Harold Percival Gavin. Image courtesy ancestry.com.
When 19 year old Harold Percival Gavin embarked for overseas service in August 1916 his mother Ellen bestowed upon him her engagement ring, presumably as a token of good luck and talisman for his safe return.
Harold was wounded on three occasions during his service on the Western Front. He survived the first two injuries – gunshot wounds to his left arm, followed by one to his back – but his third injury proved fatal. At 7am on 3 October Harold was killed when a shell exploded nearby, hitting him on the left side of his head.
In May 1919 Harold’s family received a package containing his personal possessions: his wallet, a notebook and calendar and some photographs, letters and cards. Ellen’s engagement ring was not included, either was Harold’s watch.
Harold’s father, Alfred, wrote a stinging letter to the Army Base Records Office:
…he possessed a ring and a watch which were not of very large value, but the ring was his mother’s engagement ring, taken from her finger and given him when parting, so you can imagine her bitter disappointment at not receiving this tiny memento. I presume you have not received any record of the articles, but the act proves what a pack of ghouls accompanied the men who gave their lives for the honour of their country.
The Officer in Charge of the Army Base Records Office replied:
In the event of the articles you mention coming to hand later, they will be promptly transmitted to you.
Alfred and Ellen Gavin received no further news as to the fate of Ellen’s engagement ring.
Harold was born in Cargo in 1897, the third of ten children. He attended Patrician Brothers school in Orange, where he was a member of the School Cadets. Following his education Harold completed a three and a half year apprenticeship with Orange carpenter James Douglas of Summer Street. He also served in the Commonwealth Trainees units; a Lance Corporal in the 42nd Infantry A Company.
Harold, aka Boyd, served with the 17th Battalion during the First World War. At 6am on 3 October 1918 the 17th launched an attack on the village of Wiancourt in France. One hour later, at about 7am, Harold was mortally wounded by a shell wound to his head. He was 21 years old.
Harold Percival Gavin is commemorated on the Patrician Brothers’ Roll of Honour, the St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll, on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, and on panel number 82 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 HP Gavin”; it was donated by Dr Wally F Matthews. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. Though wounded early in the attack he continued to lead his company, and himself conducted the assault on the objective, and consolidated and secured the position. His courage and example contributed largely to the success of the operations.
Charles’ medal was one of 2,366 Military Crosses awarded to Australians during the First World War. Charles received his for bravery during the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917.
In November 1917 Charles received the following congratulatory letter from General Sir William Birdwood:
This is a line to congratulate you most heartily upon the Military Cross, which has been awarded to you for your good work in the operations at Polygon Wood on the 20th September. Although wounded early in the attack, you continued to lead your company with great courage and ability. Immediately the objective was attained, you set to work in the consolidation of the position, and refused to leave the line until the position was made secure— some nine hours after you were wounded.
Thank you so much for your gallant conduct, and I trust that your wound is making favourable progress.
Charles was born in Bathurst on 5 January 1885 to solicitor Walter Jhonson and his wife Margaret Susannah nee Cleland. When Charles was a young boy the family moved to Orange where Walter practised as a solicitor.
Charles, aka Chas, was educated at Sydney High School. Prior to his war service he worked at the Bank of Australasia in Orange. Chas was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force on 13 August 1915. He embarked for overseas in October 1915 and served with the 53rd Battalion in Egypt and France.
Charles was wounded in action on three occasions. In July 1916 he received gunshot wounds to the thigh and arm. He was evacuated to the 5th Australian Casualty Clearing Station but later transferred to 3rd London General Hospital in England.
Captain Jhonson rejoined his battalion on 19 September. One week later, on 26 September, Charles was wounded for a second time, sustaining a gunshot wound to the left arm. Again, he was transferred to 3rd London General Hospital in England. He rejoined the 53rd Battalion in France on 9 December.
On 30 September 1918 Captain Jhonson was wounded for a third time, a gunshot wound that proved fatal. Lieutenant AC Elliott of the 53rd Battalion observed:
This officer was in command of two companies advancing astride the Le Catelet Trench during the attack on the Hindenburg Line near Hellicourt on 30 September 1918. He had done magnificent work and had driven the enemy back about 800 yards when he was mortally wounded by a gunshot wound in the back.
