Not Sick One Single Day

Unwell only when he suffered from constipation when he returned home to Australia – Medical report


James Smith - (looking for a clearer portrait)
46 James Smith – (looking for a clearer portrait)

                46 James Smith

James was 19 years old, and 5ft 7 ” from Auburn, NSW. He was working as a blacksmith for Ritchie Bros.  steel and rail works builders from the young age of 15 .

He may have been a slight build,  but he was hardened by his trade and this no doubt prepared him physically and mentally for the tough conditions of war that lay ahead .


Advertising for Ritchie Bros of Auburn plows and scoops in Feb 15, 1911 Pastoralists’ Review


He served continuously at Gallipoli up to the evacuation, and then the Western front in Europe until the war ended in 1918. He also attended officer training and was appointed Lance.Corp.
Young James must have been as hard as the very steel he was bending and shaping in his trade from the age of 15. He declared on his return home that he was never sick or wounded the entire time during the war……James Smith’s war record stands as testimony to this declaration.

He was never absent without leave and had no offences of any kind recorded against him. He is one of the very few to have a spotless war record, absent of any sick leave, offence or wounds.

This young man’s integrity, work ethic, his considerable physical condition and stamina throughout the war effort is nothing short of heroic, or perhaps a bloody miracle.
John’s medical report on his return shows he was probably as fit as the day he left.  extraordinary statements stating  he was unwell only when he suffered from constipation when he returned home to Australia. ……


We would all like to find out more about James, he was a fine figure of a man, proud of his record and truly a very robust young man.


Smith has to be the hardest name to track down……..

1. Possible connections based on Auburn and his occupation

– 1930 Electoral Rolls  – James Smith – Engineer married to Maria living at 99 Mona st Auburn.

1930 Electoral Rolls – James Smith – Engineer – married  Marie  Living at Happ st, Auburn.

Also – James Smith Junior living at Helena st Auburn, a railway employee


Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015

Sapper’s save 1500 lives

Sappers building barrel piers. Coutesy AWM- A01507
Sappers building barrel piers. Courtesy AWM- A01507


On the landing day at Gallipoli,  had it not been for a young officer,  2nd/Lieut.  Henry Bachtold and 11 Sappers from the 1st Field Company Engineers, the number of deaths on landing day at Gallipoli would have been significantly larger.

As it stood 2000 Australians were killed within this first 24 hours of the landing. The sappers however made it possible to have a further 1500 wounded men shipped out on hospital ships by the end of the first day.

This Gallipoli episode has remained a missing chapter of the Anzac story for a 100 years and now it is finally time that these men were remembered for helping to save lives, under the most extraordinary conditions.

Preparing a landing platform built on the shores for the hospital ships was a planned action by the command, but it was perhaps a little underdone considering the number of casualties that needed attention on that historic day.

Due to the training of the sappers and the raw commitment by these men,  it appears to have been a success. A highly dangerous task, but one the sappers had trained for since the early days after enlistment at Moore Park in  Sydney, and prior to the landing, while they set up the infra structure and landing jetties at Lemnos Island.

On the landing day 25th April, Bachtold and the 11 sappers were on the transporter “Nizam” , they were a special group of men with a special task ahead of them.

Days before the landing the Sappers built a raft of barrel piers that could be joined together to form a jetty, and on landing day this was then towed behind the “Nizam” with the sappers and Bachtold on board.

At approx 2.oo pm having watched the events unfold on the shores and within a mile of shore the men and the raft were detached from the “Nizam”. They then had to row like mad, dodging heavy shrapnel fire all the way to shore managing to suffer only minor damage to the raft.

Within fifteen minutes they had secured the barrel piers to the shoreline, the Army Medical Corp. (A.M.C)  immediately put it to use and started transporting the wounded on barges back to the transport and hospital ships. Many of the wounded being transported back to the “Nizam”,  the very vessel that had delivered them hope in the form of the jetty building sappers.



