GOODBYE, COBBER, WE DID OUR BEST:
A REFLECTION ON THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEN FROM CHELSEA AND DISTRICT WHO DIED IN THE GREAT WAR 1914 -1918 j
JULIE GROSS McADAM PhD
In 1916, a regular contributor to The Seaside News, the local paper of the bayside resort of Chelsea in the state of Victoria, ventured the thought that the grandchildren of the ANZAC warriors might one day want to retell their lives and their many “deeds of dauntless valour”. Dr Julie Gross McAdam is the granddaughter of a soldier from Victoria who fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele a hundred years ago, and who somehow survived. She has researched various war records, plucking out aspects of the official stories of the fifty-nine sons of Chelsea who never returned, and combined that information with some nearly two hundred photos as well as relevant poems, letters and newspaper stories chosen from contemporary issues of The Seaside News. In so doing, she has built up, through their own words, something of a picture of what these soldiers endured at Gallipoli and in the trenches of the Western Front. Further, through the long-forgotten voices of local residents - as they resigned themselves to the loss of husbands, sons, brothers and friends - Goodbye Cobber also provides something of a human snapshot of how a typical village in Victoria during the Great War came to terms with the terrible sadness of that time. Goodbye Cobber: We Did Our Best is part of a larger Cobbers’ Reflections Project, written, produced and directed by Dr Julie Gross McAdam and funded by the Victorian Government’s ANZAC Centenary Grants program. Front cover photos clockwise: Wipers by C. Sargaent Jagger: Author. Cecil Collins Smith, Percy Samuel Hooppell and John William Buckingham: Australian War Memorial. Centre illustration: Cobbers by Julie Gross McAdam: Author.
The Driver by C. Sargeant Jagger: Author.
MAC.ART PUBLICATIONS www.macart.com.au ISBN: 9780994506801
GOODBYE, COBBER, WE DID OUR BEST: A REFLECTION ON THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MEN FROM CHELSEA AND DISTRICT WHO DIED IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918 JULIE GROSS McADAM PhD
â€¨ Creator: Gross McAdam, Julie, author. Title: Goodbye, Cobber, we did our best : a reflection on the life and times of men from Chelsea and district who died in the Great War 1914 -1918 / Dr. Julie Gross McAdam. ISBN: 9780994506801 (ebook) Notes: Includes bibliographical references. Subjects: World War, 1914-1918--Victoria--Chelsea Region. Soldiers--Victoria--Chelsea Region--Biography. World War, 1914-1918--Participation, Australian. Chelsea Region (Vic.)--History, Military. Dewey Number: 940.39451 Published with the assistance of an Anzac Centenary Grant â€¨ from the Department of Veterans Affairs Victoria.
Without remembranceâ€Ś the living activities of action, speech and thought would lose their reality at the end of each process and disappear as though they had never been. Hannah Arendt
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
INTRODUCTION Dr Julie Gross McAdam PhD The war service records 8 Passchendaele 9 Put trust in your Cobbers 10 All quiet on the Western Front 10 Margaret Diggerson 11 Why this book? 12
CHAPTER ONE - EMPIRES AND ALLIANCES: HOW IT ALL BEGAN The Axis and the Allies - The players in the conflict 14 The German invasion of Belgium 15 The War begins 15 How Australia became involved 15
CHAPTER TWO - THE CALL TO ARMS Chelsea - a peaceful seaside village 17 Private Donald Clarence Roy Black 18 The Seaside News 19 Recruitment 20
CHAPTER THREE – 1914 Army training 21 Departure by sea 23 Transport ships 24
CHAPTER FOUR – 1915 EGYPT Training in the Egyptian Desert sand dunes 26 4
Sightseeing in Cairo 27 The Gallipoli landing 28 A letter home from Private Henry Deering Mossenton 30 Hospital evacuation ships 32 Lemnos Island 33 Conditions onshore 34 BRAVERY DURING THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN Bombardier Percy Samuel Hooppell 35 Aussie inventiveness - The rifle periscope 37 THE EVACUATION OF TROOPS IN DECEMBER 1915 - JANUARY 1916 Unknown graves 40 A TRAGIC LOSS OF LIFE Goodbye, Cobber, we did our best 41
CHAPTER FIVE - THE WESTERN FRONT: 1916 – 1918 1916 - THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME 44 Drenched in Australian blood 45 LIVING CONDITIONS ON THE WESTERN FRONT The trenches 47 ‘No Man’s Land’ 48 Stinking, sticky black mud 49 The noise… 50 …and then, there was the smell 51 Boredom between battles 52 Diggerisms 53 Ice and snow 53 A hot bath and a change of underwear 54
CHAPTER SIX - MEDICAL MATTERS Australian women nurses – The ‘Roses of No Man’s Land’ 55 WOUNDS AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT Transporting the wounded 58 Wounds 59 Plastic surgery and amputations 60 CHEMICAL WEAPONS Mustard Gas 61 Trench foot 62 Trench mouth 63 Trench fever 63 Private John William Buckingham 64 Shell shock 68 Survivor guilt 69
CHAPTER SEVEN - UNIFORMS, KIT AND RATIONS The steel helmet 71 Saved by my “old tin lid” 71 Army socks 73 Send us Socks 73 AN ARMY MARCHES ON ITS STOMACH Hard tack biscuits
Rum and emergency rations 75 Comforts stalls 76 COMFORTS FROM HOME Cigarettes and something to read 77 Living in the Trenches 79 Much needed leave 79 6
CHAPTER EIGHT - AWAITING NEWS FROM THE FRONT The Battle of Messines 81 Corporal Sydney Lars Lindell 83 The Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau 85
CHAPTER NINE – 1917 1917 - THE BATTLE FOR YPRES 88 WESTERN FRONT BATTLE BRAVERY 91 Corporal Sydney Foster Erwin, MM 91
CHAPTER TEN – 1918 Sir John Monash and the establishment of The Australian Corps 94 Lance Corporal Victor Joseph Marocco 95 Armistice Day 11.11.1918 101
CHAPTER ELEVEN – 1919 The aftermath of the Great War 102 A tale of very bad luck: Private Donald Cameron Higgins 102 The brown paper parcel 105 CONCLUSION
In Flanders fields by John McCrae 112 THE HONOUR ROLL 114 Acknowledgments 130 Photo and illustration credits 130 Bibliography 131
INTRODUCTION Dr Julie Gross McAdam PhD
Their deeds of dauntless valour Children’s children will retell. R. MacCaul
I first became interested in the Great War in or around 1980. At that time, having just commemorated the sixty fifth anniversary year of the Gallipoli landing, the original Anzac Day, I began reading the first hand accounts of soldiers in the frontline, captured in a series of books by the war historian Lyn Macdonald.
reading the personal accounts of the Great War by the writer and frontline nurse Vera Brittain, a deep absorption in what the ‘war poets’ wrote soon followed. I feel a special connection to the men from Chelsea, as my grandfather and four of my great uncles served in the A.I.F. side by side with them on the Western Front. No doubt they shared the same privations and the dayto-day trials and tribulations. By some miracle, all of my relatives survived the Western Front. Not so all the fiftynine men commemorated in this book. The war service records Reading my grandfather’s war service record on line, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial website, was a sobering experience. It also made me weep. That yellow fifty-eight page dog-eared document was compelling. The comparisons that can be made with the service
records of the men from Chelsea are uncanny. Considering the industrial savagery of the slaughter, it soon becomes starkly apparent that perhaps it was little more than the luck of the draw as to who would survive the ordeal and who would not. Like the men from Chelsea, Pop trained at Seymour Army Barracks and travelled to Europe from Melbourne aboard the Port Lincoln. A proud Light Horseman, Pop was marched in from Etaples. In the thick of it, he was gassed at Messines, and spent months in hospital. A constant cough was its permanent legacy. Later, he was buried alive in a shell blast and his life was only saved by the quick actions of his cobbers. The medical records state that he felt “giddy and woozy” when rescued and was unable to stand unaided when he reached the forward dressing station. Passchendaele Patched up, he was soon back in the frontline. This time, standing knee deep in ice-cold mud, he developed “trench foot”. After treatment in hospital, he was passed fit for action in the lead up to the Third Battle of Ypres. Pop was marched up and joined the frontline at Passchendaele, where he was wounded twice more. On the second occasion, a bullet tore through his right thigh and he was stretchered out of the frontline on a ‘blighty ticket’, a wound serious enough to require ‘repatriation’ to England. Unlike five boys from Chelsea, Pop was one of the lucky ones; he made it out alive from that “hell they called Passchendaele”. The months he spent
Menin Road: Australian War Memorial
recuperating in a hospital in Birmingham, and then rehabilitation in Scotland, probably saved his life. Put trust in your Cobbers Pop often talked about the trust and true comradeship he found with his cobbers, and how his life so often depended on the quick action of the man next to him. One of his biggest regrets was that so many good men had been lost and that he was not there in the frontline, at the end of the war, to celebrate the victory with the mates he had left behind. The Somme mud may take your brave bodies from us, but neither mud, time nor distance will efface the memory of your mateship. Yesterday, mates of men. Today, fallen comrades, but mates still in the minds of menâ€Ś Men who were mates and mates who were men. Private Edward Lynch
All quiet on the Western front In 1919, Pop returned to Australia a changed man. For the rest of his life he was profoundly affected by his experience. He was not a learned man, but in a bookshelf beside the fireplace, in pride of place, was a ten-volume history of the Great War. Nestled beside these volumes was a copy of Erich Marie Remarqueâ€™s classic All Quiet on the Western Front, the story of an ordinary German soldier. It was a strange combination of books, it was as though the dry military historiansâ€™ facts and figures about the strategic logic of the battles, battles he had personally fought in, were just
A quiet German machine gun on the Western Front: Australian War Memorial
there to thumb through. But, to process his inner feelings, he could set them aside and pick up a story that was much truer to his own experience. Perhaps, in this way, my grandfather was slowly able to come to the peaceful realisation that his enemy had suffered just as much as he and his cobbers had. As Remarque put in his preface, echoing a sentiment that applied to the men of both sides, the book â€˜will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped the shells, were destroyed by the warâ€™. Pop and his encyclopaedias: Author
Margaret Diggerson Margaret Diggerson, now in her 80s and a keen local historian, was inspired to begin her research, and then write her book about the fallen soldiers from Chelsea and Carrum, after reading a memorial listing of the Great War dead in a Melbourne newspaper some twenty five years ago. The listing commemorated the seventyfifth anniversary of the end of the Great War. Margaret found herself so saddened pondering that list that she decided to tally up all the Australians who died in all theatres of that war. More recently, what particularly
Margaret Diggerson: Author
concerned Margaret was that for almost a century the names of the men from Chelsea and district killed in the Great War were little more than “words on wood”, names inscribed on honour rolls around the district. She made it her mission to bring their stories to life. Her dedication provided the inspiration for this book. Why this book? Some four hundred men from Chelsea and the district enlisted to fight in the war. This book commemorates the fifty-nine men from Chelsea who didn’t come home. It begins by setting out the reasons why Australia was drawn into the Great War, following the men from their enlistment and training in Australia through to their time in Egypt, leading up to the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign and then on to the Western Front. The book is an attempt to understand the nature of everyday life for the Australians from the early days of the war until the Armistice on November 11th, 1918, but with a particular focus on those drawn from the Melbourne bayside town of Chelsea and its surrounding district. While keeping in mind the impact of the war on a small community in Victoria, it tries to capture at least a small part of the misery that all soldiers endured at Gallipoli, and later on the frontline in France and Belgium, and the courage they demonstrated in the face of it.
