Remembrance Day 2018: WA children remember what their forefathers did in WWI

ONE hundred years after the last guns fell silent on the Western Front, all of the 416,809 Australian Diggers who bore witness to the bloody carnage are gone.

More than 62,000 — including 6255 West Australians — did not survive their service on the battlefields of Europe.

Far more spent the remainder of their lives trying to forget. Sadly, some are now forgotten themselves.

But many more never will be, their memories and legacies carried forward by a new generation of young West Australians who will fall silent at 11am today to reflect on the selflessness and sacrifice of their Anzac ancestors.

RSLWA President Peter Aspinall said the freedoms and standard-of-living enjoyed in Australia today came at the expense of soldiers, past and present, who signed up to protect their country.

“To pay that price men, and women engage in the obscenity of war,” Mr Aspinall said. “The significance of this is that they volunteered, they were not drafted. In doing so the vast majority would have acknowledged that there was the possibility they might give their lives — as indeed over 90,000 did in the First and Second World Wars.”

Today, like every Remembrance and Anzac Day, six-year-old Harley Burns will rise before dawn. Along with his dad, Aaron, he will don a replica of the Australian Imperial Force uniform worn by his thrice great-uncle Herbert George Wagg and spend the day at Kings Park greeting the more than 1000 people expected to attend the State’s biggest service.

“One day I want to join the army like my uncle Herb,” Harley said. “He was in World War I and fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front.”

“Uncle Herb” survived both and retuned to Australia, although the burden of nearly four years of duty took their toll and he spent much of the remainder of his life a recluse, shying away even from his own family.

Emily Briggs, 17, Charlotte Briggs, 13, Jack Truscott, 4, Sophie Truscott, 3, and Jemma Holland, 18.
Camera IconEmily Briggs, 17, Charlotte Briggs, 13, Jack Truscott, 4, Sophie Truscott, 3, and Jemma Holland, 18.Picture: Richard Hatherly

James Theophilus Lavery was another Digger irreparably damaged by his service, his lungs never the same after a poison gas attack during his time on the Western Front. Lavery died aged just 60 in 1952, more than 70 years before the birth of his great-great-granddaughter Sophia Hinder.

Now five, Sophia loves singing, dancing and playing with her Barbies. Her parents Karyn (army and then air force) and Chris Hinder (navy) have served across all three branches of the Australian military between them and are determined to pass on an appreciation of Anzac and Remembrance Day to their daughter.

Twins Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan are among the thousands of West Australians descended from a family tree with roots stained by blood shed during WWI. Aspiring veterinarian Eleanor will never forget visiting the war cemeteries of France during an exchange trip to the country where her thrice great-uncles Cecil and Hubert Hitchcock are buried.

The Hitchcock brothers — elder Cecil a hardware assistant and Hubert a pastor — were among the 849 men from the Fremantle district who did not return.

George Fuller was another port city casualty, the 20-year-old butcher killed at Broodseinde in Belgium exactly a year after enlisting. He is the great-great-uncle of Emily and Charlotte Briggs.

Their thrice great-grandfather Bartholomew Stubbs also died in Belgium, killed by a sniper in Flanders after giving up a political career as Subiaco MLA and enlisting at the age of 43. The Briggs sisters will join Kings Park service goers among the 62,000 red poppies radiating out from the Flame of Remembrance.

Noah O'Driscoll, 6, and brother Finn, 8.
Camera IconNoah O’Driscoll, 6, and brother Finn, 8.Picture: Richard Hatherly

“It is scary to think about what it would have been like because war is just so scary. I would never do it. It is hard to comprehend their sacrifice, but I appreciate it so much,” Charlotte said.

RSLWA receptionist Jemma Holland is reminded of her great-great-grandfather James Holland every time she looks up from her desk at work — his portrait adorns the opposite wall.

“I’d worked at RSLWA about four months when the photo was put up,” Jemma said. “We have a book at home called The Lost Diggers and he is on the front cover, so I recognised him straight away.”

At just four and three years old, Jack and Sophie Truscott are just approaching the age where they can fully grasp the courage of their great-great- uncle Leopold Douglas Tigell.

Tigell had his foot crushed but returned to the Western Front after he recovered — only to be gassed in the trenches. Remarkably, he survived and returned to Australia to live a largely normal life.

Siblings Finn and Noah O’Driscoll can trace their lineage back to Kirrup timber mill workers and brothers George and Frederick Goddard. Both men were on the Western Front to hear the guns fall silent at 11am on November 11, 1918. A century later, Finn and Noah will have their relatives front of mind when the Last Post heralds a minute of silence at the Bassendean service.

