124 GARRETT, Sidney -MID

 

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124 Spr. Sidney Matthew Garrett

124 Sidney Matthew Garrett was born in Balmain, New South Wales in 1887 to parents Matthew Robson Garrett, a Quarryman and Mary (nee Newton). Sidney’s parents were both born in Wallsend, Northumberland England.

Embarking from Plymouth England, Matthew and Mary with their three young children, daughter Mary, and son’s Andrew and Ralph, arrived in Sydney on the 6th April 1882.

As unassisted immigrants they had the huge task of settling in to a new life in Sydney .

Shortly after arriving daughter Isabel was born in 1883, another daughter Annie in 1886 , Sidney Matthew in 1887 and lastly Elsie in 1894.

Sidney was just 5ft 3 ¾”, he had spent 3 years in the senior cadets and had been employed as a carpenter and joiner for 5 years and was living with his family at Stansell st, Gladesville.

In January 1914 his mother Mary passed away and eight months later on the 19th August 1914 Sidney enlisted with the 1st Field Company Engineers.

On the 18th October 1914  he embarked with the company on the ‘AFRIC  A19’  and was a signatory to the John Hoey Moore Souvenir Card below.

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

 

Before landing day at Gallipoli, Sidney along with ten other sappers had been selected for a  different task.  When Sidney landed at Gallipoli he was among the  “Pontoon Builders” led by Lieut. Bachtold.

Days before the landing the Sappers built a raft of barrel pontoons on the SS Ionian  that could be joined together to form a pier or jetty.

On the landing day 25th April, Lieut. Bachtold and the 11 sappers were transferred to the transporter “Nizam” and towed along side were the raft pontoons they had prepared earlier.

At approx 2.oo pm having watched the events unfold on the beach at Galliploli and within a mile off shore the men and the raft were detached from the “Nizam”. They then had to row like mad, dodging heavy shrapnel fire all the way to shore managing to suffer only minor damage to the raft.

Within fifteen minutes they had secured the barrel piers to the shoreline, the Army Medical Corp. (A.M.C)  immediately put it to use and started transporting the wounded on barges back to the transport and hospital ships. Many of the wounded being transported back to the “Nizam”, the very vessel that had delivered them hope in the form of the jetty building sappers.

The extraordinary efforts of these men on landing day ultimately saved hundreds of lives.

 

A01507 sappers HMT Ionion
Engineers building pontoon bridges on board SS Ionian just prior to the landing. The pontoons were rowed ashore and used as embarkation piers for the wounded. . Courtesy AWM- A01507

 

xmas-postcard-x-marks-the-spot-124-sidney-garrett-collection
Photo of original postcard on display at The Entrance – Long Jetty RSL Sub Branch Museum

The postcard above was from Sid Garrett to his younger sister Elsie, wishes a “Merry Xmas and Happy New Year from Sid to All”.

The back of the card reveals some extraordinary details on ANZAC and particularly the pontoon jetties location along with the considerable work employed by  the sappers.

On close examination the pontoon and barrels marked by the ‘X ‘ shows the exact location that Lieut. Bachtold and his team landed on the 25th April. The postcard also reflects exactly  what was also being constructed on board the SS Ionian in the picture also shown above.

The Xmas card dated England 6/12/15 reads as follows……………….

Dear Elsie and All,

This card will give you an idea of what had to contend with in our landing on the 25th April. You will see the hundred of dugouts on the side of the hill in which we used to live like hermits.

You will observe the numerous pontoon jetties used for bringing troops stores etc ashore. I worked on all of them, the one that I have marked with a cross is the one which we built the first day to take off the wounded.

The confusion on the beach is the Army Services Corps with their stores. If you look closely you will see the stacks of bully beef and biscuits. I have had many a swim on this beach and the shrapnel coming over the hill from the Turks guns. The tent marked with Ø is a dressing station where you get your first dressing when being brought from the trenches.

Love to All, Sid “

The eleven sappers selected for this all received Special Mention (Mentioned in Orders) and in addition Sid Garrett was later Mentioned In Despatches  for acts of conspicuous gallantry or valuable services, an honour few engineers were gazetted while at Gallipoli.

citation mention orders

The Citation above… reads

“On the 25th April this officer and his crew paddled barrel piers into the bay under a heavy shell fire and then deliberately set to work under a hail of bursting shrapnel and erected the landing stage. This stage was of the greatest value in getting off the wounded and enabled over 1500 men to be sent off the same day. The men had never before been under fire.”…………………….

A full but certainly not complete account of the “Pontoon Builders” can also be read by following this link…….Click here

mention in despatch
Sid remained at Gallipoli until early June when suffering from Dysentery he was transferred back to Cairo and the 1st Australian General Hospital  Heliopolis Egypt.

by the months end he recovered sufficiently returned to his unit at Gallipoli. His overall health had suffered and it wasn’t long after arriving back he was having knee trouble diagnosed as Synovitis and was shipped out to hospital in Malta and onward to England where he was suffering from deafness.

