Category Archives: The dead

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

175. J Singleton

SINGLETON James 1172/1138
8 B KIA 9/8/18

James Singleton was killed in action on 9/8/18. Even though he enlisted at Yarram, he is another young man whose name is missing from the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. At the same time, his name – Singleton, J – is included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor, but it does not have the marking for ‘killed’.

James Singleton was one of the large group who enlisted at Yarram in mid September 1914. He enlisted on 17/9/14 and was issued with railway warrant number 26 on 21/9/14. The list of railway warrants also has ‘killed’ against his name, Jas Singleton. His name also appeared on the list of those examined by the local doctors – as part of the enlistment process – to 31/12/14. It also appeared in reports in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative at that time – 21/9/14 and 23/9/14 – which described the departure of the men from the railway station at Alberton. According to the local paper, he was one of those selected to join the light horse.

When he enlisted he was 31 yo and single. He gave his next-of-kin as his sister – Martha Singleton – who was living at Flinders. He himself had been born at Flinders, Mornington Peninsula, and had attended the local state school there. He had had no previous military experience and on his enlistment form he acknowledged that he had been ‘fined for common assault.’ His religion was Presbyterian. His occupation was simply stated as ‘laborer’ and it appears that he was working in the local area at the time War broke out. There was a family of Singleton – Thomas Henry Singleton and Alice Singleton – who were farmers at Binginwarri. Possibly they were relatives and he was working on their farm.

Private Singleton enlisted as reinforcements for 7 Battalion and embarked from Melbourne on 22/12/14. However, by the time of Gallipoli he was attached to 8 Battalion. At the Gallipoli Landing on 25/4/15 he was wounded in the leg and evacuated. One version of the episode was that he was wounded in the neck, back and leg. He rejoined his unit (8 Battalion) in mid June but then in late September the same year he was hospitalised again and it appears that this was related to the ‘old wound’. The medical record is hard to follow but it appears that after rejoining his unit, he was again hospitalised. This time it was enteric fever and he was transferred to a hospital in the UK (Oxford) in early November 1915. He remained in the UK until late May 1916 when he was sent back to Egypt. Once back in Egypt, there was yet more time in hospital with ongoing problems from the initial bullet wound. The file has him returning to duty at the end of June 1916.

Private Singleton’s service file has copies of formal medical reports from the time he spent in hospital in the UK. The first one, dated 29/1/16, described the ‘disability’ as ‘G.S. Wound Right Calf’ . It noted that the disability occurred on 25/4/15 at Anzac and described how … He was struck on the front of the right leg, the bullet entering about the middle third. The bullet emerged on the inner side just above the ankle. There was no discharge from the wound and no fracture. The ‘present condition’ was that … He is complaining of pain round the ankle and up the leg on walking any distance. But the report concluded that … There is no permanent disability to be detected. The recommendation was … Home Service for three months. Then in late February/ early March 1916, a medical board determined that he was … Fit for Home Service light duty (6 months) in Egypt, which explains why he was returned to Egypt from the UK. In the period when he was in the UK, Private Singleton was charged with ‘resisting arrest’ – it is not clear why he was to be arrested in the first place – and he was placed in detention for one week (‘168 hours’) and lost 1 week of pay.

Private Singleton did not get his full 6 months of light duty in Egypt because in July 1916 he was dispatched to France. He was still with 8 Battalion. Again, the old wound caused problems and there was more hospitalisation, first in France and then, from December 1916, in England. He was finally released from hospital in February 1917 but almost immediately, after presumably a period of leave in London, he was back in hospital – 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital – where he spent 119 days (13/3/17 to 7/7/17).  He then rejoined 8 Battalion in France on 18/8/17.

Private Singleton’s run of poor health continued. In January 1918, he was accidentally injured – fractured rib – and again hospitalised, first in France and then In England. He remained in England until early June 1918 and then proceeded to France. He rejoined 8 Battalion in the field on 13/6/18. Less than 2 months later he was killed in action on 9/8/18 in the Battle of Amiens. The cable advising the family of his death was dated 21/8/18. Private Singleton’s body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

8 Battalion became involved in the fighting on 9/8/18 after an 11 mile march from near Villers-Bretonneux. As part of 2 Brigade, it moved into ground captured the previous day by 15 Brigade. The basic objective was the Red Line just before Harbonnieres, with the villages of Rosieres-en-Santerre and Lihons beyond. Essentially, the battalion had to advance across 3,500 yards of open, flat ground against German artillery and machine guns sited on a ridge which provided the enemy with excellent observations of the attacking AIF forces. Their snipers were able to inflict heavy casualties on 8 Battalion’s officers. To make matters worse, there were only 14 tanks and none of these made it past the first 1,500 yards. Also, the artillery support was first poor and then non-existent. The war diary stated:

The whole advance had taken place over a long flat plain ending at the ‘Red Line’ [immediately in front of Harbonnieres] with a pronounced rise – ideal ground for defence and very difficult for attack since the movement of very individual could be observed. In addition to this there was no artillery support. The mobile 18 pounder brought to cope with battery on ridge was completely put out of action after firing three shots. Therefore the fight was purely an infantry one against big odds in the shape of well concealed machine guns and splendidly placed field guns.

The heavy fighting on the second day of the ongoing Battle of Amiens was reflected in casualty figures. The war diary for 8 Battalion indicates that in the 3 days of fighting from 9 -11 August there were 49 killed and 233 wounded but that for the very first day – 9 August – there were 30 killed, 184 wounded and 9 missing. After the success on the first day of the battle, the AIF had moved to a more open-ground form of fighting, but the casualty levels were still very high.

Private Singleton appears to have been killed in the early afternoon, not long after the advance began. The Red Cross Report suggests that he was killed by shellfire and buried in the trench/shell hole where he fell. A cross was erected but the grave site was subsequently lost. One of the witness statements – T McHenry 3337, 8B – described how Private Singleton had been hit by shell fire and killed instantly. He noted:

I knew him well, he had wandered around Victoria a good deal but I think he enlisted in Gippsland.

In 1920, following queries from the family, the AIF advised that there was no personal kit to return. Private Singleton’s will named his sister – Martha Singleton of Flinders – as the sole beneficiary. She had also been given as next-of-kin on enlistment. After the War, she also completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour which gave Flinders as the location with which her brother had been ‘chiefly connected’. As per normal, the military authorities questioned the sister – she was the oldest sister – if the parents were still living and if not if there were brothers. The sister replied (1920) that both parents were dead and that the oldest brother – George – was a patient at the Yarra Bend Asylum. She stated that she was the oldest sister and that she ‘would be glad’ to take care of the medals. In the end, it appears that the medals went to the next oldest brother – William – who also lived at Flinders. Obviously, there was a strong family link to Flinders and, in fact, Private Singleton’s name appears on the war memorial there (Singleton J). However, he was obviously living and working in the Yarram area at the time he enlisted and, as noted, there is a partial – or, more correctly, incomplete – record of his service and sacrifice in the Shire.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SINGLETON James
Roll of Honour: James Singleton
First World War Embarkation Roll: James Singleton
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: James Singleton

174. A Morgan

MORGAN Arthur MM 1776
16B KIA 8/8/18

Arthur Morgan’s name does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. In fact, as far as can be ascertained, his name does not appear on any extant memorial in the Shire of Alberton. However, there is strong evidence of his association with the Shire.

The details retained by the Shire of Alberton on Arthur Morgan’s enlistment do not line up with those in his service file. As far as the Shire was concerned, he enlisted in November 1914. He was issued with railway warrant number 60 on 24/11/14 by the Shire Secretary. This was for train travel from Yarram (Alberton) to Melbourne. His name appeared in the lists of those locals who had enlisted, in both the South Gippsland Chronicle (5/1/16) and the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (16/7/15). His name also appeared on the list of those recruits who been medically examined by the local doctors to 31/12/14. Equally, it did not appear on the separate list of those rejected by the local doctors. Overall, as far as the Shire of Alberton was concerned, Arthur Morgan enlisted in Yarram in November 1914. However, the actual service file for Private Arthur Morgan indicates that he enlisted in Adelaide – nearly one full year later – on 18/10/15. The same record states that he had not previously been enlisted and nor had he been rejected as ‘unfit’. Presumably, for some unknown reason, Arthur Morgan did not go ahead with his enlistment when he reached Melbourne from Yarram in November 1914. At the time he was only 20 yo so the military authorities, most likely, were not interested in pursuing him. Then almost a year later he enlisted in Adelaide, without drawing any attention to his previous ‘enlistment’. He was then 21 yo and, conceivably, if there had been an earlier issue with parental permission it would no longer have been a problem.