Leopold Douglas Tigell. Great, great uncle of Jack and Sophie Truscott
Camera IconLeopold Douglas Tigell. Great, great uncle of Jack and Sophie TruscottPicture: Supplied

MEET THEIR FOREFATHERS

LEOPOLD DOUGLAS TIGELL

Great-great-uncle of Jack and Sophie Truscott

A talented blacksmith and keen bush poet, Queenslander Leopold (Leo) Tigell was born on Christmas Day 1889 in Pittsworth, Queensland and lived and worked as a farmer at Jones Gully prior to enlisting. He joined the AIF on October 23, 1916, and arrived in Plymouth on March 3, 1917, to become one of the reinforcements for the 41st Battalion in the 11th Brigade of the 3rd Division.

According to the Australian War Memorial, at the end of June 1917 the 11th Brigade was ordered to establish a new front line west of Warneton in Belgium, in full view of the Germans. “Work carried on night and day under heavy shellfire and the period became known to the battalion as ‘the 18 days’. The start of August found the 41st holding ground captured by two of its sister battalions in a feint attack on 31 July. Enduring continual rain, flooded trenches and heavy shelling, many of the battalion’s platoons dwindled from 35 men to less than 10.”

Tigell’s foot was crushed on the Western Front on October 11 and he was sent to England to recover, returning to his battalion on January 19 before being gassed in May. He was discharged in August 1919.

Tigell wrote many letters home to his mother, filled with news of his daily tasks, his thoughts and poems, some of which were published in the Darling Downs Gazette. He married Mary Quirey when he was 37 and they had three daughters. He died at the age of 83.

CECIL EDWARD HITCHCOCK and HUBERT KEANE HITCHCOCK

Great-great-great-uncles of Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan

Cecil Hitchcock. Great, great, great uncle of Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan.
Camera IconCecil Hitchcock. Great, great, great uncle of Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan.

In the space of two years, the Hitchcock family lost both Cecil, right, and Hubert, left, to the battlefields of France — two of the 849 men from the Fremantle district who did not return from the Great War.

The Hitchcock family arrived in Fremantle from England in 1842, settling first in the Swan Valley before Cecil and Hubert’s father, Joseph, returned to Fremantle to set down roots in 1868.

Both brothers were born in Fremantle and the elder, Cecil, was working as a hardware assistant when he enlisted as a private in the 11th Battalion in July 1915. He did not last a year, killed by a shell at Fleurbaix on the Western Front on May 28, 1916, after “he and three others volunteered for a certain special and dangerous duty”, according to a dispatch sent at the time.

Two month before Cecil’s death, Hubert — a well-known and respected pastor — had enlisted and was a private in the 51st Battalion. He was killed in action at Villers-Bretonneux on April 24, 1918, his death reported in The Sunday Timeslater that year:

Hubert Hitchcock. Great, great, great uncle of Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan.
Camera IconHubert Hitchcock. Great, great, great uncle of Eleanor and Julia Hanrahan.

“The career of a promising young minister of the Congregational Church was brought to a close when, at the early age of 23, the Rev. Hubert K. Hitchcock made the supreme sacrifice at Villers-Bretonneux on the fateful 24th of April last.

“After undergoing a course of study at the Congregational College of Victoria, this young clergyman was appointed assistant to the Rev. S. H. Cox, of Trinity Church, of which he acted as secretary, and laboured with much acceptance amongst the suburban congregations of Victoria Park, Burswood and Bickford.

“Responding to the call of duty, he enlisted in February, 1916, and served as a private in the 51st Battalion. He was an especial favourite with the young people, and a touching tribute was paid to his memory by the teachers and scholars of the Sunday school in connection with the Burswood church.

“The late Pte. Hitchcock was the youngest son of Mr. J. K. Hitchcock, of North Fremantle, and was the second of his sons to fall upon the field of honour.”

HERBERT GEORGE WAGG

Great-great-great-uncle of Harley Burns

Herbert Wagg enlisted a month after the landing at Anzac Cove and spent nearly the entirety of World War I aiding the Australian war effort, first at Gallipoli and later on the Western Front.

Herbert George Wagg. Great, great, great uncle of Harley Burns.
Camera IconHerbert George Wagg. Great, great, great uncle of Harley Burns.

Born in Waterloo, NSW, he spent his pre-war years working as a bricklayer with his father before joining the AIF as a 22-year-old on May 26, 1915.

Wagg was assigned to the 19th Battalion and spent a brief time training in Liverpool and Egypt before being rushed into action on the Gallipoli peninsula, taking part in the August offensive to reclaim Pope’s Hill.

After the evacuation of Gallipoli, Wagg was sent to the Western Front where he spent the remainder of the war serving as the battalion’s company quartermaster sergeant.