69 Sapper Francis Badham Oliver  gives his account of the action on landing and the casualties being transported from the jetties ………..
“We hear that our men are continuing to make good progress, in spite of the fact of having fought continuously since Sunday with only biscuits to eat. The Turks are backed up by huge reinforcement and as soon as the men in a trench are shot down others spring into their places. There were 1500 casualties on Sunday and though the ambulance people are doing magnificent work they are seriously handicapped by a lack of hospital ship accommodation. Wounded are arriving on all our transports and operations are performed on dirty troop decks – we have a number of wounded on our [transport ship] Nizam and they all recount most interesting news of the bravery of our armies, hundreds of cases will never be heard.”-
Source: The Gallipoli diaries of Francis Badham Oliver, University of Sydney Archives

For days the party of men would continue building jetties all the time being uncomfortably close at hand to witness some gruesome scenes among the casualties. The sea at the water’s edge was red with blood as the empty stretchers that had carried the many wounded were washed and rinsed in the sea next to them.

All the while keeping their heads and even having one of their own wounded in the face, the sappers continued building the landing stages and improving the landing conditions for the hospital and supply vessels under the same arduous conditions up to the 5th May.


P01130.001 landing piers colourised

The great Henry Bachtold - 1917
The great Henry Bachtold – 1917


The team of sappers led by Lieut. Henry Bachtold  all received Special Mention (Mentioned in Orders) and some later Mentioned in Despatches for acts of conspicuous gallantry or valuable services.


citation mention orders

The Citation above reads –

“On the 25th April this officer and his crew paddled barrel piers into the bay under a heavy shell fire and then deliberately set to work under a hail of bursting shrapnel and erected the landing stage. This stage was of the greatest value in getting off the wounded and enabled over 1500 men to be sent off the same day. The men had never before been under fire.”…………………….The men were

2/Lt. Henry Bachtold – 23 years old, Engineering Draughtsman –  See photo above

90 Spr. George Chisholm, 35 yrs old a Tailor born in Scotland. – (Portrait needed)

228  Spr. William Davis, 24 yrs old an Axe man from Abbotsford Victoria. ( Portrait needed)

201 Spr. Herbert Eggleton, 33 yrs old an Engine driver born in England. (Portrait needed)

124 Sidney Garrett

124 Spr. Sidney Garrett, 25 yrs old a Carpenter from Gladesville, Sydney.

45 Spr. Norman Hartridge

45 Spr. Norman Hartridge, 19 yrs old a young Carpenter from Summer Hill, Sydney.

Edward John HAYES
156 Spr. Edward Hayes

156 Spr. Edward Hayes, 25 yrs old a Boot maker from Woollahra, Sydney.

24 Spr. Stanley Hense

24 Spr. Stanley Hense, 17 yrs old a Plumber from Burwood, Sydney.

227 Charles Billy McDevitt
227 Dvr. Billy Mc Devitt

227 Dvr. Charles McDevitt, 26yrs old, a Driver originally with the 1st Reinf… a carpenter from Gladesville, Sydney.

104 Spr. Percival Polley

104 Spr. Percival Polley , 25yrs old a bush carpenter from Woollahra, Sydney

136 Alfred Taylor (Tyley)
136 Spr. Alfred Taylor (Tyley)

136 Spr. Alfred Taylor (Tyley) , 23 yrs old a bootmaker from Manly, Sydney

41 Claude Douglas TURBET
41 Spr.Claude Douglas TURBET

41 Spr.Claude Turbet, 19 yrs old a mattress maker from Canterbury, Sydney. ( spelt incorrectly on above citation)
(the ages stated are at the time of enlistment.)

also noted on the same citation is the heroics of 191 Fred Reynolds

227 Charles Billy McDevitt


Notation : 227 Driver Charles McDevitt  was shot in the face on the 31st April during the pontoon building operation and although wounded. He was medically discharged and returned safely to Australia.



Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015

Sources and Acknowledgements:

1. Thanks to Catherine Job for her assistance in the detail, in order to help complete this story. ( Catherine’s great uncle – 70 Cleveland Page)

2. AWM

3. NAA – Series details for: B2455

4. Royal Australian Engineers . 1902 – 1919 –  R. McNicoll

5. The Gallipoli diaries of Francis Badham Oliver, University of Sydney Archives

“Photo Bomber”- 29 Clarence Lundy – MC & Bar, MID

29 Clarence Robert Collie Lundy " Bob"
29 Clarence Robert Collie Lundy ” Bob”

29 Clarence “Bob” Collie Lundy was not just one of the great young members of the original 1st Field Coy Engineers, he was also ahead of his time….. he pioneered “photo bombing”.

What makes it not only a rare photo of Clarence, but this photo speaks to us, telling us what a character  Clarence  must have been, his proud stance behind the natives, his beaming smile, his hands on his hips and the slight lean to ensure he fits into the frame.

Clarence like the modern “photobomber” clearly had a great sense of fun and displays the Australian character that we don’t often see in war photo’s, but this photo brings a fondness for Clarence Lundy and even a smile to the viewer.

Clarence for some time lived at 2 Kangaroo Street, Manly after the war…..what a great Aussie.


………….Read More on Clarence Lundy

Citation ; AWM Lemnos, Greece. October 1915. Five natives from Egypt laying pipe line during the operations at Gallipoli. At the back on the right is Corporal Bob Lundy, 1st Field Engineers. (Donor E. G. Lloyd)

Remembered on this Day – Landing Day – Gallipoli

25th April 1915 – ANZAC DAY – 1st Field Company Engineers – AIF

The following sappers from New South Wales, young men from the 1st Field Company Engineers, among the first to land at Gallipoli …”Dawn Landers” and among the first to be Killed in Action.

This photo is owned by the descendents of Alexander Joseph McDonald, Mr Ian McDonald, descendant of Michael McDonald, Alexander’s brother and is published with their kind permission – Photo presented courtesy of Mr Ian McDonald and Diane Hewson

Alexander Joseph McDonald, died of wounds 25 April 1915, aged 31 years

246 Spr. William Moore
246 Spr. William Moore

246 Spr William Moore, killed in action on 25 April 1915

70 Cleveland Page - Photo Courtesy of Catherine Job - Family Collection.
70 Spr. Cleveland Page – Photo Courtesy of Catherine Job – Family Collection.

70 Spr Cleveland Edmund Page, killed in action on 25 April 1915, aged 23 years

191 Spr. Frederick Austin Reynolds
191 Spr. Frederick Austin Reynolds

191 Spr Fred Reynolds, killed in action on 25 April 1915, aged 21 years

Walter Freebairn AWM
55 Walter Freebairn

55 Spr Walter Freebairn, killed in action on 25 April 1915, aged 24 years

Landing Day Gallipoli – The Sapper’s Stories

P02226.014 1st Field Company Australian Engineers reach the beach



112 Spr. Francis Leslie Wells
112 Spr. Francis Leslie Wells

112 Frank Leslie Wells…… in an extract from his last letter home

“Twenty-Three of the Engineers with the 3rd Brigade were in the first boat to touch the land on that memorable Sunday, April 25. The Engineers were the only New South Wales representatives to land with the party that rushed the hills. From then on we had the hardest 14 days that anyone could remember. I can imagine how worried you must all be at this period, but please God, by the time you receive this everything will be quiet.”

Citation: National Library of Australia –

Looking for Portrait
Looking for Portrait

40  William Alexander  Sutherland 

Writing to his father, Mr. W. Sutherland, manager of Hawkin’s Ltd., Newcastle, under date May 12, from Kasi-el-aine Hospital, Cairo, says:-

We steamed out of Lemnos Bay about dinner time on Saturday, and by dark we were well on our way to the Dardanelles. About mid- night we were all ordered up on deck, and instructed to be ready to go into the boats. When we landed the air was thick with bullets flying all around us. How it is that we were not all killed, goodness only knows. In that rush through the water and across the sand into shelter of the scrub, I don’t think I ever ran harder in my life. Anyway, I have no wish to go through the same thing again. It was just like swimming into death, and I must have had a guardian angel over me then. Day was just breaking, and we could see that the surrounding hills were crowded with Turks. Notwithstanding this, our boys fixed their bayonets. It was great. The Turks fled, our boys after them, yelling for all they were worth. They never stopped chasing them until they had taken up a good position in the ridge, and so could cover the rest of the troops landing. The transports had now come up, and troops were coming ashore in boatloads. The Turks opened fire on us with their artillery, and shrapnel flew everywhere. Then the battleships started, and the roar was terrible.

