Thursday, 30 April 2015

Z is for Zillebeke

Stanley Gilbert Edwards (1889 - 1917) was my husband's great grand uncle. He was the eighth of ten children of Francis Gilbart Edwards (1848 - 1913) and Caroline Edwards née Ralph (1850 - 1896).

He was born in Richmond, a suburb of Melbourne and was educated at the local State School.

Stanley enlisted on 21 March 1916, giving his occupation as asphalter. He was twenty-six years old, five feet three inches, with grey eyes and brown hair.  He was assigned to the 22nd Battalion 14th Reinforcements.

When he enlisted Stanley Edwards was unmarried, but before his departure from Australia he married Alice Louise Wilson (1892 - 1964).

Stanley Edwards
Stanley Edwards - image uploaded to by a relative of his wife

On 28 July 1916 Edwards sailed with his unit from Melbourne on HMAT A32 Themistocles.

On 4 December 1916 he joined the 22nd Battalion in France.

In February 1917 he was hospitalised with synovitis to his right knee. His dossier notes that a certificate was issued that the "soldier was not to blame". He rejoined his unit in April 1917 from Rouen Hospital.

Stanley Edwards was killed with seven other men on 21 September 1917 by a high explosive (H. E.) shell. On 21 September his battalion was at Westhoek near Ypres on the front line.

After the war a cross with his name on it was found at Zillebeke four kilometres south-east of Ypres. The War Graves Commission found no remains there. His name is one of 54,399 names on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres .

Stanley Edwards's Cross - image uploaded to by a relative of his wife

Three more crosses were found at Zillebeke for:
Private Frank Dawson Pridham and Sergeant John Charles Bailes were both from the 22nd Battalion and both died that day. They are both listed on the Menin Gate Memorial. Bailes was initially buried at Polygon Wood but it seems likely that he was killed by the same shell as he was reported as being killed at the same time as Corporal Gay. From the description on the Red Cross file, Pridham's death may have been from a separate shell.


Y is for Ypres

William Alfred Fish (1890 - 1917), known as Bill, was the oldest of eight children of Alfred Fish and Rachel Fish née Young. He was my husband's first cousin twice removed.

Bill was born in Sale, Victoria, and educated at Sarsfield and Kalimna State Schools, Victoria.

On 24 February 1916 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force.  His younger brother Leslie Charles Fish (1895 - 1988) had already enlisted, on 14 January 1916.

At the time of his enlistment Bill was a line repairer also described as a postal mechanic. He was 5 feet 6 3/4 inches tall, had brown eyes and brown hair.

William Fish was assigned to the 29th Battalion 7th reinforcements.  Leslie was assigned to the 108th Battery of the 23rd field Artillery Brigade.

W.A.Fish 3229 on left. L.C.Fish 22126 on right (brothers) retrieved from FindAGrave and reproduced with permission from a cousin who uploaded the picture.

Leslie sailed from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A7 Medic on 20 May 1916. He returned to Australia on 5 May 1919.

On 4 July 1916 Bill Fish sailed with his unit on HMAT A35 Berrima. Bill Fish and his unit disembarked at Devonport, Plymouth, on 22 August 1916. They trained at Larkhill, near Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain, until leaving for France in November.

Leslie Fish was also training at Larkhill, from July to December 1916. The photograph of the two brothers might have been taken while they were training in England.

In December 1916 Bill was hospitalised with mumps. He rejoined his unit on 6 January 1917.

In April 1917 Bill was punished for disobeying orders by eating his emergency rations. His punishment was 2 days Field Punishment number 2 and paying for replacement rations.

On 9 October 1917 Bill Fish was killed in action at Broodseinde, just under ten kilometers east of Ypres.

War Diary of the 29th Battalion: AWM4/Class 23/Sub class 46/AWM4 23/46/27 - October 1917 page 2

The file of the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau contains several descriptions of Bill's death.

Initially Fish was buried where he was killed, at Molenaarlens Hoek Broodseinde Ridge. After the war his body was exhumed and reinterred in the Oxford Road Cemetery. Oxford Road Cemetery is four kilometers north-east of Ypres. His grave is inscribed "Ever remembered", the phrase suggested by his father.

In 1918 a pension of 40 shillings per fortnight was granted to his mother Rachel.

Additional sources

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X is for the Military Cross

The Military Cross and bar awarded to George Symes. Medal now in the care of my brother.  Note the ribbon has faded considerably from the original purple and white and the silver has tarnished.

My step grandfather George William Symes (1896 - 1980) enlisted in the British Army in 1915 at the age of nineteen. In June 1915 George was commissioned with a war service commission into the Durham Light Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps on the 22nd February 1916, and was sent to France and Belgium on the 23rd February 1916. George was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant on the 1st November 1916.

The Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915.

British Vickers machine gun, shown set up for anti-aircraft purposes. Photographed circa 1914-1918. Photograph from the collection of the Library of Congress and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.

George was awarded the Military Cross and later the bar to the Military Cross.

