Yesterday Australians came together to commemorate Anzac Day. It was a day of thanks and quiet reflection on what a wonderful, lucky nation we live in. It was a time to reflect on Australia’s commitment to continue to contribute to peace in other parts of the world.
More importantly, it was a day where we all stood together to remember and honour the service and the sacrifice of ordinary Australians during wartime, especially those who enlisted in Australia’s forces during the First World War. Although there are no living WWI diggers anymore, it is important that we keep their memory alive.
Over 950 WWI veterans were born in my electorate of Throsby. From the Southern Highlands through Albion Park all the way down to the waters of Port Kembla and Shellharbour. From all over, these brave young men enlisted to form part of the first Australian Imperial Force. Here are a few of their stories.
William James Bell was a 39 year old farrier born in Dapto NSW. Having already served 12 years with the Scottish Rifles and 5 years in the Boer War in South Africa, William enlisted with the AIF on 11th January 1915 as a Farrier Sergeant with the 12thLight Horse Brigade. His regiment sailed from Australia in two separate units in June 1915. They were reunited in Egypt on 23 July 1915 and began training as infantry, having been ordered to leave their horses in Australia.
A month later William was deployed to Gallipoli until 1916, when his regiment joined the forces defending the Suez Canal and Sinai Desert. In 1917 he moved to Palestine to join the main British and dominion advance.
William saw his first major battle on 19 April 1917 when his regiment was attacked and dismounted as part of the ill-fated battle of Gaza. His deployment continued throughout the Middle East until his unit was called on to quell the Egyptian revolt in March 1919. Order was restored, however William died on June 10 that year, only a month before his regiment sailed back home to Australia in July.
His memorial is located at Rookwood Necropolis in Sydney.
Railway Porter Olley Rush was 21 years old when he joined up on the 12th August, 1915. He served as a private with the 12thCompany of the Australian Machine Gun Corps. His battalion was raised in Egypt on 24th February, 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the AIF.
Olley was merged into the unit that already consisted of Gallipoli veterans from the 15th Battalion, making up approximately half of the contingent.
He arrived in France on 9th of June, 1916 and entered the trenches of the Western Front for the first time on July 3. Olley participated in his first major battle at Pozières, initially providing working parties during the 2nd Division’s attack on 4thAugust, then with his own division, defending the ground that had been captured.
Olley Rush died in France on the 6th August, 1916. His remains are buried at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, France.
Edward Charles Dann was a 19 year old Labourer, born in Lake Illawarra. He joined the 25th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force on 17 September 1915.
As part of the 7th Brigade, Edward and his battalion left Australia in early July, trained in Egypt during August and by early September were manning trenches in Gallipoli.
At Gallipoli the 7th Brigade reinforced the depleted New Zealand and Australian division. Edward however, had a relatively quiet time because the last major Allied offensive had been launched, and turned back, in the previous month. Edward and his unit left the beaches of Gallipoli on 18 December 1915.
After further training in Egypt, the 25th Battalion sailed on to France. They were the first AIF unit to land there, arriving on 19 March 1916. Edward fought as part of the 2nd Division at the battle of Pozières between 25 July and 7 August, in the course of which it suffered 785 casualties. After more time at the front in Belgium, Edward moved south to attack again in the Somme Valley, where his battalion took part in two attacks in Flers, both of which floundered in the mud.
Edward’s battalion acted in a supporting role at the second battle of Bullecourt between 3 – 15 May 1917. At dawn on 6 May, after 18 hours of bombardment, the Germans launched their sixth general counter-attack on the AIF, who were extending their narrow foothold in the Hindenburg Line. Their efforts caused the Germans to move back farther than their starting point. Edward however, did not survive the attack and died on 7 May 1917. His remains are buried at Grevillers British Cemetery in France.
These are just three stories of our local Anzacs. They serve to remind us all of the great service that these brave men gave for Australia and the cost to them and their families. We will remember them.