Herbert Henry Argall was born in Orange in 1896. He was one of six children born to Thomas and Annie Matilda Argall (nee Prince). Herbert’s father was a mail guard on the train between Orange and Forbes and Herbert followed his father’s example, joining the railway department. Herbert was a popular and highly regarded employee who was diligent and courteous, the Leader claimed “nothing was a trouble to him, and it was a pleasure to have Bert Argall attending to your inquiries.”
“Bert” attempted to enlist on several occasions. The first time he failed his medical, so he underwent an operation at Orange District Hospital so that he would be accepted. Bert then, however, contracted typhoid, so was again rejected. He was finally accepted on his fourth attempt, in July 1915. His railway colleagues presented him with a wristlet watch, and his old Sunday School associates a jewel case prior to his leaving for the front in October.
Ill-health plagued Private Argall; in December he was admitted to hospital in Abbassia in Egypt, suffering from diphtheria. On his recovery he joined the British Expeditionary Force in France. Herbert was killed in action just three months later. He was 19.
Just three days before his death Herbert wrote a letter to his parents, saying how proud he was that his younger brother, Preston, had enlisted and imploring his mother not to worry. Fifteen months later Preston was also killed in action.
Following Herbert’s death his parents, Tom and Annie, received over 200 letters of sympathy from the citizens of Orange. The couple made the decision to leave Orange in August 1918. At their farewell Thomas Argall said that if ever any man was sorry to leave Orange it was him. It was sad leaving a loving people…these years in Orange had been the best and happiest of his life even though the cup of sorrow had been so full.
On 25 April 1917 the second ever Anzac Day service in Orange was held at the Orange Public School. Mayoress McNeilly placed a laurel wreath on the Union Jack for each fallen soldier who had attended the school, including Bert Argall.
In July 1917 a tree was planted at Orange Public School in Herbert’s memory. It was one of 26 trees planted in honour of fallen soldiers who had attended the school.
Herbert Henry Argall’s name appears on the following honour rolls, alongside that of his brother Preston: Orange Returned Services League, Orange Railway Ambulance Rifle Club, Orange East Public School, Methodist Church Orange and the Paddington Methodist Church (now Uniting Church). Herbert is also remembered in Newman Park in Orange, where his name appears on a plaque commemorating former Orange East Public School students who were killed in action during WWI.
Herbert’s name appears on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.
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 HH Argall”; the tree was donated by FP Carr. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Leader, 9 August 1916, p. 4.
Our Soldiers in the Firing Line
Bert’s last letter to his parents dated 20 June 1916, just 3 days before he was killed in action
Leader, 12 July 1916, p. 1.
One of his last letters
Letter to Miss Dwyer written on Empire Day, a month before he died. She received the letter on 11 July, almost three weeks after his death.