Maj Henry William Murray VC DSO and Bar

Information on Maj Harry Murray VC DSO and Bar was put together by Mick James. Normally this website concentrates on members of the 31st Battalion in all of its various forms however Harry’s rise from Private to LtCol and his multiple awards for bravery make him one most decorated of Australia’s sons in WW1. The investiture ceremony for his bravery awards is included below.

“The Times” described the event held on 2nd June 1917 in the “Times History of the War.”:

“For the first time in the war, an investiture ceremony would be held in public, and in Hyde Park rather than Buckingham Palace. The event was scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday 2 June, announced in advance to ensure a good turn-out.
An enclosure was prepared in an area of the park between the Serpentine and Knightsbridge Barracks, and a canopied pavilion set up for the King to make the presentations. Areas were set aside with seating for various dignitaries, and for several hundred wounded servicemen from the hospitals in the London area, and there was ample space for thousands of the general public.”
“No less than 351 presentations were scheduled, including fifty posthumous awards to be received by next-of-kin. Also, there were to be 11 Victoria Crosses presented.
Saturday 2 June 1917 was a beautiful summer day in London. Spectators and guests began to assemble in the early afternoon, and at 2.00 pm the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards, leading a guard of honour from the Scots Guards, began to march up Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner, and along The Row, which was lined with spectators, to the enclosure in Hyde Park. The men and women receiving decorations filled several rows of seats in front of the pavilion. Observers noted the wide variety of uniforms, and the row of people wearing black, who were receiving the awards of their dead relatives.”
The reporter from “The Times” was moved to note that the gathering included “men of every class and from many walks of life….. who, before the war had no thought beyond peaceful employment…. gathered here to receive from their King….. decorations for acts of war which three years ago would have seemed impossible to them.”
The King left Buckingham Palace at 2.35 pm in the royal carriage, accompanied by the Queen and Princess Mary, and followed by further carriages conveying various aides and equerries (including Sir Ian Hamilton, erstwhile commander-in-chief at Gallipoli). The royal party was cheered enthusiastically by the large crowd during the 10 minute drive to the pavilion; alighting from his landau, the King saluted as the Royal Standard was broken out, inspected the guard, and mounted the pavilion to begin the investiture.
The recipients were allocated numbers designating their place in the order of appearance; these had been published in the press with the corresponding names, and were displayed on large cards around the area as each came up to the King. Number one on the list, first of the distinguished company to march up the ramp, was Major Henry William Murray of the 13th Australian Infantry Battalion.
It was most unusual to present a Victoria Cross and a double Distinguished Service Order to one man at the same time, and it was reported that the King spoke to Murray at considerable length; one account said for fifteen minutes, but this was probably an exaggeration as the whole investiture was scheduled for only an hour and three-quarters.
“The Times”, taking note of the wording of Murray’s VC citation, commented that “he seems to have accomplished nearly every task it was possible to set himself in an attack”, a statement with which it would be hard to disagree.
From Jeff Hatwell’s book “No Ordinary Determination- Percy Black and Harry Murray of the First AIF”.
May be an image of text that says 'ÛP The scene at Park, London, on 2 June 1917, for the presentation decorations by King GeorgeV. (Inset] Murray leaving the dais after receiving his decorations. History of the War, Vol XII)'

Harry Murray VC DSO and Bar Investiture by King George V

VC Citation  10th March 1917 –

Capt. Henry William Murray, D.S.O., Aus. infy.

For most conspicuous bravery when in command of the right flank company in attack. He led his company to the assault with great skill and courage, and the position was quickly captured. Fighting of a very severe nature followed, and three heavy counter-attacks were beaten back, these successes being due to Captain Murray’s wonderful work.

Throughout the night his company suffered heavy casualties through concentrated enemy shell fire, and on one occasion gave ground for a short way. This gallant officer rallied his command and saved the situation by sheer valour.

He made his presence felt throughout the line, encouraging his men, heading bombing parties, leading bayonet charges, and carrying wounded to places of safety.

His magnificent example inspired his men throughout.

The award of the VC was for actions in the attack on Stormy Trench at Gueudecourt just north of the Somme in February 1917.

Previously in August 1916 Harry had been awarded the DSO for his successful company attack on Moquet Farm then in a later action (April 1917) at Bullecourt he was awarded a bar to his DSO.

Full awards for Henry William Murray

Victoria Cross
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order & Bar
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Mentioned in Despatches (4)
Croix de guerre (France)

 

Capt Frank Smith MC DFC

Regular contributor to the 31 Battalion association website, Mick James, has uncovered the amazing story of Capt Frank Smith MC DFC, an original 31st Battalion WW1 digger, who, fought in the battle of Fromelles (also known as Fleurbaix in the diary by the CO LtCol Toll). After being commissioned he was awarded an MC with 31st Battalion for his actions in a raid which he led, whilst wounded, near Armentieres. He then trained with the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) in 1917 and subsequently was awarded a DFC in 1918.

Much of the research was done by Melbourne based 31 Battalion historian, Peter Nelson whose grandfather fought in WW1.

