Sergeant John ‘Jack’ Curran (right) with Sergeant Harry Conroy Thacker. Image courtesy Joan and Kel Regan.
John Curran, or “Jack” to all that knew him, was working on the labour gangs constructing the railway at Kendall, New South Wales when he heard call to arms. Australia was at war! He enlisted at Randwick on 23 August 1914, less than a month after the declaration of war and more than likely as soon as news had filtered up to his work gang at Kendall.
Jack was born in Copeland, New South Wales, on 23 November 1892. He was raised by his grandmother Helen Curran (nee Robertson) but spent a considerable amount of time at Adare, Euchareena, where his Aunt Sarah lived with her husband, Cornelius Driscoll, and their seven children. Jack’s war service is well documented in a series of letters he wrote to his cousins Nell and Bess and his Aunt Sarah during his time in Army. In his letters, Jack fondly remembers his time at Adare, the folk he met and those with whom he worked.
Army life agreed with Jack. He slotted easily into the training routine, ever eager to go overseas and engage the Hun. However, he was to remain at Randwick long enough to grow bored and restless. The grasses of Kensington racecourse became dust bowls as the military trained, causing Jack endless problems with keeping his tent, rifle and other equipment clean.
…Every blade of grass is nearly worn off the racecourse and it is dirty and sandy. Everything gets dirty in no time, and it takes a great deal of time to keep the rifles and tents in order…
On 9 November 1914, a postcard arrived at Adare bearing an image of TTS Suffolk. After several false starts (much to his disappointment) Jack left Sydney on the 14th October and set sail for Albany, Western Australia. “Banjo” Paterson, one of the war correspondents travelling with the fleet, in his article in the Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, 8 December 1914, tells of the ships arriving at Albany in twos and threes and waiting, anchored, just outside the harbour until the fleet had assembled and then slowly weighing anchor and “a great string of ships” setting off in silence into the Unknown.
…There are about 40 altogether, including the New Zealanders. We leave when they are all here. There are a good few warships going with us for protection…
The troop transport ship SS Suffolk, on which Jack sailed to the front. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Jack expected to go to England for further training before entering the war zone in Europe but, as he explained in a letter, he ended up in Egypt “owing to Turkey siding with Germany and declaring war”. Two hundred thousand troops were stationed in Egypt along the Suez Canal. Jack addressed his letters from “Mena Camp, The Pyramids Egypt”. He was in awe of the size of the pyramids, the desert and the area in general but again he was plagued with the problem of cleanliness. His unit was camped on the edge of the Great Sahara Desert on raw brown sand. It was, according to Jack, “clean sand”. The days were hot and the nights cold. They marched, drilled and paraded. Jack grew bored.
…In fact, we would welcome a diversion of that [combat] kind, it would kill the monotony of camp life and provide a bit of excitement…
Christmas came and went and despite rumours to the contrary Australian Forces remained in Egypt. Jack was admitted to the Military Hospital suffering from measles and pneumonia and then a second attack of measles. It took him nearly two months to recover, by then it was March. His letters were filled with descriptions of Egypt and the pyramids.
Mena camp Egypt, 1915. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
On 5 April 1915, Jack, along with other members of the 1st Infantry Brigade AIF embarked on Derfflinger as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force Gallipoli Campaign. They formed part of the second and third waves of the attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On 14 June Jack writes:
…I am quite well and trust that this finds you all the same at Adare. Tom Hammond got wounded the other day in 3 places in the thigh with shrapnel. I get a Turk occasionally. It is wonderful how bloodthirsty one becomes after a bit of fighting. Men are shot just the same as if they were rabbits or dingoes…
[Jack had met Tom Hammond when enlisting at Kensington and the pair became firm friends. Tom received his shrapnel injuries on 11 June and was transferred to a Military Hospital at Malta. His leg was amputated and he died on 24 July 1915.]
The occasional card or short letter still reached Adare from Gallipoli. Jack felt himself to be extremely lucky and still “moving on three meals a day”. It was hot and the flies were bad. He longed for the weather at Adare. He felt constrained in what he could write. Censor markings appear in the corners of his letters. He signed his letters “Good bye and good luck” instead of “Yours Jack”. The war engulfed him.
…The artillery has started firing. The Turks are sending over high explosive shells, trying to hit our guns in the rear. The shells are just going a few feet over our trench with a venomous kind of swish and bursting 150 yards in the rear. Our guns are replying and with all the noise I can hardly collect my scattered wits…
…The big shells weigh anything from 200 pounds upwards and when they start flying about knocking things out of shape they always create an uneasy feeling especially if they hit within 30 or 40 yards of anyone. They can be seen coming for a long way off and heard too. They make a noise like a very big tree falling when they are coming through the air and when they hit the ground it is like as if a volcano burst out. The shell bursts up into pieces half as big as a good-sized plate and it is 2 or 3 times as thick, so if a piece hits anyone there is not much hope of recovering from it…
Jack formed part of the Lone Pine offensive at the beginning of August. He mentions, when back in Egypt, of having photographs taken and sent to Adare where he was wearing a red fez and an “old tunic I picked up after the memorable battle of Lone Pine”.