Captain Jhonson died of his wounds on 2 October 1918, aged 33. He was buried in the Tincourt New British Cemetery in France.
Charles Aubrey Jhonson is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll, the Orange Golf Club Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph, the Mosman Neutral Bay Rifle Club, Our Fallen Comrades Bowl and on panel number 157 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 CA Jhonson”; it was donated by Dr Cyril Beresford (‘Jack’) Howse. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
On 21 August 1918 Major General Charles Rosenthal, Commanding Officer of the Second Australian Division, wrote the following commendation for the Military Medal for William Thomas Clarke:
At Warfusee, east of Amiens, on 8 August 1918, during the advance in the thick mist with his platoon he ran up against an enemy MG post and was twice beaten back with bombs.
He managed himself, however, to work around to a flank which enabled the platoon to kill four and capture three with the machine gun.
Throughout the whole operation this NCO acted with confidence and courage which set a fine example to his men.
Born in Orange in 1895, William was the second of four children of Maurice Joseph Clarke and Sarah Ann nee Hopkins. William was educated at Orange Convent School, and then Parkes Convent School.
Following his education William entered his father’s plastering business in Parkes. During this time he also served for two years in the Citizens’ Forces.
William enlisted in Parkes on 11 January 1916. He embarked HMAT A40 Ceramic in Sydney on 7 October 1916, disembarking in Plymouth on 21 November. He undertook two months’ further training at the 5th Training Battalion before proceeding to France on 4 February 1917, a private in the 20th Battalion, 16th Reinforcement.
On 3 May 197 William was wounded in action, receiving a gunshot wound to the right shoulder. He was admitted to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance, then the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station. followed by the 1st Australian General Hospital before being evacuated to the 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham, England, on 14 May.
Private Clarke returned to France in August 1917 and was appointed Lance Corporal the following month.
In October 1917 Lance Corporal Clarke was wounded in action for a second time, sustaining gunshot wounds to his knee and side. Again he was evacuated to England, to the 1st Western General Hospital in Liverpool. He did not rejoin his battalion in France until 2 April 1918.
William served for a further six months before being killed in action on the Western Front.
On 8 October 1919 Maurice Joseph Clarke received the following letter from the Officer in Charge of Base Records:
I am directed to transmit per separate registered post one Congratulatory Card issued by the General Officer Commanding 4th Army, British Expeditionary Force, referring in laudatory terms to the conspicuous manner in which the late No 5797 Sergeant WT Clarke, MM, 20th Battalion, conducted himself on the battlefield in the face of the enemy.
William Thomas Clarke is commemorated on panel number 90 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Charles Alexander Wann. Image courtesy ancestry.com
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.
On 11 August 1918 Daniel Malcolm Wann received a gunshot wound to the neck as the 11th Battalion advanced near Morcourt in the closing hours of the Battle of Amiens. Daniel, aka Max, was evacuated to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance. He survived for two days before succumbing to his wounds on 13 August.
Daniel’s brother, Charles Alexander Wann, also serving on the Western Front, would die six weeks later, killed in action at St Quentin Canal on 30 September 1918.
Born in Orange in 1886, Daniel was the second son of Charles snr and Mary Ann nee Plowman. By 1903 the family had moved to Armadale in Western Australia, where Charles snr worked as a sleeper cutter.
In 1911 Daniel married Evelyn Maud Warren and settled at Bullsbrook, where Daniel worked as a teamster. The couples’ first child, Sydney Malcolm, was born in 1912, followed by Donald Charles in 1913, and Alice in 1916.
Daniel enlisted in Perth on 11 November 1916. He embarked HMAT A30 Borda at Fremantle on 29 June 1917, disembarking in Plymouth on 25 August 1917. Private Wann undertook further training at Durrington and Sutton Veny before proceeding to France in January 1918. He was taken on strength with the 11th Battalion on 22 January 1918.
On 20 June 2018 Daniel was admitted to the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance suffering from influenza. He rejoined his unit on 6 July and served for just five weeks before sustaining the injury that proved his demise.
Daniel Malcolm Wann is commemorated on panel number 64 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Daniel Malcolm Wann memorial notice, West Australian, 29 August 1918, p1.
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.
Howard Vivian Hawke memorial, Orange Cemetery. Image courtesy Lynne Irvine.
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.