In remembering my ancestors who served, I thought I’d write a little about each one. Some I have only found out about in the last twelve months, some even less than that. To all those, past and present who have bravely fought for our country, I say thank you. You will always be remembered.
Private Arthur Peace: World War One, Unit: 7th Light Trench Mortar Battery, A.I.F.
Private Arthur Peace was my great great grandfather, who I only discovered had served in World War One last year. My Pop was also unaware of his service until he found his grandfather’s medals in the back of a drawer!
Having immigrated from Staffordshire in the UK to Australia in 1912, Arthur enlisted in February 1917 at the age of 28 and departed Australia on the 11th of May that same year. It appears that Arthur spent some time in other units during his overseas service also. Arthur was discharged in 1918 after he developed trench foot. His service record contains a marriage certificate to Maud Tooth, whom he married in August 1919 in England.
Private Cecil Way: World War One, Unit: 17th Infantry Battalion, A.I.F.
Cecil Way was my Great Great Uncle, who enlisted in June 1916 at the age of 35 years old. A Kempsey native, by the time he enlisted he had been married for some time. His trade is listed as a Blacksmith/Farrier. Cecil was badly wounded on the 3rd of May 1917, where, according to the book “Australia’s Fighting Sons of The Empire: Portraits and Biographies of Australians in the Great War” he lay in No Mans Land for several days before help came for him. By this point the injuries were too great, and Cecil lost his leg and was discharged and sent home. He spent some time recovering in England before coming home and the family are in possession of a couple of his letters to family back home whilst he was recovering.
Corporal Ernest Victor Way: World War One, Unit: Field Company Engineers/General Reinforcements from February 1918 to April 1918
Ernest is also my great great uncle, and a younger brother to Cecil. Ernest enlisted in 1917, trained at Moore Park in Sydney before departing Australia in March 1918. He had been a school teacher prior to his enlistment. The family is in possession of a letter he wrote to one of his younger sisters from Beirut, Syria in 1919, detailing his free time and how much he was looking forward to coming home.
Corporal Norman Douglas Way: World War One, 1st Infantry Battalion, A.I.F.
Norman was a younger brother to Ernest and Cecil, and he enlisted at 18 years old in 1915. He departed for training in Eygpt in October 1915 on board the HMAT Themistocles. Norman saw a fair amount of fighting in his service, was wounded in both arms in 1916, which saw him convalescing in England. On the 23rd of August, 1918, Uncle Norman was killed in action. His first cousin and best friend, Harold Andrews, wrote the following on what happened:
“Norm stood firm and held fast although outnumbered by the enemy.
August 23rd: Was a very sad day. Norm Way, my cousin of Beechwood was killed in rallying the remnant of his platoon only twenty yards from their objective behind a tank which missed the MG position. It promptly disposed of half of 12 Platoon’s strength at point-blank range.” –Extract from “The Recollections of Lt Harold D Andrews” 1975.
A number of Uncle Norman’s possessions have been passed down through the family over the last century, as you saw in the last post. I am in the process of also identifying the people in the photos that were found in his wallet.
Norman is buried in the Heath Cemetery, in Picardie France.
Lieutenant Commander James Alan Taplin: R.A.N.R. (S) (WWII)
James Alan Taplin is a recent discovery, being a great great uncle of mine on Mum’s biological side. He received a Mention in Dispatches, and he commanded the HMAS Yandra upon it’s commission on the 22nd of September, 1940. The HMAS Yandra spent some time in Fremantle, Western Australia during the first six months following her commission. In 1942, HMAS Yandra was back in Sydney waters, and on the 31st of May, 1942, it was she who was patrolling the entrance to Sydney Harbour when the three Japanese midget submarines evaded the Harbour’s defences. Navy.gov.au talks of Captain Taplin’s response:
“The blast reverberated around Sydney harbour alerting Yandra’s captain, Lieutenant Taplin, to the threat. He immediately altered course towards the inner harbour to investigate and quickly spotted a conning tower about 360 meters ahead of him. Increasing speed he pursued the submarine towards the eastern channel and attempted to ram it. There is little doubt that Yandra struck the submarine a glancing blow damaging the protective cage around its torpedo tubes which prevented it from firing its deadly cargo. The submarine, later identified as M-21, was crewed by Lieutenant Keiu Matsuo and Petty Officer First Class Masao Tsuzuku.
Following Taplin’s initial attack, Yandra reversed course and next sighted the submarine approximately 550 meters on her starboard bow moving very slowly from left to right. Taplin immediately pressed home a depth charge attack, the result of which was inconclusive. Unfortunately Yandra sustained damage in this attack due to her close proximity to the explosion of her own depth charges and was forced to withdraw from the action to effect repairs.”
I got to see one of these midget submarines at the Australian War Memorial earlier in the year, and how strange it felt to know a relative had had such a role in preventing such an attack.
Flight Lieutenant Edward Bate: World War Two, Australian Air Force (Chaplain)
Edward Bate was my great grandfather, who served in Australia, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. The family has always had questions about his day to day life whilst serving as a Chaplain in WWII, besides the obvious job roles. I believe his job would have been an important one, raising the morale of the servicemen, counselling and conducting funerals. A very important job, but one that would have taken it’s toll, like any job in the Defence Force. Recently Nana and Pa have found a folder of Edward’s in their shed of all places, which contains letters from his time in WWII. That is my next transcription project.
Lest We Forget.