November 2010


This next entry might well prove to be some-what controversial and in no way are the opinions here applied to all officers of the AIF, however it is important to discuss to explain the eventual conclusions.

The privileges extended to officers on the field of battle were more often than not though of as being part-and-parcel of their status of rank. These privileges generally materialised in the form of favourable treatment, seperate living quarters from the other ranks, and in this case their burial after death.

You will notice that on the 3rd Battalion Menin Gate Memorial panels that no-one above the rank of Lieutenant is listed as having no known grave. In this particular instance there is evidence to suggest that an officer of the Battalion was killed alongside four (4), and possibly more, soldiers yet the officer seems to be the only one with a marked burial location. This outcome is not the fault of the individual, but a representation of the cultural attitudes of the time.

Captain MOORE, Ralph Ingram was killed on 7 October 1917 and buried in plot II. C. 18. in the Aeroplace Cemetery, Belgium. His name is connected to the following soldiers based on eyewitness statements in Red Cross files which were reviewed:

  1. 2388 CAMPBELL, Harold
  2. 710 CARTER, William
  3. 2074 PEISLEY, Alfred Charles (aka HARRIS)
  4. 371 SMITH, Richard William

What makes these circumstances even more interesting is that three of these soldiers were Lance Sergeants or above in their rank and yet only MOORE has a specific burial location.

Since CAMPBELL and CARTER did not have Red Cross files, all of the following formation was obtained from the files of PEISLEY and SMITH. The first thing that is apparent in these files is the confusion, as previously mentioned in The Fog of War, that existed during and after the death of these soldiers.

In one of the first reports in PEISLEY’s file, Private YAPSLEY describes the events that left him wounded:

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

“We were in supports [trenches] on the Ypres front on Oct 7th, when Sergt. HARRIS [aka PEISLEY] was killed outright by a shell which also killed Capt. MORE [MOORE] and about five other men and wounded me. They were all buried just outside the trench, which was the first trench up from the “pill box” dressing station near the old Menin Road just baout on Anzac Ridge”.

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

In a subsequent statement YABSLEY goes on to state that “….the stretcher-bearer, Pte.F.PECK who helped carry me told me that Harris [PEISLEY] was killed by concussion only, and had not a mark on him” and that “The same shell killed 9 and wounded 4 of us”.

So we find ourselves in a situation where one eyewitness has delivered two similar, but none-the-less, slightly conflicting accounts of what actually took place.

In a statement from Company Quarter Master Sergeant MUMFORD, he states that “At about 6-30 p.m. HARRIS [PEISLEY] came up in charge of a ration party and just as he arrived a shell fell near by and killed 13 men in addition to wounding five others”. MUMFORD also goes on to confirm the details of HARRIS’ death by concussion and that he “saw HARRIS [PEISLEY] buried, together with Sergeant CAMPBELL, Corporal MOORE and others….”.

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

PEISLEY - Red Cross file entry

You will note the entry refers to “Corporal MOORE” and not Captain, I believe this recording of the rank to be eroneous as there was no other soldier by the name of MOORE killed in BELGIUM at this time. The confusion surrounding the rank of Captain MOORE is somewhat understandable under the circumstances. His service record outlines his meteoric rise through the ranks to become a Captain:

  1. Private – 01.09.14 (his date of enlistment)
  2. Lance Corporal – 01.01.15
  3. Corporal – 05.04.15
  4. Lance Sergeant – 23.06.15
  5. Sergeant – 01.08.15
  6. 2nd Lieutenant – 04.08.15
  7. Captain – 01.01.1917

When we review SMITH’s Red Cross file there is a quite remarkable letter from Lt LITTLEJOHN which describes the actual burial event. “He [SMITH] was killed on 7th October 1917 at Anzac Ridge after the Brigades [1st] successful operation against Broodseinde Ridge after the unit had come back to trenches on Anzac Ridge. He [SMITH] was buried with six of seven others in the same grave on the spot where he [SMITH] was killed and not in a soldiers cemetery”.