On the face of it, the name of Morgan is so common that there would have to be the possibility that the Arthur Morgan who enlisted in Adelaide was not the Arthur Morgan who ‘enlisted’ in Yarram. But this does not appear to have been the case. The Adelaide Arthur Morgan was from Victoria. He was born in Boort (Victoria) and his next-of-kin, his father – Barnabas Morgan – lived in Port Melbourne. Moreover, when the father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he gave ‘Bullarah [Boolarra] Gippsland’ as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. Most telling of all, in 1919, a teacher from Womerah State School – Miss E Linforth – wrote to the AIF seeking service details of former students. She was preparing a ‘school honor book’ – now unavailable – and she provided a list of names. The AIF replied that, in effect, they were only able to match 2 of the names provided. One was 2nd Lieutenant Walter Stephen Filmer – see Post 116 – and the other was Arthur Morgan, who had … enlisted Adelaide, S.A., 18.10.15.

Arthur Morgan must have grown up and attended school in the Shire. Presumably he was working as a labourer – ‘saw mill hand’ according to his father – in the Shire as a young man. He initially enlisted in the Shire but for some reason this enlistment did not proceed but then nearly one year later he enlisted in Adelaide. After the War, presumably because there were no strong, surviving family links to the Shire, his name ‘disappeared’, with the single exception of the school honor book for Womerah SS.

When he enlisted in Adelaide on 18/10/15 Arthur Morgan was 21 yo and single. He gave his religion as Church of England and his occupation was entered simply as labourer. He enlisted in 32 Battalion which had been raised in the Adelaide suburb of Mitcham. He embarked on 11/1/16. In Egypt, 2 months later, he was transferred to the reorganised 16 Battalion. His unit disembarked at Marseilles in early June 1916.

Private Morgan had several run-ins with military authority and invariably they involved drunkenness. In Egypt, in April 1916, he was punished – 14 days Field Punishment 2 and the equivalent number of days pay lost – for drunkenness and resisting the military guard. Later that same month he was ‘confined to barracks’ for 3 days for missing a parade. In France, In September 1916, he again lost 14 days pay for being drunk and creating a disturbance in camp. Finally, in March 1917, there was another 14 days of Field Punishment 2, and the equivalent number of days pay lost, for again being drunk and missing duty.

Apart from the drinking episodes, Private Morgan’s health held up well and there was only one short period of hospitalisation – influenza – in May 1916.

Private Morgan was awarded the Military Medal in July 1918 but, unfortunately, there are no details of the relevant action. The award itself was gazetted in late 1918 (London Gazette 21/10/18) and early 1919 (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 12/2/19). When the personal effects were returned to the father in February 1919 the ribbon for the Military Medal was included, so it appears the award must have been made not long before he was killed. The personal effects themselves were very limited:

1 Pocket Book, 1 Wallet, 1 “MM” Ribbon, Photos, Cards. Letters.

The father also received – April 1919 – a sealed envelope containing,

1 Letter from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (London) re – remittance £10 dated 14th March 1918.

Private Morgan was killed in action of 8/8/18. There is a brief Red Cross report and, allowing for the inevitable inconsistencies, the following account from D P Fisher (7458, 16 B) suggests what happened:

I was about three yards from him when he was going to fire a shot and his Sgt. Mjr. Philips spoke to him and he turned round and he was shot through the head and died instantly. This happened about 1 mile this side of Merricourt [Mericourt-sur-Somme] about half past 2 p.m. on 8th August 1918.

The Battle of Amiens on 8/8/18 was a major success for the Allied troops – French, British, American and Australian – involved. German casualties – nearly 30,000 – were 3 times those of the Allies. The amount of enemy ground taken and the speed with which it was captured were both stunning in comparison with earlier battles. It was the largest tank battle of the War – the Allies committed more than 550 tanks – and it also saw a major aerial battle, with the Allies enjoying significant air superiority. The Germans rated their loss that day as the infamous ‘black day’ of their War.

At the level of the individual battalion, 16 Battalion spent most of the day in a support role, although the fighting intensified as they neared the outskirts of Mericourt-sur-Somme. Overall, 16 Battalion casualties were relatively light: 3 men – Private Morgan was one of them – were killed in action; 1 died of wounds and approximately 100 were wounded.

The war diary of 16 Battalion for 8/8/18 highlights the significance, at the time, that the AIF attached to the fact that Amiens saw all the Australian divisions fighting together, under Monash. Monash was knighted in the field by King George V on 12/8/18. The tone of the diary entry is striking:

This morning the Battalion actively participated in the SOMME OFFENSIVE, extending over a frontage of approximately 20 miles, and carried out by AUSTRALIAN, CANADIAN, and BRITISH TROOPS, operating on separate and defined sectors, but in conjunction.

This operation will always stand out among the British battles fought in FRANCE for two distinct reasons: firstly, because while the attack was made with the customary assistance of artillery, aeroplanes and tanks, it introduced an entirely new method of warfare – the transportation of Infantry machine-gun crews in tanks, thus assuring the arrival of a strong preliminary attacking force at points deemed most likely to seriously trouble the advancing infantry; secondly, because of the success which attended the whole operation – a result due to the wonderful stamina and aggressive spirit displayed by the troops, and the fact through magnificent and thorough organisation the attack came as a complete surprise to the enemy. But Australians, and particularly the fighting men of Australia, will remember the battle for a grander reason. it was the first time that the whole of the AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALIONS advanced together over the same battlefield, shoulder to shoulder as it were, to win through or die for the honor of “Australia, the Empire and our Cause”.

Private Morgan is buried at Heath (Military) Cemetery, near Harbonnieres.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
South Gippsland Chronicle

National Archives file for MORGAN Arthur
Roll of Honour: Arthur Morgan
First World War Embarkation Roll: Arthur Morgan
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Arthur Morgan
Honours and Awards: Arthur Morgan

170. E L Garland & C H Rendell

Both Corporal Garland and Private Rendell were from 21 Battalion and both died on July 6, 1918, immediately after the Battle of Hamel (July 4). Corporal Garland died of wounds received on the same day and Private Rendell was killed in action.

The war diary of 21 Battalion records how the advance at Hamel commenced shortly after 3.00 a.m. on the morning of 4 July and that by 7.00 a.m. that morning the objectives had been taken and the new position consolidated. The battle took 93 minutes, 3 minutes more than Monash had planned.

21 Battalion was spared the heaviest fighting and its casualties over the 2 days (4-5 July 1918) were relatively light: 6 killed, 3 died of wounds, 1 missing and 46 wounded.

The casualty figures given in the war diary of 21 Battalion for 6 July were 3 killed, 4 wounded and 2 died of wounds.  There was a German counter-attack which was launched late on July 5 and lasted to very early morning on 6 July. It appears that Corporal Garland was wounded in this action. There were also patrols sent out on the day. However, the circumstances of Private Rendell’s death that day are not clear.  21 Battalion was relieved by 20 Battalion on the same day (6/7/18).

Overall, the action at Hamel was hailed a major success. The war diary of 21 Battalion includes a copy of the letter (dated 5/7/18) sent by General Sir. W. R. Birdwood to 6 Brigade (21 -24 Battalion):

Just a line of heartiest congratulations on the good work carried out yesterday [4/7/18] by your Brigade in the completely successful operation yesterday morning. Evidently things could not possibly have gone better, and the greatest credit is due to you and every man concerned in it. I shall be grateful if you will pass on my very hearty congratulations both to Battalion Commanders and all their men.