On 6 August 1915, while on Gallipoli, Jack was promoted to Corporal.
Respite from the endless sights and sounds of war came when his battalion was sent back to Lemnos in September of that year to recuperate. In his letter dated 12 September he mentions being a “bit off colour”, the wound in his leg troubling him and his arms being “crook”. It was obvious that five months of fighting on the Peninsula had taken its toll on his health.
Australian soldiers newly arrived from Gallipoli, escorted by an Indian soldier on horseback, with all their kit, ready to enter rest camp on Lemnos Island, Albert W Savage, 1915. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Jack left Lemnos two months later and returned to Gallipoli via the troopship Osmanick. The heat of summer was replaced by the bitter cold and wet of winter. It rained most days, the trenches flooded, the sides gave way under the weight of the water. Jack took consolation in the fact that life was just as bad for the Turks in the next gully some 150 yards away.
On 28 November 1915, while still at Gallipoli, Jack was promoted to Sergeant.
Jack was one of the last to be evacuated from Gallipoli. He described it in detail in his letter dated 26 December 1915:
…For over a week stores, ammunition, guns and troops were being sent away every night. The troops in the firing line left in 2 nights. The second night the men left were divided into 3 parties. In “B Coy”, “A” Party 1 officer 5x men, “B” party 8 men, “C” party No 1, 1 officer 10 men, and “C” party No 2, 1 Officer 2 men. was one of the last party. Lieut Cotton, myself and a corporal named Winterbottom were the last to leave B Company’s line. From where we were it was about 2 miles to the pier where we embarked. A boat was waiting and we only had to get on board. Shortly after we got on board the Turks opened up a heavy rifle fire all along the line they must have been puzzled by the silence in our lines. We have had a lot of silent stunts lately so I suppose they were not alarmed much. The firing soon stopped…
[Lieutenant Cotton and Corporal Winterbottom both died in France on 24 July 1916.]
A view of Anzac on the last day of occupation, 19 December 1915. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
The 1st Battalion returned to Egypt via Huntsgreen alias Derfflinger and it was here that Jack lost contact with his battalion due to being hospitalised with a bout of the mumps.
On a personal level, Jack lamented the lack of mail and news from Home.
…You hardly do yourself justice in your letters. Even things which you over there consider trivial are interesting to us in away because it is the little things that tell, especially when on active service. Bullets are very small things but they play a mighty big part in a man’s life if he happens to get in their way. Things that occur every day in your life interest us because they help us to remember you people all the better and imagine how you are all getting on…
Jack’s mail had followed his battalion to France while he was in hospital. He often contemplated an eventual end to the war and toyed with the idea of joining one of the escorts back to Australia for a short holiday. Determinedly he remained in Egypt; his belief that every man should do his duty was stronger than his desire to return home.
For the next six months Jack worked as part of the Administration team at Ghezireh and then was taken on strength to the 1st Training Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt. He mentions being the permanent line sergeant for 1st Brigade “B” Class at the Base. He obviously enjoyed the hustle and bustle of camp life and of co-ordinating the comings and goings of the various troops
Near Headquarters at Tel el Kebir camp, between Cairo and the Suez Canal, May 1916. The camp here was established for personnel of the First Anzac Corps after they were evacuated from the Gallipoli Peninsula. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
On 10 June 1916 Jack wrote from Perham Downs Camp, England:
…Just a line to let you know that I am safe and sound in England. All the country is beautiful and green. It is like getting a glimpse of Paradise after the Egyptian deserts…
Since the main theatre of the War had now moved to France, it was appropriate that the AIF set up camps in England to co-ordinate the training of new recruits and provide hospitals for the sick, wounded and convalescing. Perham Downs on the Salisbury Plains was the base of the 1st Division. Life was active, besides his normal duties Jack had football and cricket to occupy his spare time. He took trips to London on leave and lived in anticipation of sighting a zeppelin during one of their raids. By October his missing letters began to trickle through and he was delighted.
In October Jack spent three weeks at the School of Musketry at Tidworth where he was trained on the use of the Lewis Gun.
On 13 December 1916, he was taken on strength to France via the Arundel where he joined the 2nd Battalion. In France, he had another couple of stints in hospital due to scabies and rejoined his unit on 16 February 1917.
Jack’s last letter was written on 18 March 1917. He marks it as “with Unit in France”.
