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

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6th August 1915 Remembering – 21 Leonard James Gatty

Gatty

 21 Leonard James GATTY

 

“the infantry have all the fun and I’m going to join them”………21 Leonard Gatty

 21 Leonard James Gatty was an enthusiastic and fearless young Australian who had a healthy image of himself, he was strong and capable and embodied the image of the young ANZAC, a young fellow who couldn’t wait to enlist and show the world what Australian’s were made of.

Len’s father James Gatty explained how “Len was an adult in physique and mental outlook. As he was strong enough and able to ride and shoot, he said it was his duty to offer his services to fight for his country in the most critical struggle in which the British Empire had ever been engaged”

Leonard’s family had a soldiering pedigree. His grandmother Priscilla Gatty ( nee Cannon) came to be in Tasmania because her father Joseph Cannon had – “fought at the Battle of Waterloo and because of this Joseph was given free passage to Van Diemans Land and a grant of land. Joseph’s regiment was the 3rd Battalion, 14th Regiment of Foot and he was in the 5th Company, and right in the thick of it.” Source: Joseph Knight -Smith (Gatty Family descendant)

Leonard was born in  Zeehan, then a prosperous mining township in Tasmania. He was an engineers fitter aged 19.  His father James later declared that Len was actually only 16 years and 10 months old when he enlisted.

Len enjoyed soldiering and was happy being surrounded by fellow sappers and his mates from his home state of Tasmania. He saw the war as exciting and felt he was one of the “Lucky Ones”…. he was detailed to accompany the landing parties at Gallipoli on the morning of the 25th April 1915 and after a short spell with diarrhoea, he couldn’t wait to get back among the action at Gallipoli.

A LUCKY SAPPER.

Published in the “Critic” – Hobart, Friday 27 August 1915.

The following letter from Lemnos, dated June 11, has been received from Sapper L. J. Gatty, 1st Field Company Engineers (New South Wales), by his father, Major J . Gatty, of Zeehan:—

“ I am here just for a day or so’s spell from the Peninsula. As you will know, I was there from the start, being one of the lucky ones detailed to accompany the landing parties, and six weeks of tinned beef and hard biscuit had made me rather tender inside, but I ’m as right as rain now, and am going back tomorrow. My company has had bad luck in the way of casualties. Neville Richard and I spent an afternoon together, trying to pick off a few Turks as they ran along a communication trench. We got one each, which makes eight for me altogether. I like the life, except for the poor fellows who are hit. I was with Ken Anderson when he was killed. Dave Downie, who was in the 3rd Field Company Engineers, was killed a few days ago. Roy Richard was shot through both arms – a nasty wound. Ken Terry, from Glenorchy, was wounded. Victor Jacques, also from Glenorchy, is a sergeant and a fine soldier. He is all right, and asks to be remembered to you. The archdeacon (Rev. R. H. Richard) is well. Major Young is wounded in the arm rather badly. Pat Lonergan is dead. My writing is somewhat “ off, ” but I am writing this in a little Greek cafe, and their pen is no good. We expect a mail from Australia any day now. We are all anxious to see what the papers had to say about us.”

Source: nla.news-article169019189

I’m not quite sure if Len was ever in that ” little Greek cafe “ writing this letter from Lemnos. His war record does not show any evidence of him having been transferred sick or wounded to Lemnos. Perhaps like so many letters from Anzacs,  Len’s letter was contrary to real Anzac life and intended to help comfort loved ones back home and ease their concerns.

As well as letting them know in his own words that he was “as right as rain’, Len couldn’t hide his enthusiasm for trying to pick off a few Turks and letting his people know what a good shot he was.

During July and leading up to August the men of the 1st FCE had been making trouble for the Turk’s for weeks leading up to the major assault on the German Officers trench and had been staging attacks, blowing in tunnels and trenches and preparing for another major assault in early August. This major assault was to become the most significant battle in the Gallipoli campaign known as the “August offensive” or the “Battle of Lone Pine”.

Gallipoli war correspondent Phillip Schuler describes the mood of the Anzacs prior to the 6th August. “The men had been in the trenches since April. They were ripe for a fight; they were tired of the monotony of sniping at a few Turks and digging and tunnelling”.

Leonard Gatty’s close mate was Corporal 209 William Cridland a 24 year old mechanic from Marrickville, Sydney. William Cridland was with Len and was witness to Len’s final moments.

