This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

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.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Charles Watson, 12 Field Ambulance Brigade

Back to the Williams' brothers photograph album, featuring men of the 6th and 12 Field Ambulance Brigades in France and Belgium in 1916 and 1917.   One of the men identified was Charles Watson, who is most likely to be 3380 Lance Corporal Charles Edward Watson, a dental assistant from Carlton who embarked with the 6th Field Ambulance on the Ajana in June 1915 and later transferred to the 12th Field Ambulance, as did Gordon Williams.

In this photo Charlie Watson is identified seated third from the left.

In this photo Charlie Watson is identified sitting first on the left.

Other photos which seem to feature photos of this man are:

The man on the left.

 The stretcher bearer on the right.

 As Charlie always seems to have a smile on his face, that might be him second from the left.

And for the same reason, the smiling face in the back row on the left may be Charlie.

 Possibly Charles Watson again in a winter fur.

Any comments on these identifications is welcome.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt

Photo source:  The Lost Diggers Facebook
On exhibition 2 November 2012 until 31 July 2013 at the Australian War Memorial

To find the photos of the Lost Diggers, go to the search page of the Australian War Memorial, and put Thuillier in the search box.  You can narrow down the search by adding a surname.

See also the Facebook photo stream to view the photos. 

The book The Lost Diggers by Ross Coulthart is now available in bookstores.

Orderly Room Sergeant Dickinson identified in 7 Bn photo

A family member has identified Orderly Room Sergeant Vincent Robert Dickinson of Chaucer St, Moonee Ponds, in a large group photo of the 7 Infantry Battalion Headquarters Detail taken at Broadmeadows prior to embarkation in October 1914.

The photo to the right, provided by the family, shows Sgt Dickinson in what appears to be his 58 Inf Bn (Essendon Rifles) uniform.

To the left is a detail from the group photo of 7 Inf Bn.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

General Sir Ian Hamilton's cousin

Charlie Bonnefin before the war,
courtesy of Kim Phillips, Spirits of Gallipoli.

Private Adrian Charles (Charlie) Bonnefin had illustrious antecedents.  He hailed from an aristocratic French Hugenot family based in Mauritius, where he was born.  The family  contained men of noble rank and was connected to the Hamiltons, a prominent Scottish clan.  Sir Ian Hamilton, the first British commander at Gallipoli, was his first cousin.

Australian troops march past General Sir Ian Hamilton at Mena, 1915.  AWM collection PS10006.

On 28 March, Sir Ian Hamilton inspected Charlie's battalion.  Whether Charlie was able to catch up with his cousin we do not know.    Within weeks Charlie took part in the landings at Gallipoli.  Read Rod Martin's story of Pte Adrian Bonnefin.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The man standing in the doorway was identified on the back as W Keating.  On the same embarkation roll page for Gordon Williams was a Walter Birmingham Keating, a 19 year old clerk from East St Kilda

In a different album, but also featuring the 6th Field Ambulance is another photo which shows "Wally" standing on the left at the side of the Ajana on her departure from Port Melbourne in 1915.  The identity of "Scottie" is difficult to discover, but I wonder if he is the corporal on the left in the photo below, which has Harold Williams on the far right?  The photo below is during the period that Harold served with the 12th Field Ambulance, during 1917.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Williams Bros, Frank Smiley and Maurice Eaton, 1917

Frank Smiley, Sgt Eaton, Gordon & I
To dear Stan
with love from Harold. France 14/6/17".

 Gordon and Harold Williams of the 12th Field Ambulance having their portrait taken with Sergeant Eaton and Frank Smiley.  So from left to right, we see:

Harold Williams, Sergeant Maurice Eaton, Frank Smiley, and Sergeant Gordon Williams.

A snap below, taken in France on 8 May 1917, though with a different date, is in the album and again places the Williams' brothers at the same time and place as Maurice Eaton and Frank Smiley, who were serving at this date in the 4th Pioneer Battalion and the 4th Divisional Artillery Corps, respectively. They were possibly serving in the same sector of the line.  Reference to the Unit War Diaries for this date may clarify that.  

"Zambaks" seems possibly a play on words that refers to "Zam-Buk", a cure-all salve that came on the market about 1903, and was still being advertised in the papers right round Australia in the 1950s.

 From the Snowy River Mail in 1917

"Zam-Bak is the ideal healer, and at the present time, when there is a great shortage of doctors, it it real patriotism for every housewife and every worker to keep a pot of Zam-Buk handy for   the prompt self-treatment of any sud den wound or sore. This splendid herbal balm is un equalled, not only for cuts, bruises, burns, scalds, sprains, etc., but also for obstinate diseases like eczema, ringworm, ulcers, piles, etc. Of all chemists and stores at 1/6 and 3/16 per pot."

 Many parcels from home probably contained a post of Zam-buk, which was ferociously applied to itchy feet and other regions.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that Maurice Eaton looks like former Treasurer Peter Costello?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

12th Field Ambulance in France, 1917

The caption on the back of this photo reads "Arrived 20/9/17".   The Unit War Diary says that on 19th September the Unit moved to BAVINGHOVE, and then by bus to Le Nieppe.  On the 20th it says that "3 Motor Ambulances with 9 O.R. (other ranks) detached to 20 M.A.C..  Motor cyclist detached to 1st Aug Div.  1 O.R, evacuated sick."   Reference to Harold Williams' B2455 shows that it was him that was evacuated, with what was later reported as scabies.  Harold is in the above photo second from the right.

The date on the back of the photo doesn't accord with the unit diary, which says they arrived on the 19th, unless they are the nine detached to 20 M.A.C,, except that there are 10 of them in the above photo not nine.  Unless they didn't count Harold who was evacuated.

On the whole they looked none too pleased about their change of accommodation, though Harold looks his usual chirpy self, despite being on the verge of being sent off with scabies.

Can anyone identify someone in this photo?

6th Field Ambulance in Egypt, 1915

3355 George Gordon Williams is standing on the right in the photo above,  but who is on the left?  He is wearing a nice watch.
"Tent Group outside waggons at Oasis".

"Tent pitching Showing Heliopolis.  Col Hardie, Capt Johnson, Cpl Reid, Pvte Inglis & myself."
"Myself" is Gordon Williams, whose regimental number was 3355.  Pte Inglis was No 3410 Thomas Inglis, a station hand from Orange, NSW.  You won't recognise him from the back view, but perhaps he is in one of the other photos in this post.

6th or 12th Field Ambulance crew

Based on the fact that Gordon Williams seems to have usually had his photo taken with a pipe between his teeth, I am speculating that the man on the left is Gordon Williams.

Again, if anyone can help with identifications, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Unknown stretcher-bearer No 1

These photos seem to represent the same man.  He appears wearing a pith helmet in the Middle East, which means he would have embarked with the 6th Field Ambulance there, and later moved to France/Belgium.  He might have moved on to the 12th Field Ambulance, but this isn't clear.  In the bottom photo he is wearing a German helmet and greatcoat.

He is standing on the left in the photo below.

Can anyone identify him?

Stretcherbearers, 6th or 12th Field Ambulance

These photos are details from photos that I have enlarged to try and capture the faces.