Category Archives: The dead

133. Menin Road, Sept. 1917: G E Withinshaw, F W Butler, J Kennedy, C Saal & J D McLennan

Menin Road

The battle of Menin Road – the road itself ran between Menin and Gheluvelt, just outside of Ypres – was launched at 5.40 on the morning of 20 September 1917 and ran through to the following day. There were 11 divisions involved – 9 British and 2 Australian. The 2 Australian divisions – 1 and 2 – were positioned near Westhoek. It was the first time 2 Australian divisions had attacked side by side.

The military rated the operation a success. The planning was detailed, highly technical and strategic, and the men well prepared. All objectives were achieved.

The British politicians were far less impressed: the objectives themselves were limited and the casualty levels were unacceptable. Overall there were 21,000 casualties – including 4,000 for the AIF – and the ground gained was just over 5 square miles.  Success on these terms was unsustainable, particularly for the AIF.

The allied troops were not sent to attack the conventional line of trenches but rather a system of apparently haphazard outposts, reinforced pill boxes and machine gun emplacements which became denser and more effective the further the attacking troops penetrated. The German plan was that such a defensive system would first slow and then absorb the attack, at which point they could counter-attack.

The British counter strategy was to use artillery to protect and support the attacking infantry. This was to be done in the most direct and scientific way. The men would attack, in a closely orchestrated progression, behind the protective cover or ‘curtain’ of a barrage that gradually moved across the entire width of the chosen battlefield – to 1,000 yards and further – and was then sustained after the objectives had been achieved to break up any German counter attack.

Menin Road was rated as a triumph of allied artillery. It was the use of artillery that defined the success of the battle. Bean wrote about the success of the artillery in such ‘step-by-step tactics’:

The battle of September 20th (Menin Road), like those that succeeded it, is easily described inasmuch as it went almost precisely in accordance with plan. The advancing barrage won the ground; the infantry merely occupied it, pouncing on any points at which resistance survived. Whereas the artillery was generally spoken of as supporting the infantry, in this battle the infantry were little more than a necessary adjunct to the artillery’s effort. The barrage was the densest that had ever yet covered Australian troops. “Excellent-the best ever put up,” “as near to perfect as possible,” “magnificent in accuracy and volume,” were descriptions applied to it afterwards by Australian officers. Nevertheless it may fairly be claimed that infantry such as the Australian gave the artillery the best prospect of success. Provided the going was good, the difficulty was, never, to keep Australians up to the barrage, but, almost always, to keep them out of it. With guns so concentrated, a fair proportion of shells inevitably burst short of the rest, making a fringe to the barrage, and in this fringe the Australian infantry worked. (p 761)

However there were problems. Bean himself alludes to one: keeping the troops out of the barrage. For a whole range of reasons the attacking troops could be hit by their own artillery. Sometimes, not surprisingly, the close coordination required between the movement of the barrage and the troops on the battlefield broke down. Also, artillery shells could fall short and, given the closeness of the fighting, these ‘shorts’ often fell among the British and Australian troops.

That such ‘friendly fire’ was a real problem at Menin Road is revealed in the war diary of 5 Battalion. On the one hand the diary noted how effective, overall, the barrage had been. It stated that The barrage put down by our artillery was excellent. But it then went on to note how the … inevitable “shorts” fell amongst our men and made casualties. It also lamented that the men were too eager to move forward and some of them …  got into the barrage. Summing up, it noted:

Perhaps as many as 100 casualties were caused by our own barrage and “shorts”.

The significance of the figure of 100 is that total casualties for 5 Battalion at Menin Road were 70 killed, 189 wounded and 12 missing. Overall, potentially nearly 40% of the total casualties were caused by friendly fire.

It also important to note that in the final stages before the attack, as the men were assembling in the jumping off areas, German artillery put down a heavy barrage that claimed many casualties. In some cases, this barrage was so heavy, concentrated and deadly in its effect that the men, to escape it, launched the attack several minutes in advance of the scheduled start time.

Again, to give some indication of the intensity of the artillery used at Menin Road, 3.5 million shells were used over the period that covered the week leading up to the attack and the first day of the attack.  Many German troops surrendered, shell-shocked and demoralised.

In his account, Bean also described how some German troops who thought they had surrendered or who tried to surrender were killed. Most of these deaths appear to have occurred when the troops were overpowering the German pill boxes. In at least one case, it took the intervention of officers to stop the killing (p 772). In another case Bean described how German troops tried to surrender … but the excited troops “filled the place with bombs” until, growing tired of killing, they allowed a remnant – an officer and 40 men – to go to the rear as prisoners. (p. 764)

After the ‘success’ of Menin Road, planning for Polygon Wood continued with new enthusiasm.

It is worth noting that of the 5 men linked to the Shire of Alberton who died at Menin Road, and whose accounts appear below, not one of them has a known grave. All are simply remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial. Arguably, the lack of graves also points to the way the artillery of both sides churned up and obliterated the battlefield.

References

Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume IV – The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917, 11th Edition 1941

Chapter XVIII Step By Step. (1) The Menin Road

For a general background on Menin Road see,

Beaumont, J 2013, Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW. [p 335 ff]

Carlyon, L 2006, The Great War, Pan Macmillan, Sydney NSW
[Chapter 29]

 

George Edgar WITHINSHAW (3456)
23 B KiA 19/9/17

The name of George Edgar Withinshaw is not included on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial, but he was definitely a local of the Shire of Alberton. He was yet another another young English immigrant. He was born in Burslem, Staffordshire. When he enlisted in November 1916, he was 22 yo – nearly 23 yo – and the information supplied by his father – Harry Withinshaw – for the (National) Roll of Honour indicates that, at the time, he would have been in Australia for between 12 and 18 months. He must have arrived sometime in 1915, as a 21 yo.

On his enlistment forms he gave his occupation as ‘butcher’ and it appears he had completed several years apprenticeship in England before he came to Australia. However, in the local area it is most likely that he was working as a farm labourer. He gave his address as c/o C J Stockwell, Yarram. Charles John Stockwell was a prominent local grazier with at least 240 acres near Yarram. The father listed the same Charles J Stockwell Esq. on the (National) Roll of Honour form as someone … to whom reference could be made… for further information. The father also gave Yarram as the place with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’.

While he had not been in the local area for long before he enlisted, there is no doubt that George Edgar Withinshaw was a local. Indeed, there is even a record of him being fined for being on the premises of the Yarram Hotel ‘during prohibited hours’. The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 6/10/16, just a months before he enlisted, reported on the prosecution of 4 locals – James Mitchell, George Withinshaw, Joseph Mills and Edgar Mitchell – who had been apprehended by Constable Herkes at 11.55 PM in the ‘bar parlour’ of the Yarram Hotel on the night of Saturday, 26 August. All 4 were found guilty and fined between 10/- and 15/- with costs (another 6/- to 10/-). Interestingly, on his enlistment papers, George Withinshaw wrote that he ‘had not been convicted’. Further, he enlisted at Warragul. Perhaps he chose to enlist outside the local area so as not to draw attention to his recent brush with the law.

Private Withinshaw was single and he gave his religion as Church of England when he enlisted on 10/11/16. He was taken on as reinforcements for 2 Pioneer Battalion and he embarked from Melbourne on 16/12/16, which was just over one month after he had enlisted.

In training in the UK in March 1917 he was hospitalised for 2 weeks with influenza and then in September he spent another week in hospital with a serious ear infection.

He transferred from 2 Pioneer Battalion to 23 Battalion in July 1917 and he proceeded overseas to join 23 Battalion in late August 1917. He was killed in action on 19/9/17 which meant that his service lasted just 10 months and, in fact, he survived less than one month at the front.

There is no Red Cross file and the details on the death of private Withinshaw are sparse. In fact, while the official date of his death is given as 19/9/17, records in his file suggest that, initially, the date was given as 22/9/17. Significantly, the date of 22/9/17 is more credible. There is nothing in the war diary of 23 Battalion that suggests any casualties for 19/9/17 but 22/9/17, on the other hand, was one of the 2 days over which 23 Battalion was involved in the battle of Menin Road. For 23 Battalion, the casualties for 21-23 September were 13 killed, 77 wounded and 6 missing. The body of Private Withinshaw was never recovered – another reason to support 22/9/17 as the date of death – and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

The father in England was advised by cable dated 8/10/17. It appears that personal kit was returned to the father, then at Tottenham in London, at the end of December 1917 but there is no list of the actual items.

There is no personal or family correspondence in the file. However, presumably, George Withinshaw would have reunited with his family when he was in training in the UK.

Private George Ernest Withinshaw would have been another of the young English immigrant workers who were pressed by the locals to enlist and return to fight for the mother country. There is now little, if any, memory of his time in the AIF and his death in service.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for WITHINSHAW George Edgar 3456
Roll of Honour: George Edgar Withinshaw
First World War Embarkation Rolls: George Edgar Withinshaw

 

Frederick William BUTLER (814)
5B KiA 20/09/17

Frederick Butler was born in South Melbourne. The family must have moved into the local area not long after because he attended Womerah SS. His father – William Butler – was dead by the time he enlisted so, presumably, the family moved to the Shire of Alberton when the mother – Maria Butler – remarried. She married Charles Ethelbert Retford, a contractor of Jack River.

The mother was listed as next-of-kin on his enlistment papers and her address was Jack River via Yarram. When she completed the particulars for the (National) Roll of Honour she gave Yarram as the place with which her son was ‘chiefly connected’. His name is recorded on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial.

Prior to enlistment Frederick Butler had served two years in the fledgling Royal Australian Navy. His date of enlistment in the AIF was very early – 24 August 1914 – nearly a month before the first large group from Yarram. He enlisted at South Melbourne. He was 23 yo at the time and he gave his occupation as labourer. He was Church of England.

He joined the newly formed 5 Battalion and left for the Middle East in October 1914. He was wounded – gunshot, right thigh – at the start of the Gallipoli campaign and hospitalised.

