2020 Tour Western Front

There is still an opportunity to be part of an exciting 8 or 9 day tour of the Western Front World War One battlefields in July 2020. There will be a special emphasis on the Australian areas of conflict. To enhance the experience there will be no more than 15 participants in the group so get in early.

It is likely that Paul Cobb, historian, guide and author of the book “Fromelles”. Paul is also President of the Wiltshire branch of the Western Front Association, UK. His experience and knowledge will enhance our experience of touring the battle fields.

Contact Tour Leader, Bryan Mackenzie through Belmore Travel (03) 9857 4555 or belmore@belmoretravel.com.au

Click on the link below for more details.

Western Front 2020

‘Together They Served’ Digital Copy of Book

It was exciting last month to finally launch the printed version of the website.

The book Together They Served was launched in front of about 50 people at the Torquay RSL. It was great to meet and speak with family members of the men and women in the book as well as fellow historians and RSL members.

After five years of research, 700 men and women associated with the Surf Coast Shire have been identified as having enlisted in World War 1. Not all of these names were identified on the memorials scattered across the Shire.

Like the website, the memorials and honour boards form the basis of the book but there is much more information contained in the 460 pages. There are letters, diary excerpts, many more photos and stories of involvement in battles.

Complementary copies have been placed in the Torquay, Geelong and mobile libraries as well as the RSL’s across the Shire. Next week complementary copies will be distributed to schools and retirement villages.

Click on the book image below to access the digital copy. It is a low resolution pdf file. If you would like a larger resolution let me know via email.

With this large task now behind me, early next year I will begin the task of updating the website.

Please contact me if there are any omissions or errors via the ‘Contact Us’ page.

Thanks to Spencer Leighton, for this review.



In memory of Alfred Ernest GREEN (Deans Marsh), Charles Leslie ANDERSON (Ceres) and Sydney Gordon CHALLIS (Connewarre) who died this day.


More than 3,000 Australians were killed, wounded or missing during this battle.
Approximately 1,200 Australian Prisoners were captured on the fateful day. Many died of wounds later, or died in POW Camps, factories, mines or forced labour between the front and Germany.


See details: http://www.ww1westernfront.gov.au/bu…/what-happened-here.php

Australia’s Bloodiest Battle

Early evening, 100 years ago today, men of the AIF sat in trenches waiting for the command to move from the trenches to attack the German line at Fromelles / Fleurbaix. It was the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front. It was a disaster. The British bombardment of the area prior to the offensive warned the Germans of a likely attack. The Germans watched the troops move into position, heavily shelling the assembly area and communications trenches, causing hundreds of Australian and British casualties before the attack even started.

At 6.00pm, the assault began with three hours of daylight remaining. Some Australian units quickly crossed no-man’s-land, seized the German front line, and then pushed on for 140 metres in search of a supposed third and last line of the German trench system. No such line existed and the Australians began forming a thin disjointed series of posts in the intended position. Other Australians attacked from another direction. The Germans had survived the shelling and manned their machine guns. Within 15 minutes they had decimated the attacking waves of Australians, forcing the survivors to find shelter.

Albert Clery

Albert Clery

The next morning the Australians that had breached the enemy’s lines were forced to withdraw to their own lines. The Australians suffered 5,533 casualties in one night, the worst 24 hours in Australia’s military history. One of these victims was Albert Clery, a Connewarre labourer, and member of the newly formed 60th Battalion. Having only arrived in France on 28 June, the Australians became embroiled in this first major battle without the benefit of an introduction to the trenches in a “quiet” sector. The battalion, in a single day, was virtually wiped out, suffering 757 casualties. Albert was initially reported missing during this battle, and with no evidence he became a POW, he was reported as being killed in action on 19 July 1916. His body has never been identified, so he is commemorated on the Fromelles V.C. Corner Memorial.

From across the Shire, Robert Smithers, Charles Smith, Ray Trigg and John Lamb also met their death during this early evening battle. Only Robert’s body was ever found.
The Australian toll at Fromelles was equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam War put together. It was a staggering disaster that had no redeeming tactical justification whatsoever. It was, in the words of a senior participant, Brigadier General H.E. “Pompey” Elliott, a “tactical abortion”.

Lest We Forget.

Lest We Forget – January deaths

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

Mt Duneed State School Honour Roll

Mt Duneed State School Honour Roll

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.

