Anzac Day

Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) soldiers at a small cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, on 25 April 1915.

When World War One broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for just 13 years and was eager to establish its standing among the nations of the world. Newly elected Labor Prime Minister, Andrew Fisher, pledged 20,000 Australian troops to support Britain in the war. These men formed the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and became part of the proposed Gallipoli campaign, the aim of which was to capture the Gallipoli peninsula and open the Dardanelles, thus uniting the Allies and providing access to the Turkish capital, Constantinople. (more…)

Comments Off on Anzac Day

William Henry (‘Burly’) Wright

William Henry (Burly) Wright . Image cortesy Orange Leader.

William Henry (‘Burly’) Wright . Image courtesy Leader.

William Henry Wright was born in Lewis Ponds in 1871, one of 17 children. ‘Burly’, as he became known, was an avid sportsman. A keen footballer, he played for the state against Queensland in 1898, and 1901 to 1904. He also played against New Zealand in 1903 and England in 1904. He was also a fine cricketer and an excellent rifle shot.

William married Mary Isabella Plewis in 1898. The couple settled in Sampson Street in Orange and had three daughters, Gladys, Connie and Olga.

‘Burly’ was 46 when he enlisted in May 1916. The Leader reports that when he enlisted he said to wife: “I will go and have one more game of football with the Germans, then come home and settle down for good.”

Unfortunately, this was not to be. On 6 November 1917 ‘Burly’ was wounded in action in Belgium, suffering a shrapnel wound and compound fracture to the left leg. He died of his wounds the following day. He is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

William Wright is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll and on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.

Leader, 27 March 1918, p. 6.
“Burly” Wright’s Last Game

William Wright's headstone, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. Image courtesy Sharon Hesse.

William Wright’s headstone, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.
Image courtesy Sharon Hesse.

1 Comment »

Military honours and decorations awarded during WWI

Prior to 1975 Australian military decorations and service medals were awarded through the British Imperial system. There were a number of awards that an individual might receive for a conspicuous and gallant act of valour whilst serving in the armed forces during WWI. Awards were also issued for distinguished and meritorious service.

This is a summary of the British honours and decorations awarded to officers, nurses and other ranks of the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War.

Victoria Cross (VC) – 64
The highest award for acts of bravery in wartime.

Order of the Bath – Knight Commander (KCB) – 8
Awarded to senior military officers for services in action.

Order of the Bath – Companion (CB) – 47

Order of St Michael and St George – Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) – 2
To acknowledge military exploits.

Order of St Michael and St George – Knight Commander (KCMG) – 11

Order of St Michael and St George – Companion (CMG) – 150

Order of the British Empire – Knight Commander (KBE) – 3
To reward service to the British Empire in the United Kingdom and abroad.

Order of the British Empire – Commander (CBE) – 35

Order of the British Empire – Officer (OBE) – 157

Order of the British Empire – Member (MBE) – 114

Distinguished Service Order (DSO) – 620
To reward military officers for distinguished services under fire or under conditions equivalent to service in actual combat with the enemy.

Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 1 Bar – 41

Distinguished Service Order (DSO) 2 Bars – 1

Royal Red Cross (RRC) – 43
For exceptional devotion or competency in performance of nursing duties with the Army in the field, or an exceptional act of bravery or devotion to the post of duty. This was an award exclusively for women.

Royal Red Cross (RRC) 1 Bar – 1

Royal Red Cross (ARRC) – 143

Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) – 2
Awarded to naval officers below the rank of Lieutenant Commander for gallantry at sea in the presence of the enemy.

Military Cross (MC) – 2,366
For lower ranking Army officers (Captain or less) and Warrant Officers for distinguished and meritorious services.

Military Cross (MC) 1 Bar – 170

Military Cross (MC) 2 Bars – 4

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) – 59
Awarded to officers for acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying in active operations against the enemy.

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) 1 Bar – 5

Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) 2 Bars – 2

Air Force Cross (AFC) – 14
Awarded to officers for acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty performed whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy.

Air Force Cross (AFC) 1 Bar – 2

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) – 1,767
Awarded to non-commissioned officers for distinguished conduct in action in the field.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) 1 Bar – 28

Military Medal (MM) – 9,926
Awarded to other ranks for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire.