In September 1917 he was mentioned in dispatch for devotion to duty.

“This N.C.O has done splendid work in the battalion, both in and out of the line,” the dispatch reads.

“He has always displayed untiring energy towards the comfort of the men of his company.

“During the winter months he repeatedly personally supervised the delivery of rations, hot food and clothing to the men in the front line, under very adverse weather conditions and under shell fire.”

Wagg was never the same after returning to Australia.

His family reported he would often confine himself to his room for hours on end.

He returned to work with his father as a bricklayer and builder and died in 1958 at the age of 65.

JAMES THEOPHILUS LAVERY

James Theophilus Lavery Great, great grandfather of Sophia Hinder
Camera IconJames Theophilus Lavery Great, great grandfather of Sophia Hinder

Great-great-grandfather of Sophia Hinder

Queenslander James Lavery was part of the 26th Battalion on the Western Front when it captured Mephisto, the first German tank to fall into Allied hands in July 1918.

Lavery enlisted in September 1916 and arrived on the Western Front in April 1917, shortly before the battalion was involved in a second attempt to breach the fearsome Hindenburg Line defences around Bullecourt in May.

In October, Lavery survived being gassed during the Battle of Passchendaele in Belgium, but his wounds meant he was not placed in combat again, which likely saved his life.

He remained in Europe for the remainder of 1918 and was with the 26th Battalion in July when it hatched a daring plan to recover Mephisto, abandoned by the Germans in April when it became bogged during the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux.

Advancing under the cover of an artillery barrage, Australian soldiers moved behind enemy lines and dragged the tank back to their position — all the while coming under fire and poison gas attack from the Germans who were determined to defend the tank.

After the war, Mephisto was shipped to Brisbane and remains on display at the Queensland Museum more than a century later.

Lavery returned to Australia, discharged on July 1, 1919, for being medically unfit due to his gassing. He died on April 20, 1952, at the age of 60.

BARTHOLOMEW JAMES STUBBS

Great-great-great-grandfather of Emily and Charlotte Briggs

Bartholomew Stubbs gave up a career as a State politician — and eventually his life — to become one of the oldest West Australians to enlist for World War I, aged 43.

Bartholomew James Stubbs. Great, great, great grandfather of Emily and Charlotte Briggs.
Camera IconBartholomew James Stubbs. Great, great, great grandfather of Emily and Charlotte Briggs.Picture: The Sunday Times

Stubbs married Alice on November 11, 1897, at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth, becoming stepfather to Alice’s two children, William Frances Geddes, 11, and Edith May Geddes, eight. In 1905, they took in Alice’s orphaned niece, five-year-old May Stephens, and in 1911, representing the Australian Labor Party, he was elected as Subiaco MLA.

He won his seat again in 1914, but a strong sense of duty led him to enlist as a private in the AIF, training at Blackboy Hill where he was promoted to sergeant. He was then selected for officer training at Royal Military College Duntroon, graduating as a second-lieutenant.

In December 1916, Stubbs left Fremantle on the Berrima in charge of the 8th Reinforcement of 51st Battalion. His younger brother, Michael, was one of his troops. While serving on the Western Front, he was promoted to lieutenant and when asked to re-contest his seat in parliament, he was elected unopposed in 1917.

His Duntroon classmate Lt Barnes described him as “a brave, capable and conscientious officer”.

Stubbs was shot and killed by a sniper during the Battle of Polygon Wood in Belgium on September 26, 1917.

George Albert Fuller. Great, great uncle of Emily and Charlotte Briggs.
Camera IconGeorge Albert Fuller. Great, great uncle of Emily and Charlotte Briggs.Picture: Supplied

GEORGE ALBERT FULLER

Great-great-uncle of Emily and Charlotte Briggs

Englishman George Fuller came to Australia with his family as a teenager aboard the Everton Grangeand spent five years in Perth before he found himself back in his homeland.

He was working as a butcher and living in Fremantle when he enlisted in 1916, noting his parents as his next of kin.

After training at Blackboy Hill, on December 29, 1916, Fuller found himself back on the ocean, this time aboard the troopship Persic.

He arrived in Devonport, England, a little over three months later.

While training in Salisbury, he wrote his will and in August 1917, sailed for France and the Western Front.

Fuller was taken on as a reinforcement with the Victorian-raised 39th Australian Infantry Battalion, 3rd Australian Division of the AIF.

He fought in Flanders and was killed in action on October 4, 1917, at Broodseinde, Belgium, a year and two days after enlisting.

Fuller was just 20 when he was cut down.

The 39th Battalion was later awarded a battle honour, which read in part “for involvement in the successful assault and capture, as part of the Third Battle of Ypres, of the high ground around the village of Broodseinde.

