Silent Heroes - 199 Sgt John Reilly

A couple of years ago I was shown a photocopy of a handwritten diary detailing some of the 1st World War experiences of a young man from Bega, NSW, John (Jack) Bernard Reilly. This diary is not in the collection of the Australian War Memorial at the time of writing. This is Jack's story.

My Photo
Location: Canberra, ACT, Australia

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Postscript To War

Some years ago a nice little movie was made called “Sliding Doors”. Its thesis was that each of us is confronted during our life with a series of “sliding doors” and the life experience we enjoy, or suffer, is a consequence of which door we pass through. Some of us may simplify the discussion by reference to “forks in the road”, or “choices”. Whichever term we adopt, there is little doubt that we have arrived at any particular point in our lives as a result of the choices we make along the way. (I guess this could result in deep philosophical argument, but lets not get too complicated.)

Similarly, as we travel those roads and make those choices, many of us leave clues, consciously or otherwise, to show that we have passed that way. Sometimes these clues are obscure, making the search difficult for those who follow.

So it is that we must accept the fact that, had Guglielmo Marconi and others not chosen to take the road leading to the invention of the wireless, or an English ploughman not stolen a horse in the late 1820's, this tale may not have been told.

In 1830 William Favell, Ploughman, arrived in Van Diemans Land transported for life for horse theft. He was to die in Hobart in 1842, without ever seeing his family again. However, in 1841 his son arrived and settled in Sydney with his young wife.

Years later, in June 1894 Frank Edward Favell, a descendant of William Favell, was born in Sydney NSW. Prior to WW1, Frank trained as a boilermaker and served in the Militia as a signaler. Upon his enlistment in 1914, Frank was posted to the 1st Division Signal Company and, in late 1914, sailed in the transport ship “Borda” for Egypt.

It is reasonable to surmise that, with his extended signals training, 181 Sapper Frank Favell was one of the more experienced personnel in a small unit, and would therefore be one of only a few trained in wireless operation at that time.

(At the outbreak of the First World War, the use of wireless for military communication was in its infancy. These early wireless sets, also sometimes called “Marconi Sets”, were not like your modern MP3. They were large cumbersome units the size of a medium refrigerator, draped with wires and aerials and attached to other devices required to generate power.)

John Bernard Reilly was born at Candelo, on the NSW South Coast, in 1890. Known as Jack to his family and friends, he was the son of a dairy farmer, although he subsequently chose a career with the NSW Railways.

As his employment required him to change location from time to time, he was in Murrurrundi when he, with thousands of other Australian men, volunteered for military service in August 1914. Arriving in Sydney with a batch of other recruits, he was posted to the 1st Battalion and commenced his training at Randwick. On the 18th of October 1914, the 1st Battalion with 199 Private Jack Reilly sailed in the “Afric” to join that great Armada assembling at Albany for the charge across the Indian Ocean.

Unknown to each other, Jack Reilly and Frank Favell cruised toward mayhem and glory.

Many of those who served during the First World War kept a written record of their thoughts and experiences. The Australian War Memorial is custodian to some of these precious documents, yet many have been lost or, at best, lie undiscovered in dusty collections of family artifacts. Attempts are being made to locate a diary thought to have been left by Frank Favell. However, recently to hand is a copy of a diary kept by Jack Reilly. It is two brief notes in this diary that form the basis for this little tale.

In his entry for November 28, 1914, Jack tells us of a “wireless received”. Again, on January 4, 1915, he mentions that he is “still with Headquarters Signalers training”. Given the small size of the 1st Division Signal Company and the level of technical knowledge required for wireless operation, it seems reasonable to guess that Jack would have met, known and been trained by Frank, amongst others.

At about 6am on the morning of the 25th of April 1915, Frank Favell struggled ashore at ANZAC Cove with No. 2 Section of the 1st Division Signals Company. Their task was to establish and maintain communications. Approximately 90 minutes later, the 1st Battalion, with Jack Reilly's A Company, landed in the same vicinity to commence an herendous four days of chaos and horror.

Jack was seriously wounded during the night of May 19/20 while repelling a massive Turkish counter attack. He was evacuated and subsequently recovered to serve the remainder of the war in England and France. He returned to Australia in 1919, but died at a relatively young age in 1942.

Frank was wounded at Lone Pine in August and was evacuated from Gallipoli shortly after. He eventually returned to Australia and was medically discharged in 1916. Twelve months later he re-enlisted and served in the Middle East, where he was again wounded. Frank lived to a good age, passing away in 1967.

Decades after the end of WW1, in the mid seventies, Anthony (Tony) Favelle (yes, an “e” was added in the 1920s) was born in Gosford NSW. Tony is a direct descendant of the William Favell mentioned above, transported to Van Diemans Land, and thus related to Frank Favell. In the same year Lisa Clements was born in Canberra. Lisa is related, on her mothers side, to Jack Reilly. In 2001, Tony and Lisa were married and their first child, a son, was born in mid 2008.

While we cannot credit Frank and Jack's brief association with Tony and Lisa's marriage, we would not have discovered the connection had Jack Reilly not chosen to put his experiences on paper. Nevertheless, this tale does serve to remind us that our ancestors made certain choices which mapped their lives and provided the foundation for our own.

It is possible some of those “maps” rest uneasily in that pile of old boxes “out back”. Perhaps we should dust them off and take a peak!

Jack's Mates

Jack Reilly's Mates
Throughout his diary, Jack Reilly is very thorough in mentioning the names of people with whom he comes into contact. In all, there are 38 people whose names he provides (excluding the famous such as Generals, etc). Jack's story would not be complete without some mention, however brief, of the fate of those whose lives touched Jack during this period.

I have been successful in tracing the fate of 37 of those names, thanks to the excellent records made available by the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia. The only name I have been unable to trace is due to an incomplete entry on the copy of Jack's diary available to me. This will probably be corrected upon further advice.

The following information commences with the date each individual is first mentioned in the diary:

4 September 1914 – Fred Banks
311 - Frederick Alfred Banks was a 36 year old station master when he enlisted on 17th August 1914. He was posted to B Company, 3rd Battalion and travelled to Egypt with the first Expeditionary Force. He was admitted to hospital in Cairo on the 8th February 1915 and was returned to Australia on 4th May 1915. He was subsequently discharged as unfit in June 1915.

16 October 1914 - Stan Asquith
185 - Stanley Clarence Asquith joined A Company, 1st Battalion in August 1914. He was discharged on the 29th September 1914 on medical grounds.

28 October 1914 – Major Dawson
Major Ross Campbell Dawson was 34 years old when he enlisted on the 27th August 1914. He was appointed OIC A Company, 1st Battalion, and was the officer whose signature appears on a great many of the Attestation Papers of those men who enlisted at that time. He was wounded with a bullet wound to the neck on the 25th April 1915 as his troops were attempting to establish themselves on that first day. He returned to duty on the 21st of June, but was subsequently seconded from duty on the 29th October 1915. He suffered a septic arm in January 1916 and embarked for Australia later that month. Dawson was subsequently diagnosed with nervous depression, insomnia and neurasthenia and was discharged in June 1916. He died on the 22nd August 1947.

28 October 1914 – R. Barri......?
Unable to trace due to incomplete name.

28 October 1914 - Capt B I Swannell
Major Blair Inskip Swannell born in Britain on th 20th August 1875. He was an engineer who was a veteran of the South African Campaign (the Boer War) and thus one of the more experienced officers in the 1st AIF at that time. The exact fate of Major Swannell is not known. He was at the forefront of the 1st Battalion when it landed on the morning of 25th April. It appears that, with Sgt Larkin and others he reached the feature known as Baby 700. He is listed as KIA on April 25 1914, but his body was never identified (this was a common fate of many at Gallipoli). His identity disc was located on the 2nd of May by a Captain Bigwithen of the NZ Expeditionary Force.

28 October 1914 – Sgt Larkin MLA for Willoughby
321 - Edward Rinnex Larkin was the 34 year old Member for Willoughby in the NSW Legislative Assembly. He enlisted on the 21st August 1914 and joined the 1st Battalion. Larkin landed with A company and was reported KIA on the 25th April or 2nd of May. His remains are buried in the Valley of Death at Gallipoli and he was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches.

28 October 1914 – R J Massie
Robert John Allwright Massie was born on the 8th of July 1890 and joined the 4th Battalion on the 31st August 1914. During his service he rose to the rank of Lt Colonel. Massie was wounded four times at Gallipoli and again while serving in France with the 33rd Battalion. During his service he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Croix de Guerre and Mentioned in Dispatches on four occasions. He returned to Australia in 1919.

8 November 1914 – Private Kendall
147A - Varley Haddon Kendal enlisted on 2nd of September 1914 and joined A Company of the 3rd Battalion. While travelling to Egypt he contracted pneumonia and died on the 8th of November 1914. He was buried at sea somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

13 November 1914 – Adams
134 - James William Adams was a 22 year old plumber when he enlisted on the 22nd of August 1914. He joined the 1st Battalion and landed at ANZAC on 25th of April, where he received a gunshot wound to the leg. He rejoined his unit on the 22nd of June, but suffered a serious influenza attack on the 13th of August, just a few days after the attack on Lone Pine. He was evacuated to England in September and served the remainder of the war in England and France. He returned to Australia on the 27th of January 1919.