The following is the transcript from a letter to Leonard’s mother, which gives a full account of the circumstances of Len’s death. The original details provided by 209 William Cridland (later MBE) and recorded by Pte. C Gordon AMC………

“ I made enquiries about Len Gatty – he died bravely.
“On the 6th August a large number of Infantry and about 20 Engineers were told off to charge the Turkish position at “Lonesome Pine” and a few Engineers and twenty men to take a snipers post at the German officer’s trench.
Len was in the big crowd, but thought that the other job would be more exciting and exchanged with another engineer.
They set out at dark to crawl to the snipers post about 70 yards away. It took them three hours as machine guns were shooting at them the whole time, and when they got near their objective there were only 5 engineers left.
They did not know what to do for a while, but decided to go into the trench, which they found to be a communications trench leading back into the Turkish reserve. They could not do anything , so they started to crawl back. The machine guns were still going , and the Turks were throwing flare lights, so they had to lie still for a good while.
When the Corporal got back to the trenches Len was missing.
Next morning when they looked over the parapet we could see his body about thirty yards away, so that’s how poor young Len Gatty finished.
He was as game as they could make them. Once before he offered to go out at night and blow up a machine gun. Everyone who knew him liked him, and all the engineers speak well of him.”

Source  NAA – statements made by 209 William Cridland recorded by Pte. C Gordon AMC.

witness account
Corporal William Cridland had lost a good mate, he and Len Gatty were always together and had became very good friends. In the morning after the charge, they could see Len’s body lying near “Snipers “ trench and the purple patch that identified him as one of their own, “he was only a lad” said Cridland.

Photo Courtesy of the " Bob Lundy Private Collection"
Photo Courtesy of the ” Bob Lundy Private Collection”

29 Clarence “Bob” Lundy now Sergeant Lundy gives his account of what happened to Len ………

“Sapper Gatty was one of the party working in “union” trench on the night of the 6th August 1915. He was not detailed to take part in the attack. On his being withdrawn from work and return to camp he remarked “the infantry have all the fun and I’m going to join them” Next morning he was reported missing I am of the opinion that Sapper Gatty took part in the attack on the night of the 6th August 1915.”- 29 Bob Lundy

66 Norman Masters
66 Norman Masters

2nd Corporal 66 Norman Masters also knew Len Gatty well and said that Len wanted some of the fun and went out with the infantry and was going to have a go himself.
Norman Masters helped to make the famous memorial cross which was being put up to commemorate their fallen mates, and wanted to have Leonard’s name included but was not allowed to include his name pending the official authority of his death.
It wasn’t until June 1916 that a court inquiry in France determined and confirmed the accounts of Len’s death, and in August 1916 a full year after his death, administrators then formally advised his family the full circumstances of his death.

They were unable to recover his Len’s body and he is honoured at The Lone Pine Memorial (Panel 12), Gallipoli, Turkey.

lonepinemem_panel_12_01
Engineers – Sapper 21 Leonard James Gatty (top right)

 

The Memorial stands over the centre of the Turkish trenches and tunnels which were the scene of heavy fighting during the August offensive. Most cemeteries on Gallipoli contain relatively few marked graves, and the majority of Australians killed on Gallipoli are commemorated here.

The Lone Pine Memorial, situated in the Lone Pine Cemetery at Anzac, is the main Australian Memorial on Gallipoli, and one of four memorials to men of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Designed by Sir John Burnet, the principal architect of the Gallipoli cemeteries, it is a thick tapering pylon 14.3 metres high on a square base 12.98 metres wide. It is constructed from limestone mined at Ilgardere in Turkey.

 

Lone pine

The Memorial commemorates the 3268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who have no known grave and the 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who were buried at sea after evacuation through wounds or disease. The names of New Zealanders commemorated are inscribed on stone panels mounted on the south and north sides of the pylon, while those of the Australians are listed on a long wall of panels in front of the pylon and to either side. Names are arranged by unit and rank.

 

In the Roll of Honour for the 6th August Battle of Lone Pine, one name stands apart from the list of names from the 1st, 2nd 3rd and 4th Infantry and that is 1st Field Engineer 21 Leonard Gatty.

Like many of the original engineers of the 1st FCE, over time they have largely been forgotten. Len’s story has never been told before, and his memory is now revived and recorded and he will long be remembered for his bravery and his determination to be where the action was.

 

He was as game as they could make them”

Len’s story continues on his own page ………………………………………please read more

Story- Copyright VanceKelly2015