Chelsea Council honour board: Author
CHAPTER ONE EMPIRES AND ALLIANCES: HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The Great War is also know as World War 1 and was proclaimed â€œthe war to end all warsâ€? when it was all over. It began on July 28th, 1914, and finished just over four years and three months later. By its end it was seen to be the greatest military bloodletting in history and the first industrial war. The ceasefire was called for the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. That day ever since has been known as Armistice or Remembrance Day. The passions that lit the fires of war were triggered when a Serbian nationalist called Gavrillo Princip assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. The reasons why the Great War began are complex, the subject of a large library of scholarly books. What can be said from everything that we now know is that, in one sense, it was a war just waiting to happen. By that, one means that with the ever rising nationalist ambitions of the major European powers, and the diabolical web of imperial alliances, what might well have been in simpler times a relatively small localised conflict, of which there had been many in the preceding years, very quickly turned into a world war with such speed that even the leaders of the major powers were stunned and even horrified at the scale the conflict took on.
The Axis and the Allies - The players in the conflict Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany was the ruler of the Prussian Empire. The Kaiser had an alliance with the AustroHungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, known as the Central Powers or the Triple Alliance. Turkey was then the centre of the huge Ottoman Empire. King George V of Great Britain was the head of the British Empire. Britain had an alliance with France and Russia. This alliance are known as the Allies or the Triple Entente. After the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne, was assassinated, the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia, and Russia came to Serbia’s defence. This presented the Kaiser with the opportunity to mobilise his troops and declare war on Russia. Because of an existing alliance between Britain, France and Russia, and Britain’s protective treaty with King George V
Belgium, it didn’t take long for this web of commitments to explode into a continental war, and because the various empires stretched throughout the world, the result very quickly turned into a world war.
Left: Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Right: Kaiser Wilhelm II
The German invasion of Belgium Belgium was then a small neutral country. It has borders with both France and Germany. German troops advanced through Luxembourg and asked for passage through Belgium to France. When the Belgians refused, the Kaiser declared war on France and invaded Belgium. Great Britain issued the Kaiser with an ultimatum to withdraw his troops from Belgium, but when the deadline passed, Great Britain declared war on Germany which effectively meant that Australia, as part of the British Empire, was also at war with Germany and her allies. ‘Bravo, Belgium!’ F.H Townsend (Punch, August 1914)
The War begins When the Kaiser declared war on France, the French government mobilised her troops to secure the border with Belgium. Besides its invasion in the west, the Germans also sent troops east to defend the front against Russia. That, in a nutshell, is how the Great War began. How Australia became involved When Great Britain declared war on Germany, the Dominions of the British Empire - Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa - and the many colonies in Africa, in Asia and the Pacific, all mobilised and sent troops in support of Britain’s war effort.
Above: The authorâ€™s distant cousins dressed up as the Allies in 1915: Author family archive Left: The Seaside News
CHAPTER TWO THE CALL TO ARMS
Chelsea a peaceful seaside village Chelsea was a quiet seaside village in 1914 when news of the war in Europe hit the headlines. When Australia entered the war, Lieutenant Hubert Charles Howard, serial number 3002, became the first man from Chelsea to enlist, on August 11th, 1914. Almost two years later, the twenty-three year old was killed in action at Fromelles on July 21st, 1916, the first battle involving Australians on the Western Front.
Chelsea in the early 1900s: The Chelsea and District Historical Society
Private Donald Clarence Roy Black In those days local men earned a living as market gardeners or by milking cows on the surrounding dairy farms. William and Annie Black were well known in the district and owned a dairy farm on Swanpool Avenue. Their son, Donald, enlisted on July 5th, 1915, as a private and was promoted in the field to Lance Corporal in February 1917. The twenty-nine year old was later killed in action at dawn on April 11th, 1917 during the first battle of Bullecourt. Donald Grove, a street in Chelsea, on what was formerly part of the Blacksâ€™ dairy farm, is named after him.
William and Annie Black: Kingston Collection
Above: Roy Blackâ€™s gravesite Left: Roy Black: The Chelsea and District Historical Society Below: Donald Grove street sign, Chelsea: Author
The local Chelsea and district newspaper was The Seaside News. During the war it carried news, editorials and letters. The paper carried reports from the front and published details of the fallen from the town and surrounds.
Above: The Seaside News Left: A recruitment poster: Australian War Memorial Right: The Seaside News masthead
Recruitment In Australia at first there was general enthusiasm for the European war. The recruitment posters appealed to a strong sense of Australian nationalism as well as patriotism to England – the Mother country – both sentiments seen as perfectly consistent given that in those days Australians overwhelmingly saw themselves as overseas British. Everyone thought the conflict would be over by Christmas 1914. This made the job of the army recruitment officers easier as they travelled from town to town signing up volunteers. One business in Chelsea even gave each recruit in the village a new wristwatch for signing up. Many recruits simply saw the war as a ‘great adventure’, and wanted to get there before it was all over. They saw it as an opportunity to see the world.
Above: A section of a Seaside News editorial that encourages the recruitment campaign. Left: Four of the men mentioned in this Seaside News item: Fred Henderson, Don Black, Alf Walker and Bert Walker, lost their lives on the Western Front.
CHAPTER THREE 1914
Army training Most of the Chelsea soldiers who enlisted in Victoria received their basic training at either Broadmeadows or the Seymour Army Barracks. After basic training they were assigned to units ready for deployment overseas. The troops received routine training everyday on route and then intensive training in Egypt in readiness for the 1915 Dardanelles campaign. From 1916 onwards, the troops received extra training to prepare for very different conditions in France. Many Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) received specialist officer training in trench warfare, artillery and ballistics.
Above: The Seaside News Left: A page from an Army Service Corps training manual: Lyn Loger
Top: Seymour Army Barracks: Australian War Memorial Above and right: Pages from an Army Service Corps training manual: Lyn Loger
Departure by sea Between late 1914 and 1918 a fleet of some twenty-five ships, including civilian liners, transported soldiers from Chelsea, first to Egypt and then from 1916 on to the European theatres of war. The majority of soldiers embarked from Melbourne, although one soldier from Chelsea embarked from Sydney, and another from Fremantle. The vessels, known as His Majestyâ€™s Australian Troop (HMAT) ships, such as the Hororata and Themistocles, made several trips to Europe. On the homeward voyage, ships such as the Ceramic transported, as a priority, the wounded and medically discharged soldiers, those no longer fit for active service.
R.M.S Ceramic: Author family archive
The men from Chelsea travelled to the Great War on the following ships:
HMAT Oriveto â€¨ Australian War Memorial
HMAT Hororata Australian War Memorial
CHAPTER FOUR 1915
EGYPT For many who were expecting to go straight into battle in Europe, landing in Egypt was a totally unexpected experience. By early 1915, the Allied command were planning a strategic military mission in the Dardanelles. The big objective was to secure a shipping supply route to Russia, then Britainâ€™s ally, through enemy controlled waters in Turkey - the central nation comprising the Ottoman Empire, then aligned with Germany and Austro-Hungary. The plan was controversial but not crazy, if it had worked it would have been a brilliant strategic stroke that could have significantly changed the war. It wasnâ€™t so much the plan that was the problem, more a question of poor preparation and a seriously flawed execution. In order to ensure sufficient troops for the campaign the Australian and New Zealand armies joined forces to become the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), commanded by Major General Sir William Birdwood. It should also be remembered that the ANZACs were a relatively small part of a much larger deployment that included troops from Britain, France and India. The naval forces were mainly composed of Major General Sir William Birdwood
British and French warships.
Training in the Egyptian Desert sand dunes Most of the Australians had never heard of the Gallipoli Peninsula, but intensive training in the Egyptian desert, commenced shortly after arriving in Egypt in anticipation for the kind of conditions they thought they might encounter on disembarking at Gallipoli.
Above: Pages from an Army Service Corps training manual: Lyn Loger Below: Author
Sightseeing in Cairo When the troops had leave they had enough money to go sightseeing at the Zoological Gardens, or enjoy a camel ride to the Pyramids and the Sphinx and take souvenir photos of each other. They also lived it up in the street markets and back streets of Cairo at any opportunity. A group of Australian soldiers even caused a fire and were thereafter banned from the area
Victor Marocco second from the left sightseeing in Egypt: Marocco family archive
The Gallipoli landing All the boys who landed here, they ought to get the VC Pte. Henry Mossenton.
None of the men from Chelsea had ever been into battle before. In darkness, during the night of April 24th, 1915, they disembarked from the transport ships and crowded into troop barges. In silence they were towed inshore just as dawn was breaking. Turkish soldiers could be seen running up and down the beach, fixing bayonets. Then the firing began. Twenty-six year old Private Cyril Reid from Chelsea was killed in the dawn light before his barge had even reached the shore. Tragically, Cyrilâ€™s thirty-three year old brother, Mordaunt Leslie Reid, was
Mordant Leslie Reid
also killed on the first ANZAC day. To call this thing a beach is stiff, Itâ€™s nothing but a bloody cliff. Jack Churchill
The Queenslanders were the first to leap ashore at 4.29 am. They ran yelling toward the steep gravel cliffs of Gaba Tepe into a fierce barrage of fire. In the first half hour, four thousand men were landed on the narrow beach. By 8 am, eight thousand Australians were ashore. Before long the sea was red and awash with hundreds of dead, wounded and dying. The human cost on that first day was two thousand, five hundred Australian casualties. It was dreadful. In all, Australia would lose 8,709 troops before the successful evacuation in December 1915.
The Anzac landing: Australian War Memorial
A letter home from Private Henry Deering Mossenton Private Henry (Harry) Mossenton from Chelsea survived the dawn landing and wrote the following letter to his sister Maud. He describes the landing and his life under fire at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli. Just a few lines to say I have been at the front and been under fire at last, it seems a long while since I left home. We were at a place called ANZAC... Two of our chaps got wounded with shrapnel, one pretty bad poor chap. My mate and I had a narrow escape. Shrapnel burst over our heads and bullets fell all around us, it did not take us long to get to shelter. We had a few good shells over our dugoutâ€Ś the old chaps say it is worse here than in the trenches.
Harry Mossenton: The Chelsea and District Historical Society
It is wonderful when you look at the place where our boys landed, for it is just a mass of hills. When you get out of the boat there is only 20 yards of a sandy beach and then the cliffs start, how our chaps got to the top and took them well I do not know for it has been a wonderful piece of work, no wonder they praised our chaps up. I think, when I look round, that all the boys who landed there they ought to get a VC. Left: Harry Mossenton, third from the left: The Chelsea and District Historical Society
Private Harry Mossenton survived the Dardanellesâ€™ campaign, but the thirty year old was later killed in action on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on July 19th 1916. Harry is buried in an unknown grave. Mercifully for the Mossenton family Harryâ€™s brother, Victor (right), survived the war. His homecoming is mentioned in The Seaside News below. Right: Victor Mossenton: The Chelsea and District Historical Society Centre: The Seaside News Below: A 1916 postcard requesting news of Harry from J.B. Jones: The Chelsea and District Historical Society
Hospital evacuation ships The â€˜top brassâ€™ not only totally underestimated the courage and tenacity of the Turkish troops fighting at Gallipoli, they failed to anticipate anything like the one thousand seven hundred wounded on the first day. The plan to evacuate the wounded off the Gallipoli Peninsula was poorly thought through and the conditions on the hospital evacuation ships were deplorable. Some of the wounded lay waiting for treatment on stretchers in the blazing sun for days. It is reported that one of the hospital ships ended up taking on 850 wounded. This number of casualties completely overwhelmed the physical capacity of the only two doctors and a handful of nurses onboard to treat them. The Gallipoli wounded waiting on an evacuation barge: Australian War Memorial
Lemnos Island The number of wounded evacuated to the nearest field hospital on Lemnos Island did not fare well either, as the makeshift hospital was not equipped to treat the numbers that poured in. On Lemnos, Matron Grace Wilson of Number 3 AGH (Australian General Hospital) nursed the wounded directly from the battlefront at Gallipoli. In primitive conditions she and her staff nurses became very adept at â€œmaking doâ€? with few amenities. Wilson, who later served on the Western Front, was five times mentioned in dispatches and awarded both the Royal Red Cross and the Florence Nightingale Medals. In 1919, she was appointed a Commander of the British Empire (CBE).
