The AIF casualties for Passchendaele 2 (12/10/17) were approximately 4,000. New Zealand casualties were 3,000. The British lost 13,000. The military objectives were not achieved. It was, in fact, a military disaster. Incredibly, Haig still would not give up his dreadful quest to take the village and it was left to the Canadians, at great cost, to capture it, finally, on 12/11/17. It was a hollow victory.
For the AIF, October 1917 became the costliest month of the entire War. The ‘sacrifice’ of so many – for so little – would play out in complex and bitter ways back in Australia.
Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume IV – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917, 11th Edition 1941
Chapter XXII – Passchendaele II – October 12th
For a general background on Poelcappelle see,
Beaumont, J 2013, Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW. [p 357 ff]
Carlyon, L 2006, The Great War, Pan Macmillan, Sydney NSW
[Chapter 32] Carlyon’s chapter is aptly named, ‘The way of the cross’
Frederick George ALLIN (1206)
39B KIA 12/10/17
Frederick G Allin was born in Sydney. It is not known where he grew up but it appears that he completed 1½ years of an apprenticeship as a coach builder in Melbourne ( G F Pickle and Sons, Latrobe St. Melbourne). At the time he enlisted he was working with his brother – C J Allin – as a coach painter. Charles John Allin appears on the local electoral roll as a ‘coach builder’ of Yarram.
At the time he enlisted, both parents – John and Susannah Allin – were also living in Yarram. He gave his father as next-of-kin and his will left everything to his mother. In addition to his only brother – Charles John Allin – there were two married sisters. The brother was named as executor of the will and it was the brother who handled all correspondence with Base Records in Melbourne.
The circumstances surrounding the mother’s death were sad. She died on 26/11/17 after a lengthy illness. It appears that word of the death of her son, Frederick, reached the family in early November (8/11/17). However, the mother was never told. She died not knowing that her son had been killed. The situation was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 30/11/17, just after the mother’s death:
The death took place on Monday of Mrs. John Allin, at the age of 72 years. She had been ailing for some time, and was not informed, under doctors orders, that her son Fred had been killed whilst on active service.
The father died in 1919. This meant that all medals and memorabilia went to the older brother.
When the older brother completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he indicated that Yarram was the town with which his brother was ‘chiefly connected’. Frederick G Allin’s name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.
When he enlisted in Melbourne on 28/1/16 he was 26 yo and single. he gave his religion as Methodist and, according to the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (30/11/17), he had been … an active member of the local Oddfellows’ Lodge when living at Yarram.
Private Allin had had no previous military experience. He enlisted as reinforcements for 39 Battalion.
His group of reinforcements left Melbourne on 27/5/16. He reached the UK on 18/7/16, spent the next 4 months in training and then proceeded to France at the end of November 1916 (23/11/16). He was hospitalised with tonsillitis for about a week in March 1917 and the only other entry on his service record is his death – killed in action – 12/10/17.
There is a brief Red Cross report on his death. However there was no witness statement from anyone who directly observed his death. What is clear from the statements is the intensity of the fighting:
We had made our attack on the 12th Octr but failed to hold the ground and retired leaving all the dead and most of the wounded behind.
Re Pte. Allin. I know nothing of his burial, but I would say he was buried on the field and not in a soldiers’ cemetery as at that particular time there was not a chance of shifting the dead to any cemetery.
Incredibly, Private Allin’s body was recovered after the War. He is buried in the Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Belgium.
The war diary of 39 Battalion points out the difficulties the troops faced in even getting to the assembly point – shelling and the congested track which slowed movement down – and it is clear that once the attack was launched it fell apart quickly: there was no direction from officers – most were killed or wounded – order broke down and the men fell back.
About 8.a.m. on the 12th inst. I [Lieut-Col R. C. Henderson, C.O. 39 Battalion] received word that men were bunched together behind pill boxes and did not know what to do as they had no officer with them. I immediately sent forward Lieutenants Nicholes & Edwards to organise them and lead them forward; both these officers became casualties. It was then reported to me that the forward troops were held by snipers and machine gun fire which I reported to Brigade and was ordered by the Brigadier to send forward the reserves.
I sent Captain A. T. Paterson forward with what troops remained to me. About midday men began to filter back who on being questioned stated that they were told to get back. I ordered them to dig in on the present line …. After digging in the Brigade was re-organised.