Military Medal (MM) 1 Bar – 472

Military Medal (MM) 2 Bars – 15

Military Medal (MM) 3 Bars – 1

Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) – 17
Awarded to ranks up to and including Chief Petty Officer.for bravery whilst on active service at sea.

Air Force Medal (AFM) 2
Awarded to for an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying though not in active operations against the enemy.

Air Force Medal (AFM) 1 Bar – 2

Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) – 1,237
For non-operational gallantry or meritorious service connected with the war effort.

Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) 1 Bar – 1

Mentioned in Despatches emblem – 5,798

With the diggers 1914-1918, 1933, Fourth Division AMC Association, Melbourne.
*  Williams, Reginald David 2000, Medals to Australia from 1858-1999, with valuations, Downie’s, Melbourne
Australian War Memorial Encyclopedia. Statistics – military

Further reading:
Imperial Awards
A Guide to British Awards for Gallantry or Meritorious Service in WW1

Comments Off on Military honours and decorations awarded during WWI

Charles Campbell

Private Charles Campbell. Image courtesy Narelle Campbell.

Private Charles Campbell.
Image courtesy Narelle Campbell.

Born in Orange in 1895, Charles Campbell enlisted at Holsworthy on 8 September 1915. He embarked from Sydney three months later, proceeding to Egypt as a Private in the 19th Battalion, 8th Reinforcements.

On 16 February 1916 Charles was transferred to the 54th Battalion of the Australian 5th Division at Tel-el-Kebir near Cairo. It was here that Charles became best friends with another young man from the Orange district, Albert Leslie Singleton.

The 5th Division had been assigned to take over defence of a section of the Suez Canal. Commanding officer Major General McCay decided to turn this into a training exercise and on 28 March 1916 ordered the entire Division to march the 65 kilometres through the desert to Moascar in full battle kit in 40 degree heat. Many of the soldiers suffered heat exhaustion, and in the evening, ambulance wagons and camels collected these soldiers from the desert where they had collapsed.

On 19 June 1916 the 54th Battalion embarked from Alexandria on the Caledonian, to join the British Expeditionary Forces in France, arriving at Marseilles on 29 June. They were then marched up to the front line at Fleurbaix.

Without any time to acquaint themselves with their surroundings, the Battalions of the 5th Division were assigned to attack the fortified German lines. This action is now known as the Battle of Fromelles. (Fleurbaix and Fromelles are 5km apart, the former behind the British lines and the latter behind German lines). They were assembled to attack in four waves at five minute intervals. The first wave was to take the first German trench and clear it of the enemy. Subsequent waves of attackers were to leap-frog the first trench and take second and third German support trenches that had been identified from aerial reconnaissance.

A seven-hour long artillery bombardment of the German lines began at 11am on 19 July. The Germans, however, were aware of the troops massing in the trenches opposite, preparing to attack, and their artillery soon found their range and caused significant casualties amongst the waiting Australians.

At 5.45pm the order to attack was issued and the 54th Battalion – Charles and his mates – “hopped the bags” (went over the top).

They achieved their objectives, but found that the second and third German support trenches didn’t exist – they were shallow water-filled ditches providing them little cover from German rifles and machine guns. Nonetheless, they attempted to defend these ditches, digging into the gluey Flanders clay and filling sand bags from which to construct a parapet. Night fell at around 9pm.

As morning broke on 20 July, at 7.50am the Battalion was ordered to retreat. Private Charlie Campbell was wounded that evening, sustaining gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Charlie survived his injuries; he was hospitalised in Boulogne, then transferred to Colchester General Military Hospital at Aldershot in Hampshire. He was discharged in August and rejoined his unit in November.

Charles’ best friend, Albert, was not so lucky; he was one of 155 deaths that the 54th Battalion suffered during the attack.

In January 1917 Private Campbell was transferred to 5th Australian Division Traffic Control Detachment with rank of Sapper.

Charles Campbell returned to Australia in June 1919. He resumed farming and orcharding on Pinnacle Road with his brothers Vic and Raymond, and in 1924 married Kathleen Mary Fitzgerald.

* Robert Cunneen, 2016

Leader, 22 November 1916, p. 6.
The Village Blacksmith’s Tree: Canoblas Soldier photographed under it by an ex-Orange Clergyman.

Leader, 13 June 1919, p.8.
Canoblas Heroes

1 Comment »