At this point he was recommended to be discharged from the AIF on medical grounds and was in fact returned to Australia. The report of the medical board from the time (27/5/15) reveals that he had previously suffered a serious knee injury in the RAN and there had been more injury to the same knee when he was serving with 5 Battalion in Egypt, prior to Gallipoli. Then when he had been shot in the thigh, the knee injury had been further exacerbated. The report made it clear that the injury had been sustained on active service. There was a definite recommendation that he be discharged as permanently unfit. He arrived back in Australia in July 1915.

However, on his return to Australia he was not medically discharged. Instead, after spending 3 weeks in hospital he was attached to a unit involved in recruiting and it looks like he continued in this role until another medical board (14/3/16) determined that he was again medically fit for active service. The board found that he was … quite free from any pain or inconvenience; although it did also note that Private Butler himself complained of … weakness in R knee. Ironically, recruitment levels were falling by this point and there was growing pressure to toughen the standards for soldiers being found to be medically unfit.

When Private Butler returned to Australia he was given a welcome home at Yaram as a ‘returned soldier’. Earlier – 12/5/15 – the local paper had reported when he had been wounded at Gallipoli as one of ‘Our Gallant Gippslanders’.

Private Butler returned to duty in June 1916 and reached France in September (2/9/16). He finally rejoined 5 Battalion in the field at the start of October 1916, nearly 18 months after being taken off the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Then in late October he was hospitalised with some injury to his spine. He rejoined his unit in the middle of November 1916. There was a further period of hospitalisation in February-March 1917.

Six months later he was killed on the first day of the fighting at Menin Road (20/9/17). There is no Red Cross report and so there are no witness accounts of his death. There is a handwritten note in his file that records a location for his grave – …100 yards east of Glencorse Wood – but presumably this was a battlefield burial and the grave was subsequently lost. There is no official grave and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.

The battalion war diary reveals that over the two days of fighting – the battalion was relieved very late the next day (21/9/17) – there were 273 casualties, with private Butler one of the 70 killed. The war diary specifically referred to the number of deaths casue by artillery ‘shorts’.

The mother as next-of-kin was notified of her son’s death by cable dated 15/10/17, 3 weeks later. She received a pension of 20/- per fortnight from 17/12/17. The official report of death was dated 19/1/18.

The following in memoriam appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 20/9/18, the first anniversary of his death:

BUTLER – Sacred to the memory of my darling boy, Fred. W. Butler, 5th Battalion. Killed in the Battle of Menin Road on September 20th, 1917, aged 23 years and 9 months.
The midnight stars are shining
O’er the grave I cannot see;
Where sleeping without dreaming
Lies my boy so dear to me.
A hero and a man.
Inserted by his mother, step father, sisters and brothers – Lizzie, Lily and Ivy, and Charlie and Jack.

In December 1917, BP Johnson – solicitor, Yarram –  wrote on behalf of Private Butler’s mother asking for details of deferred pay and also for his personal effects. Nearly two years later (28/7/19) Mrs Retford herself, now living at Tara Valley via Traralgon, wrote requesting again her son’s personal effects. She also wanted to know why she had not received the formal badge made available to mothers who had lost sons in the War. There is a sense of frustration – if not outright anger – evident in the letter:

I am writing to know what has become of my boys property. He has been dead nearly two years now and I have never received one thing back. My boy done as much as any other boy over there and I think it is not right that I am to be left out altogether.
Would you kindly see to this. His address was No 834 Pte F. W. Butler 5th Batn.
I have also written 3 times about a broach I am entitled to. I see everyone about here with one, but I have none. Is there no way I can get anything.

The reply that came from Base Records on 1/8/19 was rather terse. The detail could also have come as a shock to the mother:

In reply to your communication of 28th ultimo, I have to state two packages of personal effects of your son, the late No. 814 (not 834 as quoted by you) Private F. W. Butler, 5th Battalion, were returned to this office and forwarded to Miss Ada Thomson, 119 Miller Street, North Fitzroy, who is shown as the sole legatee under his will.
That portion of your letter with reference to badge has been referred to the Assistant Adjutant general, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, for attention and reply direct to you.
Your change of address has been noted.

The issue of the personal kit was complicated. In fact, it appears that one lot – 2 religious Books, 2 post cards, 2 Photos – was returned to Miss Ada Thompson of North Firzroy and a second lot – Post cards, Photos, Gift tin, Cigarette case, Note book, New Testament, 3 Brushes, Bag handle. – was returned to the mother, Mrs C Retford, Jack River P.O. via Yarram.

There is a copy of Private Butler’s will, dated 9/1/17, and taken from his pay book that describes Miss Ada Thomson of North Fitzroy as his sole beneficiary. She is described as his fiancée. Presumably, he met her when he working in the recruitment unit after his return to Australia. Whether his mother knew of her son’s engagement before she received this letter from Base Records is not known. However if she did there was obviously not much in the way of communication between the two women.

The mother did receive all her son’s war medals and the memorial scroll and plaque.

More than 2 years after the War, the local paper (14/5/20), reporting on the welcome home to another Womerah local – Private H Lawson – made special mention of Priave Butler and his mother:

Later in the evening a presentation of a gold medal was also made to Mrs Redford in memory of her son, Pte. Fred Butler, who fell in France. Pte. Butler was wounded at the landing in Gallipoli, was invalided home. Recovering, he went again to the front, where he was killed by a shell in an attack on the enemy lines.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for BUTLER Frederick William 814
Roll of Honour: Frederick William Butler
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Frederick William Butler

Private F W Butler, courtesy of Australian War Memorial

 

John Kennedy (309B)
5B KiA 20/9/17

John Kennedy’s name is not recorded on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ memorial. Yet there was a connection to the local area. His name is recorded on the honor roll for Darriman SS and also on the roll for the local Presbyterian Charge.

On his enlistment papers he gave Woodside as the place where he was born. He was the second of 4 children of Robert and Catherine (nee Regan) Kennedy. His parents had lived in the district and in fact there is a record of his father enlisting for the war in South Africa in 1900 as a rifleman from Darriman. The previous generation had also lived in the district and it appears that, for some period at least, John’s grandfather – Farquhar Kennedy – had held land at Darriman. Both John’s parents were dead at the time he enlisted. The father had died at Yarram in 1905 and had been buried at Sale, and the mother had died in 1907.

John had 3 sisters and the oldest – Kathleen – was given as his next-of-kin. Presumably, she also gave permission for him to enlist as he was only 18 yo at the time. This oldest sister – Mrs Kathleen Jean Hobson – lived at Rosedale. Another sister lived near Sale. At the time he enlisted John gave his address as Mossiface, near Bairnsdale, and he enlisted at Sale. He gave his occupation as labourer. It would appear that at the time he enlisted he was not living and working in the Shire of Alberton but certainly the family did have strong links to the shire. Also, the fact that his name appears on the local Presbyterian Charge – he gave his religion as Presbyterian – suggests that the links to the Shire of Alberton had lasted till very recently.

Private Kennedy enlisted as reinforcements for 5 Battalion on 5/2/16. He left Melbourne on 3/6/16 and eventually joined 5 Battalion in France in early October 1916. He was hospitalised with mumps for 3 weeks in March 1917. There was also a minor charge for AWL in May 1917.

It appears that Private kennedy was killed in action early in the morning of 20/9/17. The following witness statement – Pte A. J. O’Connor 65561 – in his Red Cross file is very definite:

Knew [him] very well, he was in same platoon as myself. … On Sept 20th about 7 a.m. in front of Dickebusch I was walking with him after we had gone over when he was hit at the back of the head with a shrapnel pellet- it was no bigger than a marble and I noticed then hole in his tin helmet. He dropped down beside me and never uttered a sound and I feel positive was killed. I had to continue but we gained our objective and held the ground. At the time he was hit he was talking to me and we were trying to locate some of our fellows. At the moment he appeared to be in very good spirits.

Similarly, the second one from W. J Canning 2127 describes the death and its random nature. It literally did come down to where you were standing at any point.

I knew casualty. … I was in the same advance. He was in my section. An H. E. shell exploded near casualty killing him instantly. I was 3 yards away at the time the shell exploded, and I saw his body immediately afterwards. He was about 200 yards from our objective at the time he was killed. He was most severely wounded in the head. I do not know if he was buried.

Private Kennedy’s body was never recovered and his name is included with the others on the Menin Gate Memorial. In his file, there is in fact a reference to where he was buried – Verbick Farm 100 yds of Glencorse Wood E of Ypres – but if this was accurate the grave must have been subsequently lost. As part of this general confusion, he was initially reported as wounded. The sister at Rosedale was in fact advised on 13/10/17 that he had been wounded, but no details were given. Then 12 days later, on 25/10/17, she received word that he had been killed.

A very small amount of personal kit – 2 Note Books, Tobacco Pouch, 2 Pipes – was returned to the sister in May 1918.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for KENNEDY John 309B
Roll of Honour: John Kennedy
First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Kennedy
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: John Kennedy

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

 

Christopher SAAL (6151)
26B KiA 20/9/17

Christopher Saal’s link to the Shire of Alberton was that he attended Binginwarri SS and his name – C Saal – is recorded on the school’s honor roll. Beyond this one definite link, the background story of this young man is unclear.

The surname is most unusual and in fact it appears that there only ever 3 with the Saal family name who served. In addition to Christopher, it appears there were 2 cousins – 2 brothers – who came from Clifton, near Toowoomba, in Queensland: Henry Nelson Saal and Sidney Lane Saal. Christopher himself was born in Toowoomba and he enlisted from there. It appears that his 3 sisters and parents were also living in Toowoomba, or nearby, at the point he enlisted.

Overall, there was only ever one C Saal in the AIF and he was killed on active service. At the time he enlisted he was obviously living in Queensland; but this C Saal has to be the person on the Binginwarri roll of honor.

There is a slight complication in relation to the honor roll because C Saal on the Binginwarri roll is not marked as ‘killed’. However, the explanation appears to be that after it was unveiled on 24/8/17, the honor roll at Binginwarri SS was not updated – or at least not fully or correctly updated – and so the status of C Saal, who was still alive at the time the roll was unveiled, was never adjusted. Ironically, C Staal was killed just one month after the unveiling.

Fortunately, there is one additional piece of evidence that ties Christopher Saal to the Shire of Alberton. He was killed on 20/9/17. Exactly one year later, in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 20/9/18, the following in memoriam appeared:

SAAL. – In loving memory of my dear friend, Chris Saal, who was killed in action in France on Sept. 20th, 1917.
“His duty nobly done.”
– Inserted by his true friend, Victoria Hiho, Hedley.

Exactly what the connection between these 2 people was is unknown. Perhaps it was nothing more than that the 2 of them had been to school together. The Hiho family, incidentally, was a very prominent one in the local area. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that the Christopher Saal killed at Menin Road on 20/9/17 had at the very least attended Binginwarri SS as a child and that there were still some locals who remembered him.

Private Saal enlisted in Toowoomba on 12/7/16.He was single and 19 yo. He gave his occupation as turner. His religion was Church of England and he gave his sister – Miss Eva Saal – as his next-of-kin.

He joined as reinforcements for 26 Battalion and embarked for overseas on 27/10/16. After further training in the United Kingdom he proceeded to France in June and finally joined 26 Battalion in early July 1917. In the UK he had been hospitalised with mumps for nearly 3 weeks in February 1917.

Unfortunately, the information form for the (National) Roll of Honour was not completed by the family. Nor was there a Red Cross report. Consequently, there is little detail on Private Saal’s service and death. The cable advising of his death was dated 29/9/17. There was no grave and, instead, his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial.

The war diary for 26 Battalion suggests that the battalion was in a support role over 20-21 September. The casualties were not as high as other battalions: 18 killed, 102 wounded and 8 missing.

The personal kit – 2 Wallets, Photos, Enamel bangle, Metal wrist watch guard and strap, cards, 2 Coins. – reached the family in May 1918.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for SAAL Christopher 6151
Roll of Honour: Christopher Saal
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Christopher Saal

 

John Donald McLENNAN (6811)
6B KiA 21/9/17

John Donald McLennan was born at Lyonville in 1886. Two younger brothers were born at Welshpool. By the outbreak of war in 1914 the family was living at Hedley. When the father – Alexander C McLennan – came to complete the particulars for the (National) Roll of Honour, he listed Hedley as the town with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’.

John McLennan grew up in the local district. His name is included on the honor rolls for both the state school at Alberton and the one at Welshpool. Similarly, his name is included on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial as well as the equivalent memorials in Welshpool.

Hedley, while not within the boundary of the Shire of Alberton, and closer to Welshpool than Alberton, was still regarded as sufficiently ‘local’ at the time. Moreover, the McLennan farm – approx. 300 acres – was at Alberton West. Overall, at least to the point that John McLennan enlisted – he was the third and last of the 3 sons to enlist – the McLennan family was closely associated with the local area. After he enlisted it appears that the parents moved to Avenel, near Seymour.

On the enlistment papers John McLennan gave his occupation as ‘farm labourer’ but he must have been helping his father on the family farm. His father described his son’s work as ‘farming and dairying pursuits’. More than one year earlier, on 27/5/15, his two younger brothers had enlisted together in 13 light Horse Regiment. Alexander Christopher McLennan was not quite 21 yo and needed his parents’ consent and the other brother, George Trail McLennan was 23 yo. The 2 younger brothers survived the War and both were decorated, with, respectively, the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal.

Most likely, all 3 brothers were helping their father with the family farm at the outbreak of war. possibly there was tension over who was to enlist and when. It appears that John, as the eldest brother, held land in his own right, and, possibly, he was persuaded by his parents to hold off enlisting when his two younger brothers joined.  But in the end he too enlisted. There is some sense of this scenario in the comments written by his father on the form for recording information for the (National) Roll of Honour:

His conduct was always exemplary – and as soon as circumstances would permit he determined to do his duty by enlisting and would not be restrained, although his two (only) brothers had enlisted and were abroad for nearly a year.

Similarly, the report of his death in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative of 24/10/17 noted how the younger brothers were the first to enlist:

It will be remembered that George and Alex McLennan enlisted from Hedley shortly after the war began, leaving Jack, the only other son at home. The brothers fought through Gallipoli, and are so far safe. About 18 months ago Jack enlisted, and after training at Salisbury Plains, went to France. Last Friday word came that he had been killed in the service of his country, and to the family we extend our sincere sympathy.

When John (Jack) McLennan enlisted in September 1916 (8/9/16) in Melbourne, he was 30 yo and single. He gave his religion as Presbyterian. He joined as reinforcements for 6 Battalion.

Private McLennan left Melbourne in October 1916 (25/10/16) and reached England at the very end of 1916 (28/12/16). He spent another 3 months with 2 Training Brigade in England before being taken on the strength of 6 Battalion in France at the start of April 1917. He was killed in action 6 months later on the second day of the Battle of Menin Road (21/9/17).

According to its war diary, casualties for 6 Battalion for the 20-21 September were approximately 260 (10 officers and 247 other ranks) although there is no breakdown given for deaths, wounded etc. Again, as for 5 Battalion, the diary makes it clear that at least some of the casualties were from ‘friendly fire’,

At zero 0540 our barrage fell and the whole Bn moved forward. Almost immediately a few casualties were caused by our own shells falling short which they did throughout the whole advance, a few batteries for about an hour firing about 500 yards short of the barrage.

Specific details of Private McLennan’s death are not included in his file. There is no reference to any grave and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial. The cable informing the father, as next-of-kin, of the death was dated 13/10/17 and the formal report on the death was completed on 21/12/17.

Personal kit – Wallet, Diary, Bible, Photos, Letter and Tie, 2 testaments, Military Book – were returned to the parents in May 1918.

A letter to Base Records written by Private McLennan’s father in May 1918 suggests that he knew little of the circumstances of his son’s death and that he was desperate for any information.

Can you supply any more details of the passing of my Son? I have been patiently awaiting for months for more particulars from your Dept but as yet none have been given. If you can supply anything further I will be grateful.

The reply merely reiterated that he was killed in action in Belgium on 21/9/17; although the letter did promise to provide more particulars if they became available.

What is interesting in this particular case is that there was an offer from the Red Cross to follow up the death of Private McLennan but this was turned down, by one of his brothers.

In November 1917 (23/11/17) the Red Cross wrote to Private McLennan’s two brothers – both were then serving in France – extending sympathy on their loss and also offering to conduct the usual enquiry. The Red Cross offered to … do our best to get full particulars [on the brother’s death] which we shall at once send to you.

However, in a reply to the Red Cross written some 6 months before the father’s plea for additional information, one of the brothers (AC McLennan) revealed that he had already made his own enquiries to 6 Battalion and had …learned all there is to be known. Basically, he thanked the Red Cross for the expression of sympathy and the offer of help but indicated that his brother’s name did not need to go on the enquiry list. Obviously, whatever this brother had been able to find out about the death was not relayed back to the father in Australia, or at least had not been relayed by the time the father wrote to Base Records requesting information on his son’s death. Presumably, at the very least, the family learned of the circumstances surrounding the death when the two surviving brothers returned to Australia in 1919.

An in memoriam was placed in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 20/9/18, one year after the death :

McLENNAN – In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Private J. D McLennan (Jack), killed in action at “Polygon Wood” (sic) in France on the 20th of September, 1917
Fondly remembered.
-Inserted by parents and sister.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for McLENNAN John Donald 6811
Roll of Honour: John Donald McLennan
First World War Embarkation Rolls: John Donald McLennan
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: John Donald McLennan

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

 

 

 

131. E J Appleyard

Edgar John APPLEYARD (609)
8 LHR   DoW 3/8/1917

Edgar John Appleyard was born in Alberton in 1888 and grew up in the district. He attended the Alberton State School. He was a cousin of the six Appleyard brothers, also from Alberton, who enlisted. Two of these cousins (Gordon William Appleyard and Charles Courtney Appleyard) like Edgar, died on active service. Edgar Appleyard had 2 brothers, one of whom – Frank Appleyard – also enlisted, and survived the War.

Edgar Appleyard’s father – Arthur Horatio “Crib” Appleyard – had been the Shire Engineer for the Shire of Alberton. He had died in 1898. The mother – Mary Ann Appleyard – was listed as next-of-kin on the enlistment forms. When her son enlisted her address was given as Alberton but she changed address several times from that point and, at the time of his death, she was living at Windsor in Melbourne.

Edgar was nearly 24 yo when he enlisted and he gave his occupation as ‘labourer’. The father had held land in the local area but there is no indication that, after the father’s death, the wife or sons held land and were farming. Presumably, Edgar was working on other local properties as a farm labourer.

He enlisted in Melbourne, early in the War, on 20/10/14. He was single and he gave his religion as Church of England. It appears he nearly failed the medical because of poor teeth. He was taken on in the newly formed 8 Light Horse Regiment.

His unit left for Egypt in February 1915 and was involved in the fighting at Gallipoli from mid May. 8 LHR was involved in the disastrous attack on the Nek on 7 August 1915. At the end of October Trooper Appleyard was hospitalised for a week. He was returned to duty but after only a few days was hospitalised gain. This time he was taken off the peninsula, transported to Alexandria and admitted to hospital in Heliopolis with ‘debility’. By the time he rejoined the unit in mid December the Gallipoli campaign was effectively over.

On 19 April 1917, 2 years after arriving in the Middle East, Trooper Appleyard was wounded in action. The wounds were serious and he subsequently died of them in early August (3/8/17).
The action in which Trooper Appleyard was wounded was the second unsuccessful attack on Gaza. The war diary of the 8 LHR recorded 6 killed and 67 wounded in the action on that day (19/4/17). The diary also made a point of explaining how the use of two armoured cars in the operation increased the number of casualties. The 2 armoured cars were driven to an advanced position in the Australian lines and, not surprisingly, drew intense enemy fire thereby increasing the number of casualties. The diary was dismissive of the overall value of the armoured cars, both of which were easily put out of action by the enemy, but not before one of them had run over and seriously injured an Australian trooper.

