21st September 1916 Remembering Sapper James D. Page

 

164 James Delahunty PAGE

 

164 James Page was born in Springston,  New Zealand in 1886 to William Thomas Page and Margaret nee Delahunty. James had served 1 ½ years in the Canterbury mounted rifles before arriving in Australia in January 1910  and started working for the NSW Railways, his war record showing he was a union member.

Shortly after arriving  James had met and married Gertrude Alice Ryan in Sydney in 1911 . Gertrude was born in 1882 in Forbes, New South Wales and in 1907 gave birth to a daughter Hope Merea Ryan and the father was declared unknown. When she married James, he adopted Hope.

James and Gertrude later also had a son together, Neville John was born on 12th July 1914 .   Five weeks later his father enlisted on the 19th August 1914.

Jim as he became known by his fellow engineers enlisted as a driver and embarked on the Afric on the 18th October 1914, his signature appears ( 2nd top left) on the John Hoey Moore postcard recording many other originals in the company that shared the journey.

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

As a driver Jim was stationed off shore during the Gallipoli landing. “The Short Account” of the formation of the 1st FCE explains how the “drivers of the company could not land their horses on the Peninsular they returned to Egypt and were encamped at mex near Alexandria during the whole of the occupation of Gallipoli”.

James during his time in Egypt had one minor indiscretion and was found in Alexandria on leave without a pass and was fined 3 days pay.

On the 16th December 1915 the Drivers arrived at Zeitoun Camp near Heliopolis, Cairo. On the 21st the drivers together with 9th and 11th reinforcements entrained for Tel-el-Kebir.

On the 28th March 1916  James and the 1st FCE embarked for France and the western front  and later in June 1916 James was remustered as a sapper.

In September 1916 the 1st FCE were stationed at Ypres and relieved the Canadians on this sector. Major Richard Dyer reported that the “trenches were in a shocking condition, no work appears to have been done for some time, the mud in some places being two feet deep”

ypres-trench-sept-1916-awm008684
Trench diagram from 1st FCE Unit War Diary September 1916

It wasn’t long before the men of the 1st FCE  were busy revetting, duck-boarding and reclaiming many of the trenches despite continued poor weather and enemy bombardments.

The poor weather continued and on the 20th September work was delayed by rain and enemy snipers who were particularly active, forced the working party that James Page was attached,  to “seek cover on many occasions”.

The following day the men pushed on determined to reclaim the trenches before the winter set in. On this day the 21st September 1916 James Page was fatally wounded by a sniper.

The company war diary confirmed that James had been sniped through a sandbag and killed by a gun shot wound to the forehead .

“A careful reliable witness” Sapper Willock also gave his account of Jim’s death, however his mention of  James having seven children was doubtful.

red-cross-report

 

There had been some confusion over the final resting place of James and in 1921 it was finally confirmed that his burial was actually at the Railway dugout burial ground. ( grave 27 Row N Plot 6)  Zillebeke , Belgium approx 1 ½ miles south, south east of Ypres.

1280px-railway_dugouts_commonwealth_war_graves_commission_cemetery_1_redvers

 

Grave 164 Sapper James.D Page
Grave 164 Sapper James.D Page (nzwargraves.org.nz)

 

In July 1917 a plea to obtain his wallet containing photos  was made to base war records. This wallet must have been of considerable sentimental value and Gertrude perhaps still too grief stricken to write herself, had a good friend Mr R Bowmaker write to the war office on her behalf . He also made inquiries regarding a gunners certificate stating that James had written to his wife and told her he had successfully passed the examination for 1st class gunnery instructor

A month later in August 1917, James Page personal effects were returned home to his wife Gertrude. A machine gunners certificate was included in his effects, a testament and a copy of the Gospel showed that he was a god fairing man and a small collection of personal items such as his hair brush, razor, photos, letters, a note book and what was described as a linen case….. perhaps this linen case was the wallet so treasured by his loving  wife.

Hopefully his memory lives on with the possibility of his son and daughter both having married and perhaps having children of their own.

Story © VanceKelly2016

 Family Notes:

Son Neville John Page ( born 1912 Marrickville , married Margaret Larkin in 1935, he died in Sandgate Newcastle 02/10/1981.

Neville John Page served in WW2 – NX71875 enlisted Paddington  Army 2nd AIF – next of kin Margaret – his war record is not digitized.

Hope Merea Page married Lindsay W Sanders in 1929 in North Sydney.

Sources:

“A Short Account of the formation of the 1st Field Engineers” – 2199 Cpl Frank Slee MM

Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

AWM, NAA, NLA, nzwargraves.org.nz

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Remembering 186 Ewen Macpherson

186 Ewan MacPherson

186 Ewen Fergus Lord Macpherson

 

 

PASSING OF A HERO
BRAVE ENDING OF A GALLANT LIFE.