The Military Cross was created on 28 December 1914 as an award for gallantry or meritorious service for officers with the rank of Captain and below, and for Warrant Officers. From August 1916 it became possible to award a bar or bars to the MC, for repeated acts of gallantry. 37,081 MCs were awarded in the war. In addition 2,992 men were awarded a bar to the MC (that is, they won the MC again); 176 a second bar and 4 men a third bar. (Baker, Chris. "Researching a Soldier." The British Gallantry and Bravery Awards of 1914-1918. Web. 28 Apr. 2015. <>.)

69th Machine Gun Company


During the attack on LE SARS on 7th-10-16 this officer advanced along a communication trench and single-handed captured 20 (twenty) Germans. After taking off the equipment of the prisoners he sent them back to our lines, while himself remaining alone to guard the trench. This officer also handled the guns with marked ability and has frequently made bold and valuable reconnaissances. Throughout the operation at LE SARS this officer has done work which only his great powers of physical endurance could have sustained. His coolness, judgement and courage have been of the utmost value to the Brigade.

MILITARY CROSS (gazetted 25 November 1916)

Lt Colonel

A A & 0 M G 23rd Division

69th Company, Machine Gun Corps.

2nd Lieut. (temp. Lieut) GEORGE WILLIAM SYMES, M.C.

Has carried out his duties with unfailing courage, ability and cheerfulness since February 1916, showing great gallantry at all the actions in which the Brigade had taken part. Throughout one Battle he commanded his section with conspicuous ability. Meeting suddenly a hostile party when alone with his servant, he went straight at them, killing two with his revolver, and wounding and scattering the remainder who were afterwards captured. He again commanded his section with conspicuous success and gallantry in a subsequent Battle.

Awarded the BAR TO MILITARY CROSS, January 1918.

March, 1918

Brigadier General,

Commanding 69th Infantry Brigade.

A photograph of George Symes during World War 1 from his own photograph collection which is now held by my brother.
Summary of promotions and activity during the war
  • 14 June 1915  granted a war service commission in the Durham Light Infantry as a Second Lieutenant gazetted 15 June 1915
  • 22 February 1916 seconded to the Machine Gun Corps
  • 23 February 1916 proceeded to the Western Front in France and Belgium
  • 7 October 1916 Capture of Le Sars (part of the Battle of the Somme) - his actions on that day resulted in his nomination for the Military Cross - gazetted 25 November 1916
  • 1 November 1916 promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant - gazetted 21 November 1916
  • 21 June 1917 granted a regular commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment in the rank of Second Lieutenant, with the service number of 9517. His seniority on the Army List dated from 14 March 1916.
  • 1 July 1917 promoted to the rank of Lieutenant (his seniority dating from 31 January 1917) - gazetted 25 January 1918
  • 12 November 1917 transferred to the Italian Front
  • 1 January 1918 awarded bar to the Military Cross - gazetted 28 December 1917
  • 3 April 1918 promoted to the rank of Acting Captain whilst second-in-command of a company in the Machine Gun Corps - gazetted 12 July 1918
  • 5 July 1918 appointed as an Adjutant in the Machine Gun Corps, retaining the rank of Acting Captain with pay and allowances of Lieutenant - gazetted 17 September 1918
  • 8 November 1918 promoted Acting Major whilst commanding a company in the Machine Gun Corps
  • 1 April 1919 reverted to his substantive rank of Lieutenant

After the war, George stayed in the army and performed performed staff duties in Britain and India. He was promoted to major in 1938.


Related posts

Monday, 27 April 2015

W is for West Africa

James Morphett (Jim) Henderson (1915 - 1942) was the only son of Leo Morphett Henderson (1874 - 1965) and Dorothea Nevill Henderson née Cudmore (1876 - 1925). Dorothea was the sister of my great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore and thus Jim was one of my grandmother's many cousins.

SONS of EMPIRE. (1942, March 19). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from

On 3 February 1941 at the age of twenty-five Jim Henderson enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force at Perth, Western Australia. He was assigned service number 406560.

Hopelands. (1941, June 13). South Western Advertiser (Perth, WA : 1910 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from

Jim, a noted polo player, was farewelled by family, friends and well wishers on 2 June 1941.

He was trained in Vancouver, a participant in course 33 of No. 7 Service Flying Training School of the Royal Canadian Air Force Station at McLeod, Alberta. The 11th Draft sailed from Sydney on 13 June 1941 and arrived at Vancouver on 3 July. (

Flying officer Henderson was assigned to the Royal Air Force 95 Squadron. In 1942 95 Squadron was based at Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. Jim was a pilot on a Sunderland flying boat.

 Short Sunderland, T9040 'SE-E', of No. 95 Squadron RAF, moored in Fourah Bay, Freetown, Sierra Leone.© IWM (CM 2564-83-36)
A Short Sunderland Mark III of No. 95 Squadron RAF, based at Jui, Sierra Leone, flying along the coast of West Africa on a patrol, photographed from another aircraft of the Squadron.
© IWM (CM 4868)

Letter to Leo Morphett Henderson advising that his son has been reported missing. NAA: A705, 163/35/191 Page 34 of 39

Jim was a pilot on a Sunderland flying boat L5805, which had been detailed to escort a ship to Freetown, Sierra Leone on 11 June 1942. Jim's plane went missing flying over the Atlantic about 135 miles west of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The aircraft was last seen circling the ship on a bearing of 284 degrees approximately 135 miles from Freetown in the early hours of 11 June, after which it flew off in a north easterly direction. At 14:00 hours what was possibly a white light was sighted at a low height, but no sound of engines was heard. During the next three days extensive air and sea searches were carried out, but no trace of the aircraft or crew were found. It was presumed that the aircraft ditched at sea during the night patrol and that the crew were killed.

