Tag Archives: Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

ANZAC Day service in Portsmouth

Earlier today Sarah and myself went to the annual ANZAC service at Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth, in remembrance of the 13 Great War Australian soldiers buried in Portsmouth. Regular readers might remember that I ran a series earlier in the year about the men and their experiences.

The service was attended by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Cheryl Buggy, Royal British Legion Standard Bearers, Royal Marines Cadets and members of the public. After a few words and prayers from the Chaplain, the last post was sounded and a minutes silence observed. After the reveille wreaths were laid, along with Poppy crosses.

It was great to see such a turn out, especially for some very young men who died over 95 years ago, so far from home. Hopefully they would be pleased that they have not been forgotten.

As you can see the graves are in a beautiful condition, and are tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. All of the 11 in this particular row were buried separately, but then exhumed and re-interred after the war in the same row. Hence their graves look very much like war graves in some of the big foreign war cemeteries in France and Belgium. Also buried next to them is Edward Sanderson, who voluntarily tended the Australian graves, and his wife Harriet.

I also have pictures of each of the men’s graves, and I will be updating their biographies on my blog with their pictures. If anybody from Australia would like to take copies of these pictures, then please do. I am also hoping to write an article about Portsmouth’s adopted ANZAC’s for th Australian War Memorial Journal in the near future.

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ANZAC #6 – Gunner Hubert Gray

Hubert Gray was born in Prahan, near Melbourne, Victoria; the son of John and Jane Gray. He worked as an engine driver, prior to enlisting in the Australian Army on 22 July 1915.

Upon enlistment he was married to Corea Isabel Gray, of Beech Street, Whittlesea, Victoria. He had previously served with I Company of the Rangers, in Victoria. He Attested in Melbourne, when he was 34 years and 10 months old. He was relatively tall at 5 feet 11 1/2 inches, and weighed 11 stone. He had a chest of 35 inches, and 36 1/2 expanded. He had grey eyes, black/brown hair, and was a member of the Australian Church. The only identifying marks he had were vaccination marks, moles and a scar on his left knee.

Upon joining the Army Gray was posted to D Coy, of the 12th Battalion, Australian Infantry. He remained with them until 10 November 1915, when he transferred to the 4th Brigade of the Australian Field Artillery. On 1 April 1916 he was serving with the 3rd Battery in the 8th Field Artillery Brigade. Unlike most Australian Great War troops, Gray remained in Australia for some time after he enlisted. He finally embarked at Melbourne on HMAT Medic (A7) on 20 May 1916, almost ten months after first joining up. He disembarked at Plymouth on 18 July 1916.

Gray did not leave England for the Front, and he was clearly not a well man. On 14 August he was taken ill, and four days later on 18 August 1916  he was taken into Hospital with suspected influenza. Gray was admitted to the 3rd Southern General Hospital, and was discharged three days later. He was back in hospital on 7 September, and this time remained there for some time, being kept in for observation. On 12 September he was tested for meningitis, and given the all clear.

He was still quite ill, however. His medical case notes report that on 6 October he was very thin, and on a low diet. By 10 October he was complaining of intense pain. Although by 14 October he had slightly recovered, was mildly conscious and felt hungry, by 20 October his condition had worsened considerably, but the doctors still had no idea what was wrong with him – he tested negative for typhus. Although he could talk rationally, he was clearly a very sick man. By the end of the month he was unconscious. By 10 November his condition was grave, grave enough for the doctors to perform a lumbar puncture, but he died at 3.45am on 11 November 1916, in the Military Section of Portsmouth General Hospital. He was 35.

After his death, pathology tests confirmed that Hubert Gray had in fact been suffering from chronic meningitis for some time. This would explain why he had been so ill for the previous few months, although his service records do not contain any evidence as to why the doctors failed to diagnose his illness correctly. The negative test for meningitis in September probably threw them off the scent.

Gunner Hubert Gray was buried in Milton Cemetery on 14 November 1916. His family were sent his effects, namely:

2 handkerchiefs, mirror, 3 note books, purse, 2 identity discs, pocket book, clasp knife, pocket knife, 2 combs, 2 hair brushes, shaving brush, badges (various), letters.

