Thomas Robert Rae. Image courtesy University of Sydney Archives.
The service record of Thomas Robert Rae SN 2424 tells very little about his service during World War One. The small amount of information briefly documents that he was in Egypt, went to France, spent time on furlough in England and on his return five months later was killed in action on 30 October 1917.
A letter dated 6 February 1918 from his mother to the Sydney University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Mining and Metallurgy in 1905, reiterates his own words regarding his time at the Western Front:
Our division went into action at Fromelles 10th July 1916. We lost in that stint 69 PC in casualties. We stayed there for 3 months and in August we went to the Somme. On Nov 5th we were again in a stunt near High Wood and immediately afterwards we came out for a spell to a little village called Cardonette about 4 miles from Amiens, there we went to a place called Waterlot Farm on the edge of the renowned Delville Wood. We went to Flers and Goudecourt [sic] in March, the Australians got to Bapaume on the 17th of March 1917 there we followed up the Infantry through Bapaume, Fremicourt, Le Boucherie and Beau Metz. This is where I left to go back to camp just outside Bapaume then came our leave.
Thomas Robert Rae was born in Orange on 18 January 1880. He was the son of George Rae (born in Roxborough, Scotland) and Margaret Bullock, who had married in Orange in 1866. The family resided at Icely but by 1881 had moved to Sydney as his father’s death is recorded there in 1881.
Thomas attended Paddington Public School, then Scots College prior to enrolling in his University course. Before his enlistment on 30 August 1915 he was the Chief Surveyor at the Great Cobar Mines. His death recorded in the Daily Telegraph on 8 December 1917 stated:
He was offered a commission as captain, but he preferred to go as a sapper
Thomas embarked at Sydney for Egypt on 11 December 1915 via HMAT RMS Mooltan as part of the 12th Reinforcements of the 14th Field Company Engineers going to Tel-el-Kebir. He spent six months in Egypt prior to embarking Kinfauns Castle at Alexandria for Marseilles in June 1916. Apart from two weeks’ furlough in England Thomas spent the rest of his time surveying trenches at the front.
Sapper Thomas Robert Rae was killed in action on 30 October 1917. Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Files contain several reports of his death. He was repairing a pill-box on Westhoek Ridge at the time and was one of the eight men who died. A further five men were wounded.
Major Henry Bachtold of the 14th Field Company of Engineers wrote to Thomas’ mother on 13 November 1917 informing her of her son’s death:
I very much regret having to inform you that your son Sapper Thomas Robert Rae was killed in action on the morning of Tuesday October 30th 1917.
A high explosive shell burst close to him and his death was instantaneous.
He was buried close to where he was hit and his grave is alongside the Westhoek – Zonnebeke Road at a cross roads some 1000 yards east of the cross roads in Westhoek.
Your son had done excellent survey work for the Company and his loss is regretted by all.
Please accept my deepest sympathy
There is no known grave for Sapper Thomas Robert Rae SN 2424. He is commemorated on panel 7 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium, on panel number 24 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, on the University of Sydney War Memorial Carillon and on the Sydney University Beyond 1914 website.
Thomas Cravino was born in Mullion Creek in 1892 to gold prospector Thomas Cravino snr and his wife Elizabeth nee Smith. He was educated at the Wellington Public School and was later employed by Thomas Rowe of North Wellington.
In October 1915 Thomas travelled to Holsworthy to enlist in the First World War. He was assigned to the 19th Battalion, 9th Reinforcement as a private.
Private Cravino embarked for overseas service in January 1916. He served in Egypt for one month, until joining the British Expeditionary Force and proceeding to the Western Front in France.
In late May Private Cravino was wounded in action, sustaining a gunshot to the lower back. He was transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Harefield, England, and later to the Convalescent Depot in Epsom.
In October 1916 Thomas was taken on strength with the 5th Training Battalion. He rejoined his battalion in France in June 1917.
Thomas was admitted to the 54th General Hospital in December 1917 with bursitis and bronchitis. Six weeks later he was again transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Harefield for treatment. After a period of furlough Thomas rejoined his unit in France in May 1918.
Thomas Cravino was killed in action on 29 August 1918 during the Battle of Mont Saint-Quentin. He is commemorated on panel number 88 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Thomas’ brother William also served in WWI; he returned to Australia in July 1918.