100th Anniversary of the evacuation from Gallipoli

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the evacuation from Gallipoli in Turkey.

The strategy to invade in April 1915 was intended to allow Allied ships to pass through the Dardanelles channel to capture Istanbul and ultimately knock Turkey out of the First World War.

Eight months later winter starts closing in on the Gallipoli peninsula, enthusiasm for the Allied campaign is cooling. Sleet and snow cover the hills; A03229a storm floods dugouts and washes away trenches spreading waterborne disease. Instead of suffering from the heat, soldiers suffer from frostbite.


In November, the British minister for war, Lord Kitchener, visited the peninsula to see firsthand whether troops should stay or go. The conditions there are more difficult than he had imagined so on return to London he reports back to the War Committee and in December, Cabinet steamer Miloorders that the troops get out. Australian General Brudenell White oversees the evacuation, setting chief engineer Captain Alexander Jackson (Jack) Cunningham MC [from the Anglesea Honour Board] the task to build a light pile footbridge to the S.S. Milo and step ladders along for men stepping down into boats. Jack wrote in his diary that ordnance had been packing up a lot of stuff, rumours were strong but he believed it seemed hardly credible there would be an evacuation. The rumours were confirmed, when he received the orders that he and his men had to prepare the SS Milo as a point of evacuation by blowing holes in her side. From this day on most of the remaining troops on Anzac became aware that a full withdrawal was in progress. Charles Bean wrote:

“The cemeteries of Anzac were never without men, in twos and threes or singly, ‘tidying’ up the grave of some dear friend, and repairing or renewing little packing-wood crosses and rough inscriptions.”G00419

Soldiers slipped away in boats at night. Although Anzac Cove was used, the chief evacuation points were the piers at North Beach such as the pier to SS Milo built by Jack and his men. It was at North Beach, therefore, that many men spent their last moments on Anzac and caught their last glimpses in the dark of the Sari Bair Range as they pulled away from the piers. Stores were surreptitiously destroyed or removed, ammunition buried. Engineers were instructed to blow heavy guns to bits – in explosions no louder than gunshots.

A03312AWM_h03485-LAt 4am on December 20, Jack was one of the last to slip away from Gallipoli, he had to ensure that the piers stayed intact for the withdrawal of all men. His role had been crucial to the successful evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Anzacs left behind dumps of tinned meat and biscuits and more than 8000 Australians and around 2700 New Zealanders who died in the fighting.

Within a couple of weeks, all British and French troops had also left Cape Helles.



The Allied forces have battled on the peninsula for eight-and-a-half months; more than 40,000 of their men died: British, French, Indian, Canadian and soldiers from Nepal and Ceylon. The Turks lost twice as many soldiers defending the invasion; more than 86,000 dead.

Within months of sailing from Gallipoli, the first Anzacs arrived in Europe on March 7, 1916 where they started fighting again, this time in the main theatre of World War I, the Western Front.



web--Torquay-Storrer-HH Anglesea - Storrer HH C04302









Henry Haigh STORRER (Torquay) one of five men who died during the month of December in The Great War.

Henry, the son of H.J.H Storrer, member of the Torquay Improvement Association, was working as a shipping clerk/manager at Mota Garage while in his final year at the Victorian Institute of Accountants when he enlisted on 15 November 1915, five months after his brother had been killed at Gallipoli. He had prior experience in the military through his commissioned service in the 8th Australian Garrison Artillery. Henry was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, Australian Flying Corps at Laverton and embarked for overseas service from Melbourne aboard HMAT Ulysses on 25 October 1916. Having applied to be a commissioned officer in the Australian Flying Corps and the application granted on 1 October to the rank of Lieutenant Henry arrived at Plymouth on 28 December 1916.

The following week Henry transferred to Carlton for higher instruction in Aviation re-joining his unit on 24 March 1917. Another course of instruction was undertaken at 22nd Squadron, Harlaxton. This was immediately followed by attendance at the serial gunnery school Turnbeery and wireless/observers school Brooklands. Finally arriving back at his unit in July upon which he was promoted to Captain, then graded as Flight Commander in August. Henry arrived in France on 25 August attached to the 69th Squadron. Then on 2 December 1917 Henry died as a result of a freak twist of fate. Henry and his observer (Lt. William Scott) had just taken off and turned to avoid a line of trees, when a sudden squall turned the plane upside down and brought it down onto the stone wall of Bailleul Cemetery. The two airmen were buried side-by-side in the cemetery.

Others who died during December include John Frederick JUKES (Winchelsea); Michael Philip CAHIR (Puebla); John BELL (Anglesea); Edwin CHALLIS (Connewarre)

United in Remembering – Surf Coast Shire, last fighting Digger

Today, Remembrance Day, we will be remembering Norman Lyle Woods, our local war hero and the last known survivor of the trenches of the Great War from the Surf Coast Shire. He is now at rest in Springvale Crematorium. We remember him and the millions of others every year.
On the 1st August 1988, Norman Lyle Woods passed away at the age of 90. With him died living memories of the trenches of World War One. He was born at Modewarre and enlisted on 15 July 1915 at the age of 17 years and like many others he put his age up to 18 years.
After training Norman was assigned to the 21st Battalion, 6th Reinforcements. They embarked in October 1915 arriving in France on 7th January 1916. In April, it was the first Australian battalion to commence active operations on the Western Front. During the battle of Pozières it was engaged mainly on carrying duties, but suffered its heaviest casualties of the war during the fighting around Mouquet Farm.
Norman was promoted to Corporal and temporary Sergeant Major in the latter part of the year.
After a brief hospital stay in February 1917 Norman re-joined his unit only to be back in hospital seriously ill with Pyrexia on 17th April 1917 and was transferred back to England for treatment. He joined a training unit after his discharge from hospital in June until November 22nd when he re-joined his unit in France. The unit was involved in the defensive operations against the German Somme ‘Spring Offensive’ from 21 March to 5 April 1918. An inflammation of connective tissue in his right toe caused him to invalided back to hospital in England for a month. He stayed attached to a Training Brigade in England until his return to Australia in October 1919.
Norman married Emily Saunders in 1920. They initially lived in Geelong where Norman worked as a railway employee before moving to Daylesford working for the railways during the 1930’s. They moved to Bentleigh just before Norman enlisted in the Australian Army in 1942. He was discharged in 1945 with the rank of Captain posted to the 1 Australian Infantry Training Battalion. After WW2 Norman joined the public service and continued to live with Emily in Bentleigh.
Loved in Life,
Honoured in Death,
Cherished in Memory

Lest We Forget those who fell in October at Broodseinde and Passchendaele

Twelve men from the Surf Coast Shire died as a result of the battles at Broodseinde and Passchendaele in October 1917. In this countryside 6,405 Australians were killed in action or died of wounds and a further 19,194 were wounded making October 1917 the worst single month of the war for the AIF and for the Surf Coast Shire. They fought in mud, wind and rain striving to gain so little ground.

We remember [from Torquay] Alan Wilson known as Brook; [Freshwater Creek] Russell Hawse and John Cantwell; [Jan Juc] Harold Bell; [Anglesea] Harvey Freeman; [Wurdale] Fred Pillar and Luke Monkivitch; [Winchelsea] Thomas Stephenson, Fred Alsop and Percy Wells; [Deans Marsh] Melville Fox; [Lorne] Reg Mountjoy.

Others who died as a result of battle during October 1918, just a few weeks before armistice were Harold Gogoll, Ernest Ford, Arthur Batson, John Shell and Allan Matthews.

LEST WE FORGET Polygon Wood Casualties

The Battle of Polygon Wood took place near Ypres in Belgium 26 September – 3 October 1917, in the area from the Menin Road to Polygon Wood. Much of the woodland had been destroyed by the huge quantity of shellfire from both sides since 16 July and the area had changed hands several times. Early on the morning of 26 September, with strong artillery support men in the 5th Division moved forward overcoming the German pill-boxes protecting the enemy machine gunners. Seven hours after the battle began the required ground had been gained and the advance was over. The Battle of Polygon Wood was declared a great success for the AIF but sadly four men from the Shire in the 29th Battalion lost their lives on this day, and two more during counter attacks the following days.

26th September

  • Andrew Fuller (Freshwater Creek)
  • Thomas Hall (Anglesea)
  • Leonard Parker (Deans Marsh)
  • Harold Wanliss (Lorne)

27th September – Albert McConachy (Winchelsea)

28th September – Harry Lewis (Winchelsea)