Sidney again recovered from his health set backs and returned to the 1st Field Company Engineers now based in Alexandria. Egypt.

On March 21st 1916 the  1st FCE embarked for France on the ‘ SS Invernia’ arriving at Marseilles on the 28th March.

by-municipal-archives-of-trondheim
Photo of SS Invernia c 1900  – By Municipal Archives of Trondheim https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23765499

Sidney and a number of the originals  were always up for a bit of fun, but like so many men who had seen so much death and were about to face the unknown once again, their harmless revelry was ultimately at their own expense.  Sid like many others was struck down with Gonorrhoea and then remained in hospital  from the 21st June 1916  and rejoined his unit in early August.

Sid’s final fighting days at the western front were well documented in the official war diaries.

Lt. Lawrence in the unit war diaries noted in detail  the excellent work of the engineers under difficult circumstances on the 25th February 1917 a  very costly day.  Feb 1917 RCDIG1008689

On the 25th February 1917  at Yarra Bank Sidney Garrett was seriously wounded with shell wounds to right leg and left shoulder.

This day was recorded by the originals as………………………….

“one of the most disastrous  events  which occurred to the company during the whole war as four of these sappers died later on , namely, 204 Walshe,  124 Garrett, Banks and Donohue.”

213 Roy Denning describes the activities of  the day as proving to be hard and dangerous , having a number of infantry men assisting they had to dig a communications trench to the advanced position. It wasn’t long before German snipers starting picking men off.

At this point Roy Denning’s section was meant to be relieved at 5 pm  but as Roy describes it… “a shell intervened”

The citation for original 96 Hugh Geddes  also details the events on the 25th February 1917….
“At le Bargue early on the morning of the 25th February 1917, L/Cpl. Geddes was detailed to take out a party of sappers , and assist the infantry who were said to be constructing a strong point at M.a8.a 8.0 , which was then an outpost well in advance of our new front line. He led his party to the job, over ground which had not been cleared of snipers and other detached parties of the enemy, got the work in hard and led his party back as he was instructed. Later in the day he was accompanying a relief which was going out on the right. They met at an enemy barrage near the YARRA BANK, and one shell caused eight casualties among them…..L/Cpl GEDDES did excellent work in rendering first aid.” – Source AWM

The short account as prepared by the members of the 1st FCE  also gives their account of the  25th February 1917……

“On Sunday the 25th February 1917 eleven sappers (including two L/Cps and A.M.O  Watson under L/Cp McLintock of No.1 sect. when on approaching Yarra bank which the enemy was shelling heavily, a rush was made to the shelter of Yarra bank and its deep dugouts, unfortunately one shell landed amongst them which caused 8 casualties.

Sapper Skow, No. 1 Sect. killed. Sappers  Banks and Donohue No.2  Sect. badly wounded as were Sappers Walshe and Garrett and L/Cp, McLintock, and slightly wounded Sappers Goodwin and Newton, all of No.1 Sect.

Those who were not wounded, L/Cp Geddes, Sappers Geldart and Passfield No.2 Sect. L/Cp Slee No.1 sect and the A.M.O Watson.”

124 Sidney Garrett was transferred to the 45th Casualty clearing station in France, he later died from his wounds on the 6th March 1917. He was buried at the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.

 

Fellow original 204 Patrick Walshe died a day earlier in the same clearing station.

Both Sidney Garrett and Patrick Walshe  were buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension.  Sidney Garrett Plot 6, row B  grave 34…. Patrick Walshe Plot 6, row B  grave 30.

 

 

burial-record

Sidney Matthew Garrett’s name is also located at panel 23 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

Plan of Commemorative area showing which panel the name Sidney Matthew Garrett's is located

 

50 years later in 1967 Sidney’s sister Annie, now Mrs Ann Hodgekiss applied for his Gallipoli Medallion and was still living at Stansell st, Gladesville.

Sidney Garrett is still remembered by family. His great nephew Trevor Jones has also donated a number of items from a collection of Sydney Garrett war treasures. Some of these treasures are on display at the Long Jetty – The Entrance  RSL Sub-Branch NSW Museum.

sid-garret-display-museum
Photo – Vance Kelly

 

 

Notation:

Lt. Lawrence in the unit war diaries noted in detail  the excellent work of the engineers under difficult circumstances on the 25th February 1917 a  very costly day.  Feb 1917 RCDIG1008689

On 1st  January 1917 the ‘SS Invernia’ was carrying some 2,400 British troops from Marseille to Alexandria, when she was torpedoed by a German submarine The ship went down fairly quickly with a loss of 36 crew members and 84 troops.

Sources and Acknowledgements:

AWM, AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, Long Jetty – The Entrance  RSL Sub-Branch NSW Museum. NAA, NLA.

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