t these men playing the game yonder, why weren’t they helping their pals? To his own mind there was only one reason, and that was cussed selfishness. But the time would come when these men would dearly regret their selfishness, as they could not expect to be treated in the same way as the men who had sacrificed themselves.

Couston continued and attacked those who were in favour of negotiations for peace, the ‘pacifists at Trades Hall’ and those who wanted ‘revolution’. For Couston, It was no time to talk of peace. In his mind, the War had to be pursued until Germany was totally crushed, and therefore he urged,

If there was one man in Devon who was eligible he asked him in God’s name to go.

Following Couston, Rev Walklate’s primary focus was not the men on stage being welcomed home, but those who had died. His theme was the universal one of sacrifice, Christian sacrifice. He preached that life only had meaning if it was lived in the spirit of sacrifice. There could be no other measure:

The living of life must be measured by the spirit in which that life was given. Unless the spirit of self-sacrifice entered into man’s life that life was not lived in the true meaning of the word. It was probably hard to understand, but it was true. The men who had fallen and those who are prepared to go forth and make the sacrifice are the men who live. If that spirit of sacrifice died then the men lived no longer. The parents and loved ones of the fallen heroes had done their part, and had lived because they had sacrificed themselves.

With the returned men sitting on the stage as props, Walklate continued his sermon on real life. It was not about ‘wealth’ and ‘social position’ but about ‘sacrifice’. The length of life was not as important as its spiritual quality. There was of course the mandatory text and its explication:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.” Men worshipped in different creeds, but the final test was whether it was done under the name of Jesus Christ or not. The final test was the test of Jesus Christ, that a man live in that spirit and that he lay down his life for his friend. These men, and these alone, had reached the stepping stone into eternal life.

To make it clear that he too was targeting eligibles, Walklate spoke of the returned men who had confided in him that they felt spurned by locals, while they saw eligibles – who had ‘failed in their duty’ – being favoured. He declared:

One man who had fought and bled [like those on the stage] had told him that many girls were keen to catch the glances of the shirker, but hardly noticed the returned soldier.

Walklate went so far as to condemn, in the religious sense, the man who would not accept his responsibility. Such a person would not enter the kingdom of God. He warned … those who were enjoying the comforts of this life would find out their mistake later on, as they would soon die, and they could not live again. Only sacrifice, in this case in the cause of the Nation and Empire, could guarantee eternal life:

The entrance to eternal life was by sacrifice, and if people did not respond to life’s responsibilities, they would have an awakening [fateful reckoning] in the life to come.

The final speaker that night was a local, the father of Edwin Alford who had been killed in April that year (Post 158). Alford had just been given a medallion for his dead son. He rounded out the condemnation of all those who had refused to enlist:

Mr. Alford said he would value the token received that evening all the days of his life. He was an Australian, and was proud to be one. He also felt proud to know that his boy had gone and done his duty. He would sooner any son of his fight and die for his country than to remain home and be a coward. He said to those fathers who had sons, to send one to the front to see themselves from dishonour. Neither himself nor his wife would wish to have a son who shirked his duty. (Applause.)

It is clear that those on the stage that night were being welcomed back to a divided community where there was much grief, frustration, anger and bitterness.

The returned men themselves

The men welcomed home in 1918 were the ones who had been repatriated to Australia for a medical discharge. They returned home with their health significantly compromised. In several cases they were not able to attend welcome home ceremonies because they were still recovering in hospital in Melbourne. In other cases, when they attended such functions they were not able to speak because of ‘nerves’. In other instances they appeared before the locals as amputees. The standard approach to handle the nature and extent of battle wounds was to appeal to notions of manhood and Empire. As W G Pope declared at a welcome home in March 1918 (reported on 20/3/18):

He was sorry to see some of them wounded, but these scars would be their glory for the rest of their lives. They had proved to be men of the same description of our Nelson and Wellington heroes.

The report in the local paper also noted the similar remarks of Rev A R Raymond, the local Anglican clergyman:

Rev. A. R. Raymond extended a hearty welcome to the soldiers, men who could say they bore marks on their bodies in fighting for King and Country, and in defending right we were [as] proud of them as they were proud of their marks.

Beyond such platitudes, it is worth examining in more detail the condition in which the men returned. Of the 40 men welcomed home in 1918, only two had not been discharged on medical grounds. Henry Cook had been discharged for ‘family reasons’. Four brothers from the family had enlisted, but by 1918 the parents were not able to cope by themselves. The other person was Sydney Collis who had been returned to Australia on Anzac Leave and, in theory, was to return to France for the planned offensive in Spring 1919. However, the medical condition of both these men was problematic. Cook had been wounded – gsw back – and had suffered from shell shock, while Collis had been hospitalised earlier with enteric fever.

Of the remaining 38 men, some had been discharged for ongoing medical issues. One was discharged for chronic bronchitis, another for defective eyesight, a third for hearing problems and a fourth for gastric ulcers and tachycardia. Two men, both in their forties, were discharged for (premature) senility.

The remaining 34 men were discharged on medical grounds that specifically related to battle field experience. Two had been ‘gassed’ and one had been discharged with ‘trench feet’, including ‘blood clots in the legs.’ There was a group of 4 men who had been discharged because of neurasthenia. While only 4 men were discharged solely on the basis of this condition, neurasthenia often occurred in the medical notes of men discharged for other (medical) reasons. The condition was commonly described in terms of ‘shell shock’, ‘paralysis of the legs’, and often tachycardia was included.

