GALLIPOLI SOLDIERS OF PHILLIP ISLAND
A talk researched, written and presented to the Society by John Jansson, Wednesday 8th April 2015
Most of the men recruited into the Australian Imperial Force at the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 were sent to Egypt to meet the threat which the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) posed to British interests in the Middle East and to the Suez Canal. After four and a half months of training near Cairo, the Australians departed by ship for the Gallipoli peninsula, together with troops from New Zealand, Britain, and France. The aim of this deployment was to assist a British naval operation which aimed to force the Dardanelles Strait and capture the Turkish capital, Constantinople.
The Australians landed at what became known as Anzac Cove on 25th April 1915, and they established a tenuous foothold on the steep slopes above the beach.
During the early days of the campaign, the allies tried to break through the Turkish lines and the Turks tried to drive the allied troops off the peninsula. Concerted but unsuccessful allied attempts to break through in August included the Australian attacks at Lone Pine and the Nek. All attempts ended in failure for both sides, and the ensuing stalemate continued for the remainder of 1915.
The most successful operation of the campaign was the evacuation of the troops on 19–20 December under cover of a comprehensive deception operation. As a result, the Turks were unable to inflict more than a very few casualties on the retreating forces. The whole Gallipoli operation, however, cost 26,111 Australian casualties, including 8,141 deaths. Despite this, it has been said that Gallipoli had no influence on the course of the war.
L/Cpl. William Edward Lionel Butcher
William was born in 1893 in Hammersmith, London, England to William Henry Butcher, an optologist and Ada. He embarked from London on the s.s. Geelong on 28th August 1913 arriving Melbourne on 17th October. William was working as a farm labourer at Bena for Arthur Romanes Tulloch. He enlisted with the 8th Battalion on 18th August 1914. After training at Broadmeadows William embarked for Egypt on HMAT Benalla on 19th October 1914.
The Benalla arrived at Egypt on 2nd December 1914. The Battalion undertook further training and briefly took part in the defence of the Suez Canal from the Turks following the First Suez Offensive. The Turkish offensive ended before the battalion could see any action. Following this, the battalion remained in Egypt before being transported to Lemnos Island in early April in preparation for their involvement in the Gallipoli campaign.
The Battalion took part in the ANZAC landing on 25th April 1915, as part of the second wave. Ten days after the landing, the 2nd Brigade was transferred from ANZAC to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions returned to ANZAC to help defend the beachhead.
William received a gun shot wound to his arm during the battle for Krithia and was transferred to a hospital in Malta. He re-joined the Battalion at Lemnos on 9th September 1915.
After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In March 1916, it sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army. The battalion’s first major action in France was at Pozieres in the Somme valley in July 1916. After Pozieres, the battalion fought at Ypres, in Flanders, in October, returning to the Somme for winter. On 27th April 1917 William received a gunshot wound to the head at Lagnicourt, France. A piece of shell grazed the top of his head, grooving the bone and lacerating his scalp.
William was unconscious for two days and was admitted to the 1st Birmingham War Hospital in England. He was permanently unfit for general service and on 21st December 1917 returned home to Australia on the Persic. He is amongst the servicemen in the photo taken at Cowes in 1920. He returned to England to live in the 1920’s. William is commemorated on the Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour and the Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour.
Pte. Leonard Theodore Bagley.
Leonard was born in Northcote in 1888 to James Latrobe Bagley, a legal manager and Mary Louisa Fuller. Leonard was working as a librarian at St Kilda before the war. He enlisted on 19th August 1914 at Melbourne with the 2nd Field Ambulance of the Australian Army Medical Corps.
After training at Broadmeadows the 2nd Field Ambulance embarked Melbourne on HMAT Wiltshire on 19th October arriving in Egypt in December. Several months training was done in the desert in Egypt. Leonard embarked from Alexandria for Lemnos on HMAT Seang Choong.
The work of the Field Ambulance at Gallipoli involved the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the battlefield to the ships by the stretcher bearers under extremely difficult conditions. The units tent subdivision provided surgical and nursing treatment on the ships. C. E. W. Bean took this photo of wounded soldiers and stretcher bearers on 26 April at the 3rd Battalion dressing station in Shrapnel Gully.
Leonard was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital at Heliopolis, Egypt on 25th August 1915 suffering from heart strain and was invalided to Australia on 4th November on the Karoola. Leonard married Mary Anderson Potter at St Philip’s Church Cowes in 1917 and took on fishing with the boat Dawn. Leonard died at San Remo on 12th December 1949 and was buried in the San Remo Cemetery.
L/Cpl. Raymond Slade Thornton
Raymond was born at Cowes, son of the mounted local Police Constable and grandson of Captain John Lock of Rhyll.
He was a relieving letter carrier at St Kilda and Windsor at time of enlisting with the 2nd Field Ambulance of the Australian Army Medical Corps on 19th August 1915. This was the same day and same unit as Leonard Bagley. Raymond embarked from Melbourne with the 2nd Field Ambulance on HMAT Wiltshire on 19th October 1914, landing at Egypt. After several months training in the desert they landed at Gallipoli with the 2nd Brigade on 25th April. Raymond was in charge of a stretcher squad in the field at Gallipoli.
Raymond received a gunshot wound on the right side through the lung and was evacuated to the Dunluce Castle. He died on board on the 26th May 1915, the first Islander to die in the war. Raymond was buried with others in the East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos Island, “a green beautiful spot”.
Dvr. William Henry (Harry) Picking
William was born in North Melbourne in 1884 to Louis Picking, a foreman and Lucy Greyling.
He was a railway employee when he enlisted with the 2nd Field Ambulance on 19th August.
He embarked on the HMAT Wiltshire on 19th August 1915 with Leonard Bagley and Raymond Thornton. The Field Ambulance served at Gallipoli tending to casualties at actions at Krithia and Lone Pine until the evacuation in December.
They did further training in Egypt before moving to the Western Front in April 1916. Here they saw action at Pozieres, Bullecourt, Ypres, Lihons and Herleville. He returned to Australia on 15th August 1918 and had various jobs including farming at Mardan in the 1920’s and cartage contracting around Melbourne.
Harry was living at Rhyll with his second wife in 1949 in the former McFee home. He died at Newhaven on 17th February 1971 and was buried with his first wife at Mirboo North Cemetery.
Tpr. Frederick Aspinall McFee
Fred was born in Emerald Hill in 1877 to William Thomas McFee, an ironmonger and Annie Aspinall. He was a fireman on the ferry Genista and living at Rhyll with his family. Fred enlisted with the 5th Mounted Victorian Rifles Contingent in the Boer War in 1901 spending 15 months there. By 1914 Fred was a labourer at Carlton and he enlisted for the First War on 20th August with A Squadron, 4th Light Horse Regiment.
The Regiment left on HMAT Wiltshire on 19th October arriving Alexandria on 8th December. They proceeded by train to Mena Camp near the pyramids for training. ‘A’ squadron 4th Light Horse Regiment landed at Gallipoli without their horses on 21st May and the squadrons were initially scattered to reinforce the infantry battalions already ashore. The regiment was not reunited until 11th June.
Much of the regiment’s time at Gallipoli was spent defending the precarious ANZAC position, most frequently around Ryrie’s Post, but its squadrons were involved in several minor attacks. Fred received a bad shrapnel wound on the right shoulder at Monash Valley on 11th July. Fred was evacuated to Malta, then London, spending about 12 weeks in hospital.
He then returned to Australia on the Ascanius arriving back in May 1916. The Medical Board recommended him as fit for home service and light duties in Australia.
“Nearly 150 people assembled in the Rhyll hall on the evening of May 10th to give a cordial welcome to Fred. McFee, son of Cr McFee, a wounded soldier who has returned from the war to recuperate. Songs and recitations were rendered by Messrs D. Robb and J. Mcllwraith, and valuable assistance was given at the piano by Mrs C. McFee, Mrs Boyes and Miss Walton. Dancing was kept up till 4 a.m. Sergt. Walker, a mate of Fred. McFee, gave a humorous recitation composed in the trenches at Gallipoli, which found great favor with the audience, to whom he appealed to send men to the colors. Before the interval for refreshments Cr Mcllwraith presented Fred. McFee with a wristlet watch. The leading feature of the evening was Fred. McFee’s half-hour narration of his moving accidents by flood and field, including the excitement among the transports on the despatch of the Sydney to meet the Emden, the landing at Gallipoli, the Lone Pine charge, etc. Some gruesome details were largely relieved by humorous incidents, while two months in the hospital in Malta, (with a bullet in the shoulder), with six and half months in English hospital left opportunity for agreeable discussive remarks illustrative of the high appreciation of the English people of the Anzacs.”
Powlett Express and Victorian State Coalfields Advertiser, 19th May 1916.
Fred enlisted again on 15th January 1917 with the No. 2nd Section Railway Unit, embarking from Melbourne for Devonport, England on HMAT Ballarat on 19th February.
“Ballarat was approaching Southern England, off The Lizard, when she was torpedoed by a U-boat just after 2pm on April 25th, the second Anzac Day. The 1600 men of the 24th Reinforcements Regiment had lunched, and officers were planning an Anzac Day service later in the day. All 1720 souls aboard Ballarat survived and were landed at Devonport that day.” Horatio J Kookaburra. Flickr website.
Fred served in France with the unit renamed the 1st Australian Light Rail Operating Company. The Company operated the 2ft. gauge railway to distribute goods to the fighting areas from the broad gauge railway depots. Fred returned to Australia on HMAT Nestor on 20th May 1919.
He returned to Carlton and in 1920 married Minnie Aileen Dalton. He worked as a labourer, caretaker and driver. His last residence was at Thornbury where he died in 1960. Two of Fred’s brothers, Len and Alan also enlisted in the First War. Alan died of measles on the ship between Fremantle and Colombo and was buried at sea.
Fred is commemorated on the Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour, Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour and St Philip’s Church Roll of Honour.
Tpr. Martin Alfred Sheen
Martin Alfred Sheen was born in 1895 in Cowes to James Sheen and Susannah Walton. He was working as a farm labour at Cowes. Martin and his brother William enlisted on 8th December 1914 at Broadmeadows with C Squadron of the 3/8th Light Horse Regiment. They left Melbourne on HMAT Pera on 8th February 1915 and arrived in Egypt on the 14th March.
The light horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations at Gallipoli, but were subsequently deployed without their horses. The 3rd Light Horse Brigade landed in late May 1915 and was attached to the New Zealand and Australian Division. The 8th formed the first two waves for the Brigade’s disastrous attack on the Nek on 7th August and suffered heavily.
Of the three hundred men who staged the charge on the Nek, twelve officers and 142 men were killed with a further four officers and seventy-seven men wounded. A first hand account of the events of the charge, and the death of Major Redford, is contained in an entry in Major Redford’s diary.
It is believed to have been written after the charge by Major William McGrath of the 8th Light Horse:
“At 0400 on the morning of the 7th a short bombardment by howitzers and warships, which did no damage, was succeeded by the word being passed around for the attack. B Squadron (100 bayonets) plus 50 bayonets from A [Squadron] took from the extreme left to the top of the ridge.”
“Everyman sprang out of the trench eagerly and crawled carefully for a few yards. Suddenly as they stood up to run forward, and got silhouetted on the skyline, a terrific fire from machine guns by the enemy (at range of 10 yards), swept everything down. Men were shot down in wonderful fashion and never before have I heard such a terrific volume of fire. Those not hit, promptly fell down, but the enemy played all along the ground with terrible effect and slaughter supplemented with dozens and dozens of hand grenades. No man unless in hollow ground escaped.”
Martin must have been badly affected by the experience of the slaughter at the Nek as he shot himself in the right leg and hand, at Lone Pine on 13th August 1915. He was severely injured and was admitted to the 17th General Hospital, Alexandria. He was sent to England on 19th August 1915. Martin was reported fit for duty at Weymouth Depot on 4th January 1916.
He went absent without leave from Weymouth on 7th April 1917 until he was apprehended on 11th June at Bradford on Avon. He was court marshalled and sentenced to 130 days detention and forfeiture of 205 days pay. Martin’s brother William returned to Australia on 26th May with venereal disease, which possibly saved his life. He re-enlisted with the 5/13th Light Horse and fought on the Western Front.
