Charles Alexander Wann

Charles Alexander Wann. Image courtesy

In March 1919 Company Sergeant-Major Mayne of the 44th Battalion paid tribute to Charles Alexander Wann, who had been killed in action at St Quentin Canal. He declared:

He was a fine soldier, and one of the bravest men I ever met.

Charles Alexander Wann, aka Alex, was born in Orange in 1883. His parents, Charles snr and Mary Ann nee Plowman had married in Orange the previous year.

By 1903 the family had moved to Armadale in Western Australia, where Charles snr worked as a sleeper cutter.

In 1906 Alex was living at Bullsbrook and working as a farm labourer and kangaroo shooter. He was also a proficient cyclist who won the prestigious Beverley to Perth road race in 1912.

In 1911 Alex married Charlotte Warren. The marriage was short-lived; Alex became a widower when 21 year old Charlotte died in childbirth on 4 January 1912. Their infant son also died that day.

Alex enlisted in the First World War on 4 October 1916. He embarked HMAT A34 Persic in Fremantle on 29 December 1916, arriving in Devonport on 3 March 1917. He undertook a further four months training with the 11th Training Battalion at Larkhill before proceeding to France on 2 July.

Private Wann was taken on strength with the 44th Battalion on 18 July 1917. On 8 August he was appointed Temporary Lance Corporal, and upgraded to Lance Corporal on 30 August.

On 12 October 1917 Lance Corporal Wann was wounded in action receiving a gunshot wound to the right eyebrow. He was admitted to the 11th Field Ambulance, then the 46th Casualty Clearing Station. Two days later he was transferred to the 2nd Convalescent Depot at Rouen, then on 22 October, to the 11th Convalescent Depot at Buchy. Lance Corporal Wann rejoined his battalion on 17 November 1917.

Eight months later Lance Corporal Wann was hospitalised for a second time. On 9 July 1918 he was admitted to the 72nd General Hospital at Trouville with a septic right knee. He would not return to his battalion until 12 September.

On 30 September 1918 the 44th Battalion was engaged in the advance on the Hindenburg Line. According to Company Sergeant-Major Mayne:

Alex … was shot through the head by a German sniper. He was killed instantaneously, and our boys were greatly cut up over his loss

Charles Alexander Wann is commemorated on panel number 138 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Alex’ brother, Daniel Malcolm Wann, also served in WWI. Daniel died on 13 August 1918 from wounds received in the Battle of Amiens.

Charles and Charlotte on their wedding day. Image courtesy

BirtwistleWiki – Charles Alexander Wann


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30 September 1918

The 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment in cavalry formation moving up to the attack on the enemy’s position at Kaukab, September 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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29 September 1918

Concrete wall and machine gun emplacements at the Bellicourt entrance to the St Quentin Canal Tunnel, October 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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28 September 1918

Turkish prisoners of war resting in Wadi Numea near Jericho, September 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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27 September 1918

Jisr Benat Yakub (Bridge of Jacob’s Daughters) over the River Jordan, George Lambert, 1919. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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26 September 1918

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25 September 1918

Turkish prisoners captured by the Anzac Mounted Division filling their water bottles, and washing at an ancient aqueduct at Amman, Duncan McPherson, September 1918. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

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24 September 1918

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23 September 1918

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22 September 1918

I have just returned from a visit to the battlefields where the glorious valour and dash of the Australian troops saved Amiens and forced back the legions of the enemy. Filled with greater admiration than ever for these glorious men, and more convinced than ever that it is the duty of their fellow-citizens to keep these magnificent battalions up to their full strength.

Sir Joseph Cook, Minister for the Navy (and Hughes’ deputy), adds:

Royal Australian Navy is magnificently bearing its part in the great struggle. Spirit of sailors and soldiers alike is beyond praise. Recent hard fighting brilliantly successful but makes reinforcements imperative. Australia hardly realises the wonderful reputation which our men have won. Every effort being constantly made here to dispose of Australia’s surplus products.

The groundbreaking message is sent from a long wave radio station in Caernarvon, Wales, to the Wahroonga house of Ernest Fisk, a Marconi wireless engineer and chairman of AWA. Previously, all telegraphic communication between Australia and overseas had been via underwater cables

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