Published The Bathurst times Friday 20th October 1916

To the long list of brave men who have offered their lives for the Empire is Lieutenant Ewen Lord Macpherson, a grandson of the late Mr. Randolph Machattie , who was in the landing at Gallipoli Peninsula, and having been invalided to England rejoined the army at Ypres recently with a commission in the Royal Field Artillery. This young officer lost his life on the 10th of August in the heavy fighting that took place near Ypres— and the following letter from the officer commanding his brigade has been received buy his parents.

” I am writing to offer you the sincerest sympathy of myself and every officer and man of tho RFA, at the death of your very gallant son, Ewen Macpherson. He was very badly hit about 4 p.m. on the 10th. inst. trying to get his men under cover; we were being heavily shelled at the time. He was carried to a trench nearby, but a heavy shell fell immediately after, killing him and the three officers who were assisting him. Although your son has only been with us three months he very easily made a name among us for fearlessness and throughout the rather heavy fighting in the Ypres salient, bore himself with great gallantry, and I had made a note of his name for recommondation for the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to. duty. We buried him the same evening in a cemetery in the valley, a chaplain of the Australian forces reading the burial service. Believe me, your sincerely,

J. D. SHERER, Lieut. Colonel, 5th Brigade, R.F.A., Lehore Artillery, B.E.F

 

More about Ewen Fergus Lord Macpherson………………….follow this Link 

The Battle of Pozieres 1916

awm-ez0097

The Battle of Pozieres

The village of Pozières, is located in the Somme Valley, France.  The main road running along the ridge, in the middle of the British sector of the Somme battlefields ran from the towns of Albert to Bapaume and close by stood the village of Pozieres, the highest point on the battlefield.

On the 19th July 1916 the men of the 1st Field company Engineers had bivouacked just outside of Albert, approximately 3 miles from the front lines. On the 21st July they marched into Albert and commenced helping to dig a communications  trench that same night. The heavy bombardments from the Germans had already commenced and were relentless.

By Sunday the 23rd July the company had moved in closer to the front lines at Pozieres and commenced construction of a strong point for a machine gun placement.

Original 233 Cpl Thomas Arkinstall reported that the section  was in front of Pozieres about 100 yards past the village , and were digging an advanced Machine Gun position overlooking two roads leading to Pozieres and Bapaume.

For four days, Pozieres would be pure hell for the men of the 1st Field Company Engineers.

 

Major Richard John Dyer was the young officer in charge of the 1st Field Company Engineers during the Battle of Pozieres.

Major Richard Dyer remarkably not quite 23 years old was the very able and hardened Gallipoli veteran, famous for his single handed efforts at  Gallipoli and his bravery at the German Officers Trench, creating his own landmark at what became known as “Dyers Crater”.

The young Major was no stranger to putting himself at great risk. However as Major and commanding officer, he was now placing his men at great risk and his diary entries show his hesitance in despatching the sections whilst under extremely heavy bombardment from the Germans.

Link to the full  1st FCE Unit diary July 1916 –July 1916 RCDIG1008590-1

The drawings above from the unit diaries showing the detailed plans for the construction of the “Strong Point” and machine gun placement.

Original 29 Bob Lundy recorded in his diary on the 23rd July the casualties and the devastation of the day, noting that there were dead laying all along the track and every inch of ground was just shell holes.

Within the first four days of the operations the return lists for the engineers prepared by  original Lieut. Robert Osborne Earle for Major Richard Dyer outlined the devastation to the men of the 1st Field Company..

The casualties list recorded the men who were either killed, wounded, missing , gassed or suffering shell shock,  between the 22nd and 26th July 1916.

 

Fourteen of the originals were included on this list of casualties…..58 Percy Hirst was listed as killed, 215 William Allan (Whelan) was listed as missing, 234  Archibald Bland  and 50 Lionel Burton-Fuller were listed as wounded.

Also wounded was 88 George Casburn, a gun shot wound to the right hand and shoulder and  163 William Rice also a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

123 William Goodwin, 76 James Hamilton, 184 Donald Clark, 237 Evelyn Lloyd..  all wounded.

336 Alfred Girdler and 157 Frederick Newson were gassed,  and 242 Thomas Cook and 26 Roland King were both listed suffering from shell shock.

Interestingly  the brothers of  fellow originals 14 Edmund Banks and 139 James Pasfield were also on the same casualty list.

Pozieres  Main street 1914                 Pozieres  Main street 1916

 On the 23rd July 234 Archie Bland died from his wounds, two days later on the 25th July both  58 Percy Hirst and 50 Lionel Fuller Burton also died from their wounds.

 

 Above Left to Right – 234 Archie Bland, 50 Lionel Fuller Burton, 58 Percy Hirst

215 William Patrick Allan Whelan  was originally reported missing on the 23rd, all later enquiries confirmed that he was killed in action on the 25th .

Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait

Still searching for a portrait of 215 William Whelan

During what became known as the “Somme Offensive”,  between the  23 July and early September 1916, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Divisions of the Australian Imperial Forces were involved in 19 attacks on German positions in and around the ruins of Pozieres.

Although the British and Australian artillery were no match for the German artillery and machine guns, despite that, they held their positions and subsequently held Pozieres at great cost. The Australians suffered 23,000 casualties while advancing only two kilometres.

Australian official historian Charles Bean  declared that the Pozières Ridge ..” is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”- Charles Bean

 

Story ©Vance Kelly 2016

Sources: AWM, NLA, NAA, Manly Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

139 James Albert Pasfield

 

139  James Albert Pasfield

Scott Wilson, fellow writer, and researcher has kindly shared his story written about “original” 139  James Albert Pasfield.

Scott details the circumstance of how he came to write about James Pasfield and brings his story back to life.

“In late 2014 I had a story published that I had written about 160 Driver Percy Thompson’s experiences around the Ypres Salient in late 1917. Shortly afterwards I was contacted by Greg Pasfield, a grandson of 139 Sergeant James Albert Pasfield. Greg told me of his grandfather and two uncles who had all served with the 1st field Company Engineers during the course of the war.

Later Greg supplied many photos of the brothers and other details and I agreed to write about their experiences during the war. The stories that follow are a record of their service during the war and I would like to thank Greg for the use of photographs and other information.” – Scott Wilson

Follow this link to the James Pasfield Story

 Acknowledgements:

All photos are and remain the property of the Pasfield Family.

Story © Scott Wilson 2016

Buried alive and saved by his mates

 

 

167 - Albert James Currie - MM (Photo courtesy of Beverly Prior Collection)
167 – Albert James Currie – MM (Photo courtesy of Beverly Prior Collection)
1st Battle Passchendaele  AWM E01200
Passchendaele  – 1st Battle 1917

 

On the 4th of October 1917 the 1st FCE helped to capture Passchendaele Ridge. They followed the second wave of the Infantry and when the ridge was captured the company proceeded to consolidate the position by forming a strong point.

At 1.30 in the afternoon a German aeroplane came over at a low altitude and had spied their position and turned back to inform the German batteries. The German batteries then opened fire and sent a salve into the company’s position on the ridge, a barrage of heavy shelling that lasted for the remainder of the day, ultimately at great cost to the “original” sappers and many others.

 

“……. I was wounded and buried alive as a shell exploded and the trench was blown upon us,…. but I was rescued before I was smothered”…. 167 Albert Currie

 

Albert’s  good mates 66 Norman Masters and  99 John Jackson were by his side at the Ypres stunt and helped dig him out.  Due to the quick actions of Masters and Jackson,  Albert Currie was lucky enough not to be killed.

The 4th October 1917 was a day the “originals” would suffer their greatest losses since Gallipoli.

Three “original” sappers were killed on this day , 32 James Claude Nicholls, 119 William “Billy” Pitt, and 190 Jack Raymond Hollingworth.

It would also be a day remembered for their  “Bravery In The Field” and six “originals” received the  Military Medal,….. Albert was one of them.

167 Albert James CURRIE – MM

WW1 - Military Medal - For Bravery In the Field
WW1 – Military Medal – “For Bravery In the Field”

 

His personal story is available to read …….More about Albert  Currie – MM  –  Link to his page .

 

AEDT – Brightlingsea – Centenary

 

 Image courtesy – Brightlingsea Museum

The Australian Engineers Training Depot (AETD) was established in Brightlingsea, Essex England in 1916 and during  the second half of World War I, thousands of Australian’s and many  of the New Zealand troops spent time in Brightlingsea, many learning the skills of the ‘sapper’ in conditions made to mimic those on the western front.

A few of the ‘originals’ from the 1st Field Company  Engineers had spent time both training and teaching new reinforcements in order to attain their commission whilst stationed at Brightlingsea.

For 100 years Brightlingsea  has maintained this connection to the ANZAC’S and particularly its interest in the Engineering Corp.

2016 is the year that the Brightlingsea Museum has organised a centenary remembrance of the ANZAC and particularly its interest in the Engineers and tracing serviceman who married while stationed in Brightlingsea and later whisked their wives off to Australia.

Three “originals” did in fact get married whilst in England and transfered to the AETD.

Sappers 103 Archie Leslie Ogilvy , 140 Ernest Charles Tubbenhauer and 153 Philip James Charmichael, each of them married while in England.  Although their wives were not native to Brightlingsea, the war records indicate a connection with Brightlingsea, each of them living there while their new husbands were at the AETD.

All three men would return home to Australia after the war, with their brides.