The Operations Record Book (ORB) records that on 10 June 1942 L5805 Sunderland B/95 was airborne at 22:55 on patrol. The official records for that week recorded bad weather. Searching aircraft from 95 Squadron over the next days saw nothing but oil patches, apparently recent. 

Jim was the only Australian on board the aeroplane. His stepmother wrote inquiring if his [former] co-pilot Harry Horner was with him at the time. The answer was no. Harold Vincent Horner born 1911, service number 406595, survived the war and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Harry had also trained at Fort Macleod in Canada.

NAA: A705, 163/35/191 Page 33 of 39

James Morphett Henderson's nae is on the Malta Memorial at Valletta together with those of almost 2,300 airmen who lost their lives during the Second World War while serving with the Commonwealth Air Forces. They flew from bases in Austria, Italy, Sicily, islands of the Adriatic and Mediterranean, Malta, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, West Africa, Yugoslavia and Gibraltar. All of these men have no known grave.

The Serpentine Polo Club remembered their former team mate with a trophy named in his memory. (POLO 4 Teams To Compete For J. M. Henderson Memorial Shield. (1951, February 15). South Western Advertiser (Perth, WA : 1910 - 1954), p. 16. Retrieved from

As at 2015 the Serpentine Polo Club still plays for the Henderson Shield.  It is played for as part of the WA State Handicap tournament and is the B grade competition's main trophy.  It is very coveted and treasured by the players.  They normally play the tournament in March every year. (email 28 April 2015 Serpentine Polo Club)

Additional sources

V is for Vizefeldwebel

My great grandfather Fritz Hermann Boltz was born on 17 July 1879 at Trechwitz near Götz fifty-five kilometers east of Berlin and about seventeen kilometers west of Brandenburg an der Havel.

Fritz was the younger of two children of August Bolz (1840 - 1916), a foreman in a Trechwitz brickworks, and Wilhelmine Bolz née Bamberg (1844 - 1926).

Friz became a soldierthe rank of Vizefeldwebel [Senior Sergeant] in the 35th Fusilier Regiment [Prinz Heinrich von Preussen; Prince Henry of Prussia's Own]. He left the colours at the end of 1912, at the age of 33.

On 26 April 1909 at Brandenburg an der Havel he married Hedwig Anna Bertha (known as Anna) Bertz (1885 - 1961).

During the 1914-18 war he was a Feldwebel-Leutnant in infantry Ersatz battalions [reserve, depot and training] at Berlin and Küstrin/Cüstrin near Frankfurt on the Oder in East Prussia. With senior experience, and too old for front-line action, Fritz served as a training officer.

Peacetime regulations had allowed for certain senior non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to be promoted to the rank of Feldwebel-Leutnant to fill positions as platoon commanders for which commissioned officers were in short supply. This system was extended during the war, but only  those who had retired as senior NCOs before the war and were of good character could be given this appointment. Some retired officers were also called up to serve as a Feldwebel-Leutnant. In practice a Feldwebel-Leutnant was given administrative duties, and generally did not serve on the front line.

The 35th Fusiliers formed part of the 56th Infantry Division. During the First World War the regiment initially served on the Western Front notably at Liège and the Battle of Mons. In 1915 it was transferred to the Serbian Front, then back to the Western Front in 1916 for the Battle of Verdun, then to the Eastern Front in 1917 and back to France for the German Spring Offensive of 1918. (Dale, C. "Prussian Line Fusiliers 33rd-40th Regiments." Imperial German Army Uniforms 1900-14. C. Dale, 14 Apr. 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2015. <>. )

In 1916 Fritz spent some time in hospital. My mother recalls being told that her grandmother Anna went to nurse her husband. Their son would have been only about eight years old at the time but perhaps he stayed with relatives.

I recall it being mentioned that Fritz was wounded at Verdun. I cannot find any record of this. While casualty lists for the German army for World War 1 have been digitised I have not yet been able to find his name.

After leaving the army in 1912, Fritz lived in an apartment in Florastrasse, Berlin Steglitz, attached to a public school, where he worked as a caretaker. This was his address when he was called up in 1914. He returned after the war and was still living there in the 1940s [memory of his grand-daughter, my mother]. He retired about 1949, age 70.

Fritz died 6 April 1954 at Berlin Zehlendorf.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

U is for unwilling or hesitating to obey an order

Henry Sullivan (1894-1969) was my husband's great uncle.

Henry Sullivan enlisted at Broadmeadows on 15 December 1914 aged 20.  He gave his age as 22 on the attestation form, men under the age of 21 needed their parents' permission to enlist. His occupation was labourer. He was five feet eleven inches tall, had hazel eyes and dark brown hair.

Henry sailed on HMAT Runic A54 from Australia in February 1915 with the 3rd reinforcements for the 6th Battalion.

Henry landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 7 May 1915 with the 6th Battalion. While in the Dardanelles he was in hospital several times and on 3 October 1915 was disciplined for hesitating to obey an order.He was awarded 7 days F.P. [Field Punishment] - forfeits pay.

folio 19 of NAA: B2455, SULLIVAN Henry : Service Number - 1587 : Place of Birth - Bentleigh VIC : Place of Enlistment - Broadmeadows VIC : Next of Kin - (Father) SULLIVAN Henry
In June 1916 Henry transferred to the 58th Battalion and relocated to France. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 2 June.

Henry was wounded in action on 23 November 1916. He was admitted to Rouen hospital with a gun shot wound to the head.  The 58th Battalion was at Montauban, about 42 kilometers east of Amiens, on the Somme battlefield.  The battalion was digging a communication trench on the 23rd.

War diaries/AWM4/Class 23/Sub class 75/AWM4 23/75/10 - November 1916. Page 7.

On 23 February 1917 at his own request he reverted to the ranks.

In June 1917 Henry was assigned to the 5th Pioneer Battalion.

Henry's brother Arthur also served with the 5th Pioneers and mentions in his war diary that they met briefly in July 1916, a year earlier. In his diary Arthur does not mention his brother serving with in the same unit or meeting his brother again. However for Christmas 1918 Henry sent his brother Arthur a card  decorated with the words A.I.F Greetings from D. Company 5th Pioneer Battn France. It included a poem, transcribed below.

entry for 30 July 1916: transcription of diary kept by Arthur Sullivan during World War 1

In June 1917 Henry was disciplined for talking on parade.

On 22 August 1917 there was again a misdemeanour and he was awarded 3 days F.P. No 2 [Field punishment].

On 29 September 1918 he was wounded in action with a gun shot wound to his right leg. This was during the Battle of St Quentin Canal, France, 29 September - 1 October 1918. Six men from the 5th Pioneers were killed in that battle. The 5th pioneers were at Templeux but the work on 29 September was at Bellicourt fourteen kilometers north of Saint Quentin.

War diaries/AWM4/Class 14/Sub class 17/AWM4 14/17/31 - September 1918 page 8
page 35 of September War Diary for 5th Pioneers - orders dated 28 September 1918
Work report relevant to 29 September from page 45 of September War Diary
Appendix 18 page 48 of September 1918 War Diary of the 5th Pioneers

folio 22 of NAA: B2455, Sullivan Henry
Henry was invalided to England and was discharged in October 1918. He returned to Australia in January 1919.

As mentioned above, Henry sent his brother Arthur a Christmas card  in 1918 with greetings from D. Company 5th Pioneer Battn.  The card included a poem:

They wanted a crowd who could work all night, and carry a camel's load,
And find their way to the same old line, with never a trace of a road,
To do the wiring, and dig the saps, and toil where the big shells fall,
And lay the railways, and make the roads, or fight if they got the call.

So they culled from Australia a thousand men, and later a thousand more;
Men from the cities, and men from the Bush, they rallied from shore to shore;
And some of them guided an office pen, and some of them wielded shears;
But they issued the lot with a soldiers kit, and they christened them Pioneers.

We don't loom large in the paper yap, but talk to the men who know,
From the front line back to the heavy guns, they see when we come and go;
They meet us crowded in half-dug saps, to let the infantry by,
They pass us nightly on duck board tracks, and they know where our dead mates lie.

We've had good times, but they're mostly rough, but its all part of the game,
And no matter which way the cards are dealt, the Pioneers stay the same;
And this Christmas greeting they send along, to show they remember you ---
Here's hoping that long ere the year runs out we'll have shovelled the last sap through.
                                                                                          --- F.H.S.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

O is for orders

William James Harris (1898 - 1917) is the great uncle of my sister-in-law.

William was the oldest child of James Harris and Rose Harris née Dawson. He was born at Nyngan, central New South Wales.

William joined the Australian Imperial Force on 5 April 1916. He was a station hand, eighteen years and two months old. He was five feet six inches tall, had hazel eyes and brown hair. (Initially he gave his height as five feet three and half inches - perhaps in increased when he stood up straight.) He was not married and gave his next of kin as his father who was then living at Quakers Hill in Sydney.  His enlistment was recorded in the Evening News that day.

NAA: B2455, HARRIS W J Page 1 of 47 HARRIS William James : Service Number - 5580 : Place of Birth - Nyngan NSW : Place of Enlistment - Sydney NSW : Next of Kin - (Father) HARRIS James
William was assigned to the 15th reinforcements of the 17th Battalion.

In June 1916 William was farewelled in a function at the Quaker's Hill School.

SOLDIERS' FAREWELL. (1916, July 1). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 - 1950), p. 11. Retrieved from

On 9 September 1916 William embarked from Sydney on HMAT Euripides A14. After training in England he arrived in France in December 1916. He was wounded in May 1917 and was admitted to Rouen hospital. He rejoined his battalion in June.

On 20 September 1917 William was killed in action near Ypres, Belgium.

In October 1917 the Blacktown Shire Council extended their condolences to the father of William Harris. ("OF THE BOYS.". (1917, October 20). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 - 1950), p. 12. Retrieved from

The unit diary records the action on 20 September 1917. The casualties were 9 officers and 299 other ranks. It was a successful attack which gained almost a mile: but at the cost of one man killed or wounded for every five yards/paces.

