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Friday, 29 January 2010
Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Contents
Topic: GW - We forgot

Great War Issues

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

Contents

 

This thread deals with those service personnel who gave their lives to the defence of Australia but have not been recognised. In addition, this thread deals with cases of injustice that are yet to see justice and other service personnel who have fallen between the cracks. By use of this thread, these people are remembered.

 

Items:

Died on Active Service but not Recognised to date
James Marshall, Died of Illness, 17 September 1914
Leonard Pitchers, Died of Accident, 13 October 1914   
 
Justice Denied
981 Private George William Pearson, medals denied
North Russian Campaign, 3153 Private Ernest Gaffey, recognition of his wounding denied
 

 

Further Reading:

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

The Light Horse

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Contents

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Saturday, 30 January 2010 5:05 PM EAST
Saturday, 31 May 2008
Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, George William Pearson
Topic: GW - We forgot

Great War Issues

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

George William Pearson

 

An outline of Pearson's case as told by him

[Melbourne Truth, 8 December 1916, p. 4.]

 

The story of 981 Private George William Pearson and justice denied.

 

Outline of events

981 Private George William Pearson, of the 6th Infantry Battalion, H Company, enlisted in the first month of the war (20 August 1914) at the age of 20 for service in the First Contingent. He went to Egypt and spent time at Maadi Camp. Following that, was on shore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. During the fighting at Gallipoli, he looks like he did some bombing for Colonel Harold Edward "Pompey" Elliott and personally cared for the wounds of Major Harry Gordon, who later became the Commander of the 6th Infantry Battalion. On 13 July 1915, he was wounded in nine places by sharpnel in the face and arm. He was evacuated from Gallipoli and admitted to a hospital in Malta and then to England.

After Pearson's return to Egypt, he was transferred from the 6th Infantry Battalion to the newly formed 58th Battalion as part of the seeding process in building the 5th Division. That is, experienced veterans were scattered amongsth the new recruits so that there would be some degree of experience in the Battalion. This was a troubled exercise for everyone. Here is a candid assessment on the Division byGeneral Murray, the Commander in Chief in Egypt to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in London, sent on 7 May 1916:

To say that the infantry of the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions is little inferior to that of the 1st and 2nd. Divisions is hardly correct. I know that this is Birdwood's theory, but as a matter of fact I consider from personal observation and inspection that the infantry of the 4th and 5th. is decidedly inferior as regards physique, training and officers to that of the first two divisions, I hope that the infantry of the 4th. and 5th. will be fit to proceed to France at the end of the present month. There are Special efforts being made as regards the training of artillery and Divisional troops, and they are making progress, but the artillery is not coming on as fast as General Godley had anticipated, and I do not think it will be ready for service in France until the end of June, unless the intention is that this artillery shall complete the ground work of their training in France.


To say things were bad all round is an understatement. Pearson began to react to his surroundgs in a very negative manner.

 

Pearson gets into strife

Finally, he got into trouble with the military authorities through absenting himself without leave. Pearson alleges that he and another man was arrested on a boat bound for France.

In contrast, the Court Martial of 10 June 1916 found otherwise. Pearson was found guilty for:

1. Being in Ismailia without a pass;

2. Attempting to rob a native; and,

3. Striking a military policeman.

Pearson was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour and to be discharged with ignominy. His sentence was reduced to 12 months.

Pearson was then sent back to Victoria where he was discharged from the army and imprisoned at Pentrige Gaol. Later on he was transferred to Geelong Gaol. His mother was never informed about this and only found out that her son was in Australia when her allotment ceased.

