For the 31st Battalion Association’s Commemoration of the Battle of Fromelles, Peter Nelson travelled from his Victorian home to be part of the service in Ipswich. On his return journey he uncovered quite a lot of Battalion history which he relates below:
On our return journey from this year’s Remembrance Ceremony of the Battle of Fromelles, held at the Ipswich RSL, I was compelled to visit Hidden Vale, Grandchester. This was the home of Mr A.J. Cotton, who donated a Cornet, Tenor Horn and Trombone to the 31st Battalion Band in August 1915. These were very valuable instruments and were utilised with great effect by the Band, entertaining the men of the 8th Brigade in Egypt, under Sgt Drummer Albert Compton.
Alfred John Cotton held pastoral holdings and was the father of Frederick Sidney Cotton, aviator extraordinaire. Sidney Cotton led an extraordinary life. Both Alfred and Sidney are buried at Tallegalla Cemetery, not far from Hidden Vale, and we took the opportunity to visit.
On to Hidden Vale where we provided the Spicers resort management with details and information on the Cornet (which they were unaware of). I believe the cornet was issued to Cpl James Compton (son of Sgt Drummer Albert Compton). This Cornet was recovered, repaired and used to sound the Last Post over each of the Fromelles Pheasant Wood reburials, as well as being played at Menin Gate, Cobbers at the Melbourne Shrine, Thiepval and several other appearances. James Compton was wounded at Fromelles, became Bandmaster of AIF Bands, England, and upon return to Australia he was Champion Cornetist of Queensland and Australia throughout the 1920s & 30s. He also established the Toowoomba Band post WW1 and the Cairns Citizens Military Band in the 1930s.
During WWII as a Captain, he served as Adjutant and QM with 1 Australian Reception Camp, New Guinea. Another remarkable man. The Cornet is in safe keeping with the North Queensland Military Museum, Townsville, NQ.
Alfred Cotton Residence Hidden Vale Granchester
Alfred Cotton Grave Site
Leaving Hidden Vale, we discovered the Grandchester Roll of Honour at the Grandchester Railway Station. This Roll revealed not only the service of Sidney Cotton, but also several 31st Bn members from Grandchester, namely
Cpl Robert Carew, DCM (WIA at Fromelles),
CSM Ernest Holland (WIA at Fromelles),
Pte 2974A Cyril Edward Rafter,
Pte 4178 William Alexis Rafter,
Pte 4815A John Richard Nixon-Smith
(won the Welterweight Boxing championship of AIF & 4th British Army in Jan 1918), and
Pte 325 Michael Toohey (POW at Fromelles).
Honour Board at Grandchester
Each had a story, though I was interested in CSM Ernest Holland, also wounded at Fromelles. Although the Roll of Honour shows an error of him being awarded DCM. His details follow.
Service No 352
Born Nottingham, England
NoK (f) Mr Alfred Holland & (m) Mrs Janet Holland, 31 Fletcher St, Buston, Nottingham England
(w) Mrs Gertrude (Gertie) Holland, Franklin Vale, Grandchester, Qld, later Healy St, Toowoomba, Qld
previously Ruthven St, Middle Ridge, Toowoomba, Qld, and c/o Mrs Alex Smith, Bandon Grove, Dungog, NSW
“On the 18th September, 1915, at St. Luke’s Cathedral, Brisbane, Australia, Sergeant Ernest Holland, 31st Batt., 8th Brigade, Australian Forces, eldest son of Alfred and Janet Holland, of 31 Fletcher Road, Beeston, Nottingham, England, and grandson of Alexander McLeod, late of Nottingham and Beeston, to
Margaret Tighe, second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. Tighe, of Grandchester, Queensland.”
Enlistment 12thJul 1915 Grandchester, Queensland
Status & Religion Married, C.of E.
Address Franklin Vale, Grandchester, Queensland
Outcome KIA on 14th Mar 1917 at Bapaume, France
Notes AWM Photo P03633.003 with two wound stripes (killed in action 14 March 1917 at Bapaume, France)
Served 2 years with Territorials, Nottinghamshire, England
Unallotted Inf from 12th Jul to 1st Aug 1915
Pte with 31stBn 1st Aug 1915
Promoted Sgt on 25th Sep 1915
Mate of CSM W McLean (joined and promoted same time periods)
Original, ‘B’ Coy, 31st Bn
Embarked at Melbourne, on HMAT A62 “WANDILLA”, 9 Nov 1915
Disembarked at Suez on 7th Dec 1915
Embarked to join BEF at Alexandria on HMT “Hororata” on 16th Jun 1916
Disembarked at Marseilles on 23rd Jul 1916
WIA (GSW hand & neck) on 19th Jul 1916 at Fromelles
Admitted 2ndCCS (GSW hand & neck) and transferred to Amb Train on 20th Jul 1916
Admitted 25thGeneral Hospital, Hardelot, (GSW upper extremities) on 20th Jul 1916
Discharged to Base Details, Boulogne, on 27th Jul 1916
Proceeded to Etaples on 28th Jul 1916
Marched in to 5th ADBD, Etaples from wounded on 28th Jul 1916
Proceeded to join unit on 3rd Aug 1916
Rejoined unit ex wounded on 5th Aug 1916
Promoted Company Sergeant Major (vice CSM McLean promoted 2/Lt), on 11th Sep 1916
WIA 2nd occ (GSW L forearm) on 9th Oct 1916 at Houplines
Admitted 8thFld Amb (GSW L forearm) and transferred to CCS on 9th Oct 1916
Admitted 2ndCCS and transferred to 25th Amb Train on 9th Oct 1916
Admitted 35thGeneral Hospital, Calais, on 16th Oct 1916
Embarked on HS ‘Dieppe’ for England ex 35th Gen Hospital, on 21st Oct 1916
Admitted 5thNorthern Hospital, Newcastle, on 21st Oct 1916
Transferred to 1st Aux Hospital, Harefield, on 21st Nov 1916
Discharged to furlough on 23rdNov and to report No 1 Comm Depot Perham Downs on 9th Dec 1916,
Marched out No 1 Comm Depot, Perham Downs to 8th Trng Bn, on 11th Dec 1916
Marched in to 8th Trng Bn, Hurdcott, on 12th Dec 1916
Proceeding overseas to France per ‘Princess Victoria’ via Folkestone on 16thJan 1917
Marched in to 5th AIDBD, Etaples, from England on 17th Jan 1917
Proceeded to join unit on 20th Jan 1917
Rejoined unit from wounded on 23rd Jan 1917
KIA on 14th Mar 1917 at Bapaume, France (shot by a sniper)
Buried at H.32.G.6.5 Warlencourt Trench.
Buried just SW of Bapaume
Buried Beaulencourt British Cemetery, Ligny-Thilloy, France. 1.G.13