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24 December 2009

Private Cecil Claude Ahrens of Upper Sturt

Cecil Ahrens was born at Upper Sturt, SA on 19 March 1897. His father Wilhelm (known as William) died the following year, and he was raised by his mother Elizabeth Jane Ahrens (nee Morgan). Cecil attended Scott's Creek Public School, and had spent a year in the senior cadets with the 74th Battalion at Stirling. He was working as a baker's assistant in Gumeracha immediately before he joined up.

He enlisted at Adelaide on 1 November 1915 at the age of 18, and was alloted to the 15th reinforcements of the 10th Battalion AIF, one of several battalions to be recruited solely from South Australia. He embarked from Adelaide on 9 March 1916, and was transferred to 50th Battalion reinforcements in May 1916 not long after he arrived in Egypt. He shipped to France and joined the 50th Battalion on 27 July 1916.

On the night of 12 August 1916, the 50th Battalion moved into the trenches opposite Mocquet Farm near Pozieres, France, and were subjected to a long and incredibly intense artillery bombardment. Sometime that night, he and a Corporal Noble were near each other when a shell landed close by and killed Cecil. Corporal Noble was so badly shell shocked that their officer wouldn't rely on Noble's statement about Cecil's death, so he posted Cecil as missing in action instead. In March 1917 an inquiry decided that Cecil had been killed in action on 16 August 1916, and this is what was put on the official roll of honour. He has no known grave and his name is inscribed on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France.

On 6 July 1919, Mr George Laffer unveiled an honour roll in the Ironbank Methodist Church sunday school. That honour roll included Cecil Claude Ahrens. A gravestone erected by his mother is in the Cherry Gardens cemetery alongside that of his father.
Photograph: Courtesy State Records of South Australia

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