Standing patrols were put out on the ridge in front of Consolidated Line but were ultimately withdrawn under instructions.
Relief of the Brigade by the 11th Brigade commenced at about 7. p.m on the 13th inst, and was completed about 8.30.p.m.
The return journey was made under great difficulties owing to the state of the track and took about 5 ½ hours to complete.
Through the operations the weather was very cold and wet and severely taxed the strength of the men.
The war dairy of 39 Battalion also reveals that on the day Private Allin’s company (D Coy) had been attached to 38 Battalion. The 2 battalions had merged in the lead up to the attack because of the appalling conditions on the approach track. The figure for those ‘missing’ after the battle is not available for 39 battalion but for 38 Battalion the figure given was 101, most of whom, presumably, had already been killed or wounded, and left behind, when the troops fell back.
In May 1918, a few items of personal kit were returned to the family in Yarram: 1 kit Bag Handle, 1 Lock & chain, 1 Drinking cup, 1 Clothes brush.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for ALLIN Frederick George 1206
Roll of Honour: Frederick George Allin
First World War Embarkation Roll: Frederick George Allin
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Frederick George Allin
O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 1, The Alberton Project
William MOULDEN (2711)
48B KiA 12/101/17
William Moulden enlisted in Bunbury, West Australia in March 1916. However he had been born in Yarram and had grown up at Binginwarri, attending the local state school. His father – William Moulden – had been killed in a bullock dray accident at West Alberton in 1890. The father left behind a widow and 8 children. At some point after 1901, one son, William, like others from the district, had left the Shire of Alberton and moved to work in the timber industry in Western Australia. The mother, and most of the children, remained in Gippsland. One older brother – James Moulden – lived at Binginwarri and the mother lived first at Yarram and then at Hedley, with one of her daughters.
While William’s name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial, it does appear on the honor roll for the state school at Binginwarri. Also, the place of ‘association’ given on the (National) Roll of Honour is Alberton. As indicated, the larger family was still in the district, and even William himself was remembered as a ‘local’. When news of his ‘missing’ status was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 9/1/18 – several months after he was reported as ‘wounded and missing’ from 12/10/17 – he was referred to as ‘native of Binginwarri’.
When he enlisted (16/3/16) Private William Moulden was 38 yo and single. He recorded his occupation as ‘timber worker’. He had previously been rejected for the AIF on the grounds of ‘defective hearing’. He gave his mother – Sarah Ann Moulden – as his next-of-kin and her address was recorded as Yarram.
For his religion, Private Moulden recorded ‘Nil’. It appears that the family was Catholic.
Private Moulden’s service record is short. He enlisted as reinforcements for 48 Battalion and embarked from Fremantle at the end of October 1916. He joined 48 Battalion in France in early February 1917.
He was initially reported to be ‘wounded & missing’ from 12/10/17 and this status was not changed until a court of enquiry held in Belgium in early April 1918 found that he had been killed in action on 12/10/17. The family in Gippsland was advised of the outcome via a cable dated 24/4/18.
In the interim between October and April, the family wrote requesting information. The brother – James Moulden – even wrote to Senator Pearce as Minister for Defence. For its part, Base Records in Melbourne wrote to the family – using the standard form – to establish if in fact they had had any further communication from Private Moulden himself or if they had learned any details of his fate from others.
The body was never recovered and Private Moulden’s name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial. To add to the family’s distress, no personal belongings were ever recovered. The family wrote requesting information about personal belongings only to receive the standard reply:
As the late soldier was posted “missing” for some months before it was ascertained that he had been killed in action it is probable that anything he had on his person would have disappeared.