Mick goes on to say “I was amazed that he had a MC with 31st Bn & a DFC and did further research. It is
an amazing story. I found a photo of Capt Frank Smith MC DFC  in the annual photos of St Leo’s College Uni of Qld for 1919. Long story short, I was invited to give the ANZAC Lecture at the College prior to ANZAC Day last year. Photos and the story of Capt Frank Smith MC DFC were published in the 31st Bn  AIF Memorial Association Facebook page last year.”

Peter Nelson continued with further research (very detailed) and has produced a 2 part story on Frank. The 2nd part is his post WW1 life leading to his WW2 experience. Click on the links below for the full story.

Biography Part I War Service

Biography Part II Post War

Leiutenant George Alfred Still – MC

Member Mick James has dug up the following story containing details of one of the 1st Reinforcements for 31st Battalion:

STILL, Lieutenant George Alfred MC
Posted May 17, 2017 by Admin
Lieutenant George Alfred Still MC
31st Battalion, AIF
by Robert Simpson


George Alfred Still was born in Reigate, Surrey, England on 4th January 1883 at Montpelier Villa, London Road, Red Hill. His father was listed as a schoolmaster. He was one of eight children to George Ewers Still and Lucy Arnold. George and Lucy were married on 28th December 1880 at West Brompton. In the 1881 census George was living at Hove in Sussex with his parents and Lucy was with her parents in London. He was a graduate of St. Mark’s College. George was listed as a School Master and Lucy was a Fancy Goods Assistant, working in the fancy goods trade with her father and siblings. Their first child Sarah was born in late 1881. George Alfred was the second child. He had 3 brothers and 4 sisters.


In July 1884, the four of them departed Liverpool for Brisbane on the Nevasa, arriving there on the 8th of September. George was one of a batch of teachers brought out from England by the Queensland Government. He took up a position as headmaster of Newtown School in Maryborough (now Maryborough West State School). After arriving in Queensland the rest of the children were born from 1885 to 1901. A younger brother, Kenneth Victor, who was born in 1893, died in Maryborough and was buried in the cemetery there in 1895. In 1895, at the end of year breakup, the headmaster George Still gave a report which included “that Haidee Sunners and George Still obtained Grammar School Scholarships at the last examination, the latter not being twelve years old at the time.” In 1898 a list of passes of the Maryborough candidates for the Junior Public Examinations for the University of Sydney were published and included George, who matriculated with English A, French C, Latin C, Greek B, arithmetic B and algebra B. The youngest brother and family member, Victor, was born in Maryborough in 1897.
The 1903 Electoral Roll shows they were living at Ariadne Street in Maryborough and George Ewers was a Schoolmaster. In December 1905 the Maryborough Chronicle reported the breakup at Maryborough West State School and that that “was the twentieth and last at which Mr. Still would preside.” An address was read to him from the staff and children and he was presented with a parting gift. The family relocated to Boonah where he was a school teacher and they were still there in 1908 and by the 1913 Electoral Roll. He was head teacher of the Boonah State School and then Brassall State School.


By 1905 George Alfred Still had started working and on the 1st October, he was appointed as a Draftsman in the Survey office of the Department of Public Lands. On 26th March 1908 he married Maggie Gilles Smith Gibson in Queensland. Maggie had been born in Queensland on 20th April 1883, a daughter to Andrew Gibson and Margaret Smith. By the 1905 Electoral Roll she was living with a sister in Kelvin Grove Road Brisbane and was doing domestic duties. In the 1908 Electoral Roll they were at Simpson Road, West Paddington, Brisbane and he was listed as a surveyor. On 23rd February 1912 he was listed in the Queensland Gazette as a Professional Class IV, in the Survey Office, Department of Public Lands. The 1913 Roll has them living at Fernberg Road, West Paddington with his occupation as surveyor.

On 27th May 1915 George attested with the 31st Battalion in Brisbane. The 31st Battalion was raised at Enogerra in Brisbane as part of the 8th Brigade in August 1915. He then applied for a Commission on 20th August, as he qualified at an examination for first appointment as 2nd Lieutenant. He was appointed to the AIF on the 30th. His educational qualifications were listed as Grammar School, Public Service Examination and Sydney University Junior, Matriculation and Senior Examinations. He requested that 10 shillings per day was to go to his wife on 29th September, which Maggie signed for.

 

Group portrait of officers of the 31st Battalion, on board A62 HMAT Wandilla enroute to Egypt. From left, Front row: 2nd Lt George Alfred Still from Brisbane (later awarded MC).

On 5th November 1915, the 31st Battalion (1st Reinforcements) embarked on HMAT Bakara A41 in Melbourne. On the Nominal Roll, George was listed as a Lieutenant of 32 years old, a surveyor of address “Nowra”, Upper Fernberg Road, Ithaca, Brisbane. Oddly his wife’s address is given as Simpson’s Rd, Upper Paddington in Brisbane. His religion was listed as Presbyterian and he was a British subject. The description of his present civil employment was given as computing draftsman and surveyor at the Survey Office Lands Department. His previous military experience was noted as 2 years’ Field Artillery in Brisbane and 6 years Grammar School Cadets where he held the rank of Lieutenant. He was 5 foot 8.75 inches tall, weighed 156 pounds, had a chest measurement of 36.5 to 38.5 inches, and was of fair complexion with blue eyes and fair hair. His vision was 6/6 and 6/12 and had 2 vaccination marks on the right arm and a mole on the right shoulder. His term of service was for the duration of the war and 4 months.
They disembarked at Suez on 7th December 1915. On 2nd March 1916, he was posted to B Company at Tel-el-Kebir and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 21st.

