Tag Archives: Victoria

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 #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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Austrlian war dead buried in Portsmouth

I noticed an article in the Evening News recently appeaing for information about Australian soldiers from the First World War who are buried in Portsmouth. There are 12 ‘Diggers’ buried in Milton Cemetery, and the Cemeteries Office in Portsmouth are looking for information about them. In particular, it would be great if we could identify any family living in the UK in time for the next ANZAC day. These guys are buried such a long way for home, and it would be nice to do something for them.

Fortunately we are in luck, as Australian Great War Service Records are readily available, for free, on the Australian National Archives website. And the couple I have looked at so far run to 80+ pages of information! If anybody knows anything about them, or is a relative, feel free to get in touch and I will pass any info on to the Cemetery Office.

These are the 12 Diggers, and what we know about them so far:

BOYD, Andrew
Private, 46, 18th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of wounds 30 August 1916. Age 24.
Son of Andrew and Mary Boyd, of Hill St., Scone, New South Wales.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 14.

CRAIG, John Henry D.
Corporal, 1912,
17th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of wounds 17 November 1918. Age 22.
Son of Andrew Craig and Margaret Clelland Craig, of Killingworth, New South Wales. Born in Scotland.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 11.

FULTON, Thomas
Private, 1996,
47th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of wounds 24 August 1916. Age 33.
Son of John and Catherine Fulton,
of 640, Bourke St., Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 13.

GEARING, Harry Alan Cheshire
Lieutenant,
Australian Army Service Corps.
Died of diabetes 16 March 1917. Age 31.
Son of Henry George and Mary Gearing;
husband of Bertha Gearing.
Grave Ref. I. 1. 40.

GRAY, Hubert
Gunner, 19773,
3rd Div. Ammunition Col.,
Australian Field Artillery.
Died of sickness 11 November 1916. Age 35.
Son of John and Jane Gray;
husband of C. I. Gray, of Beech St., Whittlesea, Victoria, Australia.
Born at Prahran. Victoria.
Grave Ref H. 19. 9.

JONES, Clarence Morgan
Private, 4527,
57th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of sickness 10 December 1916.
Son of Charles James and Mary Ann Jones,
of Oatlands, Tasmania.
Born at Bothwell, Tasmania.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 15.

LYNCH, Thomas Francis
Private, 130,
32nd Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of wounds: 18 December 1916.
Son of Henry Francis and Mary Lynch,
of 42, Tfould St., Adelaide, South Australia.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 5.

MELVILLE, Andrew
Driver, 227,
24th Bn, Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of sickness 28 August 1918. Age 21.
Son of Andrew and Sophie Melville,
of 117, Peel St. North, Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 12.

PEARSON, Thomas Owen
Private, 69/A,
25th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of wounds 26 July 1916. Age 20.
Son of Thomas and Ellen Mabel Pearson,
of Wilmington St., Newmarket, Queensland.
Born at Maitland, New South Wales.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 4.

ROBERTS, John Thomas
Private, 2882,
44th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died of sickness 11 November 1917. Age 28.
Son of William John and Esther Roberts,
of 56, Stirling St., Footscray, Victoria, Australia.
Born at Mount Egerton, Victoria.
Grave Ref H. 19. 7.

WAKE E.
Private, 4482,
3rd Aust. Gen. Hosp., Australian Army Medical Corps.
Died of sickness 18 January 1916. Age 31.
Son of Edward George and Emilie Wake;
husband of V. E. Wake,
of 45, High St., North Sydney, New South Wales.
Born at Scottsdale, Tasmania.
Grave Ref. H. 19. 8.

Wall, George Savoury Lipscombe
Lance Corporal, 6104,
37th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.,
Died: Drowned 3 August 1918. Age 25.
Son of Francis Gordon Wall and Blanche Wall,
of Wells Rd., Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia.
Born at Thorpdale, Victoria.
Grave Ref. H. 19.6.

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