SERVICE NO: 2119
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1893
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bournemouth, Hampshire, England
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 9 January 1915
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Hamilton
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 21
UNIT: 14th Battalion
EMBARKED: 17 June 1915
TROOPSHIP: HMAT A62 Wandilla
FATE: Killed in Action – 22 August 1915 – Gallipoli
Reginald Briant was born in Hampshire, England in 1893 to John Shaw Briant and Mary Pearce and was better known as Stuart. Stuart grew up in the coastal town of Bournemouth and attend the local lhight school. The Briants moved to Australia, taking up residence in East Melbourne sometime around the early 1910s. In the meantime, Stuart, an electrician moved to Hamilton to work with the Hamilton Electric Supply Company. During his time there, he was living in French Street. He joined the local rifle club and was an active member of the YMCA. Through work and the YMCA, Stuart became friends with fellow electrician Ken Toleman, another “out of towner”. Stuart also spent a few months at Coleraine working on that town’s electricity supply, making several friends there.
On 9 January 1915, Stuart enlisted at Hamilton and his mate Ken wasn’t far behind him. They land in the 6th Reinforcements of the 14th Battalion together and on17 June, they left Australia together for Egypt on the troop carrier “Wandilla”.
By 1 August, they were at Gallipoli. The peninsula was seeing some of the heaviest fighting of the war at the time of their arrival. From 6 August, the 14th Battalion was part of the attack on Hill 971 which continued through to 8 August when the heaviest losses occurred. The 14th Battalion continued in the trenches and on 22 August were part of the attack on Hill 60. It was on that day that Stuart was reported missing.
On 4 October 1915, the Hamilton Spectator reported Stuart was missing, however, it was not until 24 May 1916 that they could report that Stuart was killed on 22 August. However, the witness statements provided during the inquiry into Stuart’s disappearance would suggest Stuart actually went missing during the attack on Hill 971 on 7 August.
One witness was Ken Toleman. Ken was fighting with Stuart on 7 August at Australia Gully, Gallipoli. He reported he didn’t see Stuart after that day. At the time of his statement on 17 March 1916, Ken was a Sergeant and was later promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. He also visited Stuart’s sister Dorothy in London in 1916. Kenneth died of wounds on 12 November 1916. Despite Kenneth’s evidence and evidence from others, Stuart’s date of death was recorded as 22 August 1916.
Reginald Stuart Briant is remembered on the Hamilton War Memorial, the Borough of Hamilton WW1 Honour Roll, the Hamilton YMCA Honour Roll and the City of Caulfield Honour Roll.
Australian War Memorial – 14th Australian Infantry Battalion
Australian War Memorial – Red Cross Missing and Wounded Files – Reginald Stuart Briant
Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – Reginald Stuart Briant
Australian War Memorial WW1 Embarkation Roll – Reginald Stuart Briant
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli – Reginald Stuart Briant
Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – Reginald Stuart Briant
Newspaper Articles from Trove – Reginald Stuart Briant