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30 December 2009

Signaller Alan Stuart Bigg of Blackwood

Alan Bigg was born at Nairne, SA on 9 March 1895, the son of Richard and Harriet Louisa (nee Atkinson) who ran a general store in the town. Alan and his brothers attended Nairne Public School until 1905 when the family moved to a farm near Echunga, and they were schooled at the Hahndorf Academy. Alan served in the senior cadets and citizen forces and was apprenticed as an electrical engineer to Newton McLaren in Leigh Street, Adelaide from 1910 until he enlisted. While he was at Newton McLaren he lived in a boarding house in Norwood.

With his father's permission, on 16 June 1915 he enlisted under regimental number 1419 in the 11th reinforcements of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment. He arrived in Egypt in late November 1915, and received training as a signaller using semaphore, heliograph and telephone before joining A Squadron, 3rd Light Horse Regiment. He was kept very busy manning observation posts along the front with the Turks around Girga between February and April 1916. He returned to Zeitoun for more signals instruction in May 1916, then rejoined the regiment in mid June 1916 when they were operating near Romani.

After going on several fighting patrols in the area, he was with A Squadron during the Turkish attack on Mount Meredith in the early stages of the Battle of Romani on 4 August 1916. He was shot through the right foot during the fighting withdrawal of 1st Light Horse Brigade. The regimental doctor couldn't treat him due to the battle conditions, so he propped his foot on his horse's feedbag and rode back to the 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance where they dressed his foot and evacuated him back to Cairo where two days later his foot was operated on. After examination, a medical board determined that he would be unfit for further service because of his wound. He left Egypt to return to Australia, and after a short stopover in Melbourne, returned to Adelaide on 2 October 1916. He was treated at 7th Australian General Hospital at Keswick Barracks for six months after his discharge in March 1917.

Before the war ended Alan, his brother Lloyd and their parents moved from Echunga to Adey Rd, Blackwood to finish building the house that Alan and Lloyd's brother Lyn had been building before he enlisted. Lyn died of wounds during the War. Alan worked for another engineering firm in 1918, then on ships of the Adelaide Steamship Company until 1922. He married Dorothea Alice Hewett on 20 October 1923 at the Blackwood Methodist Church, and they had two children, Margaret and Robert. He worked as a carpenter on the '1000 homes' project in Colonel Light Gardens in the 1920's, then turned to poultry farming in Ascot Park during the Depression. His wife passed away in 1975, and he remained at Ascot Park until shortly before he passed away in 1984 at the age of 89 and was cremated at Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on the Echunga War Memorial.

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

Wow, that really took a long time...

I'm finally back at it and grinding away at a long list of names (244 at last count). 44 done and 200 to go.

Of the 244 I have a 13 that are resisting being positively identified:

W Arnold (from a local Anglican Church honour roll)

EJ Cox (on the Coro Valley War Memorial)

CJ Howarth (also on the Coro Valley WM)

G Jeffrey (Blackwood Memorial)

EW Jones (Blackwood Memorial)

FWH Martin (Blackwood Memorial)

HJ Nicolle (Coro Valley WM)

SW Opie (The Anglican roll)

FC Pegler (Blackwood Memorial)

C Thomson (Blackwood Memorial)

EJ Thorp (Blackwood Memorial)

F Wall (Blackwood Memorial)

AC Weston (Blackwood Memorial)

If anyone has any clues on these ones, I'd love to hear them.



09 December 2009

I am still alive...

Been incredibly busy on the family front, interstate for my father-in-law's memorial and interment, and laid up with a crook back for the last couple of weeks so haven't been on here much. Keep getting calls from family members, so will be posting again soon.