19 year old “Billy” as he was best known, was a Carpenter from Paddington and was already serving in the 5th Field engineers prior to enlistment.
119 Spr. William “Billy” Pitt gave his account of the landing at Gallipoli and the work accomplished by the engineers from a Cairo Hospital to his parents in Paddington, NSW which was later published in the Sydney Morning Herald………….
THE SAPPER’S PART
Published in “The Sydney Morning Herald”, Friday 16 July 1915
“The task of removing the wounded was a very formidable one. The engineers where then called out of the firing line, and set to work making a road up the hill to the firing line. We worked for two days and nights without any sleep, but each man knew what the job was for, and worked with all his might. Besides this work we were engaged in building barbed wire entanglements for six nights and we also started a sap towards the Turkish trenches. I worked all one night in wet clothes, and as a result had to be carried out of the firing line to the hospital ship, thence being taken to the El Hayat Hospital, Egypt. The doctor said I was suffering from rheumatism, but I hope to be back in the firing line again in a few weeks.” Source: nla.news-article15590840
After Gallipoli, Billy would later be engaged in the fiercest battles the Australian Imperial Forces had seen at the Western front, and sadly this is where Billy would spend his final days.
Wounded, then declared missing, then later declared “died from wounds received in action”, his body was never found and no place of burial discovered. His remaining personal effects were also lost at sea.
The following news article was written by S.W. who’s identity remains a mystery however he was very likely a WW1 veteran convalescing at the home of 147 Spr Frank Cluett and his wife Mabel. It is a wonderful tribute to a fine couple who despite their own difficulties after the war, openly shared their home helping others in need.
DIGGER OF BALMORAL
And His Fox Terrier
Article published:- The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (NSW), Thur 28 Jul 1938
“In a cottage facing the Balmoral Beach lives Digger Frank Cluett and his wife. Frank is paying the price of war, being confined to his bed and chair. He is a born gentleman, and is admired by all who know him. His popularity may be judged by the throngs of fine young men who constantly visit him. Any time during the day a group of lads can be seen by his bedside or chair, and his words of advice, his sense of humour and the undoubted love that these lads have for this Digger make one think what a fine example of humanity this man is, and what a wonderful effect he is having on the lives of these youths. (In his early life he devoted most of his time to training of youths in seafaring.) Frank is the owner of a fox terrier which shows his appreciation for his master in the following manner:
AN UNPLEASANT AWAKENING
During the earlier hours of the morning the foxie leaves Frank’s bedside, and about 8 o’clock returns with a piece of meat (which he has evidently rescued from a garbage tin) and jumps on his master’s bed. If he is asleep the dog drops it on his pillow, but if Frank is awake he places it on his chest. If nothing else wakes Frank, the high odor of his dog’s tribute does. The same thing happens between 12 and 1. Sometimes the dog secures a double supply on his daily search, and in that case he buries the surplus, which is unearthed when the foxie has had a fruitless search. When Frank is enjoying a visit from his friends, the dog runs about the house and barks continuously – but should the Digger be asleep the dog can never be heard. I lived for two weeks in the same house as this soldier and can vouch for the accuracy of this statement.”
20 Alexander Finnie was a 21 year old sheet metal worker and was employed by the Randwick Tramway department. His proud parents living at Botany were Alexander James and Ida Jane (nee Bullock). Alexander also had an older sister who unfortunately died in 1911.
Alex served almost 3 years in the 1st Field Company Engineers and had a long stay at Gallipoli up to the 18th August. A near miss from a shell blast and gas poisoning meant that he was transferred to hospital in Alexandria, quite sick and suffering from deafness. Like many others Alex was keen to recover and get back into the fray, and he did, but this time he would do it from the sky as a flying officer.
Alex had transferred to Flying school in England and graduated as a flying officer and was appointed 2nd Lieut and posted to the Australian Flying Corp. Now wearing his wings he proceeded overseas to France and reported for duty with the No 4 Squadron AFC, the last squadron to be formed during the first World War.
The 4th Squadron had arrived in France in December 1917 and established itself at Bruay France and operated in support of the British 1st Army, undertaking offensive patrols and escorting reconnaissance machines.