Spencer William Coleman was born at Wheeo, near Gunning, in May 1880, one of thirteen children born to Charles William Coleman and his wife Maria Selmes. Young Spencer attended the local public school and later trained as a police officer.
In 1903 Spencer married Emily Pole at Kogarah in Sydney.
During 1911 and 1912 Police Constable Coleman was stationed in Orange. During this time he was an active member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. In 1913 he was transferred to Forbes. Constable Coleman remained in Forbes until January 1915 when he was transferred to Paddington as a detective.
Constable Coleman enlisted for war service in July 1915. He noted on his attestation papers that he had served in the police force for a period of 14 years.
Spencer embarked from Sydney in April 1916, a private in the 30th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement. Private Coleman served in England for a year before proceeding to the Western Front in France. He was hospitalised twice during this time; in August 1916 with influenza, and in February 1917 with bronchitis.
Private Coleman proceeded to France in late April 1917 and was transferred to the 29th Battalion in early May.
On 1 February Private Coleman received a promotion to Lieutenant.
On 9 August 1918 the 29th Battalion was engaged in the advance on Vauvillers, part of the Battle of Amiens. Lieutenant Coleman was one of three officers killed that day. The commanding officer noted:
Great bravery was exhibited by all ranks in advancing against extremely heavy machine gun fire and ultimately silencing all opposition.
Shortly before his death Lieutenant Coleman wrote a letter to his old friend in Orange, Arnold T Caldwell. He said:
Just a few lines to let you know I am in the best of health, and still endeavouring to do my bit towards helping in this awful struggle, which is ever in progress over here … What sort of season have we been having round Orange? How are the crops, including the fruit? How is the Foresters’ lodge getting on, and all our old friends? I am awfully thankful to you all for your great kindness in sending me the parcels. They always arrive at the right time—just when the tobacco supply is getting low, or when one feels he would like a change in the rations … I am anxiously awaiting my leave to England, and, with anything like good luck, I should be there in about five weeks. It is a great change to go away from the roar of battle for only a few days …
Spencer William Coleman is commemorated on the Ancient Order of Foresters Orange Roll of Honor, the Crookwell War Memorial, on his parents’ grave in Crookwell Cemetery, and on panel number 115 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 “Lieut TW Coleman, presumably Spencer”. It was donated by the Ancient Order of Foresters. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Spencer’s brother, Leslie Raswell Elton Coleman also served in WWI; he died of wounds in Belgium in September 1917.
Howard Vivian Hawke. Image courtesy Sydney Morning Herald.
Howard Vivian Hawke served overseas for just seven months before being killed in action on the second day of the Battle of Amiens on the Western Front in France.
Howard was born in Orange on 27 June 1896, one of five children of Francis and Evangeline Hawke of Glenluna orchard on Pinnacle Road in the foothills of Mount Canobolas. Glenluna was one of the district’s first orchards; it was established in 1846.
Howard and his siblings attended Orange District School. The school was located 6.5 km away, and the children would walk there and back. Following his education Howard worked on the family orchard. He was also a keen tennis player and a member of the Methodist Tennis Club.
In September 1917 Howard enlisted in the First World War. According to his attestation papers his previous military experience consisted of five years with the cadets and serving as a Lieutenant with the 42nd Battalion Militia in Orange.
Private Howard Hawke left Sydney on HMAT A38 Ulysses on 19 December 1917 and disembarked in Suez on 16 January 1918. He proceeded to England via Italy and France and spent three months with the 5th Training Battalion at Fovant.
Private Hawke was taken on strength with the 18th Battalion in France on 28 May 1918. In early August the battalion was preparing for the united Allied counteroffensive at Amiens. At 9pm on 7 August 1918 the commanding officer recorded in the battalion diary:
3.48 am All Coys are on the tape and quite ready
4.11am Tanks heard just tuning up and starting
4.15am Very heavy fog descending
4.20am Barrage opens
4.25am Very little retaliation
5.00am No retaliation coming over
5.20am Infantry have passed through but are finding difficulty in keeping direction as the fog is very thick
6.00am 13 prisoners at 17th Battalion HQ
6.20am No news through. Fog still very thick. Impossible to see more than about 10 yards
7.20am 17th Battalion stretcher bearers report verbally that 17th Battalion are well through the village of Warfusee and have met with little opposition
8.10am Artillery, Armoured Cars and Cavalry moving along the main road. No activity on the part of the enemy noticeable.
