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

Thursday, June 20, 2019

6 Machine Gun Company at rest

This photo turned up lately as an enquiry as to where it might have been taken.  "Belge" was taken to mean Belgium, but the word before it didn't compute.  Still doesn't, so any ideas welcome.

Notwithstanding that, because the photo had a date, and a name, it was possible to roughly work it out.  Archibald St George Tuohy was a local man who lived at "Ladyward", Glass St, Essendon.  (On the corner of Napier St.  This house features in the book Fine Homes of Essendon and Flemington, 1846-1860, published by the Essendon Historical Society.)

Tuohy had embarked on the Ulysses in May 1915 along with the O'Gorman brothers (John James and George Patrick) of Wangaratta and Joseph Lawrence Stapleton of Buangor, Victoria.   They were sent to Gallipoli, but after evacuation to Egypt, the four men were transferred to the 6 Machine Gun Company.  They had previously served as machine gunners with the 21 Infantry Battalion.   From Egypt they were sent to France.

Stapleton showed early promise and by the date of the photo was indeed a Sergeant.  Also not long before the date of the photo Archibald had won a Military Medal.  He is wearing the ribbon in this photo.

Having mistakenly thought that some of the men were still with the 21 Infantry Bn, not having examined the B2455 records closely, I looked at the 21 Infantry Bn Unit War Diary, which described the Bn as having detrained at Provan in Belgium not long before, and marched to St Lawrence Camp via Poperinghe.  It also commented that the day of 18 September was wet (the 6 MGC diary didn't mention the weather), which more or less rules out that day as the day the photo was taken, their boots being clean and shiny.

Looking also at the 6 MGC Unit War Diary it was apparent that the 6 MGC was travelling almost in tandem with the 21 Inf Bn, and they also detrained at Provan and headed for Erie Camp.   I  determined from Google Maps that it was an 18 minute walk from Provan to Poperinghe.

Not knowing anything much about army camps I did a google search on "St Lawrence Camp" and "Poperinghe", and came up with a very interesting WW1 map of Poperinghe surrounded by military camps - some very probably established by Canadian troops, as they boasted names like St Lawrence, Erie, Toronto, and Ottawa.

The troops at the Erie Camp were engaged in training and maintenance of their guns.  A few days after arrival half of the 6 MGC were sent into the lines, while the other half remained at training and gun maintenance.  The photograph was probably taken in this period.  A few days later they took their rotation into the line when the other half of the company returned to camp.

No comments:

Post a Comment