Above: Matron Grace Wilson: Australian War Memorial Below: The 1st Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos
Two Chelsea soldiers, twenty-four year old Private Gilbert Thompson (right), and twenty-seven year old Private Hugh Smith, were both wounded during the dawn landing on Anzac Day 1915. Both men were evacuated to hospital ships anchored offshore. Thompson died onboard the Seeam Chow and Smith died onboard the Itonus three days later. They were both buried at sea. Another soldier from Chelsea, twenty-two year old Private James Cormack, was badly wounded sometime in the first days of the conflict and was evacuated by ship to a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt, where he died two months later. Conditions onshore As the hot summer months wore on, conditions onshore in the trenches became increasingly unbearable. The air was fetid and thick with blowflies. The rats and squalid living conditions were reminiscent of the Crimean War sixty years earlier. The Seaside News
Above: A dugout at Anzac Cove Above: T.G Simpson
It is estimated that one hundred and forty thousand troops became ill during the Dardanelles campaign. Survival in the heat, on an inadequate diet, plus the lack of proper sanitation and poor hygiene led to several outbreaks of dysentery. Preventable diseases and potentially fatal illnesses - such as pneumonia, typhus and cholera - claimed countless lives.
BRAVERY DURING THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN Bombardier Percy Samuel Hooppell Percy and Mary Hooppell owned Hooppell’s General Store in Point Nepean Road, Chelsea. Their son Percy, known as Samuel, was almost nineteen and already in training at the 21st Battery Australian Fortress Artillery when he enlisted as a gunner in August 1914. He was later promoted to the NCO rank of Bombardier in the field, where he took responsibility for organising groups attached to the field artillery unit. He was only twenty when he saw action for the first time at the Gallipoli landing. A month later, Samuel was killed in action at Quinn’s Post.
Above: The bully beef ration store at Anzac Cove: Australian War Memorial Left: Hooppell’s store in Point Nepean Road, Chelsea: The Chelsea and District Historical Society
On July 13th 1915, Hooppell received posthumous conspicuous gallantry and valuable service commendations. The Divisional Order (No.161) reads: These men, [Corporal Gammon, Bombardier Hooppell and Gunner Wilson] are mentioned [in dispatches] as representing the non-commissioned officers of the 4th Battery in the section on the 19th and 30th May, when the battery was ordered to co-operate with the New Zealand Artillery in an infantry enterprise on QUINNS POST. Bdr. HOOPPELL was killed in action on 30th May.
Top and left: Quinnâ€™s Post Above: Percy Samuel Hooppellâ€™s gravesite Overleaf: Portrait of Percy Samuel Hooppell in Egypt in March 1915 Photos: Australian War Memorial
After Samuel’s death, his father Percy wrote several letters to the Army requesting information about his son’s death and the return of his personal effects. The family eventually received a letter from Chaplain Colonel James Green informing them he had buried Samuel in a hillside cemetery in Sari Bair Reserve Gully at Gallipoli. There is some uncertainty as to when Samuel was disinterred and reburied at the Beach Cemetery in Suvla Bay. In respect to his headstone, Samuel’s family made an unusual request. They asked that a Star of David, normally indicating that he was Jewish, be etched on his headstone. The Army responded by saying that the AIF’s emblem of the rising sun was probably more appropriate as Samuel was listed in the records as being Church of England (although his family was Methodist). In 1916, the Hooppell family was dealt a second blow when Samuel’s thirty-nine year old uncle, Archibald, was wounded in action at Pozieres on August 5th and died of wounds at Boulogne six days later.
Archibald Hooppell’s Red Cross report: Australian War Memorial
Aussie inventiveness - The rifle periscope An Australian, Lance Corporal W.C. Beech, of the 2nd Battalion, adapted a marine periscope and invented the Beech rifle periscope - a clever device that no doubt saved thousands of lives at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. It consisted of a rifle mounted on a wooden stand above the trench parapet, attached to a periscope containing a series of mirrors, enabling a soldier to survey the Turkish trenches and fire his rifle without exposing himself to danger. THE EVACUATION OF TROOPS IN DECEMBER 1915 JANUARY 1916 The first stage of the evacuation of troops, animals and guns began in mid-December 1915. The sick and wounded went first, followed by the prisoners-of-war. Then the infantry, with their army boots wrapped in sackcloth so that their footsteps could not be heard on the jettyâ€™s wooden planks, were withdrawn. During the day it was business as usual, supply ships arrived and empty stores boxes were loaded onto mules and taken up the cliffs to the front. By December 18th 1915, more than half the troops, some forty thousand men along with their equipment, had been evacuated. As the ranks thinned, self-firing rifles gave the illusion that a full compliment of Australian soldiers was still busy in the trenches. A number of elaborate booby traps were also put in place. On January 7th 1916, under cover of darkness, the last of the remaining troops were evacuated from the Gallipoli Peninsula without incident. It was a masterfully
The rifle periscope: Australian War Memorial
planned evacuation, brilliantly executed, and it took the Turks and their German commanders completely by surprise. After the withdrawal, hungry Turkish soldiers could once again be seen running up and down the beach, this time they were picking up anything they could find to eat. The evacuation was the one major success of the entire campaign. Unknown graves Thirteen men from Chelsea were killed in action or died of wounds sustained at the landing at Anzac Cove, and during related fighting at Lone Pine, Cape Hellas and Krithia on the Gallipoli Peninsular. The fighting was so fierce that many of the bodies of the men killed in action have never been recovered. Most are buried in unknown graves. Historians estimate that of the more than forty thousand British and Dominion troops who died on the Gallipoli peninsular, only seven thousand have known graves. The great adventure had ended, [and] we had stolen away into the night, leaving our dead to the mercy of the Turk and the trenchesâ€Ś It was a melancholy ending to a magnificent effortâ€Ś I know how hard it was for the Anzacs to come away from Gallipoli, hardest of all to leave the little white crosses in the folds of the hills, where in their loneliness the lost lads lay waiting for the last daybreak [and] the celestial bugler to ring out reveille. Captain William Ambrose Cull
Photo: Australian Imperial Forces badge: Author
A TRAGIC LOSS OF LIFE I am convinced that there are no troops in the world to equal the Australians in cool daring, courage and endurance. Sir John Monash
The Australian War Memorial estimates of the death toll from the Dardanelle Campaign are as follows: British 21,255 French 9,874 Australian 8,709 Indian 7,594 New Zealand 2,701 Turkish 86,692 Everyone must have breathed a sigh of relief as the last of the troops on the Gallipoli Peninsular sailed out into the Mediterranean Sea that January morning in 1916. The survivors wept tears of sadness as they said their last goodbyes to countless â€œCobbersâ€? now sleeping in their sacred graves. Above: The Seaside News Left: Sacred graves: Australian War Memorial
An abridged and edited poem by ‘Touchstone’. The original poem first appeared in the London Daily Mail, in 1916.
As the troops withdrew, leaving their Cobbers behind, they probably marvelled at their own lucky escape. Surely, they must have thought, nothing could be worse than this? Even though they were now battle-hardened troops, no one could have imagined “the hell” they would encounter next, in Europe, on the Western Front.
THE WESTERN FRONT 1916 – 1918 They marched through the gates of hell, and perished in a world of mud and terror.
1916 - THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME Australian soldiers first saw action on the Western Front in July 1916. The major battles along the front lines were characterised by massive artillery bombardments followed by massed infantry attacks. That summer men from Chelsea fought and died in battles around and along the Somme River. In particular, twelve men fought and died at Fleurbaix, F r o m e l l e s , Po z i e r e s , a n d Montauban. Four others were killed during the Arras campaign at the First and Second Battles of Bullecourt.
Drenched in Australian blood The loss of life sustained by the British and Dominion forces on the Somme was catastrophic. At Fromelles alone, it is estimated that there were as many as 5,553 Australians casualties in one night. Charles Bean, the official Australian war historian, writes that at the Pozieres windmill battle site, â€œno place is more thickly drenched in Australian blood than that tiny and apparently insignificant pocket of landâ€?.
Above and Below: Pozieres: Australian War Memorial
Pozieres Pioneer Battalion battlefield cross: Author
LIVING CONDITIONS ON THE WESTERN FRONT The trenches The front line along the Western Front stretched from the North Sea to Switzerland. The frontline consisted of a series of fortified trenches about two and a half to three metres deep, and about four hundred millimetres wide at the bottom. A rampart of sandbags and wood lined the front of the trenches. Troops, when not on sentry duty, snatched sleep in small dugouts, carved into the back walls. Not far out from the top parapet of the trench, were the barbed wire entanglements. Supported on wooden frames, the wire was stretched almost a metre high and was about fifteen metres wide. The barbed wire was often the only protection the soldiers had from an enemy raid. A few concealed, winding paths called “sally ports” allowed patrols and working fatigue parties to venture out into a strip of land between the lines known as ‘No Man’s Land’.
Above: Western Front trenches: Australian War Memorial Right: Barbed wire entanglements: Imperial War Museum
‘No Man’s Land’ In some places, the trenches were as close as ninety metres from the enemy, and in other places as far as four hundred metres. ‘No Man’s Land’ was a very dangerous strip of land. Troops only ventured out on reconnaissance raids, or to bring in the wounded. When they were ordered to ‘go over the top’ in a massed infantry attack, the troops had to wait for the order to attack until the appointed time. One can only imagine the deep sense of foreboding that raced through their
The trenches 2015: Estelle Chalker
minds at such a time. Faces are drawn and set as the men wait, inwardly flayed by the nervous tension of the waiting… We stand tensely gripping the trench ready to spring over into noman’s-land. Officers glance left and right. The O.C. has one hand on the trench and his eyes are glued upon his watch… The men are quite with a quietness born of nervous apprehension. What’ll happen when we go over? The tension of waiting is terrific. ‘Come on!’ roars our O.C. and we fly across the parapet as the reverberating boom of our guns reaches us from behind. We run half-doubled up across no-man’s land… We are all calling, shouting, roaring, or laughing from the reaction. Private Edward Lynch
The Germans had fortified their lines with machine gun nests mounted in concrete pillboxes that were
A disabled tank astride a trench: Australian War Memorial
incredibly hard to destroy. There was usually a considerable loss of life when the Allied troops were ordered to capture these fortifications along the line.
In the background a German pillbox on the Somme: Australian War Memorial
Stinking, sticky black mud The Australian troops first went into battle on the Western Front in July 1916. It was the European summer, conditions rapidly changed for the worse after heavy artillery bombardment, and then the rains came with the change of season. Before long, men struggled to move about in the water-logged trenches. Soon the huge crater shell holes filled with water and turned into pools of “stinking, sticky black mud”. It’s the end of 1916 winter and the conditions are almost unbearable. We live in a world of Somme mud. We sleep in it, work in it, fight in it, wade in it and many of us die in it. We see it, feel it, eat it and curse it, but we can’t escape it, not even by dying. Private Edward Lynch
The Seaside News
The soldiers had to build wooden paths known as duckboards to navigate their way around the quagmires. If the soldiers or their mules and horses were unfortunate enough to slip off the duckboards into the slimy mud all too often they drowned.
