31st May 1918 – Remembering Norman Jack Niccol

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102 Norman Jack Niccol – Photo source; CSR A record of war Service of Members of the staff 1914 – 1918

102 Norman “Jack” John Niccol

Norman was born in Sydney in 1893 to parents Thomas and Lilian Niccol.  Along with his younger brother Thomas Roy Niccol they originally lived at Leichhardt on the fringe of  the city of Sydney.

By the age of twenty Norman had completed his electrical apprenticeship while employed with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for 4 years .

In 1914 he enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers as a Sapper.

On Sunday the 18th October 1914 the men of the First Field Company Engineers embarked for a seven week voyage at sea. A few false starts and weeks of delays, the loss of one of its original members and 8 weeks of training and finally the men were about to head off for the great adventure. The drum beat sounded – Reveille – at 5.00 a.m and the 1st FCE broke camp at Moore Park and marched to the trams to take them to the wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay. They were then taken by Ferry to board the troopship A19 – Afric.

The fading signature of Norman Niccol appears in the bottom left corner of the original postcard of the Afric belonging to fellow original 101 John Hoey Moore.

Coincidently John Moore and Norman Niccol had consecutive regiment numbers 101 and 102 respectively, so it very likely they were tent mates at Moore Park when they enlisted and in the same section of the 1st FCE.

Signatures of originals hmats-afric.jpg enhanced
Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Norman served continuously at Gallipoli until the evacuation, when he returned with the rest of the company to Alexandria, Egypt on the troopship Caledonia on the 27th December 1915.

Caledonia
While camped at Alexandria,  Norman was appointed lance corporal 22.1.1916 but was quickly reduced to rank of sapper after he was found guilty for disobeying the command of a senior officer and was absent without leave for 22 hrs.

In March 1916 Norman proceeded to France and then onwards with the 1st FCE to the western front.

On the 20th August 1916 he was wounded, an injury to his left hand. After a quick recovery he was granted leave and had taken only 3 days and rejoined the unit in the field where shortly after in September he was transferred to the No.4 A.D.S Col (Australian Division Supply Column) as a Driver.

On the 31st May 1918,  a number of ammunition lorries from the supply company that Norman was attached were parked at Allonville on the Somme, near Amiens. Two high explosive shells landed among the lorries  where Noman and his mate 5451 Roland Rose were sleeping. A shell fragment punctured the floor of the lorry and ripped through Normans legs. Roland Rose was not wounded and managed to drive Norman to the casualty clearing station all the while Norman was conscious and holding onto what remained of his severely injured legs.

Norman ‘s legs were amputated in an attempt to save his life , unfortunately later that evening Norman died from his wounds.

Norman’s service record shows he has the rare distinction of serving continuously in France from the 28th March 1916 to 31st May 1918 except for 3 days leave. Over 2 years at the front in any capacity was extraordinary.

Norman Jack Niccol was buried in a small British War cemetery in the town of Longueau which is situated on the south-eastern outskirts of Amiens, the cemetery located on the eastern side of the town.

Longueau British Cemetery was begun in April 1918, when the Allied line was re-established. The cemetery contains 204 First World War burials, 14 of which are unidentified.

Norman’s memory is honoured at the wall of remembrance in Canberra.

Norman Jack Niccol’s name will also be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the following dates:

Thu 28 June 2018 at 7:23pm
Sat 11 August 2018 at 12:01am
Sat 29 September 2018 at 2:01am

AWM_canberra_1

Sources:

AWM, NLA

Original Postcard photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Photo by Len @ findagrave.comuserprofile48488629

Photo source: CSR – A record of war service of members of the staff 1914 – 1918

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22nd May 1918 -Remembering Alexander Finnie

P07219.001 20 Alexander Finnie
20 Alexander Finnie

20 Alexander Finnie

Alexander Finnie was a 21 year old sheet metal worker and 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, very 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.

Sopwith Camels No 4 Squadron AFC -France 24 March 1918 - AWM-24-march-1918-awm
Sopwith Camels No 4 Squadron AFC -France 24 March 1918 – AWM

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.

Capt_A_H_Cobby_DSO_DFC

Cpt Arthur Henry Cobby – DSO, DFC

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 fiercely 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

Alex Finnie flight record

Alexander Finnie’s last flight record.

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.

Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery La Gorque France
Pont-du-Hem Military Cemetery La Gorque France

On this day we also remember and pay tribute to Alexander’s flying mate Lieut. George Nowland who also died in the tragic accident.