The largest group of men (25) were medically discharged because they had been wounded by gunshot (gsw) or shrapnel (sw) or, in the case of Gallipoli veterans, by ’bomb’. The wounds in these instances were most commonly to the chest, back, legs, arms and thigh. Sometimes the wounds were ‘multiple’. There were several amputations – leg, hand, arm – associated with these wounds.

Clearly, even after they had been discharged from hospital, the general health of this group of returned men was going to be problematic. While they were welcomed home as heroes, the reality was that they were to face compromised health, most probably for the rest of their lives. This would affect their lives generally, including work prospects. It also meant that those who were relatively young – most were in the mid to late twenties – and single (33) were most likely going to have to rely on the support of their parents and siblings. The fortunes of the families of the 7 married men would also be compromised, and the burden of care would fall heavily on the wife.

It is also important to note that the most common occupation for men in this group of returned soldiers (50%) was that of ‘farm worker’ or ‘farm labourer’. There was another 25% of the group who came from the ‘family farm’. Essentially, even with a pension and even if they managed to find and keep work or perform a productive role on the family farm, these men were always going to struggle financially. They did not have financial resources to fall back on. Again, notwithstanding the degree to which they were feted on their return – and told to wear their wounds as ‘badges of honour’ – the reality was that their lives had been seriously compromised. The cost of sacrifice fell disproportionately on the rural working class.

There are 2 additional interesting observations. The first is that a significant number of the men – 9 of the 40 – had been UK immigrants who had worked as farm labourers in the Shire before they enlisted in the AIF. Rather than be discharged in the UK these men had returned to Australia and then, once back in Australia, they had chosen to return to the very district where they had worked before the War. Presumably their overall decision was shaped in part by issues such as the need for ongoing medical care and the provision of pensions but, at the same time, the decision to return to the very district where they had worked before the War suggests that they saw themselves as true ‘locals’. Perhaps they also reasoned that they would be better supported in their (adopted) local area.

The other interesting detail is the fact that 25% of the group actually went on to become soldier settlers after the War. There are 2 pertinent observations here. The first is that the figure tends to confirm the view that had soldier settlement as the ‘natural’ vocation for returned soldiers. The thinking at the time was that such men had the right experience, skills and character for the challenge. They were tough, independent and resourceful. Because of their experiences in the AIF they could make the scheme work. Moreover, in the spirit of some form of ‘rural socialism’ these soldier ‘battlers’ deserved the chance to secure land and move beyond the lot of the (itinerant) rural working class. Men wounded in battle had sacrificed even more and the logic had to be that such men deserved the chance as much as any other returned soldier. The other observation is that men whose health had been as compromised as it was for this group, would inevitably struggle more as soldier settlers than those whose health was relatively intact. Essentially, this view holds that these men were set up to fail.

In the last year of the War a record number of wounded men returned to the Shire of Alberton. They were welcomed as heroes. They were promised that everything possible would be done for them and that their sacrifice would never be forgotten. At the time, their sacrifice was also used to condemn those in the community who had refused to enlist. The men themselves must have seen that the community they returned to was divided. What they could not see was the future in which all the promises made would be qualified and their relative standing in the same community compromised. The currency of their scars would decline and the reality was they would never be able to slip back into their old lives and take up again where things were before they enlisted.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

182. T C F McCarthy

McCARTHY Terence 353
4 Machine Gun Battalion KIA 19/9/18

There is nothing in his service file to tie Terence Charles Francis McCarthy to the Shire of Alberton. He was born in the Melbourne suburb of Kensington. He went to school in Kensington and served for 2 years in the junior cadets there. When his father – John Henry McCarthy – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he also gave Kensington as the location with which his son was chiefly connected. Moreover, the name of Terence McCarthy does not appear on any memorial in the Shire of Alberton, most notably the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. However, there is no doubt that Terence McCarthy was working as a farm labourer in the Shire of Alberton at the outbreak of WW1 and was amongst the very first group of ‘locals’ to enlist. He received railway warrant number 33 from the Shire Secretary to travel to Melbourne on 21/9/14. The date of his enlistment in Yarram was 16/9/14 and his next-of-kin was given as his father, John H McCarthy of Kensington.

Terence Charles Francis McCarthy was born in 1895. His early family story was revealed in a formal statement made by his step-mother in 1922 when she applied to receive his war medals. The statement described how Terence’s mother – Marie McCarthy – died when he was just two years old (1897). His step-mother – Amy Elizabeth McCarthy – first worked as housekeeper for the husband – John Henry McCarthy – and then married him after 2 years. The father died in September 1920. The same statement also refers to an ‘eldest’ brother, Eugene McCarthy. More information on other siblings came from a copy of his will that named his sister – Augusta Mary McCarthy – as the sole beneficiary. Additionally, the (National) Roll of Honour form gave information on an additional 2 older brothers who had also enlisted. Maurice August Dorman McCarthy (6539) was 24 yo and single when he enlisted in November 1915. He was a labourer and was living at Kensington. He survived the War and returned to Australia in July 1919. David Owen McCarthy (5596) was 22 yo and single when he enlisted in July 1915. His occupation was given as printer and he too lived at Kensington. He died of wounds on 1/10/17.