There is an additional reference in the diary that might be highly relevant to trooper Appleyard’s fate. Essentially, the diary notes that the regiment was at that time using the new ‘H. K. Auto Rifles’ – Hotchkiss M1909 – and while this light machine gun had proved ‘invaluable’ it had also been responsible for deaths and injuries amongst the Australians themselves. Poor training in its use had meant that in some cases it was being fired from the shoulder, with deadly consequences for those nearby. There is the possibility that Trooper Appleyard, whose wound was described as a gunshot wound to the back, was in fact the victim of ‘friendly fire’.

Trooper Appleyard was transferred to hospital in Cairo via various casualty posts. He reached there on 24/4/17, 5 days after he had been wounded. It appears that his mother back in Australia learnt of his serious injury by cable on the 26 April. He was described as ‘dangerously ill’. He lived for more than 3 months and over this period there were at least 10 further cables back to Australia to advise that he remained on the ‘dangerously ill list’. There was one cable early on (5/5/17) that advised that he was ‘out of danger’ but this was definitely the exception. The following letter makes it clear that from the start there was no chance of survival. It was written in September 1917 by the Registrar of the hospital in which Trooper Appleyard was nursed and died (14 Australian General Hospital, Cairo). It was written in response to a Red Cross appeal for information on Trooper Appleyard’s death and, presumably, the contents, in some form or other, would have been forwarded to the mother.

I have to state that this soldier [Trooper E J Appleyard, 609] was wounded on the 19th April at Gaza by a rifle bullet which entered the spine and injured the spinal cord, causing complete paralysis of the lower limbs immediately.

He was admitted to this hospital on the 24th April in a paralysed condition and his general condition was naturally serious from the start. The damage to his spinal cord was irreparable, and there was never any prospect of his recovering or of his being sufficiently strong to travel to Australia on a hospital transport.

He lived until the 3rd of August growing progressively weaker all the time. During these months he was always cheerful, was a great reader and wrote a large number of letters. He was entirely free from pain and never made any complaint, and his death was a gradual and very easy one….

Trooper Appleyard’s file contains extensive medical notes, including a post mortem report, which make for graphic reading. In a sense, this material is the medically objective – and far more confronting – version of the letter written by the Registrar, who was presumably trying to give some sort of comfort and our modern day sense of ‘closure’ to the family. The post mortem gives as the cause of death … GS wound of spinal cord – myelitis and Septic cystitis & extensive bed sores. The bed sores were described as … large deep excavating bed sores on buttocks extending to the sacrum. There were similar lesions on the heels. The medical notes reveal the ongoing, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to control infection in the bladder. They also indicate that the patient was being treated on a water bed.

The mother was advised by cable within two days of her son’s death. His funeral service was conducted by Chaplain Captain E Warren Tompkins and he was buried in the British Military Cemetery, Cairo. Uncharacteristically, there is no record of any personal kit being returned to the mother.

Death notices appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 15/8/17:

APPLEYARD – Died of wounds 3rd August, at 14th A.G. Hospital, Cairo, Gunner Edgar John, fourth son of the late Arthur H. Appleyard, of Alberton, South Gippsland, and dearly loved brother of Alice, Annie, Harriet, Fred, Frank (on active service), and Muriel, aged 28 1/2 years.

A call to duty, ’twas nobly done,
In doing his duty a crown he won:
No fear for self, in trying to save
The lives of others his life he gave.
For him, our gallant hero,
We breathe a silent prayer:
We love and honour his noble name,
We know he is in God’s care.

APPLEYARD. – Died of wounds on 3rd Aug. at 14th A. G. Hospital, Cairo, Gunner Edgar John, 4th son of the late Arthur H. (formerly shire engineer) and Mary Ann Appleyard, of Alberton, Sth. Gippsland, and brother of Alice, Annie, Harriet, Fred, Frank (on active service) and Muriel, aged 28 1/2 years.

Though Thou hast called me to resign
What most I prized, it ne’er was
mine,
I have but yielded what was Thine:
Thy will be done.

Ironically, these notices of his death appeared just 2 weeks after the local paper had encouraged locals to write to Trooper Appleyard in hospital in Egypt. The mother by this point was living in Melbourne and it appears that it had taken time before people in the district knew that he had been wounded and that his condition was so serious. The information appeared in a short article on 1/8/17, just 2 days before he died and, obviously, far too late for his benefit:

Mrs. Appleyard, Windsor, has received word from the Australian Red Cross Information bureau that her son, Private Edgar Appleyard, of the 8th Light Horse, is in the 14th Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis. His legs are paralysed and his condition is regarded as dangerous. Those of his friends in this district who would like to write to him, should address letters No. 609, Private E. Appleyard, !4th Australian General Hospital, Heliopolis, c/o Officer Commanding Australian Section Base, Cairo, Egypt.

On 7/9/17 the local paper published another article on the death of Trooper Appleyard. It is worth reproducing in full because it shows the incredible paths that information on serving soldiers could take to reach the family back in Australia. The episode also shows the power of the local paper to present the narrative of the War, at the immediate level of individual soldiers, including those who as locals had until recently lived among them. The lessons from this particular section of the narrative are all about kindness, compassion and courage:

Tribute To A Brave Soldier
Mrs M. A. Appleyard, Windsor, has received the following letter from Private T. P. Payne, Melbourne, referring to the death of her son: –
Dear Mrs. Appleyard. – You will please pardon me intruding upon you at this time, but you will understand my reasons when I tell you that it is my great admiration for a gallant gentleman and sympathy for his loved ones that impels me to write you. By the last mail from Egypt I received a letter from my brother who is attached to the staff of the 14th A.G.H. In it he states: “I am now engaged in attending a very serious case. It is a laddie named Appleyard, who comes from Albertan, near the Lakes. He was wounded on 19th April at Gaza, and since that time has been partially paralysed from hips down. The injuries are most serious, and it takes us an hour each day to dress them. “Appy” is the gamest boy I have ever seen, and although his case is helpless he is always laughing and joking whilst we are dressing him; never a word of complaint escapes his lips. Just as I am writing (2.15 a.m.) he is sitting up in bed as happy as can be puffing a cigarette. His chief thought is of his home.” I might tell you my brother was very fond of him, and I’m sure nothing that his mind could suggest would be omitted to comfort and cheer your boy. Jim used to go to Cairo every chance to get sweets, etc for him. In another letter he described the bed upon which your lad was, and it will surely interest and somewhat console you to know that all that science and goodness could produce was at his disposal. Jim says: “In bad cases water beds are used – that is an india-rubber mattress is filled with water; his hips are on an air cushion, and he is packed up up in the most convenient way with pillows.” It is indeed a very sad duty to write you in this way, but I felt it would be somewhat of a comfort to hear from a stranger of the wonderful courage of your son. I do trust that you are bearing your sorrow with a spirit as brave as that of your boy. I am sure that you all are, and you in particular. If you should care to correspond with to my brother I am enclosing his address, and I am sure he will be as happy to serve you as he was proud to assist your gallant soldier son. Once again I ask your pardon for intruding myself.

Trooper Appleyard’s name is included on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial in the main street of Yarram. His name is also included on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor, but, inexplicably, the entry does not mark his death on active service.

Trooper Edgar John Appleyard, courtesy Yarram and 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 1, The Alberton Project

National Archives file for APPLEYARD Edgar John 609
Roll of Honour: Edgar John Appleyard
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Edgar John Appleyard
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Edgar John Appleyard

 

130. W Browney

William BROWNEY (1071)
5 Divisional Ammunition Column KiA 28/7/1917

Wllliam Browney was born in Ipswich, Queensland. The details of his background are sketchy. In his file there is extensive correspondence about the distribution of his medals. This was because before the AIF was prepared to give them to his foster mother they needed to be sure that there were no surviving male family members who, in terms of the legislation, had a more substantial claim. Correspondence from the foster mother – Susan Adelaide Beadmore – offers a brief account of the boy’s childhood:

I took W Browney 15 [this was subsequently corrected to 25] years ago he was then 7 years old. His mother was dead & I have not heard of any living relations since infact I dont think he had any bros or sisters I was the only one that had anything to do with him & he looked to me as a mother. 3/1/1921

The foster mother resided at Korumburra and William Browney – also known as William Beadmore – attended the local state school there. When he enlisted, he did so at Foster and he gave his address as that of his foster mother at Korumburra. She also recorded on the (National) Roll of Honour that the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’ was Korumburra.

At the same time, William Browney had a definite connection to the Shire of Alberton. His death – 28/7/17 – was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 17/8/17:

We learn with much regret that Driver W. Browney, of Wonyip, was killed in action in Flanders, France on 31st July [sic]. He was one of the oldest residents in that district, the adopted son of Mrs. Beadmore. When he enlisted 19 months ago [it would have been closer to 30 months earlier] the residents gave him a send-off at Ryton Hall.

The reference to William Browney being one of the ‘oldest residents’ points to the fact that Wonyip was not really opened up for settlement until the turn of the century. William must have gone there for work after he finished his schooling.

Even though he was working and living in the Wonyip district he was not identified as someone from the Shire of Alberton. His name is not recorded on either the Roll of Honor or the Soldiers’ Memorial. It appears that his connection to the Shire of South Gippsland was seen as stronger. As indicated, his foster mother linked him to Korumburra and his name is recorded on the roll of honor for the South Gippsland Shire.

William Browney enlisted as a 27 yo on 7/1/15. He was single and he gave his occupation as labourer. His religion was listed as Church of England. He left Australia as reinforcements for 9 Light Horse Regiment. However, in Egypt in May 1916 he transferred to the artillery and joined 5 Divisional Ammunition Column. He left the Middle East in August 1916.

Not long after he reached France he was hospitalised with influenza for 2 weeks, in September 1916. Then in November 1916 he was hospitalised again, with ‘cattarh’.  It appears that this general condition was subsequently re-diagnosed as another bout of influenza, and also asthma, and he was transferred to hospital in England in December 1916. It appears that there was further illness, again influenza, in February 1917. His general health was clearly problematic. He did not return to the front line in France until the end of June 1917. He was killed in action one month later on 28/7/17.

There is no Red Cross file for Driver Browney but there is some information in the war diary of the 5th Australia Divisional Ammunition Column. At the time, the unit was working in the Poperinghe area, just over the border with Belgium, near Ypres. The main work appeared to be the rebuilding of ammunition dumps which had been destroyed by enemy shell fire. For example, 3 days before the death of Driver Browney, the diary records:

Forward Dump in Cambridge Road destroyed by enemy shell fire. 2 Officers and 100 Other Ranks sent out to re-establish dump, which was completed by dawn on 26.7.17.

Then for 28/7/17 the entry reads:

Another Forward Battery Dump destroyed. The working party despatched to re-establish same reported work complete by dawn 29.7.17

and, for the same day:

1 Other Rank Killed and 1 O.R Wounded by explosion of enemy bomb dropped from aeroplane.

Driver Browney was of the very few members of the AIF killed by enemy aerial bombing.

The body was recovered and Driver Browney was buried in the nearby Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Vlamertinghe, Flanders.

His mother was advised by cable dated 2/8/17, less than a week after he had been killed.

In April 1918 his meagre personal kit – 2 Wallets, Photos, Cards, Blank disc, 2 Religious books – was returned to his foster mother at Korumburra.

Apart from the correspondence in the file to do with the issuing of the medals there is nothing else that throws light on this man’s story. It appears that it was inevitable that his personal history would fade, and certainly the recognition of his presence in the Shire of Alberton did not last, even to the end of the War. Others from Wonyip were remembered and celebrated but William Browney, also known as William Beadmore, was not.

Driver William Browney, also known as William Beadmore, Wonyip. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

National Archives file for BROWNEY William 1071
Roll of Honour: William Browney
First World War Embarkation Rolls: William Browney

 

 

129. E N Lear

Eric Nightingale LEAR (10966)
3 Divisional Train  DoW 24/7/1917

Eric Nightingale Lear’s name appears on the honor roll for Won Wron SS. However, it does not appear on either the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor or the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. His link to the shire is complex and hard to uncover.

Eric Nightingale Lear was born in Fryerstown in 1891. It appears that his father – D’Arcy Connor Lear – who had been a teacher at Tarraville, shifted to Fryerstown, near Castlemaine, in 1890. The father had been born in the district (Tarraville, 1862) and was a prominent local. He held many civic offices – Secretary, South Gippsland Rifle Club; Treasurer, Tarraville Mechanics’ Institute … – and was even said to have been one of the organisers behind the development of the local football association. He was also the convenor of the local union of state school teachers. He married Florence Mary Nightingale in 1890, the same year he shifted to Fryerstown. Florence Nightingale was also definitely local. Her family was also from Tarraville. Her younger brother, Charles Frederick Nightingale, would in time become one of the local councillors for the Shire of Alberton. When the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – reported (10/8/17) the death of Sergeant Eric Lear, it made the connection between the 2 local families:

Yesterday, Cr. Nightingale received word that his nephew, Sergeant Eric N. Lear, son of Mr. D’Arcy Lear, had died of wounds. … Mr. Lear has lost his oldest son.

As well as the connection to his mother’s family (Nightingale) in the local district, Eric Lear had many cousins in the wider Lear family in the Shire of Alberton.

Notwithstanding the obvious sets of family connections to the Shire of Alberton from his parents’ generation, it is difficult to uncover the precise links to the district that Eric Lear had. As indicated, he attended the state school at Won Wron but, surprisingly, it does not appear that his family was in the district at the time. It appears that the parents and other 5 younger children were in Fryerstown. Possibly, for some reason or other, he was sent to live with his uncle – Charles Frederick Nightingale – and during this period he attended the school at Won Wron. It remains a mystery but the reality is that there was only one E N Lear who enlisted in the AIF and that person was Eric Nightingale Lear who was born at Fryerstown in 1891 and whose name appears – as killed – on the honor roll of Won Wron SS.

Eric Lear enlisted on 17/5/16. Prior to enlistment he was serving with the senior cadets at Carlton and according to his enlistment papers he held a commission in his unit. There are also forms in his file indicating that prior to enlistment he applied and was recommended for a commission in the AIF. This was in February 1916. However, he left Australia (3/6/16) with rank of driver, in the  3rd Divisional Train and was not promoted to the rank of sergeant until June 1917.

When he enlisted in Melbourne, Driver Lear was 24 yo and single. However, he married – Annie Lear – before he embarked for overseas. His wife’s address was South Yarra. His occupation was given as clerk in the Federal Public Service. He gave his religion as Church of England. There are other references in his file which show that he had been a student at Wesley College and that he had been a ‘scholarship’ student. His family also spoke of his sporting – cricket and rowing – prowess.

As indicated, Eric Lear married just before embarking for overseas service. In his file there is a communication written on behalf of his wife which highlights the way that such women had to come to terms with the real possibility that the husband would be killed. The letter was written by Rev J T Lawton, the Presbyterian clergyman at South Yarra, the church where the wife worshipped.

Mrs. Lear, a member of my congregation, desires me to request that you will be good enough to notify me in case of death of her husband

No. 10966 E. N. Lear
1st Co
22 A.S.C
3rd Div. Train

and to prevent any mistake such instruction might be inserted on his attestation sheet.

The letter also pointed out that the husband had probably given his religion as Church of England [he had]. Hence the need to adjust the record to reflect the wife’s wishes. The requested changes were made.

Driver Lear reached England in July 1917 and after further training eventually proceeded overseas to France in February 1917. By this time he held the rank of sergeant. In France, the 3rd Divisional Train was responsible for ensuring the movement of supplies to the front line. At the time the 2 basic modes of transport were the ‘trench tramways’ and ‘pack transport’, with mules. The latter was a more dangerous proposition because the mules were used to carry the essential supplies closer to the front line. There is no Red Cross report for Sgt. Lear but the relevant unit diary – Supplies & Transport, 3rd Australian Divisional Train – indicates that on 15/7/17 Sgt. Lear was detached to serve with pack transport. This was in the general area of Messines. The same diary records his death over the period 23-25 July:

No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E. N., admitted to No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, suffering from G.S.W

and

No. 10966, Sgt. Lear, E.N., died of wounds at No. 2 A.C.C.S., 24-7-17, and struck off N.C.O’s., supernumerary strength.

Another record describes the wounds as: GSW. R. Axilla, arm, thigh, buttock, knee, calf.

From the same unit diary, it appears that the supplies Sgt. Lear was transporting to the front line at the time he was wounded included 60 duckboards, 4,000 sand bags and 60 small A-frames. The diary also gave a breakdown of casualties – including the mules – for the month of July: 4 mules killed and 4 wounded and 5 men killed and 15 wounded.

The cable advising those back home of the death was dated 31/7/17. Presumably, the information was delivered by Rev. J T Lawton.

Interestingly, the amount of personal kit returned was considerable. It came in 3 lots.

April 1918: 2 Discs, Knife, Cigarette Holder, Pencil, Pipe, Match Box Cover, 6 Coins, Card, Photos, Lanyard, Whistle, Post Office receipts, French Book, Note-Case, Pocket Book, metal Cigarette Case, Wallet, Gospel, Metal Watch.

April 1918: 1 Suit Case, 2 Keys, Tunic, Mirror (damaged), Pipe Rack, Cigarette Case, Badges & Shoulder Titles, Tie Pin, Razor strop, piece Cobblers Wax, Wallet, Shaving Paper Case, Canvas Bag, Letters, Unit Colors, Cards, Photos, 3 Brushes, pr. Spurs, Photo Wallet, London Guide, Suit Pyjamas, Pipe, Burnisher, 2 Kt bag Handles, Note Book refills, Testament, 3 Handkerchiefs, 2 Collars, 2 Neck Ties, Razor Hone, Notebook, Pin, 2 pencils, 2 match Box Covers, book (Novel), Sam Browne Belt.

May 1918: 2 Pipes, Pouch, Razor in Case and Blades, Razor Strop, Knife, Fountain pen, Belt, 1 pair Leather Gloves, Metal Wrist Watch (damaged), and Strap, Electrical Torch, Combination Knife, Fork and Spoon in Case, Comb.

Both the size and specific contents – eg Sam Browne Belt – suggest an officer’s kit rather than a NCO’s. Probably some of the kit reflected his time as a officer in the senior cadets (60th Infantry). It is also possible that those serving in a Divisional Train were better able to manage the logistics of holding and moving greater amounts of personal kit.

Sergeant Lear was buried at Trois Arbres Military Cemetery, Steenwerck, Nord Pas de Calais.

On the (National) Roll of Honour, his wife gave Parkville as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.

A brief death notice appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 10/8/17:

LEAR – Died of wounds at the front on 24th July, Eric Nightingale Lear, eldest son of D’Arcy Lear, North Melbourne. Age 26 years.

As reported in the local paper (7/8/18), his name was read out at the unveiling of the Won Wron school honor roll on 31/7/ 18.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

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

National Archives file for LEAR Eric Nightingale 10966
Roll of Honour: Eric Nightingale Lear
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Eric Nightingale Lear

125. L R Berryman

Lewis Richard BERRYMAN (1081)
4 Light Horse Regiment  KiA 25/6/1917

Lewis Berryman has his name recorded on the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial but not on the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor. The contradiction is probably explained by the fact that when he enlisted the family was living at Callignee – near Traralgon – and indeed he enlisted in Traralgon. Also, when the father completed the information for the (National) Roll of Honour, he gave Callignee as the location with which his son was ‘chiefly connected’. However, before the family moved to Callignee, the father had been farming at Blackwarry. The name of the property was “Chilwell Valley”. The names of the 2 Berryman brothers — there was a brother Alfred Samuel Berryman who also enlisted – are included on the Blackwarry/Kjergaard Roll of Honor.

Lewis Berryman was obviously well known in the local area (Blackwarry). When his death was written up in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on 11/7/17, the report noted that he was … familiarly known to a large circle of friends as “Lew” that he … was a lad of very high character and sterling worth and that … in the social life of the district he took an active part. He was equally well-known in Callignee and the local paper at Traralgon – Traralgon Record – when reporting his death, wrote (3/7/17) that he was … the first of our boys who have fallen in the Holy Land [He was killed in Palestine].

Lewis Berryman was born in Ballarat. As indicated, he enlisted at Traralgon on 13/1/15. He joined as reinforcements for 4 Light Horse Regiment. He was 30 yo and single. He gave his occupation on enlistment as laborer but, presumably, he was working on the family farm, at least in part. He gave his father – Samuel Berryman – as next-of-kin. His religion was listed as Methodist.

Trooper Berryman’s group of reinforcements for 4 LHR embarked from Melbourne for Egypt on 10/8/15 and in late October they joined the regiment on the Gallipoli Peninsula for the closing weeks of the fighting.

Following the Gallipoli campaign, he remained in Egypt with 4 LHR. In early October 1916 he was reported as ‘dangerously ill’ – ‘pyrexia’ – and his father was advised by telegram (5/10/16). He was designated ‘out of danger’ on 9/10/16. But he was then (14/10/16) diagnosed with orchitis and remained in hospital for a month.

Trooper Berryman was promoted to lance corporal in March 1917. Three months later was killed in action (25/6/17).

The war diary of 4 LHR indicates that on the day the regiment was conducting extensive patrols out from Tel-El-Fara to probe the Turkish strength and gain intelligence on fortifications and water supplies. Late in the afternoon there was artillery fire from the Turkish side and the diary specifically records 2 casualties in the vicinity of Hill 510: ‘one killed and one dangerously wounded’. L/Cpl Berryman was the one killed. His body was recovered and taken back to Tel-El-Fara and buried in a clearly marked grave in the cemetery at Sheikh-Nuran. Chaplain W J Dunbar conducted the funeral service. His final resting place was Beersheba War Cemetery (Israel).

There is a Red Cross file which suggests that both Berryman and Moore -the trooper ‘dangerously wounded’ – were forward of their squad undertaking observation duties when they were targeted by the Turkish artillery.

The family was advised of the death by cable dated 27/6/17 – just two days later – and the formal report of death was dated 20/7/17. As indicated, news of the death was reported in the local papers in early July .

The package of personal effects was despatched in late August 1917. The list of personal items was extensive: Wallet cont. photos, wristwatch & strap, money belt, Regt’l colours, Diary, Notebook, mirror, 2 knives, Holdall cont. strop, shaving soap, brush & 4 coins, Soap box, 2 mufflers, Housewife, Suit pyjamas, Cigarette lighter, 2 hrs. gloves, sovereign purse & pencil, Key chain, Sun goggles, Lanoline, Testament, 6 Hdk’fs, pr. socks, 2 spoons, Badges, buttons, coins & pieces of stone, 2 Arabic Books, Correspondence, 1 brass bowl, 1 towel, Postcards, photos, etc. diary.

L/Cpl Berryman’s file is one of the very few that contains no family correspondence. However there are papers in the official file that throw light on a significant family issue that came to light a couple of years after the war. It emerged because of the detailed arrangements that covered the distribution of deceased soldiers’ medals.

Basically, Lance Corporal Berryman’s father would have expected, as next of kin, to receive his son’s war medals. However, official correspondence in August 1920 between Base Records and the Department of Defence reveals that in the process of ensuring that the medals were distributed in accordance with the legislation it had emerged that there was an ‘ex-nuptial’ son. The son was already receiving a pension – 20/- per fortnight – against his father, L/Cpl Berryman.

The son was born in Western Australia on 11/4/1916, exactly eight months after Trooper Berryman embarked for Egypt. He was just over one year old when his father was killed. The baby was described as the ex nuptial child of the late Lewis Richard Berryman. It is not clear from the file if the son was being cared for by his natural mother or a step mother. However, what was clear was that L/Cpl Berryman’s father did not know of the child’s existence:

The mother desires that knowledge of these facts be kept from the father of the deceased, who is shown as n.o.k. & who is ignorant of his grandson’s existence.

The decision of the Defence Department was to divide the various decorations – medals, memorial scroll and memorial plaque – between L/Cpl Berryman’s father as next-of-kin and the ‘ex-nuptial’ son. The medals for the boy were handed over to the (step) mother who was required to sign a declaration … to preserve with due care in trust for (master) … Berryman, any War medals or other items given into my custody on account of the service rendered by the late No. 1081 Lance Corporal L. R. Berryman, 4th Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force…

The decision was conveyed to L/Cpl Berryman’s father in January 1921. Obviously, there was no way of conveying the decision without drawing attention to the existence of the child. The actual letter the father received is worth quoting in full. If this was in fact the first time that the father learned of his grandson’s existence then the letter stands as a classic of bureaucratic understatement. However it is hard to believe that knowledge of what was proposed in terms of the medal distribution had not prompted family members, or others, to advise the father before he received official advice. At the same time, the letter reveals no details whatsoever about the ‘ex-nuptial son’, other than his existence.

It is proposed to hand over a proportion of the war medals, etc., of your son, the late No. 1081 Lance Corporal L.R. Berryman, 4th Light Horse Regiment, in trust for his ex-nuptial son to whom a pension has been granted by the Department. The distribution is proposed on the following lines:-
(a) The 1914/1915 Star, Victory medal and Memorial Scroll to go to the deceased’s son,
(b) The British War Medal with Clasps, Memorial Plaque and brochure “Where the Australians Rest” to yourself.
Presumably you have no objections to the above procedure.
I shall be glad to hear from you at your earliest convenience.

There is no record of any reply from the father. However the file does indicate that this proposal is how the medals etc were finally distributed

References

 

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Traralgon Record

National Archives file for BERRYMAN Lewis Richard 1081
Roll of Honour: Lewis Richard Berryman
First World War Embarkation Rolls: Lewis Richard Berryman
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: Lewis Richard Berryman

124. Yarram Recruiting Committee – first half of 1917. Part B

As indicated in the previous post, the major activity undertaken by the Yarram Recruiting Committee in the first half of 1917 was the memorial service held in Yarram on Sunday 20th May 1917. It was followed by a recruiting meeting or ‘demonstration’. The memorial service was staged at the showgrounds at 2.00 pm and the recruiting meeting was held that evening.

According to the reports in both the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative and the South Gippsland Chronicle on 23/5/17, the weather on that particular Sunday was not good. Light rain fell throughout the service and people took shelter in the grandstand. Yet despite the weather, both papers noted that approximately 1,000 people attended the memorial service and the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative noted that the crowd would have been double if the weather had been better. It emphasised the significance of the occasion:

Never has this district been called upon to take part in such a solemn service; never again, perhaps will a similar scene be witnessed.

As per the last post, the idea for the memorial service and the recruiting demonstration had come from Lieutenant Crowe. In his plan, the memorial service itself was intended, very deliberately, to promote recruiting. Lt Crowe had raised the plan directly with the Yarram Recruiting Committee and the committee agreed. He had also organised the speakers – both the religious ministers and the recruiting officers – for the occasion and, most importantly, he had also organised for the AIF Band to attend. His role was acknowledged in the local papers. The Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative noted the plan thus:

We may add that it was at the instigation of Lieutenant Crowe that the service was held, the object, of course, being to help voluntary recruiting.

For its part, the Yarram Recruiting Committee undertook to advertise the event, prepare the promotional material, organise the venues and take care of the transport and accommodation for the visitors, including the band. The committee also organised a 60-voice choir of locals for the memorial service. The whole business was organised within a very short time.

The arrival of the AIF Band created much interest. The members were met at the Alberton Railway Station on the Saturday (19/5/17) and conveyed to Yarram in the cars of locals. That night they performed at a fund raiser for the Red Cross. On the Monday after their duties, they were taken to Port Albert. The plan was that they would be taken out sailing – to Sealers’ Cove – but the weather was too dangerous so they settled for a day of fishing closer in. That night they put on another concert at Port Albert. They were received enthusiastically wherever they went. Their presence certainly drew attention to the memorial service and the recruiting drive.

Memorial Service

The memorial service is worth close attention because as we have seen previously – see, for example, the efforts of local ministers such as Rev George Cox ( Post 26. Soldiers of Christ) – the extent to which Protestantism was employed to support the War effort was striking. Protestantism was the religion of the Empire. It had always offered unqualified support for recruiting and it had forcefully advocated the Yes vote in the 1916 conscription referendum. Moreover, by 1917 when the loss of life and suffering brought on by the War were overwhelming local communities, it was Protestantism that sought to justify the ‘sacrifice’ and soften the sense of loss and pain.

The memorial service commenced at 2.00 pm. The ‘congregation’ had first gathered at Thompson’s Hall and then the AIF Band had led it to the show grounds.

The leader of the service was Chaplain Ray, one of the outside team organised by Lt Crowe, and the first item was the opening hymn – ‘O God our Help in Ages past’ -performed by the band and the 60-voice choir. The spectacle would have been very impressive and stirring. Rev A Raymond, the local Church of England minister – his son had been killed in action in April 1917 – read the first prayer, which was followed by another hymn, ‘Lead Kindly Light’. Then it was the turn of the local Presbyterian minister, Rev A Tamagno, to read a lesson. This meant that 2 of the local Protestant ministers had been involved in the service at the very start, and this pattern was repeated at the end of the service when the benediction was given by Rev Walklate, the local Methodist minister. However, on the day, the local clergy played only supporting roles. But it was clear that they fully supported the service.

Chaplain Ray took as his text John 18-11: ‘The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it.’ The South Gippsland Chronicle reported at length on his sermon. Christ had prayed that the cup might pass him, but it had not and … Christ drained it to its dregs, therefore we should also do this. ‘Our’ sacrifice – the death of soldiers, the pain and anguish of those left behind – had to be borne the same way that Christ had carried his suffering. People were at one with Christ’s suffering. They were not alone. Cox in earlier sermons had laboured the theme of the Christian soldier as the embodiment of Christ. Now Christ’s suffering was being extended to cover the grieving families and the wider community.

