WW1 Centenary: ANZAC Day, 1916 - Kathryn's history blog

Monday, 25 April 2016

WW1 Centenary: ANZAC Day, 1916

Australian poster, 1916 (source)
Today marks ANZAC Day, the national day of remembrance for soldiers from Australia and New Zealand, commemorated on the anniversary of the ANZAC Forces' landing in Gallipoli on 25th April, 1915. This was the their first engagement in the First World War and became a defining moment in the histories of the two nations. On the first ANZAC Day in 1915 there was a recorded 741 deaths of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. In the entirety of the Dardanelles campaign the two nations suffered 36,141 casualties.

Official commemorations of ANZAC Day were first held in 1916. Parades were held across Australia and more than 2,000 servicemen marched through London, culminating in a service at Westminster Abbey. In New Zealand there was a half-day holiday and church services were held to commemorate the Gallipoli losses. However, on this day ANZAC Forces were still in action across the front line and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records 11 Australian deaths from this day.

These men are as follows:

Richard Robert Becker
Pte John Alexander Blacklock
Pte James Corcoran
Pte George Gibb
Pte/ Signaller Frederick William Ernest Guille
LCpl Harold Keith De Warrenne Harvey
Pte Ernest Henry Huntington
Pte Herbert Taylor
Pte Robert Ernest Westbury
Pte George Whatmough (Whitmore)
Pte David Thomas Williams

Three of the soldiers are buried in Australia, with Becker buried in Cootamundra, New South Wales and Blacklock and Corcoran  both buried in Brisbane. There appears to be no records of them embarking on ships which were headed for the front and so it seems likely that they died in training-related incidents before seeing active service.
Australian ship HMAT Kyarra (source)
A further three men, Harvey, Huntington and Taylor, were all born in England. Taylor, originally of Chorley in Lancashire, had moved to Fraser Hill, Queensland in the years before the war and it is for his adopted nation that volunteered to fight, in the 25th battalion of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force). He embarked with approximately 1,000 other reinforcement troops onto the HMAT Kyarra (A55) at Brisbane on 16th August, 1915. Journeys on these troop carriers could take more than a month to reach southern England or a few weeks to arrive at the British Army base in Egypt. It is likely that Taylor fought in and survived the final few months of the Gallipoli campaign, before moving with the battalion to France on 19th March, 1916 as the first Australian unit to arrive there. They then began to prepare for the coming Somme offensive, serving for some of this time at Bailleul, on the Belgian border not far from Lille. This was the location of a railhead, air depot and hospital centre, making it an important logistics base in the buildup to 'The Big Push'. It is here that Taylor died of wounds on the 25th April, among the first to be buried in a cemetery which now holds 4,236 fallen servicemen.

Three other Australians also died in this area of the Western Front on ANZAC Day 1916. Whatmough, who served under the surname Whitemore, and Williams both died of wounds in the region south of Belgium and north of the Somme. Gibb is recorded as being killed in action. His unit, the 4th battalion AIF, did not serve in battle until the Battle of the Somme so it is likely that he was killed by a German sniper or while on a sortie in No Man's Land. He had transferred to this unit at the end of 1915, to replace those the battalion had lost while on service in Gallipoli. It is interesting that Gibb had enlisted on 18th July, 1915 at the height of the Gallipoli crisis when Australia were suffering heavy casualties. The full scale of the disaster wouldn't have been known by those back home, so it seems likely that he had been motivated to volunteer by the national cause.
Australian soldiers - with Kangaroo! - in Egypt (source)
Privates Guille and Westbury are both commemorated in Egypt. This was the site of an important British Army base and was largely used by the ANZAC Forces. Already occupied by British Forces before the war, Egypt was important to the war effort for the Suez Canal, through which the ANZAC troops sailed north and was an important supply route, as well as for its close location to Gallipoli. Many of the sick and wounded from this campaign had been brought to Egypt for treatment. Westbury, originally of South Hobart, Tasmania sailed for Egypt from Melbourne on 29th March 1916 aboard the HMAT Ballarat (A70). His records suggest that he had volunteered for the army less than two months prior. He died at sea on the 25th April, somewhere off the coast of Egypt. From the dates, it seems likely that he had arrived on the Ballarat a few weeks previously and was en route with the reserves to join the 12th battalion in France when he died. He had fallen sick of disease and is remembered on the Chatby Memorial.

Guille was serving with the 3rd Light Horse Battalion in Egypt, protecting the Nile Valley from the pro-Turkish Senussi. His death is recorded as accidental drowning, but it is not known if this was in the River Nile itself. His body was retrieved and he is buried at the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery. He was aged 22.

Kathryn

No comments:

Post a Comment

Pages