233 Thomas Frank Arkinstall
Thomas was born in 1887 to George Henry Arkinstall and Annie Maria Davis nee Innes at Inverell, a growing agricultural district in Northern New South Wales.
Thomas came from a large family of seven brothers and four sisters
The Arkinstall family were active dairy and poultry farmers, and his father George was chairman of the local Farmers and Settlers Association.
At the age of twenty eight Thomas enlisted at Paddington NSW , he was a single man and had served five years as a plumber with Mr. D. Scott at Inverell.
Thomas was one of only twenty three men who made up the original 1st Reinforcements of the Australian Field Company Engineers. They sailed for Egypt from Melbourne on the HMAT A35 Berrima on the 22nd December 1914.
In early February 1915 the men of the 1st Reinforcements were transferred to the 1st Field Company and all were allotted new numbers, Thomas originally number 701, was now 233.
Thomas served at Gallipoli uninterrupted until the evacuation and he also played a significant part in the attacks on the “German Officers Trench” under the leadership of officer Lieut. Richard Dyer.
Thomas was particularly noted for his efforts in underground work listening for the Turkish movements surrounding the German Officers Trench. The original mentioned in despatches coming from Richard Dyer. – (Image below – courtesy AWM). It reads as follows……
“Landed at Anzac on the 25.4.15 and remained with his unit up to the evacuation. He did excellent work in the trenches – repairing parapets under heavy shell fire on many occasions. Also had charge of a shaft during the mining operations against German Officers’ trench and remained in the galleries listening on several occasions when the enemy were known to be within striking distance. His work was most satisfactory in every respect.”
In March of 1916 he was promoted to Corporal and now on his way to France and the Western Front. Later in June 1916 he was officially gazetted “Mentioned in Despatches” – ‘for distinguished and gallant service’ whilst with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, no doubt recognition for his continuous work at Gallipoli and highlighted by his contribution in the attacks on the “German Officers Trench’.
In August suffering a sprained ankle he was transferred to hospital in France and shortly after returned to the front. During his time he was vice to fellow originals 43 Arthur Baldwin and also 128 Wilfred Batten.
“During the operations against Pozieres, 20th to 26th July, when the two senior N.C.O s, became casualties he took charge of the section and carried on the work in a very satisfactory manner though exposed to very heavy gunfire.”
For this account Thomas was recommended for a Distinguished Conduct medal and the Medal of St.George Cross 2nd Class.
In 1917 Thomas was once again recommended for an honour, this time the Military Medal for ‘valuable work in exploring a large and unknown portion of newly evacuated enemy territory for the location of communication trenches and other new works … Altogether he spent 20 continuous hours out in the newly occupied territory, under heavy fire, without food or rest of any kind.’ see below (Commonwealth Gazette No 133, 21 August 1917)
The Inverell newspaper quite proud of Thomas and their young men from Inverell, commenting ” May Inverell breed many more like these”
Thomas eventually received a Commission and became a Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion. He returned home to Australia on the Orca on the 3rd April 1919.
Not a lot is known about Thomas after his return from war, a few details relating to his marriage in 1919 to Gwendaline Ivy Thomas, but then the trail comes to a sudden halt.
His story is intriguing and his noted involvement in the attacks against the German Officers trench is a rare piece of the 1st FCE story and Gallipoli war history.
Charles Bean gave a detailed account of the June and July periods 1915 and the Engineers involvement in the German Officers Trench and the lead up to Lone Pine. His Vol 2 “The story of ANZAC” he dedicates an entire chapter to the subject and made special mention and details on Lieut. Dyers involvement and also included a picture in his volume courtesy of sapper 237 Evellyn Lloyd.
The following is the link to the AWM digitised collection of Volume II – The Story of ANZAC from 4 May, 1915, to the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula (11th edition, 1941) – Chapter 11 – The German Officers’ Trench
Thomas Arkinstall has left behind a distinguished war service, and his story raises more questions and helps continue to extend the great story and history of the 1st FCE.
We will hopefully make some new discoveries about this great ANZAC, in the meantime his memory remains.
Story © VanceKelly2016
Two possible marriages for Thomas Frank Arkinstall
1919 – Gwendoline Ivy Thomas – married Sydney
1931 – Glenetta H L Cameron – married in Nyngan ( she also appears on the Electoral rolls 1963 in Fernberg Brisbane QLD – Thomas listed – is a security officer – also living at this address – 23 Carroll st Bardon QLD is Augustus Donald ( son – to be confirmed)