SERVICE NO: 6473
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1893
PLACE OF BIRTH: Macarthur
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 2 August 1916
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Melbourne
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 23
UNIT: 8th Battalion 21st Reinforcement
EMBARKED: 2 October 1916
TROOP SHIP: HMAT A71 Nestor
FATE: Killed in Action – 14 April 1918 – Hazebrouck. France
Leith Baulch was the son of Silas Baulch and Emily Brown of Macarthur. The family lived at Macarthur until 1915 when Silas and Emily moved to Burns Street, Hamilton. Leith stayed in the Macarthur area, working as a labourer at nearby Mt Eccles. He enjoyed singing and entertained the attendees at the Mt Eccles Red Cross meeting on 7 September 1915. His song of choice was a new song written for the troops by composer Harry Lauder called “Australia is the Land for Me”.
It was almost a year later when Leith and his brother James enlisted in Melbourne on 2 August 1916. They went to camp at Ballarat with the 8th Battalion 21st Reinforcement on 15 August 1916. Soon Leith and James were overseas disembarking at Plymouth, England on 16 November 1917. After three months in England, Leith was sent to France arriving on 17 February 1917. The 8th Battalion at Bazentin, France by that time. By 8 May 1917, the 8th Battalion had reached the Hindenburg Line and faced a heavy attack.
On 9 May, Leith was one of twenty-five men wounded after a day in the trenches with heavy enemy aircraft presence and shelling. Receiving a gunshot wound to the right leg, Leith was sent to Royal Victoria (Netley) Hospital near Southampton, England arriving on 17 May. After his arrival, Leith sent a cable to his father that he was getting on well. On 4 December 1917, he rejoined the 8th Battalion at Desvres, France.
April 1918 started on the frontline for the 8th Battalion at Wytschaete near Messines. Later in the month, they were near Hazebrouck in Northern France moving into the Nieppe Forest (below), near the Belgian border on 14 April in trying to stop the German advance.
There was heavy fighting and Leith was killed. Lieutenant Horace Fenton of the 8th Battalion wrote to Silas Baulch and described the events of 14 April, his letter published in the Hamilton Spectator on 24 August 1918,
…on the 14 April his platoon occupied an advanced position in the line hastily formed to impede the German advance in the vicinity of Nieppe Forest, when under cover of very heavy trench-mortar and machine gun fire, the enemy attacked the posts in force and took the position after practically blowing the company out of their trenches and almost annihilating the platoon, three others besides the officer in command being the only ones to come through unwounded. Both before and after the engagement Private Baulch behaved splendidly, and with the rest of the boys put up a good fight until struck down instantly.
Four months after Leith’s death, his brother James was still fighting with the 8th Battalion. He was awarded a Military Medal after his efforts at Herleville Wood on 23 August 1918.,
Leith’s name is on the Hamilton War Memorial.
AUSTRALIA IS THE LAND FOR ME
There’s a land where the sun shines nearly every day,
Where the skies are ever blue,
Where the folks are happy as the day is long,
And lots of work to do.
When the soft wind blows and the gum tree grows
As far as the eye can see.
Where the magpie chaffs, and the kookaburra laughs.
Australia is the land for me.
Lauder, Harry. Australia is the land for me Melbourne: Allan & Co, 1914. http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-177443673