Remembering 231- Frank Somers

231 Frank Somer portrait
231 Francis Patrick Somers

231 Francis Patrick Somers

Frank had just started out as an amateur Boxer, and then the war changed all of that.
Frances Patrick Somers was born in the small country town of Tenterfield, New South Wales in 1886 to parents Michael and Mary Somers. By adulthood Frank had moved to Sydney and was living at Redfern and worked as a labourer with the NSW Railway Department at the Everleigh Workshops.
In December of 1913 Frank made his debut as a featherweight boxer on the local Sydney scene. He planned a boxing career and went by the name of Patrick Summers and quickly became well known among followers of the sport of pugilism.

Berrima Reinforcements embarkation

When war broke out, Frank enlisted as a Driver with the 1st Field Company Engineers 1st Reinforcements on the 4th September 1914. He later embarked from Victoria with just 22 other men that made up the 1st Reinforcements on the HMT Berrima on the 22 December 1914.

 

H.M.T Berrima A02221
H.M.T Berrima – A02221 – AWM

Shortly after arrival in Egypt the reinforcements were all transferred to the 1st FCE and allotted new service numbers.
For many of the drivers not attached to the landing party at Gallipoli, many were attached to a mounted division awaiting to land with their horses, however this never eventuated and the drivers along with the horses later returned to Mena camp In Egypt.

Frank gave a brief account of his time in Egypt and his obvious love of boxing in a letter to  journalist W.F Corbett who contributed a regular article in the Sydney ‘Arrow’ often titled “GLEANINGS FROM THE WORLD OF PUGILSIM”.

Boxing Article

On the 13th June his service record with the 1st FCE was cut short when he was admitted to hospital with venereal disease and transferred to the Abyssinia General hospital. He then embarked from the Suez for Australia on the Hospital Ship Ballarat on the 5th July 1915 landing back in Australia on the 6th August. Later in the month he was A.W.L and was struck off strength from the A.I.F.
In the very early stage of the war, the stigma attached to venereal disease was detrimental to both the soldier and the reputation of the Australian Imperial Forces and efforts were made to keep the truth of this illness quiet and many of the VD cases were described as “sick enteric”. This standard was maintained for the duration of the war and many severe VD cases returning to Australia were hospitalised at Langwarren Venereal Diseases Hospital in Victoria. Once the soldier fully recovered, he returned to active service.

AWM-Langwarren Camp -Venereal Hospital
AWM-Langwarren Camp -Venereal Hospital

Frank’s disappearance however remains a mystery until the 23rd September 1915, but still in Victoria, he re-enlisted, this time using his boxing identity Patrick Summers as an alias.
He enlisted with the 3/51st Battalion as Private No. 1953 and spending a few months at Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria, the battalion later embarked from Fremantle in July 1916.
While on board the troop ship, Frank now known as Patrick, was promoted to Lance Corporal shortly before disembarking in Plymouth England. A few short months in England and the battalion made its way to France .
In February 1917 he was congratulated for his excellent results achieved at the Anzac Corp school in France. Four weeks later he reverted back to Private and spent almost 12 months continuous service in the field.
Early in 1917, the 51st Battalion participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. On 2 April it attacked at Noreuil, a village which had been fortified to delay the Australian advance.
With the collapse of Russia in October 1917, a major German offensive on the Western Front was expected in early 1918. This occurred in France in late March and the 4th Division moved to defend positions around Dernancourt on the River Ancre. The 51st Battalion assisted in the repulse of a large German attack on 5 April, launching a critical counter-attack late in the day.
The German threat remained until late April, and in the early hours of ANZAC Day 1918 the 51st Battalion participated in the now legendary attack to dislodge the enemy from Villers-Bretonneux.
Frank Somers was killed in action on this day, Anzac Day 1918, at the 2nd Battle for Villers-Brettoneux, France. The exact circumstances of his death are unknown.

His body was recovered and buried in a field of honour by the Reverend Chaplain Blackwood of the 13th Brigade. His remains were later exhumed and he was reburied at the Adelaide Military Cemetery Villers Bretonneux .

When news of Frank’s death filtered back home, journalist J.W Corbett made mention of Frank in “GLEANINGS FROM THE WORLD OF PUGILSIM”.

” Killed Sapper Frank Somers, whom boxing’s followers in Sydney knew as Pat Summers, was killed on Anzac Day in France, aged 33″. –  Arrow (Sydney, NSW Fri 21 Jun 1918 )

Francis Patrick Somers also has his name located at panel 154 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

AWM memorial panel

His name will also be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on the following dates:
• Fri 20 April 2018 at 10:23pm
• Mon 04 June 2018 at 7:07pm
• Mon 16 July 2018 at 4:55am
• Thu 30 August 2018 at 9:38pm
• Tue 23 October 2018 at 8:42pm

Sources and Acknowledgments :
AWM, NAA, NLA

Family Notes:

Sister Elizabeth Alice Somers married John Newnham in 1905 – she died in 1938.
Twin brother Patrick Martin Somers or Patrick Thomas Somers b.1886 went by the name Joseph and enlisted AIF at Armidale. – died 1964 Queensland
Brother William Joseph Somers b. 1891 (served AIF Ambulance) ( spent a troubled youth and ended up on the Sobroan – his parents were noted on file as respectable). He also enlisted in WW1 served from 1916 on the Nursing staff throughout France was wounded and returned in 1919. He died Sept 1942.

