Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Story of John Francis Watson.

John Watson was born in Quorn and was 21 years old at the time of his enlistment in early march 1916. John had been a labourer and he enlisted at Port Pirie. He was taken on strength in the Second Reinforcements to the 5th Pioneer Battalion and promptly sent overseas on the HMAT Aeneas. The ship left Adelaide on 11th of April 1916.

Eighteen days later John was admitted to the ships hospital with measles, from which he died, three hours later.
John was taken off the ship and buried in Colombo Cemetery in Ceylon, today known as Sri Lanka.


John Watson was the last of the Quorn soldiers who I have managed to identify. It has taken some months of research but by lucky accident I discovered a reference to him in the South Australian State Archives. He has been difficult to track down as his initials on the Quorn monument were wrongly given as “R. J.”. There is also little reference to his connections with Quorn in the minimal records that resulted from his extremely short service.
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Friday, May 23, 2008

The Story of Roy James Gladstone Burr Pt 2

Since I wrote the original entry regarding Roy Burr the war diaries for the 52nd Battalion have come on line at the Australian War Museum Archives. The following is a transcript of the diary from the addendum to that Diary, including punctuation and spelling as close to the original as possible.
This extract describes the action from the 2nd to the 3rd, September 1916. Roy was almost certainly killed near Moquet Farm on or before the 3rd as the Australians were pulled out of action by the end of that day.