SMITH - Red Cross file entry

SMITH - Red Cross file entry

In an eyewitness statement from Corporal SMITHY the connection between all four men is established: “He [SMITH] was giving out Rations about 4/5.10.17 [we know this date is eroneuos] near Pasachendaele, and Private Bluey CARTER [believe this to be 710 CARTER, William] was helping him and Capitan MOORE was Commanding Officer at the time. A shell came over killed SMITH, CARTER and Captain MOORE outright and wounded several others”, however the concrete nature of this evidence is made less so when SMITHYstates “I did not see it happen as I was in the front line at the time….”.

SMITH - Red Cross file entry

SMITH - Red Cross file entry

Private MCRAE in a subsequent statement confirms that “I saw him killed by a shell while we were at Anzac Ridge. He was buried along with 7 others close to where he fell, a temporary cross was erected”.

Another eyewitness statement from Lt ALLPORT goes some way to confirming, albeit by way of information from Captin HOWIE, that SMITH, MOORE and CAMPBELL were all together at the time of their deaths.

Interestingly Eric Wren makes note of the incident in the 3rd Battalion history: “Battalion headquarters was established in one of the row of pill-boxes where the bomb-fight had occurred. But the enemy batteries had these well registered, and they came in for a good deal of shelling throughout the day. During the night an entire ration party and some prisoners were all either killed or wounded just outside Colonel Moore’s headquarters” – pg 262, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935, I believe ‘Colonel MOORE’ to be Lieutenant-Colonel MOORE, Donald Ticehurst (C.M.G., D.S.O.), however Wren fails to mention if ‘Captain’ MOORE was killed or not. Subsequently on the next page the officers killed on 4.10.17 [meaning the operational start date not actual date] are listed and MOORE is referred to as “Killed in Action ….. Captain R. I. Moore (M.C., D.C.M.)” – pg 263, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935.

The next source consulted was the Battalion War Diary for October 1917, this proved to be quite valuable because it did in fact specifically list Captain MOORE as having been killed on the 7 October 1917 and also the circumstances surrounding his death: “Capt R.I. Moore M.C. killed by H.E. [high explosive] shell which landed on his Company Headquarters killing him and wounding Lieut L.F. Hemmis M.C.” – pg 3, 3rd Infantry Battalion War Diary AWM4, 23/20/32 – October 1917.

The following map is annexed to the back of the 3rd Infantry Battalion War Diary AWM4, 23/20/32 – October 1917 and shows not only the Battalion HQ but also the Company (Coy) HQ’s as well. You will note that both B & D Coys shared a HQ location (being the small red square marked with a ‘c’ at approx map reference J.5.A.3.9.) which we know from the legend to be structure of concrete construction, most likely a pill-box. You will also note that the A & C Coy’s did not share a Coy HQ location and are not located near any concrete structures.

Battalion HQ Location Oct 1917

Battalion HQ Location Oct 1917

The other interesting revelation from this map is that the location of the joint B & D Coy HQ is also the same as the listed burial location (J.5.A.3.9.) of 6716 BEAR, James William as mentioned in Belgium 1917 Part 2. Not only that the location of the Battalion HQ (J.4.B.7.5.) is exactly the same burial location as stated for 258A DAY, Percival Francis & 388 TUTILL, Thomas Daniel Cecil in Belgium 1917 Part 3.

Conclusions:

  1. Captain MOORE, Ralph Ingram was killed on 7 October 1917 and buried in plot II. C. 18. in the Aeroplace Cemetery.
  2. CARTER, PEISLEY (aka HARRIS) & SMITH were all killed on 7 October 1917 and have no known burial location.
  3. Based on Red Cross file eyewitness statements these three men and Capt MOORE were all together at the time they were killed.
  4. There is a possibility that CARTER, PEISLEY (aka HARRIS), SMITH & BEAR (mentioned in Belgium 1917 Part 2) were buried in the vicinity of the location of the joint B & D Coy HQ’s at J.5.A.3.9.
  5. That DAY & TUTILL (mentioned in Belgium 1917 Part 3) were buried in the vicinity of the 3rd Battalion HQ location at J.4.B.7.5.
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continued from Part 2…..

