Anecdotes from Alf Cumberland

Association Member Tim Lewis has passed on the following reminiscences from Alf Cumberland. Alf has been regularly in attendance at our small commemoration service at the 2/31st Battalion Memorial in Southbank just prior to the main march through Brisbane each Anzac Day. At 101 years of age Alf is still going strong, one of a dwindling number of 2/31 Battalion members. Tim takes up the story:

Alex Swann ( nee Henderson ) and I spent a couple of hours with Alf recently. Alf was in fine form and told us a couple of ” never been told before stories .” Now I could be corrected on the details , however, the first one went something like this :-

Alf was at a Staging camp in 1942, either in Petrie or Oonoomba in Townsville and was getting a bit toey to help in PNG. He was a Corporal at the time and they were calling for six hundred private soldier volunteers. Now he knew that one of the privates was incapacitated, in hospital and would not make the roll call. So, as you do, when his name was called Alf was the man. Everything was going swimmingly until he stepped up to the man with the clipboard at the top of the gang plank. The private’s name had been crossed of the list. “So who are you?”asked the clipboard man. “Cpl Cumberland, Sgt” came the reply. “Stand over there,” he was told, “I’ll deal with you later.” In no time all troops were on board and were leaning over the ship’s railing to see what was going to occur. “Now, what’s you story Corporal?” “Well I just want to get over there and help out.” says Alf. So, after a bit of argy bargy came the executive decision —- “Alright , up you go.”

And so it was that Cpl Alfred Herbert Cumberland became a valued member of the 2/31st Infantry Battalion

Tim Lewis

Tim and Alf go over old wartime photos and stories.

Tim’s Father Lt Aub Lewis was a member of 2/31st Battalion 

Alex Swann (nee Henderson) enjoys a morning tea with Alf.

Alex’s Father was also a member of 2/31st Battalion.



Commemoration of 103rd Anniversary – Battle of Fromelles

The commemoration service for the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles was held on 19th July 2019 at the grave site of a member of the 31st Battalion, Lt Arthur Edward Adams DCM  who is buried in the Ipswich Cemetery. The service was conducted by the president of the Brisbane Branch of the 31st Battalion of the Association Ray Fogg. The current CO and RSM of 31/42 RQR, LTCOL Damien Green and WO1 John Stafford plus the President of the 31st Battalion Association Greg Stokie all flew from Townsville for the commemoration service. Also in attendance were the presidents of the Rosewood RSL Ken Savage and the President of the Ipswich RSL Rob Wadley. Padre Peter Woodward conducted the prayer service. The last post was played by Brad Strong of Rosewood RSL. Lt Arthur Adams, whose story was retold on this website earlier this month was originally from Rosewood and fought in the Battle as a Private before subsequent promotions to Leiutenant and being awarded the DCM.

The service was attended by more than 30 members of the 31st Battalion Asosciation, the 42nd Battalion Association and the Ipswich and Rosewood RSLs. Most adjourned for lunch refreshments and fellowship afterwards at the CSI club in Ipswich.

During the service the following address was presented by the Commanding Officer 31/42 RQR LtCol Damien Green:

