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)

Chaplains Also Died….


web Duneed-stewartAt the outbreak of WW1, George Alan STEWART was the minister of the Presbyterian Church at Boort, Victoria. He was the third son, and fifth child, of John and Mary (WEBB) STEWART of Mount Duneed, near Geelong, where they were farmers. George was born at Mount Duneed, where he attended the Mount Duneed State School, later completing training at Theological Hall, Ormond College, Melbourne.

Whilst at Ormond College he shared a Study with John FLYNN, who at that time was contemplating a vision which later led to the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission.  An offshoot of this was, of course, the Flying Doctor Service and the development of the pedal wireless.  Some of Flynn’s plans were developed on visits to the Stewarts at Mt Duneed, where he toured the district lecturing and showing slides to raise money for the pedal wireless.

In 1914 George volunteered for Army service as a Chaplain.  However, as there was apparently  no vacancy for that service, he resigned his Charge at Boort and enlisted instead as a Private.  It is believed that he first joined a Unit of the Light Horse, but that this Unit was later disbanded and he transferred to the Infantry.  His  “Statement of Service” has him serving as a Private at “Depot”, from 8/1/15 to 19/5/15; then as Acting Corporal, 14th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement.

On his Attestation Paper of Enlistment for Service Abroad, George nominated his mother, Mary, as his next of kin. Furthermore, he agreed to allot “not less than three fifths” of his pay for the support of his mother. This seems to have had the unfortunate consequence of the Army assuming that his father was dead, which was not the case.  In perhaps typical Army sexism, Mary received a letter which stated:

“It is noted that you are registered on the records…as next of kin, but, in order that our file may be brought up to date, it is desired to learn whether the above-named soldier had any nearer blood relatives than yourself, for instance, is his father still alive….”

The 14th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement, embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A62 Wandilla on 17 June 1915, landing at Anzac Cove in early August. George is believed to have participated in the night march of 4th Brigade to Suvla Bay and took part in the first attack on Hill 971.  Following this “Lone Pine” fight he was reported missing on August 8 but must have rejoined his unit, in view of subsequent reports.

At the request of the Battalion commander, George acted as Chaplain after the death of (Chaplain) Captain Andrew GILLISON, who died of wounds on 22 Aug 1915 at the age of 47, and whom George buried.

George was wounded in the attack on Hill 60 on 26th August, receiving shrapnel wounds to his back, arm and foot (one report states he was wounded in the right shoulder).  He was placed in the hospital ship Formosa and transferred to No. 15 General Hospital, Alexandria.  Here, he died of his wounds on 5 September and was buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery, Alexandria.

At some time George was responsible for the rescue of three soldiers.  Some years after the war, one of these was a lecturer at the Working Men’s College (later the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).  One of his students was George Neil STEWART (known as Neil), a nephew of George Allen STEWART.

Contributed by John Stewart (great nephew)

Sept – LEST WE FORGET – Rev George Allen Stewart

Mt Duneed State School Honour Board

Mt Duneed State School Honour Board

George, was born at Mt Duneed and attended Mt Duneed State School before completing his education at Theological Hall, Ormond College, Melbourne. Prior to enlisting he had been a Presbyterian clergyman at Boort, his first ministry, for four years. He joined the AIF at the rank of Private on 8 January 1915 having had 3 years’ experience at the Rifle Club. He was attached to the 14th Battalion, 6th Reinforcements and trained at the Broadmeadows camp during which time he was promoted to Acting Corporal. The unit embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A62 Wandilla on 17 June 1915 bound for Egypt then the Gallipoli Peninsula joining the rest of the battalion at Reserve Gully on 2 August. By this time the 14th Battalion had become known as “Jacka’s Mob” –  being led by Albert Jacka (Modewarre birth place and first Victoria Cross recipient). They spent the next few days preparing for the next offensive which was to become known as the Battle of Lone Pine. As well as supplies and sharpening of bayonets the troops were ordered to wear white bands on both arms and a white patch on their backs near right shoulder as distinguishing marks. Four days later the offensive started and the 14th Battalion moved with difficulty off the hill and down the gully to Beach Road. There were some casualties during the move. On 8 August, the 14th Battalion moved out in single file in the rear of the 15th Battalion and crossed Kaiajik Dere and then deployed in lines across the ridge in the attack of Hill 971 as part of the Lone Pine offensive. An advance was made under heavy rifle and machine gun fire consequently there were many causalities. George was one of 128 men who were missing from the 14th Battalion as a result of this offensive. The hill was taken at great cost, although Turkish reinforcements forced the Australians to withdraw. Five days later 6 men rejoined the unit, one of which may have been George as he did make it back to his unit some time before the next big offensive.

