Monday, December 24, 2007

The Story of the Easther Brothers

There were four brothers from one family who all enlisted in the First World War. They were Leonard, Alfred, Charles and Edmund. They enlisted in that order and were at their time of enlistment; 25, 20, 29 and 19 years old respectively. Only Charles and Edmund were to survive the war.

Leonard Ridgeway Easther
was the first of the brothers to enlist. In August 1914 he presented at Morphetville where he joined the Third Light Horse, one of the first recruits with a military number of 134. By May of 1915 Leonard was in the Dardanelles. On the 29th of that month, in an area of Gallipoli known as “Monash Valley” he was wounded in the thigh by gunfire. Just over a week later he was admitted to the 15th General Hospital in Alexandria.

On the day that Leonard was being admitted to hospital, Alfred Bryant, the second youngest of the brothers was enlisting in Adelaide. Alfred’s parents had given their written consent, coincidentally on the 29th of May, the day Leonard was wounded. Alfred joined the third reinforcements for the 27th Battalion.

In July Leonard was discharged from hospital and sailed on the “Seeang Bee” back to Gallipoli, where he rejoined the Light Horse on the 28th . He was back there for just over a month until he was readmitted to Number One General Hospital, Heliopolis. This time Leonard was suffering from a septic knee and would be in hospital for further month until early October.

In late August Alfred embarked on HMAT “Morea” for the Middle East and by October, just after Leonard was discharged from hospital in Cairo, Alfred was taken on strength by 27 Battalion on the Gallipoli Peninsular.

At the very end of 1915 Leonard rejoined the 3rd Light Horse Regiment who had just left Gallipoli for Cairo (Heliopolis). Alfred also left Gallipoli with the rest of the ANZAC contingent. On the first day of 1916 Leonard was temporarily promoted to Sergeant. Nine days later Alfred disembarked in Alexandria and at the end of January Leonard was confirmed in his promotion.

Both brothers spent January in Egypt within about 200km of each other until in March Alfred embarked for the European theatre and disembarked in Marseilles.

Once again the records are sparse for the next few months. We know that Alfred took part in a trench raid on the night of 28/29 of June and was promoted to corporal a month later.

[Extract from 27 Battalion Diary 28/29 June 1916:
During night our raiding party entered enemy trenches at Ontario Farm under Artillery Barrage & did some damage. Killing 17 enemy & taking 4 prisoners. Retaliation by Bosche Artillery severe. Our casualties Wounded Lts Sommerville JR & Gooden SR. Other Ranks Killed 4, Wounded 26]

Then on the 4 August 1916, both Alfred and Leonard were shot, one in Egypt and one in France.

Leonard in Romani was killed outright. Alfred, though seriously wounded by a bullet in the head was transferred to a casualty clearing station, and ultimately reached the No 1 Canadian General Hospital in Etaples where he died of his wounds in the early hours of the morning on the 16 September.

Leonard was initially buried on the battlefield at Romani a day or so after the battle. Chaplain HK Gordon officiated. As was the practice after the war Leonard was “bought in” and now lies at the Kantara Military Cemetery, 160km north east of Cairo.
Alfred was buried in the cemetery associated with the enormous allied presence around the French town of Etaples. The Etaples Military Cemetery now contains over 10700 Commonwealth dead of the first world war, including Alfred.

--------Extract of 3rd Light Horse War diary--------
At 12.20 AM the enemies infantry lines appeared and they made a bayonet charge onto the Cossack (?) post line at the base of MT MERIDITH and came under heavy fire from our piquet line which held them up for a very considerable period.
We were reinforced by 1 Squad of the 1st LH which was displaced to the S of Mt. Meridith and two Squad reinforced at HOD ABU ADI which we had to evacuate. We held the ground just about the HOD at 4AM but the Turks were now swarming up MT MERIDITH from the SW and dominated our position. They poured heavy Rifle Machine Gun & Shrapnel fire onto us at daylight and we were compelled to fall back at 5.30 as our R flank was enfiladed owing to the 1st & 2nd Regt. Being compelled to withdraw. We fell back onto WELLINGTON RIDGE where we were reinforced by the 2nd Bde and a company of KOSB. Here the Regt. Reformed less B Squad who had been compelled to fall back behind the wire of the Inf posts and were afterwards used as Divisional Troops by General Chauvel.
On reforming we joined up with the 2nd Regt but missed the 1st Bde, so we moved to the Right Flank which was all the time being turned. We moved toward HOD EL DIYUK and were joined by the 6th LH Regt & Col Royston who won command. We then extended to the Right and held all the high ground covering the Railway and ultimately stopped the turning movement.
The NZMR the 3rd LH Bde and the 5th Mounted Bde came from the direction of DUIEDAR and attacked from the SW. squeezing the enemy on their sides and capturing 500 prisoners. The whole line then swang round to our left & advanced towards Mt MEREDITH & HOD EL ENNA for two miles & then halted and bivouacked in the position for the night.


Leonard’s name appears first on the diary page listing casualties of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment for August.
A summary for the 4th from the diary indicates:
Killed 11, died of wounds 3, wounded 40 (including 4 officers)


A extract of the unit diary describing the night Alfred was wounded is included in the Story of Frederick Edwards.

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