Martin returned to Australia on the Berrima on 30th October 1917 and was discharged on 1st February 1918. He was living at Eaglehawk and died at Bendigo on the 11th May 1976 and was buried at Eaglehawk Cemetery. Martin was one of six brothers who enlisted in the First War. His brother James died of wounds received at Fromelles, France on 20th July 1916. Martin is commemorated on the Cowes School Roll of Honour.
Pte. John Lock George
John Lock George was born at Ventnor in 1891 to William Henry George and Elizabeth Lock. They had recently bought a farm on Nobbies Road. John was working as a labourer at Cowes when he enlisted with A Company of the 5th Battalion on 3rd March 1915. He left on HMAT Hororata on 17th April. After training in Egypt John embarked for the Dardanelles on the Seang Choon on 8th June 1915.
He joined the Battalion in the trenches at Anzac Cove and fought at the battle of Lone Pine in August. “On the morning of the 6th of August the attack on a Turkish strongpoint, now known as ‘Lone Pine’, began. The Turkish trenches were covered overhead by pine logs and the Australians had to break this defence whilst under intense fire. This was done by mid morning, at frightful cost. The exhausted attackers were relieved, and John George took his place in the trenches as part of the relieving force. Fierce counter attacks were mounted by the Turks in the late afternoon and evening. It was during these attacks that John George was mortally wounded.” Allan Box (1984).
John died at sea on HMHS Gloucester Castle on 7th August 1915 and was buried at sea. He was the second Islander to lose his life in the war. John is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli, the Cowes Obelisk, Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour, Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour, Cowes School Roll of Honour, and St Philip’s Church Roll of Honour.
Pte Charles Craft
Charles was born in Poplar, Middlesex, England in 1893 to John George Craft a corn porter and Sarah Jane Leverett. On the 1911 census Charle’s occupation was seaman. He emigrated from London on the Warkool arriving at Melbourne on 16th December 1911. He was a farmer at Ventnor working for the McHenrys at “Inishowen” when he enlisted with the 23rd Battalion on 23rd February 1915. James Joseph Beirne also worked at Inishowen and enlisted with the 11/6th Battalion on 5th August. The Battalion left for Egypt on 8th May.
As part of the 2nd Australian Division Charles landed at Anzac Cove in early September. They fought at Lone Pine. The fighting here was so dangerous and exhausting that battalions were relieved every day, alternating with the 24th Battalion.
The Battalion embarked Alexandria for Marseilles on 20th March 1916. The Battalions next action was in the forward trenches of the Armentieres sector in northern France. On the night of 29th-30th June 1916 near Hazebrouck France, Charles was part of a raiding party on enemy trenches in which 80 enemy were killed. Charles received a severely shattered femur from a gunshot and was admitted to the Brook War Hospital, Woolwich, England.
Charles embarked for Australia on the Euripides on 21st July 1917. He returned to the Island and married Alice Beatrice Richardson in 1926. He was a farm labourer at Cowes on the Electoral Roll. Charles died at Cowes on 18th April 1969. Charles is commemorated on the Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour and the Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour and the St Philip’s Church Roll of Honour.
Pte. Walter George Richardson
Walter George Richardson was born at Cowes in 1870, the youngest son of Joseph Richardson and Sarah Arbuckle. Walter was a farmer and fisherman and with his wife Evelyn ran the Bay View Guest House at Cowes. Walter enlisted with C Company 24th Battalion on 16th March 1915. He embarked Melbourne on the Euripides on 8th May.
After brief training in Egypt, the battalion sailed for the Gallipoli Peninsula and went into action on 5th September, 1915 during the latter stages of the campaign. Richardson was suffering from pyrexia (fever) and sciatica and was evacuated to hospital at Malta on HMHS Formosa on 15th October. His condition deteriorated and on 25th October he was sent to England on HMHS Brasile.
Walter was admitted to the 2nd Birmingham War Hospital, Birmingham on 1st November with symptoms of enteric fever but soon developed tuberculosis which spread over his body. He died on Christmas Day 1915 leaving a wife and child at Phillip Island.
