Preston Edwin Argall was born in Paddington in 1898 to Thomas and Annie Matilda Argall (nee Prince). One of six children, Preston grew up in Orange and attended Orange East Public School. Aged 12, he and a friend – Rupert Richardson – were shooting birds in a paddock at Rosehill, when the gun discharged close to Preston’s head and 15 pellets lodged in his scalp. Preston was taken into town to see Dr Neville Howse, who declared his wounds to be superficial and removed the pellets.
Preston enlisted in WWI in March 1916, 8 months after his older brother Herbert. He embarked from Sydney in August and joined the 17th Battalion in France in December. He served for just three months before being hospitalised with a severely blistered heel. His medical records cite “ICT toe”. ICT may refer to “Inflamed Connective Tissue” (plantar fasciitis), a condition caused by continual marching.
Private Argall was not released from hospital until March. After furlough he rejoined his unit in France in August, only to be killed in action in Belgium a month later. He was originally reported as “wounded and missing”; it wasn’t until 10 May 1918 that this status was upgraded to “killed in action”. Preston was one of seven men from the Orange district to die during the Battle of Menin Road Ridge.
Following his death, fellow soldier Private William Beck wrote to Preston’s mother to convey his “most heartfelt sympathy in the very sad bereavement which you have suffered in the loss of your dear son.” Back continues: “I can assure you dear madam, that he suffered nothing, because his death was instantaneous so his sufferings were very little and I took it upon myself the sad duty to bury him which I did the best I could under the circumstances on the battlefield, and placed a little cross to mark the spot of a faithful comrade, respected and loved by all whom he came in contact with.”
Another comrade, Private NG Carruthers, described Argall as “very popular with his mates, and [he] always had a smile for everybody”.
Preston’s older brother Herbert was killed in action in France in June 1916.
Preston Edwin Argall’s name appears on the following honour rolls, alongside that of his brother Herbert: Orange Returned Services League, Orange Railway Ambulance Rifle Club, Orange East Public School, Methodist Church Orange and the Paddington Methodist Church (now Uniting Church). Preston 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.
Preston’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 P Argall”; the tree was donated by EH Waddy. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
Leader, 17 December 1917, p. 4.
Killed in action, Private Preston Argall
Leader, 26 April 1918, p. 7.
Private Preston Argall, Inquiries as to his fate