For the ten days and nights I was in the trenches I was out of the firing line only one night, and that was to have a sleep on the beach. Our company was sapping, building roads, trenching,, and digging all the time, night and day. For the first three nights we got absolutely no sleep whatever. We were either digging or else standing to arms. Poor chaps were being shot down all around us. We lost a terrible lot of our chaps, and the sights we witnessed were awful.

I had a lot, of awfully narrow escapes. One bullet went through the sleeve of my coat, but never touched the skin. A piece of shrapnel hit me on the knee, and made me limp for a few days. I was feeling quite right up to Tuesday, when I felt a bit of a cold coming on me. I worked up till 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning in the trench, when I lay down to have a nap till dawn. When I went to get up, I found that I could not hold my head up, and the pains in my chest, legs, and back, were terrible. So the major sent me down to see the doctor in the afternoon, and he told me to go along to the 4th Field Ambulance, and sleep there for the night. Next morning Dr. Beeston ordered me off to the hospital ship for a few days. On that ship everything was up-to-date, and I was given a bunk in a first-class cabin.”

Citation – National Library of Australia –


 N Masters

Lance Corporal 66 Norman Masters writes to his father : —

 “I am proud, dad, to be an Australian ; not Cook’s tourists”

“ One of our boys, Sapper Reynolds, swam back to the boat, and brought ashore two boxes of gun cotton and machine gun and a wounded man, and was shot dead on landing with the man. He would have got the V C. had he lived. I should like Harry to tell the boys at Chowder how poor Reynolds died. Sergeant Logan was shot in the neck ; Corporal Johnson was shot in the stomach— both bad cases. They are from the Sub marine Miners. I have not fired a shot yet. All the time for the past fortnight, day and night, sapping and trenching, except short spells when we go about 300 yards to our dug-outs for a little sleep. I am proud, dad, to be an Australian ; not Cook’s tourists, as some one has said. It is wonderful to see the boys being carried back wounded. They are smoking cigarettes or joking ; that is, those who are not almost out.”

Citation – National Library of Australia –

Looking for Portrait
Looking for Portrait

80 George Elliot Bygrave………. in his own letter wrote the following :-

“We stormed Gallipoli on the very early morning .. still dark ..of April 25th. We were in whale boats, towed by pinnace from the warship. We almost got ashore before the first shot was fired by the enemy, after which it was bedlam. After storming the heights we managed to get inland a fair distance in mixed units of small parties until we had to fall back to where the line was being stabilised. I was with the infantry a couple of days before I found my own unit , the 1st F.C Engineers.”

source: NAA: B2455, BYGRAVE G


Looking for Portrait
Looking for Portrait

214 Lewis Dyson……….  an extract from his letter to a friend published in The Murrumbidgee Irrigator Leeton, NSW : 1915

“From the Dardanelles.

 …………………………..”FIRST LANDING PARTY for the attack at Gaba Tepe (Gallipoli). We carried guncotton for demolishing guns we hoped to capture in the fort. We received five days’ rations and 200 rounds of ammunition. I was condemned to carry a pick and shovel and six sandbags, and when I sat down on deck was so weighted that I could not rise without help. The Third Brigade (9th, 10th, 11th and 12th), were the covering force, and had orders to rush a certain ridge with the bayonet, hang on for three days, and die to the last man rather than surrender afoot of it, so that the Australian Army Corps, the Naval Brigade, and an Indian Brigade, with mountain batteries, could establish their landing.

