Tag Archives: Milton Cemetery

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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Sergeants Eric and Ronald Osgood

Out of the blue I received an email the other day from a gentleman who had noticed an unusual gravestone in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth. It commemorates two brothers serving in the RAF who were killed on the same day in 1940, and are buried in a joint grave.

Sergeant Eric Edwin Heaton Osgood (20) and Sergeant Ronald Arthur Osgood (22) both died on 17 July 1940. Their parents were Albert and Elizabeth Osgood, of Widley.

The ever-reliable Gerry at the Portsmouth Cemeteries Office informs me that the two brothers were killed in an air crash at RAF Sealand, a training and maintenance base in Scotland. And according to the burial registers their parents were living at Beaconsfield Road in Cosham.

I have emailed the RAF Museum, who hold records of all RAF aircraft crashes. Hopefully we can find out a bit more about the Osgood brothers. I must confess I had no idea about them, although I have previously written about the Venables brothers who were also killed in the same air crash in September 1945.

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Portsmouth’s World War Two Heroes – out in mid-February

I just wanted let you all know some exciting news about my new book.

My publishers have informed me that the books will be released from the distributors on 14 February, so hopefully they will start to appear soon after that. Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered, if you haven’t purchased a copy yet but would like to do so it is available from the outlets linked to the right.

I am hoping to confirm a couple of signing events soon at local venues – you’ll hear it here first!

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ANZAC #13 – Corporal Herbert Townsing

Since reading the article in the Portsmouth News about Australian Great War Soldiers buried in Milton Cemetery, I have always thought that the story was limited to the twelve lads buried in Milton. However, after taking a glance at Tim Backhouse’s excellent memorials in Portsmouth website, I have discovered that there is also one ANZAC buried in Kingston Cemetery in Portsmouth. It seems only right to tell his story too.

Corporal Herbert Townsing was born in Avoca, Ampitheatre, Karra Karra, in Victoria. Townsing joined the Australian Forces on 27 August 1915, at Black Boy Hill in Western Australia. He was a 29 year old labourer, married with one child. At the time of his enlistment he was living at 62 Sterling Street, Perth, Western Australia, which would suggest that he had moved from Victoria looking for work. He was very tall at 6 foot 2 inches, and weighed a strapping 196lbs. With chest measurements of 38 and 40 1/2 inches, he had blue eyes – with imperfect eyesight – brown hair, and was a member of the Church of England. He had a scar over the bicep on his left arm.

After joining up he was posted to 26 Depot, and from there joined the 12th reinforcements for the 12th Battalion, Australian Infantry on 16 October 1915. Just before Christmas on 17 December 1915 he embarked on the HMAT Ajana (A31) from Freemantle. Upon arrival in Egypt he reported to the 3rd Training Battalion. On 3 March 1916 he was transferred from the 3rd Training Battalion to the 52nd Battalion, Australian Infantry, who were then at Zeitoun. Less than two weeks later, however, Herbert Townsing was transferred again, this time to the 4th Pioneer Battalion, at Tel-el-Kebir. Perhaps this transfer was due to his background as a Labourer.

Townsing was swiftly promoted in the Pioneers. On 14 April 1916 he was made a Temporary Corporal whilst at Serapeum, and this appointment was made permanent on 27 May 1915 at Merris. Soon after on 4 June 1916 he embarked for Europe, onboard the HMT Scotian at Alexandria. Disembarking at Marseilles on 11 June, he went up to the western Front.

On 9 August 1916 Herbert Townsing was wounded, receiving a shrapnel wound in his back. The next day he was admitted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital in Wimereux, where he was described as having spinal injuries. On 11 August he was embarked on the Hospital Ship St Dennis, and a week later – possibly after passing through other hospitals – Townsing was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth. Unlike the other Australians, however, Townsing was sent to the Fratton Bridge Hospital, rather than Milton or Fawcett Road. This suggests that the 5th Southern General was in fact an umbrella for a number of smaller military hospitals in Portsmouth.

Only a day after being admitted, Herbert Townsing died on 19 August 1916, of his wounds. Surprisingly, he was buried the same day in Kingston Cemetery. His personal effects were sent back to his wife Molly in Australia – 2 notebooks, purse, 2 photos, 2 letters, 2 cigarette holders, 3 badges, 7 coins, knife, watch in tin, small bag. Interestingly, Townsing was referred to as a Sergeant in  the caccompanying letter note. The only other reference in his service record to this rank is the letter to AIF HQ in London informing them of his casualty. My guess is that he was serving as a local acting Sergeant, and that this had not been entered on his records at the time of his death. Sadly, the re

Molly Townsing lived in various places after the war, including at Gordons Hotel, Buabura; and Frazer St, Bunbury in Western Australia. In 1922 her last known address was care of the Post Office at Wyalcatchem, Western Australia. She was awarded a pension from 2 November 19i6, and in writing to AIF Base HQ in 1917 had the following to say:

‘I am very grateful for your kindness in informing me as to where he lies, it is consoling to know that he lies in friendly soil’

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ANZAC #12 – Private Thomas Lynch

I thought having reached the W’s I had concluded my look at the Australian Great War soldiers buried in Milton Cemetery, but it seems that I had overlooked Private Thomas Lynch.