The following account, on information given by Pearson's mother, was published in the Melbourne Truth, 8 December 1916, at p. 4:

Wounded Soldier's Woes

A case which on the face of it seems to show harsh treatment of a wounded soldier has been reported to this office. The soldier in question, Private GW Pearson, of the 6th Battalion, enlisted in the first month of the war (August 1914), being then only 20 years of age. He went away with the first contingent and took part in the landing at Gallipoli. Three months later (in July 1915) he was badly wounded, receiving in all ten bomb wounds in the body. he was invalided to Malta, and later to England, returning to duty in Egypt in January of this year, though not fully recovered from his wounds. He got into trouble with the military authorities through absenting himself with three companions without leave. Pearson and one of the other men were arrested on a boat bound for France, court martialled on June 10, sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, and sent back to Victoria. Arriving here on August 14, Pearson was taken to Pentridge and afterwards to Geelong Gaol, where he still is. His mother was not informed of her son's return, the first official intimation she received being the stopping of his allotment to her. She states that a large amount of deferred pay is owning to her son, but she can get no satisfaction concerning this. We have no cause to palliate Pearson's offence against military discipline; but in view of his youth, his long service, and his suffering and the fact that he has now been a prisoner for six months, no doubt this is a case where clemency might well be exercised to the remission of the balance of his sentence.

 

Seque to 1940

 

The 1940 letter from Pearson's sister Mrs W Reddish


The letter from Pearson's sister of 1940 pleading for his medals fills in the gaps of the years and is filled with pathos. It reads:

Dear Sir

I am writing to you on behalf of my brother who fought in the last war of 1914 enlisted in August 1914 sailed on the troopship leaving here on Sunday in October 1914 was in the landing of Gallipoli throwing bombs for Pompee Elliott bandaged Major Conden's wounds and was wounded himself, taken in the Malta Hospital was in 6th Battalioni his number + name being
Private George William Pearson
6th Battalion
North Melbourne No. 981
I am asking if I could have his medals as he never ever received them he is a sick man has broken both his legs this year suffering from ulceration of the stomach caused through bomb wounds of which he as
Trusting I can have them.
My address: Mrs W Reddish
100 Barnett Street
Kensington W1
Victoria


This application was turned down. It appears as though the AIF was an unforgiving institution. Despite the man being punished in full for his crime, regardless of his previous service, he was never granted his medals. His wounds counted for nothing. Thrice punished. Gaoled, dischaged and a life sentence on receiving no medals. Perhaps one day the Department of Veteran Affairs will relent and allow his descendants to gain the medals that were denied to this man during his life, where even on his deathbed, a premature death brought about sacrificing his body for Australia, the nation denied him this last honour.

Lest we forget.

Let us hope these words have more substance than the hollow ring in his case. 

 

Further Reading:

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

The Light Horse

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, George William Pearson

Posted by Project Leader at 5:26 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 31 January 2010 12:09 PM EAST
Thursday, 22 May 2008
Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Andrew James Marshall
Topic: GW - We forgot

Great War Issues

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

Andrew James Marshall 

 

The death of Andrew James Marshall 

[Adelaide Observer, 3 October 1914, p. 43.]

 

ANDREW JAMES MARSHALL –  A FORGOTTEN SOLDIER

Researched and written by: Brian Fallon from Geelong, Victoria; and, Chris Ward, who lives in Adelaide, South Australia.

 

INTRODUCTION

The death and burial of James Marshall was reported in Adelaide and Broken Hill newspapers in September 1914 and even though it was reported that he was a member of the A.I.F. his name is not commemorated as a war dead.   Early research failed to find evidence of A.I.F. service, however, the chance discovery of incorrectly filed Service Papers for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall of ‘E’ Company, 12th Battalion provided the vital breakthrough to prove that the deceased was a serving member with the A.I.F. when he died.        

 

NEWSPAPER REPORTS

From the Adelaide Observer, 3 October 1914, p. 43.
The First Death

It was reported at camp headquarters on Sunday that Pte James Marshall, of E Company, 12th Infantry Regiment, who had been sent to the Adelaide Hospital suffering from pneumonia, had died on Saturday. Pte Marshall was a single man, aged 28 years, and came from Broken Hill. He was a member of the unit raised in South Australia to complete the Tasmanian quota of the 12th Infantry Regiment, but was indisposed at the time of the departure of his comrades for Tasmania.


