“A machine gun added its significant voice”: The Fallen on the Western Front

March 1916 and the Australian Imperial Force had arrived in France, within four months they would find themselves at the centre of the conflict taking place on the Western Front. The 5th Division was the first to engage with the German military, taking part in a bloody engagement at Fromelles in Northern France on 19 July 1916. This report in The Argus on 10 April 1920 offers an insight into the events on that fateful day:

 “Punctually at 5.43pm deployment into No Man’s Land commenced, and it was hoped that the artillery barrage would be sufficiently intense to keep enemy heads down until the deployment was completed. On the extreme right of the 5th Divisional frontage the 59th Battalion was scarcely over the parapet before a little desultory musketry fire was opened on it, coming chiefly from the Sugar Loaf. Before the men had gone 30 yards this fire had grown in intensity, and a machine gun added its significant voice to, the rapidly increasing fusillade. The waves pressed forward steadily, but just as steadily the enemy fire grew hotter, and the enemy front lines were seen to be thickly manned with troops.”

The Australians suffered 5,533 casualties, in some cases entire battalions were devastated, as detailed in this 1936 article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

 “The severity of the Australian casualties was revealed the following afternoon [July 20 1916], when the roll call was made at the brigade headquarters. For instance the 60th Battalion, which had gone into action with 887 officers and men, had been reduced to one officer and 108 men.”

Shortly after Fromelles, the Australian troops found themselves back in conflict, this time at the Battle of Pozieres in the Somme Valley. A similar number of casualties ensued. Official war correspondent and historian C E W Bean later wrote Pozieres “is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.” You can learn more about the battle here.

It is not possible to identify all Queenslanders who died in Western Front battles here; what we have done is list those we found using the Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour published on January 1918 and Honour Rolls published in newspapers of the day:

Andrew Paterson Blair, 2-Lieut, Date Of Date 24 July 1916, fatally wounded at Pozieres, France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

Thomas Sinclair, Date Of Death 21 August 1916, Killed In Action France, buried near Pozieres, found in newspaper honour roll

William Arthur Cramb, Date Of Death 26 August 1916, Killed In Action Pozieres, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Clerk, University

William Friedrich Donisch (also known as Wilhelm Friedrich Donisch), Date Of Death 14 November 1916, Killed In Action France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

Bramwell George Adams, Date Of Death 25 February 1917, Killed In Action France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

Frank Arnold Manders, Date Of Death 4 March 1917, Killed In Action France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

Hubert Mark Shield, Date Of Death 13 April 1917, Killed In Action Lagnicourt, France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

John Alexander Noble, Gunner, Date Of Death 23 April 1917, Killed In Action France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

William Archibald New, Acting Sgt, Date Of Death 7 June 1917, Killed “somewhere in Belgium”, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

Herbert Walter John Rhead, Captain, Date Of Death 7 June 1917, Killed In Action France, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher

John Victor Black, Advised Date Of Death 29 June 1917, Killed In Action “somewhere in France”, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Head Teacher

Hugh Michael Flynn, DCM, 2-Lieut, Date Of Death 20 September 1917, Killed In Action “somewhere in Belgium”, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher and found on newspaper honour roll

Robert Louis Sawyer, Cpl, Date Of Death 20 September 1917, Killed In Action “somewhere in France”, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Assistant Teacher and found on newspaper honour roll

John Oliver Ethell, 2-Lieut, Date Of Death 4 October 1917, Killed In Action Belgium, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Pupil Teacher

George Henry Parr, Date Of Death 12 October 1917, Killed In Action Belgium, found in Education Office Gazette’s Departmental Roll of Honour listed as Head Teacher

Thomas Patrick Cummins, Private, Date Of Death 22 August 1918 Killed In Action France, found in newspaper honour roll

Martin Conrad Stephenson, Private, Date Of Death 18 September 1918, Killed “somewhere in France”, found in newspaper honour roll

In time, to memorialise those who laid down their lives as soldiers in the First World War, the Queensland Lands Department named some localities after battlefields in France and Belgium. The Department of Public Instruction fell in step with this government initiative. Here are a few examples, with contingent public records available at the Queensland State Archives:

Pozieres State School

Item ID 15883, Administration file, school, Pozieres No.1704 State School, Years: 1921 to 1946

An interesting inclusion in this school administration bundle is an annotated 40 chain map of the Parish of March, County of Bentinck. It marks out where the school is situated.

Somme State School

Item ID 12734, Returns – schools, Somme State School, School No 1582, Years: 1918 to 1927

On 13 December 1918 Head Teacher, Margaret Silver forwarded the first annual return to the Department of Public Instruction. It recorded statistics including

    • the school was open for 189.5 days in 1918
    • there were 12 boys and 11 girls in attendance during the year
    • the predominant religious denominations of the children’s families were Church of England and Presbyterian.

Amiens State School

Item ID 13662, Administration file, school, Amiens No.1629 State School, Years: 1920 to 1946

This bundle includes many letters written in the 1920s and 1930s to and from the school representatives to the Department of Public Instruction about transporting children from some 12 families living at Bracker’s Swamp to Amiens State School.

 

About Queensland State Archives

For more information about Queensland State Archives visit www.archives.qld.gov.au

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