 

Whilst we’re on the subject of Belgium, and specifically those who are missing following the  Battle of Broodseinde, there are four other soldiers who appear on the Menin Gate Memorial, who were killed on 4 October 1917 and also have no known grave.

They are:

  1. 258A DAY, Percival Francis
  2. 388 TUTILL, Thomas Daniel Cecil
  3. 1077 ROBINSON, James Albert
  4. 3910 SMITH, Ross

What makes the investigation into the cicumstances of these men difficult is there is evidence linking DAY and TUTILL, and evidence linking ROBINSON and SMITH, but no defininative proof linking all four together.

If we were to look for one black sheep of the group, to focus on first, it would be ROBINSON. The Roll of Honour records state that ROBINSON is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, however photographs of the 3rd Battalion panels do not show his name.

3rd Battalion - Menin Gate Missing

3rd Battalion - Menin Gate Missing

Whilst his name is missing from the Menin Gate Memorial his name does appear on Panel 38 of the Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial.

Robinson does not have a Red Cross File, however, his Service Record provides us with some clues as to possibly why his name is not listed against the 3rd Battalion.

When ROBINSON enlisted, on 12 March 1916, he was originally assigned to the 1st Light Trench Mortor Battery, he arrived in England on 26 October 1916 and after recieving training he was immediatly transfered to the 3rd Battalion as a reinforcement and sent to France in March 1917. When he was killed in Belgium on the 4 Octobter 1917. He had only been with the Battalion for less than 6 months when he was killed.

So armed with this information it would suggest that he may well be listed under the 1st Light Trench Mortor Battery names and not the 3rd Battalion names. However, at the time of publishing I have not been able to obtain photos of the panels listing these men (if at all). [UPDATE]: Confirmation of ROBINSON’s listing on Panel 7 of the Menin Gate Memorial as 1st Light Trench Mortar Battery soldier.

Further to ROBINSON’s status, in his Service Record there is evidence that he was in fact buried with there being another one of those entries similar to the soldiers mentioned in Parts 1 & 2.

ROBINSON - Service Record entry

ROBINSON - Service Record entry

There is no further evidence in his service record supporting his burial location. There is however a mention in SMITH’s Red Cross file of  ROBINSON being killed along side SMITH and “one or two others by a shell”. Whilst the Red Cross file does not confirm that ROBINSON as being the same person as discussed above, it is safe to assume this because the only other ROBINSON in the 3rd Battalion who was killed was in France in 1916.

The connection between DAY and TUTILL is a bit more definite in that they both have their burial location listed as being J.4.B.7.5 on Sheet 28E in their respective Red Cross files (DAYTUTILL).

J.4.B.7.5

J.4.B.7.5

DAY also has his burial location stated as ” 1 mile S of Broodseinde & Zonnebeke and 1 mile ENE of Polygon Wood”. In TUTILL’s Red Cross file there is some confusion as to the circustances of his death, and there are also witness statements that say he was killed along with 6 other’s.

Conclusions:

  1. DAY, TUTILL, ROBINSON and SMITH were all killed on 4 October 1917.
  2. ROBINSON’s name is not physically recorded on the 3rd Battalion panels of the Menin Gate Memorial.
  3. Both DAY and TUTILL’s burial locations are stated as being J.4.B.7.5 on Sheet 28E.
  4. SMITH and ROBINSON were more than likely together at the time they were killed.
  5. There is no evidence to suggest that all four men were together at the time of their deaths.

It is an unfortunate fact of war that some are lost forever to the fields, or oceans, of battle with no hope of a proper earthly burial. This is none more evident that in the case of those who die whilst at sea. Seafarers have forever accepted that if you live on the sea you can also die on the sea, and that burial at sea is just a way of life. For the young men of AIF however this was probably the last thing on their minds as they departed on their voyage from Sydney, Australia to Alexandria, Egypt.

“The Euripides slipped away from Bradley’s Head at 6:30 a.m. on October 20th, 1914, and passed through the [Sydney] Heads to the accompaniment of shrieking siren calls from the early ferry steamers”. – pg 22, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935

Their six day uneventful voyage would take them down the south coast of New South Wales, through Bass Straight (between Victoria and Tasmania) past South Australia and finally arriving in the southern port of Albany, Western Australia on 26th October 1914.

“At noon on October 26th the Euripides steamed slowly to an anchorage in King George’s Sound, the picturesque harbour of Albany”. – pg 23, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935

The voyage continued on 1st November 1914, with the Euripides combining with 37 other troopships carrying Australian and New Zealand contingents to the front. The troopships all formed up outside King George’s Sound and were flanked by a flotilla of Australian, English and Japanese warships. The days leading up to the 6th November 1914 was uneventful and filled with dull routine.

“The weather was perfect, with scarcely a ripple on the water. A little diversion was caused on November 6th, when the Orient mail steamer Osterley passed close to the starboard line. The following day [7th November 1914] the battalion had its first casualty. Private V.H. Kendall of A Company passed away. He was buried at sea at 10:15 a.m. on Sunday, November 8th, [1914,] with full military honours. The service was impressive. Naturally there was gloom throughout the whole ship”. – pg 25, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935

The name Kendall as it turns out is actually spelt incorrectly and should be KENDAL with one “l”. He was 147 KENDAL, Varley Hadden and he is now listed on the Chatby Memorial in the Chatby War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria, Egypt. The following day his death was overshadowed by one of the most decisive naval battles of World War 1, of which the Euripides and the other ships nearly blundered straight in to.

“November 9th [1914] was the most exciting day of the voyage. The morning’s work was well under way and groups of men scattered over the troop decks were busily engaged in their various tasks and exercises when suddenly, as if drawn by a magnet, all eyes turned to the Japanese warship Ibuki, at this time not far distant on the starboard side. The flashing of helio messages and the clearing of the decks for action signified beyond doubt that something out of the ordinary was happening. All ranks paused in their work to watch the business-like methods of the Japs. The Ibuki, with dramatic swiftness, left her position in the line and ran straight across our bows, only to be suddenly recalled to her post – an order which, we learned later, caused great chagrin to the officers on our gallant ally. The cruiser on the port side of the convoy, H.M.A.S. Sydney, had previously disappeared over the western horizon. About 11 a.m. the message came through that the German raider Emden, in an engagement with the Sydney off Cocos Island, had been beached and was done for. There was great excitement on board. All work was suddenly forgotten and the remainder of the day was declared a holiday. While the news of the Emden’s fate was filtering through, Private Jack S. Lowe, a signaller in B Company, lay dying of illness. He was buried at 3 p.m. the same day”.  – pg 26, Eric Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, 1935

LOWE’s name is actually 295 LOWE, John “Jack” Selby and he is now listed on the Chatby Memorial in the Chatby War Memorial Cemetery in Alexandria, Egypt.

The loss of these two men, whilst tragic, were luckily the only deaths for this maiden voyage of the 3rd Battalion on the Euripides. This remembrance day we pause to remember those lost, so I dedicate this day to the memory of Private KENDAL and Private LOWE. They were the first men of the 3rd Battalion to lay down their lives for Australia, and even though their bodies are lost forever to the ocean, they are still remembered.

Lest We Forget.

continued from Part 1…..

In my previous blog the pieces of the puzzle were staring to fall together in relation to connecting the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four men:

  1. 6716 BEAR, James William
  2. 6553 O’NEILL, Martin
  3. 1446 WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis
  4. 6275 GIBBS, William Taylor

The next step was to review their service records for supporting, or new, data and to really confirm the connections described in the Red Cross Files.