In the war diary, there are also copies of similar congratulatory messages from Prime Minister Hughes, other Allied leaders. In time of course, Hamel came to be regarded as the definitive example of how WW1 battles should have been waged. Even at the time, Monash was keen to identify the success as a model for future planning. He wrote, in part:

The operation is a striking example of the success which invariably results from careful preparation and co-ordinated action, and will serve as a model and standard of the fighting efficiency of the Australian Corps.

 

GARLAND Eugene Loftus MM 1545
21 B DoW 6/7/18

Eugene Garland was born in Port Albert (1890) and grew up in the local area. He attended the state school at Port Albert and when he enlisted he indicated that he was in the Port Albert Rifle Club. His family had been living in the Port Albert area since the 1860s. His father – Eugene Garland – had had small land holdings in the area and had worked as a local carrier. By the time his son enlisted the father was dead (1904) and the mother – Mary Ellen Garland – appeared as next-of-kin. On his enlistment form Eugene gave his occupation as ‘laborer’. However when his mother completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, she gave his occupation as ‘farmer’. The mother did appear in the 1915 rate book with 6 acres at Palmerston so perhaps the family was involved with dairying in some small way. Most likely, even if there were a family farm, the brothers – there were 3 other brothers – would have been working on other farms in the area. Two of the brothers enlisted: John, born 1892, enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy and Arthur, born 1895, enlisted in the AIF. Both survived the War.

When Eugene enlisted he was single and 23 yo. His religion was Roman Catholic.

He enlisted in April 1915 (14/4/15) in Melbourne and joined as reinforcements for 21 Battalion. He left Melbourne in late June (28/6/15) just 2 months after enlistment and proceeded to Egypt and then Gallipoli.

He was taken off the Gallipoli Peninsula and transferred via hospital ship to Malta. His condition was described as ‘Inguinal Abscess’. This period of hospitalisation lasted from mid September to mid October and he returned to duty on Anzac in early November. But he was again hospitalised (26/11/15) and this time taken to Heliopolis and not discharged until early February 1916. The condition on this occasion was given as asthma, trenchfeet and frost bite.

There is a letter in the file, dated 12/11/15, from a Miss C Hepburn [Cecilia Hepburn, born 1898 Port Albert] of Port Albert. She was obviously close to Private Garland. Her letter and the response to it from Base Records give some insight on the limitations of the postal service at the time.

I have a very dear friend at the Dardenelles (sic) but at present he is sick in Malta.
He has been away a good few months now and by the letter I received from him tonight he has not received one letter that I have written to him, and I have his full address. I receive all his letters alright. Could you find out whether the letters are going astray or not.
I have watched the papers to see when the mail goes, and have written regularly. If you could inform me how to get the letters through to him I would be much obliged. He said he is longing for a letter. I have also sent papers which have not been received.

The prompt reply from Base Records (19/11/15) informed Miss Hepburn that Private Garland had been sent to Malta, ‘sick’, on 23/9/15. The letter also offered some kind of apology for what was very obviously a poor mail service.

I beg to inform you that everything possible has been done by the Postmaster General’s Department and this Office to improve the service, but the difficulty of distributing mails to troops on active service is very great, and is almost regulated by the exigencies of the Military situation, which is the prime factor in the war.
An Australian Postal Unit will shortly arrive in Egypt, and it is hoped that the Mail Service will thereby greatly improve.

Private Garland’s battalion left Alexandria in mid March 1916 (19/3/16) and disembarked at Marseilles, one week later, on 26/3/16. In France he was first promoted to lance corporal (28/2/17) and then corporal (4/10/17). There is very little on his service in France over 1916-1917 in his file. Over this two year period, 21 Battalion saw action at Mouquet Farm, Bullecourt and Broodseinde Ridge.

There was some leave for Corporal Garland in Paris in January 1918 and then 2 weeks in England in March 1918. He was wounded in action on 6/7/18 and died of wounds – shrapnel wound which perforated the abdomen – on the same day. He was buried by Rev. A Fogarty in the Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-Sur-Somme.

The cable informing his mother of the death was dated 13/7/18. News of his death was published in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 24/7/18:

Word reached Mrs. Garland, Port Albert, on Thursday [18/7/18], that her son Corporal Hugh Garland had died of wounds on 6th inst. The sad news cast quite a gloom over the Port, for he was born and schooled there, and was thought very highly of.

Just a few days after his death, Corporal Garland was recommended for the Military Medal. The recommendation was dated 10/7/18 and the award was confirmed at the end of the same month. The recommendation was based on his actions at Hamel, 4 – 5 July.

The battalion war diary also features an extended account of the action leading to Corporal Garland’s Military Medal. The actual recommendation written for the Military Medal is shorter than this account; although, specifically in respect of Corporal Garland, it is substantially the same. As is evident, in relation to the same episode, Lance Corporal Donald James Creighton (5317) was recommended for, but not subsequently awarded, the Croix de Guerre. He survived the War and returned to Australia in 1919.

1545 Corporal Eugene Loftus Garland
5317 Private (Lance Corporal) Donald James Creighton
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
On the morning of 4th July 1918 during the attack North East of Villers-Bretonneux [Hamel] after the final objective had been reached, portion of the line was harassed excessively by sniping from a Communication Trench in which we had established a block.
These two Non-Commissioned Officers moved out with a Lewis Gun along the Communication Trench and engaged the enemy under heavy sniping fire. The Germans, after suffering casualties at their hands were compelled to withdraw. These N.C.O.s pursued the enemy for a distance of five hundred yards past the block and inflicted further losses on the enemy, although they themselves were exposed to more severe fire the further they advanced.
Again on the night of 5th July 1918, during a minor operation these N.C.O.s were included in a party which was covering the left flank of the action. About daybreak the enemy became very active with sniping and machine-gun fire. Cpl Garland & L/Cpl Creighton again pushed forward together armed with a machine gun with which they took it in turns to ‘hose’ the enemy, firing from the hip. Their action was so successful that the enemy was again demoralised and had to withdraw in haste from their front.
Both these actions were performed under heavy machine-gun and sniping fire from the enemy, and on their return from their second adventure they were both wounded, Garland being severely injured. Later a party of their comrades went out into No Man’s Land and brought these N.C.O.s back to our lines. The men speak in glowing terms of their deed and without doubt this timely act at a critical juncture was of great service to all concerned and contributed largely to the success which attended the operations.

On 2/10/18 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative published the letter that Mrs Garland had received from the Commanding Officer of 21 Battalion, dated 17/7/18 . The letter also included the relevant official recommendation for the Military Medal:

In handing you the attached copy of the recommendation for gallantry for which your son was awarded the Military Medal, I desire, as Commanding Officer of the Battalion, to express my appreciation of the deed which rebounds to your son’s credit and adds lustre to the already fine record of this unit. The sympathy of all ranks under my command goes out to you in your sorrow, for Cpl. Garland was held in high esteem by us all. In dying he lived up to the high standard that has always characterised his work, and leaves behind him an unexcelled soldierly record of duty well done.

There is a Red Cross report for Corporal Garland. Essentially, it confirms the account of his actions with the Lewis Gun on 6 July; although there are the usual inconsistencies about time and the nature of the wound: hit by a sniper in the thigh as opposed to hit by a bomb & badly wounded in the chest. It is also worth noting that while the official record has the funeral service being conducted by Rev A Fogarty who was the Roman Catholic Chaplain attached to the Casualty Clearing Station where Corporal Garland died from his wounds, there is in fact a witness statement from the same Rev A Fogarty which states clearly that, The funeral service was performed by Rev. F. O’Neill C. F.

Corporal Garland left a will (September 1915) leaving all his property and effects to his mother. As with so many other locals, BP Johnson, Barrister and Solicitor of Yarram, acted on behalf of the mother. He also followed up the life policy for the deceased soldier with The National Mutual Life and secured the formal death certificate from the AIF.