War diaries/AWM4/Class 23/Sub class 34/AWM4 23/34/26 - September 1917 page 2
The attack of German positions in front of Westhoek was part of the Battle of Menin Road.

12 September 1917 - View of a demolished German strongpost at the foot of Westhoek Ridge in the Ypres sector. Note the crater filled with water right foreground. Australian War Memorial image id E00908
27 September 1917 - A view of Westhoek Ridge, in the Ypres sector. Note the debris in the foreground, and the shell damaged trees. Australian War Memorial image id E00981

The War Diary of the 17th battalion includes the orders for 20 September and a detailed report of the battle. My captions include the orders relevant to William and other privates.

There were three objectives: a red line, followed by a blue line and thirdly a green line. The attack was to be in leap frog fashion. The 17th battalion was to go first.
The distance between waves was 70 yeards. Troops allotted to the attack were to wear a coloured diamond or stripe on the back of their helmets, for example, red for the 1st objective of the red line.

Dress will be battle order; water proof sheets will be carried rolled up on the back. Each man will carry 220 rounds S.A.A.,2 Rifle grenades, 4 sand bags, 1 Iron ration, 1 emergency ration, Balance of day's rations, 2 full water bottles.

Greatcoats will be dumped in the Transport lines and will be done up in Section bundles and marked with the man's name and section.

The words RETIRE and WITHDRAW are ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN. ... All troops must keep close to the Barrage, and RUSH WITHOUT HESITATION every enemy position.

Detailed report of the day. 8.20 am 17th Battalion first wave passed jumping off point.

4.45 pm Fear casualties very heavy; fully 40%; ... Stretchers badly wanted.

In June 1918 a package was returned to his father of William's effects. This included his identity disc.

NAA: B2455, HARRIS W J Page 34 of 47
A pension of one pound per fortnight was grandted to William's father in December 1917.

NAA: B2455, HARRIS W J Page 37 of 47
NAA: B2455, HARRIS W J Page 34 of 47 Letter on behalf of James Harris. He is said to be "an old man & has three children to keep, as his son was almost his support"

William is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres; he has no known grave. He is one of 4,417 men who died on that one day in Belgium. 1,067 are remembered on the Menin Gate memorial.

Also killed in action in the Battle of Menin Road was my husband's great uncle Stanley Gilbart Edwards (1889 - 1917).

T is for Tobruk

My grandfather Richard Geoffrey Champion de Crespigny (1907 - 1966) known as Geoff de Crespigny served in the Second Australian Imperial Force as a doctor.

my grandfather in 1940

For the early part of the war Geoff kept a diary. It covers the period of his training in Victoria, with some visits home to Adelaide and a time in Sydney, followed by his departure for the Middle East in April 1940, various posts in Palestine and Egypt, and his experiences in Tobruk in 1941. Geoff was at Tobruk from January 1941 to October.  His initial role at Tobruk was Deputy Assistant Director of Hygiene [DADH].

From his diary describing his arrival in Tobruk.

29 Jan We arose before dawn and left at 7. Road pretty rough and burnt out lorries and material everywhere, but what we saw previously was nothing to the débris in the marshes between Buq Buq and Salum. Here considerable fighting had taken place, and there were tanks, guns, lorries, tents, clothing and litter in immense quantities. We passed lorry-loads of prisoners on their way to Alex – some driving! Salum loomed up ahead – an attractive spot where the escarpment marched from inland to meet the sea and form a fine western rampart to the little bay. A ship or so was in and the port was busy. We climbed the precipitous road up Halfaya Pass and were shortly in sight of Fort Capuzzo – severely battered. From there the road was very trying, but in 15 miles or so we came to the Bardia perimeter – wire, tank traps and pill-boxes, and one wondered how such defences could be taken. Inside were war materials in stacks – a mound of rifles like a coal dump in one place. Mercifully the road was now bitumen. We saw Bardia a mile or so away, sitting by the sea, while we passed by along the Tobruk road. From here the road was good, after the first 10 miles, except for some hectic patches. We lunched 100 kilos from Tobruk and then went on.1 We reached Tobruk at 3.30. Again we passed through intricate defence lines – guns on every side and big ones too. In a large compound we saw the prisoners – nearly 20,000 of them. It looked awful. We went on over a plain littered with lorries, and then found ourselves overlooking the harbour, with the town on its far side. A pleasant little place on a bare low headland, which surrounded a fine harbour. We could count about a dozen sunken or grounded ships – the San Georgio across the mouth of the harbour. After certain delays we found our quarters – in the late HQ of the Commander, 1 Libyan Division in  Plaza Benito Mussolini! Here I found friends, with Saxby and some of 2/1 Fd Amb [Field Ambulance] and Doug Salter and company,2 and also Ian Wood, Dick Johnstone and Keith Ross – a surgical team.3 I shared a room with Bryan – an odd little cuss, but with quite a nice room! I settled in, got a brief outline of things from Saxby, and after a somewhat inadequate wash tucked up pretty early.  