13 November 1914 – Lomas
188 – Geoffrey Ronald Lomas joined the 1st Battalion on the 1st September 1914. He was 19 years of age and had been working as a stockman. He received a gunshot wound to the arm at Gallipoli on the 15th of May 1915. Taking some months to recover, he didn't return to his unit until the 13th of November of that year, just as the temperature was starting to plummet. He served throughout the war in England & France, but seems to have suffered greatly from continuing bouts of trench fever. He returned to Australia on the 22nd of November 1918.

13 November 1914 – Jack Moir
1117 – John Moir was a 23 year old labourer who enlisted with the 1st Battalion on the 29th of August 1914. He returned to Australia on the 15th of March 1915 and was discharged.

14 November 1914 – Lance Corp. Churchill
111 – Henry Bass Churchill, born in England, was a 22 year old bank clerk when he enlisted with the 1st Battalion on the 17th of August 1914. He was granted a commission in the Imperial (British) Army and appears to have served with those forces until the conclusion of the war. He does not appear to have returned to Australia, settling in England after the war.

25 November 1914 – Lieutenant King
Second Lieutenant Edward Vivian King was an electrical engineer when he enlisted on the 3rd of September 1914. He returned to Australia on the 20th of October 1915.

18 December 1914 – J. Cairns
201 – John Cairns was a 29 year old bookkeeper from Goondawindi. He joined the 1st Battalion on the 4th of September 1914. He appears to have landed at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915, but was sent to hospital by his commanding officer a few days later, about the 1st of May. He was diagnosed with venereal disease and sent back to Australia and discharged in August 1915.

18 December 1914 – J. Grant
104 – John James Grant was a 34 year old coachman from Woolahra when he joined the 1st Battalion on the 18th of August 1914. Arriving in Egypt with his unit, his horse skills were identified and he was transferred to 1st Division HQ as a groom, in which capacity he served throughout the war. He returned to Australia on the 9th 0f April 1919, no doubt considering himself to be one of the luckiest men alive.

20 January 1915 – D. Carter
202 – David William Carter enlisted with the 1st Battalion on the 3rd of September 1915. He was 22 years of age and had been employed as a railway shunter. Landing at Gallipoli, he was wounded sometime between the 25th and 29th of April and was evacuated to hospital. Carter returned to his unit in June, survived the attack on Lone Pine in August, was promoted to corporal in November and was sent to Egypt following the Gallipoli evacuation. Carter was promoted to Sergeant in February 1916 and arrived in France on the 28th of March. He was killed in action in the vicinity of Poziers, sometime between the 22nd & 25th of May 1916 and is buried in Poziers British Cemetery.

20 January 1915 – Billington
140 – Leslie James Billington was a 22 year old English boy when he joined the 1st Battalion on the 24th of August 1914. He was wounded at Lone Pine between the 6th & 9th of August 1915. Recovering from his wounds, he served throughout the war, achieving the rank of sergeant, and returned to Australia in May 1919.

20 February 1915 – Alan Tindale
178 – Allen Reginald Tindale was 19 years of age when he joined the 1st Battalion on the 1st of September 1914. Describing himself as a clerk when he enlisted, he landed at Gallipoli on the 25th of April with his unit. Tindale received a gunshot wound to the arm at ANZAC on the 5th of June, but was able to return to duty in August. He was promoted to corporal and remained at Gallipoli until the evacuation. Tindale was promoted to Sergeant in February 1916 and received a commission to 2nd Lieutenant in April of that year. Sent to France, he was wounded in May 1916 and again, more seriously, in April 1917. Tindale was returned to Australia in November 1917 where he was invalided from the army.

20 February 1915 – H. Reaves
179 - Harry Morell Reeve was a 20 year old shearer upon his enlistment in the 1st Battalion on the 1st of September 1914. He received a gunshot wound to the hand sometime between the 25th and 29th of April, but returned to his unit on the 8th of May. Harry was again wounded on the 5th of June and died of his wounds the next day. He was buried at sea.

20 February 1915 – Bill Barry
362 – William John Barry was a 29 year old railway shunter when he enlisted on the 24th 0f August 1914. He joined the number 3 Battery, Australian Field Artillery and served at Gallipoli, England and France. He returned to Australia on the 4th of December 1918.

20 February 1915 – Jim Greenwood
896 – James Esrick Greenwood was a 24 year old labourer from Bega when he joined the 15th Battalion in 1914. Landing at Gallipoli on the 25th of April, he was promoted to Corporal on the 10th of May, Sergeant on the 11th of May, Company Sergeant Major on the 29th of May and Lieutenant on the 5th of October 1917. Greenwood was wounded on the 4th of July 1918, gassed on the 28th of August 1918 and returned to Australia in July 1919. Jim Greenwood received the Military Cross during his period of service.

8 March 1915 – P. Wise
796 – James Peel Wise was a farmer from Tamworth when he enlisted in the 13th Battalion on the 17th of September 1914. He was 21 years old. Wise was promoted to Corporal in November 1915, while at Gallipoli, and to Sergeant in March 1916. Serving in France, he was wounded in action in November 1916 and was unable to return to his unit until September 1917. Wise was again promoted to Company Sergeant Major in November of that year and eventually returned to Australia on the 23rd of March 1919. Wise was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on the 18th of June 1918.

8 March 1915 – Colin Hall
2707 – Colin Fletcher Hall was a 23 year old farmer from Tamworth. He enlisted in the Australian Army Service Corps as a Driver on the 22nd of September 1914. He served in both Gallipoli and France, being awarded the Military Medal in November 1917. Hall returned to Australia in December 1918.

18 March 1915 – Charlie Lee
100 – Charles Lee was a horse driver and just 21 years of age when he joined the 1st Battalion on the 17th of August 1914. Lee was reported as Missing on the 5th of June 1915 (at Gallipoli) and a subsequent Court of Enquiry confirmed that he had been Killed in Action on that date.

18 March 1915 – Sid Samson
189 - Sidney John Samson was 24 years old and a mechanic when he enlisted in the 1st Battalion in 1914. He was wounded at Gallipoli between the 25 and 30th of April 1915, and again in France on the 11th of April 1917. While he returned to his unit in December 1917, he was sent back to Australia in August 1918.

25 March 1915 – Norman Fraser
1154 – Norman Byron Fraser joined A Company of the 1st Battalion on the 26th of August 1914. He was 19 years old, from Byron Bay and had been working as a clerk. A Court of Enquiry in January 1916 determined that Fraser had been Killed in Action at Gallipoli on the 2nd of May 1915. He has no known grave.

25 March 1915 – Eric Ritchie
1377 – Eric Cecil Howard Ritchie enlisted in the 3rd Battalion on the 19th of August 1914. He was from Bega, 24 years of age and had been employed as a bank clerk. Ritchie suffered from Jaundice and hepatitis late in the Gallipoli campaign.. He was promoted to Lieutenant in August 1917, but was Killed in Action in Belgium the next month. He is buried at Tyne Cot British Cemetery.

14 April 1915 – Tom Whiteley
88 – George Thomas Whiteley was 25 year old mounted police trooper from Bega when he joined the 4th Battalion on the 25th of August 1914. He transferred to 1st Division HQ in March 1915 and was wounded in Gallipoli on the 30th of April 1915. Whiteley returned to Australia in December 1918, having been married in Britain.

25 April 1915 – Bob Burns
719 – Robert Burns was born in Newcastle in 1890. He was employed as a carpenter when he joined the 2nd Battalion on the 22nd of August 1914. Burns served in Gallipoli from the landing, although he did suffer from influenza in August 1915. Promoted to Sergeant on the 26th of October 1916, while serving in France, he was subsequently wounded a few days later. Burns married an English lass in January 1918 and returned to Australia in May 1919.

2 May 1915 – Ted Smith
219 – Edward Ellis Smith was a 23 year old labourer from Kempsey when he enlisted in the 13th Battalion on the 1st of October 1914. He injured his knee at Gallipoli in late May 1915 and took some time to recover. Returning to his unit in France in 1916, he was wounded in December of that year, again in February 1918 and once more on the 28th 0f March 1918. Smith appears to have married a girl in Malta in March 1916.

2 May 1915 – Cousin Pat
97 – Patrick Joseph Reilly was a 37 year old platelayer from Bungendore when he enlisted in the 1st Battalion on the 17th of August 1914. He was wounded on the 25th of April at Gallipoli and again on the the 10th of August during the attack and later defence at Lone Pine. This wound was more severe and he returned to Australia in December 1915. Pat was medically discharged in August 1916.

13 May 1915 – Tas Bland
376 – Archibald Atkinson Bland was 26 years of age and from Bega when he enlisted on the 1st of September 1914. Joining the 1st Light Horse, he was wounded at Gallipoli on the 18th of June 1915. He was returned to Australia and subsequently discharged in March 1916. A stubborn lad, he re-enlisted in the 6th Australian Field Artillery and served until the end of the war in France. Bland returned to Australia in February 1919.

