191 Spr. Frederick Austin Reynolds – MID
For the newspapers it wasn’t necessary to print the order in which our gallant young men had died, the news was devastating enough, however on the 25th April 1915 it is considered that sapper 191 Frederick Austin Reynolds was in fact the first official casualty at Gallipoli – KIA (killed in action).
Like so many of the ANZACS, the full depth of Fred’s story has been quietly forgotten. His story is brief and glorious and the fact that he was the first official casualty and the heroic circumstances of his death make him a very significant ANZAC , and yet there is very little documented about him up to now.
One of the most poignant photos of ANZAC war history is of a poor lonely figure lying dead, face down on the beach of Anzac Cove while in the foreground officers watch on as troops behind this sad and lonely figure are unloaded from the landing boats.
That lonely figure in the picture ( left of centre) has been identified as Sapper Fred Reynolds, laying motionless and isolated, his tragic and solitary presence is screaming to everyone surrounding his lifeless body that the so called ‘great adventure’ is suddenly over.
191 Frederick Austin Reynolds, was aged 21, working as an electrical engineer at the Submarine Mining Station, Chowder Bay, from Queenscliff Manly Beach , Sydney…….Fred was also a young lifesaver with the Manly Seagull Club.
It is sadly ironic that this young man, a lifesaver, died assisting his fellow soldiers from the water while landing on the beach under what was described as heavy gun fire. He returned to the water three times to help wounded men ashore only to be fatally shot in the head on his last assist.
Lance Corp. 84 William Turnley witnessed Fred’s final moments…… ” some get ashore safely, some are hit slightly, others drowned in only a couple of feet of water because in the excitement no one noticed their plight…………many are the courageuos and daring acts performed during these few hours….One of our fellows goes out three times to bring in wounded comrades. The third time, hard luck, he is shot through the head and pitches forward on his face within a few feet of his goal.”
Reported by O.C of the 1st Field Company and Mentioned in Orders “Three times he went to the assistance of men who were in difficulty or wounded when getting out of the boats on the 25th April. sapper Reynolds was killed in assisting the third man ashore”
Fred was an amazing young man, brave in the face of danger and clearly prepared to die if need be, his own words testimony to his commitment as a soldier.
Fred’s last letter to his parents was published in the Australian Press in July 1915 – source: NAA
Dear Dad & Mother,
“ Just a hurried line to let you know where I am. We are on the flagship. There are 24 of us attached to the 8th Battalion as a demolition party. I will be on the first boat ashore. Quite an honour. You will know by the time this letter reaches you whether I’ve been unlucky or not. Of course we know we will not all come back, but what of that ? We are soldiers and British, and quite prepared to take our chance………”
Fred also stated in his letter “we are soldiers and British”. Fred was actually born in Wellington, New Zealand, and raised in Australia, but like many men born before Federation they were British subjects and they also felt British.
A letter from Fred’s father, Arthur , to the Department of Defence in July 1915 shortly after his notification of Fred’s death explains the families difficult financial circumstances at the time and also Fred’s last words to his father.
Will you kindly tell us what course we have to follow………………. he was in the Royal Engineers for two years at Middle Head as an electrician before he joined for the war and he would have been our main stay if he lived. We have three other sons all married , bricklayers the same as myself, and we cannot expect help from them, for although I am well and able to work thank God, I have only earned 4 pound 18 – this year. So you will see it was Fred’s money and every week that kept us going, now since he got killed we have not heard from the government.
Now will you please tell us what to do in reference to the following. The last words that Fred said to me was.”Remember dad if anything happens to me I am insured.
How am I to find out where he is insured and for what amount”.
Trusting to hear from you. I am a proud to be a father of one of the heroes.”
Signed F.A Reynolds
Lt. Colonel Richard John Dyer D.S.O the company commander for a large part of the war was to mention in a letter to 241 James Johnson many years later in 1934 ………………..“Its a pity the company didn’t get a VC, it was earned often enough by some of the boys many times over”..……………. but Lt. Colonel Dyer especially “felt poor old Reynolds on landing day” deserved a VC.
66 Lance Corporal Norman Masters writes to his father : — “ One of our boys, Sapper Reynolds, swam back to the boat, and brought ashore two boxes of gun cotton and machine gun and a wounded man, and was shot dead on landing with the man. He would have got the V C. had he lived. I should like Harry to tell the boys at Chowder how poor Reynolds died. “ – Extract from “The Sun” July 14 1915
Fred was buried at Shrapnel Valley Cemetery (Plot I, Row C, Grave No. 17), Gallipoli, Turkey and his name is honoured on the memorial cross featured on this site. Fred received a special mention after his death and received a 154 complimentary honour for conspicuous gallantry and was also Mentioned in Despatches.
The Sydney Morning Herald published its Roll of Honour on Saturday 5th June 1915, and its possible Frederick had a sweetheart back home.
The entry reads “In Loving memory of my dear and sincere friend. Frederick Reynolds, who was killed in action at the Dardanelles” – Alice Stronlund
Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA
Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015
Service Number: 191
Unit: 1st Field Company, Australian Engineers
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Award: Mention in despatches
Date of Commonwealth of Australia Gazette: 28 October 1915
Location in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette: Page 2736, position 13
Date of London Gazette: 5 August 1915
Location in London Gazette: Page 7668, position 11
Sources: AWM, NAA, NLA