Sadly, Hubert Gray’s case is an example of how apparently fit young men could still die of natural causes and illness during wartime. It might not necessarily have been caused by his war service – although a stressful sea voyage and wartime privations cannot have helped – but, all the same, he was in uniform prepared to serve his country and the Empire.

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Suvla – the August offensive by Stephen Chambers

One of the fundamental tenets of modern British military practice has been to never, ever reinforce defeat. In other words, to not keep on flogging a dead horse. The Gallipoli campaign is a sober example of this. Noble in its intentions, once the Anglo-French fleet failed to force the Dardanelles by sea (and they might have succeeded if only they had pressed on a bit further) ground forces were landed on the Gallipoli peninsula, in an attempt to dominate the straits from the land.

In an abject lesson for later amphibious operations, the British at Helles and the ANZAC‘s further north failed to gain sufficient lodgement areas to build up their forces. In addition, the front line was so close to the sea that the lines of communications were frequently under fire. This lack of a lodgement area prevented the Allied forces from building up enough momentum to push on and capture the rest of the Peninsula.

Rather than seriously evaluate the viability of the whole Campaign, General Sir Ian Hamilton chose to make another landing, in between ANZAC and Helles at Suvla Bay. Quite why he thought that another limited landing, lacking in expertise and resources, would work where two others had failed is beyond me, it does strike one as a lack of imagination. Things might not have been so bad, had Kitchener not sent out Sir Frederick Stopford to command the Corps at Suvla. Lacking in experience and elderly, Stopford was sent out for old-fashioned, Army seniority reasons. One of the Divisional Commanders was a Lieutenant-General, and Stopford was the only available General who was senior to him – sending out a junior would have been unthinkable to what was still a hierarchy conscious Army.

Predictably, the landings at Suvla  met with little success. They were hallmarked by a lack of urgency in the initial landings and poor leadership thereafter, but also some very brave service by the rank and file, and indeed the opposing Turkish soldiers. Incidentally, the Turks at Suvla were led by a certain Mustafa Kemal. Among the men who fought at Suvla were the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, containing more than a few Portsmouth men. The whole peninsula was evacuated in late 1916, a costly failure indeed.

This book by Stephen Chambers serves as a very good history not only of the Suvla Campaign, but also the Gallipoli Campaign in general. It is by no means light on the bigger picture, in particular the issues surrounding Stopford. It also serves as a very good battlefield guide. Of course visiting Gallipoli is a bit more tricky than just nipping over on the ferry to Normandy or Flanders. It’s a long trek from the nearest airport, is in a pretty remote region with few facilities and poor transport, and apparently is home to plenty of wild dogs!

Naturally the amount of people going to Gallipoli is never going to be huge, but when I come to think of it, I’ve read plenty of battlefield guides for places I’ve never been anywhere near. For me, its actually quite an interesting way of being a battlefield tourist without the bother! In  that sense, I enjoyed it very much and it certainly added a lot to my understanding of the Gallipoli Campaign.

Suvla – the August offensive is published by Pen and Sword

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ANZAC #2 – Corporal John Craig

Australian Army Rising Sun hat badge used betw...

Image via Wikipedia

Like most Australians to this day, many of the ANZAC’s were either descended from immigrants, or even immigrants themselves. Corporal John Craig was born in Glasgow in Scotland. Before leaving for Australia he attended public school in Glasgow, and was apprenticed to an ironmonger for two years. It appears that the whole family emigrated to Australia around 1913, as when he enlisted on 18 June 1915 his next of kin were his parents, Andrew and Margaret Craig, who lived at Killingworth, New South Wales. It is also known that Craig had been in Australia for around 2 years before he enlisted.

When he enlisted Craig was 18 years and 10 months old. He was 5 foot and 8 3/4 inches tall, and weighed 140lbs. He had a fresh complexion, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and not unusually for his scottish ancestry, was a Presbyterian. He was a natural born British subject, and worked as a lamplighter prior to enlisting. He had served for 2 years with the Citizen forces, and before that for 6 months in the senior cadets. On enlistment he was drafted to the 17th Battalion of the Australian Infantry, a New South Wales recruited unit in the 5th Australian Infantry Brigade.