The Register, Adelaide and The Barrier Miner, Broken Hill newspapers reported the death of James Marshall on the 28th September 1914 followed the next day by a report of his funeral.   Collectively they reported that Marshall was from ‘E’ Company, 12th Battalion, was single, aged 28, was from Broken Hill and among the mourners was a brother, Charles, from Kapunda, South Australia.   He was given a military funeral, the firing party and pallbearers drawn from ‘H’ Company, 10th Battalion.   

 

ADELAIDE HOSPITAL ADMISSION RECORDS

Adelaide Hospital Admission Records show that John Marshall from Morphetville, probably Morphetville Camp, was admitted on the 17th September 1914 suffering from pneumonia and that he died on the 26th September 1914, the same date that James Marshall died.  There is no doubt that John and James were the same person.  

 

DEATH CERTIFICATE

The death certificate for James Marshall records that he was a Miner from Broken Hill, was aged 28, single and was born in Naracoorte, South Australia. The informant, undertaker R. G. Trevelion, would not have known the deceased and the details were probably provided either by Charles Reuben Marshall, brother of the deceased who attended the funeral, and/or the army.          

 

595 PTE JOHN THOMAS MARSHALL, ‘E’ COMPANY, 12th BATTALION

The enlistment papers, four pages, for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall, ‘E’ Company, 12th Battalion who enlisted on 5 September 1914 were found by chance incorrectly filed in the service dossier for 559 Pte James Thomas Marshall, 32nd Battalion. The latter is not related in any way to the James Marshall being investigated. The papers, including a ‘Certified Copy of the Attestation Paper,’ reveal that 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall, age 29 years and 9 months, 5 feet, 5 ½ inches tall, was born in Naracoorte, South Australia. In answer to Question 11 he stated that he had been a member of the 8th A.I.R., Bendigo and named his sister, Mrs. H. Ramsey of Mardan South, Gippsland, Victoria, next of kin.   Harriet Jewel Marshall married William James Ramsey in Victoria in 1904.   With positive identification of three siblings, Charles, Harriet Jewel and John Thomas, it was established that they were born in Naracoorte, South Australia to Robert and Catherine (nee Harris) Marshall. It is significant that a son, James, is not included, however there is an Andrew James.

With the connection between John Thomas, Charles and Harriet established it is clear that 595, John Thomas Marshall was the John Marshall admitted to the Adelaide Hospital on 17 September 1914 and therefore the James Marshall who died in Adelaide Hospital on 26 September 1914.  

 

1470 PTE JOHN THOMAS MARSHALL, 10th BATTALION
          
John Thomas Marshall enlisted on 18 December 1914 as 1470, 10th Battalion.  His enlistment papers show that he was born in Naracoorte, was aged 27 years and 7 months and his brother, Charles of Kapunda, South Australia, was named next of kin.   In answer to Question 11 he stated that he had no previous military service.  This soldier was four inches taller than 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall.       

 

THE REAL JOHN THOMAS MARSHALL

Only one of the two volunteers who enlisted under the name of John Thomas Marshall could be the one so named born on 12 May 1887.   1470 Pte John Thomas Marshall survived the war and married in London in before returning home. His actual age when he enlisted on 18 December 1914 is within six days of his stated age of 27 years and 7 months clearly identifying him as the real John Thomas Marshall, son of Robert and Catherine Marshall.  

 

THE MARSHALL FAMILY      

Of the eight sons born to Robert and Catherine Marshall three have not been accounted for. Three died in infancy: Alexander Mark in 1884 and Thomas and Thomas Harris both in 1883. Charles Reuben, John Thomas and Richard Harris served in WW1 and returned home.   Two of the names unaccounted for; Robert and William Beard have not been traced but because of their age are not likely to have been the person who enlisted as 595, John Thomas Marshall. This leaves Andrew James whose age at 5 September 1914 agrees very closely with the age recorded on the Attestation Paper for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall.  

 

ANDREW JAMES MARSHALL

Andrew James Marshall was born at Naracoorte, South Australia on 19 November 1884 and it is believed that he was known as James.   He married Bertha Elsie Adeline Thompson at Bendigo, Victoria on  9 June 1909, where their two children were born: Elsie Jean 1910 and Edith Kath 1911. For both births, the father’s correct name, Andrew James Marshall, was recorded. As mentioned above the person who enlisted as 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall stated that he had served in the 8th Australian Infantry Regiment, Bendigo, interesting considering that Andrew James Marshall was living in Bendigo from at least 1909 to possibly 1913.   The family then moved to Cobar, New South Wales where a third child, Amy, was born in 1913. Sometime later it is believed that Andrew James Marshall moved to Broken Hill, possibly without his family, where he identified himself as James.         

Comparison of Andrew James Marshall’s signature on his marriage certificate to that on the Attestation Paper for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall would have confirmed if these two people were or were not the same person. Unfortunately the Attestation Paper being a certified copy does not have the original signature thereby precluding a comparison. The original document cannot be found.   

 

ELECTORAL ROLLS

1909 – Bendigo, Victoria.   Shows a James Marshall, occupation Miner, residing at 302 Woodward Road, Golden Square. With Andrew James Marshall having married in Bendigo in 1909 it is strongly believed that this James Marshall was Andrew James Marshall.

1913 –  Cobar, New South Wales. Shows Andrew James Marshall, occupation Miner.  His wife, Bertha Elsie Adeline Marshall, is on the same electoral roll.     

1915 – Broken Hill, New South Wales. Shows James Marshall, occupation Miner, living in Crystal Street. Being registered on the 1915 electoral roll does not necessarily mean that James Marshall was living there in 1915. By comparison, 477 Pte Frank Batt, 10th Battalion who enlisted on 24 August 1914, is on the same electoral roll even though he left Adelaide on 20 October 1914 and was killed in action on 25 April 1915. Both men probably registered on the Broken Hill electoral roll in 1913 or 1914.    

The electoral rolls in themselves do not prove that James Marshall and Andrew James Marshall were the same person.  However,  it seems to be too much of a coincidence that a James Marshall happened to be in Bendigo in 1909, where Andrew James married that year, and then in 1913 Andrew James Marshall was living in Cobar with his wife. It is known that the deceased was from Broken Hill when he enlisted and it is reasonable to accept that he was known there as James, the name on the Broken Hill and Bendigo electoral rolls.

 

12TH BATTALION

The 12th Battalion was a composite unit comprising: four companies, ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ formed in Tasmania, ‘E’ and ‘F’ Companies formed in South Australia and ‘G’ and ‘H’ Companies formed in Western Australia. On 16 September 1914 ‘E’ and ‘F’ Companies left Adelaide for Melbourne where they embarked on 17 September 1914 aboard HMAT A2 "Geelong" for Tasmania leaving 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall, believed to be Andrew James Marshall, in the camp hospital administratively isolated from his unit. He died at Adelaide Hospital on 26 September 1914 and, with the 12th Battalion having departed, men from ‘H’ Company, 10th Battalion formed the firing party and served as pallbearers, probably because ninety-five of the men in that Company were from Broken Hill many of whom would have known the deceased.     

 

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA GAZETTE

The War Pensions Act 1914 required that the death of serving members of the armed forces be promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette with Gazette Number 36 dated 8th May 1915 the only one that records the names of members of the A.I.F. who died prior to embarkation. Neither John Thomas Marshall nor James Marshall are not listed, the first entry being 527 Pte John William Poole, 10th Battalion who died two days after Marshall in Adelaide Hospital, as detailed in the article extracted from the Observer posted above. Had the South Australian contingent of the 12th Battalion been in Adelaide at the time of Marshall’s death it’s possible that the correct procedures would have been followed and his name subsequently listed in Gazette Number 36.  
 