At around 1800h on Wednesday 19 July 1916, in full daylight on a clear sunny day, the 5 th
Australian Division answered the call to attack and was thrown against the German front
line as a diversion to help support the massive British offensive then in the balance at the
Somme. The location of this diversion was 16km from the industrial city of Lille, between
the Fauquissart-Trivelet Road and Cordonneri Farm, an area overlooked from Aubers Ridge
to the South. The ground was low lying and much of the defensive fortifications by both
sides consisted of building breastworks rather than trenches. The Enemy consisted of the
6 th Bavarian Reserve Division supported by the two flanking Divisions of the German 6 th
Army. In the ranks of the enemies 16 th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment at Fromelles
was a young despatch runner named Adolf Hitler who, during the battle, faced the direct
fire of advancing Australians in the conduct of his duties.
At that time the 5 th Australian Division comprised of the 8 th , 14 th and 15 th Infantry Brigades
– each, in turn were made up of four battalions and support troops. The 8 th Bde (drawn
from SA, WA, Qld and Vic) comprised the 29 th , 30 th , 31 st and 32 nd Battalions; 14 th Bde
(NSW) the 53 rd , 54 th , 55, and 56 th Battalions and 15 th BDE (Vic) the 57 th , 58 th , 59 th and 60 th
Battalions. The 31 st Battalion comprised approximately 1000 men broken up into four
companies A and B Coy from Queensland and C and D Coy from Victoria. In the assault the
8 th Brigade who were the left assault Brigade would have two Battalions forward 32 nd (left)
and 31 st (on the right) Battalions, with one battalion carting stores and ammunition to the
attacking troops and another battalion held in reserve.
The objective in this particular phase of the battle was to cooperate with the 61 st British
Division to attack the Sugarloaf salient of the German front. The enemy had prepared
their position well with the diggers observing from the other side of No Man’s Land the
foreboding German defensive line, all concrete and bristling with barbed wire up on high
ground out to the horizon. The flat featureless no-man’s land varied in width from more
than 350m in front of 15 BDE on the right to around 100m on the Australian left flank 8
BDE. Many of the communications trenches to the rear of the Australians which was the
source of their ammunition, supplies and reinforcements, were impassable due to flooding
or knee-deep mud.
Preceding the assault was a seven-hour bombardment of preparatory fire commencing at
11am 19 July 1916 which continued throughout the afternoon. This bombardment and all
subsequent were expected by the high command to destroy the enemy’s defences and
wire entanglement enabling the soldier to simply move in and occupy the German lines
with minimal effort or loss. The British bombardment did not go unanswered by the

Gemans who retaliated in kind by shelling the rear communication trenches and reserve
troops. It was in one of the early salvos where the ammunition and bomb dump of the 31 st
Battalion was blown up and many casualties sustained including BHQ and medical staff.
Only through the valiant efforts of the Battalions bomb throwers clearing the burning
boxes was half of the ordnance saved.
As the artillery fire intensified the Germans understood what was about to occur and
prepared to repel an assault by occupying their hardened defensive positions accordingly.
At 1732h it was H Hour and the first wave of the 31 st and 32 nd battalion moved bravely
over the parapet to commence their assault over open ground covered by the enemies
many mutually supporting Machineguns and artillery. The initial response from the
Germans was murderous particularly from the flank where the British had not yet
commenced their assault requiring the detonation of subterranean mine full of 1200
pounds of explosives to provide some protection for the Australians from the machinegun
fire. As a result, the initial losses were heavy, however, the Battalions continued to
advance and as they did, the enemy resistance appeared less intense. When the
Australians reached the German parapet, they observed the enemy running away over
open terrain to hold ground in the alleys and the dugouts to the rear. Close quarter
combat ensued and the position was held by the Australians who captured 35 prisoners in
the process of clearing the trenches.
This action created a foothold for the following waves to better move through “No-man’s
land” with the exception of Delangre farm on the extreme left flank from which there was
no cover. Confusion over objectives saw the 32 nd battalion commence an assault on the
farm, but with no cover and fierce resistance the attack failed and the Battalion withdrew
as the 31 st Battalion pushed further ahead. In the fog of war with inaccurate sketch maps,
poor communications, no cover, murderous machinegun fire by a strong well positioned
enemy and a constant bombardment of indiscriminate friendly and enemy artillery causing
enormous casualties the entire front line was spread thin and disjointed presenting huge
gaps in the Australian and British front line.
Desperate attempts were made to regroup, close gaps, establish defensive structures to
provide cover, regain communications and conduct resupply with minimal success whilst
the dead piled higher. On the left flank the Bavarian Battalions could be seen assembling
to conduct a counter-attack with the assistance of their flanking German units to
recapture the positions the Australians now held. In the fading daylight they commenced a
heavy attack which was repelled by the Australians utilising heavy rifle and machinegun
fire supported by artillery. Unfortunately, the situation on the right flank was perilous due
to key terrain remaining vacant after Australians continued their advance. The Bavarians

