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

Advertisements

“Forcing the Narrows”

 

HMS 'Irresistible' abandoned 18th March 1915 -Photo published in The War Illustrated, 1 May 1915.
HMS ‘Irresistible’ abandoned 18th March 1915 -Photo published in The War Illustrated, 1 May 1915.

 

150 Leslie Richard Cridland was a 22 years old carpenter and a well known St. Stephens Club footballer from Lidcombe, Sydney.

Prior to the Gallipoli landing Leslie or Richard as he was also known, was one of twenty original sappers selected and trained in demolition work. On board a troopship with a number of naval marines, these sappers were involved in the historic mission to “Force the Narrows” of the Dardanelles on March 18th 1915.

The Allied naval fleet had an ambitious plan to force their way through the Turkish straits known as the Dardanelles and onward to conquer Constantinople. This campaign was hampered by the Turkish artillery defences and the 2 kilometre wide section of the Dardanelles channel known as the”The Narrows” which was riddled with mines.

After the fleet had destroyed the forts guarding the outer entrance to the Dardanelles, Sedd el Bahr and Kum Kale, the next phase was the bombardment of the Turkish forts guarding “The Narrows”. Unsuccessful attempts to clear Turkish minefields which were also guarded by well concealed forts and mobile artillery batteries led to fierce artillery duels between the Turks and the Allies culminating in an unsuccessful attack and the failure of the Allied Fleet to “Force The Narrows”.

The mission was abandoned when the two British battleships HMS “Ocean” and “Irresistible” and the French battleship Bouvet were lost .  Leslie gives a rare and personal account of this historic attempt which was later published in the ‘Evening News’ Sydney.

 

150-Leslie Cridland.
150 Spr Leslie Richard Cridland.

ATTEMPT TO FORCE THE NARROWS

LIDCOMBE SAPPER’S STORY

Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), Monday 11 October 1915, page 6

Twenty Australian sappers were taken on board the troopship at Lemnos Island, and in company with a number of marines received special training in demolition work. The object was to land the men at the entrance of the Dardanelles, after the naval guns had wrecked the forts of Chanak and Seddal Bahr to complete the work of destruction.

Sapper R Cridland of Lidcombe was one of the men picked and was a witness of the historic attempt to force the narrows which resulted in the loss of HMS Irresistible and Ocean, and the subsequent abandonment of the idea that the Dardanelles could be forced by naval units alone.

Writing from Manchester Hospital, he said:

“We left for the Dardanelles on March 8 and arrived off Tenedos island at 10.30 am. The island had now been transformed into a naval base for the allied fleet. Here we witnessed a wonderful sight. The fleet of warships – sit ready for action, was a grim picture. Between them dashed destroyers of all size, and nearby was a fleet of trawlers that had been engaged in this risky work of clearing the straits of floating mines. The aeroplane ship Ark Royal with its hydroplanes on deck was an interesting sight.

Our ship then proceeded to Rabbit island and from here we could see into the Dardanelles and with the aid of glasses watch events up as far as the narrows. We had arrived just in time to see the first division commence the bombardment. Led by the battleship it steamed towards the entrance and fired a couple of well-directed shells against the ruined forts of Sedd el Bahr and Kum Kale This precaution was taken in case the Turks had brought up new guns during the night. The firing of these shells was the signal for the bombardment to commencement. Receiving no reply from the forts the division dashed into the straights keeping up a heavy fire and was met by a torrent of missiles from the enemy’s concealed batteries. But practically no damage was done by the guns. It was the floating mines that caused trouble. Even though the trawlers had cleared the straights, the Turks directed by German officers floated a number of mines down the Narrows and about 20 minutes before the bombardment commenced.

The Queen Elizabeth standing well out to sea, kept firing her huge 15” guns. And when she spoke it was always directed against some big object of the enemy’s. I witnessed the explosion of two magazines- one at Chanak and the other at Kilid Bahr. The magazines when exploded caused huge columns of smoke to rise hundreds of feet in the air. During the day the British Ships,  ‘OCEAN’ and ‘IRRESISTIBLE’ and the French ‘BOUVET’  were sunk ,though the ‘GAULOIS’ was badly hit she was beached on a small island about 60 yards from where were stationed.

“This day proved the most disastrous to the allied fleet since the attempt to force the Dardanelles began and at 8 o’clock the same night our troopship left Tenedos and made back to Lemnos Island. The proposed demolition work was abandoned which as it turned out subsequently was a very good thing for us sappers” – Leslie Cridland

19 year old driver 16 Marcus Clark   also gave a brief account of the sappers first foray into battle in his letter home in May 1915, he reported how 88 Bill Casburn was also one of the sappers selected for the mission.
“Two French and one English cruiser went down in the Dardanelles on the 18th  March. Twenty one of our boys were up there that day, W. Casburn among them. They went up there to blow up a fort that was supposed to be silenced, but when they got there, it was one of the most active and they could not land.”– Marcus Clark
Sapper 88 Bill Casburn, writing from the trenches at Gallipoli described his experience as one of the engineers selected for the mission. The following extract from one of Bill’s letter home was published in the Sydney ‘Sun Newspaper’  on Tuesday 21st September 1915.
“After leaving Lemnos Island 20 men, including myself, were picked from the 1st Field Company Engineers as a demolition party to assist the Royal Marines in demolishing the forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles. We saw the combined British and French fleets bombard the outer and inner forts. It was a magnificent sight to see the big battleships In action. When the Queen Elizabeth fired her 151n. guns everything shook for miles around— even the ship we were on shook like a rowing boat.
Soon villages and forts were on fire as far as the eye could see.”- Bill Casburn

 

 

Image  Courtesy of http://www.naval-history.net/WW1Book-RN2-123.JPG

Image courtesy  – www. naval-history.net/WW1Book-RN2-230.JPG

 

View across the narrows to Chanak from above Kilid-Bahr an old Turkish fort is on the shoreline in the foreground.
View across the narrows to Chanak from above Kilid-Bahr an old Turkish fort is on the shoreline in the foreground.

 

.


HMS Ark Royal

HMS Ark Royal  “was an interesting sight” – Leslie Cridland

.

151 Ernest Murray recorded in his diary, how everyone envied the sappers leaving on their mission……7th March 1915 ….”We came ashore today bringing 7 days supply & had a lot of work getting things ashore & to our Camping ground. It was quite dark before we had our Camp fixed up & by the time we had our tea we were quite tired enough to turn in.
No. 3 Section left at short notice for the Dardanelles to do some Demolition work We all envy them getting away first but our turn will soon come”

Story © Vance Kelly2016

Sources:

AWM, NLA, NAA,

naval-history.net