Private Fredrick Peppernell was reported missing in action on 7 June 1917. Some confusion reigned as to whether he was indeed deceased, or was just missing. His military record contains the following letter, written on 13 September 1917 to his mother in Kerr’s Creek, from a New Zealand soldier “somewhere in France”.
It is with regret that I have to write and tell you that your brave son was killed while doing his duty for King and Country. He was burried [sic] with one of his comrades where they fell. I am forwarding the few PCs [postcards] he had in his pocket. Hoping you receive these alright, a brave lad loved and respected by all.
From a New Zealander in arms who layed [sic] your son to rest and put a cross and his name and number.
Pte HD Edmonds, No 37173 1st Coy 1 CIB NZEF France.
At this time the Australian Army still had not confirmed Frederick’s death. It was not until March 1918 that his file was marked “Killed in Action”.
Red Cross files contain the following report from Pte Todd, dated 20 September 1917:
F Peppernell was one of three brothers who were all together. It was a rather remarkable story. He was wounded in the advance and his brother got him into a shell hole and then went on. When they returned there was no sign of him and he has never been heard of or seen since. It is a mystery because the Germans could not have got to him there, and my theory is that he staggered away to get back to the dressing station and a shell got him. All my mates think the same. This was at Messines.
Henry and Annie Peppernell of Kerr’s Creek had given three of their sons to the war effort: Frederick, Henry and William Henry. Frederick and Henry were twins, their births registered in Wellington in 1892. The family lived at Kerr’s Creek, between Orange and Wellington, where their father Henry was recorded as a miner. The brothers came of a large family of at least 15 children.
Frederick and Henry enlisted together on 17 January 1916 and have consecutive regimental numbers. They joined the 36th Battalion, B Company, and embarked from Sydney on board HMAT A72 Beltana on 13 May 1916. Frederick marched into France and on the 8 February 1917 marched out to the front in France. Frederick was killed during the Battle of Messines.
Private Frederick Peppernell No 535, 36th Battalion AIF, is remembered on the Kerr’s Creek Honour Roll, on panel number 127 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and on panel 25 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium.
Frederick is also remembered on a military headstone in the Orange Cemetery next to his parents, Roman Catholic Old Section B, number 786.
Both of Frederick’s brothers returned to Australia after the war.