31st May 1918 – Remembering Norman Jack Niccol

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102 Norman Jack Niccol – Photo source; CSR A record of war Service of Members of the staff 1914 – 1918

102 Norman “Jack” John Niccol

Norman was born in Sydney in 1893 to parents Thomas and Lilian Niccol.  Along with his younger brother Thomas Roy Niccol they originally lived at Leichhardt on the fringe of  the city of Sydney.

By the age of twenty Norman had completed his electrical apprenticeship while employed with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for 4 years .

In 1914 he enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers as a Sapper.

On Sunday the 18th October 1914 the men of the First Field Company Engineers embarked for a seven week voyage at sea. A few false starts and weeks of delays, the loss of one of its original members and 8 weeks of training and finally the men were about to head off for the great adventure. The drum beat sounded – Reveille – at 5.00 a.m and the 1st FCE broke camp at Moore Park and marched to the trams to take them to the wharf at Woolloomooloo Bay. They were then taken by Ferry to board the troopship A19 – Afric.

The fading signature of Norman Niccol appears in the bottom left corner of the original postcard of the Afric belonging to fellow original 101 John Hoey Moore.

Coincidently John Moore and Norman Niccol had consecutive regiment numbers 101 and 102 respectively, so it very likely they were tent mates at Moore Park when they enlisted and in the same section of the 1st FCE.

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Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Norman served continuously at Gallipoli until the evacuation, when he returned with the rest of the company to Alexandria, Egypt on the troopship Caledonia on the 27th December 1915.

Caledonia
While camped at Alexandria,  Norman was appointed lance corporal 22.1.1916 but was quickly reduced to rank of sapper after he was found guilty for disobeying the command of a senior officer and was absent without leave for 22 hrs.

In March 1916 Norman proceeded to France and then onwards with the 1st FCE to the western front.

On the 20th August 1916 he was wounded, an injury to his left hand. After a quick recovery he was granted leave and had taken only 3 days and rejoined the unit in the field where shortly after in September he was transferred to the No.4 A.D.S Col (Australian Division Supply Column) as a Driver.

On the 31st May 1918,  a number of ammunition lorries from the supply company that Norman was attached were parked at Allonville on the Somme, near Amiens. Two high explosive shells landed among the lorries  where Norman and his mate 5451 Roland Rose were sleeping. A shell fragment punctured the floor of the lorry and ripped through Normans legs. Roland Rose was not wounded and managed to drive Norman to the casualty clearing station all the while Norman was conscious and holding onto what remained of his severely injured legs.

Norman ‘s legs were amputated in an attempt to save his life , unfortunately later that evening Norman died from his wounds.

Norman’s service record shows he has the rare distinction of serving continuously in France from the 28th March 1916 to 31st May 1918 except for 3 days leave. Over 2 years at the front in any capacity was extraordinary.

Norman Jack Niccol was buried in a small British War cemetery in the town of Longueau which is situated on the south-eastern outskirts of Amiens, the cemetery located on the eastern side of the town.

Longueau British Cemetery was begun in April 1918, when the Allied line was re-established. The cemetery contains 204 First World War burials, 14 of which are unidentified.

Norman’s memory is honoured at the wall of remembrance in Canberra.

Norman Jack Niccol’s name will also be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra on the following dates:

Thu 28 June 2018 at 7:23pm
Sat 11 August 2018 at 12:01am
Sat 29 September 2018 at 2:01am

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Sources:

AWM, NLA

Original Postcard photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

Photo by Len @ findagrave.comuserprofile48488629

Photo source: CSR – A record of war service of members of the staff 1914 – 1918

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.

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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.

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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 146 Edward Frings

Auctioned items UK

Photo courtesy – Andrew Smith & Son Auctioneers U.K

The photo above shows the few remaining memories of a great Anzac who left his home and family in London and came to Australia as a young man looking to pursue a new path in life.

Circumstances around the world prevented him following that path and Edward Franz Hubert Frings would enlist with the Australian Imperial Forces a few months after settling in Sydney.

The items included in the picture above include a WW1 Victory Medal awarded to Acting/Sgt. E. F. H. Frings, FCE AIF ,  a few coins including a Rupee, a Russian rouble, a Peruvian Sol ,  a tortoiseshell stamp box, an ivory bangle, spectacles in a papier mache case and a miniature silver front prayer book.

This small collection of personal treasures were auctioned in the U.K in 2003 and hopefully found a new home where the memories of the original owner Edward Frings can be honoured.

On this day, 26th March 1918, Edward Frings was killed in action in Belgium, he was 24 years old. 

More to read about Edward …….CLICK HERE.

Edward is Honoured on the commemorative wall at The Australian War Memorial in Canberra. His name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on the following dates ….

Mon 09 April 2018 at 9:45pm
Fri 25 May 2018 at 4:55am
Fri 06 July 2018 at 6:01am
Sun 19 August 2018 at 10:39pm
Tue 09 October 2018 at 10:56pm

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Lieut. William Hay

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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.

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 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

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Original photo courtesy of Beverley Prior – family private collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering 124 Spr. Sidney Garrett – MID

 

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124 Spr. Sidney Garrett MID

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

Remembering 204 Spr. Patrick Finn Walshe

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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 

227 Billy McDevitt – Rower and ANZAC

227 –  “Billy” Charles William McDevitt

Known as Billy McDevitt,….. a rowing champion from Tasmania.