Towards the end of February 1918 the squadron was made up of 24 flying machines, considerably enhancing its capacity for offensive operations.
March 1918 saw an increase in the 4th squadron’s ground attacks and offensive patrols, including a notable engagement with elements of Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus” on 21 March, during which five enemy machines were downed in an attack led by Captain Arthur Henry Cobby , who would become the AFC’s number one flying ace .
No. 4 Squadron claimed more “kills” than any other AFC unit, 199 enemy aircraft destroyed and 33 enemy balloons were destroyed or driven down.
In May of 1918 the Squadron had moved from Bruay to Clairmarais North and the 4th squadron was heavily involved in strafing and bombing operations in support of the retreating Allied ground forces.
On the 22nd May 1918 Lieut. Finnie was on his usual offensive and balloon patrol in his Sopwith Camel No. D1924. Enemy observation balloons were stationed thousands of feet in the air and tethered to the ground and fearcly protected by machine guns and anti-aircraft artillery known as “Archie”.
Even with incendiary bullets the gas in the balloons was hard to ignite and downing a balloon took a lot of shooting while running a gauntlet of ground-fire and keeping a sharp eye out for enemy scouts trying to protect the balloons.
On this day while diving and firing on enemy balloons Lieut. Alex Finnie collided with fellow flyer Lieut.G Nowland. They both spun to the ground five miles over enemy lines, their planes falling to pieces as they crashed to the ground at Neuf Berquin and both men were killed.
The following eye witness accounts describe the action that saw Alexander Finnie meet his end. “ We were firing on enemy balloons. I was flying with him and saw him go down. He collided with another chap and they both fell from about 10,000 ft over the German lines. I should certainly say there was little hope of his being alive. I wrote to his people.” Informant – F/Lieut R.C Nelson 4th Squadron A.F.C “I knew Lieutenant Finnie in the Squadron. I saw him killed on the 22nd May 1918. The Squadron was then engaged in an offensive patrol near Estaires. I saw Lieutenant Finnie and Lieutenant Nowland attack a German captive balloon. Their machines collided and Lieutenant Finnie’s machine fell. “ Informant – Captain Roy King 4th Squadron A.F.C
Alexander’s father was notified in 1921 that his son Alex Finnie was exhumed and later reburied in an Imperial War grave at Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery (Plot II, Row F, Grave No. 19), La Gorque, France.
15 George Harrington Bird
Young George was born in Rockdale, Sydney, he was only 19 when he enlisted. He was an apprenticed surveyor working for Robb & Robb and also had previous experience with the 6th Field Coy. Australian Engineers prior to enlisting. He was quickly promoted to the N.C.O rank of Lance Corporal on 25/12/14. News had filtered back home that George had been promoted, and no doubt a proud moment for his family when in February 1915 his portrait under the banner “For King and Country” was front page for the “St George Call” a weekly publication.
On the 9th August during the August offensive and the Battle for Lone Pine he sustained a serious bullet wound to the back and abdomen. Unfortunately young George died from his wounds on the hospital ship “Sicilia” on the way from Gallipoli to Alexandria . He was buried at sea, which was officiated by Chaplain R. E Teale.
George Bird’s name is included on the photo of the cross at Shrapnel Valley , but this was only a memorial cross. ( see image below)
According to the letter from the Official Secretary – Australia House, London, as late as 1922, the family of George Bird were notified that the photos of the cross indicating George’s final resting place was incorrect and they confirmed that he was buried at sea and the famous Gallipoli image of the cross was later replaced by a new cross and amended to read – “ Unknown Australian Soldier”.
His younger brother Leslie James Bird was discharged 4 days later, possibly after news of his brothers death, as he was suddenly discharged noted as unfit for duty, but not misconduct and embarked Australia 3rd September 1915.
George was a forward thinking young man, his will and his insurance planning, testimony to his plans and provision for family should he not return. He was a member of The St. George Lodge, No118, Protestant Alliance Friendly Society. This was a friendly society, with the aim of providing its members with benefits such as sick pay, funeral allowance and medical attention. These were very popular in the day and proved successful.