Alexander’s page is now available and will continue to be updated ……………………….

Read More – clink on this link

REMEMBERING – 106 Frank Rochester

Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait

 

106 Lieut. Frank Rochester

Frank Rochester was born in 1888 in Durham England, to parents John William Rochester and Marion Pringle Rochester, nee Purvis.
At age 17 Frank started work as an apprentice blacksmith at the same local Colliery as his father. Franks younger brother John Rochester was an engine fitter and iron worker and they also had two sisters Mary and Marion.
After five years blacksmithing Frank decided to take a new path and on the 16th February 1912 Frank departed from London on the “Osterley” and immigrated to Australia originally disembarking in Adelaide and later making his way to New South Wales.
Frank enlisted with the 1st Field Engineers Co. on the 19th August 1914 and on October 18th he embarked with his fellow originals on the HMAT Afric, his autograph on the original postcard that belonged to original 101 John Hoey Moore.

Signatures of originals hmats-afric.jpg enhanced
Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Shortly after his arrival at Egypt he was appointed Lance Corporal on the 8th March 1915.
At Gallipoli, Frank was an original dawn lander and after 3 months he was promoted to 2nd Corporal.
He was also one of the rare individuals who served continuously at Gallipoli and during preparations for the planned evacuation on the 11th December he ruptured his knee-joint cartilage.

Lemnos Hospital
Lemnos Hospital – courtesy of ThruTheseLines

He was later treated at Mudros hospital, recovered and was promoted to Corporal before rejoining the unit in time to embark back to Alexandria, Egypt.
On the 21st March 1916 he embarked with the unit for Marseilles, and served in Sailly France and was promoted to Sergeant on 9th August 1916.
In December of 1916 Frank was detached from his unit and along with his mate 230 Robert Osborne Wrightson Earle returned to Newark in England and attended Engineering Training School and on completion was appointed his commission as 2nd Lieutenant.
In July 1917, like many of the originals, Frank prepared his final “Will and Testament” and his good friend 230 Robert ‘Ossie’ Earle, a draughtsman from Leeton was a witness to his statement.

will

Frank returned to France and the 1st FCE in December of 1918. A few weeks later he was promoted to full Lieutenant on the 31st January 1918.
“ In April 1918 the 1st FCE had left Amiens and were disentrained at Hondeghem near Hazebrouck and marched to Borre. The Germans had broken through the Portuguese sector and the 1st Division had been ordered back to stop the enemy’s further advance and which the company duly accomplished.” – source :- A Short Account of the Formation of the 1st FCE- 1914 – 1918
On the 13th April the company was billeted at Pradelles and on the 17th April “they were shelled out of their billets.” Around this same time fellow original 180 Clyffe Bailey is wounded, a shell wound causing severe injuries to his right leg which is later amputated.
On the 23rd April 1918, Lieutenant Frank Rochester was in charge of certain road mines which were being laid across roads and at strategic points. The mines were then meant to be blown at the last minute in the event of the allied forces having to fall back. The road would then be blocked to enemy guns and transport.
About midday in company with 6989 Lance Cpl. Russell Robson of his section, were testing the electric fuses of some of these mines in Strazeele. He and Robson had just completed tests and then made their way back through the main streets of Strazeele when a small enemy artillery shell burst immediately in front of them killing both men instantly. The bodies were discovered by a working party of the 1st FCE that followed shortly after and they took the mutilated bodies back to the company billets in Pradelles.

Postcard of Strazeele ruins
Postcard of Strazeele ruins

Frank Rochester and Russell Robson were buried side by side at the Borre Military Cemetery the following day, a Padre officiated and most of the officers and men of the unit were present at the graveside, erecting the cross they had made and a white picket and chain fence surrounding the plots. For the 1st FCE this was a rare opportunity to prepare and attend an official burial.
By this stage of the war they were use to seeing death and devastation each day, but to have some time out to pay their respects to their mates was a special moment that they took very seriously.
The originals would have had memories of their first weeks back at Moore Park, Sydney and their first military burial at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney before they left in 1914.
Nearly four years had passed when they lost their first original 126 Ernest Cotterell and paid him the same honour and respect they had just paid to Lieut. Frank Rochester and L. Cpl Russell Robson.

