The Irwin District and World War I

12th Reinforcements, 16th Battalion. Taken at Belmont Racecourse.
12th Reinforcements, 16th Battalion.
Belmont Racecourse, Perth. 16 December 1915.

Men and women from the Irwin District who served in World War I are being documented by the Society.

Our researcher, Anne Jefferys, has now disovered 130 men and women who enlisted 41 of whom were killed. Australia lost about 60,000 men in World War I, about 1.3% of the population. The Irwin District's population was about 400 in 1914, so the loss of 41 lives of young men and women, which amounted to 10% of the population, took a huge toll on the community.

Each year we will add the known volunteeers from 100 years ago.

Below are the stories of the 1915 volunteeers, the 1916 volunteers are here the 1917 volunteers are here and the 1918 volunteers are here.



1915

William Armstrong Burges

William Armstrong Burges (Billie to his family) was born at Irwin House on 3 June 1889. (according to the family bible - in the early afternoon) The Burges family were early settlers in the Midwest; Lockier Burges came to the Irwin to manage The Cattle Company in 1851. When The Cattle Company was dissolved Lockier Burges luckily drew the land where he had set up home and began developing the property.

A large home was constructed to house the growing family and the property became well known as a successful farming enterprise.

William A. Burges
William A. Burges

Second son of Francis Lockier and Esther (nee Potts) Burges, William was just four years old when his father died. His mother took the family of three boys and one daughter to Ireland and in 1903 he became a student first at Clonmel Grammar School, then Campbell College, Belfast for several months before transferring to the Royal School, Armagh where he was immensely popular with masters and students alike. In his final year - 1907-1908, he captained the 1st XV rugby team.

Esther Burges married in England, Frederick Scroope in 1899 and returned occasionally to Irwin Park, which had been left in the care of manager C W O'Halloran. The property came under the management of William's older brother Irwin in 1913, his mother returning to England. William spent Christmas Day 1912 with the family at the farm, most likely his last trip home before the outbreak of war. This furlough appears to have been for several weeks, as he played polo for Mingenew on 8 March 1913.

William had entered Sandhurst in 1908 and given a commission in the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. Being transferred to the 1st Battalion for foreign service, he served in Kamptee (now Kamthi) in Central India.

At the outbreak of the Great War he was promoted to Lieutenant and went from Aden to the Western Front.

On 10 March 1915 1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles experienced its first military action since the Indian Mutiny (1857-9). At 8.35 am Lt Burges led B Company's No 8 Platoon through the German trenches at Neuve Chappelle north of Arras. Neuve Chappelle was described as a new kind of battle, which was for long to be the model for the attacks of trench warfare. Effective infantry attacks were preceded by a 'great concentration of artillery', with the object of capturing a machine gun. The platoon crossed a stream, which reached up to their necks and headed through the Germans 3rd line. One rifleman later recalled 'Dashing forward to a wood on our right where the gun was concealed. Our gallant officer received a bullet wound in the neck, which ended in his death.' Another source claims that his body was found the next day, 'shot through the throat'. On 4 April William was mentioned in despatches for this action. He was also mentioned in Sir John French's despatches on 22 June 1915. William fell whilst leading his platoon, being one four officers who led the assault. He was just 25 years old .

A War Office telegram was sent to his sister, Esther, who notified her mother in Australia. His personal effects included two silver cigarette cases and a wrist watch. As late as September 1919 his body was still buried about 600 yards north of the Neuve Chappelle, where the grave was marked with a durable wooden cross. His remains were eventually transferred a few miles north to the Royal Irish Rifles Cemetery at Laventie - Grave 111.D.17.

In a letter home on 3 August 1915 Irwin Burges spoke glowingly of his brother William. " I am glad to say he proved himself a worthy soldier, and a credit to the Irwin District where he was born and bred."

A plaque on a wall of St George's Cathedral, Perth, marks his contribution to the war. It is believed he was the first West Australian to die in action in the Great War.

Two Good Mates - Denis Du Val and Reginald Moore

Denis Du Val was the last of seven children born to artist/photographer Gerald and Catherine (Shimwell) Du Val in Manchester, England. Known as Dick within the family, he became a cloth salesman.

Denis Du Val
Denis Du Val

Denis immigrated to Australia and acquired a station lease in the Murchison district. He was also involved in land ownership in the Dongara area in partnership with Thomas Rowan, being joint proprietors of Victoria locations 2771, 2772, 2773, not far from Reginald Moore's farm at Yardarino. Prior to enlistment Denis was a frequent visitor to the Moore's residence, Cliff House, Claremont.