Terence McCarthy, even though he was the youngest brother, enlisted first. As indicated, he was one of the first group of recruits from the Shire and his name – T C F McCarthy – was published in the initial list which appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 23/9/18. On his enlistment papers his occupation was given as ‘farm labourer’. He was only 19 yo so, most likely, he had been working in the local area for just a few years. His religion was Roman Catholic. His medical was also completed at Yarram and there was a note from Dr Pern, one of the local doctors, that his ‘teeth [needed] to be attended to’.

When he enlisted in Yarram on 16/9/14, Terence McCarthy gave his age as 19 years and 4 months. As he was ‘under age’, he should have provided some form of written consent signed by both parents. Often this appeared on just a slip of paper and there was no consistent wording. Unusually, there is no such document in Private McCarthy’s service file. Presumably, he promised such a consent when he enlisted in Yarram but, once he reached camp at Broadmeadows, neither he nor the AIF ever followed up on it.

Like many others in the first group of volunteers from Yarram, Private McCarthy thought he was joining the Light Horse. In fact , ‘Light Horse S. Gippsland’ was crossed out on his enlistment form and he was attached to the newly formed 14 Battalion. His unit embarked for Egypt from Melbourne at the end of 1914 (22/12/14).

Unfortunately, the details of Private McCarthy’s service in 1915 and through to the end of 1917 are very sketchy. After Gallipoli, 14 Battalion moved to France in June 1916 and was involved in the major battles on the Western Front, including Pozieres (August 1916) and Bullecourt (April 1917). There is more detail in his service file for 1918. In January 1918 he had a period of leave in the UK and was then admitted to hospital with VD. The pattern of leave in the UK followed by VD was not uncommon. In his case, the period of illness was recorded as 56 days, the period of time for which his pay would have been docked. He was discharged from hospital in early April.

Private McCarthy remained in the UK until late August 1918. In early May (2/5/18) he was charged with and convicted of ‘making a false statement to his superior officer’ and received 1 day of Field Punishment No. 2. There are no details regarding the nature of the ‘false statement’. In early June 1918, after having served in 14 Battalion for more than 3 years, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Training Depot at Grantham. After another 3 months of training, he was sent back to France where he formally joined 4 Machine Gun Battalion at Camiers on 27/8/18. He was killed in action less than one month later (19/9/18) and almost 4 years to the day when he first enlisted in Yarram.

The cable advising of the death was dated 4/10/18. The body was never recovered and his name appears on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial. The meagre kit – Rising sun, 1 Wallet, Note book, Post card, Photos – reached Australia one year later in September 1919.

Unfortunately, there was no Red Cross report for Private McCarthy. The War Diary of 4 Machine Gun Battalion describes how the unit was at rest in Longueau (Amiens) until approximately 7 September when it moved to the area near Catelet. The attack opened on the morning of 18 September and was very successful. Casualties were light but there is an specific reference in the account of 12 Australian Machine Gun Company – of 4 MG Battalion – to an officer (Lt E P Prendergast) being wounded and 2 other ranks (Privates Thompson and McCarthy) being killed when the group was hit by a shell in a front line trench. They were the only deaths recorded for the unit on that day. The nature of the death probably explains why there was no grave for either of the two men killed.

There is an interesting letter in Private McCarthy’s file that adds a dramatic note to his death. It was written on 13/10/18 by a Miss M Gray of Malvern. She was his cousin.

Can you give me any information about my cousin Private T. C. F. McCarthy No. 353 14th Batt reportedly killed in action on the 19th of September. I received a letter from him on August 10th at Aus. Machine Gun Training Depot, Park House Salisbury saying he would be home for Xmas, as an order had been published throughout the camp that the 1914 men were to be granted leave he also said that they heard that the 1914 men were not to be sent to the France until definite orders, but if he did his address would alter from the 14th Batt to some permanent Machine Gun unit. He was a Driver in the 14th Batt until a few months ago. So would be very thankful if you could let me know if the 1914 men were sent to France from England after the order was published that they were coming home.

The key point to the letter appears to be the very last sentence. There was obviously a significant tension between the promise after nearly 4 years of war of being sent home on leave and the reality of being returned to the front, with the ongoing possibility of being killed. The story behind this promise of leave back to Australia dates from the decision of the Australian Government in August 1918 to have those who embarked in 1914 – the ‘originals’ – return to Australia for leave. There was a matching recruiting drive urging men to enlist to take the place of the Anzacs being given leave. It was not until September that there was shipping to accommodate this promise. There is no reason to believe that Private McCarthy was not eligible, and the war diary of his unit – 4 MG Battalion – makes it very clear that those who had enlisted in 1914 were in fact being pulled out of the line and sent ‘home’ to Australia. For example, there is an entry for 14 September – 4 days before the attack – that states:

Lieut. Martin and 6 O/Ranks, all 7 having enlisted in 1914, today reported at Btn. H.Q., en route for Italy and so to Australia for six months’ leave.

Similarly, there is an entry for 18 September – the very day of the attack – that notes,

Captain Taylor and 20 O/Ranks left for six months to Australia.

Why Private McCarthy was not one of those withdrawn from the line and sent back to Australia at that point is not known. The poignancy of the situation is all the more powerful given that he was killed at the very time other ‘originals’ were going home on extended leave.