My Dear Nellie
Just a line to let you know all’s well, and one is very fortunate in being able to say this in these days of lash on a large scale out here. At least the Huns seem to be yielding to our pressure and getting back home again and everyone is looking forward to the end of the business when we can all get back again and to use the old saying “cultivate the arts of peace”. This retirement has put great heart into the boys and when we come in contact again I am sure that the Huns will feel the full power of our punch once more and I hope it will be a knock out, and la guerre fini (the war is over). I think it will feel strange again when war is mafeesh (no more), and people cease from killing one another, the atmosphere will be too tame and quiet, especially for those who have been engaged in the business for some time. ……….. I don’t mind mixing things with the Huns / when a chap knows what to do but writing letters is quite another matter ……. However, victory looms large on the horizon, and we are going to win in a very short time if possible. But what the future holds of course no one can say but we must look on the bright side of things and prepare for the worst. Trusting you are all ok at Adare …..Yours Jack xxxx
Sergeant Major John Curran, SN387, 2nd Battalion 1st AIF, or “Jack” to all those who knew him, died as he had lived: fighting for The Cause he believed in. On 7 May 1917 he was in a front-line trench at Hermes, France, when a shell exploded sending a piece of shrapnel through his helmet and into his head above his eye. Eleven reports were gathered by the Red Cross from different soldiers who saw him wounded or directly after. Some say he died instantly, others say he died hours later at the nearby dressing station. They all agreed he was “a good soldier” and “one of the finest lads in the Company”. As one soldier said “he was a very popular man and did not know what fear was”.
There is no marked grave for Jack, he is remembered on the Villiers-Bretonneux Memorial in Northern France, the Roll of Honour in Gloucester Historical Museum and panel number 32 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In April 2016 Jarvis Regan, a relative of Jack Curran, travelled to the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France. Jarvis laid a quartz stone from Adare in memory of Jack. The stone is inscribed:
To Jack Curran from Adare station. Euchareena, NSW, Australia
Jarvis Regan with his tribute to Jack Curran, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France, April 2016. Image courtesy Joan and Kel Regan.
Charles King Brothers c1916. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Charles King Brothers was born into a family with a long history of public service; his father was a dentist of international renown, his maternal grandfather, Charles McArthur King was a Governor of Norfolk Island and his great great grandfather was Phillip Gidley King, the third Governor of New South Wales.
Charles was born in Orange in 1897, the first of two children born to Ernest Linwood Brothers and his wife Mary Christiana nee King. A sister, Mavis, was born in Sydney in 1899. The family moved to Rangeville in southern Queensland where Ernest practiced dentistry and Charles attended Rangeville State School. As a teenager, Charles served for four years with the Citizens Military Forces, attaining the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Following his education Charles worked as a draper. In October 1915 he travelled to Toowoomba, where he enlisted. Sapper Brothers embarked from Sydney with the 6th Field Company Engineers, 5th Reinforcements, aboard HMAT Star of Victoria on 31 March 1916, disembarking in Tel-el-Kebir on 5 May. He served in England and France before being taken on strength with the 5th Field Company Engineers in Belgium on 9 September 1916.
In early February 1917 Charles was hospitalised for 12 days suffering from trench foot. He rejoined his unit on 18 February 1917. On 21 April Charles received several gunshot wounds to the left buttock and right foot. He was admitted to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station, where he died the following day of his wounds. He was buried in the Grevillers British Cemetery by the Reverend EG Muschamp.
Charles King Brothers is commemorated on panel number 123 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Forty year old Bertie Tanner arrived in Devonport, England, with the 33rd Battalion on 29 January 1917. Bertie did not see active combat; he died of pneumonia eighteen days later in the Tidworth Military Hospital. The attending medical officer noted: “this was a serious case which progressed rapidly to a fatal termination”.
Bertram Frederick Tanner was born in Molong on 8 January 1876. ‘Bertie’, as he became known, was the third of eight children born to William Tanner and his wife Catherine (Kate) Tanner (nee Archer). William ran a drapery store in Riddell Street, and in 1879 was elected as the first mayor of the newly formed Molong Municipal Council. By 1886 the family had moved to Orange, where William operated a drapers and outfitters business in Summer Street. He also served as an alderman and, in 1892, was elected mayor of Orange.
It seems that Bertie had a history of chest complaints. In November 1899 the Western Champion reported that the 23 year old had contracted a severe case of “water pleurisy” while working at Singleton and had been forced to return home to Orange for treatment. In October 1916, during his time at Rutherford training camp, he was hospitalised with a severe cold.
Bertie enlisted in Walgett on 11 July 1916 and proceeded to Narrabri training camp. He was there for two weeks before being transferred to Armidale. On 2 September he was transferred to Rutherford, and, on 7 November, to Liverpool, in preparation for embarkation.
Private Tanner embarked SS Port Napier at Sydney on 17 November 1916, and disembarked at Devonport on 29 January 1917. The following day the 33rd Battalion was marched into the 9th Training Battalion at Durrington. Two weeks later, on 13 February, a dangerously ill Bertie was admitted to the Tidworth Military Hospital. He passed away three days later, on 16 February, and was buried in the nearby Tidworth Military Cemetery on 19 February.
Upon enlistment Private Tanner had nominated his brother in law, Edgar Albert Tanner, as his next of kin and, in his will, bequeathed his personal effects, bank savings and deferred pay to his nephew, Warren Tanner. In July 1917 Edgar received Bertie’s personal effects, which consisted of one holdall, a housewife, two knives, a pipe, a shaving brush, a hair brush, a polishing brush, a boot pad, cheque forms, a book, postcards, one photograph, one letter, one pair of mittens, his identity discs, a leather belt, watch, three badges, two rings, tobacco pouch and one key.