Lynch was born in Adelaide, in South Australia, the son of Henry and Mary Lynch. Enlisting at Keswick on 25 July 1915, he was aged 18, and lived on the corner of Auckland and Ifauld Streets in Adelaide. He was an unapprenticed boilermakers assistant. He was 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighed 140lbs, had chest measurements of 33 and 35.5 inches, a medium complexion, brown eyes (with good eyesight), light brown hair, was a Roman Catholic and had two vaccination marks on his left arm. As an 18 year old he required his mothers permission to enlist, which was duly given.

Upon joining Thomas Lynch was posted to K Group, Base Infantry at Mitcham. Whilst there he was fined a days pay for going absent without leave. Before leaving Australia he was posted to A Company of the 32nd Battalion, Australian Infantry. Lynch embarked from Adelaide on 18 November 1915, onboard the HMAT Geelong (A2). He arrived at Suez on 16 December 1915. Whilst at Tel-el-Kebir on 14 March 1916 he was punished for failing to have his kit stacked properly, and at Moascar on 6 June 1916 he was punished for quitting the ranks without permission. He was awarded four days of Field Punishment Number 2 – being shackled. Not long after this incident Lynch embarked to join the BEF, at Alexandria on 17 June onboard the Transport Transylvania. Disembarking at Marseilles on 23 June.

Lynch was wounded at Fromelles on 20 July 1916, receiving gunshot wounds to his left thigh. He was admitted to the 8th Field Ambulance and then the 8th Casualty Clearing Station. By the next day he was at the 32nd Stationary Hospital in Wimereux. His wound was obviously slight, as a day later he was discharged to the 1st Convalescence Camp, also at Wimereux. Four days later, after processing through the Base Details Depot at Etaples, he returned to the Battalion on 15 August 1916.

Lynch was wounded again in the winter of 1916. On 29 November, whilst on the Somme sectory, he received gunshot wounds to his right arm and right thigh. Admitted to the 38th Casualty Clearing Station, the next day he was in the 2nd General Hospital. On 3 December he was embarked on the Hospital Ship Gloucester Castle, and taken across the channel to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth. Sadly, at 2.30am on 18 December 1916 Private Thomas Lynch died of his wounds. He was buried in Milton Cemetery two days later.

Strangely, AIF HQ in London received the report of his funeral before being informed of his death, which no doubt resulted in some administrative hair-pulling. After his death, it transpired that Thomas was not actually the biological son of Henry and Mary Lynch. In correspondence with Australian Army officials, Mary Lynch referred to him as her adopted son. He had been brought up by her since he was a baby, and he never knew that she was not his mother. She had never told anyone. Despite this, Mary Lynch was paid Thomas’s estate of £16.3.6 on 3 December 1917, and received a fortnightly pension of 15/- from 26 February 1917.

And in a fascinating insight into the attitudes of a bereaved mother, Mary Lynch also had this to say in correnspondence with officials:

There is not one thing in the world this minute that I longed to have more than a photo of his grave. How I yearned to have that photo no one knows. I pray that it will not be long before we will have a glorious victory over those inhuman brutes of Germans.

Oddly, there is no report of Lynch’s funeral in his service records, nor any detailed hospital records of how exactly he died. We do know, however, that his personal effects were sent back home to his mother. They consisted of:

Cigarette Case, Rosary, part of Rosary, Shaving brush (damaged), 7 religious medallions, wallet, money belt, prayer book, Postcards, 2 cotton bags, scarf, cap-comforter, razor strop, pipe.

This suggests that he was quite a religious young lad. Funnily enough, most of the 12 ANZAC’s we have looked at had either cigarettes or pipes, which is interesting. The Great War is often cited as an example of how cigarettes replaced pipe tobacco, as they were easier to transport up to the front line.

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ANZAC #10 – Private John Roberts

John Roberts was born at Mount Egerton in Victoria. The son of William and Esther Roberts, John was living at Herbert Road in Footscray, Victoria when he joined the Australian Army on 4 October 1916. Upon enlisting he was aged 27 years and 9 months, and had been working as an unapprenticed miner. He wasn’t married, and his next of kin was his mother, suggesting that his father was dead. His permanent address was given as care of the Post Office, Bulong in Western Australia. He hadn’t previously served in the armed forces, and he took the oath at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. That he was living in Western Australia is not surprising, I would imagine there are more openings for miners there than in Victoria! He was quite a small man, at 5ft 6 and a half inches and he weighed 135lb. He had a ruddy complexion, with brown hair and hazel eyes, with perfect eyesight. His chest measured 32 inches and 35 expanded. He was a member of the Congregational Church – a church where each congregation pretty much runs itself – and had a tattoo of a heart and clasped hands on his left forearm.