On this day and forever more remembering 15 George Harrington Bird
The following family Notice was posted by his loving parents in the Roll of Honour in the Sydney Morning Herald
Published – The Sydney Morning Herald – Saturday 4 September 1915
Second-Corporal George H. Bird,
1st Field Coy. Engineers. 1st Australian Division, died of wounds received at Gallipoli. August 9, 1915.
dearly loved eldest son of George and Catherine Bird, of Kogarah, in his 20th year.
Walter was a 19 year old carpenter from Merewether, Newcastle NSW, a community that had shown vigorous patriotic support for the war effort.
The photo above is courtesy of the AWM, a pre-enlistment studio portrait of Walter Stallard clearly showing a “presence and cool demeanour” which would serve him well during the entire World War 1 campaign.
Walter Stallard enlisted on 22 August 1914 and embarked with the 1st Field Company Engineers from Sydney on HMAT Afric on 18 October 1914.
Apart from being a “Dawn Lander” and one of the first Novacastrians to set foot on Gallipoli, Walter had managed to dodge both snipers and illness right up to the 8th August 1915.
“One of the most famous assaults of the Gallipoli campaign, the Battle of Lone Pine was originally intended as a diversion from attempts by New Zealand and Australian units to force a breakout from the ANZAC perimeter on the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971. The Lone Pine attack, launched by the 1st Brigade AIF in the late afternoon of 6 August 1915 pitched Australian forces against formidable entrenched Turkish positions, sections of which were securely roofed over with pine logs. In some instances the attackers had to break in through the roof of the trench systems in order to engage the defenders. The main Turkish trench was taken within 20 minutes of the initial charge but this was the prelude to 4 days of intense hand-to-hand fighting, resulting in over 2,000 Australian casualties.” – Source: AWM
On the 8th August at theBattle of Lone Pine young Walter was wounded by shrapnel in the arm and also suffering from shock, he was transferred to hospital in Mudros. His fellow sapper 107 John Slattery was wounded the previous day, but Walter would have been completely unaware that John would die from his wounds and was buried at sea on this day.
This would not be the only major battle for young Walter, and not the only time he would be wounded in action. Each time Walter was wounded he would recover and return to the field and some of the fiercest battles that the Anzac’s had seen.
Pozieres, is a small village in the Somme Valley in France, and was the scene of bitter and costly fighting for the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions in mid 1916. The Battle for Poziers was considered the heaviest bombardment that the allied forces had ever seen in the entire war. It was 7 weeks of continual shelling day and night.
On 1st June 1916, Poziers, Walter was wounded a second time, a gun shot wound to his right thigh and his face and this time he was transferred back to hospital in England to recover. Within four months he had fully recovered and in November 1916 he returned back to the field in France.
Fast forward October 1917 – The Western Front Again
The following is an excerpt from “Cameos of the Western Front” – Ypres sector 1914 – 1918 by authors Tony Spagnoly and Ted Smith, it describes the scene that the Anzac’s faced the morning of the 4th October 1917 at Ypres. The land they were fighting over had been held by the Germans since 1914.
“In the early hours of the 4th October , the mass of 1 and 2 Anzac lay crowded along the front line, with a fair proportion of the men placed nearer to the enemy positions than would have been favoured by the planners. Due to the large area of boggy Flanders mud……..several units had to be positioned close up to the enemy lines. Unseen before them , in the dark along the lower slopes of the Broodseinde ridge, lay several fortified farms the enemy would bitterly contest…………………………..the Australians planned to attack at 6.00 am , but about 5.30 am, as they were quietly waiting………Desultory German fire, which had been falling intermittently among the Australians, grew in intensity…..observers further back , grew tense with worry and anxiety. The enemy fire increased pummeling the front line troops…..and British gunnery supports further behind the line. had the enemy anticipated the proposed advance ?.
The fire began to take a heavy toll of the waiting men. casualties were mounting alarmingly….After a seemingly endless half an hour, the line of the barrage was well-defined by the dead and wounded lying thickly around…….At exactly 6 a.m a split second silence was shattered by marker flares sizzling up into the lightning sky. Then the thunderous British barrage rent the air, drowning the enemy fire into insignificance. The German positions , all across the ridge , were now wreathed in a ferment of fire and destruction. The Australian Infantry, thankful to have survived the terrible shelling , hoisted themselves off the wet ground …..casually lit their cigarettes, cocked their steel helmets against flying shrapnel, gripped their rifles and followed their officers into enemy territory.”
