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.Fairleyanother 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.
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
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.
William Patrick Allan (Whelan) was the mischievous type , perhaps a well liked trouble maker, a bit of a modern day larrikin.
His trouble making behaviour was probably always expected by his officers but was never overlooked or went unpunished, however persistent. None the less his superiors must have always seen the soldier in William.
In his final moments as an original with the 1st FCE he demonstrated the bravery and courage that proved his true soldiering spirit.
William made the ultimate sacrifice at the “Battle of Pozieres” attempting to save a mate.
“everyone said he ought to get the V.C . he went out in the very thick of the firing”
William Whelan served as William Allan and will always be remembered for his bravery, and courage. Missing from the 23rd of July, officially it was recorded he was killed in action on this day 25th July 1915.
250 Frederick Wicks was four weeks shy of the minimum enlistment age of 19 and just to make sure he would not be rejected he had a letter from his father giving consent to enlist. Fred was a young carpenter born in “Jaspers Brush” Berry NSW and living with his father in Ryde NSW.
Frederick came from a large family of 6 sisters and 4 brothers – His mother Annie Eva Wicks ( nee Miller) had died only 6 months before he enlisted, she was 56.
His father Thomas was a carter for the Ryde council and was proud to have both his son’s Fred and George (Sid) join the AIF.
His letters to his sister Eva, show a young man seemingly unaffected by the dangers of daily life at Anzac Cove.
He was “still going strong” and later describing being wounded by shrapnel as nothing serious and souveniring the pieces removed from his back and shoulder after the operation……. Such was the spirit of this young Anzac.
The following news article in The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate , in August 1915 accompanied a picture of 250 Frederick Charles Wicks
SAPPER F. C. (FRED) WICKS.
This patriotic soldier is the youngest son of Mr. T. Wicks, of Glebe-street, Ryde, carter for the Ryde Council. He is 19 years of age and left with the Expeditionary Forces on December 22nd last. He is attached to the First Field Company of the Engineers.
Writing to his sister, Eva, from the Dardanelles on June 3rd, he says: —
“We had a pretty Warm reception on landing ashore at 4 a.m. on April 25th — bullets and shrapnel flying all round us. Have had three weeks here and still going strong. I have met Russel Thornton, Syd Adams, and H. Craig on the field, and also J.Luckett.”
His next communication, also to his sister, was from Gallipoli Peninsula, and was dated the 10th of June.
“Just a few lines….to let you know I am still in the land of the living and enjoying the best of health. . . . We had a pretty tough problem landing here on April. 25th, All troops were brought close to land on torpedo boats and then dumped into rowing craft. The enemy were not satisfied, with waiting for us to land but started pegging into us in the torpedo boats.
After getting into the ‘ pleasure boats’ (but not for pleasure) we started out for land with shrapnel and bullets flying all round the boats, but the Turks are very bad shots. As soon as the boats hit bottom we had to jump out, waist deep, and for our lives for cover. All this was done before 4 o’clock in the morning. I put in the whole day dodging about and having a shot where opportunity offered. Many times during the day, whilst under the cover of a bush, the Turks had their machine guns firing all around (about 200 to 300 bullets per minute). The bullets from the machine guns were cutting the tops off the bushes and spreading them all over me. Shells were also flying in all directions. Tho warships were out from shore about six miles, and they were giving the Turks some ‘hurry up.’
“To hear the battleships firing is just like one continuous roar of thunder…………All hands have got dug outs in tho side of a hill and it is very funny, when a shell comes over to so the men duck for those shelters just like a lot of rabbits scurrying to their burrows. Thrice have I and my mate had narrow escapes from shells, which were literally landing all round us. – One landed at the foot and another at the head of our dug out, while a third plumped right inside the dug out and blow everything to pieces. We were lucky enough to be out working at the time and I have been laid up this week with a bad foot. We were working on a barge and I trod on a piece of timber with a spike in it, the spike penetrating the bottom of my foot. It will be right again in a few days. About a fortnight ago I witnessed the sinking of one of our battleships.” (Just here the censor had a go.)
The next letter Fred wrote was from Cairo; and was dated July 3rd.
“Dear Father, Sisters, and Brothers,………..,……… no doubt you will be surprised on noticing the above address, to find that I am back in Egypt again. I happened to be on the unlucky side on June 19 by getting wounded on the right shoulder with a bit a shrapnel. I happened to be out working in the open, near a black smith’s forge, which was kicking up a devil of a noise when all of a sudden a shell burst in front of me. Of course I had no time to duck for cover. All of a sudden some thing seemed to catch me on the shoulder and down I went like a log.
I was lucky enough to be near a hospital and so was soon attended to. The bullet entered the front of my right shoulder and went down my back as far as the top of my trousers. It missed the collar bone and lung and did no serious damage. I had it in my back for two days and then went under an operation when it was extracted. I have it in my pocket now and am likely to stick to it. I am still in the hospital and likely to remain here for another week or two before returning to the scene of operations. Nothing broken, but have still got the stiffness in the arm and chest. It is wearing away tip top. Excuse scribble as arm is stiff and I’m in hurry to catch mail. Fred.”