I died in hell â€“ (They called it Passchendaele); my wound was slight, And I was hobbling back, and then a shell Burst slick upon the duck-boards; so I fell Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light Excerpt from Memorial Tablet (Great War) Siegfried Sassoon
Above: Duckboards by Australian war photographer Frank Hurley Photos: Australian War Memorial
The noiseâ€Ś The sound made by an artillery bombardment was thunderous. The colossal noise could sometimes even be heard as far away as England.
Two hours since the barrage began… [and] our brains can’t house the swelling sound much longer. Surely our heads will explode! The buzz, buzzing within our brains must find a way out. Heads weren’t made to hold this noise… Oh, this noise! If it would only let up for a minute. Private Edward Lynch
The troops lived in fear that an artillery or poison gas shell would fall directly on them during a bombardment. But they were resourceful, and soon learned to tell the difference between the noise of bursting gas shells and high explosive shells as they landed. The troops along the line came up with a variety of different names and terms for these shells. Most were named for their particular characteristics. A ‘nasty bomb’, the size and shape of an average size pineapple was appropriately renamed ‘pineapple bomb’. ‘Jack Johnstons’, named after a famous American heavyweight-boxing champion, reflected the fact they packed a deadly punch. Shrapnel shells designed to explode high in the air, and spray loose bits of metal in acrid black clouds of smoke, were called ‘coal boxes’. ‘Daisy cutters’ were bombs dropped from planes that showered shrapnel fragments outwards on impact. The German 77 centimetre gun shell that emitted foul smelling cordite was called a ‘whizz-bang’. …and then, there was the smell Soldiers who were there say the front line continually smelt awful. As time went on, the growing numbers of unburied bodies and dead animals lying thick in ‘No Man’s Land’ let off an awful stench. This odour of decay
A munitions factory in London: Imperial War Museum
mingled with the distinctive sour residue of high explosives and cordite from the ‘whizz-bangs’. The Night Patrol, by war poet Arthur Graeme West (1891-1917), describes the rancid smell that lingered like a low cloud in No Man’s Land along the whole frontline. Boredom between battles There were often many weeks or even months between each major battle. The men would try to overcome boredom and inactively by playing football or cricket behind the lines while they waited for something to happen. Australian troops played Two-up and cards. Writing letters home was a constant. Some turned their hand to creative activity, fashioning war debris - spent bullets, brass shell casings and wire - into elaborately crafted pieces of ‘trench art’.
Trench art: Estelle Chalker
Diggerisms Many Australian troops played word games with hard to pronounce French names and invented new terms, or ‘diggerisms’, to suit everyday conversation. For example, white wine or ‘vin blanc’ soon became ‘plonk’. The Belgian town of Ypres soon became known as ‘wipers’. The French village of Etaples became ‘eat apples’, Ploegstreert became ‘plugstreet’, Auchonvilliers became ‘ocean villas’, Foncquervilliers became ‘funky villas’ and Mouquet Farm became ‘moo-cow farm’. Ice and snow It was the first time the men from Chelsea had ever seen snow, but the novelty soon wore off in the extreme cold. To keep warm in the winter, in freezing snow and rain, the troops quickly learned to sleep on the ground by wrapping themselves in their sheepskin vests, a ground sheet, a blanket and a great coat. They would roll themselves up into a ball so that they were covered from head to foot.
Left: Pop and his “cobbers” on the Front, winter 1916: Author family archive Top: The Seaside News
A hot bath and a change of underwear The troops hardly ever got to take a bath or change their underwear and socks. A bath was a rare luxury. Soldiers made do with a shave and sponge bath using their steel helmets. They rarely changed clothes, and only washed their underwear when the opportunity arose which wasnâ€™t often. After washing for about half and hour, I found a singlet which I had lost a couple of months ago. On peeling it off I had to start and wash again. Captain Harry Fletcher
The Seaside News
CHAPTER SIX MEDICAL MATTERS
The Australian Army Medical Corps was modelled on the British Army Medical Corps, so that both services could easily work side-by-side with the medical corps of any other allied force. When war was declared, medical personnel were drawn from military officers on the Active Service List. In addition, doctors and medical students from across Australia volunteered their skill and experience. They worked tirelessly under trying conditions, dangerously close to the frontline, often under circumstances as dangerous as that of the troops. The Australian Army doctors performed miracles with the limited equipment and technology available at the time. Their trusted countrywomen ably assisted them, in field hospitals and casualty clearing stations in the Middle East and Europe. A small number of British women doctors served on the ‘hospital island’ of Malta in the Mediterranean. Australian women nurses – The ‘Roses of No Man’s Land’. Australian women nurses played an important role just behind the front lines in operating theatres and on the
Local doctors, brother and sister Cliff and Vera Scantlebury, served in military hospitals in France and England during the Great War: Catherine James Basset
wards nursing the wounded in the Middle East, France, Belgium and England. They were nicknamed the ‘Roses of No Man’s land’ and were perceived as a ‘sight for sore eyes’ when wounded soldiers entered the casualty dressing stations. Working so close to the front, nurses often came under fire and, like the soldiers, fell victim to shrapnel and stray gun shot wounds, septic poisoning and dysentery. Sister Rachel Pratt was awarded a Military Medal for bravery under fire, a medal rarely awarded to women. Although wounded by shrapnel in her back and shoulder, she remained at her post ministering to her patients as the enemy advanced. In all, over thirty nurses (depending whether one includes the many nurses affiliated with groups other than the army), lost their lives serving Australia during the Great War, including some ten nurses from Victoria. Many women were Red Cross ambulance drivers. Others joined missing persons’ organisations set up in 1915.
Top: Sister Rachel Pratt Centre: The Military Medal Left: Women ambulance drivers Photos: Australian War Memorial
The design of the horse drawn ambulance described in an Army Services Corps training manual: Lyn Loger
WOUNDS AND HOSPITAL TREATMENT After months living with the fear of being killed, many soldiers dreamed of ‘coping a Blighty’ wound in action. A ‘Blighty’ ticket meant being wounded badly enough to be transported back to hospital in ‘Old Blighty’, as Britain was referred to then. Transporting wounded men out of the lines was, however, never easy nor always straightforward. Transporting the wounded Wounded soldiers received first aid in the trenches from fellow soldiers. Then stretcher-bearers carried them out of the frontline to casualty clearing stations close by. New treatments such as blood transfusions and saline infusions were first tried out in these frontline casualty dressing stations. If a soldier survived his initial wound, then transportation by field ambulance or train to a field hospital for the chance of a life saving operation quickly followed. Later, the wounded were evacuated by sea for further hospital treatment in England. A long rehabilitation period often followed for those who survived their wounds. Top: Medical kits: Estelle Chalker Above: Applying dressings on the hospital ward: Imperial War Museum Left: Soldiers knitting during rehabilitation: Imperial War Museum
What’s a bit of pain when it means a spell from the nerve racking turmoil of the uncertainty of life here? A clean bed. Clean clothes. Decent tucker. Real sleep in a real bed and most likely a trip to England. Private Edward Lynch
Eight wounded soldiers from Chelsea made it out of the frontline and as far as the clearing station, but died of their wounds or sepsis once there. Antibiotics were not discovered until the 1940s, notably penicillin. The result was that many soldiers died of septic infections, often many more than died in combat. Chest and abdominal wounds were frequently fatal because it took hours or days to get the wounded down the front lines and into treatment, leaving plenty of time for bacterial infections such as gas gangrene or tetanus to take hold. Wounds The troops did not wear flack–jackets in those days, so survival depended on where on the body a soldier was hit and what kind of wound it was. Bullet wounds generally made a ‘straight line’ clean entry and exit, whereas shrapnel wounds were jagged and tore flesh and damaged vital organs. They were almost always fatal and claimed countless lives.
The forward casualty dressing stations: Imperial War Museum
Plastic surgery and amputations Plastic surgery was first developed during the Great War to repair facial tissue damaged by shrapnel. Compound fractures of limbs requiring amputation were so common that special hospitals were set up in England to rehabilitate amputees.
Above right: The Frickeâ€™s Shop on Point Nepean Road, Chelsea.â€¨ Above: Amputees recuperating in hospital: Imperial War Museum Below and right: The Seaside News
CHEMICAL WEAPONS The first poison chlorine gas attack by the Germans was a complete surprise and killed thousands of Canadian troops at St Eloi in 1915. The enemy frequently used particularly deadly poisonous phosgene and mustard gas. Tear gas also caused great suffering. If that wasn’t enough, German flame-throwers inflicted severe burn injuries.
Above: Gassed by John Singer Sargent: Imperial War Museum Below: A poster warning troops about mustard gas.
The troops soon learned to recognise the noise of bursting gas shells as they landed. To avoid being gassed troops had to urgently put on their box respirator gas masks, usually carried around the neck and close to the chest. Mustard gas was in liquid form, was deadly and caused dreadful and often fatal injuries. Contact with the skin formed painful, yellow, festering blisters. The blisters had to be removed several times over many weeks before the patient was ‘cured’. It often affected
tender parts of the body like the groin and armpits. Blisters behind the ears and knees and between the fingers were particularly painful. If breathed in, mustard gas destroyed the lining of the lungs. Even if ‘accidentally’ ingested, it could cause an agonising death. If it came into contact with the eyes, it caused blindness. Poison gas lingered low on the ground in forests and pooled in shell holes. Often the troops had no warning that the gas was there. About five hundred Australians were gassed in this way whilst advancing through
‘Plugstreet Wood’ Cemetery
Ploegsteert Wood, South of Ypres. Trench foot After long hours in the trenches many troops developed ‘trench foot’. It was the result of soldier’s feet and legs being immersed in thick mud and water for more than twenty-four hours. Men who were there said that after being stuck in the mud for an extended time everyone’s feet soon felt like ‘ice blocks’. The lack of blood circulation made everyone’s feet swell. Then, the feet felt a burning hot sensation and were excruciatingly painful to the touch. Not unlike frostbite, the toes become dis-coloured and turned black, the flesh decays and rots away, leaving the bones exposed. If gangrene developed then amputation was the most common form of treatment. Many men had both feet amputated. When trench foot became more common, soldiers were ordered to change their socks daily and rub a foul smelling whale oil solution into their feet.
Below: An American booklet warning of the dangers of trench foot
Trench mouth Poor oral hygiene, exacerbated by being run down due to a lack of vitamins and fresh fruit and vegetables, caused trench mouth. It started as small ulcers in the soft tissue inside the cheeks. Toothache was very common and dentists were thin on the ground. Trench fever In cold wet conditions, many troops developed bad colds and fevers. Others developed what came to be known as â€˜a graveyard coughâ€™. Trench fever was basically an acute form of influenza and was usually treated with aspirin and up to two weeks in a field hospital. The Seaside News
Private John William Buckingham A Chelsea man, Private John Buckingham was fired up to join up after his father, William, was killed in action on May 8th 1915, at Cape Hellas, Gallipoli. He was determined to enlist as soon as he turned eighteen. In the summer of 1917, whilst serving on the Western Front, John was admitted to Richmond Hill Hospital in England with trench fever. On returning to the frontline, after three months recuperative sick leave, nineteenyear old Buckingham was killed in action at Zonnebeke on October 6th 1917.
