A memorial service was held in Millthorpe at the beginning of September 1918 by Captain Love of the Salvation Army. It was held to honour the life of Private Ernest Richard Larkin Baulch, killed in action in France on 23 August 1918.
Ernest enlisted in Orange on 15 February 1917 aged 18 years 5 months, his occupation was given as a farm labourer. He formed part of the 3rd Battalion 24th Reinforcement in the AIF. On 10 May 1917 Ernest embarked on the HMAT Clan Macgillivay at Melbourne bound for England. From there he was taken on strength to France in December of that year. On 10 March 1918 he was admitted to the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance with trench fever. He rejoined his battalion on 1 August 1918 and was killed in action on 23 August 1918.
Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing Enquiry Files contain reports of various soldiers who saw him as he fell. He was described as very thin, dark complexion and aged about 19 years. According to Lance-Corporal AA Burton (1065) of the same Company, Baulch “was a well-liked chap, and a really good boy”. He had seen him shot, he was hit in the stomach by machine gun fire about two yards away from him. Burton managed to stop and retrieve Baulch’s pay book, which he later handed in at London. He never saw him again but when he returned to the same area two days later stretcher-bearers pointed out Baulch’s grave near Robert Wood between the villages of Proyart and Chuignes. He was buried alongside another soldier and his rifle and hat were laid on the top of his grave.
Ernest Baulch’s enlistment papers records his place of birth as Corowa, New South Wales, and both his parents as deceased. His next of kin was given as a friend, Mrs Jane Warburton of Millthorpe. Included in his military file is a letter from Mrs Warburton stating the nature of her relationship with Ernest:
The deceased soldier was born out of wedlock and his mother, a working girl, could not afford to keep him. I adopted him when he was only a few weeks old. Not being married at the time myself, I called him an adopted brother. He came and lived with me when I married and remained with me until he enlisted. If you would like a copy of the letter I received from the girl giving up all claim to the child I can send it to you.
Letters to Mrs C Warburton were published in the Orange Leader on 15 January 1919. The first was from the chaplain of the 3rd Battalion AIF who spoke very highly of her “brother”:
Your brother made great sacrifice of his life during an attack by us upon enemy positions on 23/8/18. We lost him as the result of shell fire during the course of the attack. I can give you the assurance that he did not suffer in any way. Mercifully, his passing was instantaneous and without pain … Your brother has proved himself a good soldier and acceptable comrade.
Charlie Andrews also conveyed his sympathies:
Ern was a good mate of mine. He came across from Australia with me, and I always found him one of the best of mates. In the firing line he did his work fearlessly.
Ernest’s memorial plaque, memorial scroll and war medals were signed for by Mrs Jane Warburton on 16 November 1923.
Ernest Richard Larkin Baulch has no marked grave. He is commemorated on Millthorpe School Honour Roll, Millthorpe Methodist Church Honour Roll, Millthorpe Memorial Gates, on panel number 35 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France.
* Sharon Jameson, October 2018