14 BANKS, Edmond Clifford – Medaille Militaire, MID

Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v
Edmond Clifford Banks -nla.pic-vn3723151-v

14 Edmond Clifford Banks  

Medaille Militaire
Medaille Militaire

Story©Vance Kelly 2015.

As the war progressed after Gallipoli, there were opportunities for many of the engineers beyond being a sapper or a driver. Officer training and the chance of being a commissioned officer, returning to England to train reinforcements, and then there was the newly formed Australian Flying Squadron.

Four particular sappers later joined the Australian Flying Squadron and some became flyers and it was not by chance. The four men were connected , 14 sapper Edmond Clifford Banks and 110 Gordon Campbell Wilson were together at the assault at the German officers trench at Gallipoli.

26 Roland King  was vice to Edmond Banks at Fromelle and 20 Alexander Finnie also a low number was likely in the same section or even shared the same tent at Moore Park.
It is very possible 14 Banks, 20 Finnie and 26 King as their low numbers suggest, were placed together in the same section in the early training days back in Sydney, and as a result became closest of friends . Their friendships definitely influenced the four of them to pursue new challenges beyond sapping. ….
What made them become flyers ? While at Gallipoli , did they marvel at the site of these flying machines overhead and often contemplate what it must be like to be in the sky and not it in a dug out starving , dodging disease, shrapnel and snipers.
These original sappers seemed to have a unique view on the war and each of them after extreme service at Gallipoli and the western front displayed an insatiable thirst for even more from the challenges of war.
14 Edmond Clifford Banks was unstoppable. He was just 19 years old when he enlisted, a surveyor from Darlinghurst Sydney. He was with the landing party on the 25th April, and was heavily involved with Lieut. Henry Bachtold,  on the stunt at the German officers and snipers trenches on the 6th August.
Edmond Bank’s service record up to this time was perfect and he continued to demonstrate his total commitment throughout the rest of the war. Young Edmond received Mention in Despatches for his service from the 25th April to the 17th Dec and displaying gallantry .

Bronze Oak Leaf presented to those Mentioned in Despatches
Bronze Oak Leaf presented to those Mentioned in Despatches

After Gallipoli Edmond was transferred to the 14th Field Co. Engineers now under the command of Major Henry Bachtold and embarked for France in July 1916 and was promoted to Sergeant. He was at the historic battle of Fromelles on the night of the 19th July 1916. On this disastrous night in Australia’s military history, the following is an account of his actions.
“On the night of July 19th/20th in the operations at FROMELLES Sergt. Banks under very heavy shell fire pegged out a communication trench in “No Man’s Land” and extended a working party on the work. Although under continuous shell and machine gun fire the whole of the night, he supervised the work until the trench was completed. The successful completion was due to his bravery and devotion to duty”.Source: AWM

Banks was unstoppable and a few months later,

“On the night of the of Nov. 5/6th 1916 in connection with the operations of the 7th Infantry Brigade on the SOMME he successfully commanded his section on this officer becoming a casualty and under heavy shell fire carried out the given orders to his section.” Source: AWM

For these acts of outstanding bravery young Edmond Banks was awarded the French Medaille Militaire for distinguished service. His medal was presented to him on 13th April 1917 by Lieut- General Birdwood.
Edmond had served with extraordinary commitment for just over a year at the front , and his stunts on the ground were over. Edmond was not satisfied with fighting the war on the ground and he set his sights on fighting the Germans from the sky. The newly formed Australian Flying Corp was just the ticket for Edmond . And so it was on the 25th May 1917 Edmond was transferred and joined the No.1 Royal Flying Corps training school at Reading England and after 2 months training graduated as an observer in the flying corp and was appointed 2nd Lieut . and reported for duty in France.
In August of 1918 after serving with the 3rd Australian Flying Squadron , the same Squadron involved in the action leading to the death of the German air ace the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen, he returns to Reading England for training as a Flying officer, and finally becomes a pilot. He was now the grand old age of 23.
During these eventful years at war, Edmond was sick for only a few months in May and June of 1918. Not someone who was use to lying around and doing nothing, Edmond somehow found time between all these achievements to fall in love and he married Frances Ann Richards, from Dublin Ireland. A few months later in November 1918 the war was over and the adventure was over for young Edmond.

14 Edmond Banks - Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765
14 Edmond Banks – Back Row 2nd from left AWM E02765

Edmond  was an extraordinary young man and proved his bravery and strength over an exhausting 4 – 5 years. Young Edmond embraced his duty and his role as a sapper, then as a leader of men, a pilot, and finally a married man. Edmond had not just been on the great adventure….. he was the great adventure.

Copyright© VanceKelly2015

Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA

Photo courtesy of National Library of Australia


This new book is a wonderful treat – the fascinating story of one of 3AFC’s dashing RE8 pilots, Nigel Love; a man who flew many missions over the Western Front in WW1 and then came back home with big plans to ‘kick-start’ Australia’s home-grown aviation manufacturing industry, no less!

This visually-impressive and generously-sized book has been painstakingly compiled by Jeff Love, Nigel’s son.  (Jeff himself was a distinguished Mosquito navigator in WW2 and is currently an amazingly versatile 88-year-old member of 3SQN Assn.)  – The book will appeal greatly to anyone with an interest in the Australian Flying Corps and the pioneering days of Australian Aviation.

There are many notable aspects to this publication:
  ● Large-format photographs of the aircraft and men of 3AFC.
(Especially Nigel’s RE8 ‘B3420’, which has been the subject of a recent excellent scale model kit; Jeff still preserves the original canvas serial-number of this aircraft!)
  ● Facsimiles of Nigel’s original 1918 logbook.
  ● Aerial photography – including map-making and “oblique” shots of the Somme trenches.
  ● Historical and contemporary news articles.
  ● Photos of Australia’s first aeroplane factory (“AVRO” – suppliers of the first aircraft to Qantas and the first Australian-made aircraft to the RAAF) established by Nigel at Sydney’s Mascot airport – which he also founded!
  ● Many pictures of 1920s stunting, racing and record-setting.
  ● And last but not least, an 80-page transcript, in Nigel’s own words, of his fascinating and historic aviation story.

The volume even comes in a distinctive olive-brown binding that closely matches the “PC-10” camouflage colour of the original RE8 canvas!

It has been privately published and copies can be obtained from Mr. Jeff Love on email jayness@bigpond.com  Price – including postage within Australia – is $60.

The above is courtesy of: http://www.3squadron.org.au

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