There is a detailed Red Cross report and while there are inconsistencies between the witness statements, the overall picture is clear. The description of him being both wounded and missing makes perfect, if not cruel, sense:
… I saw him on Passchendaele Ridge on the morning of 12th Oct. 1917 in “no mans land” badly wounded. He looked very bad, and was left behind when we retired the same evening. The enemy were shelling the ground heavily. Sergt. W. McKinley 2827
… I saw him hit by bullet in the leg and arm at Passchendaele Ridge on October 12th, 1917. I bandaged him and left him. He could not walk. We had to retire the same day, and our wounded were left behind. L.Cpl. F. W. Connolly 4775
… I saw him fall hit by several bullets. I was going over to get his paybook and got wounded myself. I was quite close to him and no doubt that he was dead. I was there for about an hour after he was hit and then walked out. In fact I was right alongside his body. Cpl. J. R. Jones
… On Oct 12th we advanced about 800 yds at Passchendaele and came to a stop, and there he was hit going from one shell hole to another. A sniper shot him through the hip. We hung on there for three hours and then had to fall back. Before we left we covered him with an oil sheet. He was alive then. He was near Curnow [?] who was more severely wounded than he was, and was also left behind. Pte. J. P. Woods 3244
… We were attacking at Passchendaele on the 12th Octr. at Dawn. We failed in our attack, and got back to our own line in the afternoon, which we held. We were taking cover about 500 yards from our objective. While there I was alongside of Moulden. I saw him hit in the leg and arm. I bound him up. When we retired he was left there. I don’t think he was very bad. The Germans were following us up and over this part of the ground. L/Cpl. F. T. Connolly 4775
Private Moulden was one of the many ‘left behind’ that day.
The war diary of 48 Battalion provides a graphic account of the battle. It starts with the weather – it was raining from 2 a.m. on the morning of the 12th October – and highlights the difficulty of movement to the jumping off point. The intensity of the barrage was poor and it moved too quickly for the heavy conditions the men faced. As well, there were many casualties as the shells fell up to 100 yards short.
The greatest problem, at least for 48 Battalion, was the fact that 9 Brigade (34-36 Battalions) on their left did not advance at the same rate – if they advanced at all – and therefore left their flank exposed. Essentially, 48 Battalion could not proceed much further than 300 yards because of its exposed flank. The men became pinned down by intense fire:
During the work of consolidation on the new line enemy sniping and machine gun fire became very precise and heavy and almost every man who showed himself became a casualty…
A smaller group were in advance of the consolidated line but these advance posts were wiped out when the enemy counterattacked in the afternoon. It noted … Very few, if any, of these men got back to our final position as they were caught by snipers…
Eventually, the line fell back to its original position, the jumping off trenches. The casualties were very high: 372 killed, wounded or missing. The issue of getting the wounded out was obviously significant:
The casualties sustained by the Battalion chiefly occurred after line in advance had been reached and while the work of consolidation was being carried out, and during the withdrawal, and the subsequent two days in the line [the battalion was not relieved until the night of 14 October]. It was found impossible to evacuate the stretcher cases from the forward area in advance of the original jumping off line, but all walking cases were brought out and as far as is known no wounded were in the area occupied after the withdrawal.
With so many missing – including Private Moulden – the last claim was more of a desperate hope than a statement of fact.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
National Archives file for MOULDEN William 2711
Roll of Honour: William Moulden
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Moulden [?]
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: William Moulden
O’Callaghan G (Comp) 2006, Clonmel to Federation: Guide to people in the Port Albert area 1841-1901, Vol 2, The Alberton Project
William Moulden, courtesy Ann Longwood
Dudley GRINLINGTON (3386/Lt)
48B DoW 17/10/17
Lieutenant Dudley Grinlington was wounded on 12 October and died of his wounds on 17 October 1917.
It is difficult to uncover the connection between Dudley Grinlington and the Shire of Alberton. In fact, the evidence is generally circumstantial.
On the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor there are 2 names: Grimlington, J.V. and Grimlington, D. and the latter is marked as a war death. Equally, the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial records Grimlington D as one of those killed on active service. However there is no record in the National Archives of anyone with the name Grimlington having ever served in the AIF. But there were 2 brothers who do match: Dudley Grinlington – died of wounds 17/10/17 – and Joseph Vincent Grinlington; and given that both were born in Tarraville it is reasonable to argue that the Grimlington on the Shire of Alberton memorials is actually Grinlington. At the same time, I have not yet been able to locate any other direct evidence that ties these 2 brothers to the Shire of Alberton. Their father, at the time they both enlisted, was a postmaster so perhaps at a earlier period he had been the postmaster at Tarraville.
The family was Victorian. The 2 brothers, as indicated were born in Tarraville and the father was postmaster at a series of country post offices, including Chiltern – when the brothers enlisted – Rutherglen (1916) and Portland (1921). The father indicated on the information for the (National) Roll of Honour that his son, Dudley Grinlington had, prior to enlistment, served 2 years in the ‘Garrison Artillery, Melbourne’. The father also gave Williamstown as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’.