Upon enlisting, he was posted to 87 Depot, and from there was drafted to the 44th Battalion, Australian Infantry on 11 November 1916. In October he received unspecified dental treatment, and at some point during this period Roberts spent some time in the Clearing Hospital in Black Boy Hill, Western Australia, with an inflamed right buttock – possibly a training injury.Roberts service record, uniquely, give us an impression of just how many vaccinations servicemen had to receive – Roberts was vaccinated on 17 and 26 October, and 13 and 28 December – the last two for influenza. He was also vaccinated on 16 February 1917, whilst in transit to Britain. He embarked from Freemantle, Western Australia onboard the HMAT Persic (A34), on 29 December 1916. The day before leaving Australia Roberts made a will, lodged with a Miss Margaret McInnes, at the Government Hospital in Kargoolie, West Australia.

The Persic finally arrived at Devonport on 3 March 1917, and from there Roberts processed through the Camp Details Section at Sutton Manderville. Five days later, he joined the 11th Training Battalion at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. All Australian troops arriving from Australia spent some time with a training Battalion, even if they had already been designated for a Battalion that was at the front. After three months training, Roberts left for France. On 19 June 1917 he proceeded overseas via Southampton, arriving at the 3rd Australian Base Details Depot at Le Havre the next day. After 18 days there he finally left to join his Battalion, joining up with the 44th on 9 July 1917.

After less than a month at the front, John Roberts was admitted to the 11th Australian Field Ambulance suffering with Influenza – possibly an early sufferer of the Spanish influenza epidemic. After a week in the Field Ambulance he was discharged and returned to duty on 16 August. Less than four days later, however, Roberts was again admitted to Hospital sick. He was processed through the 9th Australian Field Ambulance and the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, and was believed to be suffering from appendicitis. On 21 August he boarded 38 Ambulance Train, to the 5th General Hospital in Rouen. Five days later he was sent to England on the Hospital Ship Esquibo, by now diagnosed with acute Nephritis. The next day he was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth, where his Nephritis was described as slight.

Upon admission Roberts was assessed by a doctor. No blood was found in his urine, but a large ischio-skeletal abcess was discovered on his right side, in the kidney region. Over two months his condition deteriorated, and he died at 12.50pm on 11 November 1917, of Nephritis. He was buried in Milton Cemetery at 3pm on 21 November 1917 – an unusually long 10 days after his death. Prior to his internment a service was held in the Chapel at the Cemetery – the only time this happened for any of the twelve Australians in Milton – conducted by the Reverend J. Watkins Daines, a Congregational Minister of Milton. And unlike most other Australian servicemen, Roberts elm coffin had brass mountings. A Firing party, bugler and pallbearers were provided by the Hampshire Regiment. Roberts brother, Private A.B. Roberts of 3 Coy Australian Army Service Corps Divisional Train was present at the funeral. Interestingly, Roberts was originally buried in unconsecrated ground – why, exactly, I have yet to establish. The undertaker was H. Osborne of Gosport – again, unusual, as all of the other ANZACS were ‘looked after’ by A.G. Stapleford, of Crasswell Street, Portsmouth.

John Roberts personal effects comprised the following:

1 wallet note book (containing letters), 2 discs, 1 coin, 1 silk shirt and collar, strop, pipe, jack knife, mirror, gospel, writing pad, hair brush, badges, shaving brush, soldiers guide, testament, 1 holdall (containing toothbrush, razor, 2 combs), 1 pair mittens, 1 pair socks.

Interestingly, these objects were sent to Mrs. M. McInnes at Kargoolie, who had been appointed as Private Roberts executor in his will. She was given sole powers over his estate, as if she were his sole beneficiary. If there was a dispute with his mother is unknown.

Sadly, John Roberts other brother also died during the war. Private Lawrence Moyle Roberts, of the 2nd Australian Machine Gun Company, was 20 when he died on 9 December 1916, and is buried in Lodge Hill Cemetery in Birmingham. Their mother Esther Roberts received a pension for both of them after their deaths.

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ANZAC #9 – Private Thomas Pearson

Thomas Owen Pearson was born in Bathurst, New South Wales in 1895, the son of Thomas and Ellen Pearson. In 1914, Thomas Pearson (junior) was working as an unapprenticed clerk. By this time, the Pearson family, including 19 year-old Thomas, were living at Walareyan, Dean Street, in Toowong. As well as working as a clerk, Pearson had been serving in a militia unit, the Oxley Infantry, for just over a year.

