SERVICE NO: 2871
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1897
PLACE OF BIRTH: Casterton
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 13 September 1916
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Adelaide, South Australia
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 19
UNIT: 50th Battalion
EMBARKED: 6 November 1916
TROOP SHIP: HMAT A19 Afric
FATE: Killed in Action – 18 October 1917 – Belgium
George Basil Lance was a son of Stephen Lance and Charlotte Eva Scott and was born at Casterton in 1897. Stephen and Charlotte Lance lived at 25 Alexandra Parade Hamilton and Stephen was a coachbuilder. Charlotte and Stephen married in 1894 and Charlotte had a son Alexander from a previous relationship.
During August 1915, George’s half-brother Alexander William Scott enlisted and during October went overseas. George then eighteen must have longed to join his brother and Hamilton friends. However, soldiers under the age of twenty-one required permission from a parent or guardian to enlist. Almost a year later aged nineteen, George travelled to Adelaide, without his mother’s knowledge, and enlisted. He gave an alias, Lance Basille, a creative variation of his own name. Standing five feet four inches and weighing fifty-seven kilograms, George gave his age as twenty-four years and three months and his occupation as clerk. His next of kin was recorded as Mrs Eva C. Lance, a variation on his mother’s name. His relationship to the said Mrs Lance – friend. Previous military experience, true or false was eighteen months with the senior cadets as a 2nd Lieutenant and was still serving. The enlistment officers bought his story and George went off to join the 50th Battalion.
Charlotte had no doubt denied George permission to enlist and he went to great lengths to defy her wishes. However, the trip to Adelaide appears not to have been George’s first attempt to enlist. An article published on 7 July 1916 in The Hamilton Spectator and Donald Times, listed successful enlistments at Broadmeadows on 5 July. Among them G.B.Lance of Hamilton. That was six weeks before his trip to Adelaide. It’s possible he went to Broadmeadows using his real name, without parental permission and was found out during the enlistment process. George was desperate to serve but in the end, he got his wish even it did mean going interstate where no one would know him.
On 6 September 1916, George left Australia with the 50th Battalion. While at sea, he was promoted to Voyage Only Corporal but reverted back to Private five weeks later while still at sea, most likely due to illness that saw him admitted to the ship’s hospital on 29 December 1916. On arrival at Devonport, England on 10 January 1917, George was admitted to hospital. By 13 January when he was discharged, the 50th Battalion had already departed for France so George marched out to join the 13th Battalion.
George left for France on 9 May 1917 to rejoin the 50th Battalion and was in the field by 13 May, arriving with sixty-three other reinforcements. It was the day before they began a march to the north, travelling to Albert and then on to Outtersteene where they spent time training. On 1 June, the 50th Battalion arrived at Neuve-Eglise in northern France preparing for the Battle of Messines. From 7 June to 11 June, the battalion was involved in heavy fighting and George, as a Lewis Gunner, was having his first taste of action. On 13 August, the 50th fought at Mouquet Farm on the Ploegsteert Wood front line.
On 10 October 1917, the 50th Battalion arrived at Ypres then marched to Broodseinde Ridge. Over the next few days, they faced several attacks. On 17 October the fighting was described as “hostile” with shelling very active into the night. Shelling was quieter the following day but reached a higher than normal level by 10.30pm on 18 October. Sometime in this barrage on 18 October, George Lance was killed.
Charlotte learnt of the death of George on 8 November 1917. While she was dealing with Base Records and the mix up with George’s name, she mentioned she had not heard from her son Alex Scott, despite having written letters to him. An investigation followed and on 14 December Charlotte received information that Alex was killed on 26 August 1916 at Mouquet Farm but due to an incorrect address on his Attestation papers, she had not been notified. For Charlotte, those last few months of 1917 were spent on administrative matters when she should have been grieving the loss of two sons.
Image Courtesy of the National Archives of Australia http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/97167/41
Charlotte was told the name Lance Basille had to stay on George’s memorial plaque and medals, however, it was agreed to having the memorial scroll made out in the correct name of George Basil Lance.
George was remembered with a tree planted along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue and on the Hamilton War Memorial. In 1920, George’s older brother, Stephen Lance of Donald named his son George Basil Lance in memory of his brother.
Australian War Memorial – 50th Battalion Unit Diary
Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – George Basil Lance
Australian War Memorial WW1 Embarkation Roll – George Basil Lance
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Menin Gate, Belgium – George Basil Lance
Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – George Basil Lance
Newspaper Articles from Trove – George Basil Lance
The AIF Project – George Basil Lance