13 May 1915 – Lance Cpl MacKenzie
341 – Hector McKenzie was 28 and a Launch Proprietor when he joined A Company, 1st Battalion, on the 24th of August 1914. He was killed in action at Gallipoli on the 10th of May 1915.

13 May 1915 – Sam Weingott
127 – Samuel Weingott was 21 years of age when he enlisted on the 24th of August 1914. A taylors cutter from Sydney when he joined the 1st Battalion, he succumbed to wounds received at Gallipoli and died at sea on the 5th of June 1915. Prior to his death, he specifically requested not to receive a Christian burial. Sam was one of four brothers who enlisted in the AIF. His brother Alexander was killed in action at the landing at Gallipoli on the 25th of April 1915.

14 May 1915 – Dick Edwards
1250 – Richard William Edwards was an engine driver who was born in Wales in 1880. He joined the 1st Battalion on the 22nd of October 1914 and promoted to Sergeant in December 1914. Following a shell blast injury at Gallipoli, he was returned to Australia and discharged in January 1916.

14 May 1915 – Ted Weppler
385 – Edward Weppler was a 29 tear old carter from Bega when he enlisted on th 1st of September 1914. He joined the 1st Light Horse, serving at Gallipoli and the Middle East for the duration of the war. Although he seems to have suffered repeated bouts of illness, he did not return to Australia until January 1919.

14 May 1915 – Brideson
167 – John Thomas Brideson was born in 1894 and was working as a stockman in the Camoweal district when he enlisted in the 1st Battalion on the 30th of August 1914. He was admitted to hospital in Mena in March 1915, suffering from Measles. Brideson rejoined his unit at Gallipoli on the 7th of May 1915, was wounded on the 13th of May and died of wounds on the 14th of May. He was buried at sea.

20 May 1915 – Joe Dietze
94 – Sandoe Joseph Henry Dietze, AKA Joseph Henry Dietze and Joseph Henry Sandoe. He was born in Cornwall in 1894 as Joseph Henry Sandoe but due to his mother's remarriage early in his life, he preferred to be known by his stepfathers name of Dietze. He joined the 1st Battalion on the 17th of August 1914. Dietze was wounded at Gallipoli on the 28th of May and again on the 27th of August 1915. Promoted to Company Quarter Master Sergeant, he was wounded in France in January 1917. Following his commission to 2nd Lieutenant in August 1918, he was killed in action on the 18th of September.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Jack's War From 20 May 1915

The following details are an interpretation of the details on Jack's service file. These were hand written and sometimes difficult to follow. Certain abbreviations used by military personnel at the time are sometimes difficult to decipher, although valiant attempts have been made to provide an accurate description.
  • 20.5.15 Wounded Gallipoli – bullet wound to face & scalp
  • 28.5.15 Admitted to No.1 General Hospital after evacuation on Hospital Ship Saleka
  • 12.6.15 Admitted to convalescent hospital at Helouan recovering from wounds
  • 22.6.15 Discharged to Base Detail in Cairo fit for duty
  • 8.7.15 Admitted to No.1 General Hospital – asthma & wound to eyelid
  • 14.7.15 Discharged for duty
  • 19.2.16 Attached for duty No.1 General Hospital Heliopolis
  • 29.3.16 Temporarily attached to 1 Australian Pay Corp Cairo
  • 1.5.16 Embarked for overseas on Euripides
  • 10.8.16 Temp. attached Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 18.9.16 Promoted to temporary Lance Corporal
  • 26.10.16 Admitted to Western Fever Hospital (Throat) Found to be meningoccic carrier
  • 12.2.17 Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 13.2.17 Australian Army Pay Corp London
  • 27.4.17 Attached to AMLO at Havre
  • 22.11.17 Appointed acting Corporal whilst employed on embarkation duty.
  • 1.12.17 Appointed acting Sergeant Admin HQ
  • 17.4.18 To retain rank of acting Sergeant
  • 18.4.18 Admitted 2nd Auxiliary Hospital, Southall, bronchitis
  • 23.5.18 Discharged to duty
  • 24.5.18 Rejoined HQ London ex hospital; still acting Sergeant
  • 2.6.18 Proceeded overseas to France for embarkation duty at Calais
  • 4.10.18 Continues embarkation duty at Calais
  • 6.10.18 Admitted to hospital sick – bronchitis. Reverts to Lance Corporal
  • 24.10.18 Transferred to England – bronchitis
  • 20.11.18 Transferred 3rd Auxiliary Hospital Dartford
  • 2.12.18 Discharged hospital and granted furlough – Paris leave.
  • 11.12.18 Admitted Stationary Hospital in Paris, bronchitis. (Emb. Staff)
  • 18.12.18 Discharged from hospital
  • 27.12.18 HQ London – Lance Corporal – detached from attached duty for return to Australia (Emb.Staff) per Nevasa
  • 5.3.19 Boarded Nevasa
  • 15.3.19 To ships hospital sick bronchitis
  • 22.3.19 Discharged to duty ex ships hospital.
There are also notes on file relating to a small amount of correspondence, although copies of this correspondence do not appear to be available.

Next of kin were advised on 28 July 1915 that Jack had been wounded. A letter was received dated 4 October 1915 from family seeking further information regarding his injuries and a reply was forwarded dated the 11th of October.

Next of kin were also advised on 24th October 1918 when Jack entered Hospital on Oct 6th.
Following his return to Australia, Jack was discharged on the 27th of June 1919, having been away for nearly five years.

What sort of man was Jack when he returned we will never know. What we do know is that he was ill, suffering repeatedly from respiratory ailments. He was about 29 years of age when discharged, but it would be another 12 years before he married Rose Kirk in 1931, suggesting that it may have taken some time to recover, both mentally and physically.

While some WW1 commentators have referred to the post war suffering of veterans, it is not a subject that is generally discussed. Yet it is discussed, though not widely, that perhaps as many who died during the war (over 60,000) were to pass away in the next 20 years or so following their return. So it is no surprise to learn that 199 Sergeant John Bernard Reilly rejoined his mates from the 1st Battalion on the 18th of February 1942, at the age of just 52.

A hero now silent, but not forgotten.

A Soldier's Pain
by Laurie Favelle, April 2008

An image charging through the dark
Exploding in a cloud of red;
More appearing, bayonets seeking,
Leaping, screaming, falling dead.
Firing, loading never stop,
Rifle barking, barrel hot,
Score a hit with every shot,
Bursting flesh, set to rot.

And I weep!

Then the faces start their dance
Of men I used to know.
I count and name them passing by,
Drifting slowly row by row.
Empty eyes that cannot see....
Oh,Christ, is that me?
God please take me, set me free,
Am I your son upon his tree?

A silent scream explodes within,
I wake – another night in paradise.

And I weep.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jack's Diary - 1 May 1915 to 6 June 1915

1st May: Still resting at the base but expect to return to the firing line this afternoon. Left the base 7pm and returned to firing line.

2nd May: Still in trenches – things a bit quiet – plenty of bullets wizzing about but only an occasional shell. Our trench is on a hill at the top of a deep ravine. The ascent is so steep that we have to climb up on a rope about a hundred yards long. The rest is cut with steps. Went down in the gully this afternoon and made some tea. Met Ted Smith & P. Wise from Tamworth and had a yarn while the billy boiled. I forgot to enter that cousin Pat was wounded in the head last Sunday but not seriously. You can imagine what it was like here the first two days after we landed. When the roll was called there was only four hundred left in the 1st Battalion, that is 6 hundred killed & wounded. Although we had such a hot tome I came through without a scratch. The nearest touch I had was when a bullet penetrated the iron cap of my entrenching tool handle and remained in the wood.

9th May: Still in the firing line. We do 18 hours and then have 24 off, when we can boil our billys & cook our food. We are getting excellent food every day. We get tinned meat & vegetables, bacon, cheese & jam, with biscuits. I am in splendid health, never had such an appetite before. We are holding the Turks back now with ease. In some places our trenches are only 15 yards apart. The Turks have trench overlooking the gully up which our stores are brought & they have snipers picking off our men as they go along. One day they shot 14 stretcher bearers. We also have to go there for water. I have to laugh when I think of it, that every time one has to go for water one has to give the beggars a shot at oneself.

13th May: Light Horse landed yesterday & came up to reinforce us. I suppose they won't like doing infantry work. I saw Tas Bland. Went into trenches 7am. Very quiet so far. Can hear our fleet bombarding the Dardenelles. They shelled our trench. One burst & killed Lance Cpl MacKenzie & wounded another man. One missed Sam Weingott & I by inches and entered the bank on opposite side making a hole 5ft deep & 9 ins in diameter.

14th May: Light Horse in action. Saw Dick Edwards, Ted Weppler & Jim Greenwood. Did 18 hrs in the trenches. Had 6 hrs rest and now in again for 24 hrs. H. Reeve returned from hospital. He had been slightly wounded in the head. Snipers very busy in the gully. Another of our chaps killed in the trenches this afternoon, shot through the head. Brideson was shot by a sniper yesterday afternoon quite close to me. The bullet entered his groin and looked very bad.

Historical Comment

19-20 May 1915

CW Bean leads us into the events of this period:

At Anzac............. the foothold of the invaders was so slight that, in the opinion of the Turkish staff, a trifling success must drive them back to the sea.
“ The position at Anzac,” wrote the chief of the Turkish general staff after the war, “was without parallel in history. The opposing trenches were so close together, and the line of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps was very close to the sea. Consequently they were much confined, and would make every effort to enlarge their position.”
For these reasons von Sanders decided, as he himself states, to drive away his enemy from Anzac at least by “one last decisive attack.” Fresh Turkish troops for this offensive became available about the middle of May. “The plan,” writes Kiazim Pasha, “was to attack before day-break, drive the Anzac troops from their trenches, and follow them down to the sea.”
The Turkish troops were to be secretly massed during the night of the 18th, and at 3.30, while it was still dark, were to rush at all points and at the same moment across the narrow space separating the opposing lines. During the night of May 18th the final dispositions were carried out. The actual infantry numbered about 42,000.
“The divisions,” says Kiazim Pasha, “were good. The 2nd and 16th were fresh; the other two had taken part in all the previous fighting.”
On May 18th, for the first time since the Landing, the Turkish rifle-fire at Anzac dwindled, until for minutes together, scarcely a shot was fired. The strange peacefulness of the day was for a long time broken only by the activity of the newly-emplaced Turkish 8-inch howitzer on Chunuk Bair, which regularly threw its heavy shell into Courtney’s Post and the head of Monash Valley.
At 5 p m , however, the enemy opened from all sides the heaviest bombardment yet experienced at Anzac. This storm fell chiefly upon the Australian line from the Pimple northwards to Courtney’s, the shells arriving from south, east, and north. The orderly room of the 2nd Battalion was hit; from a position on Mortar Ridge three guns were fired against the line of the 1st Brigade on MacLaurin’s Hill, their crews and the officers directing them being plainly visible from Scott’s Trench, which they enfiladed at 600 yards range.

So the scene is set for this Turkish attempt to end the stalemate at Anzac. They did succeed in keeping their arrangements secret but there was a strong suspicion amongst the Anzacs at all levels that something was up. Accordingly, the men were stood too at 3am and plans were made for reserves to be ready if needed.

The story of what took place, as we can read in Jack's diary, generally describes what happened all along the line from around 3.30 am until a little after 5am on the 20th. In that short space of time some 10000 Turkish soldiers died. Over the next 24 hours or so the Turkish commanders attempted to renew the attack here and there, but enthusiasm was tempered by the incredible losses.

This attack did lead to a temporary truce on May 24, to allow for the burying of the dead, but Jack had left the field of battle by that time.


19th May: enemy shelling our trenches all day with 8.2 gun (“Jack Johnsons”). It was awful. Some of our chaps were blown to pieces. They made a mess of our trench and we expect an attack tonight.

20th May: the enemy attacked us at 3am and we gave them hell. Charlie Lee & I were together in the firing line and we had the sport of our lives. It was hard to miss them. They came up in swarms like lambs to the slaughter and all was necessary was to hold the rifle & fire. Some of the Turks Charlie & I shot are only 4 or 5 yards from our trench. We shot them down so quickly that the few who were left turned and fled and we shot them before they could get back. One Turk got into our trench & bayoneted two before he was shot. The attack lasted three hours and we slaughtered thousands. They are lying dead in heaps from one end of the firing line to the other (2 miles). Had a narrow escape about 6am. A bullet hit me on the back of the neck and passed through the collar of my coat without doing any harm. Fairly quiet all day. Expect another attack tonight.

9pm: On sentry in the firing line. Saw two Turks creeping up to throw bombs and I shot both of them.

3am: (21 May 1915) Expecting the attack & everybody ready. I am lying on the top of the parapet with bayonet fixed and loaded. When I got hit it felt as if I got hit in the face with a hammer which knocked me off the top into the bottom of the trench and then oblivion. Was only unconcious a few minutes, and was very surprised to find I was not dead. Got on my feet with assistance. They called for stretcher bearers but I said I could walk but I only got a few yards when I fainted from loss of blood. The Doctor patched me up and I went, with a stretcher bearer's assistance, to the field hospital on the beach, where I had my wounds dressed. They gave me some “borrie” and a cigarette. Needless to say I smoked two coming down. I was then put in a boat and taken to the Hospital Ship about 5 miles out. I was glad of a rest as I had no sleep for 2 days and nights. Met Joe Dietze on board. He did not recognise me I was in such a mess. Remained several days waiting for more wounded. Came round by Greek coast to Lemnos Island where we stayed a couple of days and took on more wounded. We were nine days reaching Alexandria. Had a terrible time with my eye which was most painful. Entrained for Cairo. On the way the nurses gave us tea and bread and butter, oranges and cigarettes. Arrived at Heliopolis about 8pm. Taken by motor to the Palace. Was then motored to Luna Park Hospital.

6th June: still in Hospital – doing fine – wounds all fine but have bullet in jaw to be taken out.

This is the last entry in Jack's diary.



Jack appears to have made his last diary entries after the events he was recording. Not surprising considering the somewhat hectic time being experienced at Gallipoli and his subsequent wounds. As a result, his recollection of his last 48 hours at Gallipoli is actually one day ahead of actual events. Jack was wounded, and the action which caused his wounds, on the 20th of May 1915, not the 21st. This is supported by his Service Record, the 1st Battalion War Diary and the commentary of C W Bean, Official Historian.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 25 April 1915 to 29 April 1915

Historical Comment
For those who landed on Gallipoli at the commencement of the campaign, the period from 25 – 29 April was one of desperate struggle.

(Morning 25.4.15 1st Btn below Plugges Plateau, ANZAC Cove)
There had been a plan, a grand plan. The plan said that the British and French should land at Cape Helles on the southern end of the Gallipoli Peninsular and that the Anzacs should land further north, around Gabe Tepe, about halfway up the coast towards Suvla Bay.
The plan said the the Turk wouldn't have the “ticker” for a serious resistance.

The plan said that the British/French forces would join with the Anzac troops and sweep easily into Constantinople. The plan was wrong.

The plan didn't count on the skill of the German commander of the Turkish forces, General von Sanders.

The plan didn't count on the courage and determination of the Turkish commander facing the Anzacs, Mustafa Kemal, later to become Kemal Attaturk, President of Turkey.

The plan didn't count on the desperate courage of the Turkish soldier, fighting for his homeland.

Finally, the plan didn't count on the Anzacs being dumped, bunched up and confused, on a narrow little cove with steep, gorse covered terrain immediately behind.

And there was no “Plan B”.

The Australian 3rd Brigade was tasked with being the first ashore and providing the covering force. That is, take the high country, secure the beach and hold on until reinforced. The 3rd Brigade was tough, largely made up of miners from Mount Morgan, Broken Hill, Moonta, the WA goldfields and Tasmanian tin mines. They took the heights and secured the beach, but to hold it would require great courage and enormous effort.

The men of Jack's 1st Battalion, waiting with a mixture of excitement and apprehension aboard the Minnewaska, could hear the gunfire and, as the sun rose, saw the figures of 3rd Brigade men silhouetted against the skyline on the heights overlooking the beach.

The 1st Battalion Diary for the 25th of April reads thus:

6.15am Commenced disembarkation
7.40am Landed without loss
8.00am Received orders to send company forward
8.35am B Company ordered forward but were halted
9.30am Received orders to reinforce Col. MacLagan of the 3rd Brigade
10am The whole battalion was thrown into the firing line and worked independently of battalion head quarters."

There are no further entries until the 29th when it is noted that “the battalion was withdrawn from the firing line to rest and reorganise”. It was then that the cost of those first four days become evident to all.

The 1st Battalion roll call on the 29th told the story as a little over 400 of the 973 officers and men who landed were present. Many simply disappeared, blown to fragments of rotting flesh, or lying unburied in no mans land, their scattered and anonymous bones not to be discovered until 1919, if then.

Whoever these men thought they were when they climbed into the landing boats on the 25th, the survivors were very different people four days later.
It Begins
By Laurie Favelle
On our own now, the launches gone,
With sailors bending to the oar.
In silence, with thoughts too deep,
We contemplate the coming chore!
It's a game no longer.
25th April 1915(Sunday): Landed on Gallipoli about 7am under fire and got a hot time. We had to advance and reinforce the 3rd Brigade. When we got to the top of the hill it was like hell. Shrapnel and explosive bullets rained on us like hail. A great many of our chaps were killed and wounded. Two of my best mates, Jim Adams and Bob Burns were severely wounded and I heard since that Bob had died.

29th April: The battle is still raging and the 1st Battalion has been relieved in the trenches and sent back to the base to rest. Had a bathe in the sea and had some tea which has greatly refreshed me. Thank God I am still safe, but I believe we have a hot time ahead yet.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 1 April 1915 to 24 April 1915

1st April: Reviewed by Sir Ian Hamilton.

3rd April: All leave stopped. Went to Cairo to get money from the bank. Had a tight squeeze to get through on a crook pass. Also had a job to get money owing to not having my identification disc with me. Left camp at 6pm to entrain for destination unknown. Arrived Alexandria 5am. Went aboard “Minnewaska”. Rumoured we are going to Dardenelles. Loading goods all day. J. Cairns and I got out and went up town. Got back about an hour before we left the wharf and anchored in mid stream.

10th April: Left 6am and steamed into Mediteranian Sea. Weather a bit choppy.

11th April: Bit of a swell on. Feel a bit sick. Making straight for Dardenelles where we are to land and take Constantinople.

12th April: Arrived at Lemnos Island where we remain awaiting orders. Greeks came alongside selling fruit which was very acceptable.
14th April: Still anchored in harbour of Ladros. Great fleet of troopships, man of wars, submarines, etc in port awaiting orders.
Went ashore at Lemnos today in ships boat and marched through Greek village. Very picturesque and clean, a contrast to arab villages we been accustomed to see. Saw a number of humped cattle. Had lunch ashore and then returned to Minnewaska. Met Tom Whiteley from Bega and Colin Hall from Attunga aboard.
(1st Btn boat drill Lemnos Harbour.umpCAPJKK9P)
17th April: Went ashore today and had a good walk around island. It is very pretty country. The hills are very green and covered with pretty wild flowers. Everewhere are green fields of wheat and growing thickly between the stalks are beautiful red poppies.
We marched through the village of Madros. The houses are built of stone with tiled roof are very close together but look clean and picturesque and remind me of picture I have seen of a Swiss village. There are soldiers everywhere, English, French and Australians. The Harbour is a fine sight from the hills being almost crammed with troopships, man of wars, submarines, etc. we return to the ship about 3pm. Our chaps captured a Turk spy yesterday and brought him aboard.

18th April (Sunday): General Birdwood spoke a few words to us. He is a fine stamp of a man and one couldn't help but like him. A seaplane flew around the harbour this afternoon. It was a fine sight.
Historical Comment
General Birdwood clearly understood that the Australian soldier was different in attitude to his English counterpart and, therefore, needed to be handled differently.
Chapter 7 of Beans “History” describes some of the qualities of General Birdwood.

"From the first day when, strolling round the Zoological Gardens at Gizeh, he found many an Australian youngster gazing at the cages, he chatted simply to them, chaffed them, and treated them not as professional soldiers, but as the natural human beings they always were. Moreover he never made the mistake of setting before them low or selfish ideals. His appeal to them from first to last was based upon the highest and most honourable grounds. Sometimes he asked too much of them, but he always asked it for a worthy reason-the general good for which the allies were fighting. And that was always the way to appeal to the Australian. Birdwood was ambitious, but he was a man of intense uprightness. If he realised that a thing was wrong, nothing would induce him to do it. Above all he possessed the quality, which went straight to the heart of Australians, that of extreme personal bravery.
All these attributes made Birdwood a rare leader-undoubtedly one of the greatest leaders of men possessed by the British Army during the war. Though of good general sense and ability, he was probably not outstanding as a tactician, nor had he the cast of mind peculiar to an organiser. His delight was to be out in the field among his men, cheering them by his talk, feeling the pulse of them. He would come back from the front apparently far more interested in the spirits and condition of the men than in the tactical situation. Indeed the importance which he attached to small things was constantly a puzzle to outsiders. He wrote personally to every officer who was decorated, and his correspondence with anxious or distressed relations in Australia was enormous. When addressing the men, he constantly concluded, with a smile : “And, mind, whatever you do, write regularly to your mothers and wives and sweethearts because, if you don't, they will write to me.’’

24th April: Left Harbour of Ladros 5am. Anchored north of Lemnos Island. Expect to land on Gallipoli Peninsula tomorrow morning.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 1 January 1915 to 27 March 1915

1st January: Start New Year well by getting 7 days pack drill for playing up on parade.
Historical Comment
It is perhaps useful to pause at this stage and examine some issues that were developing within the Australian ranks. This is not to suggest that Jack Reilly was behaving inappropriately. However, some of those with whom he associated and who are mentioned in his diary could be described as overzealous in their pursuit of mischief. CW Bean describes the situation perfectly:

“The Australian then, and to the end of the war, was never at heart a regular soldier. Off parade he was a civilian bent upon seeing the world and upon drawing from it whatever experience he could, useful or otherwise, while the opportunity lasted. The troops had been cooped up for nearly two months in transports without leave at any port. A few broke ship by climbing down the anchor-chains, or by similar pranks-largely youngsters who wanted to see Colombo, and who considered the visit cheaply bought with a fine of a month’s pay. They had money. The youngsters among them were bursting with high spirits, ready for any adventure, reckless of the cost. Much of this behavior was little more than high spirits. The trams constantly went into Cairo crowded on footboard and roof with many more soldiers than had leave to go. On New Year’s night the stream of returning motor-cars, gharries, and men on donkeys stretched from Gizeh to Mena-five miles of swiftly-moving carriage-lights. General Birdwood’s own motor-car was taken from the front of his headquarters, and was found some hours later deserted on the sand in the heart of Mena Camp. The General took the occurrence for what it was worth-a prank of boys who would have followed him to death and beyond.
At the same time matters were swiftly coming to a point when discipline in the A.I.F. must either be upheld or abandoned. Besides the high spirit of the troops there existed a very different cause of trouble. A much graver class of crime was appearing--heavy drinking, desertion, attacks upon natives, in some instances robbery. In an extraordinary proportion of cases the serious trouble came from one class of man-the old soldier. A large number of these men were not Australians, though a set of Australian criminals and sharpers was added to them. The Australian name was suffering heavily from their drinking and slovenliness. The New Zealand force had suffered from a similar class, but steps had been taken to expel it. Some New Zealand officers were by now encouraging their men to have nothing to do with the Australians, but to show by their neat dress and sobriety that there was a wide difference between the two forces. This attitude, which was to some extent supported by the New Zealand commanders, led to a certain coolness between Australian and New Zealand troops in Cairo. General Maxwell drew the attention of General Birdwood to the conduct of a section of the Australians, and Birdwood, through General Bridges, wrote appealing to their finer spirit not to let their country’s reputation suffer at the hands of a small minority. Early in January about 300 men of the 1st Australian Division were absent without leave in Egypt. Though they were technically deserters, they could not, under the Australian regulations, nor indeed in fairness, be shot. At this critical moment in the history of the A.I.F. Bridges was compelled to choose some other punishment to be the extreme penalty among its members. That upon which he decided was the sending of a man back to Australia to be discharged from the army. In order to avoid criticism, or the raising of questions as to why the men were returned, he asked the official war correspondent to write to the Australian newspapers a letter explaining the position. This letter came as a shock to Australia, and was keenly resented by the greater part of the force. But the wisdom of the step which Bridges took was never questioned. His country knew why these men were sent back, and no man, returned for having endangered its good name, ever raised his voice in Australia.”
Following from the above, the 1st Battalion War Diary for the 7th & 8th of January has the following entry:
“Leave stopped for whole Division on account of number of absentees.”

4th January: Still with Headquarters Signallers training.

6th January: Arabs weeping & wailing for their dead preparatory to celebrating their Xmas which takes place next day.

8th January: Wind blowing very badly – sand & dust awful.

10th January: Witnessed Mahammed burial. Very interesting.

20th January: D. Carter knocked Billington out for giving him up.

8th February: Battalion route march along Mena Road for about six miles then branched to the right through fields & native villages. Chief village named Esma. After a 12 mile march we bivouacked within a short distance of the Sakkara Pyramids. After lunch of bread & butter we made an attack on the sand hills where (we) entrenched & held the position all night. At 9am we started to march back to camp.

12th February: Left camp 9am for 4 days bivouack – arrived at place about 1pm. Had dinner & rested till 5pm when we took up a position in the sandhills in defence of 2nd Battallion who was to attack us next morning. Operations finished 2pm next day.

14th February: Church parade at 9am.

(1st Battalion Band leading Battalion to Church Parade, Mena 1915)

Started on a night route march round one of the nile canals above the Sakkara Pyramids. We marched all night & attacked a position near the Pyramid. We then had breakfast & afterwards resumed operations in an attack on the 2nd Battalion which lasted till 1pm. We rested all the afternoon and then next morning we were addressed by the Brigadier who said he was pleased with our work & said it completed our brigade training; but unfortuately small pox had broken out amongst us and we would not be able to go to the front till the disease was stamped out. Left for Mena about 9am and arrived 12.30pm. In the afternoon we all had to be vaccinated again. The last three days have been resting.

20th February: General leave for 1st Battalion. Borrowed 50 piastres from the Major. Geoff Lomas, Alan Tindale, H. Reaves & I went to Cairo. Reaves & I went out to the Citadel. Marvelous sight. Saw and talked with some Indian soldiers who had been wounded at Ishmalia. Went to pictures at night. Alan & I were struck by two pretty French girls and tried to catch their eye. Bill Barry & I climbed the Great Pyramid. Met Jim Greenwood half way up. Had my photo taken on top of the Pyramid.

28th February: 3rd Battalion left for destination unknown.

8th March: Met P. Wise & Colin Hall from Tamworth.

