January marks the month that two Surf Coast diggers died. While they died two years apart it was the war that contributed to their deaths in different ways.
Pte Arthur Stanley PALMER, from Mt. Duneed, died on 25 January 1917. He is commemorated on the South Barwon and Mt. Duneed
State School Honour Boards. Arthur was the eldest of three brothers who enlisted and the only one not to return home. In April 1916, Arthur enlisted in Geelong as a married man, 24 years of age. He previously enlisted and was a member of the 8th Battalion but was discharged after two weeks medically unfit because of a varicose vein in his left leg. Arthur left Melbourne for France on 1 August 1916 as part
of the 8th Reinforcements aboard the HMAT Orsova arriving on the battle fields of France six months later. Within four weeks he was killed in action. As a member of the 29th Battalion he was doing maintenance work on the roads and railway in towns such as Goisy, Buir, Fricourt, Montauban when on the 24th January they relieved the 54th Battalion on the Intermediate Line and occupied the ‘Needle Blighty’ and ‘Cow’ trenches. It was during this time that Arthur was killed, one of three killed in action during January. He is buried at the Guard Cemetery, Les Boeufa, 4.5 miles south of Bapaume.
Corporal Harry GAVENS, journalist, died on 15 January 1919, after the armistice. He is commemorated with his brother (who was KIA) on the Anglesea Sport and Recreation honour board. Harry had seen a number of battles being a member of the 5th Pioneer Battalion working hard at many different tasks on ensuring the roads, bridges and trenches were in good order as the Pioneers duty it was. During September 1918 Harry was congratulated for gallant services rendered during recent operations – the attack on the Hindenburg Line. The cause of death was listed as heart failure, however after interviews of others in the unit a post mortem examination was requested. He had a bout of appendicitis the month before, but the hospital chose not to operate. Some reports indicated that he was not the same since returning to the unit and ate little since then. Nevertheless, the post mortem examination revealed his appendix to be normal and that the anatomical diagnosis finding were consistent with those of death from acute alcoholism. This result is not at all consistent with members of the unit who between them could only identify one occasion prior to the night before his death where he was drunk. The night before his death it appears that he may have consumed a bottle of whiskey on his own. Harry is buried at the Maubeuge Centre Cemetery.