The Battalion embarked at Alexandria to join the BEF on the Honorata on 16th June 1916 and disembarked at Marseilles on the 23rd. George was placed as Intelligence Officer under Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Toll, the Commanding Officer of the Battalion and worked closely with him. Prior to the attack, George and other observers gathered information and were praised by Toll who said the “men of this party also deserve praise for their untiring efforts and constant vigilance throughout the period 6th to 19th July.” The 31st Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19th July 1916. The assault had been postponed from the 17th, but even then the Battalion had suffer casualties due to enemy shelling. After a 7 hour artillery bombardment, which was ineffective, the attack was mown down by the German machine-gunners with severe losses. After the first two waves were sent off and mauled, Toll, realising the futility of the attack, and George (who had been buried by an artillery shell before the attack) led the third and fourth waves. Some German trenches were taken, but were lost due to no support and fierce counter-attacks. With Lieutenant-Colonel Toll, George had much difficulty in holding the troops, who had seen another Battalion withdraw and began to go back across No-Man’s Land. In his notes on Fromelles, C. E. W. Bean writes “Toll, at 5.45, finding himself alone with Lt. Still and Cpl. Carew, both seriously wounded, strode back across No-Man’s Land, practically the last of his brigade.” Both flanks had been broken and they returned to the original front lines, with very heavy casualties. 544 men of the 31st Battalion were casualties. The 5th Division had over 5000 casualties.

Medals of Lt George Still (Military Cross, 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals).

George was placed on the seconded list as evacuated sick on the 24th July. On 30th July 1916 George was sent from the 30th General Hospital at Calais to England with debility and eye strain (severe) on the HS Brighton. When Lieutenant-Colonel Toll wrote up the War Diary, he nominated twenty Officers and men for distinction in order of merit, with Lieutenant Still being the first name on the list and his name underlined for special consideration. Toll wrote “Lieut. G. A. STILL For gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemy’s position, also for keeping up communications with Brigade Headq. by means of pigeons, and later runners, and in German main breastworks during the night, assisted in consolidating positions won, and generally devotion to duty.” Army Form W 3121 has George listed in an immediate award list on 3rd August with the entry reading “At PETILLION on 19th/20th July 1916, displayed gallantry in organising straggling troops and advancing over open country in rear of enemies positions, also in keeping up communication with Brigade Headquarters by means of pigeons and later runners. When in the German main breastworks during the night assisted in consolidating the position won and displayed most praiseworthy devotion to duty.” It was stamped awarded M.C. on 28th August. On 31st August 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross in France. It was gazetted in the London Gazette on 26th September 1916 page 9436. The entry reads: – “For conspicuous gallantry in action. He rallied and organised straggling troops, and led them on over open country. During the night, in the enemy’s main breastwork, he ably assisted in consolidating the position won.”

He was the only Queensland officer to be awarded the Military Cross for that battle, the only other one that was awarded to the 31st Battalion was to 2nd Lieutenant L J Trounson from Maryborough Victoria. On 20th September 1916 he was discharged from Brook War Hospital at Woolwich. He was placed on the supernumerary list on 24th October. George was marched in at Weymouth on 26th January 1917, marched out for embarkation to Australia on 10th February and was struck off strength on 13th February. He returned to Australia on HT Ulysses at Plymouth on 13th February. His record originally said gunshot wound to chest and arm, which were crossed out, and then recorded as shell shock and amblyopia of the left eye. In his reference, Bean mentions that George lost sight in one eye, but that is not confirmed in his records.
George was marched in to the Number 2 Command Depot. He was discharged in Queensland on 22nd June 1917. In his statement of service form, Maggie’s original address was given as “Matea” Karella Rd Cremorne Sydney NSW, which was crossed out with the Simpson’s Road address added. He was added to the Reserve of Officers list on 1st July 1920 as a Lieutenant.

From the 1925 to 1943 Electoral Rolls they were living in Flaxton, a tiny village near Nambour and he was an orchardist; very much a change in his occupation. By 1925 his father had retired and was living in Ipswich. He was appointed a returning officer for Fassifern and Bremer electorates. He was admitted to the Ipswich General Hospital in June 1934. George Ewers Still passed away on 20th October 1934 in Queensland. An obituary stated he was head teacher at Maryborough West State School for 20 years, 11 years at Boonah and 8 at Brassall and retired in 1925. He was also a member of the Maryborough and Ipswich District Teachers’ Associations. On 6th November 1947 Lucy (his mother) passed away at Rosalie and was privately cremated. In the 1949 roll they had retired to Tugun on the Gold Coast. They shifted again and by the 1954 Electoral Roll they were living on the corner of North and Bayview Roads at number 121 North Street at Brighton, and were still there in the 1958 Roll. He was still retired. The 1963 roll finds both of them in a retirement village called Iona at Brookfield Road Kenmore, in Brisbane. Maggie passed away on 2nd December 1964 and George passed away in 1968. They had no children.

