Family History


Research (Reading, Justin)

  1. Casualties of War – a family connection
  2. Belgium 1917 Part 1
  3. Belgium 1917 Part 2
  4. Belgium 1917 Part 3
  5. The Privileges of Rank
  6. Belgium 1917 Part 4
  7. Belgium 1917 Part 5
  8. Belgium 1917 Final
  9. The Mysterious Red Writing – Maricourt Wood

Randwick to Hargicourt (Wren, Eric)

  1. Euripides 1914
  2. Rest & Relaxation, Shenanigans & Tomfoolery, Official Duties, and Training for War – and not necessarily in that order!!
  3. The First ANZAC Day (1915) Part 1
  4. The First ANZAC Day (1915) Part 2
  5. The First ANZAC Day (1915) Part 3
  6. The Armistice and Afterwards
  7. Message from Lieutenant-General Sir H. B. Walker K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O.,

The Australian War Graves Photographic Archive began in 2000, and is committed to procuring a digital photograph of every Australian War Grave and Memorial Commemoration; worldwide. This commitment stems from a labour of respect dedicated to the supreme sacrifice made by our Australian military personnel. It is through this that we are committed to seeing this non-profit project to its completion.

Most Australians are aware of the service participation of our Armed forces; past and present, but many, especially those from more recent generations may be surprised by the extent of that service. The fact that more than 102,000 Australian military personnel are commemorated in 83 countries throughout the world is testament to this. This number will continue to rise, as long as Australians serve in conflicts around the world.

The photographs procured throughout this project are being used to populate the searchable database. It will be accessible to all Australians and will attempt to continue and extend the awareness of the ‘ANZAC’ spirit.

The formation of this web site should be seen as an attempt to increase the accessibility of information and images related to Australian war graves and memorials, many from places deemed quite inaccessible. Every Australian will be able to access the web site, locate an individual war grave or commemoration via the search engine, and peruse information pertaining to that war casualty and obtain a copy for posterity (if required).

The project has employed many hundreds of willing volunteers, including students, current and past military personnel (including Cadets), Historical and Genealogical Societies and Associations, schools and youth groups, Social Clubs, Australian individuals, international communities and travellers.

The AWGPA is a totally non-profit endeavour, and any funding, contributions or assistance of a financial or in kind nature is utilised in a manner befitting the memory of our brave forebears. In the lead up to the ‘Centenary of Anzac’ and the many other significant military anniversaries, we are proud to now have this important resource.

http://www.australianwargraves.org/

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.

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.

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

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”.

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

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.

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

GIBBS, William Taylor - Service Record entry

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!