While the 2 boys were born at Tarraville, there is no record of either of them attending any local school in the Shire of Alberton. Possibly the family had left the Shire before they were of school age. However if their association with the Shire was so brief it is hard to believe that their names would have been included on the local memorials. The other possibility is that while the family resided at Tarraville, the boys attended school outside the Shire. There is some suggestion that this is what happened, in as much as the father on the (National) Roll of Honour recorded ‘grammar school’ as the school Dudley had attended
For all the links to Victoria, Dudley Grinlington was working as a bank officer in the National Bank in Perth when he enlisted.
He enlisted on 1/8/15. He was 26 yo and single. He gave his father – Joseph Arthur Grinlington – as next-of-kin. The father’s address was Chiltern. The religion was given as Church of England.
Private Dudley Grinlington had previously tried to enlist – in Perth – but had been rejected because of ‘varicocele’.
He enlisted as reinforcements for 16 Battalion and his unit left Fremantle on 1/11/15. He became a member of 48 Battalion in early March 1916 when it was set up in Egypt.
Private Grinlington rose through the ranks quickly, presumably because of his previous service history. He rose from corporal to sergeant and then in March 1916 he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant.
48 Battalion reached France in June 1916. Two months later, in early August, 2 Lt. Grinlington was wounded at Pozieres. He was repatriated to England and underwent extensive surgery and did not rejoin his unit until the end of September the following year – 25/9/17 – less than one month before he died.
While he was in England recovering from his wounds he was promoted to lieutenant (1/10/16). He also married – Florence Annie Grinlington – an English girl from Middlesex.
Lt. Grinlington actually provided a detailed, persoanl account of the time he was wounded at Pozieres. It came from a letter he sent home which was then published in several local papers, including the Williamstown Advertiser on 4/11/16. It reads a little like a Boys’ Own adventure:
“When I was first hit I thought I was done for, on account of my bleeding so much, as three of my arteries were open, and I lay down waiting for death to come. After a quarter of an hour I found that I still lived and retained consciousness; also on top of this came the gas alarm.
The Germans were gassing us on one of our flanks, and you can imagine my plight having to push a gas helmet over my head with my jaw all broken and bleeding, and then I could not grip the tube because of my smashed jaw. Thank God the gas never came our way or I would have surely died of suffocation. Strange to say that although I got the full contents of the grenade, it killed the men on both sides of me and wounded a lot of others.
When I saw that I still had life left in me I thought I would make a bolt for liberty and life; but I would never have got there had it not been for my batman and Vincent (my brother) – brave lads. They put my first field dressing on, and then I took my puttee off and wound it under my chin and over my head to keep my broken jaw up. They then took me across about 400 yards of ground, nothing but shell holes made by our artillery when pounding the Germans up, and this was literally swept with shrapnel, high explosives and bombs bursting. The shells were falling at the rate of about 20 a minute. Thank God neither of the brave lads were hurt whilst taking me across this open country; but, oh horror, for when taking refuge from the bursting shells I jumped into a shell crater and it was full of dead Germans and Australians. They had been there some time and the smell was awful. I very quickly got out of that hole.
At last they got me to the field dressing station; I was then safe. I had lost a lot of blood. I think it was at Albert where my arteries were tied up, by electric torch, on account of the Germans bombarding the ambulance station. I got my wound at Pozieres, where there has been such heavy fighting, and I am proud to be an Australian after the magnificent fighting of our boys; they are absolutely fearless and frightened of nothing.
In my company every officer went out to it. The O.C. some days afterwards was carried away with nerves completely given way; the same night as I was hit the second in command had his two legs blown off and the other subalterns were killed; so that will give you some idea of hot fighting that took place. Our casualties were very heavy amongst the men also, but they are mostly wounded.”
The brother – Joseph Vincent Grinlington 3112 – had enlisted in July 1915 and joined 48 Battalion in April 1916. He reached the rank of sergeant. He was wounded – GSW arm – in April 1917 (Bullecourt) and repatriated to Australia in January 1918, and then discharged as medically unfit (wounded).
Another letter home – published in the Rutherglen Sun and Chiltern Valley Advertiser, 1/12/16 – gave some account of Lt. Grinlington’s time in the UK when he was recuperating from his wound. It is clear that the Grinlington family still had close relatives in the UK and that those ties were distinctly upper class. It is a example of how close the connections between families in Australia and the UK still were.
