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

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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

Remembering 169-John Thurlby

 

last-post

 John Thurlby was an honest hard working man. A young man who left his remaining family in England in 1910 to explore new opportunities in Australia and like so many young men of the time would later join the Australian Imperial Forces to fight in the great war.

A clean military record as a Driver with the 1st Field Company Engineers and later duly promoted.  His life was cut short not by his engagement in the theatre of war, but by misfortune.

On this day we remember original 169 John Thurlby  who tragically died on the 20th October 1916.

His story is continued………please read more

 

 

 

Image: courtesy Revielle Magazine