In May 1921 the Base Records Office wrote to Bertie’s father to inform him that: “the provisions of a Will have no bearing upon the distribution of Medals unless they are specifically mentioned therein”. William Tanner was issued with his son’s war medals in September 1922.
Bertram Frederick Tanner is commemorated on the Orange Public School Honour Roll, the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 123 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. His name also appears on a commemorative plaque on his parents’ grave in Rookwood cemetery, Anglican section.
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 “L Cpl RF Tanner”, presumably Bertie. It was donated by former mayor of Orange, James Stuart Leeds. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Sidney John Fogarty was born in Orange in 1896, the youngest of thirteen children. His parents were Thomas Joseph Fogarty and Alice Mary Hodges. Sidney’s father, Thomas, was a pioneer of the coal industry in NSW, who later operated butcheries in several towns, including Weston, Forbes, Parkes, Warialda and Gloucester. When Sidney was a boy the family moved from Orange to Bathurst, where Thomas opened a butchery.
Sidney was educated at the Patrician Brothers’ School where he served four years in the cadets and militia. In March 1911 14 year old Sid won an award at the Blayney Show for the best exercise book in the school exhibits.
Following his education Sidney went to work for the coachbuilder William Gornall in Russell Street, Bathurst. For the three years prior to his enlistment in August 1915 Sid was employed by AS Low and Co as a cabinetmaker.
Sidney enlisted for service at Lithgow on 3 August 1915. He entered Liverpool training camp and returned to Bathurst in October to farewell his family and friends prior to embarkation.
Private Fogarty embarked HMAT A14 Euripides in Sydney on 2 November 1915 for overseas service. He was taken on strength with the 18th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement, in Egypt in February 1916. Early the following month he was admitted to the 4th Auxiliary Hospital in Cairo with mumps.
On 19 March 1916 Sidney embarked at Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in Marseilles. On 14 November Sid was engaged in battle near Butte de Warlencourt on the Somme when he was shot. He was subsequently reported as wounded and missing.
It was not until 13 December 1916 that the Army contacted Sidney’s mother. Mrs Fogarty was advised that her son had been wounded, but that:
It is not stated as being serious and in the absence of further reports it is to be assumed that all wounded are progressing satisfactorily. It should be understood that if no later advice is received this Department has no further information to give.
I take the liberty of writing a few lines to you to ascertain why the police has called on me to ask me the following questions. Namely, had I received my son’s deferred pay and several other questions. They have notified me to put in for a pension. I understood that no one would be asked questions like those unless the soldier was dead. I have not been advised that my son was dead. I was advised on 13 December 1916 that he was wounded on 14 November and then I got a second report to say he was wounded and missing and they seem to be treating my boy as killed…So Sir, I am very much worried about my son. Will you kindly advise me what has become of my Darling boy as I am a broken hearted mother.
On 15 May 1917 an inquiry determined that Sidney had been killed in action on 14 November 1916. However, a further five months would pass until Mrs Fogarty was advised of her son’s death. To compound Alice’s suffering, her husband, Thomas, passed away in July 1917.
It was not until January 1918 that Alice Fogarty received her son’s personal effects: a shaving brush, a mitten, one housewife, three handkerchiefs, and some letters.
According to his service records Private Fogarty was buried on 1 March 1917 in the vicinity of “The Maze” and “Blue Cut” near Baupaume. His final resting place is Warlencourt British Cemetery in France.
Sidney John Fogarty is commemorated on panel number 172 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Sidney’s brothers William and Thomas served in the Boer War in South Africa in 1902.
To commemorate the first anniversary of Sidney’s death his family inserted the following tribute in the Coffs Harbour Advocate:
His country called and honor bade him go
To battle ‘gainst a grim and deadly foe.
He helped to bring Australia into fame
To build for her a never dying name.
Foremost was he in thickest strife—
For home and country he laid down his life.
Born in Quirindi in 1894, Herbert Vincent McGrath was the fifth of seven children born to James McGrath and Mary Jane Norris. Herbert grew up in Cudal, where he and his siblings attended the local public school.
In February 1916 “Vin”, as he had become known, enlisted at Bathurst. The 21 year old entered Bathurst Training Camp the same day. In April he was assigned to the 45th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement as a private. During his time in camp Vin was inoculated against typhoid.
In April 1916 Vin returned to Cudal for final leave. A farewell social was held in the Cudal Hall, and Vin was presented with a periscope, a razor and two pairs of knitted socks.
On 22 May 1916 Private McGrath embarked HMAT Warilda in Sydney. Vin described the Warilda as “a fine boat”, saying he had “a very enjoyable time on board”, declaring: “I eat like a horse and am getting as fat as a pig.” He also described the generous hospitality he received in Durban, where one hundred men in his unit were invited to Dr Campbell’s house for dinner where they were waited on by “very nice girls”, who later showed them round the town.