“This was a significant defeat for the German forces, which allowed for the Allied occupation of the entire ridge south of the Passchendaele sector.”

ALEXANDER LAUGHTON

Great-great-grandfather of Dakota Tamepo-Kane

Alexander Laughton. Great, great grandfather of Dakota Tamepo-Kane.
Camera IconAlexander Laughton. Great, great grandfather of Dakota Tamepo-Kane.

A few months after his 17th birthday, Alexander Laughton found himself on a ship en route to Egypt. Though he was born in Denmark in 1898, Laughton lived almost his entire life in Subiaco.

As a young lad he joined the Midland Railway Workshops as an apprentice moulder, following in his father’s footsteps. In September 1915, two months after he turned 17, Laughton enlisted in Perth.

Despite having both parents’ consent, he lied about his age and said he was exactly one year older. Initially assigned to the 28th Battalion, he embarked at Fremantle on the Borda in January 1916 and, in Egypt on March 3, was transferred to the 51st Battalion.

Laughton survived his first year on the Western Front unscathed, but was shot in the right hand in June 1917. He was treated in England and rejoined his unit in December.

Laughton was promoted to lance-corporal in April 1918 and, later that year, he was removed to England suffering an unspecified illness, which the family has always believed was from being gassed. He was on furlough in England when the Armistice was signed.

He returned to Australia in April 1919 and resumed working with the railways, marrying Norna Edwards three years later at Perth’s Wesley Church. He is remembered as a true gentleman who, after a lifetime of lung problems originating in the war, died in 1972 aged 73.

FREDERICK JOHN GODDARD and HAROLD THOMAS GODDARD

Brothers Frederick John Goddard (standing) and Harold Thomas Goddard in France in 1918. Great, great, grandfather (Frederick) and great, great, great uncle (Harold) of Finn and Noah O’Driscoll.
Camera IconBrothers Frederick John Goddard (standing) and Harold Thomas Goddard in France in 1918. Great, great, grandfather (Frederick) and great, great, great uncle (Harold) of Finn and Noah O’Driscoll.

Great-great-grandfather (Frederick) and great-great-great- uncle (Harold) of Finn and Noah O’Driscoll

Kirrup boys Frederick and Harold Goddard were both born in the South West and worked as sleeper hewers in a timber mill before enlisting.

Frederick, the younger brother, was the first to join up on July 24, 1915, as a 19-year-old.

He was assigned to the 11th Battalion — the first recruited in WA — and spent the majority of his service engaged in bloody trench warfare on the Western Front.

The 11th Battalion helped stop the German spring offensive in 1918 and then took part in the August counter-offensive that brought the greatest Allied success in a single day on the Western Front.

Frederick was on the Western Front at 11am on November 11, 1918 — the day the guns fell silent — and returned home on February 28, 1919.

His older brother, Harold, was also there that day, having followed Frederick to Europe in March 1916. He served first in the 16th Infantry Battalion and then the 4th Machine Gun Battalion.

The 16th Battalion spent most of 1917 advancing to the Hindenburg Line and suffered heavy losses at Bullecourt in April, when promised tank support during an attack failed to materialise.

Harold returned to Australia in June 1919 and was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal after his service.

The boys’ father, George William Goddard, also served with the 16th Battalion in WWI, embarking for the conflict aged 44 in December 1915.

He, too, returned safely to Australia.

JAMES HOLLAND

Great-great-grandfather of Jemma Holland

Machinegunner James Holland survived both Gallipoli and the Western Front — an incredible feat given the average life expectancy for those filling his role in battle was just 30 seconds.

James Holland. Great, great grandfather of Jemma Holland.
Camera IconJames Holland. Great, great grandfather of Jemma Holland.Picture: Supplied

Born in Crewe, England, Holland moved to Australia in 1911, along with his older brother Charles. He enlisted in Perth in March 1915 as a 23-year-old. After initially being placed with the 28th Battalion as an infantry solider, he later joined the 7th Machinegun Company and spent time training in Egypt.

He arrived on the Gallipoli peninsula on September 10, 1915, and escaped major injury during his time in Turkey. In March 1916 Holland found himself on the Western Front, where he was twice buried alive by shellfire, dug out and went straight back to firing his machinegun.

Before coming to Australia, Holland had fallen in love with Dorothy Lightfoot, whom he worked alongside in Crewe.

The pair kept in touch throughout Holland’s time in the war and he returned to England after he was discharged, where they wed in 1919. She then accompanied him back to Perth on a ship full of war brides.

Holland played lawn bowls and enjoyed long walks well into his twilight years before passing away in his 90s.