Thomas Pearson joined the Australian Army on 7  September 1914, very soon after the start of the Great War. He was initially drafted to the Australian Army Medical Corps, in No 3 Field Ambulance, A Section. He was 5ft 6 1/2 inches tall, weighed 133lbs, had a chest measurement of 33 and 36 inches, a fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown hair, and was a member of the Church of England.

After joining up Pearson spent less than three weeks in Australia, before he embarked for the Middle East, onboard the HMAT Rangatira (A22), on 25 September 1914 from Queensland. In common with most of the early members of the Australian Forces, Pearson and 3 Field Ambulance went to Egypt to await further instructions. Whilst there they commenced training, and it was not until 2 March 1915 that Pearson finally embarked for active service, joining the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli. The Australians did not actually land at ANZAC Bay until 25 April 1915, but Pearson – who landed on the first day – was wounded in his shoulder and right hip on 9 May. He was taken to the Hospital Ship Gloucester Castle, and from there to Egypt. He was admitted to the 1st General Hospital in Helipololis, in Cairo. He had sufficiently recovered by 23 June to be discharged. On 21 July he again embarked for Gallipoli, this time on board HMAT Seang Bee.

Pearson was again evacuated from the Dardanelles on 26 September, this time suffering with Diaorrhoea. Admitted to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station, he then passed through 3 Field Ambulance – his own unit – and onto the Hospital ship Gascon. on 2 October he disembarked at Malta, where on 25 October he boarded the Hospital Ship Gibraltar, this time bound for England. He arrived in England on 31 October, and was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital, at Mandlin Street in Bristol. There he remained for a good couple of months, evidently very weak after suffering from acute diarrhoea. A cable back home in November reported that he was suffering from debility, a serious weakness brought on by his illness. He was finally discharged on 4 January 1916, and reported to the ANZAC Depot at Abbeywood.

Pearson was destined to go back to the Mediterranean, but failed to report when he was supposed to. On 9 February he was fined a days pay, a remarkably light fine compared to some men who went AWOL for a matter of hours and were fined weeks worth of pay! Pearson finally embarked for the Middle East again on 24 February, onboard the MHAT Kingstonian. The Kingstonian arrived at Alexandria on 24 February 1916, and from there Pearson reported to the overseas draft base at Ghezerieh. He was finally assigned to the 2nd Field Ambulance on 12 March, at Serapeum. Two days later he was actually admitted to the Field Ambulance as a patient, suffering from Inflenza. This was edivently not serious, as he was discharged a week later.

The MEF had been evacuated from Gallipoli in January 1916, and since then the ANZAC troops had been awaiting their next move in Egypt. As the Western Front was consuming vast numbers of men, it was decided to bring the Australians to France to join the BEF. Accordingly, on 23 March Pearson embarked on the HMAT Briton at Alexandria. He had only been back in Egypt for less than a month.

The Briton docked at Marseilles on 30 March 1916, and from there Pearson proceeded to the Western Front. On 19 June Pearson was transferred from 2 Field Ambulance to the 25th Battalion of the Australian Infantry – whether he had been transferred as medical orderly or stretcher bearer, or even as an infantryman, is unclear. But on 30 June 1916, the day before the opening of the Somme offensive, Thomas Pearson received a serious shrapnel wound in his left leg. Admitted to the 7th Field Ambulance the next day, by 3 July he was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital. By this time his wounds were described as a gunshot wound in his left leg, and a severely fractured fibula.

It appeared that Pearson’s wound was clearing up and healing well. Sadly developed Tetanus, probably as a result of the filthy conditions on the western front, the nature of his wound and lack of development of battlefield medicine at the time. On 24 July he reported a stiffness in his jaw, and by the next day was showing symptoms of Tetanus. He was treated with anti-tetanus serum, but died at 11.10pm on 26 July 1916. He was just 20. Unlike most soldiers who died at the Hospital in Milton, Pearson was actually buried in Highland Cemetery in Southsea. His personal effects were sent back to his fathe, consisting of 2 wallets, photos, letters, watch, correspondence, note book, purse, 3 coins, cigarette holder, cigarette case, tooth brush, scissors, ring, 2 pipes and a tobacco pouch. Pearson’s body was later exhumed after the war, and re-interred with his fellow Australians in Milton Cemetery.

Tragically, Thomas Pearson’s parents lost another son on the Western Front. Corporal F.W. Pearson, also serving with the 25th Battalion Australian Infantry, was reported missing on 29 July 1916, during the Battle of Pozieres on the Somme. Twelve months later he was reported killed in action. Thus it seems feasible that the two Pearson brothers died within three days of each other.

A series of letters from Thomas Pearson senior to the Australian Infantry Base Records Depot sheds much light on what this poor family went through. By the early 1920′s the family were living at Wilmington Street, in Newmarket, Queensland. Evidently their moving confused matters, as there is evidence that Thomas’s memorial scroll took some time to reach them. His letters also tell us that Mr Sanderson of Exeter Road, who voluntarily tended the Australian graves in Milton, had actually visited Thomas whilst he was hill. It seems reasonable to suggest that Mr Sanderson looked after the Australian boys in life as he did in death.

