126 Spr Ernest Cotterell – photo courtesy Christopher Sykes
Ernest (left ) with brother Frederick James Cotterell MC – photo courtesy Christopher Sykes
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.
192 William Phillips – portrait courtesy of Beverley Prior family collection
Original War Diary 1915 – courtesy of Beverley Prior family collection
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 Phillips 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
Over 100 years ago this young man from Gladesville in Sydney, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces. He came from a large family with two older brothers and four sisters. His mother had passed away just 7 months prior to his enlistment.
Sidney felt it was his duty to respond to the call to war and he didn’t hesitate.
Sidney was a gallant first day lander and a member of the sapper team that heroically rowed ashore dodging heavy shrapnel fire all the way and constructed the barrel piers on landing day at Gallipoli.
Sidney Matthew Garrett died from his wounds on the 6th March 1917 , today he is honoured and remembered and his story is available to read…. click here
This impressive looking medal is the Croix de Guerre, or sometimes known as the Belgian “War Cross”. It is the military decoration of the Kingdom of Belgium established by royal decree in 1915. It is primarily awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield. This splendid decoration was awarded to original sapper 121 Percy Talbot Griggs, a young plumber from the remote country town of Narandera, NSW Australia.
121 Percy “Talbot” or ” Sprigger ” Griggs the young plumber from the bush, was a special young man, and during the entire war he served his country and his mates with unwavering devotion and bravery.
The enthusiastic and often ‘Gungho’ 129 Phil Ayton shared tents and dug outs with Percy or “Talbot” or “Sprigger” as he was known. Phil Ayton wrote to Percy’s sister Agnes while on the hospital ship, wounded, and updated her on their situation at Gallipoli.
“I am writing at your brother’s wish. He is alright, it is not he that is sick, it is I. I have been a “cobber” of Talbot’s since we enlisted in Sydney, and I have been ever since. Not a bad kid is ‘”Sprigger,” as we call him. We were in the same tent at Moore Park, also at Mena Camp, in fact we have always been together. During the past three weeks of action in Turkey, our dug-outs have been together……………………………………………”A few of our chaps have been wounded, but Sprigger reckons he has a good chance of seeing Narandera again. He skites a lot about Narandera……………………………..The place where they grow men,” ………………he says”
He says you must not worry about him if you do not get any letters. That is why he asked me to write. He hasn’t the time or the chance on shore, and has no paper nor envelopes. As I had to come on board here, he asked me to write and tell you the news. If he gets snuffed out the papers will tell you, but he will get through all right. “
This would have been a very welcome and timely letter for the concerned family, although the full letter may have given them some cause for concern, Phil Ayton was forever the optimist and always full of enthusiam, he expressed how he and Talbot had no desire to return home, they were keen to stay on and clean up the Turks and then move on and help finish off the Germans, only to return when the job was complete.
Both of these great Australians stories are now on their own pages……………………….. links below.
When 209 Sapper William Cridland enlisted in 1914 , it is likely he was unaware of his ancestral history. William was a convict descendant, today considered Australian royalty, and when he enlisted with the Engineers in the AIF he was certainly unaware of his future place in Australian history… as a legendary ANZAC.
Considerable distinctions for a young man by today’s standards. But William was a modest man and would not have cared much for titles and labels. However as his life continued to take many turns, he would add one more distinction, the title of MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) , a well deserved Royal Honour for his outstanding civil service after the war.
William Charles Hall Cridland was a great Australian, a man who after the war dedicated much of his life to preserving the memory of the men who had made the ultimate sacrifice, and the future welfare of the returned soldiers. Ironically his own story and memory has faded with time, but is now reignited and now retold for generations of Australian’s to remember this extraordinary man.
At Gallipoli on landing day he had witnessed fellow sappers and soldiers die and a few weeks later had to bury his close friend 54Henry Fairnham. He also had to watch helplessly as young 21 Len Gatty lay motionless in no- mans land during the battle of Lone Pine. William lost another close mate and would later take special care to let Len’s people back home know of the circumstances that led to Len’s brave sacrifice.
The compassion and deep feeling for his fellow soldiers during Gallipoli no doubt laid the foundation for the path he would later follow and his dedicated civil service after the war.
In 1930 William would later give his account of the landing on Gallipoli and described having the honour of being one of the first to land on the shore.
The Landing: First Clash with Turks
(By William Cridland, 1st Field Coy. Engrs., A.I.F., and President, T.B. Soldiers’ Association.)