11.00am Information to date: A, B, C and D Coys have all reached the Green Line (2nd Objective) with very little opposition and consolidated.
The 18th Battalion continued their advance in the Battle of Amiens, capturing many prisoners and seizing German weapons, ammunition and supplies. At midnight the Commanding Officer noted:
Still in position in front of Warfusee
And on the morning of 9 August:
A quiet night for the Battalion and all benefitted by the night’s rest
At 9.40am the order was received “prepare to move”. The battalion continued their advance towards Mont St Quentin, meeting with little enemy resistance. At about 5.30pm as they approached the village of Framerville Private Howard Hawke was hit by enemy fire, killed instantly by a bullet to the head. He was one of nine men from the 18th Battalion to die that day. He was later buried at Heath Military Cemetery at Harbonnieres.
Howard Vivian Hawke is commemorated on the Methodist Church Orange Honour Roll, on panel number 85 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux 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 “Pte HV Hawke”; it was donated by AE Warburton. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Howard’s youngest sister, Vera, went on to manage Glenluna, becoming the first woman orchardist in NSW.
Captain William John Rae, 3rd Battalion Imperial Camel Corps, was killed on 27 March 1917 at El Mandar near Gaza, Egypt. This was his first time under fire. He was standing speaking to another officer 1600 yards from the enemy line when he was hit in the groin by the nose cap of a shell. According to the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files, over a dozen of his men reported that he did not die immediately but rather was taken to the Dressing Station and died later that day. Reports of his burial are vague but most agreed that it was in the wadi behind the Dressing Station. Supposedly the grave was marked with a white cross but this could not be located a couple of weeks later.
William Rae enlisted in Fremantle, Western Australia, on 19 August 1915 at the age of 43, having already spent two years in the Civil Service Corps (4th Battalion in Western Australia). At this time his rank was 2nd Lieutenant. He embarked via HMAT Hororato A20 on 1 October 1915, and was seconded to the Imperial Camel Corps on 20 February 1916. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 21 March 1916 and then to Temporary Captain whilst commanding the Base Depot ICC in October 1916, his duties being Paymaster and Details Captain. By January 1917 he was full Captain and charged with establishing the command Base Depot for Company 3 in Abbassia. In February 1917 he was attached to the Australian Reserve ICC at El Arish.
William John Rae was the eldest son of William Allwood and Florence Rae of Glenroy, Bathurst Road, Orange. He was born in Swan Hill, Victoria, on 11 June 1872. His family had moved from Forbes when his father took up a position as a licenced surveyor in the Orange district. Two of his brothers, George Huntley Rae, and Norman Dunstan Rae also joined the AIF and saw service overseas. On enlistment William Rae gave his occupation as a licenced surveyor and place of residence as Albany, Western Australia. He had married Nora Mitchell in 1903 in Bunbury and, according to the newspaper report of his death, had four children.
William’s parents were actively involved in the war effort in Orange. Florence, his mother, made jams for the Red Cross and according to the Orange Leader in June 1915 his parents had placed their home at the disposal of wounded New South Wales heroes, offering to take up to eight soldiers. They were the first family in the district to do so and the second in western New South Wales.
Captain William John Rae was held in high regard in his home town of Albany. The Mount Barker and Denmark Record documents a meeting of the Toc H at the Albert Hall on 21 June 1930 where “The Rae Lamp” was “kindled into flame” for the first time. The lamp was dedicated to the memory of the Captain.
Captain William John Rae is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, the WWI Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, and on panel 59 of the Jerusalem Memorial in Israel. In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. One was planted in honour of “Capt WJ Rae” and was donated by J Nancarrow. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
* Sharon Jameson, August 2018
No 1 Battalion, Imperial Camel Corps leaving El Kharga, Egypt, c1917. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
Both brothers served overseas, but only Charles returned; John was killed in action on the Western Front on 29 July 1918.
John and Charles were born in Lucknow where their father Claude Hubert – aka Charles – was manager of the Anna Mine. The boys were educated at Shadforth Public School. In 1900 their mother Caroline passed away. John was just five years old at the time, and Charles, seven. In about 1914 Charles and his boys moved to Portland, where Charles snr found work at the Boulder Mine.