Terence McCarthy was a 19 yo farm labourer who was working in the Shire of Alberton when he enlisted at the very start of the War. He survived 4 years before being killed in action. Someone, presumably the Shire Secretary, wrote in red ink ‘killed’ next to his name on the list of those issued with railway warrants. However, there appears to have been no other recognition of his status as a ‘local’ or his fate. Like many others, he disappeared from the Shire’s history.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for McCARTHY Terence C F
Roll of Honour: Terence C F McCarthy
First World War Embarkation Roll: Terence C F McCarthy

180. Farewells in 1918

According to reporting in the local paper, the number of men who received formal farewells in 1918 was 22. Over the same period of time – the whole of 1918 – the number of local men who enlisted was approximately 40. In other words, about one half of those who enlisted in 1918 were given formal farewells from the Shire of Alberton. It is possible that in one or two cases a more private farewell occurred but it was not reported. It was also the case that another small group of men specifically rejected the offer of a formal farewell. More commonly, as noted in previous posts, men enlisted in Yarram, went off to camp but then never returned to the Shire of Alberton before embarking for overseas service. Hence there was no opportunity for a formal farewell.

Previous posts have shown the background complexities associated with enlistment over 1918. There was considerable ongoing pressure for enlistments, particularly after the major German offensive – and spectacular successes – in April-May 1918.

While public recruiting drives continued to be held locally – see Post 167. The search for ‘eligibles’, May 1918 – many of those who came forward at such public demonstrations failed the medical. There was a further drop-out rate amongst even those who did pass the (local) medical. Either they could not obtain parental permission or they failed subsequent medicals or perhaps they were discharged as unsuitable.

There was also the local recognition that, whatever the official recruiters might claim, the number of eligible men left in the district was small. Estimates suggest that by the end of 1918 approximately 800 men with a link to the Shire of Alberton had enlisted. Consequently, however desperate the need for reinforcements, the reality was that the available pool was, by the end of 1918, very limited. At the same time, this reality was often discounted – particularly by those who spoke at farewells – and the calls for enlistments remained right to the end of the War. The denunciation of ‘cold footers’ and ‘shirkers’ also continued to the end.

An indication of how the pressure was maintained to the end comes from the observation that men continued to enlist right through to early November 1918. Indeed, 3 men – James Wentworth Davis, Albert McEvoy and Christian Gregory Olsen – received their railway warrants for travel to Melbourne to complete the enlistment process on the very day of the Armistice, 11/11/18. Equally, as will become apparent, formal farewells were held through to the end of October 1918.

As previously noted, the farewells staged in the small settlements or townships of the Shire – places such as Womerah, Stacey’s Bridge, Lower Bulga, Wonyip – tended to be more community-focused and elaborate than those conducted in Yarram. Invariably in these places, the farewell was incorporated in a social of some kind, there was a very large attendance and the men being farewelled received not just the conventional Shire Medallion and (religious) Card but also some additional remembrance, for example a ‘wristlet watch’ or a ‘gold locket’ or inscribed ’gold medal’. In Yarram, attendance always seemed to be an issue and, as previously noted, A E Paige, the head teacher of the primary school and one of the common speakers, would often bring a party of students from the school to help make up the numbers. The problem with farewells at Yarram was that they were invariably used for recruiting purposes. The farewells were organised by the same group of Imperial Loyalists who were involved in the various iterations of the local recruiting committee and they also backed the Yes vote in the 2 referenda on conscription. Eligibles would hardly attend farewell – or welcome home – events at Yarram and, over time, ordinary locals would, inevitably, become reluctant to attend to be harangued on the need for enlistments. Then, when the numbers attending dropped, the speakers attacked the townsfolk for being indifferent to the War situation and the sacrifice of those being farewelled.

The themes employed by speakers at the farewells, both in Yarram and the outlying centres, remained constant to the end of the War. Loyalty to England and the Empire was ever present. As was the praise of those in the AIF and the conviction that as a fighting force it ranked with the very best. Indeed, for many it had proved itself to be the best fighting unit in the world. Speakers referred to commentary in the newspapers that constantly pushed this claim. Often there were also references to the young man enlisting as representing the very best character and spirit of the original ‘pioneers’ of the district. The pioneers had battled to settle the land and now their descendants were battling to protect what had been created. But by far the most constant theme was the one that had enlistment as a test of character; and this was after 4 years of constant appeals for enlistments, endless recruiting drives and 2 failed referenda on conscription. The essential dichotomy was there throughout the entire period of the War: that while most Australian men proved themselves loyal and brave and enlisted, there was a solid core who refused to acknowledge their responsibility and, no matter what pressure was applied, did not enlist. The sub themes here were that such men were cowardly, they forced mere boys and married men to take their place and do their duty, and they took the jobs of those who had enlisted voluntarily. These men were to be despised. They would forever be outcast because they had never been part of the AIF. Moreover, they must never be able to take either the jobs or the promotions of those who had enlisted.

Often, the various themes and sub themes ran together. For example, Leo Furlong was farewelled from the school at Lower Whitelaw on 21/1/18 and then again at the Womerah Hall on 22/1/18. The farewells were reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 30/1/18 and 6/2/18. Furlong enlisted as a 21 yo . His family ran a dairy farm. One of the speakers at Womerah was Henry John Alford another local dairy farmer who had take a strong, public pro-conscription position. At the time, his son – Edward J Alford – was serving in the AIF. He would be killed on 14/4/18 (Post 158). Alford started by declaring that at Womerah … practically all the eligible men had enlistedand now married men and boys were going. Accepting that this was the case, in such a small community the locals would have known which ‘eligibles’ had not enlisted. Alford went on to dismiss one of the arguments – it was not Australia’s fight – put up by those who refused to enlist. In the process, Alford not only questioned their reasoning but attacked their base character. These were not real men:

Unfortunately there were men (so called) who refused to take any part in the defence of Australia. They said, “This is England’s quarrel, not ours. If an enemy should land in Australia we would fight.” He would say to those men, “If England goes down Australia is doomed. Only the British navy protects us”. Should an enemy land in Australia there would be no scrub on the hills thick enough to hide those heroes.