“How many pause to give thought to that gallant band who landed on the shores of the Aegean Sea on April 25, 1915, placing Australia in such high esteem throughout the world?
The transports and convoys of the Anzac Armada concentrated at Albany, whence they sailed on November 1, 1914, and the troops were landed in Egypt early in December.
All troops were assembled at Lemnos, the advanced base, and on the evening of April 24 the assaulting units were taken on board transports and warships to the Gulf of Saros.
On arrival they were transshipped on to barges to be taken Inshore. A. and B. Company, of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Battalions were chosen as a covering party, and 20 sappers, N.C.O.’s and an officer each from Nos. 1, 2 and 3 sections of the 1st Field Coy. Engineers were chosen to go in as a demolition party with the covering party. I had the honour of being one of the chosen of No. 1 section, and we had to go in with Aand B of the 9th Bn. My section and the 9th Bn. were very fortunate in that we went from Lemnos to the hopping off place in the H.M.S. Queen, the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet.
All ranks aboard treated us with the usual British naval hospitality, and we were all able to get a decent sleep in bunks, and, on waking, a hot bath and a jolly good feed. Then, to cap all, the canteen was thrown open to us, and the sailors packed us with their issue of chocolate. In the early hours of the morning came the clear but low order to fall in. All lights were out, and the night was pitch black. Each man’s load was evened up as well as could be, so I’ll mention what I had – the usual full marching order, not forgetting rifle and bayonet, 250 rounds (the dinkum stuff, too), emergency rations, pick, shovel, wire-cutters, one dozen sand bags, and a case of gun cotton. How we managed to go down the rope ladders into the barges, then through the water and up the sandy beach, God alone knows, for I don’t, as each barge had its full complement.
At last all barges were ready, and we were taken in tow by steam pinnaces. The moon had disappeared prior to our leaving the Ship, but, looking back, we could see the black forms of the battleship following in our wake ready to cover our attack. Here we were at last launching out into the unknown, but it was a long-looked for event, after over eight months’ hard, rigorous training at home, on board ship, in Egypt, and at Lemnos.
However, our thoughts were suddenly checked by the report of a solitary rifle shot away up in the hills. Every man realised that the supreme moment had arrived, and presently Hell was let
loose, but so far there was only one side having a go. Full speed ahead raced the pinnace towing the barges, then, swinging clear, left us travelling inshore. Now, the little middies, standing erect, grim, determined and heroic, directed the barges, swinging them clear of one another. Lieut. Mather, realising that the barges afforded no protection from the murderous rain of lead from rifles, machine guns, and artillery, told us to go overboard and make the beach. His advice was promptly followed. We were, of necessity, compelled to gain what cover was offering, in order to take a spell, for, after struggling through about 40 yards of water and then up the beach with our load, we were somewhat blown. This, as near as I can remember, was in the vicinity of 0.420 o’clock. After a very short breather Col. Lee reminded us of the job on hand. Now was our turn, and, with fixed bayonets (not forgetting the one in the tunnel), we started off up the hill, dragging ourselves up with the assistance of the undergrowth in places. Eventually we gained the top, and became subjected to fire from all directions, and I think all our casualties there were caused by snipers and shrapnel. There were about seven of us in a group, and we decided to move with caution, for some of our own cobbers coming up behind could very easily take us for Turks, for we were more like ragged tramps than anything else.
Our decision proved a blessing, not only to ourselves, but to those coming up, for, lying hidden as we were, we began picking off the Turks – some at very close range, too. As our numbers increased we began to move forward, till a messenger came up with an order that all engineers had to report back and commence the establishment of a line of defence, and cut steps up the cliff so that travelling would be made easier. It is difficult to remember the position of the job I had to carry out, that of cutting steps in the hill, but, as near as I can judge; it was that steep portion leading to Russell Top. Whilst engaged on this task, General Birdwood stood talking to me for a while, and was nearly sniped. On a later occasion he informed me that it was an occasion he would never forget.
From this job I went up the hill to assist in some trench running, and as soon as I got there a sniper got busy from across the gully; but he did not reign long, as one of our chaps sent him to Allah. That evening my section, in charge of Lieut. Mather, had a job of trench running somewhere up Shrapnel Gully, and, considering the incessant blaze of rifle and machine gun fire all night, it was a wonder that any of us were left.
When one considers the geographical formation of the country, it is amazing to think that we ever got a footing on the Peninsula at all. To some people the landing at Gallipoli is merely something that happened in the distant past, but to many it is the most sacred day of the year.