Private McGrath arrived in Plymouth on 18 July 1916. The following day he was marched into the 12th Training Battalion at Rollestone to undertake further training, including bomb-throwing. During a leave of absence to London Vin witnessed a zeppelin being shot down. He described this in a letter home as “the grandest sight of all”:
We were nice and cosy in our beds. About 2 a.m. I was awakened by the blowing of a loud whistle. Running out into the street I saw search lights playing in all directions. Soon the Zeppelin was picked up and shells began bursting around it. It appeared to get hit on the side. It took fire, and descended in flames like a ball of fire, lighting up the place for miles around. It caused great excitement. I tried to get to it, but could not on account of the crush.
Vin concluded his letter:
We will be leaving in a few days for France, which they tell me is a beautiful country.
On 5 September Vin embarked for France; he arrived in Etaples a week later, on 11 September 1916. On 21 November men of the 45th Battalion were engaged holding the line at Gueudecourt, near Bapaume, where they were subjected to heavy enemy artillery. Private McGrath was the only man killed by enemy fire that day; five others were wounded. He has no known grave.
Herbert Vincent McGrath is commemorated on Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France, the Cudal District Honour Roll, the Cudal and District War Memorial Gates, the Toogong War Memorial and on panel number 140 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Herbert’s brothers John Edward McGrath and Bertie Augustus McGrath also served in WWI. John returned to Australia in February 1919, and Bertie in June 1919.
Charles Henri Condell was born in Ireland in 1890, the youngest of six children born to Thomas Condell and his wife Sarah (nee Macartney). In August 1906, 16 year old Charles joined the British Navy. He was a sailor for five years, until migrating to Australia with his older brother, Thomas, in 1911.
The brothers settled initially in Orange, where Thomas worked as chief clerk for solicitor Donald Pilcher at Russell Chambers in Lords Place. In 1914 they moved to Canowindra, where Thomas established his own solicitor’s practice.
In December 1915 Charles travelled to Cootamundra to enlist in WWI. He was 23 years of age and working as a farm labourer at the time. Charles trained at Cootamundra and Goulburn camps, and, in June 1916, embarked from Sydney for overseas service, a private in the 56th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement.
Private Condell disembarked in Plymouth on 25 August 1916, and was appointed Acting Corporal the same day. He proceeded to the Western Front in mid October and was taken on strength with the 56th Battalion at the Somme on 2 November 1916.
One month later, on 2 December 1916, Charles was killed in action at Cow Trench, Bapaume, the victim of a bullet wound to the head. He was buried at the nearby Bancourt British Cemetery.
Charles Henri Condell is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll and on panel number 162 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 “Capt CH Condell”; it was donated by Charles’ brother Thomas McCartney (Mac) Condell, Orange Municipal Councillor and solicitor, who also served in WWI.
Raymond Sylvester Lord was born in 1890 in Cargo, a son of Edward and Alice Lord. From 1898 to 1904 Raymond his older brother Claude attended school in Cumnock where their father Edward was a Senior Constable. Raymond later attended the Patrician Brothers School in Orange.
Raymond was working as a clerk in Wallerawang when he enlisted at Liverpool on 16 February 1915. He was 25 years old, and listed his father Edward Lord, of Parkes, as next of kin. He embarked from Sydney on HMAT Ceramic A40 on 25 June 1915 with the 18th Battalion.
The 18th Battalion trained in Egypt and landed at Anzac Cove on 22 August 1915. Private Raymond Lord was wounded in action on that day, hit by a sniper while he was in a lying position, with the bullet hitting his left hip and grazing his right hip. He was transferred to Mudros the same day, and then to Malta on 27 August 1915. On 13 September 1915 he was transferred to England on Hospital Ship (HS) Panama and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth.
Private Lord recovered from his injuries and reported to his unit at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt, on 13 January 1916. The 18th Battalion joined the British Expeditionary Force and embarked from Alexandria on 18 March 1916, disembarking at Marseilles on 25 March. On 24 June 1916, he was AWL for 35 hours and received 168 hours Field Punishment No 2.
The 18th Battalion took part in its first major battle at Pozieres between 25 July and 5 August 1916. Private Lord was wounded again on 4 August, with gunshot wounds to his left hand. He was admitted to a Casualty Clearing Station on 5 August and then transferred by train to No 8 General Hospital, Rouen, on 6 August. On 24 August he marched into the Australian Divisional Base Depot at Etaples, France. The battalion returned to the Pozieres trenches for a second time in late August. After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, the 2nd Division, including the 5th Brigade, moved south again in October.
On 7 November 1916 the 18th Battalion was stationed near Ribemont, a small town located in the French region of Picardie. The Battalion diary for 7 November states:
Trenches in fearful condition. Mud everywhere and knee keep in trenches. Men suffering badly from wet and cold…
Snipers were very active and shelling fairly heavy, particularly along Turk Lane and sunken road. Raining practically all day.