GRAVE

James Marshall’s unkempt and unmarked grave, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, Number 43, Road 1 South, Path 7 West, photograph taken in 2005.  

 

PROBABLE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

It will never be known exactly what took place after 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall, ‘E’ Company, 12th Battalion enlisted at Morphetville Camp on 5 September 1914, however, it is possible to draw certain conclusions based on the evidence available. Some time after enlisting he was admitted to the Morphetville Camp Hospital but with his health deteriorating he was admitted to the Adelaide Hospital on 17 September 1914 as John Marshall, dangerously ill from pneumonia. It is likely that the 12th Battalion notified his next of kin, his sister Mrs. H. Ramsey of Mardan South, Gippsland, Victoria, of his condition while he was in the camp hospital. She in turn notified a brother, Charles Reuben, living in Kapunda, South Australia who visited the hospital expecting to find his brother, John Thomas, only to identify the patient as his brother James. It is not known if Charles saw his brother at the camp hospital or at the Adelaide Hospital or even before he died. Hospital staff would have notified the army of Marshall’s death, possibly Headquarters, Keswick Barracks, 4th Military District, or the Australian Army Medical Corps and the 10th Battalion was directed to provide men for the firing party and pallbearers. Once that commitment was completed the 10th Battalion would have had no requirement to follow up with administrative procedures. Failure to follow the correct procedures resulted in Marshall’s name not being promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette that resulted in his name being overlooked as a war dead.         

 

CONCLUSIONS

1.    The James Marshall who died in Adelaide Hospital on 26 September 1914 was, at the time of his death, serving as 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall of ‘E’ Company, 12th Battalion having enlisted on 5 September 1914.  

2.    For the following reasons it is believed that it was Andrew James Marshall, known as James, who enlisted as 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall on 5 September 1914:

(i) His whereabouts or fate after 1913 cannot be confirmed although it is believed that he was the James Marshall recorded on the 1915 Broken Hill Electoral Roll.   
(ii) His age on 5 September 1914 agrees within sixteen days of the age recorded on the Attestation Paper for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall.
(iii) The Attestation Paper for 595 Pte John Thomas Marshall records that the volunteer admitted to having served in the 8th Australian Infantry Regiment, Bendigo and it is known that Andrew James Marshall was living in Bendigo at least between 1909 and 1913.   


RECOMMENDATION

1.    The name of Andrew James Marshall to be commemorated as a war dead or something similar.

 

Further Reading:

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

The Light Horse

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Andrew James Marshall

Posted by Project Leader at 9:27 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 31 January 2010 10:32 AM EAST
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Leonard Pitchers
Topic: GW - We forgot

Great War Issues

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

Leonard Pitchers

 

The Accident of Leonard Pitchers

[Adelaide Chronicle, 17 October 1914, p. 45.]

 

The story of Leonard Pitchers



Now we come to the events at Morphettville Station at 6.15 pm on 13 October 1914. The story of Pitchers is very straight forward. After a day of work at Morphettville Race course, 200 men, including Pitchers, headed off to the nearest rail station to catch the Glenelg train to Adelaide. [As a historical note - this track has long since been ripped up but the permanent way in the remaining rail reserve is very visible.] While at the platform, men were spilling over onto the rails. Pitchers saw the train coming from Glenelg and helped to shepherd the men out of the way. In doing so, he was so concentrating on his task that he failed to see the train coming from Adelaide to Glenelg which knocked him down. Pitchers was taken to Adelaide Hospital where he died from his injuries.

 

Newspaper Reports

 

1. Adelaide Chronicle

Here is the story as it appeared in the Adelaide Chronicle, 17 October 1914, p. 45:

Tragedy at Morphettville

A Soldier Killed


Never the lotus closes, never the wild fowl wake,
But a soul goes out on the east wind, that died for England's sake.