I know many who took part in the landing who travel hundreds of miles for the Memorial Service on Anzac Day, and then spend the rest of the day with their old unit cobbers.
That is the Anzac spirit, and it will last while ever there is an Anzac living.”
Source: W. Cridland, ‘The Landing: First Clash with Turks’, Reveille, Sydney, RSS&AILA, NSW Branch, 1930
No doubt one of William’s proudest day’s was the landing at Gallipoli, but nearly twenty years later as he stood atop the pediment of the newly built Anzac Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park on the 24th November 1934 , as President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association of NSW and a Trustee of the new memorial, he must have been even prouder with his post war achievements and being instrumental in preserving the memory of those who served in the war.
The Anzac Memorial was officially dedicated and opened by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Gloucester on 24 November 1934. The original wreath laid at the opening ceremony by the Duke of Gloucester is still displayed in the Memorial’s Hall of Memory.
The Memorial’s mission statement was:
• to maintain and conserve the ANZAC Memorial as the principal State War Memorial in New South Wales
• to preserve the memory of those who have served in war
• to collect, preserve, display and research military historical material and information relating to the New South Wales citizens who served their country in war or in peace keeping activities.
The Opening Ceremony
Photo by Sam Hood, Courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales – ( William Cridland would have been present on top of the pediment with the Duke of Gloucester and other dignitaries in this photo)
The newspapers reported on this glorious day, and William had the proud honour of lunching and enjoying the spirit of the occasion in the Dukes presence and the honour of reciting the famous words from Laurence Binyon’s “Ode of Remembrance” before the toasts and speaches…….the following is an extract from the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Monday 26 November 1934 describing the events of the day
SPIRIT OF ANZAC
150,000 See Duke Pay His Tribute
UNVEILING OF MEMORIAL
Formality Forsaken When Ex-Servicemen Entertain Duke at Lunch
In the presence of 150,000 persons the Duke of Gloucester .’in Sydney on Saturday unveiled the memorial to the men and women of New South Wales who served in the Great War.
Returned Men’s Luncheon
The Duke of Gloucester was entertained at luncheon in the Town Hall this after noon by the Returned Soldiers and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia (New South Wales branch), the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association, and the Limbless Soldiers’ Association. About 1000 persons attended, and the gathering was successful in every way. Free from formality, as gatherings of returned men generally are, his Royal Highness enjoyed to-day’s luncheon immensely, and the ex servicemen appreciated the spirit in which the Duke entered into the proceedings. The chair was occupied by the President of the New South Wales branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A. (MIr. L. A. Robb, C.1M.G.). Before the toasts were to begin the President of the T.B. Sailors and Soldiers’ Association (Mr. W. Cridland) called on the gathering to stand in silence in memory of departed comrades. The silence was broken when Mr. Cridland recited the stirring lines of Binyon-
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
On the 1st January 1936 William Charles Hall Cridland was awarded an MBE for his civil service, an award considered long overdue and voiced as such by the “Truth” newspaper when they predicted in December of 1935 that he was a certainty for a C.B.E………………
Those Whom the King Delights To Honor
THEIR NAMES WILL BE FEW
” ‘Truth’ names as a certainty for minor honors Mr. W. Cridland, president of the T.B. Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association. His activities have been so considerable and so successful, and he has been overlooked for so long that nothing short of a C.B.E. would seem to fill the bill.”
Truth Newspaper – Sydney, NSW Sunday 29 December 1935.
This is an original extract from William Cridland’s Biography which will be added to his own page soon.
“Went in close to land rafts- hardly dropped anchor before the Turks had our range and were lobbing shells all round and over us, some only a few feet away- had to scoot further out of range. Afternoon, two boats of wounded, 30 came aboard (Hospital ships full) – some badly wounded, the boats looked like a butcher’s shop…” 160 Dvr. Percy Thompson
Not a typical day expected by a skilled driver of a team of horses and wagons……………..but as the following story reveals the Drivers of the 1st FCE were very much among the action and they would certainly make a name for themselves on the western front.
Scott Wilson a fellow writer, researcher and war history scholar has a number of stories published on WW1 veterans including an original member of the 1st FCE 160 Percy Robert Thompson. Scott has brought Percy’s diary’s and war experiences with the 1st FCE back to life in four chapters, Two of which have been reproduced here with his kind permission…. An excellent read.