Another local farmer who spoke that day – Matthew Thomas – managed to tie together a range of themes:

Mr. Mat Thomas said there were two classes of men who were not taking their part in the war. Those who would like to go, but were afraid, who he felt sorry for, the other class were those who would like to see the enemy win who were traitors, and should be turned out of any position they held. No returned soldier should be looking for work while one of these men held a position.

In May 1918, not long after his son had been killed, H J Alford spoke at another farewell from Womerah. It was reported on 7/6/18. Of the 2 men farewelled that night, William H Clemson was very young. He gave his age as 19 yo but in fact he might have been as young as 16 yo. It was a complicated enlistment and, indeed, he might not have lasted in the AIF, presumably because he was so young. In any case, it must have been Trooper Clemson’s very young age that prompted H J Alford to declare:

It was a shame that young men of more mature years [those not as young as Clemson] should stand back and allow a boy to go to fight for them. If there were any eligible men there that night who could go he appealed to them in God’s name to go at once while yet there was time; if not, how could they face these boys when they came back? They would stand branded all their days as shirker, who in their country’s danger refused to defend her.

Clearly, the stage was set for some form of orchestrated reckoning when the War ended and the men of the AIF returned home. The heroes of the AIF, backed by the general community, would confront and settle the score with the ‘traitors’, ‘cold footers’ and ‘shirkers’.

There was another theme that touched on family sacrifice, or, more pointedly, the father’s sacrifice. As indicated, H J Alford’s son had been killed in April 1918. Another very public Imperial Loyalist, B P Johnson, lost his son in mid May 1918 (Post 164). Men in the public eye, who were in favour of conscription and who advocated ceaselessly for enlistments, promoted the enlistment of their own sons as praiseworthy and proof of their own loyalty. They even loosely cast themselves as modern-day Abrahams, where they, as well as their sons, were making great personal sacrifice. Benjamin Couston was the manager of the Yarram branch of the Bank of Victoria. He had been in Yarram since late 1916. He was pro-conscription and had served on the local Yes committee. He was constantly attacking ‘eligibles’ and claimed he saw them playing football locally. At public farewells, he praised his own sons for enlisting while attacking those … who had no encumbrances but were hanging back and would not enlist. (28/6/18). At the farewell for Private H Brand held in Yarram on 26/6/18, and reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 28/6/18, Couston once again attacked the eligibles but did so in the context of the personal sacrifice that he, as the patriarch, was called upon to make:

He [Couston] knew of no reason and would acknowledge no reason why eligible men should stay at home. They had no right to do so when their country was calling. The Empire was tottering to its foundations and during no time in history had it been in such deadly peril. … He could not understand eligibles remaining at home. His second son who was only 20 years of age, had just written asking for consent to enlist. One was in camp, and this as his only remaining boy, and he considered whether he ought to sacrifice the manhood of his family for those cold-footers who were remaining in security. There were other people with six or seven eligible sons who had done nothing.

A few weeks later on 10/7/18 it was the turn of Couston’s son – Kenneth Couston, who had enlisted on 1/6/18 as an eighteen-year-old – to be farewelled from Yarram. The farewell was reported in the local paper on 12/7/18. Again the young age of the recruit was noted. In fact, the comments on the day by George Bland – one of the key figures responsible for organising farewells and welcomes – smacked of desperation:

Mr. Geo. Bland said it was another instance of a youth taking a man’s place. So much had been said on that question that it seemed useless to endeavour to persuade men of more mature years to enlist.

When his turn came to speak, Couston declared that – like Abraham – he was prepared to sacrifice everything, in this case for the Empire and the Allies:

Mr. B. Couston said that on behalf of his son he thanked them for their kindly wishes. The present time was not a time when a father could put his feelings into words. He had given all he had – his two sons – for the cause of the Empire; and no father could do more. He would sacrifice everything to advance the cause of the Allies (Applause).

The same sentiment was being expressed as late as October 1918. There was a farewell held at Womerah on 1/10/18 – reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 9/10/18 – for James Summerfield who had enlisted at the end of May 1918. The father was prepared to commit his son to the ‘fiery furnace of war’. He was reported thus:

Since he was 18 the boy had wanted to go, but he held him back, considering him too young. He was now 20, and going with his full consent. Though he was as anxious as anyone to see early peace declared, but (sic) rather than have an inconclusive peace he would wish to see the war continue and his boy pass into the fiery furnace of war till the beast of Berlin was securely chained. (Applause.)

Wilfred Owen’s poem, The Parable of the Young Man and the Old [below] explored the fateful consequence of the patriotic fervour of such patriarchs.