On 9 August 1915 Craig left Australia, onboard the trooship HMAT Runic (A54), from Sydney. After arriving at the AIF’s base in Egypt, and a period of training, on 4 October 1915 he joined up with the 17th Battalion at Gallipoli. Like many of his comrades at Gallipoli, Craig was soon struck down with an unpleasant illness – Dysentery. On 1 December 1915 he was admitted to the Hospital Ship Dongola from ANZAC Beach. From there he was transported to the Greek Hospital in Alexandria. He was eventually discharged on 19 January 1916.

After a short period back with his Battalion at Ters-el-Kebir, on  17 March 1916 Craig embarked at Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in France, disembarking at Marseilles on 23 March. On 30 January 1917, Craig was promoted to Lance Corporal. Not long after this, however, he was admitted to hospital on 14 March 1917 with Trench Foot. He rejoined his Battalion two weeks later on 28 March, before being quickly promoted to full Corporal on a Temporary basis on 19 April 1917.

After Eighteen months on the Western Front, on 1 September 1917 Craig was posted to England, for a well-earned ‘rest’ at the 5th Australian Traning Battalion in England. The 5th Battalion were based at Longbridge Deverill, on Salisbury Plain. Later in the war ANZAC recruits were trained in England prior to going over the Channel, with the ANZAC depot being based on Weymouth. After 6 months in England, during which Craig also attended a Gas Instructors course, he returned to his Battalion in France on 8 March 1918. He was not there long before being struck down with Trench Foot again. On 8 April he was admitted to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station, and from there to the 11th Stationary Hospital in Rouen. His case was obviously serious, for on 18 March he was shipped back to England, and admitted to the 2/1st Southern General Hospital in Dudley Road, Birmingham.

Craig was not fully fit for another 4 months, when on 2 July 1918 he was discharged from a convalescence depot to a training brigade, in order to prepare him for his return to the front line. A month later on 3 August he went to France, via Folkestone, before finally rejoining his Battalion on 10 August 1918.

Although the war only had several months left to run, there was still much serious fighting taking place in 1918. After the Germans last desparate attempt to break through had stalled, the Allies in turn began to push the Germans back towards their own borders. The ANZACS were obviously in the thick of this, for on 5 October 1918 Corporal Craig was seriously wounded. He was admitted to the 58th Casualty Clearing  Station with Gunshot Wounds in his left thigh, left chest, left arm and left hand. From there he was taken to the 47th General Hospital at Le Treport, before going back to England on 26 October. On 28 October he was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth, at Fawcett Road.

Sadly his wounds were serious, and his condition did not improve. Corporal Craig died at 4.15am on 17 November, in Portsmouth. The cause of death was given as a shrapnel round in his right thigh, and a compound fracture of the femur – wounds that differed somewhat from those described when he was first wounded. The First World War had ended six days earlier.

The actual report of Craig’s death is given below, verbatim:

Compound fracture left femur. Large wound outside left thigh just above knee fragments of femur can be seen. Another wk in hospital space healthy. Also wnd in upper and outer part of left upper arm no injury to deep structure. Same day haemorrhage occurred on the night of 15/11/1918 was plugged. Ch3 was given and wound opened up considerable amounts of haemorrhaging from which he did not recover and he died 4.15am 17/11/1918 as result of secondary haemorrhage.

Craig was buried in Milton Cemetery on 21 November 1918, in a full military funeral with a firing party, bugler, band and pallbearers, officiated by Reverend Gilmour Neil. The undertaker was Mr A.G. Stapleford, of Craswell Street in Portsmouth. Although there were no friends or family present, AIF HQ in London was represented.

His personal effects were received by his family in Australia in 1919 – 1 Jack Knife, 4 discs, 1 note book, 1 wrist watch, 1 photo case, 1 pipe, 1 fountain pen, 1 corkscrew, badges, 1 wallet, photos, postcards, letters, 1 L1/2d stamp, 2 prs sock, 1 coin, 1 purse. Also in 1919 a Miss P. Ward, from Rozelle in New South Wales, wrote to the Australian Army, asking for Craig’s relatives address, as he had been very kind to her eldest brother when he was killed, and had written to her describing how he was killed – a very touching personal story amongst the administrative details of a service record.