Walter was buried at Lodge Hill Cemetery, Birmingham on 30th December:
“The funeral took place from the Hospital to the Cemetery, a distance of 4 miles, in a hearse, the coffin being of polished oak which was enshrouded in a Union Jack. Mourners were Major Horseman, representing No. 2 Birmingham Hospital, medical orderlies, 6 bearers comrades of the deceased, and many other comrades and friends who knew him when in hospital, and as already stated, Captain Fisher. Full military honours were accorded, and a large cross had been erected at the burial ground inscribed - ‘For our brave soldiers who have given their lives for the country.’”
Walter Richardson is also commemorated on the Cowes Obelisk, Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour, Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour, Cowes School Roll of Honour, and St Philip’s Church Roll of Honour.
Lieut. Clarence Stanley Williams
Clarence was born in Daylesford in 1892 the second son to George Williams, a blacksmith and Lucy Elizabeth Baker. He was working as a salesman when he enlisted with the 8/7th Battalion on 14th June 1915. He embarked for Egypt on HMAT Anchises on the 26th August 1915. After further training they embarked for Lemnos.
The Battalion landed at Anzac on 26th November and took over the trenches at Silt Spur on 11th December. They remained in the trenches until they were evacuated to Lemnos on the 20th. They embarked Lemnos for Alexandria on the Empress of Britain on the 2nd January 1916. Further training was done at Tel el Kebir and Serapeum. Clarence was transferred to the 2nd Machine Gun Company, part of the 2nd Brigade, and embarked for Marseilles in late March.
Arriving at Marseilles a few days later, they took up positions in the trenches of the Western Front.
Clarence fought in the Battle of Lagnicourt on 15th April 1917, the Second Battle of Bullecourt in May and the Battle of Hazebrouck on 12th-15th April 1918. The Battalion fought in the final British offensive which began with the Battle of Amiens on 8th August 1918 and in September the Battle of Epehy. It was during this final offensive that Clarence won an award for bravery.
Clarence was awarded the Order of the Star of Roumania – Chevalier (Knight) by the King of Roumania:
“Throughout the operations of August and September 1918 Lieutenant WILLIAMS at all times displayed great courage and devotion to duty and was a constant example to his Section. On 18th September during the attack on HARGICOURT, his section was attacked. 1st Aust. Inf. Battalion was detailed to support them in the advance, owing to the fog and our own and enemy barrage of smoke, great difficulty was experienced in getting forward and casualties through the violent barrage were considerable, still, Lieut. WILLIAMS managed to keep up and on three separate occasions brought fire to bear supporting the advance. Again on 21st Sept. 1918, though extremely fatigued, by his cheerfulness and ability to command he led his Section to the final objective and consolidated although only 107 of Infantry detailed reached this Objective.” Date of recommendation: 7 January 1919.
Clarence embarked for Melbourne on the Ypiranga on 5th March 1919 and married Esther James on 18th October 1919 at Brunswick. He ran a grocery shop in Cowes with his father George and was very active in the community.
Clarence’s only brother George enlisted with the 12/7th Battalion and was killed in action at Passchendaele on 21st October 1917. Clarence and Esther had a son George who was killed when HMAS Vampire was sunk by Japanese aircraft in the Bay of Bengal on 9th April 1942.
Esther died in 1923 and Clarence married Linda Burke, widow of William Burke who was killed at Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917. They returned to Carlton in the mid 1930’s and retired to McCrae in 1963. Clarence died at McCrae on 23rd February 1967. Clarence is commemorated on the Phillip Island RSL Book of Honour and the Phillip Island RSL Roll of Honour.
“The attack on the Dardanelles was not undertaken for military gain but for political expediency. It was conceived in haste to ensure Russia’s continued commitment to the war, but crafted to protect long-term British Imperial ambitions in the Middle and Near East. Seen purely as a military objective the Dardanelles expedition was stunningly ill-advised and bound to fail. As a political gesture to keep Russia in the war it was deceptively brilliant.”
“First World War Hidden History”, Gerry Docherty, Jim MacGregor.