Four Long Years

It’s hard to believe it’s almost four years since commemorations marking the centenary of the beginning of WW1.  In November this year, it will be the centenary of the Armistice.  Time has flown but going back a century, four years of war seemed an eternity and with no end in sight.  One hundred years ago this month, the enlisted men and women in France and Belgium were just weeks away from the end of the European winter.  And while the battlefields were quieter in the winter months, the trade-off was snow, mud, water-filled trenches and the all too common trench feet.

LIFE IN THE TRENCHES DURING A EUROPEAN WINTER. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00146/

Those who had endured the previous two European winters knew too well, as the snow thawed and spring arrived, the fighting would again escalate.  In February 1918, little did they know it was the beginning of the end.  There was much in store for the Australian troops, the German Spring Offensive, fighting alongside U.S. troops for the first time, the Battle of Amiens and finally, victory to the allies and Armistice on 11 November 1918.

It’s also four years since I started writing the biographies of Hamilton’s enlisted men. A work in progress, there are now 125 published biographies at Hamilton’s WW1.  For fifteen of those men, the year 1918 would be their last.  Most of those fifteen first landed in Europe in 1916, but James Smyth was in the Middle East from 1915 including time at Gallipoli. Enlisting at just eighteen years and one month, James spent more than three in years in the desert as a signaller with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. In a matter of three weeks in October 1918, his life turned from a day when his bravery saw him awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal, to his death from malaria in Damascus.

CAMP OF THE 9th LIGHT HORSE REGIMENT IN PALESTINE DURING MAY 1918. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B00021/

Spare a thought for William Austin, also part of the Gallipoli campaign. There he received a gunshot wound to his shoulder region with damage to his lungs. He returned to the front in 1916 in France but struggled with bronchitis and other related illnesses until influenza claimed is life on 11 October 1918 in England, so close to the end.

With the 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Frank Morrissey was part of the final push to break through the Hindenburg Line in the Battle of St Quentin Canal.  He was killed on 29 September 1918 aged twenty-two. Also Frank’s age was young boundary rider Stan Niddrie who enlisted in 1915 but was not overseas until 1916. Reaching the rank of Sergeant, he was killed at Villers-Bretonnuex on 6 August 1918.

GRAVE OF STAN NIDDRIE AT VILLERS-BRETONNEUX CEMETERY. Image courtesy of Melinda Hestehauge.

Former V.F.L. (Victorian Football League) footballer and Hamilton teacher, Leslie Primrose (below) an airman with the Australian Flying Corps, crashed his plane during a training exercise near Amiens and killed as a result on 4 June 1918. He’d only been in France three months.

LESLIE JOHN PRIMROSE. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DACS0594/

Leslie Sangster (below), a Hamilton High School science teacher and sports master enlisted in January 1917.  On 18 August 1918, he was killed at Harbonnieres, France a month short of his twenty-second birthday and three months short of war’s end.

LESLIE FAIRBURN SANGSTER. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P05248.117/

During James Black’s two years overseas, he was disciplined many times and served six months incarceration in a military prison. He struggled with army life, the horrors of war and alcohol. James was killed on 24 April 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux. His body was never found. Also killed in April 1918 was George Herlihy (below). Mentioned in dispatches in 1916, he was killed by a shell on 11 April 1918 at Amiens, France.

GEORGE HERLIHY. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1237087

Just three months after his discharge from a military prison for desertion, John Whitehead was awarded a Military Medal (M.M.) for his “marked gallantry and devotion to duty” during the Battle of Amiens on 9 August 1918.  Three weeks later he was dead, hit by a shell at St Martins Wood, France.  Also a M.M. recipient, John Fenton (below) was at Ribemont, France on 31 May 1918 when a mustard gas shell burst at his feet.  He died in hospital three weeks later.

JOHN WILFRED FENTON (M.M). Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Brave Charles Stewart (below) lost his life to sniper fire while bandaging the wounds of a fellow soldier during the Battle of Amiens on 9 August 1918.  Correspondence from the battalion to Charles’ mother revealed he “…never knew what fear was, and every man in the company says the same”.