At midnight I looked astern, and saw four or five battle- ships behind us, and a flotilla of destroyers, with the Third Brigade aboard, like grey ghosts in the dim moonlight. At 1 a.m. we filed silently into boats and barges, and towed by pinnaces, steamed in dead silence for the hostile shore, amidst quiet wishes for good luck from the sailors. About 4.30 a.m. the dawning light found us near the shore, too far north ! But in we went at full speed towards the frowning hills. In the dead stillness a dog barked, and then a shot was fired at us, then two more.

The pinnace cast us off, and the order was given, ” Pull for your lives, lads !” By this time there was an increasing rattle of rifles and maxims from the trenches on the hills, and OUR MEN BEGAN TO FALL in that awful hail of lead. Our pinnaces opened out with their machine guns, and then we bumped bottom and leaped into the water up to our armpits, and dashed ashore, some poor fellows falling from their wounds and being drowned. There was a breathless pause under a bank while bayonets were fixed, and then a cheer and ” At the ——s !” Up the hill with a rush, and no firing.

Few enemies remained to be bayoneted as the silently advancing steel was too much for them — that and the sight of the destroyers vomiting forth their crowds of soldiers, and the grim battleships with their 12in. guns silently waiting for a target. I returned from the first trench and re- joined my half-section on the beach, where they were under fire from Fort Gaba Tepe, and were throwing up a barricade of packs, haversacks — anything. We threw our packs and things away when we fixed bayonets. One of my section saved two machine guns when the men carrying them were shot in the water, one was shot through the head within a few feet of me when returning. He is recommended for the V.C. We rejoined the company which landed further up, and helped the Indians get their mountain guns ashore under shrapnel fire. We then commenced to make a road to |get the guns up the first ridge, and had some more casualties.

The transports came up, and under the awful shrapnel the hundreds of boats made for the shore. I saw one boat of 25 that got under a machine gun, and ALL WERE KILLED. The two sailors in our large boat were both killed. The returning sailors were great. They stopped to clap the Indians bringing guns ashore, which their white- haired old English colonel proudly acknowledged by standing up and saluting ; yelled ” Good old wallabies !” and ” What price Sydney town ?” airily waved their hands to us and laughed when the shells burst over them. Our wounded were splendid, and cheered the oncoming men as they passed them in their boats, as they returned to the hospital ships shattered and dying. By the afternoon 940 wounded had left for Egypt and still they poured into the dressing stations on the beach too quickly to be handled. The stretcher bearers were magnificent, and suffered heavily.

A terrific naval bombardment took place, but the enemy’s guns did not cease fire until nightfall, and even then a few star shells continued to go in the direction of our captive balloon. Since then, for the ten days I was there, the fighting has been continuous and the losses heavy, but we have progressed, and the enemy are wildly afraid of our bayonets”………….. Citation : National Library of Australia  –

 J03022Anzac Day first fallen is a 1st FCE



Sapper ‘s  wounded on landing day, Gallipoli.


52 Sapper Mark Cummings

52 Sapper Mark Cummings a 25 year old carpenter from Wallsend near Newcastle, received a severe gunshot wound to the leg , the bullets were described as explosive and he was struck above the knee and down to the ankle and had 13 wounds where shattered pieces of the bullet had made their exit. He retained the nose end of the bullet to prove it was an explosive one as well as a likely souvenir.
He describes how he laid wounded for three hours .

“ I’d rotten luck. I’d no sooner set my foot on the beach then I got a shrapnel bullet in the leg.
It was hardly a pleasant position. Our boys had seen their dead, and were wild. Men might fall, but all those that could stand wanted was to get at the Turks with the cold steel. And they did too. It was a case of having to let the wounded lie, and I spent three hours on my back on the sand, with shrapnel bursting above me without ceasing. It was marvellous that not another bullet struck me. When a little time could be spared for the wounded I was got on to a transport , and after being taken first of all to Lemnos, was removed to Cairo”
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald 12th August 1915.  Citation National Library of Australia –

52 Mark Cummings wounds were far worse than he first thought, he also had a gunshot wound to the shoulder and a compound fracture to the tibia.
He was severely wounded, and he returned safely to Australia in August 1915.