These stirring words of Kipling's might fittingly have been uttered by the large band of soldiers who came to the city on Tuesday night on leave from the camp, for one of their comrades had lost his life in a noble effort to save others from peril at the Morphettville railway-station early that evening. Private Leonard Pitchers was a fine soldier, 26 years of age. He came from Booleroo, and was a member of the 9th Light Horse in the second contingent. There were over 200 troops waiting on and near the railway lines at the Morphettville station at about 6.31 pm, when two trains were seen to be approaching, one from Glenelg and the other from Adelaide.

"Stand back!" Stand back!" exclaimed Pitchers when he saw the train from the seaside drawing near. He was standing in the middle of the down road, and apparently was unaware of the proximity of the other train, the engine of which struck him on the back and rolled him over. The locomotive passed over his body, which was picked up underneath the first carriage. He was unconscious and in a terrible state, but he had not been killed outright. He was brought to Adelaide by Sergeants Major Sheridan and Holmes and Private Adkin, but before the train reached South Terrace, where Dr. Gunson was awaiting its arrival, Private Pitchers succumbed. The matter was reported to the police by Private J Lowe, of "B" Section, 3rd Field Ambulance Corps, and the body was removed to the morgue in the police ambulance. The locomotive was in charge of Driver Fahey.

 

Men mentioned in the article in order of appearance:

Corporal William SHERIDAN, formerly of the Royal Highlanders, appointed Corporal, Instructional Staff, 16 September 1914, and later 5128 Sergeant William SHERIDAN, 32nd Battalion, 14th Reinforcement.

Sergeant William HOLMES, formerly of Royal Garrison Artillery, appointed Sergeant, Instructional Staff, 16 September 1914. Promoted to Staff Sergeant Major.

162 Private Horace Bismark ATKINS, 3rd Field Ambulance, B Section.

109 Private John Hubert LOW, 3rd Field Ambulance, B Section.

 

Dr John Bernard GUNSON

 

Dr John Bernard GUNSON, Angas St, Adelaide, son of Dr  John Michael Gunson. 

 

2. Laura Standard

 

The Accident of Leonard Pitchers as seen at Laura

[Laura Standard, 16 October 1914, p. 3.]

 

Here is the article that appeared in the Laura Standard 16 October 1914 at p. 3:

A Soldier's Death

Booleroo Resident Killed by Train


In the most tragic circumstances a South Australian soldier passed away at Morphettville on Tuesday. He died no in the attempt to kill others but to save them. The victim was Pte Leonard Pitcher, of the 2nd Contingent, 7th Light Horse. His family lives at Booleroo Centre. It appears that several soldiers from the camp and visitors, including ladies, were collected at Morphettville station awaiting the arrival of a train to take them to the city. A train coming from the Bay was approaching the station just about the same time that the Adelaide 6.15 train was due at the camp station. There was a danger that the traffic would become mixed, and realising the situation, Pte Pitcher stepped forward, and spreading out his arms called to his comrades and the crowd to keep back. But he had miscalculated his own nearness to the approaching Adelaide train, for the engine struck him in the back, and he was thrown down under the wheels. The front wheels of the engine passed over his body in a slanting direction and injured him dreadfully. Dr Gunson was summoned and pronounced life to be extinct.

 

 

3. The Critic

The Critic of 21 October 1914 posted this story at p. 6:

 

THE MENACE OF MORPHETTVILLE.