The penultimate farewell from the Shire of Alberton took place at Won Wron on 28/10/18 and was reported in the local paper on 6/11/18, five days before the Armistice. The event was a social-dance for George ‘Jim’ Clark and the hall was packed. Clark was a 20 yo ‘saw mill hand’ who had enlisted on 2/8/18. As well as being presented with the usual Shire Medallion and Card, Private Clark was also given a certificate in a blackwood frame. The theme referred to that day was the common one of ‘playing the game (of football) as part of a team’.

When attending the school, he had always upheld its traditions and he felt sure that by the stand he had taken, he would uphold the standard already attained by the Australian soldiers. (Applause) … When the opposition [football] team needed a bump “Jim” could give one, and he felt sure now that he is a “member of the team” out for justice and liberty, he will endeavour to give the enemy a good solid bump. He possessed the many fine and sterling qualities of his parents and was certain he would uphold Australia’s good name.

The very last farewells from the Shire of Alberton occurred on the night of 29/10/18 and the morning of 30/10/18. Both events were reported in the local paper on 1/11/18. On the night of 29/10/18 Ernest George Griffiths was farewelled from Stacey’s Bridge. The next morning there was another farewell for him in Yarram. At this second farewell, one other local – Roy William Turnbull was also farewelled, and Sapper A J Martin was welcomed home. Ernest Griffiths was a 21 yo clerk whose family was from Stacey’s Bridge. He had enlisted in August 1918 but, as was pointed out in speeches on the night, he had been trying to enlist since 1916. Roy William Turnbull was only 19 yo. He was a bank clerk from Yarram and he had enlisted in July 1918.

By this point – early November 1918 – there was a growing sense that the fighting had just about finished. Speakers remarked that the news from the front was ‘much brighter’ and it was possible that neither of the men being farewelled would face battle. They were quick to add:

Privates Griffiths and Turnbull had enlisted some time ago, and the fact that they were just about to sail did not detract in any way from the spirit in which they had enlisted.

Specifically in relation to Private Griffiths, the chair of the farewell at Stacey’s Bridge declared that … Private Griffiths was not going to the war because he thought it was nearly over. To his credit he enlisted three years ago, and has tried several times since. This time [18/8/18] he was successful.

The key theme for this last set of farewells saw the return to the legacy of the pioneers. The chair at the Yarram farewell – George Bland – effectively summed up both the Shire’s overall contribution and the ongoing link with the pioneers and their spirit. He declared that the 2 men being farewelled were … grandsons of pioneers of the district, and it was pleasing to see that the grand old spirit which was in the blood of their grandfathers had been inherited by these boys. Almost every district family was represented at the front, and he was proud to say the boys had proved their worth.

The same theme was picked up by B P Johnson. Johnson had returned to his role as key speaker at such events after a period of several months following the death of his son. The sub-theme of racial superiority comes through in all the references to the superior (White and British) ’blood’ of the pioneers.

Mr. B. P. Johnson said in regard to the two boys that were going to the war, they were descendants of old pioneers of the district, and blood tells every time. Their forefathers were men who came out to this country and showed they had true British blood in their veins by the work they had done, and their boys were now going forward to lend their assistance to a cause that was keeping from these shores a fate worse than death.

Johnson of course had been present at the very first farewell of men from the Shire of Alberton at the Alberton Railway Station on 21 September 1914. On the day, there had been much enthusiasm, but that very first farewell had been poorly organised – see Post 11 – and the men nearly did not make it to the station. Johnson, conscious of the second-rate and very amateurish send-off the men were being given, promised to make it up to them with a ’tip-top reception’ when they came back. At that first farewell, all the newly enlisted men were enthusiastic and confident. There was an overabundance of volunteers. The community was totally behind the men. There was no real challenge for any speaker on that occasion. Johnson simply declared:

You are a decent lot, and we are proud of you fellows. You are going to the biggest battle the world has ever seen. It will not be a picnic. You will have a hard time, but we know you will do your duty. I only wish I were a few years younger and I would be amongst you, (Cheers). The Empire is proud of men like you. We know you will come back victorious. We’ll win the fight, even if it takes every man and every shilling we’ve got. We’re fighting for right.

Just over 4 years later, at the end of 1918, farewells had become very different affairs. In the past 4 years, 800 men had enlisted from the Shire and more than 100 had been killed. For at least 3 of the 4 years, recruiting drives had been a constant, draining feature of life for everyone. Two conscription referenda had been defeated. Enlistment targets could not be met and the Government claimed constantly that the nation was failing its soldiers on the front line. In the conservative, rural community of the Shire of Alberton, Imperial Loyalists had not been able to comprehend, or accept, the defeat of the conscription referenda. Principally, they saw the treachery in the City but they also saw evidence of it in their own community, with some not prepared to share the sacrifice. Overall, while formal farewells still acknowledged individual sacrifice, loyalty and selflessness – particularly amongst the very young – they had also become very public demonstrations of division, bitterness, frustration and disillusionment. This was particularly the case for those farewells held in Yarram.

The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

179. R E Cross

CROSS Robert Eric (6785)
24 B KIA 28/8/18

Robert Eric Cross was born in December 1899 in Bendigo. He was the youngest of 3 children of Robert Cross and Mary Alice Meatchem who had married in 1890. The father died at only 31 years of age in 1900 and then the older brother – Frederick William Cross – aged only eleven, died in 1903. The mother remarried in 1904. The step-father was Albert Box who had a dairy farm at Hiawatha.