Alexander logan
34 Alexander Logan

34 Sergeant Alexander Logan

34 Sergeant Alexander Logan was 25 years old, a fitter born in Scotland with 4 years service in the Kings own Scottish Borderers and when in Australia served for 2 years in the royal Australian engineers, he held rank as Sergeant.
He was wounded on the landing day, a gunshot wound to left side of neck and left supra scapula fossa, the bullet remained lodged in his neck for 12 hours and was removed leaving his left arm partially paralysed. He returned home , later re enlisted and serving with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion in England up to July 1917 when he was medically discharged with debility due to his injuries sustained at Gallipoli.

Looking for Portrait
   Looking for Portrait

141 William McCracken

141 William McCracken originally enlisted as a driver, and was born in Christchurch, New Zealand. The 29 year old was a farrier by trade and would later proudly become known as “ The Company Farrier”.
He was wounded on the 25th April a gunshot wound to the left leg. He was transferred to Malta hospital on Clan MacGillivray. He reported back to his unit at Gallipoli on the 28th July 1915 and stayed until the evacuation.
Another sapper who joined William McCracken on board the hospital ship Clan MacGillivary was 165 Alfred Moore O’Brien a 29-year-old bridge carpenter. Alfred a married man from Sofala NSW, was also wounded by a gunshot to the leg.

Looking for Portrait
         Looking for Portrait

165 Alfred Moore O’Brien

165 Alfred Moore O’Brien was 29 years old a bridge carpenter from Sofala , and one of the few married men in the company.
Wounded Gallipoli on landing day , he was originally reported missing in action for some days later, but he was already on the transport ship Clan MacGillivray and invalided to military hospital in Malta.



93 Corporal Harry Farguson

93 Corporal Harry Farguson a 31 year old bridge rigger from Leichhardt, New South Wales, declared he was a single man and was a Boer War veteran. He was also a member of the Australian Protestant Defence Association.
Harry was shot in the right arm completely shattering his right forearm. There were long delays in attending to the wounded on landing day and eight hours later Harry was eventually loaded on board a hospital ship and his arm was amputated that same night from the elbow down.
He returned to Sydney, Australia at the end of November 1915 and was welcomed by his brethren of the Annandale APDA.
Contrary to his attestation, Harry was in fact married……...Read More


Research by Vance Kelly

Sources: NLA , AWM

The Extraordinary Mr.Banks

Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v
Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v

14 Edmond Clifford Banks  

Medaille Militaire
Medaille Militaire


– by Vance Kelly –

As the war progressed after Gallipoli, there were opportunities for many of the engineers beyond being a sapper or a driver. Officer training and the chance of being a commissioned officer, returning to England to train reinforcements, and then there was the newly formed Australian Flying Squadron.

Four particular sappers later joined the Australian Flying Squadron and some became flyers and it was not by chance. The four men were connected , 14 sapper Edmond Clifford Banks and 110 Gordon Campbell Wilson were together at the assault at the German officers trench at Gallipoli.

26 Roland King  was vice to Edmond Banks at Fromelle and 20 Alexander Finnie also a low number was likely in the same section or even shared the same tent at Moore Park.
It is very possible 14 Banks, 20 Finnie and 26 King as their low numbers suggest, were placed together in the same section in the early training days back in Sydney, and as a result became closest of friends . Their friendships definitely influenced the four of them to pursue new challenges beyond sapping. ….
What made them become flyers ? While at Gallipoli , did they marvel at the site of these flying machines overhead and often contemplate what it must be like to be in the sky and not it in a dug out starving , dodging disease, shrapnel and snipers.
These original sappers seemed to have a unique view on the war and each of them after extreme service at Gallipoli and the western front displayed an insatiable thirst for even more from the challenges of war.
14 Edmond Clifford Banks was unstoppable. He was just 19 years old when he enlisted, a surveyor from Darlinghurst Sydney. He was with the landing party on the 25th April, and was heavily involved with Lieut. Henry Bachtold,  on the stunt at the German officers and snipers trenches on the 6th August.
Edmond Bank’s service record up to this time was perfect and he continued to demonstrate his total commitment throughout the rest of the war. Young Edmond received Mention in Despatches for his service from the 25th April to the 17th Dec and displaying gallantry .