CHARLES HERBERT STEWART. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P06958.001/

For some, the war was over but the fight wasn’t. From April to September 1918, Walter Boxer displayed extreme bravery many times as a stretcher bearer. As a result, he was awarded a M.M., a bar for his M.M. and a Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M) and four other nominations for a D.C.M. He was on his way home at the end of 1918 with severe injuries but recovered to secure a job, marry and see the birth of a son. In 1927, tuberculosis cut his life short at the age of thirty-four.

Fred Waring was overseas from the end of 1915, fighting in many major campaigns with the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. By war’s end, he was in London with the Postal Corps but never returned home. Suffering lung-related illnesses during 1919, septicemia claimed his life in a London hospital.

Albert Davies (below right) returned to Australia in 1919, suffering symptoms similar to anxiety. Illness in England saw that Albert did not reach the battlefields but his brother Stanley (below left) was killed at Ypres in 1917. On his return to Hamilton Albert found his mother bedridden, her death imminent. By 1935, Albert was unemployed with little to his name.  While riding his bike in Richmond that year, he was hit by a car and killed at the age of thirty-seven.

STANLEY and ALBERT DAVIES. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA15721/

William Brake (below) served in the Middle East and Europe and returned to Australia in 1919.  By 1922, he was dead from tuberculosis aged twenty-nine.

WILLIAM BRAKE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1286963

William was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.

GRAVE OF WILLIAM BRAKE AT HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

For those at home, by 1918 it seemed like an age since the first news of Australia at war.  Those of you who have followed the regular “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator” posts at Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page have seen how the district adjusted to war.  New and distant place names such as the Dardanelles, Syria, and the Somme became part of regular conversation. The four years saw thousands of socks, scarves, and pyjamas made just in the Hamilton district alone, thousands of pounds raised for various war funds,  and many tears shed. By February 1918, men were returning at a steady rate but they had changed from the men the Hamilton people had bid farewell to at the railway station in the years earlier.

The war barely left a home in Hamilton untouched. It even knocked on the door of the Hamilton Mayor. In the role since August 1917, Robert McLuckie comforted numerous grieving families, presided over many send-offs and welcome home celebrations. On 17 July 1918, his son John McLuckie sailed for England.  John fell sick on the voyage and died from pneumonia on 17 October 1918 in England, leaving a widow and four sons. When Armistice came in November 1918, one could only imagine the McLuckie’s sadness knowing if only John’s departure was delayed by a few months, he’d still be safe at home. Robert McLuckie died suddenly in 1922 while still in office with grief and stress from organising Hamilton’s war effort taking a toll.

Hamilton cab proprietor William Sloan also succumbed to the weight of his grief.  William and his wife Sarah endured eight months not knowing if son Joseph Sloan was alive or dead.  After official confirmation in December 1917 of Joseph’s death, along with the death of William’s mother in January 1918, William sank into deep depression.  Sarah didn’t like leaving him alone but one day in August 1918, with errands to run and William seeming happier, she stole herself away. William was dead when she returned.

There were others at home who thought their sons still alive come 11 November 1918 only to find out in the following days, weeks or months their sons were never coming home. Like Richard Hicks‘ mum Janet.  Richard embarked in 1915 and was killed on 17 October 1918 less than four weeks from the end of the war.  Six weeks after the Armistice, Janet Hicks found out Richard (below) was missing and it was the middle of 1919 before it was officially confirmed he would not return.

RICHARD ERNEST HICKS. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA11301/

My WW1 research will continue up to and beyond 11 November 2018.  In time, more of the biographies will be of returned men and their adjustment to post-war life. Unfortunately, the Hamilton Spectators are only digitised until December 1918 at Trove. Therefore the “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator” posts on the Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page will come to an end this year. Last year, the posts went from six times per week to three coinciding with a paper shortage 100 years ago and the Spectator halving the number of publication days.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see Hamilton Spectator‘s at Trove for 1919 and beyond to help better understand how the people of Hamilton and district re-adjusted to life after WW1.