We know that GIBBS’ service record provided us with a fantastically accurate account of his burial location “Buried at J.9.A.5.9. 1300 yards S.W. of Zonnebeke 1300 yards S.W. of Gheluvelds Near Polygon Wood, Belgium”. It is now time to determine if the other three have similar burial records in their files.

In BEAR’s service record a similar mistake was made as in GIBBS’ in that his place of death is initially record as France the subsequently updated to reflect Belgium:

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

His service record also had the same “Buried” entry record as did GIBBS:

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

Then to top all that off a description of this physical burial location is also included in his service record:

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

This however is where a bit of a stumbling block occurs. BEAR’s burial location is described as “Buried at J.5.A.3.9.” which is also described as being “…near the village of Molenaarelsthoek, 1000 yards S.E. of Zonnebeke, Belgium”. So whilst this is in the same general area of operations there is little chance that BEAR was killed alongside the other three men.

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

BEAR, James William - Service Record entry

O’NEILL’s Service Record on the other hand proved to contain data that supported his burial location as being the same as GIBBS. As with GIBBS’ record the same entry showing France as the placed of death, subsequently replaced with Belgium:

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

There was not however any indication of the “Buried” reference as in the other two service records. There were however copies of cablegrams and correspondence stating O’NEILL was “Buried at Anzac Ridge …. Sheet 28 N.E.J.9.A.5.9.”:

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

ONEILL, Martin - Service Record entry

So, even though the geographic reference is different to GIBBS’ the map reference is identical. When you actuall drill down to this level of detail on a trench map you can be left in little doubt that both GIBBS and ONEILL are buried very close together.

Okay, so at this point I decided to try and identify this location on a map. The MacMaster University Libraries website has an amazing assortment of high-resolution trench maps from various time periods during World War 1. The following map is a screenshot sourced from here:

Sheet 28

Sheet 28

If we concentrate on the top left hand square of “9”, it is the “A” referenced in the burial locations. For those of you who have visited this area will know that it is the location of the famous Anzac Cafe. This location will be investigated in a later blog entry.

Now onto WOODBERRY’s service record. Unfortunatly there is no direct reference to burial location other than the “Buried” notation as with GIBBS’:

WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis - Service Record entry

WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis - Service Record entry

Also as with GIBBS’ the mistake of the death location being record as France, and being changed to Belgium is also evident.

WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis - Service Record entry

WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis - Service Record entry

So with this being the case we must rely on the eyewitness statements in the red cross files to prove the connection between WOODBERRY and the other three men.

Conclusions:

  1. GIBBS, O’NEILL, WOODBERRY were killed on 4 October 1917 and were together at the time of their death.
  2. BEAR was killed on 4 October 1917 but appears to have been in a different location than those mentioned in point 1.
  3. Both GIBBS and O’NEILL have their burial locations specifically noted as being J.9.A.5.9. which is located on Trench Map Sheet 28 and is in close proximity to Polygon Wood.
  4. BEAR has his burial location stated as J.5.A.3.9. which is in close proximity to the village of Molenaarelsthoek (now Molenaarelst).
  5. All four men were in “B Coy” and ‘VIII” (8th) Platoon at the time of their death, and were not part of the same reinforcement units.
  6. GIBBS, O”NEILL, WOODBERRY were stated (in red cross records) as being part of a Lewis Gun team, which typically only constituted three men.
  7. All four men have no know burial location and are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial.

11am on the 11 November 1918 marked Armistice Day signaling the end of hostilities of the Great War. This tradition continues through today and is now called Remembrance Day in memory of all those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts.

