Wilfred Edmund Cox was born in Orange on 11 May 1881, the ninth of thirteen children of James Cox and Eliza Hasemer. James Cox had emigrated to Australia in 1849, aged just 13, and learnt the trade of brickmaking. He settled in Orange in 1863, where he established a brickworks. James created the bricks used to construct the Holy Trinity Church in 1878. He was church warden for many years and also served as an alderman on Orange Municipal Council.
Wilfred was educated at Orange Public School and later entered the family business as a brick labourer.
On 30 January 1904 Wilfred married Alice Maud Clark of Wattle Flat at Enmore; their son Wilfred James was born in June that year. The couple settled in Parramatta.
Wilfred enlisted for war service on 12 October 1915, stating on his attestation papers that he had served for six years in the 3d Infantry. A private in the 13th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement C Company, Wilfred did not embark for overseas service until September 1916.
Private Cox disembarked in Plymouth on 26 October 1916 and proceeded to the 4th Training Battalion at Codford. In late December he was assigned to the Western Front. He served for just a month before being admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance with trench foot. He rejoined his unit on 13 February 1917, but was hospitalised again on 4 April with influenza.
Later that month Wilfred was transferred to the Richmond Military Hospital in England with trench fever. He convalesced at the 1st Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield before reporting to Weymouth Depot on 28 July 1917.
Wilfred returned to France in early 1918, rejoining the 13th Battalion at Havre on 7 January. At the beginning of March 1918 the 13th Battalion was engaged at the front line near Ypres. On 3 March they moved to billets at Neuve Eglise where they spent the next three weeks recuperating and undertaking musketry and specialist training.
An entry in the unit diary for 22 March states “billets at Neuve Eglise being shelled”. On that morning the battalion was engaged in range practice, and in the afternoon, recreational training. According to an eyewitness, Private John Gaffney, Wilfred was one of fourteen men engaged in a tug-o-war when they were struck by an enemy shell. Five of them were killed, Wilfred included.
Wilfred’s obituary in the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate on 13 April 1918 described him as “a magnificent specimen of the Australian native, standing 6ft. 1in. in his stockings”.
Wilfred Edmund Cox in commemorated on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 68 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte WE Cox”; it was donated by JH Hawke. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
The Leader reports: “What tobacco really means to a soldier has been voiced in more poetry good, bad or indifferent, but always heart-felt—than almost any other subject of the war” and publishes the poem Fags by Corporal Jack Turner
When the cold is making ice cream of the marrow of your bones.
When you’re shaking like a jelly and your feet are dead as stones,
When your clothes and boots and blankets and your rifle and your kit,
Are soaked from Hell to Breakfast, and the dugout where you sit
Is leaking like a bucket, and upon the muddy floor
The water lies in filthy pools, six inches deep or more;
Tho’ life seems cold and mis’rable and all the world is wet,
You’ll always get through somehow if you’ve got a cigarette.
When Fritz is starting something and his guns are on the bust
When the parapet goes up in chunks, and settles down in dust,
When the roly-poly “rum-jar” comes a-wobling thro’ the air,
‘Til it lands upon a dugout—and the dugout isn’t there;
When the air is full of dust, and smoke, and, scraps of steel, and noise
And you think you’re booked for golden crowns and other Heavenly joys,
When your nerves are all a-tremble and your brain is all a-fret—
It isn’t half so hopeless if you’ve got a cigarette.
Then, when you stop a good one, and the stretcher bearers come
And patch you up with strings, and splints, and bandages and gum;
When you think you’ve got a million wounds and fifty thousand breaks,
And your body’s just a blasted sack packed full of pains and aches;
Then you feel you’re reached the finish, and you’re sure your number’s up,
And you feel as weak as Belgian beer, and helpless as a pup
But you know that you’re not down and out, that life’s worth living yet.
When some old war-wise Red Cross guy slips you a cigarette.
We can do without MacConachies, and Bully, and hard tack,
When Fritz’s curtain fire keeps the ration parties back;
We can do without our greatcoats, and our socks, and shirts, and shoes,
We might almost—tho’ I doubt it get along without our booze;
We can do without ”K.R. and O.,” and “Military Law,”
We can beat the ancient Israelities at making bricks, sans straw;
We can do without a lot of things and still win out, you bet,
But I’d hate to think of soldiering without a cigarette.
Francis Harrie Crouch was born in Bathurst in 1881, the third of eight children of Henry Augustus Crouch and his wife Isabella, nee Tennant.
The Crouch family was well known and highly esteemed throughout the Orange district. In 1867 Francis’ father, Henry, aged 17, joined the Lands Department. In 1882 he became District Surveyor at Orange and, in 1902, was appointed chairman of the Orange Land Board, a position he held until his retirement in 1912.
The Crouch family lived at Melyra on the laneway between Cargo Road and Towac Park, but moved to Byng Street following the 1897 drowning deaths of Francis’ sisters Ina and Marjorie, along with their nurse. The girls had been crayfishing in a dam on the Duntryleague estate when the tragedy occurred. Orange journalist, Joe Glasson, recalled that the drowning occurred on Christmas Eve and noted:
It was a pathetic sight to see the three coffins in the funeral procession going down Summer Street on Christmas Day *
Francis was educated at Wolaroi College. After completing his school education Francis studied dentistry. He was already practising when the Dentists Act was introduced in 1901, and by 1911 had opened a practice in Tamworth.
Francis was a popular local identity who was known for his quirky sense of humour. A member of the Tamworth Musical Society, he performed in a number of the society’s productions and established a cadet’s brass band. He was also a member of the local Amateur Jockey Club.
On 8 July 1914 Francis married Frances Irene Wilson at Wellington in New Zealand. Four days after their wedding the newlyweds embarked the mail steamer Rotorua in Wellington for England.
The couple settled in Surrey, where they had two daughters. The first, Ina Irene, was born in August 1915; the second, Suzanne Isobel Marjorie, in May 1917. The girls were named after Francis’ younger sisters who had drowned in 1897.
The battalion had been formed in October 1914 as a ‘third line’ home service depot responsible for training soldiers for service abroad. In early 1917 the 3/5 was posted to the Western Front, arriving in Le Havre on 1 March. It served on the Western Front for the next eleven months in the area around Givenchy.
On the night of 9 May 1917 a party of the battalion conducted a raid on German trenches near Givenchy. The war diary entry for that day records:
At 11.23pm a party consisting of Lieut Crouch and 2 LTS Reid and Pickett with 7 NCOs and 30 men of D Company successfully raided the German front line important identification being secured…enemy retaliation very slight.
The raid resulted in Lieutenant Crouch and three other men being wounded.
In January 1918 Lieutenant Francis Crouch was awarded the Military Cross. His name appears in the 1918 New Year Honours List published in The London Gazette and The Times.
In February 1918 the 3rd/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers was disbanded and amalgamated with other units; Captain Crouch was transferred to the 2nd/7th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
On 21 March 1918 the 2/7 was engaged in the Battle of St Quentin near Templeux. Crouch was seen to fall amid heavy shelling, and the company forced to retire due to the severity of the attack. When the stretcher-bearers returned they could find no trace of Francis; he was assumed to have been killed in action.
Francis Harrie Crouch is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel 32 to 34 of the Pozieres Memorial at Somme in France.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Capt Frank Crouch MC”; it was donated by Wolaroi School. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Francis’ name appears on the Australian War Memorial Commemorative Roll. This roll records the names of men who died in service but who were not serving in the Australian Armed Forces, and therefore not eligible for inclusion on the Roll of Honour.
Francis is also commemorated on his parents’ grave at South Head Cemetery in Vaucluse: Section G, Row 5, plot 67.
To fathom all the mystery
Of withered hopes, of death, of life,
But there, with larger, clearer sight,
We shall see this – His way was right.
Francis’ sister Elsie Isabel Crouch also served in WWI, as did his brother Edwin, who was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal.
* Edwards, Elisabeth (ed) 2011, A Gentleman of the Inky Way: Orange through Joe Glasson’s Looking Glass, Elisabeth Edwards, Orange, NSW, p. 191.
The Governor General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, and Lady Helen visit Orange
Germany launches Operation Michael, the first of four attacks in the Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht – the Kaiser’s Battle) aiming to break the deadlock on the Western Front. Boosted by 500,000 troops transferred from Russia, German troops now number almost one million. 63 Divisions are engaged along a 110 kilometre front along the Somme Valley, seeking to split the Allied lines around the vital transport and communications centre of Amiens, and drive them west towards the English Channel.The initial German advance proves successful, with the capture of 75,000 British troops and thousands of square kilometres of territory. Operations Georgette, Blücher and Gneisenau follow. The Allies are forced back beyond Villers-Bretonneux, which Germany captures, threatening the Allied controlled railway line used to transport troops to the front. The German line advances to within 120 kilometres of Paris; 183 shells land in the capital causing many Parisians to flee the city.
Faced with the prospect of defeat, the Allies launch a determined resistance. Units of the Australian Imperial Force earn a reputation for stubborn defence, holding their ground, inflicting casualties and diminishing German reserves. The German advance slows, and turns into a retreat, marking the turning point of the war. Fighting continues to 18 July. Voices of the First World War: The German Spring Offensive
I have gathered my belongings, and I’ve put them in my pack—
There’s a half a ton a-pulling and a-straining at my back.
And I’ve chucked my old tin helmet, and I’m wearing now instead
A collapsible gor-blimey, which is comfort for the head.
I have had my shoes amended, I have had my feet inspected,
I am passed as fit for marching by the mile.
I have had my hair cut freely, and my clothing disinfected,
But d’you think that I am grousing? I should smile.
There’s a little Frenchy village that we hope we’re passing through,
An estaminet pour Soldats where we used to parly-voo.
There are cider apple orchards we’d be most annoyed to miss
And there’s one or two among us with a girl or two to kiss.
There are fields all white with harvest, there are roads without a shell hole,
There are roofs without a hole to spill the rain;
So we can’t be very sorry when we leave this damned old hell-hole,
And Division’s going out on trek again.
We have done with endless strafings, we have done with standing to,
We have done with steel and bullet shell and shock;
And we’re going barrack-squaring, as the old troops used to do
In the days before the Kaiser ran amok.
We are leaving shattered houses, leaving desolated regions,
We are making for the townships might and main,
Till they turn us round all standing, the recuperated legions,
And they head us for the trenches once again.
For we’re going out on trek again,
Out of the line on trek again,
Back-areawards on trek again;
Our feet are all a-dance
Upon the good old cobble roads,
The humpy, bumby cobble roads,
The hell-for-leather cobble roads.
The cobble roads of France.
Orange Police Court fines Finnish national, Carl Augustus Garson, 10/ for failing to obtain an alien’s certificate of registration, as stipulated under the War Precautions Regulation. Another Alien Fined
Allied air reconnaissance on the Western Front reports new German supply roads with heavy motorised traffic and horse-drawn transport in the vicinity of St Quentin. Unbeknown to the Allies, the German army is preparing to launch their Spring Offensive.
German forces capture Nikolayev in Southern Russia
Newly-elected mayor of Orange, William Ernest (Bill) Bouffler, convenes a public meeting to discuss arrangements for the impending visit of the Governor General, Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, and Lady Helen to Orange