This research project started life as an investigation into the circumstances of the death, and whereabouts of: 6275 GIBBS, William Taylor, Private, 8th Platoon, B Coy, 20th Reinforcements, 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Forces (AIF). He was killed 4 October 1917 at the start of one of the major turning points for the Great War, the Battle of Broodseinde in the Ypres Sector of Belgium.
Early on I was resigned to the fact that he was just one of the many, many men of the Great War who have “No Known Grave” and are commemorated on the numerous memorials both here in Australia and Overseas. It was not until the release, by the Australia War Memorial, of the ‘First World War Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files’ that any further research was though about. As it turned out GIBBS did not have a Red Cross file, an interesting anomaly that certainly peaked my interest. Was there ever a file created? If so, was it just simply missing? Did anyone ever question his whereabouts at the time? Too many questions for my liking!!
I started to research the specific date of this death, 4 October 1917, and quickly discovered that for such a large and complex battle only a small number of 3rd Battalion soldiers (33 in fact) were actually recorded as having no know burial location, after having died on this date. I started reviewing their Red Cross Files to try and understand the confusion and conditions that would have existed at the time, and also in the hope that perhaps GIBBS would be mentioned. I bring up the topic of confusion because during this time the disposition of the Battalion was nearly always incorrectly stated in World War Service Records. GIBBS for instance is recorded as having been “Killed in Action, France 4/10/17″ only to have France crossed out and Belgium written in it’s place.
It was also about this time that I noticed some other strange entries such as the word “Buried” written on the second page of a ‘Casualty Form – Active Service’ entry along with the reference codes “B4340″ and “B791″.
So to top it all off there was a page further in the service record that was very, very specific about the burial location of GIBBS.
Needless to say the discovery of this little gem of information started a chain reaction in me and a raised a desire to not only determine the final outcome for GIBBS but also those of his fellow soldiers. My subsequent blog entries will group together (where they exist) the links between the outcomes of, sometimes seemingly unrelated, soldiers and the methods and sources of data relied upon to formulate my conclusions. It is important to note that I am not an “academic” in the true sense of the word, but merely someone who want’s to make sure these men are remembered.
Lest We Forget!