Robert’s older sister – Elsie May Cross – married William Ellwood in 1915. Ellwood had enlisted in early 1915 and before this, he had been the teacher at the state school at Hiawatha. Elwood rose through the ranks to become a major. After the War he had a very successful career in the Education Department, becoming Chief Inspector. Both William Ellwood and his younger brother-in-law, Robert Cross, served in 24 Battalion.

From the age of five, Robert Cross grew up at Hiawatha and he was one of the first students to attend the new school when it opened in 1907. His name appears on the honor roll for the school.

While he would have grown up, and worked, on his step-father’s farm at Hiawatha, when he came to enlist as an 18 yo in 1917, his occupation was given as ‘motor driver’. When his mother completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour she described his ‘calling’ as ‘motor mechanic’. Presumably he was working in Yarram at a motor garage.

Private Cross enlisted in Yarram on 17/8/17. His initial medical was with Dr. Rutter. As he was under nineteen when he enlisted, his mother was formally asked to confirm that she had given written consent to his enlistment and understood that he could be sent on active service before he was nineteen. His religion was given as Church of England.

Private Cross joined as reinforcements for 24 Battalion and left Melbourne 2 months later on 21/11/17. By the time he enlisted, his brother-in-law, William Ellwood, had been serving in the same battalion for 2 years. In fact, Captain Ellwood had recently been awarded the Military Cross. Doubtless, the experiences of his brother-in-law had encouraged Robert Cross to enlist and enlist in the same battalion.

Just before embarkation, Private Cross returned to Hiawatha for a formal ‘send-off’. It was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 7/11/17:
Send off to Private R. E. Cross.

At the close of the concert Private R. E. Cross, who is home on final leave, was presented from the members of the Soldiers’ Society with a wristlet watch. Mr. R. Lee, who is president of the society, in making the presentation, spoke in favorable terms of Private Cross as he had known him all his life. He was proud to he able to make the presentation to one who has volunteered for service abroad, and wished him a safe return and speedy promotion. Private Cross, on rising to respond, was received with acclamation. He stated that he did not possess any oratorial qualifications, but would simply thank them for their valuable gift, and assured them that it would he treasured at all times, especially when he was on the other side of the world. “God Bess Our Splendid Men” was then sung by all present.

When his group of reinforcements reached the UK in early 1918, he was attached to 6 Training Battalion at Fovant, near Salisbury. He was finally sent to France and taken on the strength of 24 Battalion in the field in June 1918 (4/6/18). Less than 3 months later, he was killed in action. He was still only 19 years of age.

On the (National) Roll of Honour form, the account given of the death had Private Cross … killed while covering retirement from Sugar Factory at Dompierre [Dompierre-Becquincourt]. As indicated, the official date of death was given as 28/8/18. The mother gave the same date on the (National) Roll of Honour form.

The problem with this version of the death is that it does not line up with the account in the battalion war diary. Certainly, the diary records the attack by 24 Battalion on the Sugar Factory at Dompierre. It describes how B Company took the position without much opposition but then there was a fierce artillery bombardment by the Germans and equally heavy crossfire from their nearby positions in the old trench system. The counter fire was so heavy, and the threat of being surrounded so great, that the troops withdrew. In this particular action there were 2 killed and 8 wounded. However, this action occurred on 27 August, not 28 August. The only casualties recorded for August 28 occurred when one of three patrols sent out to ‘establish touch with the enemy’ ran into … severe M.G. fire from the direction of Assevillers, and 2 men were killed and 1 wounded. Presumably, if Private Cross was killed in the withdrawal from the Sugar Factory then the death occurred on 27 August. If, on the other hand, the date of the death was 28 August, then he was killed in the second action which involved the patrols being sent out to establish the location and strength of the enemy positions.

Unfortunately, there was no Red Cross report completed for Private Cross. Presumably, the brother-in-law (Captain Ellwood) was able to inform the family back in Gippsland about the details of Private Cross’s death.

The cable advising of the death was dated 13/9/18, 2 weeks after the death. Private Cross was buried in Assevillers New British Cemetery.

Oddly, there does not appear to have been a death notice published in the local paper. In early November (1/11/18), there was a column in the local paper which described how the local district Soldiers’ Fund for Hiawatha had requested enlarged photos for a number of local men who had recently been killed, including Alfred Jones (Post 134 ), Albert Sherlock (Post 178 ) and R. Cross. The same article listed the members of this local association and Albert Box, the step-father, was a member.

Private Cross’s mother received photographs of the grave in September 1920. Earlier, the few personal effects reached home in April 1919:

Wallet, Letters, Photos, Cards, YMCA wallet, Photo case.

Well after the War, the mother wrote (29/5/23) to Base Records requesting:

Is it possible for me to get my son’s number disk. I would like to have it very much.

The predictable response would have given little comfort:

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 29th May and regret to inform you that no personal effects of your son, the late No. 6785 Private R. E. Cross, 24ht Battalion, have been received here other than the package transmitted to you on 28.3.19.

In view of the length of time that has elapsed since this soldier’s demise, it is considered improbable that his identity disc will now come to hand.

The mother had made an earlier request – April 1919 – for what she referred to as the ‘Mother’s Badge’. This badge was issued, on request, to the ‘nearest female relative’ of the deceased soldier. The mother also received all the medals and the Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque. She was the sole beneficiary of the will. The will included the further provision that … In the event of my Mother’s death I then leave my Property and effects to my Sister Mrs. Elsie May Ellwood.