One of George’s younger brothers, Victor, also served in WW1. Victor was an engine fitter from Boonah. He enlisted as Private 2674 in the 9th Battalion on 26th May 1915, was transferred to the 49th Battalion on 2nd April 1917 in France and was wounded in 1917 with a severe gunshot wound of the back. He was admitted to hospital and died of wounds on 29th October 1917 at 5.25 am. Victor is buried in Mont Houn Military Cemetery, grave number 663B.
A sister, Lucy Elizabeth, married John Mitchell Norris in 1912. John served in WW1 as Sapper 22312 in the Field Company Engineers, but did not embark until March 1918. He returned to Australia in August 1919.


His youngest brother, Arnold born in 1901 in Maryborough, became a Police Constable there. He served in a few places in Queensland, rising to the rank of Senior Sergeant when he was in Brisbane. He passed away there in 1971. Arnold’s son, Leonard Victor Still married Helen Martin Steel, whose brother, Robert Martin Steel, served in WW1 as Sapper 5423 in the Mining and Tunnelling Company. Robert was born in Scotland, was a miner and migrated to Queensland in 1911. His son, James Robert Steel born in 1922 in Ipswich, served in WW2 as Leading Aircraftman 426006 in 114 Air Sea Rescue Flight.
LEST WE FORGET
Refer http://www.anzac-biographies.com/…/still-lieutenant…/

Pte Harry Boughton MM – Greta NSW

Tim Lewis, who is our Liaison Officer for 2/31st Battalion matters has a particular interest in the town of Greta NSW. His great grandfather happened to be Mayor of the town of Greta covering two periods between 1915 and 1920. Tim, whose father was an Officer in the 2/31st Battalion, is in regular contact with a friend by the name of Ken Driscoll. Ken has compiled a book about all 300 (approximately) diggers named on the memorial in Greta.
Tim was anxious to know whether Ken had found any 31st Battalion diggers amongst them. Six were found one of whom was Pte Harry Boughton MM.
Tim adds “At the time that these diggers went to war, included in their number was one of my grandfathers and a great uncle; they were with the 18th and 54th Battalions respectively. The citizens of Greta bestowed upon them these medalions, pictured front and back, My grandfather’s is one of four known to be in existence today”.
Greta was a town of some few thousand people in 1915 but, like so many rural communities, by the census of 2016 had shrunk to 2,830.
The courageous action that saw Harry Boughton awarded the Military Medal (Award Document Below) was covered in the story of Lt Albert Hill which was posted on this website in December 2018. (Type the name Albert Hill in the Search Box on this website). –
.
Private Harry Boughton’s Military Medal citation reads:
.
For Conspicuous gallantry and bravery in the field. Near Bouzencourt on 10th May 1918, a British single-seat aeroplane (Lt Baker, 80th Squadron RAF) crashed out of control at about 7.10pm in full daylight inside the German outpost line. On his Platoon Commander calling for a volunteer to assist him to carry the pilot in, Private Boughton volunteered, though the enemy were heavily machine-gunning the plane and our trenches. He coolly walked across No Mans Land with Lieutenant Hill and assisted him to extricate and carry back to our trenches the pilot, who was badly dazed though unwounded. 
This act, coolly carried out in the face of enemy fire, required the greatest pluck, and the magnificent courage displayed, served as an excellent example for Private Boughton’s comrades. 
C.A.G. 15 dated 4.2.1919   
The Award Document
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Medalions (Engraved and Obverse sides) Awarded by the Citizens of Greta
.
Mayors of Greta Including Tim’s Great Grandfather
–o–

Kieth Payne VC AM – Coming Documentary

Members PLEASE NOTE:-  Mick James has advised of this item of Interest about one of our National Treasures and a past Member of the 31st Bn from Ingham  – KEITH PAYNE VC AM.  (Keith was a member for a brief Period prior to joining the Regular Army)  A Documentary on Keith will be broadcast on SBS at 8.30 PM on WED 27th May. The action for which Keith Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross occurred 51 years ago on the 24/5/1969. Keith is our oldest living Victoria Cross recipient. 

Mark your Diary’s to tune in.  Regards Tony

Pte Billy Sing DCM Croix de Guerre (Belgium) – A letter from the Front

In this article Association member Mick James tells more of the story Pte William Edward “Billy” Sing DCM Croix de Guerre (Belgium), well known as “The Gallipoli Sniper”.  It precedes the story which was previously written by Mick and featured on a post to this website in May 2019 (See “Pte Billy Sing DCM Croix de Guerre (Belgium)” under the “Heroes” menu. Mick takes up the story:

In one of the few detailed letters that Billy Sing wrote home (or had transcribed for him), was a letter he wrote to his mate from the Proserpine Cricket Club, Joe Faust, one of the owners of the General Store in Proserpine.

Billy had suffered a number of illnesses/wounds from his time at Gallipoli (see additional article below). One of them was piles from his extended times at sniping, and he wouldn’t be able to ride a horse any more. He was transferred to 31st Battalion in March 1916. However more sickness  (mumps) delayed his transfer until July 1916 when he was sent to England, as the 31st Battalion had left for France in mid June. Billy arrived in England on 22 August 1916 and for 4 months was attached to a training Battalion learning about the different conditions on the Western Front.