The Buckingham family on Chelsea beach circa 1905. William Buckingham is seated in the second row on the left. John Buckingham is the small boy seated at the front Overleaf: John Buckingham in uniform Photos: Australian War Memorial
The death of William and John was a devastatingly cruel blow for Mrs. Buckingham. The following letter from General Sir William Birdwood may have given her some comfort.
The Seaside News
Catherine Buckingham had already received Williamâ€™s personal effects from Gallipoli. They included some cards and an Army Corp training manual, his hairbrush and pipe case and, oddly enough, a small pile of stones that were probably gathered on Anzac Cove beach as a souvenir. Nonetheless, General Birdwood was good to his word, in due course; Catherine received Johnâ€™s diary, a religious book and a photograph from the Battalion Chaplain. After the war Mrs Buckingham is thought to have bought and operated a boarding house called Buckingham House, in The Strand, Chelsea, with the money from an insurance policy her son had taken out. Top: Mrs Catherine Buckingham: The Chelsea and District Historical Society Centre: The title page of an Army Service Corps training manual: Lyn Loger Below: Buckingham House, The Strand. The Chelsea and District Historical Society
Shell shock At Pozieres, a howitzer shell was landing every three seconds… men were being challenged to stay sane when madness came shrieking out of the sky… It turned some men into zombies and others into mad men who fell into convulsions or simply ran away. Les Carlyon
Unable to cope with the noise, or the huge stress of what they had witnessed and experienced, many soldiers simply collapsed under the intolerable psychological strain of serving at the front. At the time this was known as ‘shell shock’. It is now called ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD). Above: The Seaside News
The row and noise was so terrific that men went mad, men simply stood and shook. Their nervous system one entire wreck. Lieutenant-Colonel Owen Howell-Price
Modern psychiatry was in its infancy back then. In the summer of 1917, two of the most eloquent and famous war poets, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, met at Craiglockhart War Hospital near Edinburgh, a clinic for shell-shocked officers. Both men were encouraged by the clinic’s psychiatrists to “direct their energies to peaceful pursuits” like music and writing poetry. Alas, for the so-called ‘lower ranks’ there was little or no psychological counselling.
Wilfred Owen MC was killed by a sniper’s bullet seven days before the end of the war.
Survivor guilt Few men returned from the Great War unaffected by the death of friends and comrades or the scenes they had witnessed. Many experienced ‘survivor guilt’, but few ever achieved a state of mind open to extended reflection on their experiences. Most soldiers just had to learn to live with the nightmare of post-traumatic stress. They were often frightened by loud unexpected noises. For many, dreams and recurrent memories of the horror of the front kept them awake at night for years afterwards. Survivors No doubt they’ll soon get well; the shock and strain Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk. Of course they’re “longing to go out again” – These boys with old, scared face, learning to walk. They’ll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died – Their dreams that drip with murder; and they’ll be proud Of glorious war that shatter’d all their pride… Men who went out to battle, grim and glad; Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad. Siegfried Sassoon – Craiglockhart, October 1917
Siegfried Sassoon MC wrote about war and survival until his death in 1967
CHAPTER SEVEN UNIFORMS, KIT AND RATIONS
Every man had to carry in excess of forty kilos of personal equipment into the front line. This staggering weight included a heavy steel helmet and a rifle, a backpack plus web equipment, small waterproof covers to stop mud entering the rifle bolts, magazines and barrel bores. Each man also had to transport three days rations, extra rifle ammunition, up to four hand grenades and six empty sandbags. As well as his personal belongings, he also carried or wore, for warmth above all, a greatcoat and a waterproof sheet. Above and below: A soldierâ€™s kit Photo: Estelle Chalker
The steel helmet The steel helmet may have been heavy but it was also handy. It served a variety of purposes; as a head protector and a head rest at night, something to sit on in the mud and, when the need arose, as a boiler and washbasin. Saved by my old tin lid A copper clad enemy bullet had travelled from the top of my helmet to the brim and then been guided off. My life was undoubtedly saved by my old tin lid. Private Edward Lynch
A French helmet: Author
Army socks Army socks were â€˜coarse, hard and ill fittingâ€™. They were uncomfortable, but the troops found that after a few days in the rain and with perspiration they could mould their socks into the shape of their feet. In some cases, after weeks in the same pair of socks, the skin peeled off the soles of the feet when the troops finally got the opportunity to take their boots and socks off.
Miss Coll knitting woollen socks for the troops: Australian War Memorial
This poem was first published in The School Papers, grade 111 and 1V, August 1st 1917, page 111.
AN ARMY MARCHES ON ITS STOMACH As soldier Harry Hartnett has written, “it was an unwritten law, and a sacred duty, to get through with the rations to the men holding the front line”. In the morning and in the evening hot stew and tea were transported up to the front in large canisters that resembled ‘huge thermos flasks’. The canisters were strapped onto the carrier’s back like a modern day backpack. Whilst diving for cover, stew often leaked and spilled out over the carrier’s uniform. The ration fatigue party brought up the midday meal of bread, jam, cheese, bully beef and the hard tack biscuit rations. Each one doing his bit: illustration by W.Otho Hewett, Gallipoli 1915
Hard tack biscuits
It is said that hard tack biscuits were ‘jawbreakers’. They were so hard that soldiers made up an inventive recipe to make them soft and eatable. The recipe goes something like this: first, take a handful of hard tack biscuits and throw them into a pot of boiling water, with a rifle butt. Boil them together until the rifle butt is soft. Strain off the liquid, throw away the biscuits and eat the rifle butt instead. Private Edward Lynch said the biscuits were so hard that soldiers would spend quite times “carving photo frames out of them”.
Hard tack biscuits had the delicate flavour of “ferro-concrete with just a dash of scraped iron railings”
Rum and emergency rations Once a day, the ration fatigue party brought up enough for each manâ€™s daily issue of rum in pottery containers. Emergency rations, one-gallon cans of drinking water, large tins of army biscuits and sandbags full of tins of bully beef all had to be carried up the line.
Top: Army cooks preparing food in a mobile kitchen behind the lines Above: A ration fatigue party sheltering in Polygon Wood Left: Troops pushing a mobile kitchen through the mud Photos: Australian War Memorial
Comforts stalls Behind the lines, ‘Comforts stalls’ served hot coffee and cocoa drinks sweetened with condensed milk. Returning after days in the front line, the tired men took great comfort in a hot drink and time to rest out of danger. The empty cocoa, coffee and condensed milk tins were fashioned into cups. The lids folded back to make handles. The drinks at these stalls were free. The extras for the Australian troops were mostly paid for out of fund raising contributions back in Australia, and packed by volunteers in England.
Above: The Comforts Fund office in London: Australian War Memorial Below: An item describing the parcel contents: The Seaside News
COMFORTS FROM HOME Twelve million letters and almost as many parcels were delivered to the front every week. The mail home was censored so that soldiers were unable to convey to their families the full gruesome reality of life at the front. Needless to add, every man looked forward to receiving mail and a ‘billy tea tin’ parcel from home. 76
Billy tea tins often contained special treats such as brandy and boiled fruitcake. Some of the most prized items were hand knitted socks, hats, gloves, scarves and gum leaves.
The Seaside News
Cigarettes and something to read A good smoke ranks next to a letter from home… Nothing could be more definite than that. Captain R.W. Thompson
Cigarettes and something to read filled the many hours waiting for something to happen. Novelists, such as Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Thomas Hardy, were very popular in the front line. Siegfried Sassoon, in Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, describes the images that Hardy’s mundane, peaceful early nineteenth century pastoral world could evoke. He writes: I was in the front line with soaked feet, trench mouth and feeling short of sleep… I was huddled in a dogkennel of a dugout reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and trying to forget about the shells hurrying and hurrooshing overhead. I was meditating about England, visualising a grey day down in Sussex; dark green woodlands with pigeons circling above the tree-tops; dogs barking, cocks crowing, and all the casual tappings and twinklings of the countryside. I thought of the huntsman walking out in his long white coat with the hounds, of Parson Colwood pulling up weeds in his garden till teatime; of Captain Huxtable helping his men get in the last load of hay while a shower of rain moved along the blurred Weald below his meadow.
Sassoon’s visualisation was “wrecked” when his OC roughly pushed past “the gas blanket in the dugout doorway”. It is not surprising reading did wonders. Novelists had the power to release men’s minds, if only briefly, from the reality of the slaughter they witnessed as a matter of course. The popular Australian poet Banjo Patterson, who had served in the Boer War, trained many Australian troops in Egypt. Patterson’s poems reminded homesick men of family and the Australian bush. Many soldiers played cards, wrote poetry or enjoyed themselves with pocketsized musical instruments, such as the harmonica. The ANZAC troops were also known for putting on the occasional play or musical. Banjo Patterson: Australian War Memorial
And, most soldiers knew this popular song at the time about life in the trenches.
Much needed leave When the men got leave from the front they went to London or Paris to enjoy the â€˜high lifeâ€™. For many, the most treasured rewards were soaking in a hot bath, putting on clean clothes, eating good food, and sleeping between clean sheets.
Australian War Memorial
The Seaside News
CHAPTER EIGHT AWAITING NEWS FROM THE FRONT
The most painful experience for family members back in Australia was to receive news that a loved one was missing in action. Mothers often held out hope that a mistake had been made.
The Seaside News
The Battle of Messines June 7th -14th 1917 Historians of the Great War tell us that at 3.10am on the morning of June 7th 1917, the battle for Messines began,
when nineteen huge mines were detonated deep beneath the German lines. The noise of the explosion was so loud that it was heard as far away as Dublin. It is believed that more than 10,000 German soldiers were killed in the blasts. The family of a soldier from Chelsea, Corporal Sydney Lars Lindell, received news that he had gone missing in â€œthe thunder of the conflictâ€?.
Above: An artificial tree, built as an observation post: Australian War Memorial Left: The Ridge by M.R. describes the scene before and after the battle of Messines Ridge Below: One of the Messines bomb craters: Popperfoto Getty Images
Corporal Sydney Lars Lindell Sydney’s mother Georgina Lindell ran the Chelsea Post Office. She wrote to the Defence Department more than once requesting further information. In one letter, three years later in 1920, she described her plight as ‘a living death’ and asked for some news to alleviate, in her words, her ‘poor bruised heart’. Even one hundred years after Sydney Lindell’s death on the Western Front his story is both strange and upsetting. Sydney Lindell was killed on either the first or the second day of the Allied advance on Messines.
Sydney Lindell’s death notices published in the Argus newspaper: Trove
The Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau Files, 1914-1918 War, contain three conflicting eyewitness accounts of the demise of Corporal Lindell. One eyewitness account in particular, written by Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) Ian Rosing of the 37th Battalion, is noteworthy. On November 30th 1917, Rosing wrote a particularly graphic account of how Lindell was “killed by a shell” at 8pm on June
1917. In December 1917, Rosing, was advised when writing to relatives in Australia that “all harrowing detail [needed to be] eliminated”. And, “to put an end
… She loathes the listless strain And perils of his plight, Beseeching Heaven to send him home again, She prays for peace each night. Siegfried Sassoon Excerpt from Their Frailty 1917
to the suspense”, the relatives should be advised that Sydney was “killed instantaneously”. Some news must have been passed onto his mother Georgina, because in 1920 she wrote to the Defence Department requesting more information about the fate of her son. She stated that, “most of the reports [she] obtained were found, when analysed, to be false”. Possibly with all good intentions, to try and mend Georgina’s broken heart, on September 20th 1920, the Defence Department wrote her another sanitised version of events. The report claims to quote R.S.M., Ian Rosing, and it states that, “No 313 Corporal S. L. Lindell of the 37th Battalion was killed on the 8th June 1917. I am certain of this as I was close by at the time and actually saw the event occur. On 7th June 1917 during the attack at Messines Cpl S. L. Lindell was in charge of the bombing section of A Coy. I was one of the company signallers. During the advance from Black Line to our objective, Green Line, I saw Lindell being carried back on a stretcher. I could see his face, very white and drawn.