The last words, perhaps, belong to Thomas Pearson senior:

to know a lad is buried decently softens the blow exceedingly… of my other lad I suppose we shall never know

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ANZAC #8 – Driver Andrew ‘Snowy’ Melville

We are now two-thirds of the way through our look at the 12 Australian Soldiers buried in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth. We have heard stories of disease and illness, of battles and wounds, of far off lands in the Empire. All of these lads stories are touching, but so far I don’t think a story has quite grabbed me like that of Andrew Melville.

 

Andrew Melville was born in Ballarat in Victoria, the son of Andrew and Sophie Melville. Andrew Senior had died some years prior to the first world war, so it was in 1915 that Andrew junior, then just over 18 years old, had to gain the consent of his mother to allow him to apply to join the Australian Imperial Force. Melville initially applied for the prestigious Australian Light Horse, but this was quietly crossed out on his attestation papers, and replaced with the 24th Battalion of the Australian Infantry.

 

Upon attestation on 15 March 1915 Melville was 18 years old, and an un-apprenticed Butcher. His mother lived at Peel Street North in Ballarat, and his only previous service was via the cadets. He was relatively tall at 5 foot and 10 1/4 inches, and weighed 146lbs. His chest was 34 inches normal and 37 inches expanded, and he had a fair complexion, with blue eyes and fair hair. He was a member of the Church of England, and had four vaccination marks on his left arm, and moles on his right shoulder and the left side of his neck.

 

After joining the Army, Melville initially served at a Depot in Australia. On 10 May 1915, he embarked on the HMAT Euripides (A14) from Melbourne, bound for Egypt. Sadly Melville’s service records do not suggest precisely what he was up to between when he left Australia, and the beginning of 1916 – a gap of around 7 months. We do know, however, that the 24th Battalion was in action at Gallipoli, fighting in the Lone Pine sector from September until December 1916. After being evacuated from Gallipoli the Battalion was in Egypt, guarding the Suez Canal Zone. On 4 March 1916 Melville was taken ill with influenza – perhaps an early case of the later epidemic? – and was admitted to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Ismailia. He must have recovered, as on 20 March 1916 he was with the 24th Battalion when they embarked from Alexandria, to join the BEF.

 

Landing at Marseilles on 27 March 1916, the Battalion spent much of 1916 fighting in the Battle of the Somme, in particular at Pozieres in late July and early August and at Mouquet Farm in August and September. On 13 September Melville was remustered as a Driver, suggesting that he had taken on a role with transport within the Battalion. On 5 Oct0ber 1916, however, he reported sick with a septic buttock, and was quickly admitted to a Dressing Station, then a Casualty Clearing Station. By the next day he was in the 3rd Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne. Two days later he was embarked on the Hospital Ship St Patrick, arriving in England the same day. Melville spent some time in the Shorncliffe Military Hospital in Kent, then at the 2nd Auxiliary Hospital, before being discharged to the ANZAC Depot in Weymouth on 4 November 1916. Whilst there he recuperated at a Depot in Wareham, near Poole.

 

Melville obviously required some recuperation and/or remedial training, for it was not until 24 January 1917 that he embarked again for France, on the Princess Clementine. The next day he arrived at the Australian Base Depot at Etaples, before finally rejoining his Battalion on 5 February 1917, after an absence of exactly four months. He was next ill on 22 March, when he was admitted to the 2nd Dressing Station and 2nd Australian Field Ambulance succesively with Trench Foot. He was discharged back to the Battalion on 2 April 1917.

 

Melville was only back with his Battalion for four days, however, as on 6 April he was admitted to the 45th Casualty Clearing Station, and then the 6th Australian Field Ambulance, with ‘Pyrexia of an unknown origin’. Two days later he was put onboard an ambulance train, and from there was admitted to the 10th General Hospital in Rouen. His records do not suggest whether his illness was resolved, but On 22 April he was well enough to be discharged to the 11th Convalescence Depot at Buchy. After several weeks there he was back at the Australian Base Depot at Etaples, before once again rejoining his Battalion on 13 May 1917, just in time to take part in the closing stages of the first battle of Bullecourt, part of Third Ypres. The Battalion later fought in the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917.

 

Life was pretty uneventful for Snowy Melville, until 1 February 1918 when he was granted a rare two week leave pass to England. For whatever reason, he did not return as scheduled on 16 February, and was absent without leave until 18 February, for a total of two days. He was sentenced to 14 days of Field Punishment Number 2 (ie, shackled), and fined 16 days pay. His punishment over and done with, Melville was with the 24th when they were part of the desparate defence of the allied line during the Kaiser Offensive in the spring of 1918.