The Borre Military Cemetery is the final resting place for 235 Australian soldiers… including 106 Lieut. Frank Rochester and Lance Cpl Russell Robson M.M . They are buried side by side.
In 1919 on the anniversary of Frank Rochester’s death, the Sydney Morning Herald coincidently published memorial notices for both Frank and Russell…once again side by side…. and it also appears that Frank may have had a sweetheart in Australia.
“ROBSON. – In loving remembrance of Russell Dunsmore Robson. M M. of First Field Company Engineers, A. I. F., killed April 23, 1918, at Strazeele, aged 20½ years.
ROCHESTER -In loving memory of Lieut Frank Rochester. Killed in action, April 23. 1918, after 3 years and 8 months faithful service. An Anzac.
Greater love hath no man than this. Dearly loved friend of Gladys Dawson”. – SMH 23rd April 1919
Frank Rochester’s name is located at panel 24 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan below).

panel 24 AWM

Frank Rochester’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on:
• Wed 18 April 2018 at 7:35pm
• Sat 02 June 2018 at 5:55am
• Sat 14 July 2018 at 4:37am
• Tue 28 August 2018 at 7:08pm
• Sat 20 October 2018 at 10:21pm

Story ©VanceKelly2017
Sources:
AWM, NAA, NLA, CWGC
Acknowledgments:
Original Afric postcard and Sphinx photos – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Lieut. William Hay

HAY-William
23 Lieut. William Hay – photo image courtesy University of Sydney –

William Hay was a determined man,  his short and eventful life was full to the brim.

His personal story reads more like a colourful contemporary drama. Born into a hard working and ambitious family, educated at the University of Sydney, he inherited a small fortune from his father and shortly after enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces with the 1st Field Co. Engineers.

He served the entire war and survived but unfortunately his older brother did not, his brother, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corp and the only Australian shot down by the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.

William returned after the war to carve out a pastoral empire.  He married a well-known socialite, but he shunned the limelight.  A bitter divorce later ensued, but this did not prevent him from achieving his inherent destiny, but sadly the poisonous after effects of the Western Front ultimately took its toll and cut his life short.

Read more….CLICK HERE.

172 ‘Buck’ Weatherilt – DCM, MID

1912 Percy Weatherilt
1912 Percy  ” Buck” Weatherilt

 

Percy Weatherilt, or better known as “Buck”,  was a motor cycle racing champion in the pioneering days of racing in England.

He travelled to Australia in 1913 and pursued motor cycle racing in New South Wales and by early 1914 had become the  NSW State Champion.

He was preparing to compete in the first official Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to be held in October 1914.

His racing career was suddenly interrupted……...Read More

 

 

 

 

 

“The Water Carrier”

 

‘The Water Carrier’

234 Archibald Bland
234 Archibald Bland

 

Today the image of Arch Bland beares the title “The Water Carrier” .

This distinctive photo of original sapper Arch Bland carrying water along Bridges Road at Gallipoli captures the essence of the hard working sapper. The sling beam bending under the weight of the water filled tins across his shoulders, his measured stride as he bears the load on the uneven track, his casual gaze ahead as if his mind is elsewhere,  and off course his signature look… a forage style cap worn to the side. For Arch Bland this was just another day at the office,  and like his good mate Evelyn Lloyd he never had a sick day the entire time at Gallipoli.

The photo above although cited by the AWM as maker “unknown” , was possibly taken by his good mate fellow sapper 237 Evelyn Lloyd.

The photo below from the Bob Lundy collection shows  Arch Bland centre standing…. and unmistakable with his signature look.

Big tent - courtesy "Bob Lundy Private Collection"
Big tent – courtesy “Bob Lundy Private Collection”

 

 

Archibald Evatt Bland was born in 1885 in Gloucester England, the youngest of 4 boys and his sister Ellen, to parents Samuel Bland a journalist and Emma Bland – nee Evatt.
Arch at 16 was schooled at Dean Close Memorial School in Cheltenham, and was a talented football player, having played inside forward for the Gloucester City Football Cub.

100 years have past and the Gloucester City Football Club AFC still honours and remembers their original young player,  just as we will always honour and remember our brave ANZAC 234 Archibald Evatt Bland.

Portrait Courtesy Manly Library
Portrait Courtesy Manly Library

Arch Blands page is available to read …………………… Click this Link

Story – copyright©VanceKelly2015

Acknowledgments and Sources:

Bob Lundy Collection courtesy of Bruce Hodge

Portrait kind permission Manly Library NSW – John MacRitchie

AWM image – attributed to Evelyn Lloyd

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