YEAR OF BIRTH: 1888
PLACE OF BIRTH: Charters Towers, Queensland
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 28 May 1915
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Adelaide, South Australia
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 26
UNIT: 16th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement
EMBARKED: 26 August 1915
TROOPSHIP: RMS Morea
FATE: Killed in Action – 11 April 1917 – Bullecourt
Virgil Tucker was born in Charters Towers, Queensland, a son of William Frederick Tucker and Louisa Elizabeth Chapman. William Tucker was a Church of England vicar of Bowen, Charters Towers and Townsville, and Canon of North Queensland. In 1894, William was appointed Vicar of Hamilton’s Christ Church when Virgil was six. The family was looking to move south as the heat of northern Queensland was not conducive to Louisa’s health.
Virgil attended Hamilton and Western District College and continued on there after his father left Hamilton to move to St Paul’s Anglican Church in Humffray Street, Ballarat East in 1898. William Tucker was appointed Archdeacon of Ballarat in 1899. After Virgil finished school in Hamilton, he studied engineering at the School of Mines in Ballarat. That led to employment as a mining surveyor in Broken Hill in early 1910.
By 1913, Virgil was living in Sulphide Street, Broken Hill. He was for a time was the secretary and assistant superintendent of St Peter’s Sunday School in Broken Hill. He was also a member of the local Citizen Forces and in 1914 he was promoted from Senior Cadet to Lieutenant. During December 1914, Virgil spent a month in Adelaide at the Brighton Military School of Instruction and with the Field Engineers reinforcements at the Ascot Park Camp. He enlisted in May 1915 joining the 16th Battalion 8th Reinforcement as a Lieutenant. He is seen in the photo below (front row, far right) at the Mitchem Camp in Adelaide in August 1915, before his departure overseas on 26 August 1915.
Virgil sailed on 26 August 1915. On 4 September 1915, a notice appeared in the Adelaide newspaper the Chronicle.
Virgil was at Gallipoli from around October 1915 where he was temporarily attached to the 2nd Company New Zealand Field Engineers but fell sick in December and was taken to hospital at Mudros and then Alexandria. It was February 1916 before he was discharged. The following month he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and then to Captain on 27 April 1916. Virgil arrived in France on 9 June 1916. He spent the next seven months as a Liaison Officer for the 12th Infantry Brigade. On 14 September 1916, Virgil was recommend for a mention in Dispatches for being a “careful and methodical staff officer.” He returned to the 16th Battalion in January 1917, by that time in Belgium. In February the battalion moved on to Flers, France with Virgil as the Temporary Office in Command of 16th Battalion’s D Company.
On 7 April 1917, the 16th Battalion moved to the east of Noreuil near the Hindenburg Line. At noon on 9 April, the Company Commanders and specialists met with the Commanding Officer about a proposal to “pierce” the Hindenberg Line between Bullecourt and Queant. Late that night orders were received to prepare to attack the Hindenburg Line at 4.00am on 10 April. The troops moved into position around 3.30am in preparation but nothing happened. At 4.20am orders came through to postpone the operation.
Between 12.15am and 2.00am on 11 April there was a final conference or the Company Commanders with the Commanding Officers to again finalise plans for another attempt. Virgil was there and was told his D Company would by launching from the left of the objective. At 2.15am the troops moved into position as did tanks however instead of the expected six, there were only three when the tanks began moving forward at 4.30am. Four waves of infantry were to follow at 4.45am by four waves of infantry. Half-way to their objective, two of the tanks unexpectedly opened fire, exposing the Australians’ position and alerting the enemy of an attack. D Company went over the trench and when they were about halfway to the German wire, Virgil was shot and killed instantly.
From 6.30am the fighting was at its worst with the 4th Division receiving heavy casualties. The machine gun fire from the enemy at Queant was constant. The 16th Battalion had to evacuate their position as soon as their objective was met and they left the area. Virgil’s body was left where he fell and witnesses doubted he was buried.
William and Louisa Tucker, who were living at Forest Street, Wendouree found out about Virgil’s death on 23 April 1917, St George’s Day. William was due to give an address at the St George’s Society in Ballarat that evening in his role as Archdeacon, but he sent his apologies.
When William received Virgil’s Victory Medal it was necessary for William to return a receipt of the medals. He also included a letter of thanks back to the Defence Department for the medal and other records which would become “heirlooms in our family when we have gone to join him”.
He did the same when he received Virgil’s commission form…”It is a great happiness to my family and to me to have this document in our possession. It is the valued memorial of a gallant soldier and gentleman”
William Tucker died in October 1934 after a short illness. He was the Dean of Ballarat at the time of his death. Louisa remained living in Ballarat and died on 8 March 1940. At the time of her death, only two of her five children were still living.
Beatrice Jones, Virgil’s fiancé never married and died on 24 December 1946 in Adelaide.
Virgil is remembered on Hamilton’s Christ Church Anglican Church Honour Roll and the Hamilton & Western District College Honour Roll.