Lieut. Noel Ernest Biden was born on 26th Dec 1892 in Maitland NSW to parents Ernest Henry and Fannie Teresa Biden nee – Wareham. He had an older brother William Wareham Biden and sister Mary Gwendoline. As a young boy he attended Petersham Superior Public school NSW. Later he attended Sydney High School where he passed the Senior Public examination with high distinction.
Having decided to adopt a military career, he passed the entrance examination for Duntroon and was the last man to enter the Royal Military College, Duntroon in the first intake, entering the college in October 1911. Noel was also a talented Rugby player and while at college was a member of the First Fifteen, First Grade Rugby team at Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1913.
Noel and 34 other classmates were graduated ahead of schedule, apparently before they had taken their final exams so they could be rushed off to the Great War. Noel applied for his commission on the 14th August 1914, he was nearly 22 years of age and was now Lieut. Noel Biden, one of Australia’s very own military trained officers and ready to be signatory to many of the originals who volunteered and attested, his signature appearing on many of the original war records.
Above : AWM photo at Mena Camp Egypt – Left is Noel Biden with fellow officer Richard Dyer.
Below: Noel Ernest Biden – front extreme left with horse and other original officers, Dyer, Mather, Corlette, McCall, Huntley – Original Photo from the private collection of Jack Moore
Within the first few days of the landing on Gallipoli , Lieut Biden and his team of engineers had carved out roads and pathways for the artillery to be dragged up the ridges and into position and then gave the infantry great assistance in consolidating the newly dug trenches along the way.
The photo above was taken at Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 26 April 1915, shows Australian artillerymen dragging guns into position after the landing at Anzac. By 6 p.m. on the first evening one gun had been placed on the neck above the southern end of Ari Burnu beach, and next day more guns were dragged over this neck into positions to the right.
In the middle of May, Lieut. Noel Biden and his section started work on the construction of piers and landing stages on the beach. “This work was extremely dangerous and was carried out under heavy shellfire.” NAA Citation
In July Lieut. Biden sick with diarrhoea and dental problems disembarked to Malta on the 16th July 1915 and later returned to Gallipoli in September. On his return he was transferred to duty with the 3rd Field Company Engineers where he took charge of the company and in November left Gallipoli with the company for Lemnos. Within a few weeks Noel Biden became seriously ill. His father had received word of his sons illness and naturally quite anxious for word on his son’s condition, forwarded the following letter.
The following notes were recorded by Lieut. Walter James on the 21st December 1915 in the War Diary AWM4 – 14/20/18……….
“It is with deepest regret that I have recorded the death of Capt N.E Biden of the 3rd Field Coy. who passed away at 2.30 on this morning at No.3 General Hospital Mudros after a short period of…………”
Lieut. James did not complete his entry possibly awaiting confirmation of the cause of death. It was later confirmed Lieut. Noel Biden died of Pneumonia and para typhoid 21st Dec 1915
News of Noel Biden’s death had spread rapidly throughout the camp at Mudros. The war diary of the 3rd FCE at Sarpi Camp Mudros 21st December had also recorded the company strength and sadly the “Demise” of Capt Biden, but also mentioned that he …………” received a voluntary parade at his graveside was very largely attended.”
Capt. Biden was a popular officer with his original 1st FCE and as Capt. of the 3rd FCE. The voluntary parade would have made for a very impressive send off for the young officer, the attendance exceeding two hundred with the combined units of the remaining originals and the 3rd FCE.
Noel’s heartbroken father Ernest, bravely forwarded another letter once he received the news he did not wish to hear when he last wrote only twelve days earlier.
“We were hopeful through the Christmas that no news was a good augury that we would hear of our son’s recovery…we have lost a good son and the Department has lost a loyal and promising officer”.
Noel’s birthday was Boxing day, the day after Christmas Day. The Biden family would never feel the same about Christmas ever again.
The small village of Portianos is on the west side of Mudros Bay, on the island of Lemnos, Greece. The Portianos Military Cemetery is on the outskirts of the village, on what is called Anzac Street.