The (National) Roll of Honour form listed 2 relatives of Private Cross who were also killed in the War. One of these was an uncle on the mother’s side – Sergeant H Meatchem – and the other a cousin, A Tolley. Private Albert Edward Tolley was killed on 5/10/17. He had enlisted from Drouin in July 1915 aged 25 years. He was also in 24 Battalion. It is a striking example of how strong the family links could be in the various battalions. It probably also helps to explains why a 19 yo like Robert Cross would have been so keen to enlist.

Interestingly, the information of the (National) Roll of Honour appears to have been supplied not by the mother but by the older brother-in-law, Major William Ellwood MC.

Private Cross is remembered on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honour and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ memorial.

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 CROSS Robert Eric
Roll of Honour: Robert Eric Cross
First World War Embarkation Roll: Robert Eric Cross

178. A Sherlock

SHERLOCK Albert (3571)
14 B  KIA 20/8/18

Albert Sherlock was born at Piggoreet. His father was deceased by the time of his enlistment (July 1915). His mother – Sarah Jane Sherlock (Jobling) – was listed as next-of-kin and her address, throughout and after the War, was also Piggoreet. When she completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, she gave Piggoreet as the location with which her son was chiefly connected. However, Private Sherlock enlisted in Yarram and there is evidence of strong links to the local community. His name appears on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor – but he is not marked as ‘killed’ – and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.

Albert Sherlock must have been working in the Shire of Alberton for several years before he enlisted. His name appears on the electoral roll for 1915, as a labourer of Madalya. The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative regularly featured a short column of news from Hiawatha and Albert Sherlock’s name featured there in relation to the local sports for Madalya (27/3/14), the football club for Hiawatha (5/5/15) and, surprisingly, the local (Hiawatha) debating society (29/7/14). Similarly, when he enlisted his name was written up (21/7/15) – it was incorrectly recorded as ‘Allan’ – as one of the locals who had enlisted and, one year after his enlistment, the paper reported (15/11/16) that, as he was already overseas, his Shire Medallion had been passed to either a relative or friend.

Later, in 1918, there was no mention in the paper of his death and no death notice appeared. However, there was a report (1/11/18) – again, in the section on Hiawatha – to the effect that the local district Soldiers’ Fund had directed the secretary to purchase enlarged photos of several locals who had been killed, including A. Sherlock. Presumably, such photos were to feature in some sort of memorial. However, the only extant memorial from Hiawatha appears to be the state school honour roll and, not surprisingly, Albert Sherlock’s name does not appear on it. At the same time, his name does appear, as a resident, on the honour roll for Madalya School and District.

Private Sherlock enlisted in Yarram on 16/7/15. His initial medical was carried out by Dr Crooks at Yarram, and there was a subsequent re-examination in Melbourne 10 days later (26/7/15). He was issued with a railway warrant (number 151) by the Shire Secretary on 16/7/15. His occupation was recorded as ‘laborer’. Presumably he was working in Madalya as a farm labourer. He was 27 yo at the time and single. His religion was Church of England.

Private Sherlock joined as reinforcements for 7 Battalion and he left Melbourne less than 3 months later (11/10/15). His group of reinforcements then spent time training in Egypt and it was at this time that he was transferred (7/4/16) to the newly formed 14 Battalion. There was also a period of hospitalisation with the mumps at this time.

His unit reached France in July 1916. Nearly a year later, in April 1917, he was hospitalised with nephritis and repatriated to England. He did not return to France until October that year (15/10/17). He was hospitalised again in January 1918 (8/1/18), this time with epilepsy, and, once again, he was repatriated to the UK. He returned to France in April and re-joined 14 Battalion on 27/4/18.

Private Sherlock was killed in action on 20/8/18. He was buried in Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres.

Private Sherlock’s death came nearly 2 weeks after the main battle at Amiens. On the night of 15/16 August, 14 Battalion moved back to the front line to relieve 11 Battalion, and stayed there until the night of 20 August when, in turn, it was relieved by 18 Battalion. Over this 5 day period in the line, the war diary for 14 Battalion indicates that there was ‘fairly heavy’ artillery fire and several instances of aerial bombing on its position. The level of air warfare had increased dramatically by this point. Battalion casualties for this short spell in the front line were only light: only 4 dead and 21 wounded. The greatest concentration occurred on 20 August, the day Private Sherlock was killed, when there were 2 dead and 10 wounded. Unfortunately, there is no Red Cross report for Private Sherlock.

The cable advising of the death was dated 1/9/18.

When it came to the distribution of the service medals, the mother was required, in keeping with relevant legislation, to identify if there were … any nearer blood relations than yourself, for instance, is his father still alive. She replied (30/7/20) that the father was dead and all medals, personal kit and the photograph of the grave were subsequently sent to her.

The personal kit returned to the mother came in 2 parcels. The first contained …  2 Discs, 1 canvas case, 1 wallet, photos, 1 note book. The second had … 5 Pr Woollen socks and I safety razor.

Little is known of Albert Sherlock’s early life or the time he spent in the local area (Madalya) before he enlisted but he definitely was a ‘local’.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SHERLOCK Albert
Roll of Honour: Albert Sherlock
First World War Embarkation Roll: Albert Sherlock

177. H B Chenhall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A death notice appeared on 4/10/18:

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

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

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

In late May the package finally arrived:

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

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

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

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

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

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

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

176. W H Sutton & H B Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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