Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

09 March 2010

Private Thomas William Alley of Belair

Tom Alley was the son of William Alfred and Thirza Alley and was born at Belair in 1897. He attended Brownhill Creek Public School and worked as a gardener. Tom served in the junior and senior cadets before the war.

He enlisted on 24 August 1915 at the age of 18, and although he sailed with the 13th reinforcements to the 16th Battalion in January 1916, he was subsequently transferred to and joined the 48rd Battalion in Egypt in early April 1916. After spending some time in the trenches guarding the Suez canal, the battalion entrained for Alexandria and sailed to Marseilles in early June. Over the next month the 48th Battalion was engaged in static trench warfare, generally spending two weeks in then two weeks out of the frontline. However, between 5 and 7 August 1916 the 48th Battalion held ground in the village of Pozieres during what has been described as the heaviest artillery barrage ever experienced by Australian troops. During those three days the 48th Battalion suffered 104 killed, 418 wounded and 76 missing. Sometime on the second day of that barrage Tom was wounded in the left leg and didn't rejoin his unit until 11 September 1916. The day Tom returned to the battalion it was in reserve, and his commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ray Leane arranged for the picture hall in the village of Poperinghe to screen a movie for the men. Two weeks later the battalion returned to the frontline for another stint in the trenches.

After the terrible winter of 1916/17, the 48th Battalion fought its first major action of 1917 during the Battle of Bullecourt on 11 April when the battalion captured a section of the Hindenburg Line but was forced to withdraw due to the failure of the supporting tanks. In June the battalion participated in the second stage of the Battle of Messines. Later that year the 48th Battalion were involved in the abortive attack on Passchendaele on 12 October 1917 when more than half the battalion became casualties. Tom was wounded again on 20 October 1917 as the battalion moved into support trenches, but he stayed on duty.

From mid-February until early July 1918 Tom went absent without leave twice, and with a stint in hospital and some time undergoing punishment following a court martial he didn't rejoin his unit until early July 1918. In late September, after a further stint of absence, he was promoted to lance corporal and detached to the brigade signals school for training until early November 1918. Between January and May 1919 Tom went absent without leave on four separate occasions, and was court martialled once again. He finally sailed for Australia in July, arriving in Adelaide in August and was discharged in October 1919.

After the war Tom apparently lived in Torrensville for some time, and died on 30 September 1989 at the age of 93 and was buried at Centennial Park. His name was inscribed on the Roll of Honour at All Hallows Anglican Church on Coromandel Parade, Blackwood, and the Brownhill Creek Public School Roll of Honour. When she sent his photograph in to the State Library in the 1920's, his mother Jean described him as 'a dinkum Digger'. Translated into today's language (as much as that is possible), I think that means he was 'a bit of a lad'.
Photograph: Courtesy of State Records of South Australia and Miss Jean Alley of Belair


  1. Hi Ian,

    I happened across your project and was very pleased to find that my grandfather was included, thanks Ian for going to so much trouble for such a worthy project.
    kind regards
    Dave Alley
    ps I'd never seen a photo of him in uniform

  2. You're welcome, Dave. Anything that you would like to add to his life story can be sent to me at