It was established in August 1915 and continued military burials until August 1920. The cemetery now contains 347 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and five war graves of other nationalities. There are 50 Australians and 29 New Zealanders identified and buried at this Military Cemetery.
One of these Australian’s is original 1st FCE Officer Lieut. Noel Ernest Biden – it is his final resting place.
The following notice was published in the Maitland Newspaper, a great tribute to the achievments of the young Noel before he enlisted….. see below
“Lieutenant Noel Biden, of the 1st Field Company of Engineers, died at Mudros of pneumonia. He was a young officer of brilliant promise, having graduated from Duntroon after a course marked by special merit. He was distinguished at the Sydney High School as an able, scholar, and passed the Senior Public examination with high distinction, especially in mathematics, carrying off several medals. Having decided to adopt a military career, he passed the entrance examination for Duntroon easily at the head of the list, and out-distanced all competitors at the college through exceptional grasp and facility in the acquisition of knowledge. On graduation in 1914 his high, attainments, secured him a commission in the corps of engineers. He served at Gallipoli with distinction. He was the son of Mr. E. H. Biden, draughtsman, in charge of the Lands Board Office at Hay. Mr. Biden only recently removed to Hay from East Maitland and the many Maitland friends of Mr. and Mrs. Biden and family will deeply sympathise with them in the loss of their gallant and gifted son.”
The Maitland Weekly Mercury (NSW : 1894 – 1931), Saturday 8 January 1916.
Unit: 3rd Field Company Australian Engineers
Service: Australian Army
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
Date of death: 21 December 1915
Place of death: Greece
Cause of death: Illness
Age at death: 22
Place of association: Hay, Australia
Cemetery or memorial details: Portianos Military Cemetery, Portianon, Lemnos, Greece
Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army
Location on the Roll of Honour
Noel Ernest Biden’s name is located at 23 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial .
Roll of Honour name projection
Noel Ernest Biden’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on:
- Mon 4 January, 2016 at 11:48 pm
- Sun 6 March, 2016 at 8:43 pm
- Tue 26 April, 2016 at 6:54 pm
- Thu 9 June, 2016 at 3:20 am
- Thu 21 July, 2016 at 3:03 am
- Mon 5 September, 2016 at 3:08 am
- Sat 29 October, 2016 at 11:35 pm
- Tue 3 January, 2017 at 12:57 am
Obituary SMH 1926. – MR. ERNEST HENRY BIDEN.
Mr. Ernest Henry Biden, a retired officer of the Lands Department, died on Sunday at his residence at Neutral Bay. He had been a Public servant for more than 50 years. He became senior draftsman, and served at Armidale and Hay, where he had charge of the department’s office. He is survived by Mrs. Biden and one daughtor. One son, Captain Noel Biden, of Duntroon College, who was attached to the First Field Company of Engineers at the landing at Gallipoli, died of illness at Mudros, and another son, Sergeant William Biden, of the 3rd Battalion, was killed in action in France. A service in honour of the late Mr. Blden will be held in St. Peter’s Church, Neutral Bay, this morning.
Mother: Fannie Terese Biden , died in 1938
Brother: 6462 Pte William Wareham BIDEN, 3rd Bn, killed in action, Strazeele, France, 14 April 1918
Sister: Mary Gwendoline Biden, never married and died in 1969.
AWM, NAA, NLA
AWM Roll of Honour Database
AWM Collections Record : P07973.015
Colonel J.E. Lee, ‘Duntroon: The Royal Military College of Australia 1911-1946’, 1952
Royal Military College Annual Report 1911-1912 (p.41)
NAA RecordSearch – Series B2455 (First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920)
Stories from the ACT Memorial, ‘The Honour Guard at the Canberra Commencement Ceremony’, ACT Heritage Library http://www.library.act.gov.au/find/history/stories_from_the_act_memorial
ABC – 100 years of Duntroon
Source: – No.3 Australian General Hospital, West Mudros.
Portianou folkloric museum, Lemnos, Greece