30 Jan There were various things to do – firstly to take stock of the town. It was in a hell of a mess, many houses blasted by bombs and shells, and all well sacked by the AIF who showed the ability of experts.4 The hygiene situation was horrible. Nothing much was left in the way of loot – all valuables having been removed early, but I found considerable interest in the collection of sundry stamps. I did various necessary jobs [7] with the 2/2 CCS [Casualty Clearing Station] some of whom I had met in Gaza, and also concocted plans with Carruthers of the hygiene section who was right on the ball as usual.5 Things are in a bit of whirl at the billets, but after the ambulance goes which will be soon, we shall move in properly.  

31 Jan I went this morning to the compound where the POW are kept. It was a depressing sight. There were about 15,000 of the poor devils in a state of complete dirt and destitution. As there were for a time 25,000 things must have been far worse. The hygiene situation must have been truly awful, but Carruthers' men were doing their best. I saw some of the Italian medical officers who were quite pleasant. They had no watches – all having been taken off them – it seemed a bit hard. In the afternoon there was little doing, but in the evening three aeroplanes flew over and dropped a couple of bombs and fired a machine gun. I neither saw nor heard them and felt a bit done out of it.
A column of Italian prisoners captured during the assault on Bardia, Libya, march to a British army base on 6 January 1941.
Retrieved from and © IWM (E 1579)
1941-01-23. Tobruk - View from the verandah of a house in Tobruk showing the church - the only undamaged building in the town after the British attack. (Negative by F. Hurley) Australian War Memorial id 005413

1 Feb 41 I am getting the picture of the town a bit better. It must have been a pleasant little place, with large barracks and many cafés. Some houses and flats are quite pleasant and relatively new – all are full of rubbish and broken furniture and things now. It seems that what the AIF cannot use, it breaks. I went to the POW cage again this morning – routine visit. Work otherwise goes on – mostly a matter of looking round for things and getting Carruthers after it with his merry men.
1. In accordance with the Australian system of that time, RGCdeC usually uses the Imperial system of miles, yards, feet, etc as a measurement of distance. Since the Italians and French used the metric system, however, road distances in the Middle East were commonly given in kilometres; in this case one may assume that the party had lunch by the 100 km marker.
2 Lieutenant-Colonel N H W Saxby from New South Wales, a few months younger than RGCdeC, was DADMS in charge of local medical administration in Tobruk town. RGCdeC was Deputy Assistant Director of Hygiene [DADH]. Douglas Munro Salter was Lieutenant-Colonel commanding 2/2 Field Ambulance
3. Major Keith Ross had organised a surgical group which was attached to the 2/1 Field Ambulance. Ian Jeffreys Wood, a physician of Melbourne, was responsible for resuscitation, and also trained front-line medical staff on techniques of blood transfusion. He ended the war as a Lieutenant-Colonel with an MBE and was later Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
4. According to Australia in the War of 1939-1945 (1961) edited by Long, the looting had largely been carried out by the defeated Italians, before the Australian's arrived. He would say that, wouldn't he? But the Italian medical officers' loss of their watches argues against such innocence.
5. The 2/2 CCS was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel K J G Wilson; the 2/3 Field Hygiene Section by Captain Bruce Maitland Carruthers. Carruthers was later Deputy Assistant Director of Hygiene at Jerusalem and became a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Series 5, Medical, vol 2 - Middle East and Far East. , 1953. page 188 retrieved from the Australian War Memorial

Geoff was at Tobruk for nine months through the siege which commenced in April. He was there for one of the longest periods and apparently earned the nickname of `The old man of Tobruk'. He was later mentioned in dispatches.

Not long before he left he received a souvenir of his time which we still have.

The entry for 13 October 1941 reads:
Woken early by the tent nearly blowing down. Arose and tightened everything and found a really bad Khamsin in action. Activity during the day was impossible, and I even had to postpone my bathe till the evening when it was calmer. Wrote letters most of the day, having received eleven which was one very bright spot.

Went to dinner with the REs [Royal Engineers] and had the usual cheerful evening, also collecting a valued memento – an aluminium matchbox cover tastefully engraved and derived from Luftwaffe. Hell of a drive back in the dark with several stops and one or two near misses but made it all right.