Several lots of personal effects, in 3 separate packages, were returned in early 1919:

(1)  1 Religious book, 1 metal watch (damaged) & strap
(2)  1 Religious book, 2 Notebooks, 1 Mirror (broken), 2 German books, 1 Map, 1 French Book, Photos, Cards, Letters, 1 Tie, 1 Wallet, 1 Wrist watch (glass broken) & strap, 7 Coins, 1 Cloth Wallet, 1 Cap Band, Various papers.
(3)  1 Wrist disc, 1 Belt buckle, 1 Tassel, Buttons, 1 Badge, 1 Metal ring, 1 Metal watch (damaged).

In March 1919, Corporal Garland’s mother was advised that the Military Medal for her son was available. The letter from Base Records (4/3/19) in Melbourne is interesting in terms of the attention to limiting expenses associated with any formal award ceremony:

I am in receipt of a Military Medal which has been awarded to your son, the late No. 1545 Corporal E.L. Garland, M.M., 21st Battalion, and shall be glad to learn at your earliest convenience whether you desire this decoration to be handed to you publicly on the first suitable occasion, or whether you would prefer it to be transmitted to you direct from this office.

The public presentation could possibly be arranged to fit in with some local function in your district, as the Department cannot be responsible for any expenses in connection with travelling to Melbourne or other large centre.

The mother took the simplest option and replied (14/3/19),

I desire this decoration to be transmitted to me direct from your office, thanking you for same.

The medal was immediately despatched from Melbourne with a very fulsome form letter (17/3/19),

It is with feelings of admiration at the gallantry of a brave Australian soldier who nobly laid down his life in the service of our King and Country, that I am directed by the Honourable the Minister to forward to you, as the next-of-kin of the late No. 1545 Corporal E. L. Garland, M.M., 21st Battalion, the Military Medal which His Majesty The King has been graciously pleased to award to that gallant soldier for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty while serving with the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Force.
I am also to ask you to accept his deep personal sympathy in the loss which, not only you, but the Australian Army has sustained by the death of Corporal Garland whose magnificent conduct on the field of battle has helped to earn for our Australian soldiers a fate which will endure as long as memory lasts.

On the first anniversary of his death, the following In Memoriam was printed in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative (4/7/19):

GARLAND – In loving memory of our dear friend, Corp.
E. L. Garland, killed on active service on 6th July, 1918.
As true a heart as ever beat
Has passed away from earth,
But memory dwells within the hearts
Of those who knew his worth.
In dawn of his splendid manhood,
When the tide of life was high,
He lived to make others happy.
Oh, why did he have to die?
-Inserted by Mr. and Mrs. W. B. McKenize [sic] and family

[Most likely this was from Mr and Mrs William Hodgson McKenzie. William McKenzie was a farmer from Tarra Valley but he had also been a publican at Port Albert and was involved in district sports.]

Corporal Garland’s name is commemorated on the roll of honor of the state school at Port Albert, as well as appearing on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and 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 GARLAND Eugene Loftus
Roll of Honour: Eugene Loftus Garland
First World War Embarkation Roll: Eugene Loftus Garland
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Eugene Loftus Garland
Honour and Awards: Eugene Loftus Garland

 

 

RENDELL Clyde Henry 5074
21 B KIA 6/7/1918

Clyde Rendell was born in North Devon in 1895 and grew up in the area, attending the North Devon State School. The Rendell family had been in the district from the 1860s. The father – Henry Prescott Rendell – farmed about 100 acres at Devon and had previously run a blacksmith business in Yarram.

There were 7 children in the family. The 2 oldest sons – Percy, born 1893, and Clyde – enlisted. Percy Holden Rendell (469) enlisted 8 months after his younger brother. He was badly wounded on 4/10/17 with gunshot wound to ‘shoulder and head’. He was hospitalised in England, operated on and then returned to Australia where he was discharged as ‘medically unfit’ on 29/5/18.

Clyde Rendell’s mother was Eliza M Gay and when the father provided the information for the (National) Roll of Honour he noted that Edward Thomas Gay, who died of TB in the United Kingdom in early 1917 [see Post 100], was a cousin of his son. There was also another connection: Frank Harrison, an English immigrant farm worker, [Post 165] who died of wounds on 19/5/18 had worked on the Rendell farm.

On the enlistment papers, Clyde Rendell’s occupation was given as farmer and he obviously worked on the family farm.

At the time of enlistment (29/1/16) Clyde Rendell was 20 yo. He had his medical in Yarram with Dr Cook and was then re-examined in Melbourne where he formally enlisted. On the enlistment papers he indicated that he had attended four drills for the Senior Cadets but had had ‘no kit issued’. His religion was given as Church of England on the enlistment forms but, at the same time, both his and his brother’s name are commemorated on the honour roll for the local Methodist Church.

Clyde Rendell enlisted in 21 Battalion (13 Reinforcements) and left for the UK in early July (3/7/16). He was hospitalised, on the troop ship, for about one week on the voyage from Australia. His unit reached Plymouth 2 months later (2/9/16) at which point there was further training with 6 Training Battalion. He finally joined 21 Battalion in France in November 1916 (22/11/16).

In the middle of January 1917 he was taken out of the lines with ‘Trench Feet severe’ and was transferred back to hospital in England (Northampton War Hospital). He did not return to his battalion in France until September (22/9/17). Almost immediately (6/10/17), he was again hospitalised with ‘Trench Feet’. He received treatment for several months and in February 1918 the condition was described as ‘Trench Fever’. He did not rejoin the battalion until April (18/4/18). In this period of treatment from early October 1917 to mid April 1918 there was an incident in January (22/1/18) when he broke out of camp and was absent from duty for several hours. He received the severe sentence of 14 days of Field Punishment No.1, and he also lost 14 days pay.

One month after he rejoined the battalion he was again sick and hospitalised (17/5/18). This was his third period of hospitalisation on the Western Front. This time it was a combination of ‘Influenza’ and ‘Trench Feet’. He rejoined the battalion on 6 July and was killed in action exactly one month later, at Hamel, on 6/7/18.

It appears the family was notified by cable dated 16 July 1918. The following death notice appeared in Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 19/7/18:

Rendell – Killed in action, July 6th, 1918. Clyde H., the dearly loved second son of H.P. and E.M. Rendell, and brother of Percy (returned), Belle, Linda and Clem. Age 22 yrs 9 months.
A soldier and a man.
[Two children – Henry and Leslie – had died as infants]

In the same edition there was a more detailed account of the way the news was received.

Word was received at Devon North on Wednesday [17/7/18] that Lance Corporal C. H. Rendell, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Rendell, has been killed in action. Sympathy for the bereaved family is expressed on all sides. Blessed with a sunny disposition, and an open-hearted generous nature, the young soldier was very popular, and a gloom was cast over the district when the news of his death came through. He will be remembered by all South Gippsland sportsmen as a fine stamp of Australian manhood, a promising axeman, and a clean footballer. It is worthy of note that the four soldiers who received their send off from the North Devon Our Boys’ Association on the night that the late Corporal Rendell was farewelled, two have been killed, viz., Private A. (Bill) Barlow [Post 160] and Lance Corporal C. Rendell; Private G. McKenzie has been returned wounded. The fourth, Private H. McKenzie, is still abroad. The deceased soldier had been two years in active service, and till the fatal wound had never received a scratch. He was three times in hospital suffering from trench feet. Private P. H. Rendell, invalided home through wounds, met his brother two days before leaving England.

It appears that very early in his service he held the rank of lance corporal but then reverted to private when he reached the UK. It is interesting that the debilitating ‘trench feet’ (‘severe’) that had seen Rendell hospitalised for months on end was downplayed in this report.

The parents placed a bereavement notice in the local paper on 2/8/18 thanking … their many kind friends and relations for visits, letters, telegrams and cards, expressive of sympathy in their recent sad bereavement in the loss of their son and brother, Clyde H. Rendell, killed in action on July 6th.

On the first anniversary of Private Rendell’s death (6/7/19), the following In Memoriam appeared:

RENDELL- In loving remembrance of our dearly loved
son and brother, Clyde H., Rendell, who was killed
in action in France on July 6th, 1918.
He lived not for himself alone,
But had a nobler, higher aim.
His work is o’er, life’s battle won –
Our loss is Heaven’s great gain.
Sad and oft our hearts do wander
To his grave far, far away,
Where they laid our darling brother
Just a year ago to-day.
-Inserted by his father, mother, brothers and sisters.

Private Rendell was buried in the ‘Austral Military Cemetery, 4 ½ mile East South East of Amiens’ and then the family was advised in April 1920 (1/4/20) that .. his [Private Rendell] remains have been exhumed and re-interred in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery (Australian Memorial Cemetery), 1 ½ miles north of Villers-Bretonneux.

The family received two packages of personal effects. The first was in February 1919 and the second in April of the same year:

Testament, Photo Wallet, Pencil, Metal Watch (Damaged), Letters, Cards, 2 Wallets, 1 German Note (value 1 Mark), 2 Coins, Metal Medallion, Stamps, 2 Discs & Chains. (D.1244) 2 Letters from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, London

and

Notebook, testament, letters

On 16/8/18, the local paper also published a letter which Private Rendell had written to his mother about a month before his death. Presumably, he was replying to a letter he had just received from her, one that had reminded him of fond memories of life at home.

A SOLDIER’S LAST LETTER.
DEVOTION TO HOME AND COUNTRY.
Writing to his mother, North Devon, on May 30th, the late Clyde Rendell says:—How beautiful these lines seem to me out here! What memories they recall! We see it all now; the daily grind of cooking, washing and sewing, with the tired eyes at night and the big basket of darning still to be done long after we were sound asleep. And the few spankings we got in comparison with the many we so richly deserved, and all the self-denial, worry and anxiety which we caused you. We could not see it then — blind little beggars that we were — but we see it all now in all its sublime beauty and nobility, and needless to say we are longing for the time when we can return home to make amends by giving you some of the love and devotion which you so ungrudgingly gave to us. This is one of our greatest desires, and one which by God’s help, we shall be able to fulfil when the war is won, and we come home. We should be ashamed to show our faces before that is achieved, for after all, it is really you, our mothers, and our homes for for whom we are fighting. If you could see the suffering and hard ships endured by the brave women and children of this unhappy land, where so many homes have been ruined, you would not want us to return until victory has been won. When the gift of freedom is ours, then we will come home and lay it reverently at your feet, for it will be hallowed by the blood of many comrades. Then we shall devote our lives to the service of our country in the upbuilding of happy homes and noble citizenship. Pray for us, that this high and holy vision may never fade from our minds, and that we may be given courage and patience to finish our task. Then, what a glorious home-coming there will be! Till then, we remain where we are, fighting for our mothers and our homes, “somewhere in France.”—
Your affec. son, Clyde.

The letter is remarkable for the overt sentimentality. It serves as a reminder of how soldiers saw their role in the fighting as a form of heightened moral crusade, and it matches the messages of pro-conscription pamphlets and the content of sermons delivered by local Protestant clergymen such as Rev. George Cox (Post 26). The War was a time of moral awakening and deeper understanding. Within this perspective, the dreadful sacrifice made more sense.

Private Rendell is remembered on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. Additionally, his name appears on the honor roll for the local state school (North Devon) and the equivalent district roll. As noted, it also appears on the ‘Methodist Church Yarram Yarram Circuit’ under North Devon.

Studio portrait of 5074 Private Clyde Henry Rendell, 21st Battalion from Yarram, Gippsland, Victoria. Courtesy, Australian War Memorial

Courtesy, Yarram & District Historical Society

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

National Archives file for RENDELL Clyde Henry
Roll of Honour: Clyde Henry Rendell
First World War Embarkation Roll: Clyde Henry Rendell
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Clyde Henry Rendell

 

169. W R Nuttall

NUTTALL William Richard 1999
59 B   DoW 17/6/18

William Nuttall was born in Heidelberg in 1891. Unfortunately the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed and so there are no details of his early life and schooling.

Private Nuttall enlisted in January 1915 (11/1/15). The enlistment – including the medical – was at Traralgon. At the time he was 23 yo and single. He gave his occupation as ‘printer’. His religion was listed as Church of England. He gave his father – William Henry Nuttall – as next-of-kin. Over the time of his son’s service, the father changed address several times: from Collingwood to Lock (Gippsland) and then to Packenham. The mother – Jane Nuttall – appeared to reside in Fitzroy.

It appears that William Nuttall worked at the local paper in Traralgon, the Traralgon Record. There are numerous references in this local paper to his enlistment, his service both on Gallipoli and the Western Front and his death. For example, the edition of 15/1/15 referred to his enlistment and the fact that he had been on the staff of the “Record”. The edition of 16/7/18 referred to his death:

In the list of casualties published in the dailies last week, we notice the name of W R Nuttall. The initials are the same as those of Mr Nuttall who was formerly on the staff of this paper, and we very much regret to hear of his death from wounds. He was a fine, manly young fellow who did not hesitate to step into the ranks of the brave men who have fought and died for their country’s honor. He was wounded several times, and showed such conspicuous bravery on one occasion that he was awarded the military medal [see below]. Mr Nuttall was very popular with the young people, and his death will be much regretted by a large circle of friends.

William Nuttall’s name appears on both the soldiers’ memorial in Traralgon and also on the town’s honour roll. Traralgon was also given as his ‘place of association’. Clearly, he was strongly linked to Traralgon. However, there was also a link to Yarram, approximately 70Km from Traralgon. For example, his death was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 12/7/18, earlier than it was in the Traralgon Record (16/7/18):

Yesterday’s dailies report that Private W. Nuttall has been killed. He was highly respected in Yarram, and played football with the Yarram team.

As well as playing football, it also appears that he played cricket for Yarram. He was listed in the Yarram team in a report on a match published in the local paper on 4/3/14. However, the fact that his name appears on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial suggests that his link to Yarram went beyond just sport. Then again, his name does not appear on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. Nor does his name appear on the electoral roll for Yarram. Another complication is that while the name Nuttall was not common in the local area, there was a report in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 18/1/18 about the experiences of an A B Nuttall – probably Alfred Barker Nuttall – who had gone to the UK as a ‘munition-worker’. Most likely, he was some relative but it is not possible to establish this link. Overall, while there was clearly a link to the Shire of Alberton it is not possible to describe exactly what it was; and contemporaneously, there was another, stronger link to Traralgon.

On enlistment, Private Nuttall joined 7 Battalion and his group of reinforcements left Melbourne for Egypt in April 1915 (17/4/15). He joined his unit on the Gallipoli Peninsula in early August, and within 3 days he had been wounded at Lone Pine. It was described as ‘Shock & Wnd Head’. He was taken by hospital ship to Heliopolis and discharged to ‘light duty’ in late September. Early the following month (6/10/15) he was again hospitalised, this time with dysentery, and did not rejoin the battalion until January 1916.

In late February 1916 he was transferred from 7 Battalion to the newly formed 59 Battalion. He was promoted to lance corporal in March. The battalion reached Marseilles at the end of June 1916. It was involved in the fighting at Fromelles in July 1916.

In late October 1916, L/Cpl Nuttall was admitted to hospital with a ‘septic thumb’ from barbed wire and was repatriated to England, to Clacton-on-Sea Hospital. He was discharged 2 months later (19/12/16) and at this point was given some leave. He took another 7 days without permission and was charged as AWL from 21/12/16 to 27/12/16. He was reprimanded and lost 7 days pay. He rejoined 59 Battalion in France in January 1917. There was another lengthy period of hospitalisation (unknown cause) in France from 21/3/17 to 22/5/17 and he eventually rejoined the battalion in August 1917 (2/8/17). At this point, he reverted to the rank of private ‘at own request’.