Sydney Lindell’s name (lower right hand) is one of 54,889 names engraved on the Menin Gate Memorial.
His coat was off and he appeared to be bandaged around the abdomen. I asked the first bearer who he was. He told me Cpl Lindell. He also told me that he was badly knocked about and very low. I did not see him again. Apart from what I was told I was sure that the above was Cpl Lindell. I knew him well”. It is hoped that this account brought some comfort to Sydney’s grieving mother and that she never found out the graphic details of the death of a much loved son whom she describes as “one of God’s best”. The body of twenty-one-year-old Corporal Sydney Lars Lindell could not be recovered and he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. The Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau With so many soldiers missing in action, Vera Deakin, the daughter of Australia’s first Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, set up the ‘Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau’ to help distressed family members in Australia anxiously awaiting news from the front. Vera Deakin’s bureau searched records and documents in England to try and piece together each missing soldier’s story. Compared to t h e D e f e n c e D e p a r t m e n t ’s o f t e n b r u s q u e communications, Deakin’s bureau consciously aimed to gently deliver whatever information they could gather and convey it to the families in an effort to try and soften the blow and, not least, to offer some sort of emotional comfort. Vera Deakin made inquiries on behalf of Mrs. H. Steel of Wells Road, Carrum, after her husband Howard (Harry) was reported missing in action in April 1917. The
Vera Deakin: Australian War Memorial
Red Cross file contains missing person enquiries from fellow soldiers, and also the eyewitness reports of Corporal Howard John Steelâ€™s death from wounds, whilst under fire at Westhoek, near Ypres.
A page from Harry Steelâ€™s Red Cross Society report: Australian War Memorial
Australian War Memorial
CHAPTER NINE 1917
1917 - THE BATTLE FOR YPRES Flanders fields around Ypres are low lying with every appearance of a natural swamp. In the summer and autumn months of 1917, the area experienced an unusually high rainfall. A major planned offensive, designed to end the stalemate on the Western Front, began around the Ypres Salient in July 1917. This soon resulted in a series of battles that were fought in the pouring rain. Like the previous year, the ground soon turned into a
water-logged, stinking quagmire.
These battles culminated in what has been called the
Wipers by C. Sargeant Jagger: Author
third Battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele; starting on July 31 with fighting in the Ypres area extending through to the end of that year, with the most momentous battle of Ypres taking place on November 14th 1917. Th e Vi c t ori a n s t a t e g ove rn m e n t ’s offi c i a l l y commissioned history, World War One History: Victoria’s Story (2014), describes the battles around Ypres in 1917 in fittingly somber terms: “The loss of Australian life was astonishing; the suffering of the troops beyond our understanding. The year of 1917 was a dark time in Australian history.”
Australian War Memorial
Ten soldiers from Chelsea were killed in these and related actions at Messines, Zonnebeke, Polygon Wood, Menin Road, Broodseine RIdge, Anzac Ridge and Westhoek. Five more were killed in â€œthe hell they called Passchendaeleâ€?.
A memorial plaque commemorating the First Australian Division on the Western Front: Estelle Chalker
The Ypres Cloth Hall in ruins: Australian War Memorial
Mademoiselle from Armentieres, parley voo? 90
WESTERN FRONT BATTLE BRAVERY More than one soldier from Chelsea received promotion in the field during battle on the Western Front, and another received a Military Medal citation for gallantry. Corporal Sydney Foster Erwin, MM Corporal Sydney Erwin from Chelsea was awarded a Military Medal on November 18th 1917 for his conduct at Ypres in October 1917. The citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the operation east of YPRES 4th- 8th October 1917. This N.C.Oâ€™s gun team and carrying party came under enemy barrage while waiting to attack. Cpl Erwin by his coolness under heavy fire rallied them and got them forward, himself showing an absolute disregard for his personal safety.â€¨
Twenty-five year old Sydney Erwin was well liked by his men. They all called him “Sid”. Five months after being awarded the Military Medal, he was severely wounded in the neck and shoulder by an exploding shell, whilst fighting on the frontline. Although critically wounded, he remained gallant and courageous to the end. Not for the first time, Sid displayed scant regard for his personal circumstances. In fact, he seemed more concerned about the wellbeing of one of his soldiers, Gunner F Anman of the 2nd Light Trench Mortar Battery. Gunner Anman wrote: Lance Corporal Sid Erwin was hit by a high explosive shell about two yards away on my left side. He was badly wounded all over. He was able to walk for a time and he came over to me and asked me if I could get out alright. I was taken by stretcher-bearers, and we passed Erwin who was walking alone. When we reached a marshy flat we waited for Erwin. They put me down and helped him across and he went on alone. I saw him at Headquarters but I know nothing more. On arrival at the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance, gravely ill Corporal Erwin was transferred to the 15th Casualty Clearing Station. According to the Reverend G.R. Fussell, the Army chaplain, who sat with him at the end, Sid “never rallied” and succumbed to his wounds at 8 pm on April 25th 1918. Corporal Sydney Erwin, MM, was buried the next day, at Ebblingham British Cemetery, near St Omer.
Australian War Memorial
Ebblingham British Cemetery: Australian War Memorial
â€¨ â€¨ The thundering line of battle stands, And in the air Death moans and sings; But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, And Night shall fold him in soft wings. Excerpt from Into Battle Julian Grenfell (1888-1915)
CHAPTER TEN 1918 When this blooming war is over Oh! How happy I shall be When I get my civvy clothes on No more soldering for me Popular wartime song
The war did not end until November 11th 1918. After Passchendale the Australian troops were rested but were called back into the frontline, particularly after the launch of the German 1918 spring offensive, known as Operation Michael. The German Army starved of supplies, and with dwindling recruitment numbers took a very bold operational gamble. Their aim was to recover as much territory as possible to win the war, or place Germany in a strong negotiating position, if and when the time came to sue for peace. For a while the outcome of the war hung in the balance. Careful planning and strong leadership was needed before the Allies would see an end to this cruel, relentless and bloody war. Sir John Monash and the establishment of The Australian Corps The Australian Corps was formed after the amalgamation of five depleted divisions of Australian soldiers. For the first time, Australian troops were under the direct leadership of an Australian, Sir John Monash. The Australian and Canadian forces spearheaded a series
Sir John Monash: Australian War Memorial
of battles in 1918 that would ultimately win the war for Britain. Needless to say, victory came at a very great cost, with the loss of thousands more young lives. Whilst fighting to take back the Somme villages of Messines, Caestre, Amiens, Mont St Quentin and St Martin Wood, eleven more men from Chelsea were killed in action or died of wounds along the Western Front. One of them was Lance Corporal Victor Joseph Marocco. Lance Corporal Victor Joseph Marocco Victor Marocco was a Chelsea soldier who saw action at the Dardanelles and then for three and a half years on the Western Front. Victorâ€™s early life was cosmopolitan. He was born in 1881 in Turin, Italy, but he spent his teenage years working as a waiter at the Savoy Hotel in London. At twenty-four he migrated to Australia, and became an Australian. In 1908, Victor (below left) married a local girl, Jessie Hands (below right).
The Australian war memorial at Mont St Quentin: Estelle Chalker
A year later the couple welcomed a son, also named Victor Joseph. Victor Snr. continued working in his chosen profession until he enlisted in January 1915. Victor briefly served in Gallipoli before contracting influenza and enteric fever. He was sent home for three months to recover until he was judged fit enough to return to Europe and active service.
Right: Victor Marocco with Jessie and baby Victor: Marocco family archive
Above: Victor and Jessie with a friend on Chelsea Beach: Marocco family archive Above: Victor Marocco with his son at the Broadmeadows Army Training camp: Marocco family archive
During his time away from his family, Victor wrote letters and regularly sent postcards. Two that have survived the passage of time are an embroidered postcard to â€œDear Vicâ€?, his son, and another sent whilst Victor was training on Salisbury Plains in England.
Postcards: Marocco family archive
In March 1917, Victor was marched into the line from Etaples and was almost immediately evacuated back to England with pleurisy. From the War Hospital in Stratford on Avon he sent his family a photograph of himself in hospital pyjamas surrounded by the nursing staff. Four months later, after treatment and furlough, Victor was fit enough to rejoin his unit on the frontline in July 1917. Although not always the model soldier, after more battle action, he was promoted to Lance Corporal in the field, in February 1918. In his last war weary letter to Jessie, Victor expressed the heartfelt desire of probably every soldier on the front. “There is no news, only war…I do not mind how soon it finishes as I am just about sick of it now”.
Above: Victor Marocco back row third from the left Below. Victor’s last letter to his wife: Marocco family archive
Sadly, for him on August 6th 1918, his good luck finally ran out when he sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Victor’s war ended for him the next day. His family in Australia and Italy were heartbroken.
Above: Victor Marocco’s grave at Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme Above right: Victor Marocco’s name on the Australian War Memorial Right: Victor Marocco Photos: Marocco family archive
Come down from heaven and bring me in your eyes Remembrance of all beauty that has been, And stillness from the pools of Paradise. Siegfied Sassoon Excerpt from Invocation 1918
Nearby, and within days another Australian soldier, Lieutenant Eric Edgerton wrote his last letter home. In it he describes the transformation of the old Somme battlefields. Eric writes that they are now â€œcovered with poppies, white marguerites, blue cornflowers and grass knee-deep. Nature had transformed the bitter winter battlefieldâ€Ś into a garden where the horrors of war have been overgrown by the grassâ€?. So painfully close to the end of the war, Eric and Victor are just two of more than 5,900 Australians who died in August 1918. As it was summertime, their bodies were not lost forever in stinking mud or in water filled shell holes, but they lie instead with their cobbers in peaceful, well-kept garden cemeteries, in Flanders fields. For the next fifty-three years, Jessie Marocco stayed true to the memory of her loving husband and never remarried. Three other men from Chelsea died of influenza and pneumonia, and another died of diabetes.
The Seaside News
Flanders fields 2015: Estelle Chalker
ARMISTICE DAY 11.11.1918 Armistice Day 1918 could not have come soon enough for all the soldiers who had been lucky enough to survive the years of gruelling hardship at Gallipoli and the Western Front. In her diary, the English novelist Virginia Woolf wrote about the moment peace arrived: Twenty-five minutes ago the guns went off, announcing peace. A siren hooted on the river. A few people ran to look out of the windows. The rooks wheeled round and [had] for a moment the symbolic look of creatures performing a ceremony, partly of thanksgiving, partly Virginia Woolf: George Charles Beresford
of valediction over the grave. Elsewhere and almost everywhere everyone rejoiced in the streets.