 

On 31 July 1918, Melville – by now no stranger to military medicine – again reported sick. He was admitted to the 6th Field Ambulance, and three days later to the 5th Casualty Clearing Station, where his condition was once again described as ‘Pyrexia of unknown origin‘ – obviously a recurrence, as the origin obviously not having been found since his last admission back in April 1917. By 5 August 1918 he was in the 16th US General Hospital in Le Treport, before being shipped to England on 11 August. He was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital in Portsmouth. His condition does not seem to have been too serious initially, but thirteen days after he arrived he suddenly began to experience acute abdominal pain. An abdominal section was performed, which revealed that his abdomen was full of fluid and food matter, but no perforation was found. He became worse, and Driver Andrew Melville died of what was later found to be a perforated gastric ulcer, at 10.15am on 28 August 1918.

 

Snowy Melville was buried in Milton Cemetery on 31 August 1918. The burial was officiated by the Reverend J.M. Young, with Mr. A.G.Stapleford being the undertaker. Melville’s friend, a Miss K. White of 90 St Marys Road in Portsmouth, attended. Melville was given a full military funeral, with a firing party, bugler, military pallbearers and his coffin as draped with the union jack. Wreaths were given by the nursing staff of the hospital, Miss K. White, Sister Smith of the Hospital, and comrades from B2 Ward. Large number of patients and sisters were in attendance, and the Last Post was sounded. It seems that Melville was extrermely well liked in the Hospital, by nurses, patients and visitors alike. A comrade and a visiting English lady reported that he never complained, and that the doctors and nurses tried very hard to save him, but to no avail. Reportedly all were saddened by his death.

 

Melville’s personal effects were sent back to his mother, and consisted of correspondence, 1 wallet, photos, 1 comb, 1 metal ring, 1 cigarette case, badges, 1 razor, 1 penknife, 1 safety pin, 1 disc, 1 nail file. Interesting, that most of the dead ANZAC’s possessions seem to have been very simple, personal comfort items. Melville is also the first to have had a cigarette case. Cigarettes overtook the pipe as a means of smoking during the war, given the ease of transporting and keeping cigarettes when compared to loose tobacco.

 

An interesting postscript emerged after the war regarding Melville.  Two bodies of unknown Australian soldiers were discovered near the Serre Road, around Pozieres where the 24th Battalion had fought in 1916. One of the bodies wore a watch, engraved with ’227′ – Melville’s Army number. All of the men around the unknown soldiers were of the 24th Battalion, in an area where the Battalion had fought on the Somme. As we know that Snow Melville was buried in Portsmouth, it seems that he had somehow parted with his watch, which was buried with a comrade and possible friend. The two unknown soldiers were never identified.

Snowy Melville was an incredible, very young man. We have to remember that he was barely eighteen when he first left home for the war, and fought for almost three years on the other side of the world. Evidently well liked, he had fought practically everywhere – Gallipoli, the Somme, Ypres, and the Kaiser Offensive of 1918. He had suffered from numerous illnesses, but showed a remarkable ability to keep bouncing back. Sadly, it seems that his luck simply run out, so close to the end of the war. Had he lived, Melville would surely have been something of a legend amongst his friends and family.

 

Snowy, we salute you.

 

 

 

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ANZAC #7 – Private Clarence Jones

HMAT Warilda

Image via Wikipedia

Clarence Morgan Jones was born in Colebrook in Tasmania in 1892. The son of Charles James and Mary Ann Jones, after leaving school he worked as a Shepherd. Attesting in the Australian Forces in Colebrook, Clarence Jones was 23 on 15 September 1915. He hadn’t previously served with the armed forces. He was a well built young man, at 5 foot 9 inches tall and 13st 1lb, and a 38 inch chest, 40 inches expanded. He had a fair complexion, brown hair and dark eyes, was of a church of england persuasion, and had no distinguishing marks.

After enlisting, Jones was sent to A Company of the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion, as part of the 14th reinforcements for that unit. Jones actually stayed in Australia for a lot longer than most new recruits, and did not embark until 8 February 1916, on the HMAT Warilda out of Melbourne. The Warilda arrived at Suez on 8 March 1916, where Jones joined the 3rd Training Battalion. Not long after arriving in Egypt he was transferred to the 52nd Battalion, then at Serapeum.

Whilst undergoing training Jones was admitted to Hospital, on 23 May 1916 going to the 34th Casualty Clearing Station, From there he was admitted to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital, suffering with Pleurisy. His service records do not indicate when he was discharged, but he must have recovered swiftly as on 21 June he embarked at Alexandria to join the BEF in Europe.