The tragic death of a gallant young soldier at the Morphettville railway station the other day ought to point once more to the menace of railway stations that have no platforms.
Morphettville is a glaring instance. The soldier stood on the rails to warn the waiting crowd of the approach of one train, and the other from the opposite direction dashed into him and he was killed. There ought to be a bitter lesson here for the Railways Commissioner. It is the demonstrated danger of allowing two trains to be simultaneously in a station that has no platform. A greater death trap could hardly be imagined. The railway authorities may urge-and not without some force -that the unfortunate young fellow who lost his life was almost wholly to blame. He should not have been on the rails. Probably not; but it is the duty of the department to minimise the risks to which travellers are exposed. Its business is to provide safeguards.
The point "The Critic" wishes to make is that, even allowing for the tragic mistake on the part of the deceased soldier, it should hardly have been possible for him to have been placed in the awful position in which he found himself. That other train should not have been allowed to enter the Morphettville station until the one for Adelaide had left. Is it not clear in these and similar circumstances before, that the simultaneous appearance of two trains at the station should be absolutely avoided in the future? The public, at any rate, will think so.


The first problem encountered with Pitchers is the total lack of documentation about him on any of the national service databases. There is no Service File held by the National Archives of Australia and it is suspected his paperwork disappeared as quickly as he did himself, mainly through the lack of an ajutant within the 9th Light Horse Regiment at that time.

 

The Testimony of George Frederick Gardells WIECK

 

Extract from Captain WIECK's unpublished account
 
[Confidential Memorandum by Lieutenant Colonel GFC Wieck, ex Adjutant, 9th Light Horse Regiment, AIF, 2 April 1919.]

 

Captain George Frederick Gardells WIECK was a career military man who was appointed Adjutant of the 9th Light Horse Regiment on 13 November 1914. In his unpublished account of his time with the 9th Light Horse Regiment, he has this to say about the situation he encountered when he arrived at Warradale.

Here is his account:

The Officer question was even more difficult. The only officers available were those who were not considered good enough for the 3rd LH Regiment. Those who had experience were devoid of character and unable to teach and guide those who had none. Several of the junior officers had had no military training whatever - It will be realised that the task of selecting his officers was not the least difficult the C.O. had to contend with. In spite of all efforts of the C.O. no adjutant was available until an officer of the A & I Staff was appointed on 13th November 1914 and the Orderly Room work was in a state of chaos. For reasons not clear the Commanding Officers set his face against and recommendation for the position of Second in Command; he consistently stated that he could manage quite well without but it is strongly suspected that he could see no one in whom he could place the requisite confidence. As a matter of fact, at this stage a Second in Command would have been invaluable for supervision of training of officers and N.C.Os, and for co-ordinating the progress of "C" Squadron.

 

This vignette paints a devastating comment about the competence of administration in the 9th Light Horse Regiment at the time of Leonard Pitchers death and could explain the loss of his records.

For more information on George Frederick Gardells WIECK and his published work, See:

Western Australian Militia, Light Horse

 

Public Records 

So let's look at the things we do know.


Birth Certificate

Here is the extract from his Birth Certificate.

        Surname:PITCHERS
        Given Names:Leonard
        Date:6 December 1880
        Sex:Male
        Father:Henry PITCHERS
        Mother:Rose SOUTHWOOD

From the above, it was possible to compile the family genealogy at the time of the birth of Leonard Pitchers. 

 

Parents

Henry Pitchers (1837-1909) and Rosa Southwell (1837-1899) were married on 8 March 1858 in Hindmarsh Valley, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

 

Children

William Henry Pitchers (1858-1927);

John Southwell Pitchers (1860 - ?);

Frank Pitchers (1862-1939);

Gertrude Pitchers (1864-1913);

Sarah Preston Pitchers (1866 - ?);

Alfred Pitchers (1868-1903);

Rose Pitchers (1871- ?);

Elizabeth Pitchers (1873- ?);

Ernest Pitchers (1874-1949);

Florence (Doll) Pitchers (1876- ?);

Lucy Alice Pitchers (1878- ?); and,

Leonard Pitchers (1880-1914).

 

The Will

On the 8 October 1914 he wrote out his will witnessed by two law clerks in Adelaide. Probate was granted on 25 January, 1915. The beneficiaries and executors were his brother Ernest and his sister Lucy Alice WILSON nee PITCHERS. The estate was sworn not to exceed £2,500.

