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05 August 2011

Private William Heyer of Upper Sturt

William Heyer was the second and youngest son of William Heyer and Mary Ann Heyer (nee Zachariah). He was born at Upper Sturt on 19 July 1893. The family lived at Waverley Ridge near Crafers before the war, and William junior worked as a gardener. He and his brother Harry had five sisters, Blanche, Pearl, Maggie, Marion and Thelma.

His older brother Harry, who worked for SA Railways, had enlisted in September 1915, and was already training in England when William enlisted on 2 October 1916. After a few weeks training William was allocated to the 11th reinforcements to the 32nd Battalion, a mixed SA/WA unit and embarked at Adelaide aboard the 'Afric' on 7 November 1916.

He disembarked at Plymouth with the rest of his unit reinforcements on 9 January 1917, after which they trained at the 8th Training Battalion at Hurdcott in Wiltshire before leaving England for the front via Folkestone.

After passing through the 5th Australian Division's Base Depot, William and his fellow reinforcements were taken on strength of the 32nd Battalion at on 14 April 1917, just before the unit went back into the trenches near Haplincourt in the Pas de Calais, France. William was allocated to A or 'Ack' Company. After rotations into the front line near Vaulx and Lagnicourt, the battalion was relieved and sent to the 5th Army Rest Camp at Bapaume for a couple of months rest. While in rest camp, William heard of the death of his brother Harry, who died of wounds following the Battle of Messines, and William tried to locate his Harry's grave.

The 32nd Battalion did not return to the front line again until late September, when it attacked at Polygon Wood near Ypres, Belgium during the Battle of Menin Road on 27 September 1917. After a short rest they were back in the line at nearby Zonnebeke on 13 October when they were very heavily shelled. William was hit in the back of his shoulder but survived to be evacuated to hospital in Bristol four days later. After a move to Dartmouth he was given furlough for a couple of weeks in late January 1918, but reported late and was charged. He was merely admonished. As his shoulder was still sore, he worked at several depots around Salisbury Plain before suffering from a severe attack of tonsilitis in late February. He needed further time to recuperate from his wound, so didn't return to France until late July 1918.

The 32nd Battalion was involved in the Battle of Amiens on 8 August 1918, and the subsequent operations pushing the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line in August and September. The battalion participated in the attack across the St Quentin Canal sector of the Hindenburg Line on 29 September 1918, the unit's last major action of the war. Unfortunately, 250 casualties were suffered by the battalion during the battle, and William was killed in action during the heavy fighting.

He was buried at the Bellicourt British Cemetery, France. His name is inscribed on the Upper Sturt Methodist Church Honour Board, the Aldgate Cross of Sacrifice, and the South Australian National War Memorial.

Photograph: Courtesy State Records of South Australia

27 February 2011

Company Quarter Master Sergeant Leonard Garfield Moody of Blackwood

Len Moody was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, in 1887. It is not clear when he emigrated to Australia, but he was living in Blackwood just before the war. He was very active in the Blackwood community, being the correspondence secretary of the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Club and secretary of that club's literary society, and a member of the Blackwood Rifle Club. He was well-known as a joker and talented pianist, and was a master of ceremonies at many Club events such as dances.

Len enlisted on 30 June 1915, and gave his occupation as architect, and his next-of-kin as his sister, who still lived in Yorkshire. He joined Ack Company of the 32nd (SA/WA) Battalion and was promoted to the rank of corporal well before the battalion sailed for Europe, probably as a result of his age and leadership skills which must have been obvious from the day he joined.

The battalion sailed in November 1915, and after a short stop in Egypt during which he was hospitalised for three weeks with dysentery, they disembarked in the south of France and entrained for Calais then sailed to England for training at Codford. The battalion returned to France in late June 1916, and were initially allocated to the so-called 'nursery sector' around Armentieres.

On the evening of 19 July 1916, three days after entering the front-line for the first time, the 32nd Battalion attacked the German trenches near Fromelles. Ack Company were in the first wave, and initially captured the German trenches opposite, but during the early morning of 20 July became surrounded, and had to charge back to their start trenches to avoid capture. Many were killed, wounded and taken prisoner, the 32nd Battalion suffering 718 casualties, more than 90% of the unit fighting strength. The 8th Brigade and the 5th Division, of which it was part, were taken out of the line as a result, and could not be used again for offensive operations until well into 1917. The day after the Battle of Fromelles, in the wake of the long casualty lists, Len was promoted to lance-sergeant.

A month later, Len was hospitalised for several weeks, and then promoted to sergeant in October 1916. After several more weeks in hospital with influenza in December 1916, he rejoined the unit on Christmas Eve 1916.

In early 1917, the 32nd Battalion was involved in the follow-up of the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line. In July 1917, Len was promoted to company quartermaster sergeant (or CQMS), responsible for the practical aspects of the supply of Ack Company with rations, ammunition and water (and rum). The only major battle the unit was closely involved in during 1917 was the Battle of Polygon Wood in Belgium on 26 September.

The 5th Division was in reserve during the German Spring Offensive of 1918, but it and the 32nd Battalion were involved in the Battle of Amiens in August 1918, and the operations against the Hindenburg Line that followed. Notable amongst these was the battalion's role in the capture of the area around Peronne in early September 1918.

After his discharge in Adelaide in July 1919, Len married Marion and lived in Gosford, NSW, where he was known as one of the 'Big Four' local identities. He was secretary of the 'Jusfrute' factory in West Gosford in the 1930's, and trustee and secretary of the Brisbane Water Returned Soldiers and Citizens Club in 1940. He enlisted as a private in the Volunteer Defence Corps during the Second World War, serving between 1943 and 1945.