Private Raymond Lord died from multiple shell wounds received in action on 15 November 1916, aged 26 years, at the 4th Australian Field Ambulance, France. He was buried at Bernafay Wood British Cemetery, Montauban, France. His father later received his 1914-15 Star Medal, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
At the time of his death, Raymond’s brother, 395 Sergeant Claude Lord – 4th Infantry Battalion, was serving in Belgium with the Anzac Provost Police Corps. Raymond’s elder brother, 4700 Private Roy Lord – 18th Battalion, had enlisted on 1 January 1916 and was awarded the Military Medal for assisting in saving wounded men under heavy fire on 9 August 1918 near Rainecourt, France. Private Roy Lord survived the war and returned to Australia on 5 April 1919. Claude returned to Australia in December 1918.
Raymond Sylvester Lord is commemorated on the Cumnock Public School WWI Honour Board, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 86 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 RS Lord”; it was donated by Orange High School. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Edward and Helena had married in 1878 in Goulburn, where Edward was the landlord of the Great Southern Hotel. The couple travelled around the state somewhat; their children were born in Windsor, Berrima, Bathurst, Orange and Goulburn. They later settled in Waverley in Sydney.
William attended Bondi Superior Public School and later served a six-year plumbing apprenticeship with Alex Hart in Kensington. He also completed two years with the Citizen Military Forces, in the Machine Gun Corps, Eastern Suburbs Infantry. It was here that William obtained the highest score in the winning team of the first Rifle Shooting Competition held by the Commonwealth Militia Forces.
William and his older brother, Edward George Heathcote Brook, enlisted together on 11 February 1916. William joined the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company as a sapper, embarking from Sydney on 20 February and arriving in France on 5 May 1916. The following month he spent a week in the 2nd New Zealand Field Ambulance receiving treatment for scabies.
On 10 November 1916 the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company was conducting operations at Berlin Shaft, Hill 60, near Ypres in Belgium. It was here that William was killed in action. The circumstances surrounding his death are unclear. Ironically, William’s brother, Edward, embarked for overseas service on 11 November 1916 – the day after William’s death.
On 18 December 1916 William’s father wrote a letter to the Minister of Defence requesting that Edward be advised of his William’s death before disembarking. He was informed that that this was impossible, and was advised to send a cable that he would receive upon arrival.
For the last few years Mr. Brook had suffered from a weak heart.
His end was hastened by the death of Sapper Brook.
In August 1917 Helena Brook received her son’s personal effects: his identity disc, mirror, diary, purse, pocket wallet, Testament, handkerchief, metal ring, swastika charm, photographs, cards, six coins and a letter.
William James Heathcote Brook is commemorated on Waverley Soldier’s Memorial 1914-1918 in Waverley Park and on panel number 26 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Martin O’Neill was born at Cargo in 1892, the son of Daniel and Lavinia (or Levinia) O’Neill (nee Morse). Daniel and Lavinia married in 1878 and had ten children: five sons and five daughters. They moved from Cargo to the property Glenview at Cumnock in about 1913.
Martin attended school at Cudal and completed a three-year apprenticeship as a baker in Cudal. In the 1916 electoral roll for Calare, Martin O’Neill is listed as working as a labourer at Burgoon, Cumnock. His parents and siblings, James and Catherine, were listed as living at Glenview, Cumnock.
Martin O’Neill enlisted at Cumnock on 30 March 1916 and was medically examined by Dr Ivie Aird. He stated that his occupation was a baker and his next of kin his mother, Lavinia O’Neil. He was 5 feet 7½ inches tall, had fair hair and complexion, blue eyes and was of the Church of England religious denomination.
Private O’Neill trained at a camp in Cootamundra and had weekend leave in Cumnock in July 1916. The Molong Express and Western District Advertiser of 2 September 1916 reported:
Pte Martin O’Neil, son of Mr and Mrs D O’Neil, of ‘Glen View,’ Cumnock, who has been employed by Mr W Evers at Molong for some time past, was entertained by a large number of friends at the Parish Hall on Monday, and presented with a combination cutlery kit. Pte.O’Neil, who was on final leave, returned to camp on Tuesday, being played off by the band and enthusiastically farewelled by friends at the station.
On 7 October 1916 the Molong Express also reported:
Ptes Harold Wythes and Martin O’Neill, old school mates, expect to sail also. God speed to them and a safe return.
Sadly, neither would return.
Privates O’Neill and Wythes embarked from Sydney on HMAT Ceramic A40, on 7 October 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth on 21 November 1916. Private O’Neill spent time training at Larkhill Camp on the Salisbury Plain and as part of the 1st Australian Divisional Base Depot, proceeded from Folkestone to France on 15 February 1917. He was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 11 March 1917.
Private O’Neill was wounded in action with a gunshot wound to his right shoulder on 5 May 1917 and hospitalised in France. He returned to the 3rd Battalion on 4 June 1917. On 22 August 1917 he was buried by a shell bursting on his dugout in a support line near Hooge, Belgium. It took some time before he was dug out and he suffered the effects of shell shock.
Martin was hospitalised in Belgium and returned to the 3rd Battalion on 3 October 1917 at Broodseinde, Belgium. The following day he was found dead, killed by another shell burst. Between 2–8 October 1917, the 3rd Battalion suffered 54 soldiers killed in action and some 180 wounded in action.
The following letter was written to Miss Amy Webb of Wellington, a friend of Martin’s, by Corporal William Jacques of the 3rd Battalion, and published in the Molong Express and Western District Advertiser on 10 August 1918:
The Late Pte. M. O’Neill – How He Met His Death
If what I am about to write will cause you any comfort, I shall be glad of it, for Martin’s sake. He and I enjoyed only a short period together — a few months only — but long enough for me to find what a splendid fellow he was. We were very close chums from the moment we met, and though I am a much older man than he was, we seemed to have much in common with each other.
He, as you must know, was a splendid type of a young Australian, both as a man and a soldier, and it was his unselfish nature and his great sense of duty to his comrades that led him to his death. We went into action together on the 20th September, and on the 21st he was the means of saving my life. We always carried our rations together, and after he had prepared Lieut. Smith’s meal he called to me to have my meal with them. I luckily obeyed the call, and 20 secs after a large shell fell where I had been standing and blew my belongings and half a ton or so of earth skywards.
Shortly after we moved up to take over the front line, and poor old Martin received a bad dose of shell-shock. When he was carried out we never expected he would come back, and we sincerely hoped he would get home; but it was not to be, for after being in hospital a short while he asked to be sent back to his Battalion. When he arrived at our transport lines he found we were in the line again and also that three ration parties had been knocked out trying to get rations through to us. He, with several others who came back with him, at once volunteered to try their luck and bring food to us. They succeeded, and got through to us with the food about 9 o’clock on the night of Oct. 6th. [Date is an error and should be October 3rd]
Poor old Martin found out where I was, and came over to me. It was raining very heavily at the time, and we had rigged a little shelter over our trenches, and we wanted Martin to share it with us; but as there was not room for two others that came with him he decided to find another place. This he succeeded in doing; the place they found being a small dug-out that had been used by the Hun before we advanced, and situated a few yards to the rear of our trench. It was here we found them on the morning of the 7th Oct. [Date is an error and should be October 4th]. They had rolled themselves up in their blankets, and were evidently killed in their sleep by a shell that had fallen right at their heads. There was no possibility of there being any lingering pain; death must have been instantaneous. We buried him where he fell, about 1½ miles east of Zonnebeke.
His death was a great blow to the lads, and we felt that many of us could have been better spared. He was liked and respected by all his comrades, and a straighter, cleaner living lad never left Australia. He showed no fear, and was as bright and happy as possible while in the line. I was and am very proud of the fact that I was his chum, even though for only so short a time…
The Molong Argus of 9 November 1917 reported that a special service of intercession was to be held at Molong on 11 November as a memorial to Lieutenant KM Day and Privates H Wythes, M O’Neill, A Aubrey and F Taylor, all of whom had been recently killed in France.
Martin O’Neill is commemorated on panel 7 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium, the Cumnock War Memorial Gates; the Molong RSL Honour Roll and on panel number 37 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
William Francis O’Neill was born at Cargo in 1896, the son of Daniel and Lavinia (or Levinia) O’Neill (nee Morse). Daniel and Lavinia married in 1878 and had ten children: five sons and five daughters. They moved from Cargo to the property Glenview at Cumnock in about 1913.
Daniel O’Neill was a member of the Cumnock branch of the Farmers and Settlers’ Association. He grew wheat at Yullundry in 1921 and in 1923 the National Advocate (Bathurst) reported that he had successfully experimented with cotton-growing.
William attended school at Cudal. In 1914 local newspapers reported him playing football (as a forward) for the Cumnock Junior team against neighbouring town teams. By 1915 he was playing for the Cumnock Seniors. William was also a member of the Cumnock Druid’s Lodge.
William O’Neill enlisted at Cumnock on 1 June 1916 and was medically examined by Dr Ivie Aird. He stated that his age was 19 years and 7 months, occupation was a baker and that he had been an apprentice for three months at Lithgow. His next of kin was his mother, Lavinia O’Neil. He was medically re-examined at Dubbo on 7 June and was 5 feet 8¾ inches tall, had fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and was of the Roman Catholic religious denomination.
While training at a Bathurst camp, William was charged with two offences. The first offence was ‘overstaying his leave’ on 30 July 1916. The second offence was ‘talking on parade’ on 29 August. He was confined to barracks for one day for the first offence and cautioned for the second offence. His charge sheet noted that his general character was ‘good’.
On Monday last the parents of Pte W O’Neill received word from the military authorities to the effect that their son had been seriously injured by being stabbed in the back with a knife, and was lying in the Bathurst Hospital. On Monday last, Chas Henry Hall, 38 years, a horse dealer, was charged at the Bathurst Police Court with inflicting grievous bodily harm on William O’Neill. Hall was remanded.
