Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF – first action of WW1 – New Guinea

Under Construction

The first action of the Australian military off-shore from Australia was not at Gallipoli – the Dardanelles, but instead the AN & MEF campaign of New Guinea in September 1914. The Australian National Maritime Museum has several excellent articles on the AN & MEF – Triumphant Procession of the AN & MEF August 18 1914 –  An Expedition of Conquest – and another on the arrival of the AE1 & AE2 at Sydney on Empire Day 1914.

A short book, Australians in Action in New Guinea now out of print, was written by Signaller LC Reeves, a member of the AN&MEF expedition and has been shared by his grandson John Reeves. The book was written in early 1915, on the return to voyage to Australia after they had secured what had been German New Guinea. A copy can be downloaded by clicking here – but be patient – it is a big file. We thank John Reeves for his generosity in ensuring that his grandfather’s can continue to be enjoyed. It really is worth a read.

John Reeves has also shared a link to the TJ Rodoni Archive glass negatives collection which include photographs of the AN & MEF in New Guinea August 1914 – January 1915. They were found under a house at Speers Point, south of Newcastle and have been donated by TJ Rodoni’s son to the University of Newcastle Archives.

These men enlisted in the AIF in mid August 1914, at the first call for recruiting, and by August 19 1914 they were sailing aboard the newly refitted HMAS Berrima towards New Guinea – refer to AWM Army Nominal Roll for August 1914 & reinforcements (excludes Navy personnel). Their mission was to take the German Radio station there –  and the New Zealanders had a similar mission to take the facility at German Samoa.

About 28 men with connections from across the Illawarra from Shellharbour to Helensburgh enlisted, and were aboard the HMAS Berrima heading to New Guinea in August 1914. Their tour of duty was for six months only – however many of them re-enlisted on their return to Australia in early 1915. They would see action in Gallipoli and on the Western Front. At least one of the 27 stayed at New Guinea beyond the original six month tour of duty. Some who enlisted as Privates in August 1914, would be promoted in the field, later in WWI, to as high as the rank of Major – a number would be recognised for gallantry – there were  Military Cross and Military Medal awards. And some would not return.

Feb 23 1915 Illawarra Mercury – Return from New Guinea Australian Navy & Military Expeditionary Force (Tropical Unit) – welcomed at the station

  • Jack Bovard – electrician :  (S/N 1021  1914) & later enlisted again (S/N 1220 1915) )  – (1915 Record)  (Port Kembla)
  • Roy Dean – tailor : (S/N 970(1914) & later enlisted again (S/N  4077 1915) (Record )
  • Arnold Hosking(s) engineer & Water Rats Club : (S/N 305 (1914) & later enlisted again 1915  & promoted to Major & awarded Military Cross -later  died in Battle of Menin Road Ypres 1917 & re-interred Tyne Cot Passchandaele Belgium  CWGC  –TWGPP  – AWM Photo A03629 –  brass plaque at St Michael’s Wollongong &photo at Wollongong RSL Club Library  (donation – more – these have been unable to be located unfortunately) – Find a Grave entry – (Record) – had been selected to attend Coronation in England 1911
  • George Walklate – electrical mechanical crane driver & Water Rats Club : (S/N 697 (1914), later enlisted again (S/N 295- 1915 & promoted to Captain & awarded  Military Cross – (more) (1916) & N72787 (1940) – promoted to Major WWII (1941) (Record)
  • 4 others unnamed probably
    • Jack Young (born West Hartlepool UK father John Thomas Young),
    • Bert Tregear,
    • Jack Mitchell,
    • Norm Whitfield – believed to be the same person as Thomas Harold Whitfield of Wollongong – enlisted in the AN & MEF in August 1914, when he was underage – and using the alias of Thomas Harold Whitfield. Also served in WW2.

Other Illawarra enlistments who served in the AN & MEF –

  • Walter David Smith (Port Kembla),
  • Frank Whitehead (Port Kembla),
  • Thomas Tennant (Port Kembla),
  • William Henry Guard (Thirroul),
  • John George May (Helensburgh),
  • Charles Taylor (Dapto),
  • Philip Plumb(Corrimal) ,
  • William Edwin Wilson (Helensburgh),
  • Hugh Reynolds (Corrimal)
  • Harold Ray (Rea) (Shellharbour),
  • William Charles Brown (Corrimal),
  • Charles Andrew Ross (Helensburgh)
  • Henry “Reginald” Booth (Thirroul)
  • Lyle Comyn Reeves (Bellambi & Dapto) – news media stories on Trove – also images on Trove – re-enlisted in 1915, after his earlier term with the AN & MEF in New Guinea, and became part of the 20th Battalion, serving in France where he was wounded in action a number of times before he returned to Australia in 1919. He had been an Assistant Clerk with Hornsby Shire Council, however after the War it appears that he continued his writing career with newspapers in Wyong becoming proprietor of the Wyong Advocate
    • comments from grandson Michael Handley – “My great grandfather Robert Reeves was station master at Bowral, Belllambi Station, and I believe also worked at Dapto, Picton, Yass, Orange and Hornsby where he retired. His son Lyle Comyn Reeves (Sig. L. C. Reeves) lived at those places with him, and later joined the ANMEF, returning to join the 20th Battalion, so has a connection with the Illawarra. He wrote a book “Australians in Action” about the ANMEF in New Guines in 1914-15, published about March 1915. There was a list of soldiers and sailors involved in the back of his book. Available as an ebook from Queensland State Library.This book seems to have attracted a lot of press attention across Australia in 1915. It is of interest because it is considered that it was one of the earliest, if not the first book, written by a serving soldier of his experiences in WW1.
  • David Howarth (Discovering ANZACs) (Port Kembla) – note he did not return in March 1915, but remained in New Guinea until November 1915.
  • Edmund Grace of Wollongong – served in the AN & MEF from August 1914 where he contracted Malaria, then re-enlisted, serving in the 2nd and 7th Light Horse from 1915, briefly at Mudros (Lemnos Island) but may not have actually served in Gallipoli, he became ill with Malaria again on return to Egypt
  • Robert Fell of Corrimal – served in the AN & MEF from August 1914 then re-enlisted as part of the 3rd Signal Troop in late 1915, serving in the Middle East
  • Jay Montague Stanley, of Millervale Dapto enlisted in the AN & MEF in August 1914, and later re-enlisted, serving in the Army Medical Corps
  • John Comus Mitchison, born in Mount Kembla, enlisted in the AN & MEF in August 1914 and served until later in 1915, before re-enlisting and serving in the 15th Battalion – would not have returned to an Illawarra Railway Station in 1915