18th March: Jack Cairns got tight and found his way into Major's tent about 3am in mistake for his own. He has been chaffed a deal about it since. All our tent on guard except Charlie Lee, Sid Samson & myself.
Nocturnal Indiscretion
By Laurie Favelle
Ah Jack, you're such a pain!
Grog goes down your throat
Like bathwater down a drain;
And when it explodes within your gut
The powersupply is shorted within your brain.
Major Dawson loves you like a son
But, he does prefer to sleep alone.
While he'll usually forgive exhuberant fun,
And frequently looks the other way,
When you snuggle up into his bed
Sober quick, and quickly run!
19th March: On fatigue all day. Went to pictures at night with Bill Barry. They staged a native dance called the Kan Kan & we pulled them off the stage.

25th March: Met Norman Fraser from Bega. Also met Eric Ritchie.

27th March: Fraser & I went to the gardens and saw two boats captured from the Turks at the canal. Afterwards went into the city & had a good time.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jack's Diary - 5 December 1914 to 30 December 1914

5th December: Left for Alexandria. Arrived Alexandria 10am. Fine port, great number of ships in port including German merchantmen. Rumoured that the Khedive has gone over to Turkey. Three men tried to scale ashore in a boat. Officer fired over their heads...hasty return. Busy day.

Sunday (6th December.Ed.) not kept by natives here. A Coy on fatigue all day. Troops disembarking. Broke leave with several others and got into the city. Had a good time & saw the sights of my life.

9th December: Entrain for Cairo. Miles of flat country under cultivation & irrigation. Saw many typical biblical scenes. It is said Egypt has not changed since the time of Christ & I quite believe it. See fields of maize, cotton & vegetables, fruit, etc. Arrive Cairo 1pm. All treated to hot cocoa & a hot roll each. Take tram for Pyramids where we encamp.
(1st Btn lines Mena Camp 1915.umpCALHR27N)

10th December: Visit Pyramids & Sphynx. Great sight.

11th December: Commence training in earnest. Days warm but nights very cold.
Historical Comment
CW Bean again:

“The 1st Australian Division, on its arrival at the Pyramids, plunged at once into the work of training. The staff divided the desert around Mena into three large training areas, one for each infantry brigade. The divisional light horse, artillery, and engineers were given stretches of desert outside of these; the transport and ambulances were allotted ground nearer camp. The various commanders were asked to submit, within the first few days, schemes of training. They were told that they could expect to devote a month to the training of companies, squadrons, or batteries; then ten days to training as battalions or regiments; after which they might work for ten days as brigades. If the division were not then required for the front, it would begin exercising as a whole division.
This training is worth more than passing mention, inasmuch as it was one of the finest achievements in the history of the A.I.F. It was scarcely realised at the time that its intensity was exceptional. A very limited leave was allowed in Cairo after hours. Almost from the morning of arrival training was carried out for at least eight hours, and often more, every day but Sundays. The infantry marched out early in the morning, each battalion to whatever portion of its brigade area had been assigned to it. There they split into companies. All day long, in every valley of the Sahara for miles around the Pyramids, were groups or lines of men advancing, retiring, drilling, or squatted near their piled arms listening to their officer. For many battalions there were several miles to be marched through soft sand every morning before the training area was reached, and to be marched back again each evening. At first, in order to harden the troops, they wore, as a rule, full kit with heavy packs. Their backs became drenched with perspiration, the bitter desert wind blew on them as they camped for their midday meal, and many deaths from pneumonia were attributed to this cause.
But that work made the Division.”

Training's Reality
By Laurie Favelle
The training now is bleedin' hard
No quater given or chance to slack
And, while tired, we are mighty fit.
We have become masters of the firing range,
And bayonet drill is just a breeze.
Yet...I worry when comes the time
To thrust my bayonet into flesh and bone,
And another's blood is warm upon my hands;
Will I suddenly grow old?
Its not cold fear or mortal dread
That wakens me at night.
Its a vision of the souless dead
With my face their final sight!
18th December: Broke leave & went to Cairo with J. Cairns & J. Grant. Had a good day.
22nd December: Riot in 2nd Battalion with some drunks. Shots fired but no-one hurt.

23rd December: J. Cairns & I got to Cairo on French leave. Hire a motor car & had a great drive in it. Dine at Hotel Metropole, left town at 9pm. Tram ran off line on high embankment. Had a narrow escape.

25th December: Xmas Day. Very quiet in camp. Had salmon, peas & tinned fruit for dinner. Went to the zoo after dinner & had a very pleasant time. Territorial fell off Sphinx & was killed.

30th December: Sir George Reid inspects troops. A Coy gets extra drill for bad behaviour.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 15 November 1914 to 3 December 1914

15th November: Arrived Colombo. Anchored harbour. Natives came alongside in canoes & we had ...?.. living for money. One had only one arm. Great fleet ships in port. British, Japanese & Russian gunboats.

17th November: Still anchored. Left Colombo 7pm. Pleasant atmosphere change.

21st November: Collision between Shropshire & Ascanius – great excitement – no one hurt.

24th November: Sighted Socotra Islands 9am. Very mountanous & barren coast. Great sight.

25th November: Drill competition won by engineers. 4th Section of A coy selected to compete. Some of us kicked over the traces & would not compete & got a great lecture from Lieut King. Sighted coast of Arabia about 2pm, arrived Aden 4.30pm. The sun rotted coast presented a great sight. High sugar loaf mountains rising straight out of the sea. Anchored outside for 12 hours.

26th November: Left Aden 6am passed troop ships bound for India on return journey. Heat very oppressive. Passed through Hells Gates into Red Sea at 6pm. Great shoal of porpoises in sight. Weather getting cooler.

28th November: Wireless received. We land at Ishmalia & entrain to Cairo to train for the front. Great disappointment as some seem to think we will not reach the seat of war.

30th November: Passed the 12 Apostles Islands. Great change from heat to cold.

1st December: Arrive at Suez....great sight. Some fine buildings along the shore. Nothing but desert in the distance. Arabs all around ship selling fruit, sweets, cigarettes, etc. We take in fresh water.

2nd December: Leave Suez & proceed through canal, great piece of engineering work about 50 yards wide. Pass Indian troops all along canal on both sides.

3rd December: Arrive Port Said about 4am. Anchored all day. Took in water. Great view of town from Afric's deck. Grand statue of DeLesseps, the builder of the Canal. Very dirty looking place. An English girl cooeed to us from a balcony.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 2 November 1914 to 14 November 1914

2nd November: Sea a bit rough boat rolling. Three Mess orderlies slipped down stairs with dishes of stew. A lot of us were gathered at the foot of the stairs waiting and cheering in anticipation of more orderlies coming to grief. Half way down one fell and threw stew all over us.

3rd November: High seas and rain.

4th November: Sea very calm, weather hot. Commence sleeping up on deck.

5th November: Orient liner Osterley passed us about 6.30pm crowded with passengers. Gave & received another ovation.

8th November: Private Kendall buried from the Euripides.

9th November: Late King Edwards Birthday the day on which fresh laurels were added to Australia, Viz. The capture & destruction of the German cruiser Emden by HMAS Sydney, one of our escort. The Emden during the night had passed within 6 miles of our line.
The Sydney set off and engaged her near Cocos Island & the Emden had to run ashore to prevent sinking.
The Sydney pursued capture & then sank the Emden's collier. Our casualties were 4 killed & 20 wounded. Emden's were 200 killed & wounded. Emden fired 1400 shots. Great exhultation on board transports – nearing the Equator.
Historical Comment
Entry from CW Bean's Official History reads:

“The news had come at 9.30 from the Sydney, then not far beyond the horizon, that she had sighted the enemy’s ship, and that it was steaming northward. As this northerly course might bring the enemy across the convoy’s track, Captain Silver had ordered the Ibuki and Melbourne to place themselves between the transports and the point where the enemy’s cruiser then was. At 10.45 a further wireless message arrived from the Sydney : “Am briskly engaging enemy.” At I 1.10 came the signal : “Emden beached and done for.” Although most of those in the transports were fairly certain that the enemy must be the Emden, this was the first definite information of the fact. The news spread quickly round the ships. The relief that this destroyer of British merchant ships had been scotched, and the pride that an Australian ship had done it, were intense. The parades were half interrupted: attention wandered; where a subaltern continued to lecture, a ripple of conversation persisted through the rear ranks. An order from General Bridges broke off work and gave the troops a half holiday.”

10th November: Heat terrible cannot stay below decks. Several affected with heat stroke.
Historical Comment
1st Battalion War Diary entry for this day, “Issued special notice as to precautions against sun stroke.”

11th November: Boxing & wrestling sports on board.

13th November: Adams and Lomas had a fight. Adams got a black eye. Crossed the line at 8am. No parades. Large canvas bath erected for the purpose of christening those who had not crossed the line. We had a great time on deck thowing wet towell at one another. Jack Moir threw a dish of water over an officer. We also nearly drowned a sergeant. He was very indignant, but the more he expostulated the more wet towels & buckets of water he got & eventually he had to run.