 

The Museum is conducting a wonderful event “Brightlingsea ANZAC Centenary weekend 17th, 18th & 19th June 2016.”

 

Links to the Museum and the centenary events and the  BBC story are below….

http://www.brightlingseamuseum.com/articles.html

https://brightlingseaanzaccentenary.org/2016/03/18/world-war-one-open-day-at-brightlingsea-museum-2/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01x211v

Sources and images : Courtesy Brightlingsea Museum

The Sphinx Photo

 

SPHINX Sappers Photo
The men of the 1st Field Company Engineers – Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

While camped in Egypt during the early months of 1915, the men of the 1st FCE were tourists as well as soldiers, most of them having left the shores of Australia for the first time and very likely, none of them having ever seen the likes of ancient Egypt.

Cpl 132 Alexander McDonald  was very excited about touring the sights and wrote a letter to his brother Michael and in detail described the splendid  Pyramids, temples and of course the Sphinx of Cheops.

His letter was one of the earliest letters from the 1st FCE published.

“We (1st Engineers) got photoed today at the Sphinx, horses and all. I am the highest one in the picture. Pathe Freres moving picture man was busy taking our camp all day a few days ago, and I suppose the pictures will be out with you soon.” –  132 Alexander J McDonald

 

Ex-Woodburnite at the Front.

LETTER FROM EGYPT.

Published Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Friday 5 February 1915

Sergeant A. J. McDonald, 1st Engineers, writing from Egypt to his brother,: Mr. M. McDonald, of South Woodburn,

” on 18th’ December, Sergeant McDonald says: — We went on a route march today, around the Pyramids, just at dawn, and the fog was very thick. We proceeded to the Sphinx, and I can tell you its a great piece of work. Cut out of a great, rock, the head is about 15 feet square, so it must have taken some time to carve. We next went to the Temple. This is a wonderful piece of work, and was covered in sand for about 2000 years. It was excavated a great while ago. You get into it by a tunnel. It is built of a greenish pink granite, and of great size.  I suppose every piece is 50 tons weight, and all beautifully polished 4000 years B.C., still the polish is just splendid yet. You can see it is very old and all the top is of alabaster, with some granite tiles. Some of the tiles in the roof are 26 feet, long, and 10 feet, wide, by 3ft. thick. We then went about 5 miles across the Desert to another place excavated by an American syndicate two years ago. You go down a steep incline to a great depth, and find yourself in a big chamber. The floor is of greenish pink granite paves. We measured them— 10ft. x 10ft. x 10ft, 100 tons each, and all perfectly square and polished. But the best I ever saw is the tomb of the King who reined 4000 B.C  named Clieesir (or something like that.) It is just beautiful, and I don’t think could be made in this age.

We took all the measurements and they were exact, The tomb was made out of one stone (granite), and brought 500 miles down the Nile. These objects are miles away from the Nile, so how did they get them here? And how did they lower the immense blocks down to this depth?  It beats all present day science. The Pyramids are about 350 yards each angle, and about 1500 yards in circumference. There are two large ones, and some smaller ones. They are 451 feet high, and coming to a point at an angle of about 45 degrees.  Some of the stones are 100 feet from the ground, are 76 feet long, and 10ft x 10ft, so how did they get them there? It beats creation. I have not yet been inside them, but I will tell you at a later date what it is like there.

Its proclamation day today, and the ceremonial part takes place on Sunday, when Cairo will have 50,000 troops participating in the function. Egypt is going to be a British protectorate after this. We might go to France in two months, if things are quiet here, and I hope we do, as it is nothing but sand here — hills and dales and everything, barring the Nile valley. It’s just starting to get hot, and the sand makes it ten times worse.

We (1st Engineers) got photoed today at the Sphinx, horses and all. I am the highest, one in the picture. Pathe Freres moving picture man was busy taking our camp all day a few days ago, and I suppose the pictures will be out with you soon.”–  Source: nla.news-article125934877 -Published Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Friday 5 February 1915

We remain uncertain if Alexander McDonald is on the left or right at the highest point on the Sphinx, either way he is certainly among his mates from the 1st Field Company Engineers and the sphinx photo will always remain a historic and lasting memory of this unique company of men.

Alexander may never have seen this photo, sadly he died from wounds he sustained on landing day at Gallipoli, his own story linked here.

Clearly identified in the sphinx photo are the officers of the company in front standing aside their horses and the local guide seated.

 

The Officers SPHINX Sappers Photo enhanced
Front row L – R – 1st FCE Officers – Biden, Dyer, Mather, Corlette, McCall, Huntley

Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

 

 

Acknowledgements:

A special thank you to Jack Moore  for providing a digitised photo of the 1st FCE. This is owned by Jack Moore son of 101 John Hoey Moore DCM who has kindly granted permission to use this photo.

Photo of  132 Alexander Joseph McDonald -This photo is owned by the descendants 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