You can find more about Hamilton’s WW1 on the link – Hamilton’s WW1.   To read the biographies published to date, click on the links to the following Hamilton WW1 Memorials – Hamilton War MemorialAnzac AvenueClarke Street Memorial Avenue – or from the pages of enlistments on the link – Hamilton’s WW1 Enlistments.  In each case, clicking on underlined names will take you to the enlisted man’s biography.  The same applies to the names in this post.

 

Not Just Hamilton’s Soldiers

One of the features of Western District Families is Hamilton’s WW1 now with sixty-six profiles of enlisted men with Hamilton links.

'HAMILTON BOYS' c 30 April 1915. Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no.DAOD1060 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DAOD1060/

‘HAMILTON BOYS’ c 30 April 1915. Photo Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial. Image no. DAOD1060 https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DAOD1060/

I’ve set a target, possibly an over ambitious one, of 100 profiles by Anzac Day but I’ll give it a go. There are some good stories about Hamilton nurses that I would like to share before 25 April 2016 too. But first something I’ve noticed…well it’s one of many things I’ve observed during the course of my research, but let’s start with memorials…well, one of the things I’ve noticed about memorials…

If you visit the Hamilton War Memorial and look at the names, you could be excused for thinking those men listed lived in Hamilton for a significant part of their lives or, at the very least, were born there. But that’s not the case, they were from all over with a few men having only a fleeting connection with Hamilton.  

Some of the men had fathers who moved often with work.  Clifford Williams, who was unlikely to have even visited Hamilton, was a son of a teacher while William Thompson was the son of a railway worker who often moved his family.  Both are on the Hamilton War Memorial (below).  Others went to Hamilton as adults for work and were only there a short time before enlisting, such as Edwin Smith who arrived in Hamilton around 1913 to work at the Union Bank.  Reginald Briant was born in Hampshire, England and spent a few years in Melbourne before working for the Hamilton Electric Supply Company before his enlistment.

388

 

When searching for a family member on memorials and honour boards, clues from Electoral Rolls, Trove newspapers and the solider’s Attestation papers can help you find them.  Even if your soldier’s family just “passed through” a particular town, it’s worth following up. Soldiers were often memorialised in several towns.  As well as the Hamilton War Memorial, Clifford Williams and Percy Osborne had trees planted along Bacchus Marsh’s Avenue Honour.  And don’t overlook workplaces and churches.  Percy Osborne has a memorial window at Hamilton’s Christ Church Cathedral (below) and is on the Union Bank Honour Roll in Melbourne.

MEMORIAL WINDOW FOR PERCY OSBORNE BEAUMONT, HAMILTON CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL.

MEMORIAL WINDOW FOR PERCY BEAUMONT OSBORNE, HAMILTON CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL.

If you are wondering if Hamilton commemorated your WW1 soldier’s service, all Hamilton’s outdoor WW1 War Memorials including names are at Hamilton’s WW1.  Eventually, I will add Hamilton’s honour boards. The Victorian War Heritage Inventory is a useful resource for locating memorials across Victoria. You can search by the name or a place.

A quick reminder…to delve into the daily events of Hamilton 100 years ago, “like” the Hamilton WW1 Facebook page.  Along with new profiles, six days a week I post an article from the Hamilton Spectator from 100 years before.  It’s been interesting to read how Hamilton, just like other towns, continued on while so many were away fighting and how the subject of war managed to creep into most aspects of daily life.

The names of the sixty-six soldiers profiled at Hamilton’s WW1 are below. I’ve included their place of birth and other towns they had connections to. Most never returned to Australia. For some of those who did, life was never the same.  Lest We Forget.

AUSTIN, Glenister Burton  Hamilton

AUSTIN, William John  Hamilton, Adelaide

BARR, Gordon  Hotspur, Strathkellar, Warrnambool

BRAKE, William  Horsham, Hamilton, Mont Albert

BRIANT, Reginald Stuart  Hampshire (ENG), East Melbourne, Hamilton.

