Our local men who fought at Gallipoli

AS THE centenary of the landings at Gallipoli approaches we should recall that many of our own Northern Rivers/Tablelands men fought and died in this Campaign.

So far 114 men who were either born, lived, or enlisted in our area died at Gallipoli, mainly in the months of April, May, and August.

Cpl Thomas George Roy Champion
Cpl Thomas George Roy Champion

This was one of the first units raised after the outbreak of War and, with the 10th, 11th, and 12th Battalions formed the 3rd Brigade.

In most of the histories of the 9th Battalion it states that the men were all from Queensland. No credit is given to the men who came from over the Border though there were a considerable number.

Many were also already well trained, having been members of local army militia units. The confusion arises because our men were sent to Brisbane for processing and their initial training with the Battalion was done there.

Those locals who have been identified and who served and died with the 9th Battalion were as follows: Booyong: Pte Patrick Francis Morschel; Byron Bay: Privates Frederick Deller and Thomas Turnbull; Casino: Pte Volney George McInnes; Grafton: Cpl. Thomas George Roy Champion, Pte Roy Hamilton Eggins, Cpl Joseph Edward Luckett, and Pte Harold Francis Maxwell; Leeville: Pte George Albert Lancaster; Lismore: Privates Stephen James Barnwell, Arthur George William Farrants, George Frederick Lee, Leonard Selmon, and Joseph Henry Stratford.

It is thought that Pte Stratford may have been the first man to step ashore at Gallipoli.

Maxwell and Stratford died on the 25th April, Champion on the 27th while Turnbull died on 28th from wounds he possibly received on the day of the first landing.

Champion had been wounded on the 25th and was transferred to the hospital ship "Itonus" where he died two days later. He was buried at sea.

Those troops who could be evacuated were usually taken to Egypt. Later a Field Hospital was established in Greece.

It can therefore be confusing when soldiers are said to have been buried at sea or buried in Greece or Egypt. Often they had sustained their injuries at Gallipoli.

Apart from Joseph Stratford who was aged 32 most of these men were in their early twenties. Farrants was only 18 and Eggins was 19.

All were employed mainly in building or farming. Selmon was a railway porter and Turnbull was a sailor. Four were Englishmen: Barnwell, Deller, Farrants, and Lee. All of these had parents in England so it is possible they came to Australia as child or teenage immigrants. Many of the local farmers employed English "apprentice farmers" at that time.

In our area many Englishmen enlisted or tried to enlist. It is interesting to speculate on their motives for enlisting.

Some were very unhappy on the farms and complained of ill-treatment. Others perhaps thought it was a chance to see loved ones again, or to marry a fiancée left behind in England.

Most of the Englishmen who enlisted in our area appear to have returned to Australia. Those wanting to stay in England had to sign a document stating that they did not hold the Australian Government liable for their return passage.