ANZAC #5 – Private Edward Wake

Royal Australian Army Medical Corps

The Australian Army Medical Corps (Image via Wikipedia)

In the interests of variety, I have decided to break from alphabetical order in our look at the Australian World World One soldiers buried in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth.

Edward Wake was born in Scottsdale in Tasmania, the son of Edward and Emilie Wake. At some point early in his life they moved to New South Wales, where in 1902 young Edward was apprenticed as a Painter and Decorator. His wife was Victoria Elspeth Wake, and they had one son – Norman Lindsay Wake.

Wake joined the Australian Army on 6 May 1915. At the time he and his family were living at The Glen, High Street, Randwick in New South Wales. He was 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighed 144lbs, had a fair complexion and blue eyes with good eyesight. He had fair hair, no distinguishing marks, and was a Presbyterian.  Interestingly, he stated under ‘previous service’ that he had been a member of the Civil Service Rifle Club for 12 months, hence could be expected to know a Rifle better than most volunteers. Despite this, he was enlisted into the Australian Army Medical Corps.

Edward Wake left Australia very soon after joining up. On 15 May 1915, after only being in the Army for nine days, he boarded the RMS Mooltan from Sydney. Although his servioce reord does not state his destination, it is probable that he went to Egypt, like most of the ANZAC troops. That he had no medical experience or qualifications suggests that he was performing a relatively low skilled role in the AAMC, such as a stretcher bearer or orderly.

On 4 August 1915 he joined the MEF at Gallipoli. He did not serve there for long, before being evacuated to the Island of Mudros on 9 September with Enteric Fever, a disease that was prevalent at Gallipoli. He was eventually admitted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital on Mudros on 2 October 1915. After more than a month in Hospital he was transported to England on the Hospital Ship Mauretania, landing in England on 11 November 1915. He was admitted to the 3rd General Hospital.

Sadly his condition did not improve, and he died in Milton Infirmary in Portsmouth on 18 January 1916, at 12 noon. He was 31. Private Wake was buried at Milton Cemetery on 21 January, with the Reverend Gilmour Neill officiating, observing Presbyterian rites. Wake was evidently a religious man who also enjoyed reading and writing, as his effects were returned in a holdall containing a red cross book, two religious books, writing pad, comb, packet of letters, tin containing knife, pair of scissors, toothbrushes and false teeth.

Sometime after his death Wake’s widow moved to 48 Ernest Street, Crows Nest in New South Wales. Victoria Wake received a pension of £52 per annum, while their son Norman received £13 per annum.

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10 Comments

Filed under Pompey ANZAC's, Uncategorized, World War One

10 responses to “ANZAC #5 – Private Edward Wake

  1. John Erickson

    A painter taken into the Medical Corps? You sure this isn’t the US Army? ;)
    So sad to see yet another casualty of that horrific experience. It never ceases to amaze me how far Gallipoli reached its’ tendrils across the world, claiming and changing lives.

  2. James Daly

    It’s interesting, that so far more of the ANZAC’s buried in Milton died of illness such as Enteric Fever or Trench Fever than battlefield wounds. This leads me towards two conclusions – one, that Enteric Fever and such diseases were prevalent in places such as Gallipoli (whether that is due to conditions or poor hygeine, remains to be seen), and that even in the Great War, illnesses that nowadays would be a minor nuisance could then be fatal under the strain of active service.

    Come to think of it, my Portsmouth WW2 dead research shows a lot of men who died in Britain, and are buried here, and apparently died of natural causes. Sadly due to a lack of records it is impossible to tell what they died of, but I wonder how many of them were of natural causes brought on by active service.

    • John Erickson

      Bear in mind, my young friend, that the various battlefield drugs like sulfanimide had not yet been invented, and that even penicillin had yet to be invented. And yes, the hygiene facilities were horrific at Gallipoli. Think of the Western Front mid-war, with stagnant water up to you knees (or higher) with corpses rotting in it. Now add in the natural climate change from the heat of Mediterranean summer to a rather nasty and cold winter filled with rain and even snow. A truly nasty business, compounded by the lack of semi-permanent healthcare facilities that the Western Front did have. Sometimes I’m a bit surprised that more of the Anzacs didn’t die from disease!

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