14th November: Major Dawson's birthday celebrated by A Coy. The Major treated us to cake & beer. Lance Corp. Churchill proposed the health of the Major who responded & we all wished him many happy returns. Sighted coast of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at 1pm.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Jack's Diary - 25 October 1914 to 1 November 1914

25th October: Arrived Albany on Sunday to wait for remainder of fleet. Anchored about two miles from the town. This is the meeting place for all Transports & the escort & the harbour is a picture to look at. The following is the names of our fleet except the New Zealanders:

A1 – Hymettus
A2 – Geelong
A3 – Orvicto
A4 – Pera
A5 – Omrah
A6 – Clan Mai.. (Maccorgriodole.Ed)
A7 – Medic
A8 - Argyleshire
A9 - Shropshire
A10 – Karoo
A11 – Ascanius
A12 – Salanha
A13 – Katuna
A14 - Euripides
A15 – Star of England
A16 – Star of Victoria
A17 – Port Lincoln
A18 - Wilshire
A19 - Afric
A20 - Hororata
A21 - Marero
A22 - Rangatera
A23 - Suffolk
A24 - Benalla
A25 – Anglo Egyptian
A26 - Armidale
A27 - Southern
A28 - Miltiades
New Zealanders as follows:

No. 3 Manganui
No. 4 Tahiti
No. 5 Ruapeku
No.6 Orari
No.7 Limerick
No. 8 Star of India
No. 9 Hawkes Bay
No. 10 Araiva
No. 11 Athena
No. 12 Mainana

It will thus be seen that we have a fine fleet of ships & what a fine hall (haul. Ed.) for Emden & Co. Hawkers have been busy all day bringing fruit aboard and soon found a ready sale for their wares. Apples & oranges for 2/- per dozen.
Church parade was held this morning for all religious sections. The lads are all busy fishing & one of them landed a shark this morning, about 4 ft long, a young grey nurse. All hands are fully occupied today whatching the arrival of the rest of the fleet. Our boat was the 13th to arrive. I don't know whether it sounds ominous or not.

Mon. 26 October 1914: It has been raining incessantly all day & rough into the bargain. Thank the Lord we are not in the Bight. Twenty three ships are now in harbour awaiting orders. Our Flagship is the Orvieto. Talk about the British Armada. We go alongside the pier tomorrow for fresh water & it is said we sail on Wednesday.

27 October 1914: Albany Harbour Tuesday 27/10/14: Tuesday was quite in keeping with the previous day of our stay here, wet, windy, cold & miserable & in consequence we were all herded down below like sheep in some of the trucks that leave the North-West.

28 October 1914: Wednesday broke fine and at last Sol shone forth in all his glory. The rest of the fleet arrived today. Last night a concert was held and some first class talent was brought to light. We have a few celebrities on board viz. Major Dawson of Bisley fame. He is C.O. Of the company I am in & is beloved by all. R. Barri...? champion ball puncher of the world whose exhibitions are delightful to watch, Capt. B. I. Swannell International footballer, Sergt Larkin MLA for Willoughby, R. J. Massie International cricketer & numerous other athletic lights. At time of writing we have no idea which route we are taking nor shall we because I believe we are under sealed orders.

30th October: we drew into the wharf to take fresh water. Advantage was taken of the stay at the wharf to take the men on parade. The outing was very much enjoyed & proved of great interest. We did in all about 5 miles through the town & outskirts. In the centre of the town is a magnificent monument erected in memory of the original Anthony Hordern who was born here.
Hundreds of people lined the line of march and gave us an enthusiastic welcome. In my opinion Albany possess a harbour second only to Sydney. The town is situated on the side of a hill & right round the hill is a magnificent drive from which you get a fine view of the Harbour same being enhanced by our 40 odd transports.

Saturday (31st October) broke fine and clear & all of us were up much earlier owing to the fire alarm sounding at 5.30am. We have had false alarms before but this was no practice. A fire was discovered in no. 6 hatch at the extreme end of the ship. It was put out in about half an hour. Sugar and other stores were destroyed. I believe this is the second time the Afric has been alight.
1st November: With everything in order we steamed out into the Indian Ocean. It was a great sight to see the great fleet of transports with escort in three lines, the greatest fleet that ever sailed in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Fleet Leaving Albany, WA, 1 November 1915 (AWM P00252.002)

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Jack's Diary - 25 August 1914 to 20 October 1914

The diary entries that follow have been transcribed from a photocopy of Jack's handwritten notes. By and large, his notes were easy to read and interpret with only the odd exception.
I have also included some historical commentary (any errors are my own) to provide context. I hope I have correctly acknowledged and attributed the material used for these purposes and extend apologies in advance where I have failed in this endeavour.
I would ask the reader to note that this work would not be possible without the resources made so freely available by the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia.
Finally, the odd original poetic contribution has been added, I hope with sensitivity. They are all my own work, in which case I accept the full force of any criticism.
Laurie Favelle
Canberra ACT 2009

Historical Comment
At this point it may be of help to have some understanding of the military formation Australia was attempting to put together in those early days of the war in 1914.

The military was charged with forming the 1st Australian Division. The main components of this Division were to be four infantry brigades, each brigade would have four infantry battalions and each battalion would have eight (later changed to four) infantry companies. In turn each company would be comprised of a number of platoons, usually four. In addition to the infantry component, the 1st Division would also have artillery, engineers, field ambulance, signals, transport and other support elements.

For the purpose of our story, what we end up with by April 25 1915 is the 1st Brigade (Jack's brigade) with battalions 1(Jack's battalion) to 4, 2nd Brigade with battalions 5 to 8, 3rd Brigade (to be the covering force & first ashore at Gallipoli) with battalions 9 to 12 and the 4th Brigade (later assigned to the NZ & Australian Division for the Gallipoli landing) with battalions 13 to 16. Each battalion consisted of approximately 1000 men.

What follows is a quote from Chapter 5 of the Official History by CW Bean. While it doesn't talk specifically of the formation of Jack's 1st Battalion, it serves to provide a clear guide as to the events taking place at the time.

At each Australian Capital, about the middle of August, the infant regiments began to take shape. In most cases the officer chosen to command one of them received between the 13th and 17th of August a telegram informing him of the fact, and instructing him to organise his unit and choose its officers. The brigadier, who had selected him, generally helped by suggesting a second-in-command, an adjutant (always a regular officer or adjutant of militia), and allotted him four permanent non-commissioned officers-often old British N.C.O.'s-to form the backbone of the regimental staff. The commanding officer then began to pick the rest of his staff, mainly from the militia officers who volunteered in the areas allotted to his unit, and on or about August 17th, all over Australia, the regiments, battalions, and companies of the Australian Imperial Force began to concentrate in some camp near the capital cities of the States. On Randwick Racecourse and the grassy sandhills of Kensington, both in the suburbs of Sydney; at Broadmeadows, a bleak, grassy plateau ten miles from Melbourne; at Morphettville in South Australia; at Enoggera in Queensland, Blackboy Hill in Western Australia and Pontville in Tasmania, for the space of one month the army was growing.

On August 13th Major A. J. Bennett, who had fought in South Africa, was ordered by Colonel MacLaurin, the brigadier, to organise the 3rd battalion of the 1st Infantry Brigade. The next day Major Bennett conferred with the brigadier, and selected from eight of the training areas of New South Wales most of the officers of the battalion. At 9a.m. on August 17th the chosen officers presented themselves, clothed in their militia uniforms, at the Victoria Barracks, Sydney. There, on the weather-worn asphalt of the parade ground, they found a swarm of men in every sort of civilian garb.

“Crowds of men,” writes one of the original officers, “jostling each other, laughing and talking excitedly, tall men, short men, youngsters just left school, men in the prime, and even a sprinkling of greyheads. Mostly their faces were bright, attentive and eager. . . . Sometimes one’s scrutiny met primitive faces, heavy-jawed, small bright eyes with a curious hard yet pathetic look. . . . Here and there stand men with quiet resolute faces and trim bodies, with an air of respect and control-the unmistakable stamp of the old soldier. Mark well the steady ex-Imperial men will form the nucleus of our N.C.0.’s.

“At length the shuffling, sorting and list-taking ceases. The men have all presented themselves before the second-in-command. He has seen each medical certificate of fitness and jerked out a few short queries. He turns to a knot of officers who represent our regimental staff so far, and they depart and sort out the men. Markers are called out. The regiment, so far about 300 strong, is told off into eight squads, the skeleton of a battalion. They are ‘shunned’ (called to attention), dressed, numbered, formed into fours, formed two deep, proved and stood at ease. Then steps forward a young militia captain who is to take charge and march them to Randwick Racecourse . . . and the 3rd Battalion of Infantry, no longer a name but a living entity, moves off in column of fours, a long sinuous serpent, to lunch and glory.”

The growth of the units may be judged from the instance already given-that of the 3rd Battalion of Infantry. On Monday, August 17th, it marched to Randwick Racecourse 330 strong-20 acting-officers and 310 men. On August 18th three companies were formed; on August 20th they had grown to five. On that day the issue of clothing began. By the 22nd the battalion had I8 acting-officers and 503 men. On the 26th its rifles were issued, and next day five officers and five non-commissioned officers were sent to Randwick Rifle Range for instruction in musketry, so that they could teach the rest. On August 29th recruiting for the battalion in the country districts had commenced, an officer being sent to meet the trains and conduct the country recruits to Kensington Racecourse, where the battalion was now camped in tents. By September 3rd the battalion was complete-32 officers and 991 men. It was allowed to recruit 75 men over its strength, in order that unsuitable men could be discharged.