During the attack on Hill 60 on 27 August George was in the fighting line. His service record indicates he was wounded in the back, arm and foot subsequently admitted to hospital in Alexandria on 30 August. Five days later he succumbed to the wounds he received in action and was buried at Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria.

The Bendigonian (18 May 1916) reports that two of George’s comrades Corporal O’Cain, and Private Woistenholme who held George in high esteem sought to catch up with his brother Rev. John A Stewart to give him details of his brother’s fatal wounding at Gallipoli. “During the attack on Hill 60 on the 27th August, Corporal Stewart was in the fighting line. He was fifty yards from the Turkish trench when he was wounded with shrapnel on the body and with a bullet in the right foot. After being wounded, Corporal Stewart was seen praying with a dying comrade, and whilst in this act he met with the wounds that proved fatal. After Major Gillison’s death an application was made that Corporal Stewart be appointed a chaplain, but before a decision could be reached to this appeal of the captain, the attack on Hill 60 was made, with fatal results to the brave soldier, Corporal Stewart. During the attack on Hill 971, on 8th August, Corporal Stewart was seen helping to bring in the wounded, getting water from a well, and praying with the dying, being unarmed at the time. Corporal. Stewart reached Alexandria on 30th August, and was admitted into the General Hospital there. He was attended-by Chaplain Rankin. He was extremely weak, as three of his wounds were severe, the left arm and right foot being badly shattered. He lived for six days in the hospital, but suddenly collapsed on 5th September, 1915.”




August – Lest We Forget – Battle for Lone Pine


The battle for Lone Pine, originally intended as a diversion, began on 6 August 1915, involving 22 soldiers from the Surf Coast attached to the Australian 2nd and 4th Infantry Brigades and the 3rd Light Horse Brigade. While it was a victory for the Australians it came at a horrendous cost to both sides. Soldiers who died during the attack included:

contributed by  Winchelsea RSL

• George ANDERSON (Winchelsea) 8th Light Horse Regiment
• Leo DWYER (Winchelsea) 8th Light Horse Regiment
• Harry HOSKIN (Winchelsea) 8th Light Horse Regiment
• Roger PALMER (Winchelsea) 8th Light Horse Regiment
• Albert TOWNSEND (Moriac) 7th Infantry Battalion
• Edmund WHITTERON (Anglesea) 14th Infantry Battalion, 4th Brigade attack on Hill 971

Of all the stories of battles at Gallipoli the one of Lone Pine stands out. The ridge line was given its name because when the Turks were making roofs for their trenches, they chopped down every tree except one. The Lone Pine attack, launched by the 1st Brigade AIF in the late afternoon of 6 August 1915 was planned as a diversion for the Australian and New Zealand units that were to breakout from the Anzac perimeter by capturing the heights of Chunuk Bair and Hill 971. The Lone Pine attack pitched Australian forces against formidable entrenched Turkish positions. The 8th Light Horse Regiment who were deployed without their horses at Gallipoli, formed the first two waves, which was just a prelude to 4 days of intense hand-to-hand fighting, resulting in over 2,000 Australian casualties. The battle area itself was on an area the size of two soccer fields.

August – Don’t Forget Me Cobber

It has become known as Australia’s blackest night.