The following men were part of Terry Bugg’s possible additions for the AN & MEF listing. However it is unlikely they either served in the AN & MEF before March 1915, and/or their connection to the Illawarra is uncertain :

    • Cyril Alphonsus Johnson – served in the AN & MEF from August 1914 – uncertain as to his connection with the Illawarra – born in Newcastle
    • John William Martin – enlisted with the AN & MEF in August 1914 and then re-enlisted, serving in the 30th Battalion – uncertain about his connection to the Illawarra
    • Raymond Adlington – enlisted in 1917 but discharged on medical grounds then was accepted into the AN & MEF post end of WW1 conflict and served in New Guinea during that period from 1919  – did not serve there in 1914-1915
    • Harold Armstrong – (4067) perhaps Horace Armstrong of Yallah – re-enlisted after AN&MEF Service – served in 18th Battalion – ADFA entry
    • Frederick Charles Barlogio – served in AIF, then as reinforcement for AN &MEF from 1919 – was not part of AN & MEF in 1914-1915
    • James John Barlogio – enlisted in 1917 &  discharged under age in 1918 – would not have served in the AN & MEF in 1914-1915
    • Frederick Bubear – served in the AN & MEF from 1919 but not in 1914 – 1915
    • George Thomas Bubear – served in the AIF, and from 1919 in the AN & MEF – did not service in the AN & MEF in 1914 – 1915
    • John Harold Dean – served in the AN & MEF from November 1915, but was not part of the AN & MEF from August 1914 – March 1915
    • Charles Arran Gore enlisted in the AN & MEF from late 1915 – did not serve in the period August 1914 – March 1915
    • Richard Johnsen – only served in the AN & MEF in New Guinea from 1918, after previously serving in the AIF from 1917
    • W Lewis
    • Albert Luff – served in the 30th Battalion and then re-enlisted for New Guinea in 1919  – was not part of AN & MEF in 1914-1915
    • James Gibson Russell – previously served with the 59th Battalion and then served with the AN & MEF from 1918 – but was not part of the AN & MEF from August 1914 – March 1915
    • Arthur Raymond Styles – enlisted in the AN & MEF in 1918 and served until 1919 – was not part of the AN & MEF from August 1914 – March 1915
    • Francis John Wilson
    • Robert William Price ?

Reference : Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force Reinforcements, March 1915 to May 1919

Over the period August 2014 – April 2015, Black Diamond Heritage Centre volunteers will research the stories of these 22 AN & MEF men ahead of our South Coast Railway and Town Bands in WW1 exhibition in 2015.

Any contributions on these men would be appreciated – contact bdhcbulli@gmail.com.

Compared to Gallipoli, the casualties were light, although a number were killed and there was the September 14 1914 loss of the Australian Navy Submarine, AE1, in New Guinea – Brisbane Courier Story September 21 1914.

Men lost on the AE1 at New Guinea in 1914 - source AN&MEF Group on Facebook

Men lost on the AE1 at New Guinea in 1914 – source AN&MEF Group on Facebook

To the Men of AE1 Entombed But Not Forgotten. (source click)

Their winding-sheet is steel, their sepulchre is wide;

Theirs is a monument of history, begun,

When down to death they went – goodbye to AE1.’

 

Resources on the AN & MEF

 

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6 Responses to Illawarra Boys in the AN-MEF – first action of WW1 – New Guinea

  1. Pingback: Neil’s personal decades: 22 – Whitfields 1915 | Neil's Commonplace Book

  2. Pingback: Neil’s personal decades: 25 – more on WW1 soldier Norman Whitfield | Neil's Commonplace Book

  3. Michael Handley says:

    My great grandfather Robert Reeves was station master at Bowral, Belllambi Station, and I believe also worked at Dapto, Picton, Yass, Orange and Hornsby where he retired. His son Lyle Comyn Reeves (Sig. L. C. Reeves) lived at those places with him, and later joined the ANMEF, returning to join the 20th Bn, so has a connection with the Illawarra. He wrote a book “Australians in Action” about the ANMEF in New Guines in 1914-15, published about March 1915. There was a list of soldiers and sailors involved in the back of his book. Available as an ebook from Queensland State Library.

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