Disembarking at Marseilles on 30 June 1916, Jones was at the 5th Divison Training Base at Etaples until 22 July, when he was transferred to the 57th Bn, Australian Infantry. The Battalion fought at Frommeles, entering the line on 19 July without first aclcimatising on a quiet sector. On 27 November Jones was admitted to Hospital, apparently suffering with Trench Feet. On 29 November he was sent from the 38th Casualty Clearing Station, on no 2023 Ambulance Train, to the 2nd General Hospital at Le Havre. From there he was shipped to England, on the Hospital Ship Gloucester Castle on 3 December 1916.

After arriving in England Clarence Jones was admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital, but his condition did not improve. By then he was suffering from gangrene in both feet and pneumonia. He died at 10.50am on 10 December 1916, and was buried in Milton Cemetery three days later. Sadly, his parents were only informed that he was seriously ill in a telegram on 12 December, after he had already died.

His effects were sent to his father, and consisted of the following:

Hair brush, razor in case, shaving brush, mirror, 2 knives, belt containing badges and buttons, spectacles in case, razor strop, testament, pipe, housewife, identity disc, 2 bullets, purse, comb, pocket book, letters.

In 1925 Jones’s father sent a touching letter to the Base Records Department of the Australian Army:

We received the photographs of our dear lad’s grave, Pte. CM Jones. For which we thank you so very much for them. We are so pleased to have them and they are so well cared for which we are so thankful to know. And we are pleased to have Mr Sanderson’s photo he has been so kind in writing to me so kindly and he seems to very interested in our loved ones graves.

But that’s not all. A letter from Mr and Mrs Jones to Base Records in 1923 suggests that they lost more than one son in the War. Whats more, it seems that it took quite some time for their memorial plaques to reach them, after problems with the post. By this time his parents were living at Green View, Lake Road, near Oatlands in Tasmania. At some point they also lived in Tower Marshes, Jericho, also in Tasmania.

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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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South African native labourers buried in Portsmouth

Steamship SS Mendi, which sank on 21 February ...

The SS Mendi (Image via Wikipedia)

While I’ve been looking at the Australian Great War troops buried in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth, I have also come across other foreign nationals who are buried in military war graves in the city. Servicemen from Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium are buried in Milton, Kingston and Highland Road. But by far the largest contingent are South Africans, of the South African Native Labour Corps. They were killed in one of Britain’s worst ever maritime disasters.

Thousands of black south african natives were recruited to provide a non-combatant labour pool for the vast BEF on the Western Front. The intention was to free-up infantry from fatigue duties to allow them to concentrate on front-line duties. Black South Africans were not obliged to perform war service, but could volunteer to work on a contract basis. Historians have argued that using black native labour in an inferior support role was acceptable, given the prevailing ideology at the time. It was also deemed acceptable to contain the natives in their camps at all times, and to not let them anywhere near the front line.

A total of eight men from the Native Labour Corps are buried in Milton Cemetery. They were all killed when their troopship the SS Mendi was sunk off St Catherines Point, on the Isle of Wight. On the night of 21 February 1917 the Mendi was transporting 823 men and officers of the 5th Battalion of the Native Labour Corps from Cape Town to Le Havre, via Lagos and Plymouth. At 5am she was hit by the SS Daro, a meat ship travelling to Argentina.

Legend has it that when the Mendi sank, Reverend Isaac Dyoba rallied the men calling;

“”Be quiet and calm my countrymen, for what is taking place now is what you came here to do. We are going to die, and that is what we came for. Brothers, we are drilling the death drill. I, a Zulu, say here and now that you are all my brothers… Xhosas, Swazis, Pondos, Basotho and all others, let us die like warriors. We are the sons ofAfrica. Raise your war cries my brothers, for though they made us leave our assegais back in the kraals, our voices are left with our bodies.. Let us die like brothers.”

616 South Africans were killed, 607 of them black labourers. The 30 British crew were also killed. The majority of those killed were lost at sea, and are remembered on the Hollybrook War Memorial in Southampton. Presumably the few bodies that were recovered were brought to Portsmouth, being the nearest port and the location of military hospitals. 200 men survived. It is estimated that up to 140 men may have died trapped in the hull.

Looking at the information we know of the natives, we can learn a lot about how just how different their way of life was. Many only have one name. In most cases there are very few of the details that we would expect with white European casualties, such as full names and addresses. People in different cultures obviously recorded their names and details very differently, and it seems also that the personnel administration for native labourers was a lot more lax than for British troops.

Other men who died on the Mendi are buried elsewhere: one at Hastings, one at Littlehampton, one at Wimeraux in France (south of Calais) and two in Holland (Wassenaar and Bergen-op-Zoom). Some of the survivors drifted ashore in their lifeboats as far afield as Dorset. It is touching to note that whilst they were treated as inferior in life, in death the native labourers whose bodies were found were all given standard CWGC war graves, under the commonwealths forward thinking policy (for the time) of making no distinction between rank, race, colour or creed.

