TWO WORLD WARS – 144 Harold Stephen WHITE

 

Portrait - P11048.001

 

144  Harold Stephen White

144  Harold Stephen White was born in1891 in Tumut NSW to parents William Henry S White and Emily Sophia Watson.Harold had four sisters , Edna, Freda , Stella and Marjorie and two younger brothers Allan and William Rowland White.

Harold was a survey draughtsman working for the Railway Department of NSW when he enlisted on the 19th August 1914. William, his younger brother enlisted in 1916 and the two brothers would later join up together in the 1st Pioneer Battalion.
Harold was with the 1st FCE  landing party at Gallipoli and in late June, with a shell wound to his wrist was hospitalized for a time and then returned to Gallipoli, but most likely prematurely as his hand became septic and in August 1915 he returned to hospital in Mudros.
His father William had read in the ‘London Times ‘ that a Harold White with the matching rank as his son had been killed in an Aeroplane accident . Hopefully the family received a prompt reply and the good news that it was not their Harold as he was actually in France, alive and well and was now a NCO Sargeant with the 1st FCE.

letter from concerned mothert
In August 1916 while still in France he was transferred to the 1st Pioneer Battalion and promoted to 2nd Lieut. And later Lieutenant by the year end. He continued to see action in the field in France up to January 1918 , when once again he was transferred . This time his appointment as Lieut. was terminated and he was appointed a full commission in the Indian Army with the 1 KGO Bengal Sappers & Miners and fought in the Afghan wars.

In 1920 he briefly returned to Australia and married Winifred Mabel Grace nee Hilliard in Ashfield NSW . They both returned to India , but pregnancy and illness meant Harold resigned from his commission and returned to Australia and shortly after their son Norman was born in 1922  and in 1924 their daughter Shirley was born.

Initially they had settled down to family life living at ‘Roorkee’ 80 Austin st, Lane Cove. They had named their home after the military quarters of the Bengal Sappers & Miners in Roorkee, Uttarakhand India. Harold and Winifred were together in India for only a short time, but it must have captured their imagination and left its imprint on them both.
Harold returned to work for the NSW Railways as a member of the Engineering staff and joined the Militia until 1936. When the second world war broke out, Harold re- enlisted and was  back with  the 2/1 Pioneers. His son Norman had already been in the Navy at age 13 as a cadet at Flinders Naval College and in 1939 had already seen action at sea in the Middle East.

Harold unfortunately was killed in action at Tobruk on May 1941 . Our Gallipoli landing veteran age 48 and original sapper with the 1st FCE didn’t have to return to war, perhaps his wife Winifred even pleaded with him not to return, he had seen and done enough. But clearly it was in Harold’s blood, he had a love of the military service and so was the case with their only son Norman.
Harold was buried in Tobruk War Cemetery, Al Butnan, Libya – Plot: 5. K. 1.

Tobruk War Cemetery, Al Butnan, Libya Courtesy: cwgc.org
Tobruk War Cemetery, Al Butnan, Libya – photo – courtesy: cwgc.org

 

His son Norman would hear news of his father’s death while preparing for his posting as Sub- Lieutenant on the HMAS Perth which was later engaged in battles in the Java Sea. The HMAS Perth was sunk by the Japanese naval force and later Norman was captured by the Japanese and taken prisoner.
Winifred and Shirley back home must have been devastated to discover firstly the news of Harold’s death and then shortly after to discover Norman missing for six months and then reported as taken a prisoner of war.

Harold White had dedicated a large amount of his adult life serving his country, surviving the Great War, serving in the Indian Army when the great war had finished and making the ultimate sacrifice in World War 2 . His legacy as an original Anzac and his diverse war record is a proud one.  Unfortunately he did not live to see his son Norman leave his own mark in life and continue the family tradition of dedication and service to Australia and later showing a rare character that Harold and Winifred would have been enormously proud. Norman would be awarded ‘The Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays’ in recognition of his work in rebuilding Australian-Japanese relations. He was also awarded an OAM – (Medal of the Order of Australia) for his services to international relations through the promotion of cultural, business and education interests between Australia and Japan.

 

StoryCopyright©VanceKelly

Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA, CWGC

 

 

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