When I first started researching the club’s history over 20 years ago, I had the goal of finding the names of the past members who contributed to the club, especially those who served in both wars and also to replace the WW1 and WW 2 Honor Boards that were lost in the devastating fire of 1950. The first step was to find the names of members who served in both wars. Thanks to John Lang’s “The Victorian Oarsman” which was dedicated to the Victorian oarsmen who died on service in the Great War, I found a list of the World War 1 soldiers from the club. Then a lucky find- going through a post- 1950 minute book I found a type- written list of all who served in World War 2. The names were an initial and a surname.
The next step was to obtain a grant to replace the boards and this we did in 2004. We held a dedication ceremony on the 8th of May 2004 with Phil Horwood from Ballarat RSL sub-branch giving guidance on how the ceremony should run and attending on the day. The Mayor David Vendy attended and the Rev. Canon Bill Devonshire performed the dedication. It was very emotional when the bugler played Last Post and I pondered on all those men who names were now there for everyone to see and be remembered.
I was also inspired by the stories researched by Barwon Rowing Club historian, Karen O’Connor who in 2015, wrote the stories of members from Barwon Rowing Club killed in WW1. So this year, in the club’s 150th year, I finally started researching and this post is the some of the things I have discovered about 10 of the men of Ballarat City Rowing Club who paid the supreme sacrifice. I have discovered photographs of some of these men and this makes them even more real and helps really remember them. To see some smiling faces, some sombre and some pensive and to read their stories, however brief, one can get a real sense of who they were.
This is about the 10 men that appear on the Honor Board but there are three names of soldiers who deserve to be commemorated there as well-the courageous Coulter brothers, Sydney, Jason (Jay),Graham (already included) and Leslie. Their stories will be told in a separate post.
ROBERT HANNAFORD COMMONS. PRIVATE 24th Battalion. KIA 19/5/1918
Robert Hannaford (Haniford) Commons was born in Ballarat in 1888. He was the son of Frederick William and Emily Commons. Fredrick was a noted sculptor and monumental stone mason. Robert attended Ballarat College and became a physicist, inventing the liquid piston. Robert and his brother William were the pre-eminent oarsmen at Ballarat City Rowing Club from about 1906 until the outbreak of war in 1914. They were the first members of the club to win Senior pairs. Robert won his Novice sculls and Maiden pairs with his brother William at Ballarat Regatta in 1908. He won Maiden sculls and Junior fours at Ballarat Regatta in 1910 and also his Maiden four at Albert Park. Then in the 1911-1912 season, he and brother William took out a record four Senior pairs at Colac, Ballarat, Barwon and Bairnsdale. In 1913 the brothers again won Senior pairs at Barwon Regatta. Robert enlisted on the 13/9/1917 aged 28 years and 7 months.
He was killed in action at 19 May 1918 in France, buried by Rev. W. C. Smith at 6th Australian Infantry Base, Heilly-sur-Somme Cemetery No. 2, three miles NNE of Corbie. On 6 Dec 1918 payment from his estate was passed to his mother Mrs E. COMMONS of 41 Ackland Street, St Kilda, Victoria. Memorial Scroll 346055 to his father on 6 Jul 1921 and Memorial Plaque 346055 to his father on 3 Nov 1922 and Victory Medal No. 2322. He is remembered on his father’s headstone in Ballarat Cemetery.
JOHN FOSTER GEAR – MC, MiD. LIEUTENANT 24th Battalion. KIA 12/10/1918
John (Jack) Foster Gear was born in March 1895 in Adelaide. His parents were James and S Gear. His father was listed as his next of kin and he was living at 4 Humffray Street, Ballarat. He was educated at Golden Point State School where is name is on the Honorboard. John rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club joining in about 1912. In 1913-1914 season he was in the club’s lightweight eight and Maiden eight. He enlisted on the 14th of June, 1915. He was aged just 20 and was a student. He joined the 24th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements as a Private. He fought at Gallipoli and in France with great distinction. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 24/1/17, Corporal on 5/2/1917 and was elevated to Lieutenant 27/9/17. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1916 and was Mentioned in Dispatches 26/8/1916 for good gallant conduct in connection with hard fighting at Pozieres. He was awarded the Military Cross on 31st of July 1918 at Hamel. He was killed by a German sniper on the 12th of October 1918 at Montbrehain. He is buried at the Ramicourt British Cemetery near St. Quentin in Row C, Grave No.16. His citation read “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in charge of the brigade sniping section during and attack. He personally supervised the placing of his snipers on the whole brigade front, and throughout the day kept improving their positions. Under heavy fire he carried out reconnaissance in “No man’s Land” in order to secure more efficient fire for some of his section, and throughout the operations maintained the superiority of fire over the enemy.” (Commonwealth Gazette 23,12/2/1919.)
HORACE RAYMOND GRIFFIN, COMPANY SERGEANT MAJOR, 7th Battalion. KIA 18/8/1916 POZIERES. NO KNOWN GRAVE.
Horace (Horry) Raymond Griffin was born in 1889.His sister Mrs. Ada Cameron was his next of kin as both his parents had died. He was a popular figure in Ballarat sporting circles; he played football for the Ballarat Imperials FC and rowed for Ballarat City Rowing Club. Horry, as he was known to his mates, closed his tailoring business when he enlisted on the 18/8/1914. He was appointed Lance Corporal at Gallipoli on the 30/4/1915 and soon after promoted to CSM on the 15/5/1915. He wrote to his sister and the letter was published in the Ballarat Courier. It described the landing on Gallipoli and how the water was so deep it was over his head and he lost his rifle but grabbed a wounded comrade’s gun and went up the cliff like a “madman”. He suffered a chest wound and pneumonia and was evacuated from Gallipoli to the HMHS Gloucester Castle in the Dardenelles on the 5/9/1915. In September 1915 he was actually invalided back to Australia with heart strain and was sent to hospital in England and then to back to Cario. On the 5/8/1916 he was taken on strength for the 7th Battalion and returned to France. Sadly he was never to return. He was first reported wounded in action and then killed in action on the 18/08/1916. In his war record there is a note received from the Canadian section stating he was “Buried by Captain Ansley and a party from the 15th Canadian Battalion and forwarding effects”.
His grave was never located and his name is listed on the Memorial Roll of Honor, Villers-Bretonneux, France. His memorial plaque and British war medal were sent to his sister Ada Cameron.
GEORGE JERRARD GREENSHIELDS-MiD 18/9/1917. CAPTAIN, 7th Field Artillery Brigade. KIA-1/4/1918
George Greenshields was born on the 31/1/1896. His parents were George James and Annie Greenshields. He was educated at Ballarat High School. He rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club. He entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon on 12 March 1914 in the fourth intake of cadets and graduated on 3 April 1916 and enlisted the following day, 4/4/1916. The next day he was appointed as a Lieutenant and embarked for England a few weeks later with the 28th Battery of the 7th Field Artillery Brigade. In September 1917 he was promoted to Captain and appointed as Adjutant to the 7th Field Artillery Brigade. On 1 April 1918 he was killed by a German shell bursting in the hut he was in at the time. He was just 22 years of age.
The recommendation for his Mention in Despatches (dated 18 September 1917) states that the award was for his work with the 28th Battery, 7th Field Artillery Brigade, which he had served with since its formation, particularly for his leadership and coolness under heavy shellfire. It reads “Has displayed exceptional ability, courage, and devotion to duty in the Field. He has served with the Brigade since its formation, and the Battery to which he belonged – until recently appointed Adjutant – materially benefitted by his qualities of leadership and ability. Under heavy shellfire he has displayed the greatest coolness, and has invariably set a splendid example to his Unit in this regard”.
He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Plot V11,Row A, Grave No.25, Mericourt-L’Abbe,France.
RASMUS ROBINSON HANSEN. TROOPER 3rd LIGHTHORSE, FIELD AMBULANCE
KIA 7/8/1915 BURIED: 7th FIELD AMBULANCE CEMETERY, GALLIPOLI
Rasmus Robinson Hansen was born in 1889 in Clifton Hill, Victoria. His father was C. Hansen of Church Street, Richmond. He worked in Ballarat and was a popular employee of Snow’s Drapery. He also played cricket with the Central Cricket Club and rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club. He enlisted on the 3rd of December 1914 in the 3rd Light Horse Field Ambulance, 1st Reinforcements.
He was killed in action on the 7th of August 1915 in an attack on the Turkish trenches at the Nek. He had landed on Gallipoli just two days earlier and was a stretcher bearer in Monash Gully when he emerged from a shelter into the full blast of an exploding shell. He died instantaneously from shrapnel wounds to the head and neck.
He is buried in the 7th Field Ambulance Cemetery,Special Memorial A.19, Gallipoli
LESLIE JAMES HOBSON. PRIVATE, 21ST AUSTRALIAN INFANTRY BATTALION .KIA 24/2/1917, FRANCE.
By far the saddest of the stories of the men killed in action whose names are listed on the club Honour board is that of Leslie James Hobson because there is no story. His mother Elizabeth Hobson was listed as his next of kin so we can presume his father had died. This is the report from the Red Cross Missing and Wounded file: “He was in D Company, 15th Platoon. He was killed on the road about half way between Veux and Langrette in March 1917 ad buried where he fell. The Church of England Padre attached to the Battalion was at the burial and will be able to give the exact location of the grave. I do not remember the Padres name. Informant J. F. McLaren (910) 21st Australian, D Company 15th, 21st Australian Camp, Fromelles.
(I have been unable to find a memorial for him and although I have his service record I have been unable to find out anything else about him.)
ERNEST DAVEY MORSHEAD. SERGEANT, 29th BATTALION, D COMPANY. KIA 19-20/7/1916
One of the first members to pay the supreme sacrifice was Ernest Morshead. He had won his Maiden fours at the Barwon Regatta in 1913. He enlisted in 1915 and was killed at the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916. He was just 22.
Ernest Davey Morshead was born in Ballarat East. He attended the Ballarat School of Mines where he studied Manual Arts in 1914. The Morshead family ran a men’s clothing store at 5 Bridge Street, Ballarat.
Ernest Morshead (1319) enlisted on 27 July 1915 at which time he was a High School Master. He listed his mother, Mary Elizabeth Morshead, as his next of kin. He died of wounds in the field in France, on 20 July 1916.This day is remembered at the Battle of Fromelles. During this battle the 5th Australian Division suffered 5,533 casualties, the 61st British Division suffered 1,547. The German casualties were little more than 1,000. The attack was a complete failure and had no impact whatsoever upon the progress of the Somme offensive. The Australians suffered what is believed to be the greatest loss by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War.
On 1 August 1916 Ernest Morshead, a member of the 29th Battalion, was buried at Eaton Hall Military Cemetery, 4 miles from Armentieres.
ARTHUR TREVE MARSH. PRIVATE, 14th BATTALION, E COMPANY
KIA 21/8/1915. NO KNOWN GRAVE. LONE PINE MEMORIAL, GALLIPOLI
Arthur Treve Marsh was born in 1892 the son of John and Sarah Marsh of Armstrong Street, Ballarat.
He enlisted on the 17th of September 1914 probably with some of his mates from Ballarat including Private Henry Foster who wrote to Arthur’s parents describing the attack on Hill 60. He was beside Treve, as his mates called him, when it was their turn to go forward over the hill. He was shot through the head before they had gone five yards and Henry had to go on knowing that his friend was probably dead. He made enquiries among the stretcher bearers that night but couldn’t confirm his death as all the battalions were mixed up.
He said in his letter “Treve was a great favourite and liked by all who knew him. He was as good a comrade as one could wish for, and I can honestly say that I miss him as much as if he were my were my own brother”.
He is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, Panel 42, Gallipoli, Turkey.
EDWARD JAMES O’REILLY. PRIVATE, 8th BATTALION, B COMPANY
KIA 25/4/1915 NO KNOWN GRAVE. LONE PINE MEMORIAL, GALLIPOLI
Edward (Teddy) James O’Reilly was born in 1894 in Ararat. His parents were Patrick Henry and Susannah O’Reilly. His father was deceased and his mother Susannah O’Reilly lived in Ballarat East and was listed as his next of kin. He was educated at Urquhart Street State School in Ballarat along with his younger brother Patrick Henry O’Reilly. He worked as a painter and was aged 20 when he enlisted on the 18/8/1914.He rowed at Ballarat City Rowing Club and it is also likely that his brother Patrick also joined.
He was one of the many Australians who simply went missing on the 25/4/1915-the day that created the ANZAC legend. Their bodies were simply lay were they fell and became lost amongst the scrub and gullies of the broken hills and ridges around Anzac Cove. He was first reported killed or a prisoner of war in October 1915, 6 months after the landing. It was a further 2 years before another enquiry confirmed him to be killed in action and advising his next of kin. The news first appeared in the Ballarat Courier and Star in October 1917.
His brother Patrick, who enlisted in the 14th Battalion on the 8/7/1915 aged 20, was captured by the Germans and spent most of his war as a prisoner of war. By the end of the war, his mother Susannah had also dies and so Patrick became next of kin and the recipient of the medals awarded to Ted.
No known grave-“Known unto God”. Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing, Gallipoli.
(He is listed on club Honour Board at T.O’Reilly. I had great difficulty tracking down his details until I looked through all the O’Reilly’s killed in action and realised that T. stood for Ted short for Edward!)
ALAN ROBERTSON SCOTT. SARGEANT 2nd LIGHTHORSE REGIMENT
DIED OF WOUNDS 29/4/1918. BURIED ARNEKE BRITISH CEMETERY
Alan was the son of J.W. Scott the chemist of Sturt Street. He was educated at Ballarat College and was a noted athlete, being the champion featherweight boxer of Ballarat. He also rowed at the Ballarat City Rowing Club.
He enlisted in August 1914 and fought at Gallipoli and was wounded there but returned after a month in hospital and served through until the evacuation. He was also wounded at the Battle of Messines receiving a bullet wound to the thigh. Sadly his horse was killed. After his recovery he was sent to Tidworth Barracks as an instructor but was recalled to France in November 1917 owing to the urgent need for men. He was in the line during the German spring offensive and was mortally wounded on April 29th, 1918 aged 27.
Buried Arneke British Cemetery, Plot 11, Row A, Grave No.10, France.
Commemorated Ballarat New Cemetery on the family headstone.