On this day the 1st Field Company Engineers would be recognised for their enormous contribution to the success of the day. The Anzac’s had once again displayed unswerving determination and bravery in this attack and six original members of the 1st FCE would be awarded the Military Medal, 66 Norman Masters, 99 John Jackson , 119 William Pitt, 153 Phillip Charmichael, 67 Albert Currie and 108 Walter Stallard. Two Australians from the 3rd Division were also awarded the Victoria Cross, such was the significance of this battle.
The following is the official citation for 108 Walter Stallard.
‘During the operations east of YPRES on 4th October 1917, he was employed on the construction of a strong point on BECELAERE RIDGE. Notwithstanding the constant shell and machine gun fire directed on his post throughout the day he rendered very valuable assistance to his section officer and later on to his section N.C.O.s. in setting out the task and supervising the work. He was constantly encouraging his men by his presence and cool demeanour and was responsible to a large extent for the excellent post constructed.’ Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 31 Date: 7 March 1918
The indestructible Walter finally returned home to Australia on the troop ship Port Sydney (formerly the Star of England) on the 2nd December 1918. He was lucky to share the journey home with some of the original sappers who had all signed up together 4 years earlier. On the same troop ship were nine of Walters mates, the equally indestructible 174 Everleigh Hodges MM, 12 Thomas Rose, 42 Roland York, 38 William Smith , 250 Fred Wicks DCM, 130 Leonard Johnstone, 177 Reginald Jessop MSM , 176 William Harvey, and 207 Norman McKee.
For these men who had survived four hard years at war, it must have seemed a lifetime ago when they last left the shores of Australia. It is impossible to imagine their thoughts and stories they must have shared on that return trip. But no doubt the journey would have been a welcome respite, filled with anticipation of the reception they would receive when they finally landed home on Australian shores.
The Merewether community were eagerly awaiting Walter’s return and anticipated his arrival on Saturday 30th November and had prepared a celebration for Walter and other returning soldiers. Walter’s arrival was delayed in Melbourne and the celebrations for Walter were simply postponed and it appears even more effort went into a more formal reception for this brave young man a few days later when he arrived by train.
DISTRICT NEWS – MEREWETHER
Published -Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate – Friday 6 December 1918.
“Corporal Walter Stallard, a returned Anzac, was officially met at the Newcastle Railway Station last evening, where two motorcars and municipal representatives, a number of relatives and friends, were in waiting. Corporal Stallard joined the car with Alderman R. Wells, the Mayor, and Mr. T. Adams, the town clerk, and was conveyed to his father’s residence, in Alworth street. Prior to leaving the railway station, Alderman R. G. Kilgour, the Mayor of Newcastle, welcomed Corporal Stallard, on behalf of Newcastle, and wished him long life and prosperity.
A large number of residents extended their felicitations to Corporal Stallard upon arrival at Merewether. The Mayor told that Corporal Stallard was one of the original Anzacs, and had been away from his home for four years, defending the liberties of Australia and the Allied nations. They were glad to see him home safe and sound, and he had pleasure to accord him a welcome on behalf of the citizens. Alderman Dixon supported the welcome, and said that the council should give welcomes to all the returning soldiers. Mr. Friend said that Corporal Stallard was an apprentice in his employ, and he was proud that he had done his duty. Corporal Stallard expressed his pleasure with the welcome which had been extended to him.”
There is a strong sense that Walter was very much the “quiet achiever”, perhaps a man of few words but a determined young man who didn’t shy away from danger and maintained that cool demeanour and bravery through to the end. His hand written application for the Gallipoli Medallion in 1967 is possibly the simplest and shortest hand written letter this researcher has found. A simple request with his regimental details and no mention of his Military Medal. Walter’s quiet modesty was so typical of many of the Anzac’s and perhaps characteristic of his approach to life after the war. Walter lived a long life and passed away in 1981, he was a great Australian.
This Day and Forever more – Remembering 108 Walter Stallard -MM
41 Claude Douglas Turbet was only 19 years old, born in Hobart, Tasmania. His parents were William and Annie (nee Cook) – Before enlisting he had made a career for 3 years as a mattress maker in Kent st, Sydney with Good Earls Ltd. He was living with his mother at Canterbury and was already serving in the 6th Field Co. Eng. Claude had three brothers, Harold , Charles, Robert and his sister Ivy.
Claude’s older brother 748 Pte. Harold Albert Turbet was married, a bootmaker from St. Peters Sydney who joined the Infantry 1st Battalion. Claude enlisted a few weeks before his older brother, however Claude and Harold were both farewelled at Wooloomooloo wharf when they left Australia together on the HMAT Afric on the 18th October 1914
Claude was one of the original pontoon builders with Lieut. Henry Bachtold on landing day at Gallipoli and received special mention for acts of conspicuous gallantry and valuable services.
Claude’s heroic efforts on the landing day with his fellow sappers was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday the 22nd October. The headline read “Heroic Australians” and Claude was “Mentioned In Orders” by the Army Corps Commander with his fellow pontoon builders. Unfortunately his name was spelt as C.D Turtset in the SMH.
On the 8th August at the “Battle for Lone Pine” Claude Turbett was “Killed in Action” . Fellow Engineer 151 Ernest Murray wrote in his dairy that poor Claude was practically blown to pieces by a shell.
Claude Turbet’s burial was officiated by Chaplain Walter Ernest Dexter.
None were more aware of the human suffering at Lone Pine than the chaplains and padre’s who worked constantly to lift the spirits of the men in the trenches. Chaplain Walter Dexter’s diary reveals the conditions that prevailed during and after the attack at Lone Pine. His entry for Tuesday August 10 reads……….
“In the Lone Pine the moving of the dead goes steadily on. All hope of getting them out for burial is given up and they are being dragged into saps and recesses, which will be filled up. The bottom of the trench is fairly clear, you have not to stand on any as you walk along and the bottom of the trench is not springy, nor do gurgling sounds come from under your feet as you walk on something soft. The men are feeling worn out but are sticking it like Britons. The stench you get used to after a bit unless a body is moved. In all this the men eat, drink and try to sleep. Smoking is their salvation and a drop of rum works wonders … Had a funeral at 6 p.m. One is obsessed with dead men and burials and I am beginning to dream of them. I suppose it is because I am so tired.”
Source: Walter Ernest Dexter, diary, 10 August 1915, AWM PR00248
Published in the The Sydney Morning Herald – 8th September 1915
“The brothers, Sapper Claude D. Turbet, killed in action, and Corporal Harold A. Turbet, wounded, are sons of Mrs. A. Turbet, of Canterbury. The brothers were at the first landing in the Dardanelles.”
On the 3rd August, just 5 days before Claude was killed in action, Claude’s brother Harold was wounded at Gallipoli by a bullet wound to the arm. The day after news of “The Brothers Turbet” was published in Australia , Claude’s brother Harold embarked for Australia carrying his wounds and a heavy heart with the loss of his brother Claude and the knowledge that he would have to return home without him after leaving together on the HMAT Afric just 12 months earlier.
The following notices were placed on the anniversary of Claude’s death in 1916
Published in Sydney Morning Herald.
Family Notices 8th August 1916
TURBET.-In loving memory of my dear brother and brother in law who was killed in action on the 8th August 1915, at Lone Pine.
He sleeps not his native land,
But neath the foreign skies,
Far from those who loved him best,
In a heroes grave he lies.
Inserted by his brother and sister-in- law, Mr and Mrs C W Turbet.
TURBET.-In memory of Sapper C D Turbet, killed in action Lone Pine, August 8th, 1915
He’s gone to rest his troubles are o’er,
He’s done with sorrow and pain,
The ill’s of this life which he patiently bore,
Will never distress him again.
Inserted by his sorrowing brother and sister in law, Harold and Rose.
Roll of Honour name projection
Claude Douglas Turbet’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on: