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  • keithmroberts

    How NOT to use blogs

    By keithmroberts

    This area is not for queries but for ongoing blogs. if you want to ask for help, please go to the appropriate sub-forum in the main part of the GWF. You have been asked to make your first post in a specified location. Once you have done that, your query can be raised in the various sections of the forum. If you previously posted a request for help or information in this area, it is likely to be deleted at some point in the next few weeks or months. So if you have a reply, please make a note o

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  1. The Draft

    This is the story of a group of seventy men who fought as Infantry in France during the First World War. Their experience is not exceptional, rather their journey echoes one that most young men had with the Infantry from 1916 onwards. They arrived together in France in early October 1916 as draft replacements, as most men after 1915 did, into a battle proven and bruised Infantry Battalion.  My great uncle was amongst them. At wars end some twenty-five months later less than a handful would remain. This is their story.   

    Most of the men came from the towns North of Manchester; Radcliffe, Bury, Blackpool, Accrington, Burnley and such.  A small number came from further afield such as Durham, Birmingham, Stoke, Cardiff or Manchester itself. In the main they were Lancashire men. They were labourers, farmers, mill workers, printers, miners, clerks, butchers, and a solitary glass polisher.

    There is no comprehensive history for these men.  I have used their medal roll to identify and confirm them as a group.  Surviving service records, unit war diaries, pension cards, newspaper archives, casualty reports and wider research has been undertaken. There are still gaps. I have attempted to be factual with very little conjecture.   

    Their shared experience began with Infantry training at Press Health in Shropshire. This was initially with the 21st Reserve Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Their journeys to basic training were mixed with many men being conscripted in May and June of 1916 and being sent the 21st directly.

    Many others had volunteered in December 1915 under the Derby Scheme and were mobilised at Preston in May 1916 into the Royal Field Artillery (RFA). A handful of North East England men were equally in the RFA but found their unit transferred to Preston alongside the others and into the 8th Reserve Battery, 2a Reserve Brigade. Other men found themselves conscripted into the RFA briefly. After a month or so the RFA men were sent en-masse on the 17th of June to the Lancashire Fusiliers for Infantry training, at the time the Army needed more infantrymen than gunners so there was little choice or science involved.

    For a few men their journey was different.  One man was a territorial solider who was at the end of his engagement but who was rapidly returned to the colours via conscription. Other men had volunteered but in the end were conscripted straight into the 21st.   

    They were not necessarily all together or in the same training platoons at Press Heath but they would have been going through training at the same time.  When they arrived in Shropshire the battles of 1914 and 1915 were long past.  The original regular army was largely gone, the originals very few and the impact of the Battles of the Somme from July 1916 would be being realised whilst they sweated through their four months of Infantry training.

    A further re-organisation occurred on the 1st of September towards the end of their course when the Army re-organised all the Infantry training units. The bespoke regimental system was deemed too inefficient and more generic Training Reserve Battalions (TRBs) would now be formed.  Our men joined the 72nd TRB.  It’s likely they didn’t notice any difference.

    Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 from Blackburn almost didn’t get accepted at all as he was just 5ft tall.  The Lancashire Fusiliers didn’t want him, but the Army insisted, and he stayed. Pte Robert Collier 27562 from Stockport kept going absent without leave with punishments of increasingly severity.  He was absent for over 24 days on five occasions.  Why he kept receiving leave as he never seemed keen to come back on time remains unknown. Both would be dead in less than a year.

    On Friday 6th October 1916, training done, they left for France. On the Saturday they arrived at No 30 Infantry Base Depot (IBD) at Etaples.  This was the wrong Depot for men joining the Lancashire Fusiliers but the recent reorganisations in the Army meant the rules were changing.  At some point back in the UK  it had been decided that these men were needed in the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment and as such they would go to 30 IBD for kitting and preparation and not 23 IBD, the Lancashire Fusilier Depot.  For the first time these 70 men all certainly came together. This decision lasted all of a week before it was again decided that another Lancashire Regiment was in need; the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL) it was to be.  They were renumbered and sent to join their new regiment on the 14th of October, just another replacement Draft.   

    The 8th

    The 8th Battalion was formed in Lancaster in October 1914 and after training landed in France on the 26th and 27th of September 1915 with 859 officers and men. They formed one of the four infantry battalions in 76 Brigade which was under the command of firstly the 25th Division and from October 1915 the 3rd Division.  They were in the front lines from the start with regular low-level casualties between large offensive or defensive operations.  Their first significant losses occurred on the 2nd and 3rd of March 1916 at Loos. The Battalion had a strength of 814 on the 2nd of March before the battle; casualties by the 3rd were 57 killed, 66 missing believed killed and 216 wounded - 41% casualties.  They remained in action with replacements periodically posted-in.  A further action on the 4th April resulting in 20 killed and 45 wounded. The Battalion remained busy until July. The next offensive at the Somme on 18th July resulted in 37 killed, 263 wounded and 53 missing.  The 16th to 18th of August saw further heavy casualties of 35 killed, 82 missing and 154 wounded.  So set the scene for the arrival of our Draft.

    The Battalion was recovering out of the line in billets at a place called Bertrancourt as part of the Divisional Reserve in October. From the 16th they began providing working parties to the front line and the war for the 70 began.

    On the 13th of November they faced their first significant engagement - one of the last Somme battles at Serre.  A frontal assault involving all 4 Rifle Companies with C Company in reserve.  C Company later advanced alongside B and D whilst A Company consolidated a captured trench.  The attack was only partially successful. Of the Draft Pte Percy Godson 27573 and Pte Thomas Metcalf 27600 were killed with 14 others wounded. The wounds received, that were recorded, were gunshot wounds to arms, legs, chests and heads.

    Of those wounded Pte Joseph Jeffers 27595 and Pte George Robinson 27620 would be discharged from the Army a few months later as too badly wounded to remain.  Pte John Horrocks 27577, Pte Joseph Henderson 27584 and Pte Gerald Miller 27601 were sent to the UK for recovery before being medically downgrading and transferred to the Labour Corps. Pte Wilfred Davies 27565 was sent to the UK to recover from his injured hand, which he did.  He returned to France in 1917 and was killed with the 1st Battalion in November 1917.

    Pte James Musk 27605 with shrapnel wounds to his hand and knee also went back to the UK before later being sent to the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in late 1918.  He would go on to serve in Northern Russia in 1919 and win the Military Medal.  The seven other men it seems were able to return to the Battalion after recovering from their wounds. The Draft of 70 was down to 61.

    Although they didn’t know it at the time this was the last large battle they would face until the Spring of 1917.  The Winter was spent between the front line, support trenches and periods of training. Casualties still occurred:   

    Pte Frank Evans 27567 was wounded in the neck on the 25th October 1916.  He returned to the Battalion in November but was eventually sent back to the UK sick in January.  He later joined the 1/4 Battalion, returned to France and was taken prisoner in July 1917 thus spending the rest of the war as a POW.  Pte Albert Cowin 27563 was killed likely by an artillery shell on the 20th December, dying three day later.

    Pte Thomas Pomfret 27613 was Court Martialled in February for at least one self-inflicted wound. He was sent to hospital with a gunshot wound to the hand.  The punishment for such an offense was death, but throughout the war this was never carried out. Many men who were found guilty of the same offence were sent to prison. This soldier was fortunate as he left the Battalion and later in 1917 was posted into the Labour Corps.

    1917 Arras

    In March the Battalion began its move from Wanquetin to the Leincourt and Arras areas. This was to prepare for the upcoming series of Allied Spring offensives. From the 6th of April they spent the nights in the cellars of Arras as the British bombardment and German counter fire crossed overhead.  By the 8th they were starting to take casualties as they moved into the forward trenches.  The Battalion went into action on the 9th moving forward from their positions and remaining in heavy action until the 12th.  Over the four days the Battalion suffered 43 killed, 28 missing and 172 wounded.  Amongst those killed were Pte Aloysius Laithwaite 27598, Pte Arthur Ashbridge 27553 and Pte Frank Nicholson 27609. Pte James Hudson 27579 was shot in the leg and sent back to the UK.  He recovered and came back to France with the 1/4 Battalion, he would be killed in action with them on 20th September 1917.

    Pte John Green 27574 was shot in the thigh on 11th of April, he was sent back to the UK before serving with the RAMC for a period, he was laterally medically discharged from the Army.  He was the odd soldier out in the Draft of 70 in that he had previous military experience as he was a Territorial Force (TF) soldier who served in the 1/10th Manchester Regt. Discharged at the end of his TF service he was then conscripted back into initially the RFA before finding his way to the 8th.

    On the night of the 25th/ 26th the enemy counter attacked following a bombardment of the Battalions trenches near Monchy le Preux. The attack was repulsed with close quarters fighting.  Pte James Felstead 27572, Pte John Henry Royle 27615 and Pte Robert Collier 27562 were killed and Pte Frank Pulbrook 27614 was wounded, dying the next day. Pte Percy Broderick 27556 was also wounded in both legs being sent back to the UK.  He was discharged as too badly wounded to serve in September 1917.  Pte James Hunter 27578 was also likely wounded in this engagement, he was blown out of a trench, buried in a dugout and latterly shot in the leg.  He was sent back to the UK and discharged from the Army that September.

    Withdrawn from the front line on the 1st of May but not before Pte Norman Armstrong 27552 was killed on the 30th of April and Pte Nolan Ratcliffe 27619 was shot in the leg on the 7th of May.  He was evacuated to the UK and soon after medically discharged from the Army.

    The Battalion rested for a week before moving back into the front line trenches on the 10th of May. Pte Lincoln Moore 27603 left on the 6th of May with bad trench foot, he lost two toes, was sent back to the UK and eventually served in the Labour Corps after being medically downgraded.

    Pte Fred Armytage 27554 was killed on the 10th as the Battalion moved back into the front line.  On the 12th three of the four Rifle Companies attacked Devils Trench. There were heavy casualties and the survivors had to wait until dark to return to their own trenches, Pte Tom Hadfield 27576 and Pte Tom Cunliffe 27561 were killed. Pte Nathan Heaton 27583 was wounded in the arm.  He returned to the UK where his arm was amputated, he was then discharged from the Army. 

    After 4 days overall casualties were 26 killed, 58 wounded and 12 missing, the Battalion was taken out of the lines on the 15th of May to rest.

    The Battalion recovered, trained and re-equipped in Arras until the 12th of June before again moving up to the front lines.

    After four days in the front line the enemy attacked after a heavy bombardment.  These attacks continued for two days up until the 18th. Pte Henry Cowell 27564 was killed on the 16th.  He had recently returned to duty after being wounded on 30th April. Pte Henry Hampson 27587 was wounded and sent to the UK, he later served with the 1/5 KORL Battalion.  L/Cpl Rupert Bevington 27560 was also likely wounded as he was sent back to the UK on the 16th.  He later joined the 1st Bn in Salonica.  He died of phenomena when he returned finally to the UK.   Pte Henry Ingleson 27589 was sent home on the 26th suffering from gas poisoning.  This probably occurred a few weeks previously during a short enemy gas attack. He was discharged as medically unfit from the Army after returning to his shipbuilding civilian role.   

    The Battalion came out of the line on the 20th of June and recovered until the 10th of July. The rest of July and August was spent in rotation between front line and support areas, there was very little action.  September started with a period of training; range work, fighting and attack skills and physical training.  This included practising attacks at Company and Battalion level. On the 26th of September the attack for which they had been training took place.  The Battalion attacked Polygon Wood.  With the Gordan Highlanders on the left and the Australians on the right they attacked at 0550. The attacks were successful after over a day of heavy fighting and shelling, including gas.  They came out of the line on the 29th. Casualties in the Draft were L/Cpl George Moss 27604 and Pte William Mathison 27599 killed, Pte Fred Watson 27621 – shot in the head and dying on the 29th. Pte Joseph Railton 27618 was wounded in the arm and sent back to the UK.  He would later return to France with the 3rd Battalion being wounded again in November 1918.

    Over the period its known other men were wounded and left the Battalion. Formal casualty lists were temporarily not published for the early summer of 1917 so a full picture of casualties cannot easily be reconstructed.  However, it is known the following men left the Battalion, in the main because they were wounded in the Arras fighting:    

    Pte Herbert Moyers 27608 was wounded early in April he returned to the UK and eventually joined the Machine Gun Corps and returned to France.   

    Pte Albert Maden 27606 was wounded in the neck and medically discharged from the Army in September.

    Pte Herbert Harrison 27585 was badly wounded in the leg he was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Albert Evans 27568 was medically discharged from the Army in November.   

    Pte Thomas Fisher 27569 was medically downgraded, joining the Labour Corps in December.

    Pte Evan John Rowlands 27616 was evacuated sick with a kidney condition he was also medically discharged from the Army in September.   

    Finally, Pte Ernest Ratcliff 27617 was medically discharged from the Army in December

    So ended an intense period of fighting for the 8th Battalion. Whilst they remained in or near the front lines until the end of 1917 and continued to take casualties, they were much less than those suffered during the spring/summer period.

    The Draft of 70 men had had a brutal 11 months. There were at best 25 of them left, almost certainly less, my great uncle was still among them. The others had either been killed, wounded or categorised sick enough to be evacuated.


    Christmas and on into 1918

    The Battalion spent Christmas Day 1917 in the trenches, they were shelled throughout.  On 30th December another member of our draft left: Pte Frank Hargreaves 27582. He had been wounded in the head and arm in December 1916 and again in the legs during the Arras fighting.  A bad case of Tonsilitis saw him evacuated to the UK. He later joined the 1st Battalion and returned to France being captured during the German Spring Offensive in April 1918. He died as a POW in October 1918.        

    The Winter remained quiet, both because of the weather and the need for both sides to reconstitute and recover from the fighting of 1917.  Pte Ernest Jay 27592 was found unfit for further Infantry service and transferred to the Labour Corps in early January 1918.

    By February the Army had been forced to re-organise its Infantry units to bolster unit manpower. The result being Brigades would now contain three and not four Infantry Battalions.  For 76 Brigade this meant the 10th Royal Welsh Fusiliers were disbanded and the men sent elsewhere from the 2nd of February.  Alongside the 8th KORL the 2nd Battalion the Suffolk’s and 1st Gordan Highlanders remained.  In return the Battalion received 227 experienced reinforcements from the disbanding 11th Battalion of the KORL.  England was running out of men.

    The only soldier to win the Military Medal whilst serving with this group of men left the Battalion in February. Pte Christopher Kenyon 27597 won the award in the May 1917 fighting at Arras.  He left the Battalion to be Commissioned, joining the 3rd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment.    

    The Battalion remained in and out of the front lines and Pte Frederick Butterworth 27557 was wounded and evacuated in February being medically discharged from the Army in September. There were now 21 men of the Draft left at best.

    German Spring Offensive

    From the 12th of March there was a growing awareness of an impending German attack - extra rations and great vigilance exercised. Artillery was fired on enemy rear positions to disrupt any German build ups.  Nervousness continued and the Battalion was in Brigade support from the 18th.  On the 21st of March at 0500 the Germans opened a heavy barrage on Wincourt and the British support areas.  Shells of all calibres including gas. From 10am the enemy attacked on a Divisional wide front. The Battalion was in close support throughout the 22nd and a withdrawal took place on the 23rd to straighten the line after retreats elsewhere. By now the Battalion was in the front line and the Germans advanced on their positions at 0800 following a barrage.  Fighting was severe with the Germans taking heavy casualties. The fighting and casualties remained heavy with the Germans continuing their assault, the Battalion eventually moving back to Neuville Vitasse as best they could, at one point withdrawing in sixes over open ground and creating numerous blocks whilst under substantial German infantry attacks.  The Battalion were eventually relieved overnight on the 29th by the Canadians.

    The Battalion reported 490 casualties. likely well over half their strength.  At least 80 of those were killed and a large number taken prisoner. The dead also included their Commanding Officer. Pte James Hutton 27586 and Pte Thomas Jennings 27593 were among those taken prisoner. Sgt Arthur Jones 27594 was wounded. As was Pte Tom Allen 27555, he had been shot in the arm in Nov 1916 and this time was shot in the leg and shoulder.     

    L/Cpl John Houghton 27581 was also captured in April although not with the 8th.  At some point, probably following wounding in 1917 he moved to the 1st Battalion and was captured with them.

    Early April saw the Battalion attempting to recover. Fifty six new men arrived on the 3rd, another 193 on the 6th, 40 more on the 7th. The chaos meant the Battalion would for a short time come under the command of the 8th Brigade.  On the 12th they deployed to ad-hoc defences as part of the Avelette bridgehead.  Again, fighting was desperate and a further 155 men were reported killed, wounded or missing.  The rest of the month was mostly in the support trenches.  On the 27th they again went into the front line and on the 30th of April Pte Walter Perry 27612 was killed.

    May continued in the front lines or support trenches. Casualties continued to occur at low levels with draft replacements arriving; 125 on the 18th for example.  The Division suffered 1000 casualties from mustard gas on the 21st, the 8th Battalion was lucky and got away without any gas causalities.

    June and July followed a similar pattern to May.  A mix of trenches and Brigade support.  A large trench raid on enemy positions on the 2nd June brough back prisoners but cost 1 dead and 8 wounded. A similar raid on the 10th of July saw Sgt White who led the attack later die of wounds.  Later in July the Battalion was put in Divisional reserve which allowed for proper rest, training, showers, rifle ranges and attack practice.  Enemy artillery hit their bivouacs on the night of the 16th of July killing 2 and injuring 9, even in the rear areas there was danger.  They returned to the line on the 24th of July for a four-day spell before more time in reserve into August. On the 21st of August the Battalion was in the front lines and carried out an attack with a follow up attack on the 23rd.  34 men killed and 109 wounded. The wounded included Pte Robert Patterson 27611. Both these attacked proved successful.   

    The full story of some men in the Draft is unclear especially as to when they left the Battalion as they now appear elsewhere:

    Pte George Molyneux 27602 was wounded on the 25th July 1918 with the 9th Battalion in Salonica.  At some point he left the 8th Battalion for sickness or wounding and was posted to fight in Greece.

    Pte John Devane 27566 now appears with him being with the 1st Cheshire Regiment.  We know he was at some point wounded with the 8th Battalion and after recovery joined this unit.  When he left the 8th is unknown but he was fighting with the Cheshire’s from 26 August.   

    Pte Arthur Broadbent 27559 was also transferred to the Cheshire Regiment in August after recovering from a gunshot wound with the 8th.  He was back in France with the Cheshire’s in October.


    100 Day Offensive - end game

    There were now 11 men of the Draft left at best – my great uncle was still with them.  The 100 Day Allied Offensive had begun on the 8th of August and some of the heaviest offensive fighting now lay ahead.

    Pte Bernard Fahy 27571 was wounded on the 30th of August during an offensive operation.  He was shot in the foot.  This was the third and final time he would be wounded and he was sent back to the UK for good.  He had previously been wounded  in the arm in Nov 1916 and then in the thigh in April 1917.  Each time he had returned to the 8th after recovering from his wounds.

    Pte Thomas Grime 27575 is now found to be with the Labour Corps. He was wounded by a grenade in January 1917 but he was also the oldest man being aged 40. Pte Ernest Howarth 27580 is also now with the Labour Corps, he was shot in the arm in November 1916.  They both likely left the Battalion some time ago but dates cannot be established.  Eight left.

    From September the Battalion was increasingly active with offensive patrols mixed with intense training whilst in reserve, On the 27th an attack near Flesquieres took place.  The Battalion went in at 0500 with all Rifle Companies attacking. The Battalion took over 800 prisoners in a successful advance, partially due to the bravery of L/Sergeant Tom Neely MM, for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.  64 other men were killed.

    The next attack was planned for the 1st of October at Rumilly. The Battalion moved into position overnight from the 30th September. It was a cold very wet and dark night. After a 45-minute barrage the Battalion attacked at 0645.  All objectives had been taken by 0915. That evening the Battalion were relieved and they returned to their lines. The Battalion suffered 134 casualties; L/Sergeant Tom Neely was one of those killed.  From the Draft Cpl Harry Burgess 27558 was wounded, probably by a german artillery round, he died of wounds 10 days later. He had previously been wounded when the bivouacs were  shelled on the 16th of July. 

    With the weather remaining wet and cold a further successful attack occurred on the 9th near Masnieres and again on the 23rd near Romieres.  The 23rd saw 17 killed and 110 wounded.  Amongst the dead was Pte Fred Oldham 27610.  He had previously been shot in the arm during the Battle of the Serre on 13 Nov 1916.

    This was the final engagement for the 8th Battalion the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Evidence suggests six men remained.

    L/Cpl Edward Farrelly 27570 was wounded at the Somme Battle of the Serre, 13 Nov 1916 and again during attack on Polygon Wood on 26 Sept 1917.  L/Cpl Charles Johnston 27590 was also wounded following the attack on Polygon Wood.  It’s likely both returned to the Battalion at some point, but it is not known when.

    That leaves four men.  Pte Edgar Mason 27607 who was wounded in 1916, Pte Frank Kelly 27596, Pte Edward Hitchen 27588 and Pte Thomas Jennings 27591.  These four men were there at the end when at 1100 on morning of the 11th November the Battalion band played in the town square at La Longueville.   

    Of the 70 men, 25 died. All the rest bar three are confirmed as being wounded at least once or removed from the Battalion as being too sick to continue.



    Cpl Harry Burgess 

  2. 361731047_TreloarWH(AWM).jpg.3c2c52e58f0db249a0795c94d5151324.jpg

    Many will be familiar with the name John Linton Treloar, who during the First World War took on the organisation of the fledgling Australian War Records Section that formed the basis of the Australian War Memorial’s WW1 collection.  Perhaps not so well-known was his older brother William Harold Treloar, who became the first member of the Australian Flying Corps to be taken prisoner in WW1.


    Harold, as he was known throughout his life, was one of Australia’s early aviators.  He had begun life on the 8th of August 1889 at Fairfield Park, Victoria, as the first born child of William and Jane Treloar, whose marriage had taken place the year before.  At the time of his birth his father William was running a Grocery business in nearby Fitzroy, and was also in partnership as a Land Agent.  However, in the November of that same year, he auctioned off all his stock, and by 1892 had a Grocery store in Auburn Rd, Hawthorn, which was later followed by Port Melbourne.  It was during these years that Harold gained three new siblings, one of those being the above mentioned John.


    The family eventually moved to Hamilton in country Victoria, where William was the Manager of A. Miller and Co.’s ‘Mutual Store’ from at least 1898 to 1901, and in 1905 purchased his own store, the ‘Little Wonder’ Cash Store.  While the family continued to grow, Harold attended the local State School, followed by the Hamilton Academy, before following a career as a Chauffeur and Motor Mechanic.  By 1909 his family had returned to the city and were living in Albert Park, while William was employed as a Commercial Traveller with the Melbourne Merchants, Clark and Co. Pty Ltd.


    Remaining in the country, Harold was in the employ of Messrs Young Brothers, Auctioneers, Stock, Station and Commission Agents in Horsham, and was apparently the first man to drive a motor car for them.  He remained with them for three years, until the July of 1911, and during that time drove many different types of cars throughout Victoria, NSW and South Australia.  They found him to be a “first-class Chauffeur, obedient, punctual and obliging.”


    Further employment included some time as a chauffeur and instructor with J.R. Wotherspoon & Co. General Merchants, Beaufort, and driver and mechanic with N. McDonald Motor Works and Garage, Hamilton.


    In 1912 Harold was living and working in his mother’s childhood town of Ballarat, and having befriended the Hooley family, he eventually became engaged to their daughter Lilian.  He was employed with the Ballarat Motor Works from 1912 to 1913, during which time he was a chauffeur and mechanic from May 1912 to February 1913 with Mr Robert Carstairs Bell of Mooramong, Skipton, who stated:

    “I found him a most reliable & steady man and about the best driver I have ever known.  He also was a first class mechanic & well able to make any ordinary repairs to a motor car.

    We were all sorry when he left to better himself.”


    He also found employment with Mr Jasper Coghlan as chauffeur to his 40 h.p. Daimler lorry; and was associated with Messrs Loveland and Haslem’s Garage in 1914.


    After nine years’ experience as a chauffeur and motor mechanic, Harold felt that his prospects for the future weren’t the best, and in 1914 he decided to change careers and follow his ambition to become an aviator.  Fuelled by a visit to Ballarat in early April of the aviator Harry Hawker, he promptly booked his passage to England and sailed on the Orsova on the 15th of the same month.


    On landing in London on the 16th of May he first spent a couple of weeks at the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company. “He had been advised by the military representative at the High Commissioner’s office to undergo a course at the company’s school at Brooklands.  He witnessed the building of numerous machines for the Royal Flying Corps, as well as Bristol biplanes both of the tractor and propeller types.”


    With this grounding, he then moved on to the Bristol flying school which was also at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Weybridge.  His first trip in the air was with Billy Stutt, an Australian pilot, who had gained his Royal Aero Certificate in February that year.


    Harold obtained his Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate No. 835 at The Bristol School in a Bristol Biplane on the 9th of July 1914, “after only three weeks’ tuition under very unsettled weather conditions.”  He then took an extended course at the Bleriot Monoplane School, also at Brooklands.


    In a letter home dated the 16th of July 1914 he wrote: “So far I have not broken the least thing through any fault of my own.  One morning I had just landed when an overstrained wire broke, and caught the propeller, which, of course, burst.  The pieces broke the rudder and elevator wires, which, if it had happened in the air, would have meant a big fall and bad bump, as I had been up 300ft.  However, it shows what can happen and what luck means.”


    Following the outbreak of war at the beginning of August, civilian flying in England came to a standstill and joining the Royal Flying Corps would not guarantee much flying as there were “four pilots already available for every machine.”  So, on hearing that instruction had commenced at the Australian Flying School, Harold quickly returned home.  He departed London on the Osterley on the 28th of August 1914 and arrived back in Melbourne on the 6th of October.


    As soon as he landed, Harold, who was already a 2nd Lieutenant in the 70th (Ballarat) Infantry Regiment, immediately set about securing an appointment with the Australian Flying Corps (AFC).  Having completed a two week course in aerial observation at Point Cook in February 1915, this was followed up by a three week course for a further pilot’s certificate in the March.


    On the 8th of February 1915 the Indian Government had requested pilots, transport staff and equipment from Australia to serve with the Indian Army in the campaign against the Turks in the Tigris Valley, Mesopotamia.  Having agreed to send what became known as a ‘Half Flight’ (half the strength of a standard Flight), four pilots were selected from the few that were available.  Under the command of Captain Henry Petre would be Captain Thomas White, Lieutenant George Merz and Harold.  His commission as a 2nd Lieutenant with the AFC came through on the 12th of April 1915.  Capt Petre sailed on the Orontes on the 14th of April in order to make advance arrangements, and Harold flew over his ship in a farewell gesture.


    Having received his final leave Harold travelled to Ballarat the following day of the 15th, where he married his fiancé Alice Lilian HOOLEY in the Christ Church Cathedral on the 17th of April 1915.


    Four days later on the 20th of April 1915 he left his new bride with her mother in Ballarat, and returned to Melbourne where together with Thomas White and most of the other members of the Half Flight he embarked on the RMS Morea for India.  George Merz who had been temporarily detained on instruction duties at Point Cook, followed Harold’s earlier gesture and flew over their ship as it left the pier, signalling his farewell.  From Bombay the Half Flight then travelled to Basra arriving on the 26th of May 1915, where they were joined in June by Merz.  “The four Officers were gazetted temporarily into the Indian Army, and on 11th June 1915 were gazetted into the Royal Air [Flying] Corps.”


    On the 3rd of June Harold wrote home:

    “Everything is O.K.  We have two Maurice-Farman fighting biplanes going, and I have been over the Turkish lines at Kurna, acting as pilot and observer.  We fly at 5000 feet, so if they hit us, good luck to them.  These machines carry a passenger and fuel for four hours, and do a little less than 60 miles an hour ground speed.  We have dropped bombs, but with little success.  But we have done some good reconnaissance, locating trenches, guns and so forth.  We advance to Barham Island to-morrow, and start a new depot there.  It is fearfully hot, about 110 to 120 degrees in the shade, and when there is no breeze it is simply a real Turkish bath.  I was the first Australian member of the Australian Flying Corps to fly over the enemy’s lines, and also the first Australian to fly in this country.”


    This was followed up on the 25th of June with:

    “Just a line to let you know I am still in the land of the living, and going strong.  Had several exciting times lately, through engine failure, mainly through the heat making the oil inefficient.

    I had to come down in the desert, stay there all day till they sent out a strong party to guard the machine, and I thought it best to stay there, for I am sure the Arabs would have destroyed the machine.  On a later occasion the engine stopped when we were over water, and it took me all my time to coax it back to our island base.  The Arabs shoot at us repeatedly, but so far they have not registered on us.  I have been given the piloting of No.1 Maurice Farman biplane, fitted with bomb droppers, but have not seen any large Turkish force yet to try my hand.”

    “I have flown about 900 miles, and not so far felt any ill-effects, but it is a strain, for the wind here is so strong at times that we fly only about 20 feet or so from the ground to make any headway at all; in fact, at one place we have been blown backwards.”


    By September they had received more planes and while piloting Caudron 1 during a reconnaissance flight on the 16th of that month, its engine gave out and Harold was forced to land about 80 yards in front of the enemy position at Essin, south of Kut-el-Amara.  A Turkish officer (later taken prisoner by the British) watched through his binoculars as the event unfolded.  The information gleaned from him was that:

    “The machine came down quite slowly and bumped once or twice gently on the ground before it stopped.

    At first the officers tried to make a bolt for it, but saw it was impossible and returned to the machine.  They were both unhurt.  After they (the Turks) had taken the two officers from the machine our (British) guns opened fire on it and tried to smash it, whereupon they (the Turks) led one of them (the officers) back in its direction and the guns ceased fire, and they (the Turks) were then able to get it away.”


    Harold and his observer Captain Basil Atkins of the Indian Army were the first two officers to be captured in Mesopotamia.  They were actually lucky, as two of their former colleagues, Lieut George Merz (AFC) and his pilot passenger Lieut William Burn (NZSC att RFC) had previously been killed by Arabs under similar circumstances.


    Following their safe landing, excerpts of Harold’s description of their capture and incarceration are as follows:


    “They opened fire on us with machine guns and rifles, and, though the firing was kept up for 10 to 15 minutes, we were both captured unhurt.  Until the Turkish officers came up to us, we had a hand-to-hand fight with the Arabs, who would have killed us but for the intervention of the Turks.  We were stripped and taken before the Turkish commander, Nurredin Pasha, who told us that if we did not give him all the information he desired we would be shot.  I asked him if he would tell the British anything if he were a prisoner.  He answered ‘No,’ and did not continue the questioning, but gave us coffee and cigarettes.  We were very surprised later to get tea and biscuits made in Melbourne.

    Captain Atkins and I were subsequently sent by river steamer to Bagdad.  At every town or village along the river the Arab Sheik with his followers, came on board to look at us and at our 80 h.p. Caudron biplane, which had been riddled with rifle and shrapnel bullets.  On our arrival in Bagdad, the machine was exhibited for the benefit of the Red Crescent – the Turkish equivalent of our Red Cross.  We were royally received in Bagdad.  Fully 50 officers came on board to see us, and crowds of people lined the banks of the Tigris.  We entered the ‘Abode of Peace,’ once the most brilliant city in the Moslem world, with flags flying, and the steamer’s whistle blowing.  We were put in a large hospital, and a strong guard was placed over us.  We were given permission to buy clothes and to have a bath, a real Turkish bath.  The director of the Red Crescent was very kind to us, and saw that we received good food.  The commandant, Huckle Bey, took us for several drives, but, as he could not get any information out of us, the drives were discontinued.”


    “After remaining 10 days in Bagdad, where we were treated with the utmost kindness and civility, we were sent to Stamboul, by way of Mosul.  The party that accompanied us to Mosul consisted of 15 Indian sepoys and a guard of 20 mounted gendarmes, with one officer.  The Indians travelled in open carts, but we were given an Arabarner, a closed carriage, in which you lie down.  The officer in charge could speak a little French, so we were able to find out a little about the country we travelled through.  After two days we reached Samara, and Tickereet was our next halting place.

    On our arrival at Mosul we were handed over to the military authorities, and placed in an old dirty barracks.  From now on their treatment of us changed for the worse.  It was winter, and the very small room in which we were confined had bare floors.  The windows had no glass, and, to keep warm, we had to huddle together in a corner.  After a few days, Captain Atkins became very ill with dysentery and fever.  We could not eat the hotel food, because of its oiliness and filth, and we lived for a few weeks on boiled fowl and rice.”


    “About six weeks after our arrival in Mosul, Captain T.W. White and Captain Yeats Brown, both of the Australian Flying Corps, joined us.

    Shortly afterwards Major Reilly, our flight commander, and Lieutenant Fulton arrived.  Thus by the irony of fate six flying officers who had messed together at Busra were now prisoners of war.”


    Thomas White (who had been captured on the 13/11/1915) later described his first impressions of both Harold and Atkins as being so wasted and feeble with fever and dysentery that they were hardly recognizable.  But they began to show improvement straight away, the only possible reason being a lift in morale.

    The treatment of the men here was far worse than that of the officers, and as much as Harold and his fellow officers tried to help them, there was not a lot they could do, and subsequently many died.


    Harold went on to say:

    “You can imagine our joy when, after five months, we heard that we were to be sent to Aleppo.  [They departed Mosul on the 20/2/1916]  Our great trouble was to get cash as nobody would accept Turkish notes.  The German consul finally changed some of our notes thus enabling us to pay our debts and to give the men a little money to spend en route.  The few German officers we met in Turkey were very good to us.  Two hundred men were sent with us from Mosul, but only 30 arrived at Aleppo.  Here we were allowed to stay at the Hotel America, the nearest approach to civilization we had experienced since our capture.


    While at Aleppo Harold developed severe rheumatism in his knees and was granted permission to visit the hospital for treatment.


    “After spending 10 days in Aleppo we again entrained for a destination unknown.  On our way we passed through Marmure, Tersus, and Byzanti, finally reaching Afion Karahissar [on the 24/3/1916], where we were placed in an empty house which was new and clean.  That same night three British officers escaped from another house, with the result that we were placed in an Armenian church with all the other British, French, and Russian prisoners.  The treatment we received here was good.  Moreover we began to hear talk of peace.  Our evenings were spent in attending our ‘theatre’ or else in mock trials and debates.”


    Six weeks after their crowded incarceration in the church they were transferred to houses in the town.


    “In March, 1917, in company with four other British officers, I was sent to Constantinople, as a reprisal for alleged mistreatment of five Turkish officers in Cairo.  We were placed in a filthy underground cell for 63 days, no exercise whatever being allowed.  [They were held in Seraskerat Prison]

    After 101 days we were released owing to the efforts of the American consul, and were allowed to return to Afion Karahissar, where we remained till the signing of the armistice.

    Thanks to the Australian Red Cross Society and the Royal Flying Corps Aid Committee we received many parcels, but I think only about 30 per cent of those sent.”


    All the officers and men were very grateful to the Australian Red Cross Prisoner of War Department run by Miss M.E.M. Chomley, not only for the parcels of food and clothing sent by them, but also for their untiring attempts to do anything that was asked of them.



    Although still a prisoner of war, Harold was promoted to Lieutenant on the 15th of August 1918.

    Following Turkey’s unconditional surrender on the 30th of October 1918 he was finally repatriated after 3 years and 2 months of incarceration, embarking at Smyrna on the 19th of November and arriving at Alexandria, Egypt, on the 21st.  He was then returned to Australia on the Aeneas, embarking on the 2nd of January 1919 and disembarking in Melbourne on the 5th of February.  His appointment was terminated on the 30th of March 1919, and on the 1st of July 1920 he was transferred to the Reserve of Officers, and eventually placed on the Retired List on the 27th of November 1943.


    Unfortunately Harold’s homecoming was not a joyous one.  During his years of absence he and his wife had kept up a regular correspondence, and he was given no indication that anything was untoward.  However, before leaving Egypt he had received a letter from his father explaining that his wife had recently given birth to a child.  Although she asked him for a second chance, he filed for a divorce in the March and the marriage was dissolved in the May.


    A great believer in the future of Commercial Aviation before the outbreak of war, Harold stepped straight into this new industry on his return home.  When the Defence Department began selling off their planes in 1919, Messrs Fenton and Carey bought four Maurice Farmans with the intention of opening a flying school and passenger service from their property in Port Melbourne.  Harold with three other pilots from the Central Flying School at Point Cook delivered the planes to them on the 11th of April, and part of the purchasing deal was that he would provide instruction on the operation and maintenance of the planes.  They also employed him as a pilot and during his time with them he flew 270 passengers.


    Harold’s personal life also took a turn for the better when on the 23rd of August 1919 at Echuca, he married Ida Emmerson TREWIN from Albert Park.  The couple at first lived with Harold’s parents in Albert Park before setting up house in Ivanhoe, and over the years they had three children together.


    During the month before his marriage, Harold had gone into partnership with air mechanic Hector Lord and flight sergeant Richard Lonsdale, both of whom had served with him in the Half Flight in Mesopotamia, and they purchased their own plane from the Defence Department, a 100 horsepower De Haviland 6 bi-plane for £500.  They then toured Victoria giving passenger flights and exhibitions.  By mid-December 1919 they had visited 34 towns, having flown 6000 miles and taken up more than 700 passengers.  Mid-May 1920 had brought the distance travelled to more than 15,000 miles, while carrying 1900 passengers. Following each flight they issued their passengers with a certificate to show that they had made the flight.


    In August 1920 Harold was one of the pilots who took part in the aerial Tour of Victoria to raise awareness for the Second Peace Loan campaign.  The Peace Loans were established by the Government to raise money to carry out their obligations to resettle the returning army.  The opening ceremony took place at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday the 6th of August, and was followed by a procession through the city, while the four Avro planes taking part in the tour, flew overhead dropping leaflets urging subscriptions to the loan.  The following Monday together with Mechanic Flight Sgt Cecil Hazlitt, Harold set off on his allocated tour route, which involved visiting the towns in North-Western Victoria.

    However, he was dogged by trouble from day one: “We headed for Clunes and Learmonth.  We had a very hard time.  Ballarat and district were enveloped in a thick white mist which rendered flying very difficult.  The bad weather continued until Friday and our plane had to face rain, hail and snow, in addition to heavy wind.  So thick was the rain at one stage that we had to descend to within 100 feet of the ground in order to pick out a paddock in which we could land.”


    Having returned to Point Cook, they set off again on Tuesday 17th August for Kyneton, and on landing later that day an unfortunate accident occurred.  On the ground Police-Sergeant Hore who was keeping back the crowd was knocked down by one of the back wings of the plane, suffering a badly bruised shoulder and shock.  Things got worse the following morning as they took off to head to Bendigo, when only 100 feet off the ground the engine failed.  The plane plummeted to the ground and was totally wrecked, but miraculously Harold and Hazlitt were able to walk away with nothing more than a severe shaking.  They returned to Melbourne that night.


    Flying a new plane, Harold and Hazlitt set off again on Monday the 23rd of August, having taken over a section of the North-Eastern district so that that area could be completed by the Wednesday.  The Tour of the State finished on the following Friday, the 27th, with an Aerial Derby; the four pilots who had taken part in the Tour, competing to see who could fly the fastest from Serpentine (near Bendigo) to the Melbourne Town Hall.  Carrying bags of mail to be dropped on arrival, they took off from the racecourse at two minute intervals and circled the township before continuing on their way.  Harold’s plane won the day, travelling the 116 miles in one hour and fifteen minutes, the other three planes not far behind.  After a few circuits of the city two of the planes then flew on while Harold and Capt McKenzie had to land at the Port Melbourne aerodrome to refuel, their tanks being almost empty.  Early in October Silver cups were presented to the winners by the president of the East Loddon Shire Council.


    In October 1920 Harold was given the job of delivering the ‘Sunraysia Daily’ newspaper throughout the Mildura and Riverina districts.  Three weeks into the run and he struck engine trouble.  Although he managed to land safely, he subsequently crashed into a fence, damaging one of the plane’s wings, but escaped injury himself.  Flying with the Shaw-Ross Aviation Company in the December, he took part in the delivery of ‘The Herald’ to all the bayside resorts between Port Melbourne and San Remo.  That month also saw the running of the first Australian Aerial Derby and Flying Carnival, in which Harold won the opening event by managing to drop a small parachute within 25 yards of a white triangle marked in the centre of the Epsom racecourse at Mordialloc.


    Having obtained his Civil Aviation Licence in June 1921, with the early number of 20, Harold was then employed as a Representative of the Aviation Department of the Shell Company of Australia Ltd (British Imperial Oil Coy).  At the end of November he escaped injury following a successful landing in windy weather, when a sudden gust then flipped his plane over, causing considerable damage.  A week later his Ivanhoe home was broken in to by thieves, who stole jewellery, clothing and a pair of binoculars.

    Late 1924 early 1925 Harold was transferred to Bendigo where he spent the next five years as the Superintendent for the District, before being transferred to the Adelaide branch in March 1930.

    It was noted that: “While in Adelaide, Captain Treloar, in accordance with the Shell Company’s policy, will devote his attention to stimulating public interest in aviation.”

    Before leaving Bendigo he became one of the founders of the Bendigo Aero Club which was established in 1929.

    By 1934 he had returned to Victoria and continued working with the Shell Company until 1940 (as a Salesman) at which time he was appointed to the State Liquid Fuel Control Board.  The final three months of 1942 saw him employed with the State Taxation Department.


    Harold died suddenly on the 11th of October 1950 in Bendigo where he was employed as a Motor Salesman – he was 61 years old.  He is buried in the Warringal Cemetery, Heidelberg, and was joined by his wife Ida in 1982.





    Harold’s parents: William Henry TRELOAR and Jane Freeman CADDY married in Vic in 1988.

    William who had been born at Linton (near Ballarat) died on the 7/1/1930 at his home in Heidelberg, aged 65.  Jane who had been born and bred in Ballarat, died on the 18/8/1942 also at home in Heidelberg, aged 72.


    Harold’s Siblings: *Reginald Claremont b.21/6/1891 Hawthorn (Grocer’s Assistant) – WW1: Cpl 609 (MM), 4th MG Bn – WW2 – d.1969 Heidelberg; Grace Beatrice b.1893 Melb – d.1894 (5M); *John Linton b.10/12/1894 Port Melb (Military Staff Clerk) marr Clarissa M W Aldridge 5/11/1918 Notting Hill, UK – WW1: Maj (O.B.E.) 1st Div HQ (Aust War Records Sect) – WW2 – d.28/1/1952 Canberra; Vera Grace Larewance b.1898 Warrnambool – marr L.R. OATES 25/10/1924 – d.1954; Alexander Glenroy b.1900 Hamilton (Salesman, Warehouseman); Mary Thelma b.1901 Hamilton – marr BARKWAY – d.1974; Arthur Charles Caddy b.1902 Hamilton (Mechanic) – d.8/2/1963 WA.


    Harold’s Children (3): *William Herbert Ross b.18/8/1922 Ivanhoe (Wireless Operator) – WW2: Merchant Navy – d.2002, *Eric John (Draughtsman) b.1925 – d.1998, *Janette Mary – marr K.B. IRESON – d.2016



    For more in-depth detail in regard to:

    *Half Flights time in Mesopotamia: – The Official History, Vol VIII The A.F.C.; “Fire in the Sky” by Michael Molkentin

    *Harold’s incarceration – “Guests of the Unspeakable” by Thomas W. White






  3. DMcNay
    Latest Entry

    This might be a question that someone reading this might think of.

    "Why not check the banks archives? Surely they have some info."

    Well...yes and no. There is an archive (in fact they gave me the original lists of names), BUT...all staff records are kept locked to the public for 100 years due to sensitive information.

    I'm reluctant to query this and try and get access as they've been very patient and helpful with me so far and I don't want to overdo the amount of pestering done.

    I do know that they can give me information: they told me the years of employment for a man who died in WW2 who had worked for the Union Bank but wasn't on the plaque (left the banks employment before commencement of hostilities, so that explained that) but I don;t think they'd appreciate me emailing them a big list of names and saying "find them for me".

    However, I do need to make enquiries with them in case there were staff magazines or some such information which is a little more freely available.

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    This is my first attempt at Blogging so forgive me if it's rubbish.

    I have been researching the Great War for many years, and have visited many battlefields, but Saturday just gone prooved something of a turning point in visits.

    My Great Uncle Lance Corporal William Thompson was a Lance Corporal in the 9th Lancers and died of wounds in November 1914 at the age of 28. For some time I have wanted to visit the site of the charge of the 9th Lancers at Audregnies, where the charge to the sugar factory came to an abrupt halt courtesy of a barbed wire fence.

    After many months of research and consulting maps, PRO checks etc, I headed off to Mons early on Saturday morning. A beautiful sunny day certainly helped matters and I arrived in mid morning. Having checked the map, I could see where I wanted to go, and duly set off along what looked to be a good road. Zut Alors! Not 50 yards down the road, the tarmac vanished, to be replaced by potholes and rubble. Fearing for my tyres I abandoned the car and set off on foot. Arriving at a cross roads I turned right and headed into what I am certain was the 15 foot deep road, mentionned in the records, as being where the C troop formed up. With some difficulty I scrambled up the bank, and discovered that Belgian stinging nettles hurt just as much as British ones. Finally making it to the top of the bank, I was somewhat peeved to find that I had managed to leave my camera and binoculars at the bottom of the bank! 5 minutes, some swearing and three patches of stinging nettles later I was back on top of the bank, looking like a rotund and slightly balding meercat.

    The view was stunning. Flat rolling leek fields stretching across to buildings some 600-700 meters distant, sent shudders down my spine. One could quite clearly see how even the slightest rise in the ground afforded a magnificent view. At the mid point of the gentle slope I could see two wooded mounds, which I deduced to be the remains of the 2 slag heaps the survivors of the charge hid behind, and in the far distance I could see what must have been the sugar factory.

    I set off up the track, trying to avoid permenantly crippling myself by going over on the rubble. It was hot and dusty, but I was rewarded by banks of wild flowers, butterflies and the scent of lavender. I stopped level with the slag heaps and watched, wondering, had Uncle Will been there? I arrived at the top of the track and stopped opposite the old building that had been the sugar factory. It has now been changed into a farm and modern house, but the original building can quite clearly be seen. Looking back down the gently rolling fields, the madness of it all came home to me. How did anyone stand a chance? A young puss cat from the farm yard wandered over and sat in the road a few feet from me, and yawned. He rolled over in the road and let me scratch his tummy, and it was then that it hit me. This small cat, a living creature, lying in the road where probably so many of the horses and friends of the Great Uncle may well have lain. We haven't learnt, we are still making the same mistakes and will continue to do so.

    I probably haven't expressed this well, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life and I found myself, although I wasn't aware this had happened, wiping tears away. This was not just any battle field, this was my family battlefield, where my family had fought.

    May you rest in peace Will, you died in my eyes at least, a hero.

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