At the time of his enlistment John was working as a cement worker and served with the 41st Battalion Militia. He embarked HMAT A46 Clan MacGillivray in Sydney on 3 May 1916. After a brief stopover in Alexandria he arrived in Southampton on 9 August 1916. Two days later Private Roberts was admitted to Fargo Hospital at Lark Hill suffering from pneumonia.
Upon his recovery John proceeded to France. He was taken on strength with the 53rd Battalion on 26 October 1916, six weeks after his brother Charles had arrived in France.
In early November John was taken to the 39th Casualty Clearing Station with mumps. He was transferred to the 25th Stationary Hospital at Rouen, and did not rejoin his unit until 20 December 1916.
In July 1917 Private Roberts undertook two weeks training at Sniper School. He rejoined the 53rd Battalion on 22 July and was wounded in action just five days later. John was admitted to 3rd Casualty Clearing Station with gunshot wounds to the left forearm and evacuated to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Dartford, England. He was released from hospital and marched in to No 2 Command Depot at Weymouth on 22 October 1917.
Private Roberts rejoined his unit in France on 10 April 1918. On 29 July 1918 Private John Roberts was charging German trenches near Morlancourt when a shell fragment penetrated his chest, killing him instantly. He was 22 years old.
In April 1921 Charles Roberts snr returned to Orange to erect a commemorative plaque for John on his wife’s grave in Orange Cemetery. The plaque is located in the Catholic Section TF at Grave 300.
John Francis Roberts is also commemorated on the Shadforth Public School honour roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, on panel number 158 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.
John Francis Roberts commemorative plaque. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.
Born in Orange on 11 January 1887, Keith William Evans was the second of four children of William Cunningham Evans and Harriet Priscilla nee Mackey, who had married in Balmain in 1883.
Keith’s father, William, was a journalist who had purchased the Orange Advocate newspaper in 1878. The family moved to Sydney following the William’s bankruptcy in 1890. Keith’s mother Harriet died in Balmain in October 1903, and William less than three months later, in February 1904.
On 15 September 1908 Keith, aged 21 years, enlisted in the Australian Naval Force. He served for five years as a stoker, 2nd class, aboard the Pyramus. Keith returned to Sydney following his engagement and resumed work as a station hand.
In November 1915 Keith enlisted for service in WWI, doing so at Casula. He nominated his sister Madeline (aka Madge) as his next of kin. He embarked HMAT A15 Star of England in Sydney on 8 March 1916, a private in the 4th Battalion, 15th Reinforcement.
Private Evans was transferred to the 56th Battalion at Serapeum in Egypt in April 1916, before proceeding to France in July.
In October 1917 Keith attended the Bomb School of Instruction, and, in January 1917, was detached to 14th Brigade Mining Company.
In mid July 1918 the 56th Battalion was stationed hear Bray on the Somme, conducting patrols along the enemy wire checking for gaps. On 18 July Captain Williamson recorded in the battalion’s diary:
The 55th Battalion relieved us tonight. It was a nasty wet night and the trenches were very sloppy. The relief was complete by 1.25am. Pte Evans, KW of B Company was killed. 3 other ranks were wounded.
The details surrounding Private Evans’ death are unknown.
Keith William Evans is commemorated on panel number 162 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Four members of the Harrison family from Lucknow volunteered to serve in the First World War. One of them – Thomas Harrison – did not return; he was killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux in France on 17 July 1918, at age 24.
Thomas was born in Lucknow in 1893. His father, Frederick, had arrived in Australia in March 1885 and was employee of the Wentworth Mine at Lucknow. By the late 1890s the family had relocated to Neutral Bay in Sydney, where Thomas attended the public school.
On 1 February 1916 Thomas enlisted at Casula. He gave his occupation as a slater and tiler and nominated his mother Annie Eliza as his next of kin. He embarked for overseas service on 9 April and disembarked at Plymouth on 7 June after a brief stopover in Alexandria, Egypt, to change ships.
Thomas undertook further training at the 5th Training Battalion before proceeding to France on 17 August, a private in the 19th Battalion, 11th Reinforcement.
On 16 November 1916 Private Harrison was wounded in action, receiving a gunshot wound to the left shoulder. He was evacuated to England where he was hospitalised and rehabilitated, followed by three weeks of furlough. He then spent ten months at Perham Downs before rejoining his battalion in Belgium on 14 October 1917.
Nine days later Thomas was shot for a second time, this time in the right arm. He was admitted initially to the 3rd Canadian General Hospital, but was again transferred to England for treatment. He did not rejoin his unit for a further four months.
At daybreak on 17 July 1918 the 19th Battalion succeeded in capturing a German post near Villers-Bretonneux. Private Harrison was stretcher-bearing, transporting a wounded German soldier to safety when he was hit by an enemy shell, killing him instantly. Thomas was buried in the nearby Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.
In 1912 Joseph and Martha Ann Parrish emigrated from Wales to Australia and settled in the Newcastle district. Six years later they would lose two of their sons within seven days of each other, both victims of the hostilities on the Western Front.
On 16 October 1915 Joseph Parrish jnr joined the Coo-ee Recruitment March at Wellington. He completed his medical at Wellington, and was attested by Captain Nicholas at Orange on the 24 October 1915. At the time of his enlistment Joseph was living at Creek Reserve, Boolaroo, where he was employed at the colliery.
After completing the Coo-ee March Joseph proceeded to Liverpool Camp as a reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. On 8th March 1916 Private Parrish and his fellow Coo-ees departed Sydney on the HMAT A15 Star of England, arriving in Egypt on 11 April.
On the 16 April 1916 Joseph was transferred to the 4th Pioneer Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. Six weeks later, on 4 June, he embarked HT Scotian at Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in Marseilles, France.
Private Parrish was transferred to the 4th Machine Gun Company on 12 May 1918. On 10 June 1918 the company was engaged near Villers-Bretonneux when Joseph received a gunshot wound to the neck. He was admitted to 4th Australian Field Ambulance and later transferred to the 53rd General Hospital at Abbeville.
Joseph failed to recover from his wounds; he died on 27 June 1918, aged 21 years; the cause of death being listed as gunshot wound to neck and bronchopneumonia. He was buried in the Terlincthun British Cemetery at Wimille.
Joseph Parrish is commemorated on panel number 176 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
George Henry Goode c1916. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.
In the early hours of 2 June 1918 former Millthorpe grocer, George Henry Goode, was delivering canisters of hot tea to his comrades on the front line at Morlancourt near Villers-Bretonneux when an enemy shell exploded nearby, killing him instantly. George was the second member of his family to die in service; his brother Ernest Harold Goode had been killed in action in February 1917.
Born in Millthorpe in 1887, George was the seventh of ten children of farmer William Goode and his wife Elizabeth Grace nee Pascoe.
Following his education George worked as a grocer for Messrs W and E Hayes Trade Palace Stores in Millthorpe.
George enlisted in December 1915 and was assigned to 17th Battalion, 13th Reinforcements.
On 29 December 1915 the Millthorpe Methodist Church congregation farewelled a group of local soldiers – George included – on the eve of their departure for camp. Superintendent of the Sunday School, Mr Bacon, wished them well, stating:
You are worthy sons of worthy parents. We thought a lot of you before – we think a thousand times more of you now. I trust that your mission will be fully realised. I think the Kaiser is sin personified, and the world should be rid of him.
The following morning many townspeople saw the recruits off from the railway station as they set off for camp at Lithgow.
In late April the privates returned to Millthorpe for final leave before embarking for overseas service. The Methodist Church hosted an evening of entertainment for the soldiers and presented each of them with a pocket bible. Mr Bacon again addressed the congregation:
On this occasion my feelings are too great for words. These young men are going to fight for their King and country. I am glad that the spirit of their forefathers is strong in them. As instructor of the cadet corps which was here once, I just looked up the records a few days ago to see how many had enlisted, and I find that 24 out of the full strength of 30 have answered the call. Maybe before this terrible struggle is over we older ones will be wanted, and I for one will be there, for I would sooner die a free Britain than live a German slave.
Private Goode embarked HMAT A55 Kyarra in Sydney on 3 June 1916. He disembarked in Plymouth exactly eight weeks later, on 3 August 1916. The following month he was taken on strength with the 33rd Battalion, proceeding to France on 21 November.
In early March 1918 Private Goode was granted two weeks’ furlough in England. He rejoined his unit on the Western Front on 20 March, where he served for a further ten weeks before he was killed in action.
George Henry Goode was buried in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery at Picardie, France. He is commemorated on the Honour Rolls at the Orange Methodist Church, Millthorpe Methodist Church and on panel number 122 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.