 

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

“For the Fallen”, Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Following on from my first post (Casualties of War) concerning the circumstances of the death of 6275 GIBBS, William Taylor, I will now outline the connections that made it possible to associate his location with those of three other soldiers:

  1. 6716 BEAR, James William
  2. 6553 O’NEILL, Martin
  3. 1446 WOODBERRY, Thomas Francis

All four of these men are currently listed as having no known grave on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, and this is confirmed by both the Australian War Memorial (AWM) records and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)  (http://www.cwgc.org/). You will note that the CWGC is not mentioned in my list of OSI sources in The Fog of War this is due to the fact that the AWM duplicates these records and there is generally no need to access both.

In BEAR’s Red Cross File it states that one eyewitness “…saw his body, and was standing by when KNOWLES buried him, and about 5 others in a grave close to where they fell”. So this now gives us a critical piece of information which is a total count of men we should find evidence of being together at the time of their death.

When WOODBERRY’s Red Cross File was reviewed the first connection was made was between BEAR and WOODBERRY. It states that  “… he [WOODBERRY] was killed the same time as a man named J.W. Bea?”. The last letter of the original typed message was subsequently crossed out and replaced with the letter “R”. It also gave an additonal clue as to a preexisting relationship in that both men are described as being in “B Coy”, this will prove to be very important later on.

When O’NEILL’s Red Cross File was reviewed, a veritable gold mine of data was obtained. On the very first page it states that “Sgt. Nixon Battn.Pioneers attended to the burial of all these men and should be able to give the details.” What this statement refers to is the note on the top of the page which states that it relates to “O’Neill. M. 6553 (& 4 others, for full list see H.M.Richard’s report)”. The main problem here is that there is no report from H.M Richard’s in O’NEILL’s Red Cross File, however, there is plently of other valuable data.

As it turns out the H.M. Richards report is actually the Red Cross File for 6342 RICHARDS, Henry Mitchell. This file states that Sgt NIXON buried five men all at the same time:

  1. RICHARDS H.M. 6342
  2. HEWISH A. Capt
  3. GODART T.B. Cpl 729
  4. O’NEILL M. 6553
  5. ORCHARD D. 1221

The problem with this report is that it makes no mention of GIBBS, WOODBERRY or BEAR and also that all of the other men listed actually died in France, not Belgium, sometime in May.

Back in O’NEILL’s Red Cross File another statement reports that O’NEILL was in 8th Platoon, another states that he was with with WOODBERRY in a dug-out at the time of his death……wait what was that…..WOODBERRY?!?! In another statement it also confirms this fact and that GIBBS was with both men at the time as well. There are also numerous other statements confirming variations of the above and that GIBBS, O’NEILL and WOODBERRY were all in B Coy.

So now we can start to make a fairly informed judgement that at the very least these four men were within the same vicinity at the time of their deaths and that they were in the same company. The next step would be to try and confirm some of this data with their service records.

continued in Part 2….

The ‘Fog of War’ usually describes the limit of the vision of the commanders and soldiers of armies. However, it also can apply to the witness statements and personal experiences of soldiers especially when combined with the tyranny of time.

As highlighted in my first blog entry, sometimes seemily unrelated occurances and circumstances can now fit together like a puzzle to provide a clearer picture of events of the past.

The connections that can be made now thanks to the ever increasing amounts of Open Source Information (OSI), help to lift or otherwise eliminate, the residual effects of this Fog of War.

The OSI sources used for this research project include:

  1. The offical 3rd Battalion history ‘Randwick to Hargicourt’ written by Eric Wren
  2. Red Cross Files (electronic) as provided on The Australian War Memorial website (http://www.awm.gov.au/research/people/wounded_and_missing/index.asp)
  3. Australia War Memorial record as identified using ‘Search for a Person’ (http://www.awm.gov.au/research/people/)
  4. World War I – Service Records as provided on the National Archives of Australia website (http://www.naa.gov.au)
  5. Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/)
  6. various online sources as idenified using Google (quoted as neccessary)

My next posts will now start to show the connections that can be made when data from all, or some, of these sources are combined and the conclusions that can be reached through their use.

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