 

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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.

126 Ernest Cotterell

 

With the passing of time, memories fade and stories are forgotten, but the modern world and the vast network of information and technology that surrounds us, has helped to rediscover our history and bring new life to many personal stories.

Archiving the stories of the brave men of the 1st FCE has been a fabulous journey and it continues to reveal unexpected as well as new and exciting information.

The search for portraits of each member of the 1st Field Company Engineers whilst initially seemingly impossible, has proven to be very successful to date.

One such portrait which has come to hand was passed on courtesy of Christopher Sykes the great nephew of sapper 126 Ernest Cotterell.

The embarkation of the first Australian Imperial Forces had been delayed and rescheduled on more than one occasion and the level of anxiety among the men was noted by all ranks. Sadly for Ernest, the delay’s would fuel his own anxiety and mental suffering.

Six weeks after enlisting on the evening of the 5th October 1914 Ernest sustained a self inflicted gunshot to the head and he died instantly.

192 William Phillips mentioned in his diary the gloom that fell over the camp on news of the tragedy and briefly described the Military funeral of Sapper Cotterell. “Our boys marched to Waverley Cemetery behind gun-carriage with coffin. A fine procession, and touching ceremony.”

It is with many thanks to Christopher Sykes that the memory of both Ernest and his brother Frederick can be commemorated with the addition of their portraits.

Ernest’s story was published earlier…READ MORE 

A Rare Gem – The diary of William Irving Phillips

In 2015 Beverley Prior the granddaughter of original 1st Field Company Engineer 192 William Irving Phillips was commemorating the 100 year anniversary of ANZAC.

Beverley and her family had held onto a treasure for 100 years, a rare gem and a significant piece of Anzac history……her grandfather’s war diary.

Beverley has taken the time to carefully transcribe Will Phillips diary and also include   personal photos and momento’s.

It is an exciting and magnificent archive which opens up the life and times of William Phillips and other originals during the war years.

The diary has enormous relevance to the story of the original men of the 1st Field Company Engineers and provides a unique insight into many of the men of the company.

Will Phillip had a balanced view of all things that life threw at him, his country upbringing  combined with a quality education, the foundation which prepared him for Gallipoli and the war in Europe.

Will Phillips was like so many original Anzac’s…… a rare individual who took so much in his stride, never seemed to complain, and despite the daily hardships of war always found a way of making light of the circumstances and getting on with the task at hand.

Will was a teacher, and a skilled horseman who found himself in the second boat to hit the shores of Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915.

He lived to tell his story, and what a story his granddaughter Beverley has so generously shared.

Please follow this link and enjoy the story of a fine man, William Irving Phillips….CLICK HERE

20161102_130236
Original photo courtesy of Beverley Prior – family private collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering 208 Walter Gilchrist M.C MID – 3rd May 1917

Capt Walter Gilchrist MC

Captain Walter Gilchrist was an original sapper with the 1st FCE.  On this day, in 1917, he was an officer in the 6th Field Coy. Engineers, and known to be a popular officer among his men.

Several witness accounts on this day state that he was in command of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd sections of the company at Noreuil. It was recorded that on the morning of the 3rd of May he volunteered to lead an infantry battalion across to the Hindenburg Line, Bullecourt, as all the battalion’s officers had been killed or wounded.

The official war historian Charles Bean tells us what happened next…………

“None … knew who their leader was, but for half an hour or more he would be seen, bareheaded, tunicless, in grey woollen cardigan, his curly hair ruffled with exertion, continually climbing out of the trench to throw bombs or to call to the men in the shell-holes, begging them to charge.” – Charles Bean

Major William Henry Ellwood M.C  24th Infantry Battalion wrote ” Capt. Gilchrist was the bravest man I have ever known”

Sapper 14540 Palmer…. stated he saw Walter fighting with his revolver without his hat or tunic out in the open, “All the odds were against him. Then I saw him hit by a shell and killed outright.”

Sapper 14945 W.Fairley  another witness to the events  stated  “he was a specially fine soldier who did not know what fear was. I have heard that if he had lived he probably have got the V.C.”

Captain Walter Gilchrist was killed in action in France on 3rd May 1917.

He will always be remembered.

Read More…………..

 

 

 

Remembering 204 Spr. Patrick Finn Walshe

anzac-bulletin-28th-march-1917

Sapper 204 Patrick Finn Walshe died from wounds on the 5th March 1917. Today he is honoured and remembered and his story is available to read….

A portrait of Patrick Finn Walshe does exist, however he is only named in a group photo.

Which one is Patrick, or the identity of the others  is not known at this stage, however they are all Engineers from the 1st Field Company.

This photo can be viewed  and is AWM copyright protected. The photo is from the Thuillier Collection of glass plate negatives taken by Louis and Antoinette Thuillier in Vignacourt, France during the period 1916 to 1918.

The image is available to view at the following link  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10550.219

Patrick Finn Walshe  ….link to his story 

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