For those who are unaware, Billy Sing was at Gallipoli from May to November 1915 as a sniper with 201 confirmed kills, said to be over 300 in total. His DCM citation states “For conspicuous gallantry from May to September 1915, at Anzac, as a sniper. His courage and skill were most marked and he was responsible for a very large number of casualties among the enemy, no risk being too great for him to take”.

At the end of December he travelled to France and joined up with the 31st Battalion just south of Albert. There were small operations going on all the time to try to keep the enemy off-balance or capture a few yards of ground. On 14th March they were fighting in the vicinity of the remains of the villages of Flers and Gueudecourt, near the old main road that led from the Allied town of Albert to the German held town of Bapaume, when Billy was again WIA. He received a gunshot wound in the leg that was later noted to be a shrapnel wound. Initially sent to a General Hospital at Rouen, he sailed from Le Havre on 21st March and was admitted to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park House in Middlesex which had 1,000 beds and specialist sections which included Skiagrams – early  X-rays. It was a Skiagram that identified shrapnel pieces in Billy’s leg and they operated to remove them. This Hospital also had a number of English women volunteers who attended the Hospital daily to care for the diggers, and one of them may have written the letter as dictated by Billy.

The letter – Quote

Dear Joe

Just a few lines to let you know I am still in the land of the living. I wrote to you from France a few weeks ago, just before we went to the front line. Well (they) exploded another one on Wednesday night the 15th. We hopped over from Bapaume and had a bit of a scrap with old Fritz, and about 3 in the morning, a big shell landed just behind me and the piece of  brass nose cap hit me in the leg.

It is not dangerous but pretty sore. I don’t suppose I’ll be off my back for a couple of months. I have been under an operation to have two pieces removed, and the other day they had the X-ray on , but there was no more in it.

We had an awful time in France this winter; it was the coldest they’ve had for years. We used to be 4 and 5 nights at a time without any blankets in the trenches, and the ice in the shell holes 2 and 3 feet deep.

If you wanted water you had to take a pick and put in some hard work digging, and then the thaw came and we were bogged like sheep. I have seen cattle and horses bogged before, but not men. I got bogged and had to dig my boots out. Some places you would go down up to your waist, and have to squeal for help to get out. I pulled 4 out of one place and then all day you have to sit down in 5 inches of mud and water well off the road, shivering all the time.

We had no trenches in the place where I was hit, only roadways in two old villages. Worked 24 hours out of 24. Time it ended – they are giving the Australians a good cut at the Somme. I don’t want to see any more of France, I’ve had sufficient. let some of the others that haven’t had any action have a go – do them some good.

It would break your heart to see the dead bodies lying around unburied, all sorts in Delville Wood. There are thousands in other places; in one place there is a big memorial in memory of a division wiped out. I did not have much time to write from France, and the censor is so strict you can’t put anything in. I got a letter from you written just before Xmas, also the card from yourself and wife.

I don’t think there is any chance of us being home for this crushing, although Fritzy fell back a good few miles. He is getting pretty sick of it and most of them have not much fight in them. It is only their artillery that is saving them  at all they have plenty of that and so have we. It’s just like listening to a big mob of ducks flying overhead continually for hours, and they are bursting all round. It’s a wonder a man lasts at all.

Well, I don’t think I will write any more this time. I have a few more letters letters to write and the old leg is a wee bit painful. So hoping you are all in the best of health,

I remain your sincere friend

W E Sing

PS Remember me to all the boys.

– Unquote

This letter gives a very apt description of the atrocious conditions of diggers in the front line particularly during the very cold winter of 1916/17.

Below is a follow up article from the one above. It gives a detailed description of the ailments Billy had suffered
prior to his transfer to 31st Battalion AIF and perhaps explains the tone of his letter to his mate in Proserpine
after suffering a serious shell wound in France.

His decision to volunteer to lead a patrol to “mop up” enemy snipers after the Battle of Polygon Wood
demonstrated that he was still keen  to do his bit to help out his mates.

It was general policy with the Army to repatriate any digger who had suffered a 3rd Wounding. “

Many people today are only partly aware of the privations endured by the ANZACS, but this was even worse for snipers like Billy. Sniping positions (hides) were usually close to the front line and anywhere from 40 to 400 yards from the enemy front line and in an elevated position, if possible, to more clearly see the enemy if they stood up in their trench. As such, they were mostly exposed positions and Billy (and his spotter) had to be concealed in position before first light and remain there until nightfall. Billy was used to this discipline, as back in Proserpine, he used to cut cane during the crushing season, where they were in the field at dawn and worked till dusk. His movements were severely restricted while in the hide and this played havoc with his bodily functions.

His medical history was extensive –

Sick with Flu 5-11 Aug 1915

Slight wound from bullet ricochet (not admitted to Hospital) 25 Aug 1915

Sick with Rheumatism 22 Nov 1915 evacuated to Malta 29 Nov Rejoined Unit 28 Jan 16

Sick with Parotitis/Mumps to Hospital 13 March 16 Rejoined Unit 29 Mar 16

Sick with Piles to Hospital 21 June 16 Discharged 11 July 16

27 July 16 Transferred to 31st Battalion. Moved to Training Battalion in England

Dec 16/Jan 17 Joined 31st Battalion in France

15 Mar 17 shell wound in leg (as mentioned in previous post)

Rejoined Unit 24 Aug 17

31st Oct 17 Received Army Corp Commander’s appreciation of gallant service during recent operations

ie Battle of Polygon Wood – subsequently awarded Belgian Croix de Guerre-

Citation –

At Polygon Wood on 26-28th September 1917, after the capture of the final objective and notwithstanding a terrific bombardment by the enemy, this soldier volunteered to take out a fighting patrol to mop up snipers who were causing casualties. By his dash and success in dealing with these, our front line was secured and consolidation continued. During his whole operation, his skill in picking out and dealing with snipers was uncanny

Billy suffered gas poisoning (considered a wound) from Polygon Wood and was also in and out of hospital on a number of occasions with his old leg wound.