With political developments in South Africa and elsewhere in the 94 years since the Mendi went down, 600 black labourers dying in such tragic circumstances in a ‘white mans war’ has been a subject of much discussion in South Africa, but is little-known in Britain. The Wreck of the Mendi is now a protected war grave, and has been subject of investigations by English Heritage and Wessex Archaeology.

 

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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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ANZAC #4 – Lieutenant Harry Gearing

The fourth Australian soldier to be buried in Milton Cemetery presents us with a pretty interesting story indeed. Harry Alan Cheshire Gearing was born in India, on 16 August 1884. Hence he was very much a son of the British Empire. He was the son of Henry George and Mary Gearing. In civilian life prior to joining the Army he was Secretary and Accountant, and his wife was Bertha Gearing.

Sadly, as he was an officer Harry Gearing did not go through quite the same recruitment process as the rank and file. Harry Gearing was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Australian Army Service Corps on 22 April 1915. Prior to embarking for the Middle East, Gearing was in charge of rations at the Brisbane Army base, issuing rations daily for 4,000 men and 1,000 horses.

2nd Lieutenant Gearing embarked from Australia onboard the HMAT Ascanuis (A11), from Brisbane on 24 May 1915. He reached Egypt sometime later, but had been taken ill on the voyage. On 21 July 1915 he was examined by a Medical Board at the Australian Hospital in Heliopolis, outside Cairo, and found to be suffering from Diabetes, his symptoms including glycosuria, unquenchable thirst and asthemia.

On 28 July he left Egypt, onboard the HMAT Ceramic bound for England. By 7 August he was in Britain, and was again examined at the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth. Again, a Medical Board found that he was suffering from Diabetes, caused by service, and that he was unlikely to be fit for any future active service away from home. He was immediately given 3 months sick leave, leaving London on 31 August 1915.

Whilst on sick leave Gearing seems to have been perpetually on the move, taking in vast swathes of England and Scotland in something of a grand tour. His letters to the Australian Headquarters in London passed on his forwarding address, even if he was only staying for one or two days! In September he stayed with a Mrs Stewart at Culgruft, in Cross Michael in Scotland. From there he went to Dollar in Clarkmananshire, and from there on to Lauriestone Hall in Mossdale. In October he took in Corsock, Dalbeatie, Kircudbrightshire; and Balmaghie House, Castle Douglas.

In late October 1915 he was informed that he had to come back to London to sit before another Medical Board, in order to assess his fitness for further service. An argument then ensued, about whether he was entitled to a Railway Warrant for his journey! Gearing also stated that he would be willing to foregoe the rest of his sick leave if he could be garuanteed a post with the ANZAC base depot at Weymouth, but AIF Headquarters would not promise this.

Gearing was finally examined by yet another Medical Board at the AIF Headquarters at 130 Horseferry Road on 26 November 1915 The board found that his weight was still fluctuating, and that he had Polyuric and pains in the limbs, much sugar in the urine. He was found permanently unfit for active service. For some reason he does not appear to have been discharged there and then, but sent on more sick leave.

Between November 1915 and April 1916 his movements are somewhat vague, but we do know that Lieutenant Gearing was finally discharged from the Australian Imperial Forces in April 1916, in London. Although his letters suggest that he wished to return to Australia, for whatever reason he did not do so immediately. Upon arrival in London in April he was staying at Messrs Wallace and Co,Russell Court, ClevelandRow, in West London. In early May 1916 he sent a number of telegrams that suggest that he had been to Marseille in the South of France before returning to London. At some time in early April we know that he was in Gibraltar, making that a likely possibility. Later in May he stayed at Faulkners Hotel, Villiers Street, Strand, before travelling to stay at The Bungalow, Praa Sands, Vis Ashton, Cornwall.

Intriguingly, Lieutenant Gearing does appear to have had a sister in England – Hope G. Gearing, who lived in Culver Lodge, at Sandown on the Isle of Wight – by no means a million miles from Portsmouth. Ironically given his extensive travelling, there is no indication that he visited her during his time in Britain.

It seems that Gearing did not return to Australia. He died of Diabetes on 16 March 1917, almost a year after he had left the Australian Army. He was 31. Death records suggest that he did die in Portsmouth. Perhaps he was in the Military HospitalHe was buried in Milton Cemetery in Portsmouth, alongside other Australian Great War soldiers. Why he was buried in Milton is something of a mystery, but in 1919 his widow, who had been in Australia during the war, was living at Red Lodge, Craneswater Park in Southsea. She was still in Britain during 1920 and 1921, and according to her brother, was ‘always on the move’ – much like her husband, it appears.

Although he did not see active service, Harry Gearing’s experience is another example of the way in which servicemen could become ill during their service, and many sadly died. Although Gearing seems to have been of a slightly different class to most Diggers – an accountant, who seemingly had contacts throughout Britain - like his comrades, he died and was buried thousands of miles from home.

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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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