In 1920 Craig, along with the other Australians buried in Milton Cemetery, was exhumed and re-interred, in order to lie next to his countrymen. In a strange quirk of fate a very brave and very distinguished soldier found himself buried in the country that he had left seven years before, after sailing to the other side of the world to start a new life.

If anybody has any information about Corporal John Craig, or any of the other Australian soldiers buried in Portsmouth, please feel free to contact me.

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ANZAC #1 – Private Andrew Boyd

Road to Pozières: In the distance the village ...

Pozieres (Image via Wikipedia)

I mentioned some time ago that I am going to try and research the twelve Australian Great War Soldiers buried in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth. Thanks to the Australian National Archive’s wonderfully open approach to service records, I can now begin to tell their stories.

46 Private Andrew Boyd

Andrew Boyd was born in Scone in New South Wales. He joined the Australian Imperial Force on 7 April 1915, taking his oath on 12 April 1915. He was 23, a Carpenter, and his parents were Andrew and Mary Boyd, of Hill Street in Scone. Boyd was 5ft 9 1/4 inches tall, weighed 153lbs, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and good eyesight, brown hair, and was a Presbyterian. He effectively joined the AIF on 26 May 1915, at Liverpool, NSW.

Boyd joined the 18th Battalion of the Australian Infantry, part of the 5th Infantry Brigade. He was a stretcher bearer, and also a member of the Battalion’s band. On 25 June 1915 he embarked from Sydney on the HMAT Ceramic. Most Australian recruits left Australia soon after joining up, and underwent training in the Middle East. From there the ANZAC Division fought at Gallipoli, a campaign for which the Anzacs will always be remembered.

on 28 November 1915 he was admitted to the 5th Field Ambulance, and then on 4 December 1915 he was admitted to St Andrews Hospital in Malta, having been taken there by the Hospital Ship Glenart Castle. He was suffering with enteric fever, by no means a rare illness at Gallipoli. By 16 January 1916 he was in Alexandria, and on 22 January he was admitted to the Australian Hospital in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. He was not discharged as fit for duty until March of the same year. Medical reports suggest that it took some time to recover from even a mild attack of enteric fever, as Boyd’s case was described by doctors. At one stage a medical assesment recommended that he be sent back to Australia, but for whatever reason, this did not happen.

On 18 March 1916 he left Alexandria, sailing to Marseille to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. On 18 June Boyd was punished, for being in a restricted area without a pass, and being found in an estaminet (bar) without permission. He was awarded 168 hours of Field Punishment no.2 – being shackled.

On 2 August 1916 Boyd was wounded in action, during the Battle of the Somme. The Germans had just launched their final counter-attack on the Australians during the Battle of Pozieres. Boyd was admitted to 1/2nd Field Ambulance with a shell wound in his thigh, and was transferred behind the lines to 44th Casualty Clearing Station. 6 days later he was put on an Ambulance Train to 13th General Hospital in Boulogne. On 12 August Boyd was taken onboard the Hospital ship St Denis to England. The same day he was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth, where his injuries were described as severe. By 22 August he was seriously ill, and sadly his condition did not improve. He died on 30 August, from the gunshot wound to his left thigh and contusion of the abdomen. Private Boyd was buried in Milton Cemetery, Portsmouth.

His personal effects were sent on to his father -  cap comforter, brush, stamp, book letters, postcards, 2 small bags, 2 testaments, pipe, razor, identity disc, pendant, 2 note books, mirror (broken), wallet, shaving brush, belt, photos, one franc note, 2 stylo pens, 2 handkerchiefs, toothbrush, 2 souvenirs, pipe lighter, scissors, ring, 8 badges (various).

Intriguingly, Boyd’s files contain a letter from his only surviving sibling 50 years later. In 1967 David Boyd wrote to the Army Records Office requesting his brothers Gallipoli star. At the time David Boyd was living at 18 Edinburgh Road, in Marrickville, NSW.

If anyone can help with any aspect of Private Boyd’s story, or any of the other ANZACS buried in Portsmouth, I would be very pleased to hear from you.

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