Chas Henry Hall was subsequently sentenced to six months imprisonment.
Private William O’Neill sailed from Sydney on 25 October 1916 on HMAS Ascanius A11. On 1 November 1916 he was charged with ‘smoking below decks’ and awarded 14 days detention.
The troops disembarked at Devonport on 28 December 1916. The trip had been longer than usual as the Ascanius stayed in Cape Town for five days and in Sierra Leone for fourteen days, a trip of over nine weeks. Gunner Philip Tarlinton described the journey in a letter published in the Tweed Daily. Of the soldiers’ on board activities he said:
Every conceivable kind of sport, compatible with the limited deck space available, has be provided for, such as tugs-o’-war, foot runnings, teams racing, boxing, single-sticks, cock-fighting, quoits, wrestling, etc, whilst musical competitions are held at night time, when prizes are awarded for vocal items, recitations, pianoforte and mouth-organ competitions. Added to these are the physical culture parades, three of one hour each every day, Sundays excepted.
[The Ascanius] followed an auxiliary cruiser out of port, and soon we had left Freetown and Sierra Leone behind. In a few days the weather became cool. After leaving port we travelled in a dark ship, and wore life belts continually except at night when they were close by us for the rest of the voyage. When we reached more dangerous waters several destroyers, in addition to the cruiser, escorted us. At length on a cold, misty morning we sighted the shores of England. Destroyers in great numbers, and several mine sweepers escorted us into Devonport. Late at night we disembarked and were entrained to camp… We were glad to be on the land again, however, for a voyage of over nine weeks becomes very monotonous, especially when freedom of movement is curtailed for several days.
Private O’Neill was stationed with the 14th Training Battalion at Hurdcott after arrival. He was admitted to hospital on 24 January 1917 with tonsillitis. He returned to Hurdcott ten days later, on 2 February.
He proceeded overseas to France on 28 February 1917 and was stationed at Etaples until joining the 19th Battalion on 23 March, stationed at Grévillers, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France. By 30 March the 10th Battalion had relieved other battalions in the line and had moved onto Fricourt, in the Somme department in Picardie in Northern France. On 1 May they moved onto Noreuil and relieved the 28th Battalion as support on the Hindenburg Line to the right of Bullecourt.
According to the 19th Battalion’s diary for May 1917 the final arrangements were made for the battalion to join the attack on the Hindenburg Line in what was to be called the Second Bullecourt Battle. At zero hour of 3.45am on 3 May the 19th formed up on the right flank of the attack and what followed was a huge disaster for the battalion. The Germans shelled the oncoming soldiers and those who survived the shelling and reached the wire were all bunched up and were met with heavy machine gun fire. During the day time, it was impossible to get runners forward or back across No Man’s Land, owing to the heavy machine gun fire; and, owing to the great number of casualties among officers and other ranks, it was impossible to obtain clear statements as to what actually occurred in the attack.
Fourteen officers and about 550 ordinary ranks of the 19th Battalion took part in the attack. 359 casualties were sustained during the attack: 21 killed, 221 wounded and 117 missing.
Private William O’Neill was reported as ‘Missing in Action’ on 3 May 1917. It wasn’t until after a military inquiry was held on 11 December 1917, that he was declared as ‘killed in action’.
On Tuesday last the Rev. Father Lawler received word from the military authorities, Victoria Barracks, announcing that Private William O’Neill, son of Mr and Mrs O’Neill, of Cumnock, who was reported missing in May last, was killed in action on May 3rd, 1917, and asking the rev. gentleman to convey the sad news to the deceased soldier’s parents. Father Lawler went out to the residence of the O’Neill family and delivered the message to the sorrow stricken mother, who, however, was somewhat prepared for the sad tidings, as a letter had been received from a comrade stating that he saw Private O’Neill fall.
It appears that one of William’s brothers, James, was not giving up hope about the news; in March 1918 he advertised in the Sun:
Mr James M. O’Neill, of Glenview, Cumnock, would be glad to hear from any returned soldier who could give him any news of his brother (No. 2959a, Private William O’Neill). He has been missing since May, 3, 1917, at the battle of Bullecourt.
On 4 March 1918 Private J O’Neill, 297, 19th Battalion, A Company, 3rd Platoon informed the Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau at Le Havre of the circumstances surrounding William’s death:
He was in A Company, 3rd Platoon. I was told by Private Sid. Arianson [156 Ariansen, Anton Sydney] when we were with the Battalion at Bapaume, about May 5th, that he was with O’Neill at Bullecourt. They had gone over the top about 200 yards when a shell burst near O’Neill and he was hit in the chest. We did not carry out our objective on that occasion. A heavy bombardment was going on for days after… I knew O’Neill he was very tall, thick set, fair haired, with a moustache. Played football a bit.
William Francis O’Neill is commemorated on St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll, the Cumnock War Memorial Gates; the Molong RSL Honour Roll and on panel number 89 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
William’s brother, Martin O’Neill also served in WWI; he was killed in action in Belgium in October 1917.