He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Guildford on 4 December 1914. Regimental number 394, he was a corporal in C Squadron of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade of 10th Light Horse Regiment. He embarked from Fremantle on 17 February 1915 on the transport A 52 Surada for Gallipoli.

Reginald Johnstone Moore was born in Dongara in 1878 to parents Samuel Joseph Fortescue and Eliza Mary (Johnstone) Moore. Reginald was the fifth child of a large family of 10 children. His father was a merchant and landowner in the Dongara area and later became MLA for the district, eventually retiring to Cliff House, Claremont.

Reginald J. Moore
Reginald J. Moore

Reginald was educated at Perth High (Hale) School, studied accountancy and joined the Mines Dept of WA. He then went prospecting in the Murchison and during this time in 1902 joined the Colonial Forces Infantry in Menzies as a Lance Corporal.

In 1909 he took the lease on Wye Farm, Yardarino, and in 1913 had 450 acres under cultivation and ran 3000 sheep. He successfully bred a variety of wheat suitable for a dry climate. He was well known in the area and often visited the Burges family at Irwin Park.

Reginald enlisted at Perth on 27 November 1914 and sailed from Fremantle just a week before his good friend Denis Du Val.

Denis and Reginald embarked for Gallipoli on 16 May 1915. The 10th Light Horse served unmounted at Gallipoli, the horses being left in Egypt. They survived three months at Gallipoli in appalling conditions and were members of possibly one of the greatest military disasters to befall the 3rd Australian Light Horse Brigade during the Gallipoli campaign.

Both men were killed on 7 August 1915 in an advance which comprised four waves of 150 men each, two minutes apart. The first two waves of men met a hail of bullets and were mown down. The third wave attacked and was also wiped out, despite the attempt by Lt Col Brazier to cancel, claiming that 'the whole thing was nothing but bloody murder.'

In a hastily convened enquiry the next day Lt Col Brazier responded, "After referring the matter to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade headquarters, he ordered the 10th regiment which he commands, to assault in 2 lines the Turkish trenches in The Nek, in an easterly direction from our trenches on Russell's Top, although at this time there was a murderous hail of shrapnel, machine gun fire and rifle fire from the enemy, and felt quite convinced few if any would return. He has personally seen with a periscope a great number of dead outside our trenches and has caused the recovery of those bodies, which up to the present he considers wise to risk further life for. He is of the opinion that all the missing are dead and further from the reports of the wounded who returned to the lines, and from personal observation with the periscope immediately after the assault, that no single individual of the 10th regiment reached the Turkish trenches. Subsequent to the assault the enemy were seen deliberately firing on the wounded."

The deaths of Sergeant Reginald Moore No 138 and Corporal Denis Duval No 394 were listed on the same Casualty list. Neither man has a known place of burial. Denis' name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli in Turkey. Reginald's father was notified of his son's death and giving a place of burial. However in 1923, after his father had died, his mother was advised this was an error despite the recovery of the identity disc, Reginald's body had never been found. He too, is memorialised on the Lone Pine Memorial.

John Joseph Carroll

Joseph Carroll was born in 1889, older brother of Thomas Carroll, who was killed on 25 April 1915 at Gallipoli. The family moved around the Midwest, father Michael was a farmer at Dongara and may have had land at Arrino, 100km south east of Dongara. By the time Joseph was 12 both parents had died, grandparents taking responsibility for the family, although the eldest daughter would have been old enough to look after the family. Both Michael and. Hannah (nee Booth), together with an infant daughter Frances are buried at Dongara.

Joseph gave his occupation as miner when he enlisted on 18 January 1915, embarking at Fremantle per A8 Argyllshire on 19 April 1915, barely a week before his brother Thomas was killed at Plugge's Plateau. Joseph reported for duty and was attached to A Company 10th Battalion on 28 June 1915. He wrote to his brother Michael saying he had been selected to attend a course of instruction in Egypt. Michael had not heard from Joseph since 27 May 1915, neither did he know Thomas had died. He wrote to the authorities, but there is no record of their reply.