Bronze Oak Leaf  presented  to those Mentioned in Despatches
Bronze Oak Leaf presented to those Mentioned in Despatches

After Gallipoli Edmond was transferred to the 14th Field Co. Engineers now under the command of Major Henry Bachtold and embarked for France in July 1916 and was promoted to Sergeant. He was at the historic battle of Fromelles on the night of the 19th July 1916. On this disastrous night in Australia’s military history, the following is an account of his actions.
“On the night of July 19th/20th in the operations at FROMELLES Sergt. Banks under very heavy shell fire pegged out a communication trench in “No Man’s Land” and extended a working party on the work. Although under continuous shell and machine gun fire the whole of the night, he supervised the work until the trench was completed. The successful completion was due to his bravery and devotion to duty”.Source: AWM

Banks was unstoppable and a few months later,

“On the night of the of Nov. 5/6th 1916 in connection with the operations of the 7th Infantry Brigade on the SOMME he successfully commanded his section on this officer becoming a casualty and under heavy shell fire carried out the given orders to his section.” Source: AWM

For these acts of outstanding bravery young Edmond Banks was awarded the French Medaille Militaire for distinguished service. His medal was presented to him on 13th April 1917 by Lieut- General Birdwood.
Edmond had served with extraordinary commitment for just over a year at the front , and his stunts on the ground were over. Edmond was not satisfied with fighting the war on the ground and he set his sights on fighting the Germans from the sky. The newly formed Australian Flying Corp was just the ticket for Edmond . And so it was on the 25th May 1917 Edmond was transferred and joined the No.1 Royal Flying Corps training school at Reading England and after 2 months training graduated as an observer in the flying corp and was appointed 2nd Lieut . and reported for duty in France.
In August of 1918 after serving with the 3rd Australian Flying Squadron , the same Squadron involved in the action leading to the death of the German air ace the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen, he returns to Reading England for training as a Flying officer, and finally becomes a pilot. He was now the grand old age of 23.
During these eventful years at war, Edmond was sick for only a few months in May and June of 1918. Not someone who was use to lying around and doing nothing, Edmond somehow found time between all these achievements to fall in love and he married Frances Ann Richards, from Dublin Ireland. A few months later in November 1918 the war was over and the adventure was over for young Edmond.

14 Edmond Banks - Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765
14 Edmond Banks – Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765


Edmond  was an extraordinary young man and proved his bravery and strength over an exhausting 4 – 5 years. Young Edmond embraced his duty and his role as a sapper, then as a leader of men, a pilot, and finally a married man. Edmond had not just been on the great adventure….. he was the great adventure.

Copyright© VanceKelly2015


Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA

Photo courtesy of National Library of Australia

A Rough Carpenter


35 Walter Ernest Robertson – photo courtesy AWM P10114.001


35 Walter Ernest Robertson – MM

Walter was a 27 year old “rough carpenter” or “bush carpenter” a familiar phrase in Australia and New Zealand 100 years ago.

Bush carpentry was very different to the carpentry we know today, with most of the timber cut on the property and worked by hand with  axe, saw, wedge, mallet, auger and chisel. The houses, sheds, wagons and even tools were made from the local available materials such as tree trunks , saplings, fencing wire, metal scraps and anything that could be recycled such as metal drums etc.

104 James Percival Polley,  was another experienced “Bush carpenter” who had been pliing his trade for 9 years. They were among the handiest men to have around at Gallipoli and the front.

The rough carpenter was very skilled, a man clever with his hands, methodical in his approach to work, able to improvise, very confident and always willing to learn new skills.
Walter was one of these men, a man not out of place even today.


He was born in Stratford, Victoria but was living and working his skills in New South Wales. His father, Archibald, his next of kin on his enlistment papers was living at Fairfield NSW.

Walter was wounded in Gallipoli, gunshot wounds to the hand and head on the 28th June 1915.  His casualty is mentioned in the Unit diaries AWM4 – June 1915.  He convalesced  at Hospital in Mena, Egypt and when fully recovered he returned to Gallipoli in September and remained until the company was evacuated.

In March 1916 Walter was transferred to the 15th FCE and it wasn’t long before Walter was among the action on the front line at the Western front,  where again he was wounded in action on 20th July 1916, a  gun shot wound to his right arm and left leg.

Once again Walter recovers from his wounds and rejoined his unit on 30th May 1917 . On the 29th September 1917 again in the front line  Walter is gassed and is hospitalized , but yet again  rejoins the unit on 11th December 1917

He was now Corporal Walter Robertson, the rough carpenter was one tough individual, wounded on three occasions and displayed continued commitment to his unit. He had a faultless service record and was ultimately awarded the Military Medal. – He was recommended by Lt Col. Mather originally for the Distinguished Conduct medal. The original recommendation on his war file. Original recommendation RCDIG1068281–41-

‘For great gallantry and devotion to duty. In the neighbourhood of PERONNE, during operations 30th, 31st August, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th September, this N.C.O., as senior N.C.O. of his Section, assisted his Officer in the successful completion of a footbridge across the SOMME Valley. He continually went up and down his men, urging them on, and throughout night and day showed untiring energy. Previous to this Corporal ROBERTSON had reconnoitred in a collapsible boat, 500 yards ahead of Infantry, over the swamp, locating the shortest route to be followed, to strike firm land. On the completion of this track he made valuable reconnaissance, and, despite casualties, sent in valuable information quickly. He has shown himself a capable leader of men under extremely trying conditions of machine gun and shell fire.’
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 115
Date: 10 October 1919

MM 2
Walter returned to Australia safely on the HMAT “Devon” on the 24th November 1918.

Walter died suddenly in 1944 on 11th April  1944,  he was 56 years of age. The Returned Soldiers League of Cobar managed his funeral arrangements and he was later buried at Cobar Shire Cemetery, New South Wales, Australia. Walter was survived by one brother Neil Robertson and his five sisters.

Walter has his own page ……..please read more


Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015



The First Volunteers

Australia needs you

 – By Vance Kelly –

There is no doubt the initial response by Australians to the war was overwhelming and is often described as a patriotic fervor whereby men were falling over each other to enlist.
Australians lived in splendid isolation, a great distance from the storm centres of Europe. They led a prosperous life and never had to fight for their national existence by the threat of war on their door step, and the prospect of an invasion by sea seemed unlikely……………………. Read More



1912-motorcycle-image-310_0 possibly percy weatherilt
Percy “Buck” Weatherilt – left


“A fearless despatch rider in action, and no mishap has ever prevented him from getting through with a despatch. In the Amman operations, October, 1919, when all wheeled traffic had to be left behind he succeeded in getting through with his motor cycle to the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade, across the mountains of Moab, although under fire and molested by Bedouins. He showed throughout a fearless example and his devotion to duty was of the highest.”
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 59
Date: 8 July 1920

For his actions 172 Driver – Percy “Buck” Weatherilt was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal – DCM.

Percy was a well-known motorcycle racing identity in the UK and Sydney before the war. On his return to Australia Percy was a very modest and a highly productive man up to his final days when he died in 1971 aged 92.

For his full story……………... please read his amazing story

18 DOBBIE, Reginald George – DCM

18 Reginald Dobbie D.C.M
18 Reginald Dobbie D.C.M

  An excerpt from the Reginald George Dobbie story…….. To the new reinforcements Reg Dobbie was everything they had heard about back home prior to volunteering , a Gallipoli “dawn lander”, he was also what they referred to as a ”low number”, number 18 , not too many of them left,  and he wore the brass “A” on his shoulder , immediate recognition of his participation at Gallipoli. Reg was someone they immediately respected and someone who continually set the perfect example of leadership through his actions……………………………READ MORE