E D WARD McM UL LEN: N o q u i et on his W es tern Fro nt… After
the disastrous Allied Forces campaign at
Gallipoli, in which ANZAC soldiers were a major proportion the 200,000 men lost to gunfire, wounds and disease, the Australian Imperial Force desperately needed to recruit more men. In early 1916, the AIF began to double its forces by combining experienced personnel from those who had served at Gallipoli with new battalions of fresh, raw recruits from Australia. One of these new battalions was the 55th, created with young recruits from New South Wales, including a sheet iron metal worker from Redfern, Sydney, named Edward John McMullen. Born in Sydney in 1890, and recorded as living at 87 Young Street Sydney in 1912, young Edward signed up in Liverpool NSW on 10 January 1916, to join the 3rd Division of the AIF. It is possible to trace Edward's exact movements during the whole of World War 1 thanks to two invaluable sets of records; his own military records, and the war diaries kept by every battalion. Edward’s war record has been scanned and digitised by the Australian Archive, and despite some appalling handwriting and some very faded pencil, it's perfectly possible to chart his progress from the suburbs of Sydney to the wretched conditions of the trenches at the Western Front - and back again.
Edward John McMullen Australian Infantry Enlistment Papers
Three months after enlisting, Corp E J McMullen embarked on the ‘SS Ceramic’ on 14 April 1916, arriving in the heat and dust of Port Said in Egypt a month later. Here, he joined the newly formed 55th Battalion, now part of the 14th Brigade, 5th Division, at the training camp at Tel-el-Kebir.
In May 1916, he set sail for France on HT Ivernia from Alexandria, arriving in Marseilles just eight days later. From here, the 5th Division journeyed up through France to the Allied lines on the Western Front. Port Said 1916 Nunn Family History • Page 26 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN Joining the Trenches At this time, the war was not going well for the Allies, and so on 1 July 1916, the British launched an
The Western Front 1917
offensive designed to break through the German lines, the infamous Battle of the Somme. On the first day of the campaign, over 60,000 men were killed or wounded, and from then on, the Battle actually consisted of small, intense operations. The 5th Division arrived in Armentières on 12 July 1916 as the most inexperienced of the Australian Divisions, and seeing the trenches for the first time must have been a terrible shock. Months of almost constant shelling had reduced the landscape to fields of churned up mud and splintered trees, crisscrossed with trenches protected by wooden walls and sandbags, and often knee deep (or worse) in a thick soup of mud and water. The raw recruits were plunged from the heat and space of home to the cramped hell of miles of dugouts and trenches, often just metres from enemy lines.
The Battle of Fromelles Just a week after arriving at the Western Front, the 5th Division's war began in earnest. North of the town of Fromelles, the Germans held a slight raised area of land known as a salient. This salient, nicknamed the "Sugar Loaf", was the focus of an attack plan designed mainly to distract and draw German troops down from the northern section of the Western Front. The attack on the Sugar Loaf began with an 11 hour bombardment by the Allies, and at 6pm on 19 July 1916, the 5th Division went 'over the top' and advanced to the enemy lines.. Edward's own 14th Brigade attacked the area north of the salient, and quickly occupied the German trenches, even pushing forward to an important main road, but a supposed second line of german trenches were not to be found. In the confusion, the Germans managed to split the advancing Australian Brigades apart, isolating the 14th and 15th from each other, and forcing the 14th Brigade to withdraw through a hail of German machine gun fire the next morning. They fared better than their comrades in the 15th Brigade, however, most of whom were cut down by machine gun fire across the wide strip of no man's land between the enemy lines. The Battle of Fromelles claimed 5,533 Australian casualties, the greatest loss of Australian lives in a single 24-hour period, and the 5th Division was effectively out of action for months afterwards. Luckily, Corporal Edward McMullen made it through unscathed, a lucky statistic amongst so much slaughter. Interestingly, another survivor was a 27 year old Corporal in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, named Adolf Hitler…
Nunn Family History • Page 27 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN Hospital, Hobbs and the Hindeberg Line In September 1916, Corp McMullen was taken to hospital suffering from a serious illness for those days influenza. 'Flu was a potential killer in the harsh and cramped environment of the trenches, so Corp McMullen was quickly shipped to England from Boulogne in France aboard the hospital ship ‘St Denis’, spending Christmas 1916 in East Leeds Hospital. By January 16th 1917, he was sailing back to France on board the ‘Princess Clementina’ to rejoin his unit, just as Major-General Talbot Hobbs assumed command of the 5th Division. Under Hobbs' leadership, the 5th Division chased the German army as it retreated back to the Hindenburg Line in February 1917, and in early April the 14th Brigade captured the towns of Doignies and Louverval, before the whole 5th Division were relieved. The break was short-lived with the 5th Division drawn into the tail end of the Second Battle of Bullecourt in a defensive role in early May 1917. Finally, the 5th Division were withdrawn for a rest - not that this meant a holiday, as on 7 June 1917, Corp McMullen went to gas school. Poison gas was an ever-present danger in the trenches. Tear gas was first used by the French in August 1914, but it was the Germans who developed the poisonous chlorine gas that claimed so many lives.
The village of Doignes Seen from the Beetroot Factory on the Bapaume-Cambrai Road. Troops of the 5th Australian Division made the advance in this vicinity on 2 April
At first the gas was released from canisters on top of the trenches, with the problem that if the wind changed direction, you could accidentally gas your own men. By 1915, a compound that created a mixture of phosgene and chlorine, known as white star, was being deployed in fired shells to overcome this problem. By 1917 the infamous and deadly mustard gas was being used on the Western Front.
Gas attack Nunn Family History • Page 28 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN Welcome to ‘Wipers’ During the summer of 1917, the 5th Division moved to a new area of operations around the town of Ypres in Belgium. Ypres, known amongst the Brits as "Wipers", was at the heart of the action at this time, as the Allied command pursued a "bite and hold" policy of small but decisive attacks.In September 1917, the 5th Division (with the newly promoted Lance Corporal McMullen in its ranks), was to become involved in its biggest battle to date in Belgium, the Battle of Polygon Wood. laying duckboards
suitably 'chipper' upbeat style, the report details every movement of Corp McMullen's Battalion during the run-up to the battle, and its aftermath.
Polygon Wood Lance Corporal McMullen must have wondered what all the fuss was over Polygon Wood, a tree plantation in Flanders in Belgium. In fact, by the time he saw it, it wasn't so much a wood as a field of blasted s t u m p s, t h e t r e e s l o n g s i n c e d e s t r oye d by bombardment and shelling.
Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag Corp McMullen’s Battalion officers were now issuing orders as to what each man should
As the attack date approached, the 5th
carry into battle in his haversack, namely:
Division brought supplies along the Menin Road in preparation for the assault on the area
1) unexpired portion of today's ration 2) iron ration
around Polygon Wood. Plank roads were quickly constructed for the 205 heavy artillery pieces,
3) pair of socks 4) mess tin
Flying over Polygon Wood
5) water bottles to be filled
with one massive gun for every nine metres of front. Planes were to fly overhead to gather intelligence during the attack, trailing black streamers so the Allies knew which were their planes! In the Australian archives, we found the scanned carbon copy of the 55th Battalion's Report for 22nd -30th September 1917. Meticulously typed and in
6) waterproof sheets will be carried in haversacks PLUS a) 120 rounds of SAA (Small Arms Ammunition) b) 2 sandbags c) 2 bombs d) box respirator e) field dressing Nunn Family History • Page 29 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN
War Diary for The Battle of Polygon Wood Before the massed army could move out, tape lines needed to be laid out, with each platoon allotted a space to muster in ready, for the attack. The 55th Battalion Report notes that: " An advance party was sent to tape out positions for jumping off. This work was well done… 230 yards of frontage being allocated to the Battalion." By 2.30am on the morning of 26th September, the 55th Battalion had moved into their taped position, desperately keeping quiet so the Germans would not notice their presence and open fire. It must have been both cold and spooky too, as the report notes that:
A butte captured by the 55th at Polygon
shuddering in their pill–boxes, staggered by the sudden commotion, dazed by the concussion of the s h e l l s … Fo r t h e deafening crash of the r a p i d fi r i n g 1 8 – AIF attack in Polygon Wood, pounders, the hoarser roar of the scores Fred Leist 1919 of heavy guns behind them and the stupefying concussion of shrapnel and "The morning was very misty and high explosive shells in the barrage in front were by now all it was difficult to see many yards ahead in the depressions mingled in the hideous rhythmical clamour of the perfect in the ground." drum–fire barrage. Thus, at 5.50 a.m. on the 26 September 1917, was the Division launched into the Battle of Polygon At 5.50am, the Allied guns opened fire, and the Wood." Battalion moved forward under their cover towards the German trenches. In his "Story of the Fifth Australian As the Battalion moved forward, the Battalion Report Division", published in 1919, Captain Alexander Ellis notes: described the scene: "True direction was very difficult to keep owing to the "Our artillery opened in a single magnificent crash intense fog and mass of men moving together. A slight drift and thousands of shells screamed through the air and burst was made along the whole line towards the left, but this in a long, straight line of flame and destruction about 200 eventually helped the success of the movement as the enemy yards ahead of the waiting infantry … the 4,000 men of the had concentrated in strong posts near the cemetery. These six attacking Battalions dashed forward at a run. strong points were rushed and outflanked with great dash." Somewhere behind the line of destruction lay their victims,
A second document attached to the Report we found is the "Narrative of the Operations of the 55th Battalion AIF against the Enemy Defences in the vicinity of Polygone Wood and Jetty Trench, on 26th September 1917 and subsequent days." It gives more details than the rather succinct Report listed above.
Nunn Family History • Page 30 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN Narrative of the Operations of the 55th Battalion AIF "Precisely at zero hour on the morning of the 26th, the artillery barrage was put down 150 yards in front of our forming up line. The noise was terrific. The line of the barrage was perfect. It rested out in front of us like a great wall of smoke for three minutes, when it commenced to move forward with the three attacking Battalions of the Brigade in close formation following closely, very closely, behind it. Immediately before that movement commenced one or two of the enemy’s shells burst close to our right company inflicting three or four casualties. A space of four minutes after the “kick-off” saw the enemy’s barrage settle down behind us. The close formation had enabled us to get clear of this barrage and even as the advance continued and the troops began to shake out very few enemy shells fell in o u r r a n k s. T h e B o c h e ’s barrage was a feeble response to the weight of shells which were literally ploughing up his defensive system. The mist was very thick and the smoke and dust assisted in preventing vision for more than 15 yards. As must naturally be expected, the various units became intermingled with one another. At one stage in the advance too, the troops got a little out of direction, but by the use of map and compass this was soon rectified. The 53rd Battalion reached its objective on scheduled time, and apparently with very little resistance." As the Battalion advanced further, they took around 30 German prisoners and killed a sniper lurking in a tree, before regrouping. The Narrative describes how: "The 55th Battalion then moved forward simultaneously with the 56th Battalion on the right. For but a short space of time beaters and worm-section formations held together, but soon the area was covered with little parties of eight or nine men deployed, each looking for its shell-hole or pillbox full of Boche and they found them too; but the cringing, camarading Hun was not willing to fight, everywhere surrendering rapidly. Indeed he did not get much opportunity to show resistance because our men pounced on him immediately the barrage had passed over him. By 8:50 AM, at the time the objective was reached the Battalion had only suffered about 7% casualties and the majority of wounds were slight. There were only three or four casualties from our own barrage." At some point during the battle on 26th September, however, Lance Corporal McMullen was wounded in action, possibly in the later push by the Germans described in the Narrative: "At about 4pm the enemy were observed massing, moving from pillbox to pillbox, but the attack was never developed. At about 7pm, however hundreds of the enemy was seen coming across the skyline in small groups and concentrating at several points. At 7.15pm the enemy came out in attack formation, advancing in three waves, but at the desired moment our barrage came down on the advancing enemy and those who were not cut up by our artillery were mown down by Lewis gun and rifle fire. The Boche did not reach our lines at any point."
Nunn Family History • Page 31 of 75
ED WARD McM ULLEN Out of Action Edward McMullen would have been taken from the field of battle, and took no further part in the three further days of the operation. The Narrative reports that: "The total casualties numbered: wounded officers seven, shell-shock one; other ranks, killed 40, wounded 137."
Seborrhoea in adults affects the areas around the eyebrows, hairline, nose and beard, and it more common in men than women. Edward's condition was serious enough that he was shipped out of France via Stad Antwerpen and admitted to Fort Pitt Military Hospital in Chatham, Kent. Three months later, still clearly unwell, he was transferred to the 3rd Australian Hospital in Dartford. He never returned to
action, spending the remainder of the war at the AIF training camp and hospital at Hurdcott House in Wiltshire.