Above: Australian War Memorial Left: The Seaside News
CHAPTER ELEVEN 1919 The aftermath of the Great War
The Great War was the worst trauma of the twentieth century for Australia. People back home could explain the loss of a son or husband with one word. They simply said ‘Pozieres’ or ‘Passchendaele’. Les Carlyon
Over eight million soldiers died during the Great War and thirty-seven million were injured. After Germany surrendered she was required to accept responsibility for starting the war and make reparations to the countries she had invaded. As part of the Versailles Treaty, Germany also had to relinquish German New Guinea and her other colonies in Africa. The Kaiser abdicated and spent the rest of his life in Holland. Germany agreed to limit her military capacity, and the League of Nations was set up by the victorious powers to try and prevent future conflict. In 1939, Germany, as we all know, once again ignited a war; as brutal as the first war was for soldiers, this one was particularly horrendous for many millions of civilians as well. A tale of very bad luck Private Donald Cameron Higgins In October 1918, William and Clara Higgins waved goodbye to their twenty-four year-old son Donald, who
Australian War Memorial
had gown up with his family in Chelsea. By the time the S.S. Zealandic docked in the UK, the war had been over for three weeks. Just days before Christmas, Donald was admitted to hospital with a synovitic knee. Donald then fell victim to Spanish influenza, an epidemic that swept through Europe and America in the immediate post-war years, killing an estimated twenty-five million people, twice as many people as died in the war. Donald died of bronchial pneumonia on February 7th 1919, without firing a shot. Donald’s mother received his personal effects, three medals and his Memorial Scroll. A year later, on the anniversary of his death, Lillie Richards – a “loving friend” from Keysborough, Victoria, placed the following in memoriam notice in The Age newspaper.
Donald Higgins’ gravesite: David Milborrow.
The Seaside News Below: Author
The brown paper parcel
Parents and wives would stare at the pocket knives, pipes and fountain pens and wonder whether their son or husband had suffered. Les Carlyon
In 1919, thousands of troubled, war-weary men, the survivors of this ‘great adventure’ overseas, began to straggle home. Throughout that year, brown paper parcels of personal belongings addressed to the families of the men who would not be returning, began to arrive. One can only imagine the acute sadness with which they were received. The tears and the sobbing, in living rooms across the country, as each of the personal items belonging to a lost son, or husband, or brother, was slowly unwrapped and then held close. Percy and Mary Hooppell finally received a brown paper parcel containing Samuel’s wallet, a bible, a diary and a damaged watch. Maude Mossenton and her mother received Harry’s hairbrush and his shaving brush. The parcel also contained a pencil case, two knitted hats, a hanky and a souvenir. William and Annie Black received Donald’s kit bag containing a scarf, a balaclava cap, hair clippers and a compass. More memorable were Donald’s notebook and his prayer book. Their other son, Sydney Rupert Horace Black (right), was welcomed home in 1918.
The Seaside News
Jessie Marocco’s parcel was larger than most, perhaps because Victor was an NCO. The parcel contained a hold-all filled with letters and photographs, a calendar, two devotional religious books, two pipes, a tobacco pouch, and assorted shaving gear including a mirror. Items of personal jewellery, playing cards and two wallets completed the Marocco’s sad treasure trove.
Victor Marocco’s memorial plaque and honour roll: Marocco family archive
Above: Items in Jessie Maroccoâ€™s brown paper parcel: Marocco family archive Left: The Seaside News
All that some were to receive was a small war widowâ€™s pension for their loss. In every town and village in Australia the construction of granite marble memorials to the dead began.
Left: Brigadier-General Pompei Elliott unveiling the Carrum war memorial in 1922: The Chelsea and District Historical Societyâ€¨ Below: Author
A news item about the Carrum war memorial unveiling ceremony in November 1922: The Seaside News
CONCLUSION Australians made up an all-volunteer army. They could sometimes be fun-loving larrikins, and certainly many were to start with. At the beginning of the war they were even referred to by their ‘tommie’ counterparts as ‘six bob a day tourists’, reflecting the friendly rivalry that existed between ‘pommy’ troops and their betterpaid Australian comrades. As the war took its toll, the ‘diggers’ response to any suggestion they were on some tourist trip, or a ‘great adventure’, was a darkly cynical gaze or sometimes something more visceral. For them, the war had all the ingredients of a man-made hell – devastation, misery and death. Many survivors, probably
Above: “Do you think we’re on a bloomin’ picnic?”: David Barker, Gallipoli 1915
the majority, couldn’t believe their luck that they had survived, having been surrounded by so much death and destruction, and were firmly disinclined to reflect on the war with anything but deep sadness, pain and, in many cases, self-imposed amnesia.
Below. Pop, with walking stick, (centre front row) with his “cobbers” in 1919: Author family archive
Australia and her Dominion cousins, who served in the British Expeditionary Forces, paid a huge price with a whole generation of youth squandered in this â€œwar to end all warsâ€?. The Great War lasted 1,560 days. During that time there were 61,514 Australian deaths. On average 38 Australian lives were lost every day. Another 155,133 Australian soldiers were wounded in action and/or were gassed and affected by shell shock. In addition, another 431,448 casualties experienced sickness and other non-battle injuries.
The Seaside News
Approximate numbers published in The Seaside News May 24th 1919.
112 Flanders fields: Estelle Chalker
Fifty-nine men from Chelsea who served and died in the Great War have earned their place in our hearts. They will never return to Australia, but will sleep forever in far off lands, where pine trees and poppies grow. In 2015, during the first of our major centenary commemorations, the least we can say is that we have tried to keep the faith. Although we who did not know you, say goodbye, Cobber, we have done our best to make sure your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
The Seaside News
1915 THE DARDANELLES MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION OR DIED OF WOUNDS DURING THE DARDANELLES CAMPAIGN Private Gilbert Leslie Thompson - Age 24 No 306. 5th Battalion E Company Died of wounds onboard the hospital ship, “Seeam Choow”. Thompson was buried at sea on 28th April 1915. Private Cyril Lindsay Reid - Age 26 No 989. 7th Battalion A Company Killed in action on 25th April 1915 at Gallipoli Cove. Reid is remembered at the Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. Lieutenant Mordaunt Leslie Reid – Age 33 No B2455. 11th Australian Infantry Battalion Killed in action on 25th April 1915 at Gallipoli Cove. Reid is remembered at the Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. Private Hugh (Henry) Harold Smith - Age 27 No 1004. 5th Battalion A Company Died of wounds onboard the hospital ship, “Itonus”. Smith was buried at sea on 28th April 1915. Private James Prentice Cormack - Age 22 No 90. 7th Battalion 2nd Infantry Brigade Died of wounds at the Alexandria General Hospital on 14th June 1915. Cormack is buried in Egypt. Lance Corporal John Patrick Hogan - Age 27 No 187. 16th Battalion B Company Killed in action on 2nd May 1915 at Lone Pine. Hogan is buried in the Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. Private Peter Waddell - Age 39 No 1191. 6th Battalion 1st Reinforcement Killed in action on 8th May 1915 at Cape Hellas. Waddell is remembered on the No. 4 Hellas Memorial, Gallipoli.
Below: The Seaside News
Private Thomas Gordon Simpson - Age 24 No. 995. 6th Battalion H Company Killed in action at Krithia on 8th May 1915. Simpson is remembered on the No. 4 Hellas Memorial, Gallipoli. Private William John Buckingham - Age 40 No 1086. 6th Battalion F Company Killed in action on 8th May 1915 at Cape Hellas. Buckingham is remembered on the No. 4 Hellas Memorial, Gallipoli. Corporal Arthur Gordon Balderson - Age 23 No 1319. 2nd Field Brigade Artillery Ammunitions Column Killed in action at Krithia on 10th May 1915. Balderson is buried in Beach Cemetery, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli. Private John Frederick Balderson - Age 25 No. 1909. 7th Battalion 5th Reinforcement Killed in action on the 8th or 9th August 1915, at Lone Pine. Balderson is probably buried in the Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery, Lone Pine.
Corporal Arthur Gordon Balderson’s gravesite: Australian War Memorial
Bombardier Percy Samuel Hooppell - Age 20 No 916. 2nd Brigade Australian Field Artillery Battery Killed in action on 30th May 1915 at Quinn’s Post. Hooppell is buried in the Beach Cemetery, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli. Private Joseph Tynan - Age 24 No. 1437. 15th Battalion Killed on 18th May 1915 in action at Lone Pine. Tynan is remembered in the Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. Private William James Kane - Age 21 No. 1967. 7th Battalion 5th Reinforcement Killed in action on the 7th or 9th August 1915, at Lone Pine. Kane is buried in the Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery, Lone Pine.
John Frederick Balderson
1916 THE WESTERN FRONT MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION OR DIED OF WOUNDS ON THE SOMME AT FLEURBAIX AND FROMELLES FLEURBAIX Sergeant Harry Henderson Harte - Age 36 No. 2865. 28th Battalion 6th Reinforcement and 51st Battalion Killed in action on 3 July 1916 at Fleurbaix. Harte is buried in Rue du Bois Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix. FROMELLES Private Henry Deering Mossenton - Age 30 No. 2635. 8th Battalion 8th Reinforcement and 59th Battalion Killed in action on 19th July 1916 at Fromelles. Mossenton is remembered on No 7 VC Corner, Australian Cemetery, Fromelles. Private Robert Smith Alder - Age 19 No. 1033. 31st Battalion D Company Killed in action on 19th or 20th July 1916 at Fromelles. Alder is buried in the Anzac Cemetery, Sailly sur-le-Lys. Private Arthur Leslie Cartwright - Age 22 No. 620. 31st Battalion C Company Died from wounds on 21st July 1916 at Fromelles. Cartwright is buried in the Rue Petillion Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix. Private Frederick Arthur Henderson - Age 22 No 3384 7th Battalion 11th Reinforcement and 59th Battalion Presumed killed in action on 19th or 20th July 1916 at Fromelles. Henderson is remembered on VC Corner (Panel 16) Australian Cemetery, Fromelles. Lieutenant Hubert Charles Howard - Age 23 No. 3002. 7th Battalion 7th Reinforcement and 59 Battalion Presumed killed in action on 21st July 1916 at Fromelles. Howard is remembered at 96 New Farm Cemetery, St Jean-les-Ypres. MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO DIED ON THE SOMME AT POZIERES, MOUQUET FARM AND MONTAUBAN IN 1916 POZIERES
Bullecourt digger’s hat: Estelle Chalker
Private James Victor Holdsworth - Age 19 No. 2374. 23rd Battalion 5th Reinforcement Killed in action on 28th July 1916 at Pozieres. Holdsworth is remembered on Memorial 26, Villers-Bretonneux.
Overleaf: The Australian War Memorial claims that this is an image of Private James Victor Holdsworth: Australian War Memorial
Private Archibald Ralph Hooppell - Age 39 No. 3839. 23rd Battalion 9th Reinforcement Wounded in action on 5th August 1916 at Pozieres. Died of wounds on 11th August 1916 at Boulogne. Hooppell is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery. Private Duncan Colquhoun - Age 40 6th Battalion 19 Reinforcement and 14th Battalion Killed in action on 4th December 1916 at Pozieres. Colquhoun is remembered on the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. MOUQUET FARM - (MOO COW FARM) Private Cecil Collins Smith - Age 19 No. 3497. 14th Battalion 11th Reinforcement Presumed killed in action on 8th August 1916 at Mouquet Farm. Smith is remembered on the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux. Private Cecil Collins Smith Australian War Memorial
Mouquet Farm 2015: Estelle Chalker
Private Herbert Kenneth Trim King - Age 19 No. 902. 24th Battalion D Company Killed in action on 26th August 1916 at Mouquet Farm. King is buried in Courcelette British Cemetery, near Albert. MONTAUBAN Driver Verner Eldred Smithwick - Age 28 No. 3118. 12th Field Company Australian Engineers Killed in action on 7th December 1916 at Montauban. Smithwick is buried in Bernafay Wood British Cemetery, Montauban.