from the Sugarloaf moved into this position and as they did the Australians mounted a
desperate counter-attack which halted their progress but did not drive them out.
As darkness consumed the battlefield valiant attempts were made to hold ground using all
available cover as well as the conduct of spoiling attacks on the enemy establishing
positions that would endanger Australian efforts in completing their task. Just after 0200h
20 th July 1919 the Bavarians launched another counter-attack which was more powerful
than any before it which fell heavily on the right flank (31st Bn) which was all but cut off
at this point. The protracted fighting throughout the day and night saw ammunition and
provisions starting to run low increasing the amount of hand to hand fighting in pockets of
the front. At 0530h the Bavarians commenced another attack heavily supported by
bombing teams. With limited ammunition to repel this attack parties now began to return
across no-man’s land and the sector rapidly emptied with the action at Fromelles
practically over.
The only measure of success from the battle was 8 and 14 Brigades capture of 1000 yards
of enemy front-line system at the cost of 5513 casualties for the 5 th Australian Division.
This baptism of fire for 8 Brigade resulted in 1262 casualties with the 31 st Battalion
sustaining casualties consisting of 16 Officers and 528 men. This represented the most
significant loss of life in one night in Australian History. Many soldiers from this battle
were and still remain unidentified and buried in mass graves in proximity to where the
fighting took place. It is largely thanks to the work of Lambis Englezos in finding and
identifying Australian soldiers killed in the battle that this number is reducing as we
gather. Today at Fromelles the headstones of seven Australian soldiers identified from the
battle will be unveiled including two 31 st Battalion members LCPL R Johnson and PTE L C
In late 2010 after returning from operations in Afghanistan I toured the World War 1
battlefields with my wife and two daughters who at the time were aged 11 and 13. Prior
to the trip my wife had just finished reading the book Fromelles written by Peter Barton.
The tragedy of this battle struck a chord with her which then ensured visitation of
Fromelles became a priority.
After a long day in the car driving through the battlefields of France we arrived at
Fromelles feeling tired and frustrated with the confines of a car. These feelings
immediately disappeared as we stepped out to face the Pheasant Wood cemetery and
memorial. The scale of everything really hit home when we were standing on the ground.
Initially we thought we would be driving around to explore the entirety of the battlefield
but were quite shocked and amazed at how small the battlefield actually was. It was

almost inconceivable to me that so many people could fit let alone fight in such a a
confined area.
As we looked around to observe the open ground, the German Defence’s at the Sugarloaf
and Delangre Farm we began to really understand how it was that so many soldiers died in
that battle. The two mass graves at VC Corner in vicinity of the Cobbers memorial was the
finishing touch causing us to culminate on our comprehension of the senseless loss of life
that occurred on this day in 1916.
After reviewing the scene of the battle of Fromelles we paid our final respect to the fallen
and completed the drive to Lille in utter silence as we reflected on what we had just
The planning of the battle of Fromelles was bordering on criminal and the sheer arrogance
of the high command in their assumptions and tactical decision making was even worse.
This battle should serve as a stark reminder that thorough preparation and planning is the
least we can do prior to committing troops to fight after diplomacy has failed.
Many soldiers who survived Fromelles and the remainder of the war carried physical and
mental scars when they returned home. Many of them never recovered from their wounds
becoming casualties of war dying within years of the bells of Armistice sounded the
Germans surrender.

Lest we forget.


The CO of 31/42 RQR LtCol Damien Green delivering the address at the commemoration service for the

Anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles at the Ipswich Cemetery gravesite of Lt Arthur Edward Adams DCM


31st Battalion Association (Brisbane Branch) President Ray Fogg conducting the commemoration service


Laying of wreaths at the commemoration service (above and below)



Last Post  played by bugler Brad Strong from Rosewood RSL


Tributes to Lt Arthur Adams DCM  – Presented by 31st Battalion Association President Ray Fogg to

Ken Savage (President of Rosewood RSL) and Rob Wadley (President of Ipswich RSL)

L to R in the above photo, Ken Savage, Ray Fogg, Rob Wadley

Tributes were produced by 31st Battalion Association honorary member in France Pierre Seillier


Seven New Identified WW1 Soldiers – Fromelles

The following information was passed on by our Association Secretary, Tony Wadeson:

Our Honorary Member Pierre Seillier, Volunteer Guide of Fromelles Battle Field & Cemetery’s has advised us of the Identity of the 7 newly Identified Soldiers in the Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery – Fromelles.

The remains of these soldiers were previously buried by the Germans in Mass Graves behind their Lines in Pheasant Wood after the Battle of Fromelles on 19th July 1916. These were the bodies of soldiers who died behind the German lines when the Germans counter attacked those Battalions that had successfully broken through the German Front line (31st Bn being one).

The Graves were never identified, until a Greek born Melbourne School Teacher, “Lambis Englezos AM” realized that the Graves of Unidentified bodies from the Battle, fell far short of the number of Missing. The determined & dedicated Lambis set out to find the whereabouts of these remains. After years of research & then having to convince the authorities that the bodies were buried by the Germans at Pheasant Wood, 250 bodies were eventually recovered in 2009. The remains were reburied in a new Cemetery closer to the Town & named Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery. Through a process of DNA supplied by relatives approximately 166 Bodies have so far been identified.

These 7 Soldiers are the latest to have been identified & their names and Unit details will be engraved on the previously blank Headstones. They will be formally recognized and Headstones unveiled, at the Annual Fromelles Commemoration Ceremony to be held on the 19th July 2019.  (Refer the Photo below taken at the 100th Year (2016) Ceremony at Pheasant Wood Cemetery . Our Member Bruce Lees & his Daughter in attendance at the Unveiling of his Grand Fathers Headstone. Note the other unveiled Red covered Headstone).


641  Pte. Leslie Clark Dunn  – 31st Bn

715  L/Cpl Ralph Johnson    – 31st Bn

  77  L/Cpl John Alexander Crawford  –  32nd Bn

352  Pte. Arthur George Batt                –  32nd Bn

1291 Pte. George Honey                       –  32nd Bn

3433 Pte. Peter Paul Shannon             –  53rd Bn

4188 Pte. Edward James Hope            –  54th Bn


Our Honorary member resident in France Pierre Seillier laid a wreath at the Fromelles Ceremony in Pheasant Wood Militaru Cemetery on 19th July 2019 on behalf of the 31st Inf Bn Assoc (See photos taken at the service below).



Member Bruce Lees with his Daughter at the grave of his Grandfather

In Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery in 2016


Honorary Member Pierre Seillier Laying Wreath at the Service at Fromelles, Northern France

31st Battalion Association Wreath laid by Pierre at the Battle of Fromelles Commemoration, France

Headstone of Pte Leslie Clark Dunn in Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, Fromelles

Headstone of Cpl Ralph Johnson in Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery, Fromelles

Lt Arthur Edward Adams DCM

Pte Arthur Edward Adams was an original 31st Bn digger signing up in Brisbane on 15th July 1915. at 18 yrs 6 mths. He had previous service in the Rosewood Infantry and was a clerk. On 16th Sept he was promoted CQMS. of A Coy. He trained at Enoggera before moving to Broadmeadows in Melbourne with A & B Coys to join with C & D Coys formed in Melbourne. They departed from Melbourne for the Suez Canal on 2 ships, HMAT A41 Bakara on 5 Nov 1915 and HMAT A61 Wandilla on 9th Nov 1915 and arrived at Suez on Dec 6th 1915.

They trained and guarded the Suez Canal as part of the 8th Brigade until June 1916 where they, along with the 14th & 15th Brigades, who formed the newly created 5th Division, transhipped from Alexandria to Marseilles in France and then entrained to northern France to a rest area behind the Western Front.

On 6th July Adams at his own request was reduced to Pte. As CQMS he would have been left out of the Battle which was then imminent. (We may presume that Adams wanted to be part of the Battle and that is shown in his later service). Almost 2 weeks later on the 19th July the 5th Division AIF, led by M/Gen James Whiteside McCay, and the British 61st Division commenced a poorly planned attack, under the Orders of English Lt Gen Richard Hacking, on the entrenched German position at Fromelles which overlooked the Allied position, and could watch the Allies forming up for the attack. The Allies suffered a number of casualties from the bombardment prior to the attack which commenced at 6.00 pm (still daylight in mid summer).

I won’t go into the details of the Battle here apart from stating the 5th Division casualties (KIA, WIA, Captured & Missing) totalled 5,532 men. Many were dead in No Mans Land and the Germans offered a truce to retrieve the bodies. The 5th Division Commander, M/Gen McCay, a former Politician and Defence Minister, refused outright to agree to a Truce after he learnt of an unofficial one. Because of this decision, there are many Diggers who will never have a known grave. This from the AWM site about the Battle –

“But many remained missing. More than two years after the battle, on the day of the Armistice of 11 November 1918 when the guns of the Western Front finally ceased fire, Charles Bean wandered over the battlefield of Fromelles and observed the grisly aftermath of the battle. “We found the old No-Man’s-Land simply full of our dead,” he recorded. “The skulls and bones and torn uniforms were lying about everywhere.”

Shortly after the war the remains were gathered to construct VC Corner Cemetery. For nearly 80 years this sombre monument remained the only conspicuous reminder of the tragic events of Fromelles, until in July 1998 a new Australian Memorial Park was dedicated there. Situated close to VC Corner Cemetery on a part of the old German front line which was briefly captured and held overnight by the 14th Brigade, the park includes the stark remains of four German blockhouses.”

Of course, thanks to Lambis Englezos and his team, we have now found the 250 diggers’ bodies that were KIA in the German lines and buried by them. They are now in the Pheasant Wood Military Cemetery at Fromelles, with 166 now having named headstones.

Continuing on the Pte Adams history, he was promoted to Sgt a week after the Battle of Fromelles, and then to acting CSM when WO2 Gair was promoted 2Lt on 24 Aug 1916.
He was wounded in action (WIA) on 19 Dec 1916 and was in hospital for a month before returning to the Battalion on 15th Jan 1917.

He distinguished himself in Battle at Bapaume in mid March 1917 and was later awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal. His Citation reads –

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. At Bapaume during action 14-17 March 1917 his work all through was of high merit. On the evening of 14 March with a fighting patrol of 50 men, he attempted to effect an entrance through a strongly-wired position at Till Trench but was held up by machine-gun fire which was causing casualties. This Warrant Officer seized a Lewis Gun, and quickly taking up a position on the enemy’s flank, he engaged the hostile gun at point blank range, silenced it, and thus saved many casualties”

On 27th July 1917 he was then seconded as a supernummary in 8th Training Battalion initially for 3 weeks, before going to the School of Instruction. He instructed there until rejoining 31st Battalion on 18 Dec 1917. On the 19th May 1918 WO2 Adams proceeded to England to the Officers Training Battalion at Oxford for Officer Training.

He qualified and was promoted 2Lt on 18 Dec 1918 and rejoined 31st Battalion in France on 17 Jan 1919. He finally returned to Australia and disembarked in Melbourne on 20 Aug 1919 then returned to Brisbane and had his appointment terminated.on 15 Oct 1919. His head wound received in Dec 1916 was stated to have no on going effects just prior to his termination of appointment in Brisbane.

Sadly however, he died on 10 Feb 1925 at age 28.5 years and is buried at Ipswich Cemetery.


Tribute to Lt Arthur Adams DCM by member Pierre Seillier


Grave site of Lt Arthur Adams DCM in Ipswich Cemetery


Gravestone Details


Patricia (Patsy) Hilary Gardner

Affectionately known throughout the 31st Infantry Battalion family of members and their partners, and in particular those of Charlie Company, for her contagious laugh and ever-ready smile, Patricia Hilary Gardner passed away peacefully on 1st May, after a courageous struggle with persistently failing health. She was 84 years of age.

Patricia was married to former C Company OC, Major (retd) John Gardner MBE, for 62 years. The couple met in the choir at St Andrews Church, South Brisbane in 1953 and were married in the Church in 1957, before moving north to Ingham where John took over his late father’s pharmacy.

“Patsy was a wonderful supporter of every aspect of my army career”, said John, “beginning with National Service and continuing on to my transfer to Infantry and Charlie Company. During the years to 1971, when I retired to the Reserve of Officers, Patsy rarely complained about the many times I was away from home. My CMF service would have been impossible without her understanding and patience.”

Patricia’s ashes will be placed in the Columbarium at St. Andrews Church.

Members of the 31st Battalion Association photographed with John (Front row -Second from left)

Following the service for Patsy Gardner in Caloundra on 13th May 2019