Some of the German machine guns captured by the 55th Battalion in the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917
The Battalion also capture "booty" including guns, maps, an oxygen generator and "the first sample of the new German gas mask", an important item. Just two days before Christmas, Edward McMullen was well enough to rejoin his unit. The Allied Forces were busy preparing for a German offensive on the Western Front, which materialised in mid-March. The 14th Brigade moved north of the village of Villers-Bretonneux near Corbie, holding their positions even when the village itself fell.
Saved by His Skin? How much of this action Lance Corporal McMullen saw is uncertain, as on 3 April 1918, he was admitted to hospital in Etaples (France) with
He finally returned to Australia as an invalid in January 1919 on the ‘SS Orsova’. He was finally officially discharged in August 1919, and was awarded the 1914/15 Military Star, the British War medal and the Victory medal. Before the war started, Edward had married Dorothea Beattie (Holt), and by the start of the Second World War, he was a gas meter maker, living in Gordon near Sydney, with his (count them) 8 children! He died in May 1944 in Chatswood, New South Wales, aged 54, having survived the worst conditions of the WWI trenches. And, in one of those coincidences that keep springing up when you start writing family histories, another ancestor named Edward had been digging and fitting out those same trenches on the Western Front, Private William Edward Nunn.
seborrhoea. This is a condition where sebaceous glands in the skin skin produce too much sebum, a natural waxy substance which helped keep our ancients ancestors' hair sleek, but in modern humans is more likely to cause 'greasy' hair!
Edward John McMullen 1890 - 1944 Nunn Family History • Page 32 of 75
K YL IE P OL LOCK to E DWARD McMULLE N
Relationship: Kylie Maree POLLOCK to Edward John MCMULLEN Edward John MCMULLEN is the great grandfather of Kylie Maree POLLOCK Great grandfather
Edward John MCMULLEN b:
26 Sep 1890 Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales,
5 May 1944 Chatswood, New South Wales,
Dulcie Edina Jean MCMULLEN b:
9 Jan 1920 Wahroonga, New South Wales,
12 Sep 1992 Crescent Head, New South Wales,
Wendy Therese NUNN b:
16 Aug 1951 Rydalmere, New South Wales,
Kylie Maree POLLOCK b:
24 Sep 1984 Macksville, New South Wales,
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Tuesday, 18 October 2011 21:06:13
Nunn Family History â€˘ Page 33 of 75
N A M E ORI G I N - McMU LLEN Recorded in many forms including McMullan, McMullen, Mullan, Mullen, Mullens, O'Mullan, and even MacMillan, this is a Gaelic surname. There are several origins suggested for the Clan McMillan, and the fact that they were found in widely spread areas makes the problem more difficult. It was suggested that they were connected with the Clan Chattan, but the Buchanan of Auchmar claims their descent from the Buchanans. The name is of ecclesiastical origin, it derives from the ancient name Maolan, meaning 'The tonsured one', a reference to a holyman who shaved his head as a sign of his religious zeal. The surname in its slightly different spellings, is one of the most popular in both Ireland and Scotland. The McMillans were in the Loch Arkraig district in the 12th century when it is alleged they were removed to the crown lands round Loch Tay. About two centuries later they were driven from Lawers, and a great number settled in Knapdale, while others travelled farther south and settled in Galloway. In Ireland in Counties Antrim and Down, it is of Scottish descent, and was borne by many of the 17th century settlers in Ulster. The O'Mullans originated from County Galway, and arguably, although the origin is the same, is not directly related, being descended from a 6th century king of Connacht called Maollan. The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour. Early examples of recordings in Scotland include John MacMulan, the bailie of Glasgow, 1454 - 1487, and Sir Duncan MacMolane, said to have a been a pope's knight or seneschal in 1452. The name is widespread in Scotland as MacMillan. In Ireland Shane Crosagh O'Mullan of Derry, evicted from his property in 1729, took to the mountains and led a Robin Hood type of existence until his capture, whilst Ann, the daughter of Alexander McMullen, was christened on April 5th 1734, at Saintfield, in County Down. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gillemor MacMolan. He was a juror on an inquest in Lanarkshire, Scotland, dated 1263, in the "Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 1124 - 1707." Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling. Leading figures of the name include John MacMillan (1670-1753) the founder of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Kirkpatrick MacMillan (1813-78) was the inventor of the bicycle. Margaret McMillan (1860-1931) was the British education reformer, and Sir Harold McMillan, born in 1894 was the British Prime-Minister, popularly known as 'Super Mac'.
Nunn Family History â€˘ Page 34 of 75