On 26/9/17 he was again admitted to hospital. This time the official cause was given as ‘shell shock’. It was the second occasion he had been wounded. In the file there is a copy of Army Form W3438. The heading of this particular report reads,

Report to be rendered in the case of officers and other ranks who, without any visible wounds, become non-effective from physical conditions claimed or presumed to have originated from effects of British or enemy weapons in action.

The form was dated 22/10/17 and on it Private Nuttall’s condition is described, explicitly, as ‘shell shock’. The report stated that Private Nuttall was … blown up and buried by a shell in a bunker at Polygon Wood. His condition on admission was described as ‘Tremulous, complains of headache’. The form features a formal declaration:

I certify that the above named was subjected in the course of his duty to exceptional exposure of the following nature: heavy shell fire whilst at Polygon Wood.

The advice sent home (19/12/17) to inform the next-of-kin also explicitly referred to ‘shell shock’.

Private Nuttall did not rejoin the battalion until the end of the year (23/12/17). Then in early 1918 he had leave in the UK from 4/2/18 to 20/2/18.

He was wounded on 16/6/18 – gunshot wound to chest – and although he received emergency attention he died the next day. He was buried at Querrieu British Cemetery, about 20 Km from Albert where he had been wounded. Rev H J G Matthews officiated at the funeral.

Even though there was only one day between the time he was wounded and the time he died from wounds, the family in Australia received two telegrams: the first (28/6/18) advising that he had been wounded and the second (1/7/18) that he had died. The first telegram also noted that this was the third occasion he had been wounded.

The war diary for 59 Battalion for 16/6/18 reveals that the battalion had just moved into the line in the Albert-Morlancourt sector. The overall entry for the day highlighted the relatively quiet nature of activity:

Shelling was light during the previous 24 hours … A few pineapples were thrown on right Company and a Machine Gun was active against the same sector, but apart from these the enemy attitude was relatively quiet – practically no movement was observed.

The official casualty report for the day had 1 killed and 3 wounded. All casualties were other ranks. One of the 3 wounded would have been Private Nuttall.

Two packages of personal items were returned to Australia, in February and March 1919:

1 YMCA Wallet, Cards, 1 Notebook, 1 Metal Wrist Watch & Guard, 1 Letter

and

1 Disc, 1 Whistle & lanyard, 1 Protractor, 1 Badge, 2 metal souvenirs, 1 Button, 1 Razor, 1 Testament, 1 Diary, 1 Wallet, Photos, 1 pipe Lighter, 1 Certificate, Stamp, Belt.

There are 2 pieces of correspondence in the file worth noting. One is from a Miss Doris Kinna of Traralgon dated 30/11/17. She writes seeking information about the condition of Private Nuttall,

Reports of various kinds have reached us and we are very anxious to receive something definite. Trusting to receive a reply as soon as possible & thanking you in anticipation.

This was just after L/Cpl Nuttall had been hospitalised with shell shock. The reply from Base Records (5/12/17) was very general:

In reply to your letter of the 30th ult. I have to inform you that Lance-Corporal William Richard Nuttall, was in October last, reported to be suffering from an illness, the nature of which had not been diagnosed.

The other item of correspondence is an earlier letter written by a Mrs Maria Lear of James Street, Yarram in November 1916. It suggests a connection between Private Nuttall and Yarram.

Could you let me have the present address of Private W. Nuttall when left Melbourne was in 7th Batt. 5th Reinforcements. But I believe was transferred to 59 Battalion D Company 15 Brigade Signaller Sect.
I want his number as he knows of my son 4130 I J Lear which (sic) was missing on 19th saw him wounded.
I cannot communicate as I have not got the last address..Hoping you will oblige me at your earliest…

Base Records replied on 8/11/16 with the address details.

Private Isaac James Lear 4130, who was also in 59 Battalion, went missing at Fromelles on 19/7/16. [See Post 74] He was determined to have been killed in action on the same day by a court of enquiry, but this was not until August 1917. Obviously, the mother at the time she wrote this letter (November 1916) was trying to establish her son’s fate. There is a presumption that Mrs Lear recognised Private Nuttall as a local (Yarram) boy who would have known her son. Further evidence of this connection comes from the earlier reference to Nuttall having played cricket for Yarram, because it appears that at that time – 1914 – he played against at least one Lear cousin – William John Lear who enlisted in June 1915. It is not known if Mrs Lear ever managed to contact Private Nuttall over the fate of her son.

There is a suggestion in one of the reports in the Traralgon Record (3/11/16) that L/Cpl Nuttall was recommended for the Military Medal. Further, as noted above, the same local paper claimed (16/7/18) that he had, in fact, been awarded this honour. While there is no official record of this having been the case, recommendations for such awards were often something of a lottery. Further, there is no doubt that Nuttall’s overall service record saw him involved in some of the heaviest fighting of the War, including Gallipoli, Fromelles, Polygon Wood and Villers-Bretonneux.

References

Traralgon Record
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for NUTTALL William Richard
Roll of Honour: William Richard Nuttall
First World War Embarkation Roll: William Richard Nuttall

168. H S Davis & T A Wilson

DAVIS Herbert Stanley (13491 – 2/Lt.)
5 B KIA 16/6/18

Herbert Davis was from Tasmania. His parents lived at Battery Point, Hobart and his enlistment papers showed that he was born in Sandy Bay, Hobart. Unfortunately the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed so there is no indication of where he went to school or of his early life. The enlistment papers do however indicate that he spent one year in the senior cadets in Tasmania so, presumably, he left Tasmania and went to the Shire of Alberton in his later teens or early twenties

Private Davis was nearly 22 yo when he enlisted in July 1915 (6/7/15) and at the time he gave his occupation as farmer. Interestingly, the occupation listed on his embarkation papers is ‘engineer’. His religion was given as Church of England.

On enlistment Herbert Davis was married. He married in 1915 and there was a daughter – Phyllis – born the same year. His wife – Myrtle Lily McKenzie – was the daughter of Thomas George McKenzie, a successful local farmer. On enlistment, his wife was shown as living with her mother, Elizabeth Lily Ann McKenzie of Devon. At the time, it appears that the Davis family in Tasmania did not know that the son was married and that there was a child.

Private Davis enlisted in Melbourne and, like many others, he had had his first medical in Yarram, with Dr Pern. There was a report in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire (3/11/15) on his formal farewell from Yarram:

Private H. S Davis was met at the shire hall on Friday morning by a few townsmen, and presented with the usual card and medallion by Mr. V. S. Lalor. Private Davis is attached to the Army Medical Corps.

Vivian Sherry Lalor was the local chemist and member of the committee responsible for soldiers’ farewells.

Private Davis joined the Army Medical Corps but did not move overseas until April 1916 (1/4/16). It looks as though there was a short period in Alexandria because he did not reach England until 16/7/16. Once in England he moved quickly to France where he was taken on strength of 1 Field Ambulance (31/7/16).

One year later (22/7/17) Davis was selected for officer training and sent to England (Cambridge University). In February 1918, he was appointed 2/Lieutenant and posted to 5 Battalion. He joined his unit, in the field, on 21/4/18. There was a brief period of hospitalisation with German Measles in May 1918.

On 16 June he was reported ‘wounded and missing’ and then at the end of 1918 (27/12/18) there was a Court of Enquiry held at Bouffioulx, Belgium which found he had been ‘killed in action’ on the day he was originally reported as wounded and missing. It appears that his wife was advised in February 1919 (24/2/19).

The war diary of 5 Battalion shows that the battalion relieved 7 Battalion in the line in the Strazeele Station – Mont de Merris area very early in the morning of 13 June 1918. Over the next few days patrols were sent out. The Germans were described as ‘alert’ but they were said to have adopted ‘a strictly defensive attitude.’ It was against this background that 2/Lt Davis took out a patrol (himself and 3 other ranks) on 16 June. The diary tells how the patrol found a machine gun post in a house and another post in a shell hole. The patrol engaged the enemy and killed three of them but 2/Lt Davis was wounded. It then says that 2/Lt Davis was not able to get back to the lines but that one of the men stayed with him while the others returned. It concludes the report of the incident with,

Later 16 men crawled out to try and get Lt Davis but were unsuccessful. Enemy more alert than usual. 2nd Lieut Davis wounded & missing. 1 OR missing. 1 OR wounded.

There is a very detailed Red Cross report that throws more light on the incident; and it appears that some of the statements were provided to the Court of Enquiry at the end of 1918.

Essentially all the witness statements present a common scenario: early on 16/6/18 2/Lt Davis led a small patrol to reconnoitre the German lines. The patrol came into contact with the enemy very close to their (German) lines and in the fighting 2/Lt Davis was seriously wounded. He was left behind, very close to the German lines, as close as a few yards. Subsequent attempts to reach him failed and there was no trace of him from that day on. Most of the witness statements concluded that he had been taken prisoner, on the grounds that he was lying so close to the German lines and there was no trace of him when relief patrols were sent out. The Court of Enquiry at the end of the War determined that he had not been taken prisoner and that he had therefore been killed in action on the day, with the body never recovered.

The following witness statement essentially matches the account from the war diary,

At 05.30 on the 16.6.18 Lt Davis and a party of 3 O.R. left our lines to reconnoitre an enemy Machine Gun post. On approaching it the enemy opened fire on it and Lt Davis was hit. The remainder of the party reported back and another party left our lines at 0800 to try to locate Lt. Davis, and reached within 20 yards of the enemy post and the enemy opened fire on us and we had to withdraw without seeing any signs of Lt. Davis and he has not been seen since.

This statement, undated, was made by Private H Trevenna (6364) who was batman to 2/Lt Davis. In fact, Trevenna provided four witness statements. He gave another, more detailed statement in September 1918 (5/9/18),

He was of A. Coy. 3rd Pltn. On or about 16th June at Strazeele he took 5 men out in the morning about 5-30 to try and locate an enemy M.G. post. One of the men who returned reported to us, that one of them drew a waterproof sheet off one of the Germans in the post, and fired at him. Enemy started then to fire their M.G., and another who came up from behind the post started throwing bombs. It was reported that Lt. Davis had been hit by M.G. bullets in the groin. I was on a volunteer party that went out at 8-30 a.m. to try and find Lt. Davis. He was nowhere to be seen. Pte. L.G. Bursill, 540A was lying dead about 10 yds. from post, killed by bomb. Lt. Davis had German decorations in his pockets when he went out on patrol. If alive he is a prisoner. I was his batman. Four men got back out of the patrol.

The Private L. G. Bursill (540A) referred to in this statement by Pte. Travenna appears to have been the ‘other rank’ referred to in the Battalion’s war dairy as ‘missing’. He is officially listed as killed in action on 16/6/18 and there is also no known grave. He was a bugler in 5 Battalion and in the previous month (May), he had been recommended for – but was subsequently not awarded – the Military Medal.

Private Trevenna’s account has Bursill ‘lying dead about 10 yds. from post, killed by bomb’. However this was not supported by other witness statements. For example, in the statement by Pte C. A. Shepherd (6577) the view is that both 2/Lt Davis and Private Bursill were alive when last seen,

He [2/Lt. Davis] was in A. Coy. On this date at Strazeele he led a small party out on patrol, at about 5030 a.m. They ran into a German post. Lt. Davis and Pte. L. G. Bursill, 540A were both wounded by bomb. They were left in a shell in “No Man’s Land”, the other two in the party, names forgotten, got away. They were 5 to 6 yds. in front of enemy’s post at the time. Lt. Davis and Pte. Bursill were both reported alive by the two men who came in. We were relieved that night by 10th Battn. If alive he [2/Lt Davis] is a prisoner.

There is a critical issue here. If in fact both men were only wounded and then captured by the Germans in the outpost directly in front of their lines, it is at least possible that, rather than being taken prisoner, they were killed on the spot. Private Trevenna, the batman to Lt. Davis, made a point of stating that Davis had ‘German decorations in his pockets’. Moreover, the following witness statement in relation to Bursill’s fate that day suggests that the German troops could well have decided to apply some sort of summary ‘justice’. The statement was made by Private. Kilbey (7037) on 15/8/18,

This was at Strazeele in front of Merris. He [Bursill] went over the top on a raid on the Boche lines with Lt Davis and Cpl MacKay. They got their post and gained objective but two of the party were missing. I saw the Boche bombing them and open up machine gun fire. This was about daybreak, and I saw everything from my watching post. I saw Lt Davis hit but Bursill took cover in a shell hole. Bursill may have been taken prisoner but he was dressed up from all sorts of things taken from German prisoners, German boots, German waistcoat and Fritz revolver and I therefore think he was killed. We went out afterwards but could not get closer because of the machine guns.

Back in the Shire of Alberton, news of Lieutenant Davis was reported in early July 1918. In the editorial section of 5/7/18, the following appeared:

Mrs. Davis of Womerah, received word on Wednesday that her husband, Lieutenant H. Davis, was wounded on 16th June, and was missing. This soldier, who may be a prisoner, was formerly in the employ of Mr. D. Wright, Carrajung, and played with the Yarram Football Club.

And on 10/7/18 there was further confirmation:

We learn from yesterday’s dailies that H. S Davis, North Devon is reported wounded and missing …

The question of Lieutenant Davis’s fate was not resolved until the end of the War. News that his status had been changed from ‘wounded and missing’ to ‘killed in action’ was reported in the paper on 28/1/19. The same report noted that his parents were in Hobart and that he left behind his wife (Myrtle) and daughter, Phyllis.

Earlier, it was only after Lieutenant Davis had been reported wounded and missing that his parents in Tasmania had learned that he was married and had a child. There was a younger brother – Lieutant James Davis – in 12 Battalion, who also rose through the ranks. In fact, he was also sent to Officers’ Training College in England, just one month before his brother disappeared at Strazeele. The younger brother survived the War and returned to Australia in December 1919.

James Davis heard about his wounded and missing brother and wrote to his parents back in Hobart. Not surprisingly, the father – (Ret) Captain James Davis – wrote to the AIF asking why he had not been informed. On 23 August he wrote,

Have received letter from my son Lieut. James Davis who states that his brother Lieut. Herbert S. Davis 5th Battalion was wounded and missing about June 12th. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we have not been notified from your Office and would be pleased if you will kindly give us all the information in reference to same.

On the face of it, the lack of communication was a major failing. However, Base Records replied on 29/8/18 that –

I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 23rd inst., and in reply to state your son, 2nd Lieutenant H. S. Davis, 5th Battn., is reported wounded and missing since 16/6/18.
Notification of the above report was on 2/7/18 conveyed to the Military Commandant, Melbourne, for transmission to next-of-kin, shown as Wife, Mrs M, Davis, c/o Mrs McKenzie, Whitelaws Track, Devon North, Victoria, who will receive advice of any further cable reports which may come to hand regarding your son.

There are, of course, many unknowns in the relationship between the young family in Gippsland and the in-laws in Hobart. However, it is worth pointing out 2/Lt Davis did make a will, in June 1917, and in it he nominated his father – Captain James Davis – as the sole beneficiary. He appears to have been caught between loyalty to his old and new families.

In the division of the military estate, the wife received the medals, memorial scroll and plaque and the actual ‘Commission for the late 2nd Lieutenant H. S. Davis, 5th Battalion’.  Through BP Johnson – Barrister and Solicitor, Yarram – she wrote (13/6/19) requesting the personal kit, only to be informed (17/6/19) that it was to be … forwarded to Captain J. Davis, Hobart, Tasmania, he being the sole legatee under deceased’s will. The kit comprised:

One brown valise (sealed) containing:- 1 wallet, Photos, 1 Small Diary, Postcards, Ties, 1 “Sam Browne” Belt, 1 Pr Puttees, Socks, Collars, 1 Handkerchief, 1 Safety Razor, 1 Razor Strop, 2 Prs boots, 1 Towel, 1 White Sweater, 1 Haversack, 1 S.D. Tunic, 1 Pr S.D. Slacks, 1 Pr Breeches.

There are two other pieces of correspondence in the file. The first was a letter written in April 1918 from a Miss Marjorie Oke (?) – possibly Gladys Marjorie Oke, born 1899 – of Flemington. The letter to Base Records asked for contact details for H S Davis. The two were obviously corresponding. Perhaps he had met her when he was in Melbourne in the period before embarkation.

Would you kindly oblige me with H. S. Davis’s (Tasmania) proper address, his previous was
No. 13941
Private H. S. Davis
1st Field Ambulance A.M.C.
But since then he has been in Cambridge College England, and obtained his commission.
I received a letter from him this mail, stating he has sent me, his new address, but unfortunately I have not received it, as the mail was on the boat that was sunk. Hoping you will let me know it at your earliest convenience.

Base Records replied, with the address, two days later.

The second letter was written much later – 1966 – and it suggests that relations between the young family 2/Lt Davis left behind in Gippsland and his own parents and siblings remained difficult, or at the very least there was little communication between them. At the time (1966), the child – Phyllis – of Herbert Davis and Myrtle McKenzie would have been 51 years old. The letter also suggests that the family in Hobart did, subsequently, send the personal kit to the wife in Gippsland. The writer was Mrs Elvera Cullinger, younger sister of Herbert Davis.

As a Trustee for some money left by my parents to be given to their grand-child Phyllis Davis, I would solicit your help in helping me to trace this young lady through the last address, or otherwise address, left by my brother who was later reported missing at Strazeele in the first world war.
My father died in 1933 & my mother in ’59.
I am getting on in years & feel this matter should be settled as soon as possible. …
My brothers name is Herbert Stanley Davis, son of Capt. James Davis Hobart (Mrs Violet Ella).
I understand he married a Myrtle MacKenzie (sic) of Yarram. We knew nothing of this wedding until after he was reported missing. Our informant was from military Headquarters as far as I know (I was a child at the time). She [the wife] received the personal effects.
My brother served first in the Ambulance Brigade later being transferred & when missing it was as a Lieutenant.
I will be very grateful for any help you can give me in this search

2/Lt HS Davis’s name appears on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. His name also features on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It also appears on the memorial for the Carrajung Residents.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for DAVIS Herbert Stanley
Roll of Honour: Herbert Stanley Davis
First World War Embarkation Roll: Herbert Stanley Davis
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Herbert Stanley Davis

 

 

WILSON Thomas Anderton 3984
6 B DoW 16/6/18

Thomas Wilson was another of approximately 100 young men born in the United Kingdom who enlisted in the AIF from the Shire of Alberton in WW1. The majority of these were working as farm labourers in the district before their enlistment.

Thomas Wilson was born in Beetham, Westmoreland (Cumbria). His mother – Dora Agnes Varley – completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour and on it she indicated that her son came to Australia aged 22. When he enlisted in July 1915 he was nearly 24 so it appears he came to Australia in late 1913 or early 1914. The mother recorded his school simply as ‘Beetham’ and she listed his occupation as ‘agricultural labourer’. There had been no previous military service. He was single and his religion was given as Church of England.

Thomas Wilson enlisted in Melbourne on 20/7/15. On his enlistment form he stated that he had not previously been ‘rejected’ but there is a MT 1486/1 for him suggesting that he had been rejected earlier in 1915. His occupation was listed as ‘farm hand’. He gave his mother’s address – Sedgwick, Kendal, Westmoreland – but on the embarkation roll there was an address from the local area: Miss E. Smithers, Mack Street, Yarram, Gippsland. In fact, this should have read: Mrs Emma Smithies, Mack’s Creek, Yarram. This must have been his boarding address.

There was a formal farewell for him from the district which was reported in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 29/10/15, under the headline: Another Soldier

Yesterday [28/10/15] word was hurriedly sent round that another soldier was to be farewelled, and, soon after 10.30 a number of townsmen and visitors assembled at the shire hall.
Mr. Elder was asked to take command as chairman, and introduced Private T. A. Wilson as from the Old Country, who had enlisted to fight with the Australians. He presented him with a card and medallion, and hoped he would live long to enjoy the honor of victory.
Mr. B. P. Johnson stated Private Wilson had been in the employ of Mr. W. H. McKenzie, who would have come in to the farewell function but for indisposition. He wished him a successful career, and hoped to welcome him back to Australia with the other boys.
Mr. Lakin, as a fellow countryman, wished him Godspeed. Mr. Black stated that of the 230 recruits from this district a large proportion were immigrants from the Old Country. He trusted the young Englishman would return to the district.
After a rousing “Jolly Good Fellow” and cheers, Private Wilson thanked them for the farewell. He felt he was doing his duty …

William Hodgson McKenzie was a local farmer with over 300 acres at Lower Bulga/Mack’s Creek.

Private Wilson joined as a reinforcement for 6 Battalion. He embarked for overseas 4 months later (23/11/15). The record of his service in Egypt is sketchy but it looks as if there was one period of hospitalisation. He left Alexandria in late March 1916 (29/3/16) and reached Marseilles on 4/4/16. It appears he finally joined 6 Battalion in the field one month later on 5/5/16.

At the start of 1917 (23/1/17) he was admitted to hospital with quinsy but was discharged and rejoined his unit after about a fortnight (7/3/17). There were 2 periods of leave in the UK: one from 31/8/17 to 12/9/17 and the second from 11/2/18 to 2/3/18. Presumably he caught up with his family at these times. Then on 4/6/18 he was wounded – gunshot wound to the face – and admitted to hospital where he died from his wounds on 16/6/18. He was buried in the Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, France. This particular cemetery only opened in June 1918. It served the many military hospitals in that part of France.

There are only limited details in 6 Battalion’s war diary for June 4 1918. At 8 p.m. on that day the battalion moved into the line in the Strazeele sector to relieve 11 Battalion; but the relief was not without incident –

Whilst our boys were moving up, the lines of communication were heavily barraged by the enemy, this made the relief very difficult; we suffered 20 casualties.

Presumably, Private Wilson was one of the 20 casualties.

It appears the family in England were advised of the death about one week after it occurred (27/6/18). On the enlistment form the mother – Mrs D Varley – had been given as next of kin and a will made in July 1917 named the mother – Mrs. Varley, Old Row, Sedgwick, Nr. Kendal, Westmorland, England. – as the sole beneficiary. All the medals, and memorial plaque and scroll, and details of the grave were sent to the mother. Personal kit was returned to the mother in July 1918 but there was no separate list of the items.

The mother wrote (August 1918) to the AIF in London stating that her son’s ‘pre-military effects’ had been left in the custody of a Mr W. H. Mackenzie (sic) , Tanna Valley (sic), Lower Bulga, South Gippsland’. Acting on her behalf, the AIF in London requested that the property be collected and then sent to them in London. There is a copy of correspondence, probably October 1918, from W. H. McKenzie of ‘Calrossie’, Yarram, indicating he had handed over all the belongings of T. A. Wilson to the Superintendent of police at Yarram. It appears that this property reached the mother in England in May 1919.

Lastly, there is another piece of correspondence in the file that indicates at least one person was sufficiently close enough to Thomas Wilson, from his time in Yarram, to be concerned about his fate. It was from Mrs Emma Smithies of Mack’s Creek, Yarram – as indicated it seems likely that he boarded with her before enlistment – and was written in July 1918. In part, the letter requested,

As this is the first I knew of No. 3984. Pte. T. A. Wilson being deceased would you, if you could, kindly let me know any particulars.

In the 10 years after the War there was still a strong enough collective memory of Private Wilson to ensure that his name was included on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. It was also included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. Back in England, his family ensured that his name was included on the memorials in his original village (Beetham). His name, – as a member of 6 Battalion, 1 Australian Division – is included on the memorial at the entrance to the village and also in the local church (St. Michael and All Angels Church).

Private T A Wilson 3984, courtesy Yarram and District Historical Society

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for WILSON Thomas Anderson
Roll of Honour: Thomas Anderton Wilson
First World War Embarkation Roll: Thomas Anderton Wilson