Geoff left Tobruk on 21 October

20 Oct Started shortly after 9, and visited Division, seeing new and old ADsMS [Assistant Directors Medical Services], CRE office and said goodbye to Purser, but unfortunately missed the others.1 Then we viewed No 6 Jetty etc, and called on the NOIC – Captain Smith has returned and it was delightful to see him again – his "Do come to anchor" when proffering a chair was superb as usual.2 Looked at the Docks Hospital and called on 33 Fd Hyg Sect on the way home. Went to AOW and AOD in the afternoon – then to [Fort] Pilastrino on a wild goose chase, across country to [Fort] Solaro, El Gubbi, visiting the War Cemetery, and to Sidi Mahmoud.3 Stuka raid over the perimeter when we were there. Back home for a noggin. Evacuation on Kingston as a sort of demonstration and everything went very well. I officially handed over the Verbi at 2359 hrs [one minute before midnight], and went to bed a free man!
21 Oct Up in good order and had the usual bathe. There were a few more details to settle in the office, some ringing up to do, and the packing to be organized. I visited the Hospital – no-one was in but they are to use my ship. Farewell to the wadi at 6.30. Shortly after reaching HQ a raid occurred for an hour, plus shelling. We crouched a bit – no use getting laid out at this stage! Went down to the docks at 8.30ish after a small party with O'Shaughnessy and others. Called in on the NOIC for a final noggin. Lieutenant-Colonel Martin of the REs came in whom I was glad to see – also Harry Furnell. We boarded the Napier in due course and in good order – self, Little, Fitzpatrick and my luggage.4 Found Allan Campbell on board in lieu of Murphy. Was given beer. We sailed at Midnight – and so Farewell Tobruch!
1. Purser, later identified with the given name David, was evidently an officer of the British Royal Engineers.
2. Captain Smith was surely a member of the Royal Navy; he has not been mentioned by name before.
3. The War cemetery was by the Bardia Road: Cumpston, Rats Remain, 168-171, with photographs. RGCdeC had made a farewell tour in a quarter-circle to the southwest of Tobruk town.
4. Fitzpatrick was RGCdeC's batman, Little the clerk in his office.
Additional sources

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Thursday, 23 April 2015

P is for Poperinghe New Military Cemetery

Selwyn Goldstein (1873 - 1917) was the first cousin of my great grandmother Beatrix Champion de Crespigny née Hughes (1884-1943).

Selwyn was the only son of Jacob Goldstein (1839 - 1910) and his wife Isabella Goldstein née Hawkins (1849 - 1916).  He had four sisters
Selwyn Goldstein matriculated in 1891 from Melbourne Church of England Grammar School.  He attended the University of Melbourne where he studied engineering.

In 1906 he married Minnie Sutherland in Western Australia. At the time he was a metallurgist with the Great Boulder Mine, Kalgoorlie.

Selwyn and Minnie had four children:
  • John born 1906 in Western Australia, who died as a result of a motor cycle accident in 1927
  • Minnie born 1908 Western Australia
  • Isobel born 1909 in Buckinghamshire, England
  • Winifred born 1913 in Buckinghamshire
Various obituaries give details of his career and death:
The sad news of the death on active service in France of Lieutenant Selwyn Goldstein was received by cable on Friday. Lieutenant Goldstein was the only son of the late Colonel J. R. Y. Goldstein and the late Mrs. Isabella Goldstein, of Melbourne. He was a brother of Miss Vida Goldstein, a nephew of Mrs A. Williamson, "Morven," Dunolly, and a cousin of Mr H. S. W. Lawson, Minister of Education and Attorney-General. He joined the Royal Engineers when an appeal was made for mining engineers to assist in special tunnelling operations. He was given a commission as 2nd lieutenant, and was later promoted to 1st lieutenant. Prior to his enlistment he was a passenger on a steamer which was sunk by a submarine. Lieut. Goldstein was educated at the Melbourne Grammar School and at the University, where he specialised in metallurgy. He was manager of mines in many parts of the world, including Kalgoorlie, Ravensthorp E. (Queensland), Mexico, Spanish Honduras, and Central Asia. He leaves a wife and four children, who live at Beaconsfield, Bucks, England. Sincere sympathy will be extended to widow and family, and to sister and near relatives in Australia. A photograph of the deceased soldier appeared in Saturday's "Herald." (No title. (1917, June 19). Dunolly and Betbetshire Express and County of Gladstone Advertiser (Vic. : 1915 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved from

Herald (Melbourne) 16 June 1917 page 14

Mr and Mrs E. W. Hughes, of Beaufort, have received the sad news that their nephew, Lieut. Selwyn Goldstein, of the Royal Engineers, has been killed in France. Two of Mr Hughes' cousins (Sergt. Hewitt and Lieut. Puckridge) were also killed in action during the past few months. (FOR THE EMPIRE. (1917, June 23). Riponshire Advocate (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved from

SELWYN GOLDSTEIN who was killed in action in Flanders on 8th June 1917 was the son, of Mr. John R. Y. Goldstein. He was born in 1873 and was at School from 1888 to 1891. He was in the football team in his last three years, being captain in 1891. On leaving School he adopted the profession of a mining engineer, which as a rule leads to residence in outlying places. He received his training at Walhalla and Inglewood, in Victoria, and afterwards occupied the positions of mine manager at Kalgoorlie and Ravensthorpe, in Western Australia. Subsequently his adventurous spirit led him to Mexico, where for some years he managed a large mine in wild mountain country. While there on one occasion the mine was held up by insurgents, and Selwyn, at the point of the revolver, was conducted to the presence of the rebel commander, where he claimed the protection of the British flag and asserted his absolute neutrality in Mexican affairs. The insurgent captain was satisfied, and congratulating him on his courage, departed amicably after commandeering everything in the shape of firearms and ammunition. After leaving Mexico Selwyn went to London and obtained various employment from time to time in Portugal, Asia Minor, Honduras, etc. When on the way to Honduras after war broke out, his ship, the "Hesperian," was torpedoed, and he escaped with the loss of all his money and kit. He afterwards returned to England and enlisted in the Royal Engineers as Lieutenant, and at the time of his death was recommended Captain. He served at the front for nearly two years and was killed by bullet wound on 8th June in Flanders. In conveying the news to his widow his commanding officer said he was a "brave and loyal soldier, and a keen and conscientious worker." (Kiddle, J. Beacham (John Beacham), 1878- & Council of Old Melburnians Society & Archive CD Books Australia (2007). War services Old Melburnians, 1914-1918. Archive CD Books Australia, Modbury, S. Aust retrieved through 1918 pages 84-5)

According to his medal card, Selwyn died of self-inflicted wounds. ( British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. )  According to his service record it was an intentional death, a gunshot wound behind the ear by his own revolver. He was 44 years old.