On 18 Feb 1918 he received a GSW to his left shoulder (3rd wound) and was sent to Hospital in France. He rejoined 31st Battalion on 10 May 1918

As a result of his 3rd wound he was sent to England and on 21st July 1918 departed for Australia.

He was finally discharged on 29 November 1918 in Brisbane.

He suffered from his wounds, especially the gas poisoning, for the rest of his life and died in his sleep in a boarding house in South Brisbane on 19th May 1943. He is buried at Lutwyche Cemetery in Brisbane and in 2015 a Memorial to him was consecrated near his grave  (see below).

LEST WE FORGET

THE ABOVE PHOTO IS BILLY IN A SNIPING POST ABOUT 150 YARDS FROM THE ENEMY FRONT LINE AT GALLIPOLI. WHILE BILLY HAS A REST, HIS SPOTTER IS LOOKING FOR NEW TARGETS THROUGH HIS BRASS TELESCOPE
BILLY SING MEMORIAL IN LUTWYCHE CEMETERY, BRISBANE

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 – https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/44/page18_ekins

“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.

LEST WE FORGET

Tribute to Lt Arthur Adams DCM by member Pierre Seillier

 

Grave site of Lt Arthur Adams DCM in Ipswich Cemetery

 

Gravestone Details

 

Pte Billy Sing DCM Croix de Guerre (Belgium)

The following story of Pte Billy Sing was written by Association member and regular contributor, Mick James:

W E “Billy” Sing served in the 5th Light Horse Regiment in Egypt and at Gallipoli . He was famed as “The Gallipoli Sniper “ HE was awarded a DCM for his efforts over 6 months on Gallipoli.

He later transferred to the 31st Battalion where he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre at Polygon Wood.

This citation reads – “At Polygon Wood on 26-28th September 1917, after the capture of the final objective and notwithstanding a terrific bombardment by the enemy, this soldier volunteered to take out a fighting patrol to mop up snipers who were causing casualties. By his dash and success in dealing with these, our front line was secured and consolidation continued. During the whole operation his skill in picking out and dealing with snipers was uncanny”.
He was born in Clermont in 1886 to an English mother and Chinese father and was shooting in the bush from a young age. He was in the Clermont Rifle Club and later, when working in Proserpine, was in that Rifle Club and played cricket there. He was wounded 3 times (including gassing) during his service and had other sickness (mumps) and his health suffered for the rest of his life. He returned to Proserpine after the War but was doing many different jobs, including mining around Clermont, before moving to Brisbane in the 1930s and doing various labouring jobs.

He died in a Boarding House at 304 Montague Rd South Brisbane on 19th May 1943 and was buried in an unmarked grave at Lutwyche Cemetery . After a story on his War Service in the Courier Mail on ANZAC Day eve in 1993, his grave was identified and a plaque placed on it at Lutwyche Cemetery.

The Brisbane branch of the 31st Battalion Association in conjunction with the Chinese Association, Chermside District Historical Association, and Kedron Wavell Services Club conducted 2 Memorial Services at his graveside from 2012 and then, in conjunction with those Groups, and with a Federal Government grant of $50,000, arranged the construction and dedication of a granite Memorial Column close to his grave. It was dedicated on 19th May 2015, the 72nd anniversary of Billy’s death.

There are now 2 plaques at the address where Billy died (now a Commercial building). These photos are shown below.

On the 76th anniversary of Billy’s death we remember his outstanding service in WW1.

LEST WE FORGET

 

 

 

 

 

–o0o—

Honouring Two 31st Battalion Diggers

One of our Association members, Mick James, has written the following article honouring two members who have served with the 31st Battalion:

On this day we honour 2 diggers who had connections to 31st Battalion RQR and were awarded Honours for actions 50 years ago today.

Firstly, WO2 Keith Payne VC AM, who grew up in Ingham and initially joined 31st Battalion before transferring to the Regular Army serving with distinction in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam. he was in the Army Training Team in Vietnam (AATTV) in northern South Vietnam when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.

His Citation reads –
“On 24 May 1969, in Kontum Province, Warrant Officer Payne was commanding 212th Company of 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion when the Battalion was attacked by a North Vietnamese force of superior strength.
The enemy isolated the two leading companies, one of which was Warrant Officer Payne’s, and with heavy mortar and rocket support assaulted their position from three directions simultaneously. Under this heavy attack, the indigenous soldiers began to fall back. Directly exposing himself to the enemy’s fire, Warrant Officer Payne, through his own efforts, temporarily held off the assaults by alternatively firing his weapon and running from position to position collecting grenades and throwing them at the assaulting enemy. While doing this, he was wounded in the hands and arms.

Despite his outstanding efforts, the indigenous soldiers gave way under the enemy’s increased pressure and the Battalion Commander, together with several advisors and a few soldiers, withdrew. Paying no attention to his wounds and under extremely heavy enemy fire, Warrant Officer Payne covered this withdrawal by again throwing grenades and firing his own weapon at the enemy who were attempting to follow up.

Still under fire, he then ran across exposed ground to head off his own troops who were withdrawing in disorder. He successfully stopped them and organised the remnants of his and the second company into a temporary defensive perimeter by nightfall. Having achieved this, Warrant Officer Payne of his own accord and at great personal risk, moved out of the perimeter into the darkness alone in an attempt to find the wounded and other indigenous soldiers. Some had been left on the position and others were scattered in the area.

Although the enemy were still occupying the previous position, Warrant Officer Payne, with complete disregard for his own life, crawled back on to it and extricated several wounded soldiers. He then continued to search the area, in which the enemy were also moving and firing, for some three hours. He finally collected forty lost soldiers, some of whom had been wounded, and returned with this group to the temporary defensive perimeter he had left, only to find that the remainder of the battalion had moved back. Undeterred by this setback and personally assisting a seriously wounded American adviser, he led the group through the enemy to the safety of his battalion base.

His sustained and heroic personal efforts in this action were outstanding and undoubtedly saved the lives of a large number of his indigenous soldiers and several of his fellow advisors. Warrant Officer Payne’s repeated acts of exceptional personal bravery and unselfish conduct in this operation were an inspiration to all Vietnamese, United States and Australian soldiers who served with him. His conspicuous gallantry was in the highest traditions of the Australian Army.”

Keith Payne was invested with his Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Brisbane on the 13th April 1970. He was awarded the OAM for service to Veterans in 2006 and this was upgraded to AM in 2015. Today Keith lives in Mackay.

In the same Battalion at that time was WO2 Barry Tolley, who following his service in Vietnam, had an ARA post with 31st Battalion RQR. Barry was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions at the same time

His DCM Citation reads –

“Warrant Officer Tolley enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1959. After serving the The Royal Australian Regiment in Malaysia and Borneo, he joined the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam in June 1968.

On 22 May 1969, Warrant Officer Tolley was serving as Commander of 211th Mobile Strike Force Company, 5th Special Forces Group on an operation in Kontum Province when it was attacked by a North Vietnamese force. So heavy was the enemy’s initial assault, that the indigenous soldiers of the company began to scatter. Warrant Officer Tolley ran about his troops, exposing himself to heavy enemy small arms, rocket and mortar fire, in an attempt to hold them together. However, under increased enemy pressure, the majority of the soldiers fell back. Showing great courage and despite the overwhelming odds, Warrant Officer Tolley continued to hold his ground. Assisted by only three other soldiers, he held back the assault enemy and covered the withdrawal of the wounded and the remainder of his company. Together with these three soldiers, he finally fought his way back to the Battalion base.

Two days later on 24 May, Warrant Officer’s Tolley’s Company was moving as the rear element of his Battalion in the same area. The leading companies were heavily attacked by a superior North Vietnamese force, which also got between Warrant Officer Tolley’s company and the remainder of the Battalion. He quickly reorganised his company and led an assault on the enemy in an attempt to break through to the forward companies. However, they were driven back with heavy casualties by intense enemy fire. Warrant Officer Tolley rallied his troops and showing outstanding personal bravery, then assaulted the enemy a second time at the head of only 15 of his soldiers. Again he was driven back. The remainder of his company, to the rear of Warrant Officer Tolley, were now under a very heavy mortar and rocket fire and began to withdraw in disorder. Not being in a position to rally them again, Warrant Officer Tolley stayed between his troops and the enemy who were starting to attack. Unselfishly exposing himself to heavy fire, he then personally covered the withdrawal until the wounded and the remainder of his soldiers were clear.

Warrant Officer Tolley’s exceptional bravery and aggressive leadership in these actions and on a number of other occasions during his long tour with the Mobile Strike Force were an outstanding example to those under his command. His professionalism and exemplary conduct reflect great credit on himself, the Australian Army Training Team and the Australian Army.”

Barry was promoted to WO1 and also awarded the OAM for outstanding service to the Australian Army, particularly in the field of training.

Sadly he died in Dec 2016. LEST WE FORGET

Today I visited Keith Payne VC Park in Stafford, Brisbane and took some photos posted here. The various Memorial Plaques honour all Victoria Cross winners who are named on different Plaques. They include our own Paddy Bugden VC from WW1 and Jimmy Gordon VC from WW2.

LEST WE FORGET ALL THESE BRAVE MEN
24th May 2019

 

Pte Jimmy Gordon VC

Pte James Heather Gordon won the VC in an action that took place on 9th July 1941
against the Vichy French troops just north of the town of Djezzine in Syria. The following is an account written by Brigadier Amies CBE who was adjutant of 2/31Bn at the time that Jimmy Gordon won his VC. It is drawn from the book “Crossed Boomerangs” a history of the 31 Battalions written by the late Bob Burla.