Did I tell you [the letter was to his father] that I went out and visited Mrs Peggie Grinlington, the wife of Major Grinlington (who has just got his D.S.O.); she lives with her mother and father, Lieut-Gen. Sir Arthur Browne and Lady Browne and her two sisters, the Honorables Misses Browne. I also met Mr. F. H. Grinlington there; he is the son of Sir John, and has invited me to stay down at his place in Devonshire. They were all very nice to me, and seemed rather pleased to know that there were sons of the family out in Australia, and it pleases them rather my being an “Anzac” officer. Anzacs are thought a great deal of over here.
The letter concludes with an account of his meeting with the King at Aldershot, on the occasion of some military sports event when a small group of wounded officers were introduced to the King.
Behind all this bonhomie, Lt.Grinlington had to come to terms with a debilitating injury. The details of his recovery from the wound from Pozieres are extensive. There were no less than 5 medical boards to review his ongoing condition. He was one of the early patients to experience plastic surgery.
The first medical board (12/12/16) found that it was going to take some seven months from the time of the injury before 2Lt Grinlington would be fit for military duty. It also noted that the effects of the injury were ‘likely to be permanent’. A brief description of the injury was given,
He is suffering from a grenade wound of left face. Left lower jaw was fractured: has lost 12 teeth & wounds all quite healed. Can only eat soft solids as opening of mouth is impaired.
At the second board (16/2/17) a more detailed account of what had happened was given,
At Pozieres on 4-8-16 a rifle grenade burst in close proximity to him, a portion of which tore the left side of the face open from below the eye to the neck; at the same time fracturing, with considerable loss of bone & teeth, the lower jaw in front of the left angle. He has had two plastic operations & three operations on his teeth in Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot. He has lost altogether twelve teeth. He has got bone union of jaw. There is slight facial paralysis on L. side.
At its next session (19/2/17) the board observed that 2Lt Grinlington was waiting for ‘dental applications’ and that he was ‘unable to masticate solid food’. In April (2/4/17) he was still having ‘some difficulty in masticating solid food’. Finally, at the end of April (30/4/17) the board found that ‘he can’t eat any biscuits – otherwise he is well.’
In April he joined 12 Training Battalion and then the Pioneer Training Battalion and then, as indicated proceeded overseas in September to rejoin his battalion.
There is an obvious question as to why, given so serious an injury and such an ongoing debility with eating, Lt. Grinlington was not repatriated back to Australia and given a medical discharge. His personal appearance, given the severity of the wounds, must also have been an issue.
A little over 2 weeks after rejoining his battalion (25/9/17), he was wounded at Passchendaele (12/10/17) – gunshot wound knee – and then died of wounds 5 days later (17/10/17). He was buried at Nine Elms British Cemetery near Poperinghe.
The war diary of the 48 Battalion for Passchendaele (12/10/17) has already been covered (see Private Moulden above). It highlighted the extreme difficulty in evacuating the wounded, many of whom were left behind. Lt. Grinlington was wounded either when the line went forward or when it consolidated. Either way, it appears that he did not make it to a casualty clearing station until the next day, 13/10/17. The time taken to receive medical attention no doubt contributed to the death. Nor does it appear that he was transferred to a field hospital before his death. Presumably, his death was, at least in part, the result of the great difficulties faced by the medical staff treating and moving the large number of casualties in the appalling conditions.
The cable advising of his death was dated 20/10/17.
As indicated, Lt. Grinlington had married while in England recovering from his wound. His wife was now his next of kin and all communication went to her. It appears that she also received the personal belongings of her late husband but there is no itemised record of these in the service file.
It appears that the wife came to Australia after the War. The date is not clear but it was probably not until after February 1919. Tragically, she died of ‘pneumonic influenza’ in Sydney on 9/5/19. It is likely that the the death occurred almost as soon as she arrived in Australia. Perhaps she contracted the influenza on the voyage. The death notice referred to her as ‘loving daughter-in-law of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Grinlington, Williamstown.’ There were no children. After her death, all medals and other memorabilia went to the father.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Rutherglen Sun and ChilternValley Advertiser
National Archives file for GRINLINGTON Dudley 3386/Lt.
Roll of Honour: Dudley Grinlington
First World War Embarkation Roll: Dudley Grinlington