On September 14th it marched out for the first time with its brigade to the heathland overlooking the sea at Maroubra. It had now some of its waggons, 11 horses, and the two Maxim machine-guns which were then allotted to every battalion. On September 16th the brass band held its first daily practice. On September 20th the men’s paybooks were compiled. By September 23rd, when the battalion was five weeks old, musketry practice had begun, the battalion had its horses complete, and the order was issued for the embarkation of the men in the Aberdeen liner Euripides in Sydney Harbour, and for that of the horses and drivers in the Clan Maccorguodale. On September 27th orders were received to defer embarkation. The horses and drivers already on board the Clan Maccorgriodole were taken off the next day.

The same history, with variations, would he true of almost every unit in the young force. The units of the 1st contingent all over Australia were complete and ready to sail by September 21st.

The Joining
By Laurie Favelle
Shearer, teacher, factory worker
Ploughman, coachman, engineer,
Labourer, builder, Station Master
They came from far and near.

Men gathering for the great adventure
At town or city hall
And swore to country, god and king
To serve till end of war.

Then midst orders unfamiliar
They learned anew to walk and stand;
And so off they marched, "to lunch and glory"
Heads high, backs straight, all feeling rather grand.

25th August 1914: Enlisted from Murrurrundi – came into camp at Kensington

1st September: Leave stopped - 4th leave granted up to 4pm.


Historical Comment
The 1st Battalion War Diary has no specific entry for this date, but entries around this time describe constant recruitment and training. The battalion was based at Randwick Racecourse and so, Australians knowing where one's priorities should be, the entry for the 9th of September, a Wednesday, is worthy of note:

“All tents lowered by 9am as a Racemeeting was held.”


By Laurie Favelle
"You there...drop those tents,
Fold 'em right, the first time.
Get that kit an' move it fast
Now put it in the shed,
Get it outer sight,
In neat rows, yer mug!"

The sergeant major's face was red,
Woken early from his bed.
The regiment must disappear,
"Strewth, the bleedin' army's turnin' queer!"

The army clears the decks
And the bookies take their bets.
Its still a game!


26-27 September: Broke camp with Fred Banks and had a splendid time. Ordered on the SS Afric (A19) on Sunday 27th September. Strict medical and kit examination & complete issue given 26th September.
Embarkation delayed owing to transport difficulties until further notice.
Cessation of night parades – Brigade march through Long Bay. Another route march to South Head through Waverley, Coogee & Rose Bay. Pouring rain all the way.

6th October: Review of NSW Expeditionary Force, 8000 strong, through the city.

14th October: Told we will embark during week. Route march and bivouack at Long Bay.

Friday (probably 16th October -ed): Stan Asquith and I out on leave – met with funny experience coming back. The Colonel was waiting at main gate for those coming in late, so we tried to scale the fence. Asquith made enough row for a dozen men and then could not get over. A civ policeman was giving me a leg up & I was half way over when a sentry charged me and I nearly got his bayonet in the rear. It was laughable to see that copper doing 100 yards under....? We eventually got into camp from another part of the grounds without being caught.

A Good Cop
By Laurie Favelle
Colonel Dobbin was wise and just,
But men on leave he could not trust
To return to camp when they should;
He new they'd cheat whenever they could.

So when Stan and I tried to sneak in late
We spied the colonel at the gate,
And shrinking into shadows deep
Our continued freedom we sought to keep.

With a copper's hand we tried the fence,
But, when it came to climbing, Stan was dense;
It was the sentry's yell that spoiled the fun
And we bolted at a serious run.

I never knew a copper could run so fast!
Plenty of speed, but no style or class.
Lucky the sentry's charge was off the mark,
A bayonet's bite would spoil the lark!

17th October: Raining all day prevents visitors from saying goodbye to us.

18th October: Left camp at 9am marched to the boat – aboard at 10.30. The SS Suffolk left the Harbour at 4pm with the 2nd Battalion on board. The Afric with us, about 1500 on board, left at 5pm. Heavy swell outside heads. Had my first real experience of sea sickness but was alright next day. During the night we passed the suffolk. HMAS Melbourne passed us at Gabo Island.

SS Afric (A19) leaving Melbourne - pre WW1
White Star Line official card.

The Afric was sunk in February 1917 by the German U Boat U66, with the loss of 22 lives

(Image from )

19th October: Nothing to do but eat, read & sleep.

20th October: Passed Wilson's Promontory at 7am, great sight. Sea very calm like a pond. Medical inspection. Whales sighted during the evening.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Jack's Enlistment (Attestation) Papers

These are the first 3 pages of Jack Reilly's WW1 file, courtesy of the National Archives of Australia website - .
Note the signatures of Major Dawson, A Coy CO, and Colonel Dobbin, 1st Battalion CO.
(NB: Click to enlarge)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Photo of Jack Reilly

Jack Reilly. This photo was probably taken in early 1915 while the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was training in Egypt. It is the only known photograph of Jack from that time. In fact, this image has been reproduced from a photocopy.
(NB: Click on image to enlarge)

Labels: , , , ,

Jack Reilly's War - Preface

For Australia, the First World War commenced with the Australian Government's announcement that it would commit substantial numbers of troops to assist the “mother country”. Tens of thousands of men – mostly young and native born – lined up to enlist within weeks of that announcement.
Ultimately, 1/3 of a million men (and women), from a population of a little over 5 million, enlisted.
In 1914 Australia's military forces were small, with the army largely based on a part time citizen militia. While there were a few who had served in the Boer War some 14 years earlier and some others – mainly officers and senior NCO's – who had served in the British army , the majority of those who enlisted had no military or combat experience.
Those who joined up in 1914 had an expectation that this would be the adventure of a lifetime. They would see the world (normally an impossible dream for most), give the Kaiser a quick thrashing and return home as heroes. Their wildest dreams would not have prepared them for what was to come!
What follows is the story of one of those men – 199 Private (later Sergeant) John Bernard Reilly. While Jack Reilly served throughout the entire war, he has left us his reflections in the form of a diary covering the period from enlistment to early June 1915. These reflections form the basis for our story. However, in order to assist the reader have an enhanced experience of the events described by Jack, I have included historical notes and a small number of photographs from a number of sources. Moreover, as a result of the National Archives of Australia providing WW1 service records in digitised form, Jack's journey to war's end has also been chronicled for the reader's information.
Jack Reilly's War is the first part of The Silent Heroes Project.

Jack's Mates
Throughout his diary, Jack makes mention of many of those with whom he comes into contact. Apart from historical figures such as generals, national leaders, etc, the diary includes the names of 38 other individuals. I have managed to trace the records of 37 of these servicemen and a brief description has been included to lift these characters from the shadows of anonymity. A future volume of The Silent Heroes Project will be dedicated to providing the story of these 37 in more detail.

Historical Twist
Those readers who are students of history, particularly family history, will be well aware of the twists, turns and co-incidences to be discovered. This story is no exception and an interesting twist is described in the final chapter.

Unsolved Mystery
The front cover of Jack's hand written diary shows, after his name, the letters C de G. This is usually the abbreviation for the Croix de Guerre.
The Croix de Guerre was awarded by both the French and Belgium governments and the award was received by many Australian and Empire troops. It could be awarded for a number of reasons, from an award for particular services to acts of bravery or meritorious conduct.
Sadly, I have been unable to trace any record of this award to Jack Reilly. This does not mean he did not receive such an award. It is much more likely that records are incomplete, missorted or mislaid. Perhaps others may be able to solve this mystery.

History's Lesson
A moment's reflection by a student of history will undoubtedly bring to mind the sad fact that the lesson's of history are rarely learned. The vanity of humanity and our perpetual pursuit of that which is possessed by others, under whatever guise, provides the smoke that effectively screens any clarity of vision or effective enlightenment.
The following is a direct quote from Appendix VII from The Official History of The First World War by Charles Bean. Decide for yourselves.

“After the war of 1914-18 there came to the notice of some
Australians the existence in the National Museum at Athens of
a memorial to members of an earlier force which had served its
country in the Dardanelles. On a marble monument are the
names of twenty-eight Athenians, grouped under the names of
their “tribes” (that is of their electoral divisions), as well as of
others who fell at Byzantium (which 750 years later became
Constantinople) and elsewhere. In the Manuel of Greek
Historical Inscriptions (Hicks and Hill, Clarendon Press, Oxford,
England) the editors conjecture that the fighting at the Dardanelles
(or Hellespont) took place in 440 B.C. when the people-or
aristocracy-of Samos revolted against the Athenian democracy,
and the colony of Byzantium also took the opportunity to
revolt. In a sea and land war, in which Pericles and the poet
Sophocles both served as leaders , the Athenians won.”
On a slab of marble across both columns of the monument is an inscription in Ancient Greek.
This has been translated, I believe by the late Christopher
Brennan, as follows:

These by the Dardanelles laid down their shining youth
In battle and won fair renown for their native land,
So that their enemy groaned carrying war’s harvest from the field-
But for themselves they founded a deathless monument of valour.

Another Australian suggested a shortened version to commemorate
others who fell on the same shores 2355 years later:

They gave their shining youth, and raised thereby
Valour’s own monument which cannot die.”