The Driver by C. Sargeant Jagger: Author
1917 MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION DURING THE ARRAS CAMPAIGN â€“ THE FIRST AND SECOND BATTLE OF BULLECOURT
Lance Corporal Donald Clarence Roy Black - Age 29 No. 5328. 14th Battalion 17th Reinforcement Killed in action on 11th April 1917 at the First Battle of Bullecourt. Black is buried in Queant Road Cemetery, â€¨ Buissy near Zonnebeke. Private Herbert Ronald Holdsworth Age 19 No. 2760. 46th Battalion 6th Reinforcement Killed in action on 11th April 1917 at Vaulx-Vraucourt. Holdsworth is remembered on the Australian National Memorial, VillersBretonneux. Private William Rupert Dougherty Age 20 No. 3802. 21st Battalion 9th Reinforcement Killed in action on 3rd May 1917 at the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Dougherty is remembered on the Australian National Memorial, VillersBretonneux. Private John William Watkins Age 26 No. 2429. 21st Battalion 5th Reinforcement Killed in action on 3rd May 1917 at the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Watkins is remembered on the Australian National Memorial, VillersBretonneux.
The Bullecourt Digger memorial: Estelle Chalker Overleaf: John William Watkins: Australian War Memorial
MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION OF DIED OF WOUNDS AT MESSINES, ZONNEBEKE, MENIN ROAD, BROODSEINE RIDGE AND WESTHOEK BETWEEN 31st July to 10 November 1917 IN THE LEAD UP TO THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES (WIPERS) MESSINES - 7th to 14th June 1917 Corporal Sydney Lars Lindell - Age 21 No. 313. 37th Battalion A Company Missing in action on 5th June 1917 at Messines. Lindell is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. Private Clarence John Smith - Age 21 No. 107. 37th Battalion Headquarters Missing in action on 8th June 1917 at Messines. Smith is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. ZONNEBEKE In the lead up to the Battle of Polygon Wood - 24th to 26th September 1917 Private Frederick William Blackmore - Age 24 No. 1825. 5th Pioneer Brigade Died of wounds at Poperinghe Clearing Station on 23rd September 1917. Blackmore is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, near Poperinghe. Lance Corporal Alfred Cannon Walker - Age 25 No. 5668. 2nd Field Company Engineers 14th Reinforcement Killed in action on 25th September 1917 at Zonnebeke. Walker is buried in the Belgian Battery Corner Military Cemetery, near Ypres
Lijssenthoek cemetery: Estelle Chalker
Left: Lance Corporal Alfred Cannon Walker: Wallasey Central Library Above: Alfred Cannon Walker’s bravery citation: Australian War Memorial
Private John William Buckingham - Age 19 No. 2334. 2nd Pioneer Brigade 4th Reinforcement Killed in action on 6th October 1917 at Zonnebeke. Buckingham is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. MENIN ROAD - 20th to 25th September 1917 Lance Corporal John Wallace Bull - Age 23 No. 7122. 5th Battalion 23rd Reinforcement Killed in action on 20th September 1917 at Menin Road. Bull is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. Private George William Cameron - Age 34 No. 4172. 8th Battalion 13th Reinforcement Killed in action on 20th September 1917 at Menin Road. Cameron is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. BROODSEINDE - 4th October 1917 Gunner Harry Walker Webb - Age 23 No. 31539. 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column 13th Artillery Brigade Killed in action on 4 October 1917 at Broodseinde. Webb is buried in The Huts Military Cemetery, Dickebusch near Ypres. WESTHOEK near Polygon Wood Private Harold John Steel - Age 37 No. 7319. 6th Battalion 24th Reinforcement Killed in action on 4th October 1917 at Westhoek. Steel is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres.
The Menin Gate Memorial: Estelle Chalker
Above and below: The Tyne Cot Cemetery: Estelle Chalker
MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION OR DIED OF WOUNDS AT THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES – PASSCHENDAELE - 12 October - 10th November Lance Corporal Allen Archibald Taylor - Age 25 No. 2275. 40th Battalion 4th Reinforcement Killed in action on 13th October 1917 at Passchendaele. Taylor is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke. Private Cecil Andrews - Age 27 58th Battalion 4th Reinforcement Killed in action on 16th October 1917 at Tokio Ridge near Passchendaele. Andrews is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. Private John Phillips Chittenden - Age 19 No. 5670. 5th Battalion 17th Reinforcement Killed in action on 27th October 1917 near Passchendaele. Chittenden is buried in the Belgian Battery Corner Military Cemetery, near Ypres.
Private Thomas Boyce - Age 28 No. 5555. 23rd Battalion 15th Reinforcement Killed in action on 10th November 1917 near Passchendaele. Boyce is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke.
Private George Henry Boyce - Age 26 No. 1121. 22nd Battalion B Company 14th Reinforcement Died of wounds on 13th April 1918 at the 3rd Canadian Stationery Hospital at Doullens. Boyce is buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension.
Above: The Seaside News Left: George Henry Boyce Below: Private George Henry Boyce’s gravesite
ANZAC RIDGE Gunner Justin Bede Fox - Age 31 No. 5967. 2nd Australian Field Battery Killed in action on 15th November 1917 at Anzac Ridge. Fox is buried in The Huts Military Cemetery, Dickebusch near Ypres.
1918 MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO WERE KILLED IN ACTION ALONG THE WESTERN FRONT IN 1918 MESSINES Private Albert Clement Walker - Age 26 No. 3974. 22nd Battalion 9th Reinforcement Killed in action on 15th January 1918 probably at Messines. Walker is buried in the Royal Berkshire Cemetery Extension at Ploegsteert. Corporal Edwin Thomas Smith - Age 29 No. 4584. 22nd Battalion C Company Died of wounds on 17th March 1918 at Messines. Smith is buried in the Royal Berkshire Cemetery Extension at Ploegsteert. CAESTRE Corporal Rayford Leslie Timewell - Age 24 No. 2702. 5th Battalion 8th Reinforcement Killed in action on 30th May 1918 probably near Caestre. Timewell is buried in Le Peuplier Military Cemetery, Caestre. MONT ST QUENTIN Private Alfred Louis Thomas – Age 28 No. 6959. 23rd Battalion 20th Reinforcement Killed in action on 28th August 1918 at Mont St Quentin. Thomas is buried in Assevillers Britain Cemetery. Alfred’s brother Frederick, (below left) aged 23, was killed in action, on 28th July 1916. Frederick Thomas is remembered on the Villiers-Bretonneux Memorial.
Above and below: The Seaside News Below centre: Alfred Lewis Thomas Below right: Mordialloc War Memorial: Author
ST MARTIN’S WOOD Private Thomas Francis Keating – Age 37 No. 6294. 7th Battalion 20th Reinforcement Killed in action on 31st August 1918 at St Martin’s Wood. Keating is buried at Cerisy Gailly Military Cemetery. MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO DIED OF WOUNDS AT CASUALTY CLEARING STATIONS AND HOSPITALS BEHIND THE LINES IN 1918 Lance Corporal Sydney Foster Erwin MM - Age 25 No. 1330. 8th Battalion 2nd Reinforcement, 2nd Battalion 2nd Light Trench Mortar Battery Died of wounds on 25th April 1918 at No 15 Casualty Clearing Station. Erwin is buried in Ebblinghem British Cemetery, near St Omer. Private Victor Joseph Marocco - Age 37 No. 5120. 24th Battalion 13th Reinforcement Died of wounds on 6th August 1918 at White Chateau near Villers-Bretonneux. Marocco is buried at Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme. Gunner Frederick John Smith - Age 25 No. 3502. 5th Battalion 11th Reinforcement Died of wounds on 8th August 1918 at the 61st Casualty Clearing Station. Smith is buried in Vignacourt British Military Cemetery near Amiens. Private Thomas William Young - Age 19 No. 7589. 7th Battalion 25th Reinforcement Died of wounds on 20th August 1918 at the 83rd General Hospital at Boulogne. Young is buried in the Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, Boulogne. Private Clifford Osborne Henshaw - Age 25 No 6794. 6th Battalion 22nd Reinforcement Died of wounds on 23 August 1918 at the 1st Australian Field Ambulance Dressing Station. Henshaw is buried in Heath Hill Cemetery near Harbonnieres. Private William Charles Owen - Age 21 No. 4980. 29th Battalion 4th Reinforcement, 6th Battalion 15th Reinforcement, 58th and 59th Battalion Died of wounds on 14th October 1917 at Rouen. Owen is buried in St Severs Cemetery Extension, Rouen. Private Clifford Osborne Henshaw’s gravesite
MEN FROM CHELSEA WHO DIED OF DISEASE OR ILLNESS IN AUSTRALIA AND ENGLAND Private Ralph Henshaw - Age 21 No. 1608. 12 Battalion 3rd Reinforcement Died of pneumonia on 24th March 1915. Henshaw is buried in Wyke Regis Cemetery. Weymouth, UK. Private Leslie Thomas Mathewson - Age 19 22nd Battalion Died of double pneumonia on 29th July 1915. Mathewson is buried in the Frankston Cemetery, Victoria. Private Robert Scott Erwin - Age 25 No. 121. 23rd Battalion A Company 6th Infantry Brigade Discharged from the Army and died of diabetes on 3rd March 1916. Erwin is buried in the Burwood Cemetery, Victoria. Private Donald Cameron Higgins - Age 24 No. 61868. 13th General (Vic) Reinforcement and 22nd Battalion Died of influenza and bronchial pneumonia on 26th January 1919. Higgins is buried in St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire.
Detail of The Driver by C. Sargeant Jagger: Author.
Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge and thank the following people who assisted me in my endeavour to document the life and experiences of the men from Chelsea who fought and died during the Great War. The Victorian ANZAC Centenary Grant selection board, former Chelsea MP Donna Bauer, Margaret Diggerson and The Chelsea and District Historical Society, and Lorna Stevenson and Tricia Mumme at Longbeach Place Inc. who administered the grant. Anthony McAdam gave invaluable historical insight and direction and also edited this publication. Susannah Taylor provided her technical design production knowledge, skill and expertise. The research was greatly assisted by the Australian War Memorial research unit, and the librarians of the City of Kingston libraries who permitted me access to The Seaside News archives. I am deeply grateful to Katherine Strong (née Marocco) for sharing her stories and the Marocco family photo archives. I am also indebted to Estelle Chalker. Estelle very generously contributed a selection of her 2015 photos of the Western Front battlefields and cemeteries to the project. I also thank Lyn Loger for the loan of Private Arthur Lyon’s (Number 443) Army Service Corps training manuals. Thanks to the Elsternwick RSL for permission to photograph the Australian First Pioneer Battalion’s 1916 memorial cross, from the Pozieres battlefield and other Great War artefacts. Photo and illustration credits Where possible every effort has been made by the author to identify and credit the owners of the copyright of the images and illustrations that are reproduced in this publication. The images are a combination of the author’s family photo archive and photographs owned by the Imperial War Museum and the Australian War Memorial and friends. Many images are available on the Internet and free of charge if used for non-commercial purposes. The image of Gassed by John Singer Sargent is owned by The Imperial War Museum and may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes. Many of the line illustrations were first published in New Zealand At the Front: Written and illustrated in France by men of the New Zealand Division, and The Story of the ANZACS, in 1917. The map illustrations were first published in W. Stanley MacBean Knight’s The History of the Great European War in about 1920. Other items that illustrate the text include poems and newspaper articles that were first published in the Victoria Readers, The School Papers and the Education Gazette between 1914 and 1918, and in The Seaside News between 1913 and 1922.
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Armed with a wealth of local content, photos and research materials drawn from the Australian War Memorial and Imperial War Museum archives,...