…About 10.30 a.m. on the 2nd Brigade orders for attacking were received and Battalion Orders (appendix 1) we issued at 1 p.m., and at the same time personnaly gone through by C.O. with Company Commanders of “A” “C” and “D” Coys.
100 rounds – Bombs, and 2 sand-bags per man were issued on the 1st. and all arrangements for the ammunition, bombs, water, and ration supplies were completed during the morning of the 2nd. At about 3.30 p.m. on the 2nd Battalion Headquarters took up position at KAY’S DUMP and at about 4 p.m. Lieut-Colonel K.F.BEEVOR was wounded and command of Battalion devolved on Major D.A. LANE.
Companies commenced leaving LA BOISELLE at 7 p.m. and the last Company had cleared KAY’S DUMP at 9.30 p.m.
Provision had been made for guides for each Company, and tapes laid over open ground from BOX LANE to ASSEMBLE TRENCHES to avoid any loss of direction in the darkness. At 11.15 p.m. “C” Company were in position and in touch with “B” Company on their left. A message had previously been dispatched by O.C. “B” Company to leave men in Front Line to mark flanks of “D” “A” and “C” Companies but messenger failed to deliver same.
Thus from the outset communication with “B” Company was extremely difficult.
About 12.30 p.m. 2-3rd the Battalion Intelligence Officer (Lieut A.H.MAXWELL) was sent along the Companies to Synchronise watches for the second time, make sure that all were in their correct positions and assist Company Commanders with any information required as to their front and objective. At 3.51 a.m. on the 3rd of September BIO reported that all Companies were in position with their 1st wave in front trench and other waves (in some cases two and in others three) in ASSEMBLY TRENCHES.
From information gathered from various sources the Companies commenced their assault about NK 5.14 a.m. leaving their “Jumping Off” point very nearly at the same moment.
The assault was delivered with much spirit and dash and in cases a short, but fierce and bloody hand to hand conflict ensued. Bayonets and rifle butts coming into free play.
Each company siezed its objective and “C” Company evidently pushed forward under our own barrage. The Company Commander (Capt. EKIN-SMYTHE) drew them back towards the their objective but was unfortuneately about this time mortally wounded.
The Company again pressed forwardand as an organised unit ceased to exist.
At 7 a.m. our Scouts in observation posts observed the line shown by Contact Flares. They could only observe as far as the left of “A” Companies objective, and forwarded a sketch showing the Line extending from about 94 towards the Right. There was a break of about a hundred yards and then the Line again delineated extending to somewhere about 24.
At 7.29 a.m. a message was despatched to O.C. “D” Coy seeking information as to whether he was connected up with the 49th Battalion. It may here be mentioned that every Officer in “D” Coy became a casualty early in the battle and messages despatched to them were opened by Lieut D.S.MAXWELL of “A” Company.
At 7.50 a.m. the following message was received from Lieut D.S.MAXWELL “Have captured centre of “A” Companies’ Objective but failed to connect so far on left and right……… have barricaded on right and I am holding on, 8 prisoners I am holding as cannot afford a guard. 0615”.
Orders were immediately despatched to “C” and “D” Companies to work inwards and connect with “A” Company. These messages subsequently proved futile as both Companies had ceased to exist as tactical units.
At 8.57 a.m. a report timed 7.15 a.m. was received from “A” Company that he had gained touch with 49th Battalion on his right and that enemy were preparing to counter attack on his left. This information was sent on to Brigade and Artillery support obtained.
The position of Companies was obscure, as no reports had had been received from any Company other than “A”. A message was despatched to “A” Company at 9.22 a.m. asking point where his left rested and whether he was in touch with “C” Company.
At 9.49 a.m. a message timed 7.25 a.m. was received from “B” Company that two of his platoons were in MOQUET FARM and two platoons at, and mostly to the right of 42, but he was not certain whether 42 was actualy held.
It was not yet known that “C” Company was to all intents and purposes out of consideration, and it appeared that there was a gap between “A” and “C” Companies and probably between “C” and “B” companies. The exact position of “D” Company was also obscure.
At 12.3 noon a message timed 10.59 a.m. was received from”A” Company accompanied with a sketch which showed that the 49th Battalion were apparently at 36 and that trench 36 – 03 was unoccupied by us and apparently unoccupied by anybody.
Also it was clear that his left was not connected up. The situation of “D” Company was also perplexing, as the envelope of my message (D 90) was marked “Opened by me – “D” Company in our section” and initialled by Lieut. D.S. MAXWELL. He also gave the information that he and Lieut Blakney were the only 52nd Officers in that part of the trench. The questioning of messengers elicited the fact that very few of “D” Coy” were in the trench. A message was despatched to “A” Company endeavouring to clear this matter up.
About 1 o’clock the runner sent to “C” Company at 8.5 a.m. returned with the report that he could find nothing of “C” Company and that the Hostile Barrage prevented him approaching line 42-73. About mid day I was informed by the 51st Battn. That only about 30 men of the 52nd could be seen in the vicinity of point 42. Later in the afternoon 10 men from “B” Company reported at Battalion Headquarters and stated that they had come from somewhere near point 42 and had not seen any others of “B” Company by them.
The question of carriers for supplies had become acute, the parties detailled by Companies not being able to cope with the demand. The two bomb teams held in reserve were ordered to keep up the supply of bombs and fill vacancies in teams as required.
At 2.25 p.m. on their return from the Front Line, what remained of these teams were despatched to “A” Company for the purpose of occupying trench 03-36 and a message accompanied with a sketch sent to “A” Company that this trench be made good. The bombers arrived at “A” Company but the runner failed to deliver his despatch. At 3.30 p.m. Nos. 1 and 2 companies of the 13th canadian Battalion were placed under my command. No. 1 Company was directedto reinforce “A” Company, moving by SUNKEN ROAD 21-22-24.
The Battalion Intelligence Officer personnaly directed them to point 21 and the company reinforced the firing line at daylight with only 2 casualties. No. 2 Company was directed to occupy Line 21-01-91-59 and obtain touch with 50th Battalion on the left. The Battalion Intelligence Officer directed this company along its frontage and pointed out Communications Trenches 01-03 and 91-73. Orders were given for No. 2 Canadian Company to bomb up trench 91-73 put in a stop and place a Lewis Gun to protect Left Flank from direction of 49 and MOQUET FARM.
At 5.55 p.m. on Orders received from Brigade instructions were issued to No 1, Canadian Company to bomb to point 42 and along Communications Trenches running NORTH from 73 and 42 placeing stops in these later. This company reported that they eventually gained 73 and had put a stop about 60 yards down trench towards 01. Subsequent definitions of frontage, however, leads to the belief that it wa at 28-04 where they were held up and put up a barricade and possibly a stop was put on Trench 03-01.

…The next paragraph of the War Diary Appendix refers to 3.35 pm on the 4th and goes on to describe further action by the Canadian Reinforcements.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bushfire in May

The Adelaide Hills burning in May.
Only two weeks to winter and we still can have a bushfire. This coming summer will be bad I think.
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