SERVICE NO: 5057
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1895
PLACE OF BIRTH: Hamilton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 25 January 1916
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Melbourne
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 20
UNIT: 58th Battalion (late 5th Battalion, 16th Reinforcement)
EMBARKED: 1 April 1916
TROOPSHIP: HMAT A23 Suffolk
FATE: Killed in Action – 27 March 1918 – France
Joseph Brokenshire was born in Hamilton in 1895 to John Brokenshire and Emma Cooper of Milton Street. When Joseph completed his schooling at the Hamilton Elementary School, he was apprenticed to tailor Mr Taggert of Hamilton, with whom he worked for five years. Joseph was a member of the Senior Cadets for two years and the Citizen’s Forces for one year. He was also a member of the Hamilton Fire Brigade.
Tragedy struck the Brokenshire family in 1914. On 21 April, Joseph’s brother James was killed while helping convert the former Wesleyan Methodist Church in McIntyre Street, Hamilton into a private home. The scaffolding James was standing on collapsed, and he fell onto a pile of bluestone and died soon after. On 4 June, Joseph’s father John Brokenshire died aged sixty-five with the sudden loss of James thought the reason for his demise.
On 25 January 1916, Joseph Brokenshire enlisted and went to the Royal Park Camp and then Broadmeadows in March 1916. He sailed on 1 April 1916 with the 5th Battalion, 16th Reinforcement and disembarked at Suez 11 May 1916. After training in Egypt, he left Alexandria on 21 June 1916 arriving at Marseilles on 30 June 1916.
Joseph joined the 58th Battalion in the field on 23 July 1916 at Fromelles. The battalion had just been through the Battle of Fromelles days earlier and reinforcements were needed with a third of the battalion going down. They remained in the Fromelles area until 21 October. During the early part of 1917, the battalion spent time near the Hindenburg Line. By 19 August 1917, Joseph was due for a break and went to England on furlough for two weeks. When he returned, the battalion was at Sercus in Northern France. They remained there until 17 September then moved to the Dominion Camp at Reninghelst, Belgium in preparation for a battle at Polygon Wood planned for 23 September. During the battle, one location the 58th Battalion took up was Clapham Junction (below)
Heavy fighting continued until around the 27 September with the battalion suffering big losses. Fortunately for Joseph, he made it through and his efforts did not go unnoticed. He was promoted to Corporal on 20 October 1917 and on 31 October, the Army Corps Commander, General Birdwood expressed appreciation of Joseph’s gallant services rendered during operations.
The 58th Battalion were at Gable Farm near Wulverghem, Belgium on 18 March 1918 then Canteen Corner Camp near Messines, Belgium on 25 March. On 27 March, the battalion marched over the border to Caestre, France to board a train at 4.25pm for Acheux, about one hundred kilometres south. They made good time and the train departed five minutes ahead of schedule at 4:20pm. Around 9:00pm, about one kilometre from the St Pol-Sur-Ternoise Station, a shell hit the train. Sixteen men were killed, nine wounded and eight horses killed. One of those was Joseph Brokenshire. Joseph and the other men were buried at the St Pol British Cemetery.
On 14 April 1918, a memorial service was held for Joseph at the Hamilton Baptist Church. Members of the Hamilton Fire Brigade were in attendance to pay their respects to the former brigade member. A stained glass window was installed at Hamilton’s Baptist Church in memory of Joseph.
Emma Brokenshire moved from Hamilton to Geelong West around 1922. She died in 1950 at Ocean Grove aged ninety-seven.
Joseph Brokenshire’s name is on the Hamilton War Memorial and the Hamilton Fire Brigade Honour Board.