D Coy, 2/31Bn was given the task of capturing a prominent tree covered hill known for the operation as “Green Hill” which dominated the left flank of the Battalion and commanded the one and only road leading North. The enemy was known to be occupying the position in force, with heavy weapons of all types.

To assist D Coy in its task a troop of light tanks and the battalion’s carrier platoon were to advance and attack the enemy’s right flank simultaneously.

The terrain was the toughest imaginable. No previous reconnaissance of any length had been possible. A precipitous wadi 800 feet deep separated D Coy from the objective, which rose another 600 feet on the far side of the wadi in a series of stony terraces four or five feet high every twenty yards or so. To scramble up the hill at any time, let alone having to fight one’s way up at the same time, was no mean feat. It was another instance of the particularly hard going that had faced the battalion ever since it crossed the Syrian frontier thirty three days before.

The company skirted the wadi and attacked from the south east at zero. It was not long before it became apparent that the Battalion was once again up against a fierce, well diciplined foe who would contest every step of the way, and not just hand his line over to the attackers – as had sometimes been stated in press accounts of this campaign.

The attack developed and soon D Coy was fully committed, indeed up against it. To make matters worse the engineers were unable to reconstruct in time , a bridge that the enemy had blown. The bridge spanned a deep wadi which traversed the one and only tank approach. The tanks and carriers were unable to cross as expected. Their crews dismounted and gallantly endeavoured to carry out their role on foot, but naturally made little progress.

Pte Gordon was in the leading platoon of D Coy. When the expected pressure on the enemy flank by tank and carriers did not eventuate, D Coy were faced with staying where they were or going on alone. They went on and very soon found that they were up against superior numbers and a well-laid out fire plan. This did not deter them and the company followed the artillery barrage right up to the last, actually penetrating the enemy’s line.

It was almost dawn and the moonlight was giving way to the first light of day. Gordon and his platoon were pinned down, as were the remaining two platoons, by heavy machine gun fire. Casualties had been heavy, and the platoon commander, Lt Malcolm Davis, realized the urgency of either pushing on or giving up and withdrawing. He decided to endeavour to continue, as the platoon was within sight of its objective. To remain where they were would only court disaster in the long run. Davis died whilst gamely endeavouring to lead his platoon forward and Sgt Birchall took command. Each time any man moved either forward or backward, or to test either flank, he became a casualty. The situation was desparate, and the full light of day would soon bring further disaster. There was but one thing to do – silence the enemy machine gun post.

Gordon had been lying there amongst the dead and dying, when one of his mates heard him say quite calmly, “Blast this, here goes”, and on his own initiative, and with great daring, he commenced to crawl towards that deadly machine gun. He knew only too well what he was up against, the terrible risk he was facing, and that death would be his lot, too, if he failed.

In the pale eerie light of a setting moon and the first light of day, made all the more eerie by the smoke and dust of battle, he slowly but surely reduced the distance between himself and that murderous enemy post. His only weapon was his rifle, affixed to which was the cold steel of his deadly bayonet. He wormed his way up the rocky hillside, his only protection being small scattered boulders and an occasional crumbling terrace or two. The enemy saw him approaching and fired upon him. They also threw hand grenades at the crouching figure, but Gordon seemed to bear a charmed life.

The attention of the survivors of the platoon was drawn to the display of cool courage and determination by their comrade, when suddenly one of them watching Gordon called out in frank admiration, “Gosh, look at Jimmy Gordon!”

There within fifteen feet of the fortified enemy position was Pte Gordon, and inspired by some great call to give nothing but the best, he suddenly rose from his scanty cover and, with a yell, single handed, charged the deadly machine gun. The sight of this suntanned and grim specimen of Australian manhood coming straight at them with cold steel and a blood curdling yell, completely demoralized the enemy. Before they could fire again he was amongst them with his rifle firmly held before him and his bayonet doing the deadly work for which it was designed. Not once did he falter as bayonet and rifle worked swiftly and surely until the four machine gunners lay dead at his feet.

The survivors of the platoon, though temporarily spellbound with admiration were quick to take advantage of their comrade’s gallant action. They rose as one to press home the attack. Throughout, Gordon remained well to the fore, his bayonet taking toll every second. The enemy became demoralized to find the Aussies so close and unexpectedly amongst them, and it was not long before the remainder of D Coy joined the assault and the objective was taken.

Jim Gordon VC at a Reunion of 2/31 Bn members shortly before he passed away. 

As a footnote to the above graphic description, Jimmy Gordon was to see further action closer to home in the jungles of New Guinea. After the Syrian Campaign he returned to Australia with his unit and was sent to New Guinea where as Cpl, and Sgt he took part in the fighting in the Ramu and Markham Valley and Lae campaigns.

After the war he returned to Australia to settle in West Australia with his wife Myrtle. He went on to rejoin the Army being promoted to WO11 in 1950.

When the 31st Battalion  battalion was based at Jezzine Barracks in Townsville, Queensland, the Jezzine weekend was commemorated each year in July with various military activities and displays. When the unit celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1985, the organizing committee had hoped that arrangements could be made for Jimmy Gordon to fly to Townsville to participte in the centenary occasion.  Unfortunately due to failing health he was unable to attend. He passed away in 19 July1986. He was survived by his wife Myrtle and a son.

Lest We Forget.

Jim Gordon VC with a couple of old mates