To give the impression of personal connection, Chaplain Ray spoke as though he had known the local men. He spoke of them as …brave lads from this district who had offered to make the supreme sacrifice. He claimed, He had the pleasure of meeting many of them in camp, and they had proved themselves to be of the true stuff of which heroes are made. He reassured their families that these men had never been afraid of death because they died in Christ. The sentiments might sound strange to our ears, 100 years later, but Chaplain Ray reassured the families of the dead that … Death was not horror for them, as it meant life and higher greatness hereafter. He comforted the families:

To those who had lost dear lads he would say they were not dead, but in God’s own care.

Chaplain Ray even some saw good in the present War. He saw it turning people back to God. It was some sort of ‘purifying draught’. He even wanted to argue that just as the first settlers in the district had been true ‘pioneers’ because of the incredible sacrifices they had had to make to establish themselves, the sacrifices that the current community was now being called on to bear would make them worthy of their forefathers. God was testing everyone.

Chaplain Ray’s sermon was followed by ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’

It was then the turn of one of the recruiting officers. There was no hesitation here. The appeal for recruits had always been intended as an integral feature of the religious service. Indeed, as already indicated, that was the primary intention of the exercise. At the same time, the recruiters did add a religious tone to their appeals.

Lieutenant Maskell opened proceedings by telling those there that he wanted to take them back to Gallipoli … where many of our best are buried. Those who died at Gallipoli had never thought of themselves but were prepared to sacrifice everything:

They died in the interests of the Empire and the people of Australia. All those men had placed over their graves was a common wooden cross. They did not want any more, and if it were possible they would go again unflinchingly.

These were true men and … they died as they lived – as men.

And if they were true men, then what of those who refused to enlist and support them. Lt Maskell was keen to add some drama to his appeal:

The lads at present fighting were worthy of every assistance, as many of them were probably being blown to pieces while the people were assembled there that day. He asked the young men present to think of this question honestly, deeply and true, and then make up their minds. The ladies could also give valuable help in encouraging men who had not yet realised their responsibility to go and take the place of their dead and wounded brothers.

It was then the turn of Sergeant Fozard, another of Lt Crowe’s team. He also started with the Anzacs and, given the context of the occasion, added some Christian reference:

He saw many a man receive a fatal bullet wound, and when dying trusted that he would go to a better world.

He also offered a more secular consolation for the brave soldier’s death in battle:

What a terrible blow the war had meant to different homes and families, where the chair of the son, and often the husband, was vacant and the children were left without a father. Behind this cloud, however, there was a silver lining, as those who had fallen had proved themselves to be true Britishers, and died in the noblest of all causes.

Sgt. Fozard contrasted the nobility of the brave soldier, prepared to sacrifice everything, to the baseness of the ’stay-at-home’ interested only in his own safety and comfort:

What must the lads who were there think of those who were taking advantage of worldly pleasure day after day, and doing nothing to help in winning the war?

He appealed for fairness:

Equality of sacrifice was also badly needed in this struggle and it was not fair that some families should bear all the burden and the others none of it.

And he concluded, confident that in the end all the hardship and suffering would be worth it, for the good of the Empire. He spoke about the … great sacrifice made by Australia’s sons for the good old Union Jack.

As indicated, the final benediction was pronounced by Rev C J Walklate. The band played “The Dead March” from Saul. The flag was dipped for the “The Last Post”. Finally, there was the National Anthem and “God Save Our Splendid Men”.

Overall, the memorial service that Sunday afternoon saw both a religious perspective on the current suffering and sacrifice and an appeal for recruits. As a recruiting demonstration the one thing it did not do was specifically call for volunteers to step forward. That was reserved for the evening’s function.

Both local papers reported that everyone was very happy with the service. The South Gippsland Chronicle reported the visiting bandsmen as being very impressed:

The members of the band spoke in high terms as to the smoothness of the service, so different to similar services attended in other parts of the State.

However, not everyone was prepared to go along with the enthusiasm and praise. In the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative on the Friday after the service (25/5/17), the following letter-to-the-editor from B P Johnson appeared:

I was surprised to notice on Sunday afternoon that during the solemn rendering of “The Dead March” many men, and women too, were talking and smiling as if the memory of the brave lads whose glorious deaths we were then commemorating was nothing. Later on, while the National Anthem was being sung, and while the flag that at first had been dipped was flying at half mast several men (7) failed to remove even their hats. And our boys are dying and suffering for such as these. Oh, the pity of it.

The letter did not attract any response. Possibly, no one was in the mood for any criticism of such an important and sombre occasion. Johnson was perhaps seen as being unnecessarily negative. He was setting himself up as the arbiter of social manners and devotional etiquette.

The South Gippsland Chronicle also noted:

The programmes used for the day contained special messages from Mr Donal McKinnon (sic) , director general of recruiting, Mr Geo. H Wise, chairman of the State Recruiting Committee, and Capt. A. L. Baird, organising secretary. A photo of the local recruiting committee and other information was also included.

Shire of Alberton archives

Shire of Alberton archives

Recruiting Meeting

The South Gippsland Chronicle (23/5/17) described what happened after the memorial service.

After the church services on Sunday night a recruiting meeting was held in the public hall. Prior to the meeting the band went along Commercial-road and played an enlivening march, a large crowd following to the hall.

B Couston, the chair of the Yarram Recruiting Committee, presided, but the speakers that night were the recruiting officers from Melbourne. Couston in his opening argued that the dire need justified calling a recruiting meeting on a Sunday night. He was also keen to claim that … Yarram had done more than its duty in supplying men for the army. But, at the same time he said that he knew there were still some who could be persuaded to go if they knew the real situation. Hence the need for the meeting.

Lt Maskell, who had spoken earlier at the memorial service, also praised Yarram for its efforts. He emphasised that the need for recruits was not to create new battalions but to secure reinforcements for the existing ones. He wanted to emphasise what the lack of reinforcements meant and point out how unfair the situation was. He claimed that without reinforcements … the soldiers should be in the trenches for 19 weeks without a spell, while there are eligible men here going in for all sorts of amusement.

He strongly condemned those who said Australia had done enough… this was generally made by those who had done nothing. Then he congratulated the people of Yarram for their conscription vote.

Sergeant Fozard was the crowd favourite that night. He told the crowd that the men overseas kept looking at groups of reinforcement to see if they could see their mates. As the paper put it, He pleaded with the women not to hinder the men from going to war. The he turned his comments to the very topical question of the treatment of returned soldiers. He admitted there was a problem and that many young men questioned why they should enlist, given the way those who had returned were treated. But he then went on to claim that as an organiser of the Returned Soldiers’ Association he … could say that the men were not being treated as well as might be expected, but the time was coming when those who had fought for this country would demand and have their rights.

Then the appeal was made for men to come forward. The paper described what happened:

There was no response, and the band played “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Then one man came up to the front. He was followed by others, some, although only boys, showing that they had the pluck of an Australian in them. The band continued to play, and Sergeant Fozard continued to appeal for “just one more,” and also invited those who had already been rejected to have another try, the result being that in all sixteen men stepped forward and lined the platform. Needless to say there was much excitement, and the recruiting officers were very pleased with the meeting.

The recruiting officers might have been pleased, but if past practice was a guide, very few of those who came forward that night would have been accepted. The boys and those already rejected were not really the intended targets of such recruiting demonstrations.

Sgt Fozard closed proceedings by urging returned men to join the Returned Soldiers’ association and … asked employers in this district to adopt a policy of giving preference to those who had fought for their country.

Overall, neither the memorial service nor the recruiting meeting that night would have produced many volunteers. At the same time, as public demonstrations of the local community’s support for the War and also of the way the same community stood together at a time of great crisis, the 2 events were highly significant. However, with regard to the claim of the local community coming together, there was one major exception – the Catholics.

The Catholic Position

Fr Sterling had made it clear from the start that neither he nor any of his parishioners would be able to attend the memorial service. It was clearly a Protestant service and, as such, church teaching precluded any Catholic participation. This position was well known in the local community. For example, the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative reported (16/5/17) that at Sunday mass on 13/5/17 – the week before the memorial service – Fr Sterling told his congregation that … they could not attend the combined service. At the same time, he also reminded them of their … solemn duty to remember the brave dead, and to pay reverently for their loved and lost ones. He also arranged that on the Sunday of the memorial service, there would be a special mass at 11.00 o’clock which … would be offered for the repose of the souls of the Australian Catholic soldiers who have died during the war. The paper also reported that Fr Sterling drew his congregation’s attention to the recruiting meeting to be held after the memorial service.

Fr Sterling supported both the idea of some sort service to the memory of the dead soldiers and the staging of a recruiting meeting. Indeed, Fr Sterling had always been a supporter of the War effort. He had spoken in favour of men enlisting and he had served as a Captain Chaplain with the AIF himself. He had only been back in Australia for a few weeks. There were no grounds to claim that Fr Sterling’s non-appearnace at the memorial service represented some sort of political boycott of the event and that he was taking some sort of stand against both the War and recruiting. At the same time, the non-participation by the local Catholic priest and his congregation would have been dramatically obvious. It would have highlighted, yet again, fundamental tensions and differences between Catholic and Protestant, and some would have interpreted the Catholic position as yet further proof that their support for the War was not as unqualified as that of their Protestant brethren. Catholics, it appeared, were different, and there were always reasons – theological, cultural and political – why they could never come out and give their total and unqualified support for the War, or the State or the Empire.

There was another intriguing twist in this affair and it involved Fr Sterling and his uniform. In the archives of the Shire of Alberton there are 2 items of correspondence. One is a letter from the Yarrarm Recruiting Committee to Bishop Phelan of Sale, dated 14/5/17. In it the secretary – G W Black – wrote:

I am directed by my Committee to ask if your Lordship would kindly give your consent to the Rev. P. F Stirling (sic), of Yarram, wearing his military uniform on the occasion of any patriotic function being held in this town or district. The Committee would esteem it a great favor if you would grant your consent, and trust you will see your way to do so.

Bishop Phelan replied at once. The later was dated 16/5/17. He was most emphatic in his refusal to provide the consent.

I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 14th inst. re Father Stirling (sic) appearing in military uniform at patriotic functions in Yarram and the district. If you were aware of the military regulations on this point I am sure you would not have made such a request which, if granted, would involve the Rev. Father in serious difficulties.

I have been officially informed that a chaplain when discharged has only two days’ grace during which he may wear the uniform, unless he applies for ten or twelve days’ furlough. After that the wearing of the uniform renders him liable to prosecution.

When Father Stirling was relieved of duty he continued to wear the uniform for some days, and his case was reported to our Chaplain General, the late Archbishop of Melbourne. His Grace at once called my attention to the fact and pointed out the danger to which Fr Stirling was exposing himself; and I had to take immediate steps in the matter.

You see then, that I have no authority to grant your request; and from an ecclesiastical point of view I should object to any priest appearing in public as if he were a recruiting officer.

Any attempt to interpret exactly what lay behind this correspondence is risky. It is made that much harder when you appreciate that there is no archived material for Fr Sterling. He has been, as it were, removed from the historical period in which he was such a key figure. However, the following conjectured account could explain the background. Even though the letter from the Yarram Recruiting Committee did not state it, it appears that Lt Crowe had already won approval for returned soldiers to … wear the uniform of their rank to the functions at Yarram on Sunday 20 May. The committee therefore was not seeking any ruling from Bishop Phelan on the procedural correctness of the matter but, rather, they wanted his express consent for Fr Sterling. This in turn suggests that the committee had approached Fr Sterling and asked if he was prepared to attend the recruiting meeting in the evening and, if so, was he prepared to wear his army uniform. Presumably, Fr Sterling had in response directed them to seek permission from his Bishop. This assumes that Fr Sterling was prepared to attend the recruiting meeting, and this view does fit with his general support for recruiting right up to that point. Whatever the background, the response from Bishop Phelan left no one, including Fr Sterling, any room to move.

Another fascinating insight in the whole affair is the claim by Bishop Phelan that people reported Fr Sterling for wearing his military uniform beyond the prescribed time and that it was only timely intervention on his part that prevented a major embarrassment for Fr Sterling. It is possible that such people were in fact locals from the Shire. Later, – and this was particularly so in 1918 – we will see that Fr Sterling came in for criticism over his alleged ‘disloyalty’, and one of the claims made was that he therefore had no right to wear the uniform.

Arguably, the most significant point made by Bishop Phelan is his last one. It could also have been a point that he had already had to make, and now found that he had to make again, privately, but very directly, to Fr Sterling:

… and from an ecclesiastical point of view I should object to any priest appearing in public as if he were a recruiting officer.

Bishop Phelan’s position on this issue of recruiting was the exact opposite of that of the Protestant Churches who, as the memorial service so ably demonstrated, urged their clergy to call on men to volunteer, and applied religious teaching to insist on the responsibility of men to enlist. Further, their religious perspective was shaped in considerable part by their ‘God-given’ loyalty to the Empire. The local Protestant ministers had no qualm whatsoever employing their status and position to promote the agenda of the ‘trinity’ of Nation, Empire and Church. But for the Catholics, there was no such trinity.

 

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

South Gippsland Chronicle

Archives, Shire of Alberton
(viewed 2014)

The activities of the 1917 Yarram Recruiting Committee came from:

File Number 703K
War Files
“Minute Book Yarram Recruiting Committee”

Box 379
“Correspondence etc of Recruiting Committee Formed, April 26th 1917”

122. G E Goodson

George Ernest GOODSON (3297)
1 Tunnelling Coy. KiA 13/6/1917

At least 3 siblings from the Goodson family were farming in the Alberton West district of the Shire of Alberton from 1900. The brothers came from a large family of 13 children. The mother – Isabella Horner – died in 1901 and the father – James Charles Goodson – in early November 1915. Both the electoral roll and the rate book for the Shire indicate that in 1915, 3 Goodson brothers – George Ernest, Joseph and John Charles – were farming several properties, which totalled about 200 acres, in the district of Alberton West. There was another sibling – James Charles – but he did not appear to have land in his name. Of these 4 siblings, only George, the youngest, enlisted.

The Goodson brothers were known for their involvement with local sporting clubs. George was a noted cricketer and a foundation member of the Fairview (Hiawatha) Football Club when it was established in 1912. He was also a member of the Fairview School Hall Committee.

George Ernest Goodson was born in Beenak in 1879. It appears that he went to school at Rosstown. He would have been in his early twenties when he moved to the Shire of Alberton.

George was single and 37 yo when he enlisted. His religion was given as Church of England. He had his first medical at Yarram with Dr Crooks on 17/8/15 and was then re-examined in Melbourne on 28/7/15, the official date of his enlistment. He joined as a sapper in 4 Australian Tunnelling Company. He returned to the district on final leave and there was a formal farewell for him in November 1915. He was presented with the shire medallion. The farewell was reported in the local paper – Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative – on 24/11/15:

Mr. B. P. Johnson presided, and referred to Private Goodson’s prowess as a cricketer. “If he hit the Turks as hard as he hit a cricket ball, God help them.” He felt sure Private Goodson was equal to any of the men sent from the district. … Private Goodson was a man who would live up to the reputation gained by our gallant soldiers.

The short report concluded with ‘Private’ Goodson thanking all those there … for the kind reception and representation and [he] hoped to see his friends again at conclusion of the war. (Applause).

Sapper Goodson’s father had died just a few weeks prior to this farewell. He left for overseas service, from Sydney, on 22/5/16, nearly one year after enlistment. He reached England in July (18/7/16) and moved across to France one month later (29/8/16), now in 1 Australian Tunnelling Company. There was brief period of hospitalisation in December the same year for myalgia.

Sapper Goodson was killed on 13/6/17, one week after his unit had featured in the coordinated detonation of mines under the German lines at the very start of the Battle of Messines. He was killed by artillery fire. He was one of a party of about five men who were unloading stores near the Lille Gate in Ypres when a shell exploded nearby, killing him and at least two others. The relevant entry in the war diary of 1 Australian Tunnelling Company contains only a cryptic reference on 13 June: 3 men killed 1 man missing. However, there is more detail in several witness statements.

He was one of a party of 5 unloading a lorry when a shell burst among them killing the lot. I saw it happen at Ypres at a place we called Lille Gate. He was buried under shell fire the following day at a military cemetery near Ypres. A cross marks the spot which is in a bad place. He came from Victoria to Rosebury Camp Sydney with me and we left Sydney together in the Warilda on 22nd May 16. I knew him real well.
Sapper A.A. McDonald 1st Tunn. Coy. 22/10/17.

He was killed by enemy shell fire in Ypres on the 13.6.17. His body which was not disfigured was immediately recovered and was buried during the following night at the Railway Dugouts Soldiers’ cemetery near Zilebeke by a minister of the Church [Church of England] he belonged to.
Lieut. R.M. Justice 1st Aust. Tunn. Coy 3.11.17

Another witness statement throws some light on Sapper Goodson’s work in the tunnelling company. According to Sapper Mclean (19/11/17) Goodson was one of the unit’s cooks. The statement also explains why he was there that day near the Lille gate.

He was one of our cooks. He was killed about a week after our mine went up at Hill 60 on June 7th. While we were working at Hill 60 our cooks were stationed near Lille gate and were a sort of half-way house for us when we went out to rest. They remained a few days after we had moved and it was then that a shell came over, knocking out two or three of them and killing Goodson outright.

Sapper Goodson was buried in the Railway Dugout Cemetery and it appears that there was a funeral service and the grave was recorded and marked in some way. However the German shelling was so intense in that area that the cemetery itself was churned up. Correspondence to the family in 1925 indicates that, despite every effort, the exact location of the grave in the cemetery could not be pinpointed. As a consequence, his name was recorded on a ‘collective cross’ that was placed in the general area of the cemetery where it had been determined that the original grave had been.

The cable advising of the death was dated 18/6/17 and the formal report of death was completed on 27/6/17. The news reached home to West Alberton in early July. It was reported in the local paper on 4/7/17:

The sad news reached Mr. Chas Goodson West Alberton, on Monday, of the death of his brother, Private George Goodson, who in fighting for his country was killed in France. Private Goodson will be remembered as a keen follower of cricket, and whose performances with bat and ball will live long in district sporting annals. His many friends will regret to hear of his demise.

There was a further tribute published on 11/7/17. It related to his involvement with the local community of Hiawatha:

The sad news has reached us that Private G. E. Goodson has been killed in action in France. During his residence in this district he was always willing and ready to assist in every function, whether work or sports. As a cricketer he was almost perfect, and his scores and records always ranked with the leading and professional “sports.” With the rifle he was always there, and ready to encourage young shootists. As a member of the hall committee he always spoke up and gave his ideas on various subjects. His pleasing manner won for him a great many friends, who will greatly miss him in all walks of life.

Sapper Goodson’s identity disc was returned to his sister – as next-of-kin – in February 1918 and the few belongings – 1 pr Binoculars in a case, 4 certificates – finally reached the family, but not until August 1920. The siblings agreed that the war medals were to go to Joseph Goodson. They also noted that this brother had been ‘the one most inconvenienced through the enlistment of George’. Presumably, this was a reference to the work and responsibility that Joseph had had to pick up in relation to the farm.

The information for the (National) Roll of Honour was provided not by the immediate family but by a cousin – Joseph Henry Falkingham MM of Windsor – and another local farmer from Alberton West, Thomas James McGalliard. The actual information provided was sparse but it did identify Alberton as the location with which he was ‘chiefly connected’. Sapper Goodson’s name is featured on both the Shire of Alberton Roll of Honor and the Alberton Shire Soldiers’ Memorial. Additionally, an article in the local paper (14/11/17) indicated that an enlarged photo of Private (sic) Goodson had been hung in the hall at Hiawatha.

References

Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Appleyard, D 1994, Hiawatha: From Pioneers to Pines, Dumbalk, South Gippsland

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

National Archives file for GOODSON George Ernest 3297
Roll of Honour: George Ernest Goodson
First World War Embarkation Rolls: George Ernest Goodson
Red Cross Wounded and Missing file: George Ernest Goodson