It is not known when Joseph actually landed at Gallipoli as part of the 16th Battalion. From May to August the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the Anzac Beach head and in August the 4th Brigade of which the 16th Battalion was a part attacked Hill 971. The hill was taken at great cost; Turkish reinforcements forced the Australians to withdraw. Joseph was killed in action on 19 August 1915 and buried at Embarkation Pier Cemetery, Anzac Gallipoli.

Michael Carroll continued to write to the Defence Department for information about both his brothers. Thomas was listed as missing in late June 1915 and it was not until 1917 his death was confirmed. There was also some confusion about the possible promotion of Joseph to Lance Corporal, although at the time of his death his rank was Private. Michael applied for a war pension but the application was declined as he was not a dependent. His sister Emma applied for their brothers' medals on Michael's behalf. The medals duly arrived in 1921.

Thomas George Carroll

Thomas George Carroll was born on 18 May 1891; his parents Michael and Hannah (Booth) Carroll already had four children. Thomas was orphaned by the time he was 10, and his grandparents may have assumed responsibility for the family, although the eldest daughter was well into her teens and may have looked after the family.

Thomas G. Carroll
Thomas G. Carroll

In various records Thomas is listed as a labourer, contractor and worker on the Midland Railway line at Coorow. Was he a contractor or merely a labourer? Often men only disclosed the most recent job they had done. Presumably Tom had worked at both at various times.

Thomas enlisted on 7 September 1914. He joined the 11th Battalion, 3rd Brigade and embarked from Fremantle on HMAT A 11 Ascanius on 2 November 1914. This flotilla of ships was originally destined for England, but part way across the Indian Ocean the fleet was diverted to Egypt, when the decision was made to invade the Gallipoli Peninsula. Thomas sailed from Alexandria on 2 March 1915.

The early morning landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula did not go according to plan, and in the ensuing battle Thomas was killed. He was reported missing on 25 April, 1915.

There remained the fundamental problem that for several months the army did not know who had been killed on 25 April, so it was not until August when brother Michael enquired whether Tom was a prisoner of war and was informed he was posted as missing on 28 June. Michael was advised Thomas had been one of many soldiers buried on top of Plugge's Plateau, though it was not known where. Not until early 1916 at an enquiry would a man report he had heard a comrade say that he had buried Thomas, though this to prove little consolation for the family.

Accounts of deaths were sketchy or circumstantial. The Red Cross passed on to the Midwest family that a searcher had spoken to a man who had met an 11th Battalion man on a boat who said he had helped bury Tom, in the little burial plot on top of Plugge's Plateau, though he did not say where. It was little enough, but it meant that by February 1916 the Carrolls could begin to resign themselves to never seeing Tom again. In the meantime older brother Joseph had also been killed in action at Gallipoli.

The humility, patience and forbearance of soldiers' families in their pursuit of information about their relative is amazing. They were so polite! When Tom Carroll's brother wrote asking the Minister for Defence for news, he ended, "I respectfully trust you will forward any information you may have."

Michael, the only remaining brother wrote again in 1920, explaining what had happened to the family since 1914. Both Tom and Joe were dead. The parents had passed away before the war. "I am the only remaining male", he explained. His sister Emma completed the Roll of Honour circulars for her brothers; under the law the surviving brother received Tom and Joe's medals.

The Dept of Defence assured families that if their remains were recovered they 'would be dealt with as tenderly as time and place allows'. From 1920 families received the booklet "Where the Australians Rest", describing the cemeteries and memorials being created in the war zones.

Thomas George Carroll, Service no 1015 is one of just 101 Australian soldiers who died on the first Anzac Day.

Martin Duplex 4937

Martin Duplex, son of William and Mary Ann (Doyle) Duplex was the fifth of six children, and born at Greenough. His family lived at Northampton, running a butchery and grocery, then later farmed at Mt Hill. After his father died in 1904, Martin's mother married Edward Goodwin, police constable at Irwin and later Greenough.

Martin was a champion rifleman at the Nabawa Rifle Club and this skill saw him join the 8th Field Battery as a gunner. He enlisted at Blackboy Hill on 26 June 1915, aged 26, and embarked at Melbourne on S S Makiniri on 10 September 1915, bound for Gallipoli. By the time he reached Alexandria, Egypt he was listed as dangerously ill with meningitis on 28 October. He died later that day and was buried at Chatby Cemetery, Alexandria.

News of Martin's fate was slow to reach his family, other than notification of his death to his mother at Irwin on 14 November 1915. It was some time before the family knew Martin had not been killed in action, and had never seen a battlefield.