BURGESS, Ebenezer  Benalla, Mildura, Numurkah, Wonthaggi, Stratford

CAMERON, Archibald Douglas  Branxholme, Hamilton

CAMERON, Sidney Joseph  Hamilton

CAMERON, Thomas Waddell  Port Fairy, Hamilton, Kyabram

COULTER, Robert James  Hamilton

DAVIES, Albert  Hamilton

DAVIES, Stanley Walton  Hamilton, Lubeck

DOUGLAS, Claude Campbell Telford  Euroa, Hamilton

DUNN, Daniel Joseph  Heidelberg, Carlton

ELDER, Frank Reginald  Charlton, Jurek, Hamilton

FENTON, John Wilfred  Hamilton

FOLEY, Cornelius Thomas  Coleraine, Hamilton

GIBSON. Sydney Walter  Moe, Casterton, Hamilton, Bendigo

HARRIS, Leslie Duncan  Fremantle (WA), Hamilton, Coleraine

HENTY, Edward Ellis  Portland, Hamilton

HERILHY, George Joseph David  Balmoral, Hamilton

HERRMANN, Bernard  Hamilton, Hochkirch (Tarrington)

HIND, William Arthur  Mooroopna, Hamilton, Heyfield

ILES, Cyril Thomas Brackley  Hamilton, Windsor

JAFFRAY, Alfred John  Hamilton

KINGHORN, Walter Rodney  Byaduk

KIRKWOOD, Willliam John Clyde  Hamilton, Colac, Port Fairy

KNIGHT, James Alfred  Hamilton, Malvern

LANCE, George Basil  Casterton, Hamilton

LEWIS, Arthur Harold  Hamilton, St. Arnaud, Heywood

LIEBE, Sydney August  Hamilton

LINDSAY, Charles Henry  Heywood, Ballarat, Wallacedale, Hamilton

McPHEE, Norman Edward  Hamilton

MORISON, John Archibald McFarlane  Hamilton, Maroona

MULLANE, Leslie Alexander  Branxholme, Wallacedale, Hamilton

NIDDRIE, Stanley Roy  Hamilton

NIVEN, William David  Harrow, Merino Downs, Hamilton

NORMAN, William Leslie  Hamilton, Warracknabeal

OSBORNE, Percy Beaumont  Bacchus Marsh, Maryborough, Hamilton, Ballarat

PORTER, George Richard  Hamilton

PORTER, Norman Leslie James  Hamilton, Wallacedale, Broken Hill, Tasmania

RHOOK, Archibald Alfred  Tyrendarra, Hamilton

RHOOK, Henry Joseph William  Hamilton, Beaufort

RICHIE, George  Katunga, Willaura, Hamilton

RIGBY, Frederick Roland Angus  Coleraine, Hamilton

SALTER, Herbert Ernest  Naracoorte, Dunkeld, Hamilton

SCOTT, Alexander William  Portland, Hamilton, Donald

SHARROCK, Charles  Terang, Mt. Napier, Penshurst

SHAW, Ivan Thomas  Coleraine, Hamilton

SHEEHAN, Albert Edward  Macarthur, Hamilton

SMITH, Edwin Richardson  Mooroopna, Shepparton, Morwell, Kyabram, Hamilton

STAGOLL, Robert Leslie  Hamilton

STEVENSON, Alexander John  Hamilton, Portland

STEVENSON, Edgar Richmond  Hamilton, Portland

STEWART, Charles Herbert  Byaduk, Hamilton, Western Australia

THOMPSON, William Norton  Horsham, Ararat, Hamilton, Hopetoun

TREDREA, Francis Stanley  Hamilton, Stawell

TRIGGER, Samuel Wilfred  Macarthur, Hamilton, Murray Bridge (SA)

UNDERWOOD, Arthur Bell Percy  Dunkeld, Bendigo, Hamilton

WATERS, William Henry  Edenhope, Hamilton

WESTGARTH, Horace Leonard  Hamilton

WHITE, John Francis Raymond  Hamilton, Cosgrave

WILLIAMS, Clifford Davis  Tarnagulla, Bacchus Marsh, Melbourne

WILLIAMS, Lancelot Hamilton  Hamilton

WOMERSLEY. Edgar  Dunkeld

YOUNG, Clarence Everard  Hamilton

**Postscript – Since writing this post, I have added a further forty stories of Hamilton’s enlisted men.  You can read them at Hamilton’s WW1