Selwyn's suicide followed the Battle of Messines in 1917.

Selwyn is buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery about 10 kilometers west of Ypres.The inscription on his tomb, In ever loving memory, was chosen by his wife.

Selwyn's sister Vida was a noted pacifist from the very beginning of the war. I have not found any reference to her thoughts about her brother's fighting in the war nor about his suicide. There seems to be no reference to her brother when she was campaigning for a parliamentary seat in April 1917 on a platform based around peace.

"IDEALISM AND REALITY." Maryborough & Dunolly Advertiser (Vic. : 1914 - 1918) 30 Apr 1917: 4. <>. This article was widely syndicated, the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser just one of many carrying it..

Leslie Henderson, the daughter of Selwyn and Vida's sister Lina, wrote a family history, The Goldstein Story, published in 1973. She does not mention Selwyn's war service and suicide in the book.

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Wednesday, 22 April 2015

S is for St Eloi

Milo Massey Cudmore  (1888 - 1916) was the cousin of my great grandfather Arthur Murray Cudmore.  Milo was the son of Daniel Henry Cashel Cudmore (1844 - 1913) and Martha Earle Cudmore née McCracken (1855 - 1938). He was the second youngest of nine children.

On 27 March 1916 Milo Massey Cudmore was killed in action at St Eloi near Ypres. He was a Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery assigned to 31 TM Bty (trench mortar battery).

In 1913 Milo was a station hand on Elderslie Station,  near Winton, Queensland. He sailed to England on the P & O ship Orsova arriving 2 January 1915.

On 12 January 1915 Milo Massey Cudmore then a cadet with the Officers Training Corps was appointed 2nd Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery. ( The London Gazette Publication date: 12 January 1915 Supplement: 29039 Page: 464 ) He was promoted from temporary 2nd Lieutenant to temporary Lieutenant on 1 January 1916. ( The London Gazette Publication date: 21 January 1916 Issue: 29445 Page: 849)

News has been received in Adelaide from Lieutenant Collier R. Cudmore, of the Royal Field Artillery, that his brother, Lieutenant Milo Massey Cudmore, also of the Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action in France on March 27. He was a son of the late Mr. Daniel H. Cudmore, of Avoca Station, New South Wales, and Mrs. Cudmore, of Adare, Victor Harbor. He was also a grandson of the late Mr. Peter McCracken, of Melbourne. The late Lieutenant Cudmore, who was 27 years of age, was educated at St. Peter's College and at Magdalene College, Oxford, where he took his B.A. degree. When war broke out he left a North Queensland station for England, where he obtained a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. He had been in the trenches since February 15, 1915, first with a field battery and latterly in command of a battery of trench mortars. In August last he was wounded in the left arm during the attack on Loos. For his conduct on this occasion he was mentioned in dispatches and was awarded the Military Cross. (PERSONAL. (1916, April 6). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), p. 4. Retrieved from

One of the large craters on the St Eloi battlefield probably taken some time after the battle. The scale of the crater can be seen by the wagon and person on the far side of the crater. Image from

The battle of St Eloi began with the detonation of six mines beneath German lines on 27 March 1916, huge explosions meant to destroy the sector’s German defences. The explosions left massive craters which can still be seen today. (;

St Eloi, now known as Sint-Elooi, is a small village, about 5 kilometers south of Ypres. There is no grave for Milo Massey Cudmore. He is listed on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres, one of 54,000 names on that memorial.
Although Milo Massey Cudmore did not serve with the Australian armed forces he is remembered at the Australian War Memorial on the Commemorative Roll. Milo Massey Cudmore is also remembered on the Magdelen College roll of Oxford University. He had graduated in 1908.

In 1939 his brother Paul (1883 - 1969) presented the Lamp of Maintenance to the Victor Harbor branch of Toc H. (IN and OUT of the CITY. (1939, April 15). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 15. Retrieved from Toc H (Talbot House), now an international Christian movement, was founded by an army chaplain as a club for soldiers at Poperinge twelve kilometers west of Ypres, Belgium in 1915. There is still a Toc H campsite at Victor Harbor.  The Cudmore family were based at Adare House in Victor Harbor, South Australia.

Members of the Cudmore family who owned "Adare" at Victor Harbor about 1900. Back Row, l-r: Roland, Henry, Mary (Minnie), Paul. Front Row, l-r: Collier, Martha, Daniel H;, Danny (on footstool), Mil. Image from the State Library of South Australia id B 48077

Additional sources
  • Cook, Tim (1996) "The Blind Leading the Blind: The Battle of the St. Eloi Craters," Canadian Military History: Vol. 5: Iss. 2, Article 4. Available at: