SERVICE NO: 1887
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1890
PLACE OF BIRTH: Benalla
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 14 June 1915
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Benalla
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 25
UNIT: 21st Battalion
EMBARKED: 26 August 1915
TROOPSHIP: HMAT A68 Anchises
FATE: Died of Wounds – 31 July 1916 – Pozieres, France
Born at Benalla in 1890, Ebenezer Burgess was the son of Joseph Peter Burgess and Eliza Ackers. In February 1895, the family moved to Mildura where Joseph worked as the collector of Customs. On 13 January 1896, Ebenezer’s mother Eliza died at Mildura aged thirty-nine leaving her husband Joseph with a large family to care for. He soon remarried. In April 1901, tragedy struck the Burgess family again when Joseph died suddenly at Mildura aged forty-seven. Ebenezer was eleven and had lost both parents.
During Ebenezer’s early working life, he was employed at the office of the Mildura Cultivator, the local newspaper and worked as a draper at both Shillidays and Fraser’s stores in Mildura. He lived in Lime Avenue and at one time was Chief Ruler of the local Rechabite Tent. At some stage, he also worked in the drapery of Brown, Corke & Co in Numurkah. Around 1913, Ebenezer moved to McBride Avenue, Wonthaggi and continued drapery work. He wasn’t in Wonthaggi long before he moved to Stratford near Maffra where he also worked as a draper and was a member of the local branch of the Australian Natives Association (ANA).
By now Ebenezer’s siblings had dispersed. His eldest sister Elizabeth was living in Sydney and working at Albert’s Music Story in King Street. His brother Joseph Clifford Burgess was living in Clarke Street, Hamilton and working as an accountant for T.H.Laidlaw & Co. Another sister, Alice Ada Burgess was also living in Hamilton with her husband Garnett Alexander Pearse. Their home was in McIntyre Street.
On 14 June 1915, Ebenezer went to Benalla, the place of his birth, to enlist. He was soon at camp at Broadmeadows, training with the 21st Battalion. While there, he received a gold ANA pendant from the Stratford ANA. Soon after arriving in Egypt, Ebenezer went on to Gallipoli on 25 October 1915. He was there until the 2 December when he fell sick and was transported to a hospital ship. Back in Alexandria, he was diagnosed with mild rheumatism and then transferred to a hospital at Heliopolis. He was in hospital until the end of January 1916, then he did other duties until he finally rejoined the 21st Battalion at Moascar, Egypt on 11 March. Just over a week later they were sailing for Marseilles, France. In May, Ebenezer was hospitalised again, this time for a week with tonsillitis.
On 23 July 1916, Australia’s 1st Division launched an attack on the enemy, the first of the Battle of Pozieres. The 21st Battalion was around fifteen kilometres away at Varennes. At 5:00am on 26 July 1916 the 21st Battalion began their march toward Pozieres, well aware of what lay ahead after hearing of the 1st Division’s losses. On 29 July, the 21st replaced the 22nd Battalion in the front trenches north of Pozieres. Over the following days, they made advances forward and were facing heavy shelling day and night.
It was on the last day of July that Ebenezer was wounded by a shell. His injuries were to the knee area and a letter by a member of Ebenezer’s battalion, published in the Numurkah Leader on 22 September 1916, reported Ebenezer died of shock on the way to the dressing station after the “mutilation of his leg”.
Back at home, the Base Records Office were trying to track Ebenezer’s next of kin, his sister Elizabeth. She was no longer at the address provided. They did find his oldest brother Joseph Burgess living in Clarke Street, Hamilton but soon after he moved on again losing contact with the Base Records Office. He was found again and so was Elizabeth, but the letters backwards and forwards went on until 1924. The correspondence in Ebenezer’s service record saw it grow to a very large eighty-nine pages and it included this letter (below) from Joseph Burgess to Base Records on the letterhead of T.H.Laidlaw & Co. of Hamilton.
When the residents of Hamilton gathered for the memorial tree planting in Clarke Street, Hamilton 24 October 1918, tree nineteen was for Ebenezer Burgess. His brother-in-law, Garnett Pearse planted the tree. Ebenezer is also remembered on the Honour Roll at the Stratford Holy Trinity Church.