In 1911 Billy was travelling between Tasmania and Sydney and was planning his course towards becoming the world sculling champion when Australia suddenly joined the war in 1914.

An original member of the 1st Field Company Engineers, Billy was severely wounded at Gallipoli. Billy returned to Australia and with strength and determination recovered and when the war ended he returned to his love of rowing.

Ten years after he volunteered as an original member with the 1st FCE  and at age 36  he became the Australasian Rowing Champion and was regarded by his peers as the best in the world.

In 1925 Charles “Billy” McDevitt was later declared World Rowing Champion. 

Read more of Billy McDevitt’s amazing story…………..click this link

Remembering 169-John Thurlby

 

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 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

21st September 1916 Remembering Sapper James D. Page

 

164 James Delahunty PAGE

 

164 James Page was born in Springston,  New Zealand in 1886 to William Thomas Page and Margaret nee Delahunty. James had served 1 ½ years in the Canterbury mounted rifles before arriving in Australia in January 1910  and started working for the NSW Railways, his war record showing he was a union member.

Shortly after arriving  James had met and married Gertrude Alice Ryan in Sydney in 1911 . Gertrude was born in 1882 in Forbes, New South Wales and in 1907 gave birth to a daughter Hope Merea Ryan and the father was declared unknown. When she married James, he adopted Hope.

James and Gertrude later also had a son together, Neville John was born on 12th July 1914 .   Five weeks later his father enlisted on the 19th August 1914.

Jim as he became known by his fellow engineers enlisted as a driver and embarked on the Afric on the 18th October 1914, his signature appears ( 2nd top left) on the John Hoey Moore postcard recording many other originals in the company that shared the journey.

Signatures of originals hmats-afric.jpg enhanced
Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

As a driver Jim was stationed off shore during the Gallipoli landing. “The Short Account” of the formation of the 1st FCE explains how the “drivers of the company could not land their horses on the Peninsular they returned to Egypt and were encamped at mex near Alexandria during the whole of the occupation of Gallipoli”.

James during his time in Egypt had one minor indiscretion and was found in Alexandria on leave without a pass and was fined 3 days pay.

On the 16th December 1915 the Drivers arrived at Zeitoun Camp near Heliopolis, Cairo. On the 21st the drivers together with 9th and 11th reinforcements entrained for Tel-el-Kebir.

On the 28th March 1916  James and the 1st FCE embarked for France and the western front  and later in June 1916 James was remustered as a sapper.

In September 1916 the 1st FCE were stationed at Ypres and relieved the Canadians on this sector. Major Richard Dyer reported that the “trenches were in a shocking condition, no work appears to have been done for some time, the mud in some places being two feet deep”

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Trench diagram from 1st FCE Unit War Diary September 1916

It wasn’t long before the men of the 1st FCE  were busy revetting, duck-boarding and reclaiming many of the trenches despite continued poor weather and enemy bombardments.

The poor weather continued and on the 20th September work was delayed by rain and enemy snipers who were particularly active, forced the working party that James Page was attached,  to “seek cover on many occasions”.

The following day the men pushed on determined to reclaim the trenches before the winter set in. On this day the 21st September 1916 James Page was fatally wounded by a sniper.

The company war diary confirmed that James had been sniped through a sandbag and killed by a gun shot wound to the forehead .

“A careful reliable witness” Sapper Willock also gave his account of Jim’s death, however his mention of  James having seven children was doubtful.

red-cross-report

 

There had been some confusion over the final resting place of James and in 1921 it was finally confirmed that his burial was actually at the Railway dugout burial ground. ( grave 27 Row N Plot 6)  Zillebeke , Belgium approx 1 ½ miles south, south east of Ypres.

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Grave 164 Sapper James.D Page
Grave 164 Sapper James.D Page (nzwargraves.org.nz)

 

In July 1917 a plea to obtain his wallet containing photos  was made to base war records. This wallet must have been of considerable sentimental value and Gertrude perhaps still too grief stricken to write herself, had a good friend Mr R Bowmaker write to the war office on her behalf . He also made inquiries regarding a gunners certificate stating that James had written to his wife and told her he had successfully passed the examination for 1st class gunnery instructor

A month later in August 1917, James Page personal effects were returned home to his wife Gertrude. A machine gunners certificate was included in his effects, a testament and a copy of the Gospel showed that he was a god fairing man and a small collection of personal items such as his hair brush, razor, photos, letters, a note book and what was described as a linen case….. perhaps this linen case was the wallet so treasured by his loving  wife.

Hopefully his memory lives on with the possibility of his son and daughter both having married and perhaps having children of their own.

Story © VanceKelly2016

 Family Notes:

Son Neville John Page ( born 1912 Marrickville , married Margaret Larkin in 1935, he died in Sandgate Newcastle 02/10/1981.

Neville John Page served in WW2 – NX71875 enlisted Paddington  Army 2nd AIF – next of kin Margaret – his war record is not digitized.

Hope Merea Page married Lindsay W Sanders in 1929 in North Sydney.

Sources:

“A Short Account of the formation of the 1st Field Engineers” – 2199 Cpl Frank Slee MM

Original photo – Courtesy Jack Moore Private collection

AWM, NAA, NLA, nzwargraves.org.nz