Coroner's Report

The first problem is the coroner's report. There was none. There is a file - The State Records reference is GRG1/44 - 13/10/1914 - No 364 - which apart from the detectives reports that summarise the reports in the newspapers, there is little else.

 

Death Certificate

His Death Certificate extract provides us with very little information:

        Surname:PITCHERS
        Given Names:Leonard
        Date:13 October 1914
        Sex:Male
        Age:34 years
        Status:Single
        Relative: 
        Relative 2: 
        Residence:Booleroo Whim
        Death Place:Adelaide

It does raise issues of information conflict. The newspaper report mentions Pitchers as being 28 while his birth and death certificates confirm that he was 34 years of age. This is relatively minor considering that the notion of age was quite a flexible concept in the AIF at the time. Men changed their ages to fit in with the desirable criteria for selection.

 

7th or 9th Light Horse Regiments

One conflict of information raised in the newspaper stories is the identification of Pitchers as being in both the 7th and 9th Light Horse Regiments. His death occurred in the week when a name change occurred. At the beginning of his service, Pitchers was enrolled in "B" Squadron, 7th Light Horse Regiment, a composite Regiment made up of a squadron from New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia. The 7th Light Horse Regiment was formed at the beginning of October 1914, with Lieutenant Colonel Miell as the Commanding Officer. The overflow of New South Wales recruits meant that the 7th Light Horse Regiment was over subscribed in that state allowing the authorities to raise a new composite regiment based in South Australia which would provide two squadrons and Victoria, one squadron. Again Lieutenant Colonel Miell, a South Australian, was appointed as the Commanding Officer.

See:
7th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, Outline
and
9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, Outline 

 

 

Pitchers was in the 7th Light Horse Regiment, "B" Squadron during the first week of October but in the 9th Light Horse Regiment, "A" Squadron during the second week of October at the time of his death.  

 

Public Acknowledgement 

At the time, in 1914, Pitchers was acknowledged and recognised by his local communities. His death was memorialised on two Rolls of Honour.

 

Booleroo Centre

 

Roll of Honour at the Booleroo Centre Institute

[From Tributes of Honour, SA & NT War Memorials.]

 

The entry on the Roll of Honour at the Booleroo Centre Institute reads:

PITCHERS L. Accidentally Killed Whilst In Camp

 

Hammond

 

Hammond Roll of Honour

[From Tributes of Honour, SA & NT War Memorials.]

 

The entry on the Roll of Honour at Hammond reads:

L PITCHERS



In contrast, no entry for Pitchers appears on the South Australian War Memorial nor is there an entry on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, nor has he been granted a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave.

 

Location of Grave

In fact, currently, no one knows quite where Pitchers was buried. It was certainly not West Terrace Cemetery, the most logical place. West Terrace Cemetery was in easy transport distance between the Adelaide Hospital and Morphettville. There is no information about who paid for the funeral although judging from the news story, it is likely that this task was undertaken and paid for by the AIF. However, this is just supposition based upon later history since there were no funeral notices or anything of that nature to help assist in resolving this matter.

 

Conclusion

Leonard Pitchers, who was killed through being run over by a train, earned him the unenviable distinction of being the first 9th LHR man to be killed while on active service. Yet he is not remembered on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial nor on the Adelaide War Memorial.

"Lest we forget"

Ironically, he was forgotten and still remains officially forgotten. Perhaps in the future Pitchers may be publicly remembered. 

 

Further Reading:

Tributes of Honour, SA & NT War Memorials, Booleroo Centre Institute

Tributes of Honour, SA & NT War Memorials, Hammond

Andrew Kemp's Genealogy Page

Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway

The Light Horse

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920

 


Citation: Great War Issues, Lest We Forget - But We Did Anyway, Leonard Pitchers

Posted by Project Leader at 9:32 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 31 January 2010 8:49 AM EAST

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