Len visited Adelaide to attend battalion re-unions and march with his battalion on ANZAC Day. He died in 1966. His name is inscribed on the Blackwood Memorial.
Photograph: 'Second to None, A Memorial History of the 32nd Battalion AIF 1915-1919', p. 216

10 February 2011

Gunner Horace Woodrow Hilton of Blackwood

Horace Hilton was a son of Joseph Woodrow Hilton and Eliza Hilton (nee Dix) who married in Clarendon in 1877. The following year, Joseph became the lighthouse keeper at Point Lowly in the north part of Spencer Gulf near Whyalla, but Horace was born in Clarendon in 1893, probably because Eliza would have spent the last part of her pregnancy with her parents or parents-in-law rather than at an isolated lighthouse keepers cottage.

Horace had only been a mounted constable for four months when he enlisted in the AIF on 1 November 1915, by which time his father had retired and his parents had moved to Blackwood from their last post at Cape Banks near Carpenters Rocks in the south east of SA. He was allotted to the 14th reinforcements to the 9th Light Horse Regiment, which sailed from Adelaide on 10 February 1916 on the Warilda.

The Warilda arrived in Egypt in March 1916, and Horace found himself re-allocated to the artillery, joining 15th Field Artillery Brigade (5th Australian Division) in April. In June they sailed to Marseilles, then entrained for Le Havre on the Channel coast when the brigade first went into action.

In February 1917, Horace was transferred to 12th (Army) Artillery Brigade when the 15th Field Artillery Brigade was disbanded, and served with it as a member of 112th Howitzer Battery. On 21 March 1918, during the height of the German Spring Offensive, Horace's battery was heavily shelled, and he was wounded in the right arm.

He returned to duty on 11 July 1918, and his battery continued to support the allied offensives that ended the war. Following the end of the war he was employed as an artillery wagon driver. He left Australia to return to Australia in May 1919 and he must have returned to the south-east of the state, as the Advertiser records that he was welcomed home in Mount Gambier on 18 July 1919. He was discharged the following month.

After the war, Horace married Effie Florence. Horace and Effie must have lived in Myponga for some time, as they are both buried in the Myponga Uniting Church cemetery. Horace died in 1962, aged 62, and Effie in 1980 aged 89. Horace's name is inscribed on the Blackwood Memorial.

Photograph courtesy of the Australian War Memorial (E02796) shows Horace (centre, facing camera holding artillery shell) on 31 July 1918. The photographer is unknown, but Captain CEW Bean, the official historian, visited the battery that day.

03 January 2011

Lieutenant Cecil Vernon Wickens of Blackwood

Cecil Wickens was a son of Walter Henry Wickens, and was born in Blackwood in 1889. Cecil attended Coromandel Valley and Sturt Street Public Schools and Adelaide High School, spending three years in the senior cadets. In 1906 at the age of 17, he started with the Australian Mutual Provident Society as a junior clerk. Before the war he was active in the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Boys’ Club, the Blackwood Football Club and the Coromandel 1st XI cricket team. He was also one of the great 'Big Three' ruckmen of the Sturt Football Club.

Cecil was one of the first to join up from the Blackwood district, enlisting on 19 August 1914, only 15 days after Great Britain declared war on Germany. He joined Ack Squadron of the 3rd Light Horse Regiment which formed at Morphettville and following his promotion to Lance Corporal on 13 October 1914, embarked for Egypt with the rest of the Regiment a week later.

The 3rd Light Horse initially deployed to Egypt and from 9 December 1914 until 9 May 1915 was engaged in training at Maadi and Heliopolis. On 12 May 1915 the Regiment, having left their horses behind in Egypt, landed at ANZAC. Within a week they were defending Pope's Hill against the massive Turkish assault of 18/19 May, and during the August offensive attacked from Quinn's Post. On 5 September 1915, Cecil was promoted to Sergeant and was simultaneously appointed as acting Regimental Sergeant Major. On 13 December 1915, the Regiment evacuated from Gallipoli and disembarked at Alexandria and returned to their previous camp at Heliopolis between Christmas and New Year's Eve, becoming part of the Western Frontier Force. In March 1916, Cecil was promoted simultaneously to Warrant Officer Classes Two then One to formalise his appointment as Regimental Sergeant Major. In May 1916, Cecil, along with many other members of the Regiment, took an opportunity to transfer to the newly formed 4th Australian Division Artillery, currently training in Egypt in preparation for deployment to France and Belgium. After a stint at the Artillery Training Depot, he embarked for the United Kingdom in early August 1916 where he joined the 21st Field Artillery Brigade.

Following completion of his training, Cecil joined the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade headquarters in France in April 1917, and was promoted in the field to Second Lieutenant on 8 October 1917. Less than a month later he was severely gassed, and had barely returned to duty in mid-December when he was transferred to a training depot in the United Kingdom where he spent the rest of the war, including a promotion to Lieutenant in August 1918. He returned to Australia in January 1919 and his appointment as an officer was terminated in April 1919.

After the war, Cecil married Vera and returned to work at the AMP Society where he took over the role of new business manager in the South Australian state office. Over the next few years, Vera gave birth to two sons (Ian and Peter) and three daughters (Peg, Patricia and Judith). In 1935, he was transferred to the Western Australian office as company accountant and the family lived in Nedlands. During the Second World War, Cecil joined the 1st Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps between 1942 and 1944. His son Ian served in the RAAF during the war. Cecil was promoted acting Manager of the Perth office in 1945, before being promoted to manage the South Australian office in 1945, when the family lived in Tusmore. Cecil was a keen golfer and bowler, and a member of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron.

Cecil died on 15 December 1946 aged 57 years, after a short illness, and was buried at Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on the Blackwood Memorial and the Sturt Football Club Honour Board kept in the Unley Museum.

Photograph: Courtesy of the State Records of South Australia