A Family History
Many stories have been written about the Anzac traditions born during the First World War. Stories abound of the tragic losses and heroic endeavours of soldiers who came from humble colonial origins to display exceptional bravery in the bloody engagements at Gallipoli and on the Somme in France.
Families are reconnecting with their early war history, discovering lost or forgotten relatives, finding personal stories of tragedy or bravery in a time long past.
I have such a story. It had been lost in the many years since the events took place, but it was almost as if the story was destined to be found and brought to life once more.
Four Grand Uncles had served during the First World War, and through my Pozieres project I was able to rediscover those long lost links.
Lance Corporal William Augustine Bauer, 41 Battalion- 7th Reinforcement, fought and died at Mericourt, France, 12 August 1918.
Private Robert Henry Bickle, 9th Infantry Battalion- 23 Reinforcement, drew his last breath at Passchendaele 6 November 1917.
Private Sydney Newman Bickle, 5th Light Horse Regiment, 19th Reinforcement, 2nd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron, saw service in Egypt and survived the war.
Sergeant Henry Buchanan MM, 9th Battallion, a Gallipoli soldier who fought at Pozieres, and was twice awarded the Military Medal for bravery. His story is typical of many worthy of telling.
Editorial - Sydney Morning Herald Friday 20 September 1917
“Well, I bluffed them”, he said. “The Germans were as much surprised as I was”.
Taking a bottle of iodine from his pocket and holding it up as though it was a bomb, he yelled, “If you don’t come out - I’ll bring you out” he said.
The Germans came out of their shelter one by one, and were subsequently sent to the back of the line. He was wounded once again on 5 September and on rejoining his unit on 17 September, was promoted to the rank of sergeant.
On October 25 1916 he was awarded a military medal for his action at Mouquet Farm and was awarded a second Military medal for bravery during the Pozieres engagement.
In November1916 he was severely wounded in his left hand from shrapnel which rendered it useless. He was repatriated to England and was eventually returned to Australia in August 1917. He incidentally, mentioned he was offered a commission, which he refused.
Sergeant Buchanan was unstinting in his praise of the stoical suffering of the wounded. “In France”, he said, “I attended a bad case”.
A South Australian, who returned by the same boat, was hit by a Whizz-bang shell. I was standing close by and immediately went to his aid. There were 46 separate wounds, 42 of which were received from the hip down. I had no morphine, but he did not even lose consciousness.
“I’m glad to be back” he said, in conclusion, “but if the doctor says yes, I’m going back again”.
Henry Buchanan re-enlisted in July 1918 and was eventually discharged (demob) in December 1918. When WW2 broke out, he enlisted to serve again, attaining the rank of WO11.
He eventually settled down in Tewantin Queensland, where he became president of the local RSL. He passed away on 11 May 1953.
His story, like so many others, are part of the fabric of Australian military history. They stir our hearts and make us realise that the true cost of our freedom and way of life, have been, and continue to be paid for through the blood of selfless sacrifice.
We must cherish their memory and ensure that the legacy they leave is never lost, but passed down to our children and to the children of generations to come.
Lest we forget.
Do you have a family story to tell? Let us know.