Monday, December 31, 2012

Underage and Over There

Troops of the 57 Inf Bn waiting to board the Demosthenes on 17 July 1915.
Amongst the men on the dock at Port Melbourne that day was the  underage Private Alfred Newell of Kensington, whose youth may have been a factor in his poor service record.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

57th Bn Unit Diary Artist enlivens the June 1918 edition

This illustrated cover of the 57th Infantry Battalion unit diary for June 1918 is signed by the artist - P Huthnance.  A check of the NAA catalogue of B2455 records reveals the probable artist to be Corporal Presley Benjamin Edward Huthnance, who described himself as a 40 year old farm labourer when he enlisted in March 1916.  Huthnance didn't arrive in France to join his unit until 16 June 1918, so the May drawing was done after he arrived.  Likewise the Brigade Sports day, some events from which he depicted, had occurred before he arrived.

The Sports day had a variety of  events that would interest both the athletes in the Battalion as well as the not-so-athletic.  If the men didn't want to run in the 440 or 100 yards races, they could participate in the pillow fight or bomb-throwing.  The illustration above shows the officers' horse-jumping event and probably the 100 yards race at the top.  Musketry was another form of competition.  A couple of days before the Sports Day, a special shelter-building event was held, and some of the shelters seem to be illlustrated here.  The winning shelter was completely made of grass.  On another day there was a competition for groups performing escort duty, and the illustration at the bottom of the page may be showing that.  Appendix 8 reveals that L/Cpl Patten, the hero of the hour on his Lewis gun the previous month, took out first place in the Lewis gun competition.

Two further extremely good illustrations follow in the July and August diaries.

Lewis Gunner shoots down German plane, 1918

Scrolling through the War Unit Diary of the 57th Infantry Battalion for May 1918, this very interesting illustrated front page came to light.  The picture would seem to illustrate an incident on the night of 16th May when a German aeroplane, of the Gotha type, was returning across their lines in the Aubigny sector after dropping bombs on the back area.  The plane was flying low and only its outline could be seen against the moon.  Lance Corporal 3914 W Patten  of B Coy brought his Lewis gun into action.  Lt H J Dickinson, who was observing, said that Patten's tracer bullets could be plainly seen striking the aeroplane, and it was forced to land, about 700 yards in front of the B Coy sector.  Lt Dickinson immediately set off to take charge of the plane, but when he got there found it already in charge of some 4th Division men.  One German officer was arrested, but two other occupants had escaped.

UPDATE:  L/Cpl Patten was awarded a Military Medal for his courage and initiative in bringing down this plane, and also assisting another section being attacked on a bridge.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

29 Infantry Battalion, A Company, 1915

This group portrait was taken by Darge at Broadmeadows prior to the departure on the Ascanius on 10 November 1915.  Local men who may be in this picture of A Coy would include S A G Ball of Ascot Vale,  A W Bryant of Essendon, W J Bendon of Kensington, J W Bonnick of Essendon, T J Carroll of Moonee Ponds, L J Chapman of Essendon, R Dart of Moonee Ponds G Goy of Ascot Vale, and F B Nash of Essendon.

The names of other men in this portrait would be included in the 29 Inf Bn A Company embarkation roll.

Idenitifications of these or any other of the men in the picture would be welcomed.   The photo is also located on the Empire Called website. A higher resolution of the picture can be downloaded from there.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

McPhee brothers in 4 Field Ambulance

In this group of NCOs and Officers of the 4 Field Ambulance are brothers, Sergeants James Edmond and Victor Alexander Douglas McPhee of 1 Violet Street, Essendon.  Both accountants, they enlisted within weeks of each other in September and October 1914, and embarked on the Berrima on 22 Dec 1914 with the regimental numbers of 2006 and 2007.  Both served at Gallipoli.  Jim won the Military Medal for gallantry in 1917.  Both were promoted to Sergeant.  Only one brother returned.  This photo was taken at Ballieul in March 1918, and Victor was killed on 10 April 1918.

Jim is identified in the middle row, third from the left, and Victor in the same row at far right.  Jim's war diaries are in the Australian War Memorial collection.