On 19 July 1916, the troops of the 5th Australian and 61st British Divisions attacked a strong German position, at the centre of which stood the Sugar Loaf salient, near the small French village of Fromelles. The overnight assault – the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front – was mainly intended as a diversion to draw German troops away from the Somme offensive further south.  The full story…  https://www.awm.gov.au/blog/2011/07/19/dont-forget-me-cobber-the-battle-of-fromelles/


From the Surf Coast those Killed in Action at Fromelles 99 years ago are –

  • CLERY, Albert
  • SMITH, Charles Henry
  • LAMB, John James

Fromelles was the first major battle fought by Australian troops on the Western Front. Directed against a strong German position known as the Sugar Loaf salient, the attack was intended primarily as a feint to draw German troops away from the Somme offensive then being pursued further to the south. A seven-hour preparatory bombardment deprived the attack of any hope of surprise, and ultimately proved ineffective in subduing the well-entrenched defenders. When the troops of the 5th Australian and 61st British Divisions attacked at 6 pm on 19 July 1916, they suffered heavily at the hands of German machine-gunners. Small parts of the German trenches were captured by the 8th and 14th Australian Brigades, but, devoid of flanking support and subjected to fierce counter-attacks, they were forced to withdraw. By 8am on 20 July 1916, the battle was over. The 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, rendering it incapable of offensive action for many months; the 61st British Division suffered 1,547. The German casualties were little more than 1,000. The attack was a complete failure as the Germans realised within a few hours it was merely a feint. It therefore had no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive.    https://www.awm.gov.au/military-event/E159/

July – Lest We Forget: Charles Lyle Young

Today we remember and pay tribute to Trooper CHARLES LYLE YOUNG.

Charles Lyle Young was born on 12 March 1893 in Barnawartha, Victoria. He attended Geelong College as a border in 1909 and 1910 where he was part of the 1st VIII rowing team. After leaving school he worked as a station overseer at Bell Plains Station, Corowa where his father was the station manager. He also worked in a stock and station agent’s office and was a station manager when he enlisted as a single man on 29 January 1915. Prior to enlistment he had 4 years military experience with the Senior Cadets and was well-known throughout the Riverina as a good horseman and cricket and tennis player. He was assigned to the 8th Light Horse Regiment embarking for Egypt on 25 February 1915 from Melbourne on HMAT A16 ‘Star of Victoria’.

The 8th Light Horse arrived in Egypt after the bulk of the AIF had sailed for the landing on Gallipoli. It underwent an intense training regime over the next few weeks and, where possible, the men took in the local sights.

Following the Gallipoli landings, it was decided to send the light horse regiments to the peninsula, unmounted, to reinforce the infantry battalions there. In May the 8th Light Horse embarked for Anzac Cove, where it moved up to Walker’s Ridge into front-line positions opposite the Nek, and spent the following months rotating between front-line duty, supports, and rear areas. On June 27, 40 days before Birdwood began his August offensive, the Turks began shelling the trenches at Walker’s Ridge held by the 8th Light Horse Regiment. The Turkish barrage was part of a softening up of the Australian line for a frontal attack. Three days later, the Turks came hurtling down the hill from the Nek but were repulsed by the 8th and 9th Light Horse. A few days later, Charles was killed on 3 July. He is buried at Ari Burnu Cemetery.

May – Lest We Forget: John Alex MCDONALD

Web Conne-McDonald JA 2145John enlisted on 17 September 1914 a week after his older brother at the beginning of the war. He was attached to the 6th Battalion, 1st Reinforcements and training at Broadmeadows. On 22 December 1914 he embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Themistocles. The ship sailed in across the Indian Ocean, bound for Egypt arriving early February.

After intense training the 6th Battalion landed at Gallipoli as part of the 2nd wave on the 25th April 1915. While attempting to hold back the Turks John was reported on 8 May 1915 as being wounded, then reported as wounded and missing. He was pronounced killed in action by a Court of Enquiry held on 24 April 1916. In 1920 his body was found in a Turkish Cemetery at Pine Ridge, exhumed and re-interred in the Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli.