Posted in Stories

In Fields of Wildflowers

Heldley Alexander Browne lay dead, one amongst thousands, on the war ravaged fields near Pozieres, France. His body was never recovered, so today he rests in a field sown with beautiful wildflowers and shady trees under blue skies dotted with soft white clouds.  Ninety nine years after his death it is very sad to say that nothing is known of his young life until he enlists in the Australian Army at Liverpool, New South Wales on 15 April 1915. There are no family members still alive to ask what he was like as a child, if he had a girlfriend when he went to war or if he liked cricket and football. There are no known photographs of this brave man. Hedley was my 2nd cousin twice removed.

Hedley was attached to the 19th Battalion and his service number was 1508.  At this time in history the Australian Prime Minister was Andrew Fisher, the “Cooee March” started in Gilgandra, Patrobas won the Melbourne Cup and a host of future famous Australians were born including Charlotte Morrisson Anderson – Professor of Paediatrics, Michael Thwaites – Poet, Academic and Intelligence Officer, Ron Hamence – Cricketer, and Arthur John Birch – Organic Chemist. 

We know from Hedley’s enlistment papers that he was around 5’ 8” tall, had a dark complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He also had a significant scar over his left leg but we are left to wonder how it ever got there.  Hedley did some very basic training and then he boarded the HMAT Themistocles.  This young man, like thousands of others, boarded the ship full of hope for an end to the war.  He would have been naïve enough to feel ‘bullet proof’, never once believing that he would not return to our shores. Can you see him smiling?

HMAT Themistocles
HMAT Themistocles

The next we hear of Hedley he is undergoing more training in Egypt with the 19th Battalion from late July to mid August, before being shipped to Gallipoli, landing at Anzac Cove on 21 August 1916.

Anzac Cove Landing (Photo from National Library of Australia)
Anzac Cove Landing (Photo from National Library of Australia)

At Gallipoli the Battalion participated in the last action of the August Offensive, the attack on Hill 60, before settling into defensive routine in the trenches. From mid-September, until its withdrawal from the peninsula on the night of 19 December, the 19th Battalion was responsible for the defence of Pope’s Hill.  (Australian War Memorial Website)

Looking Toward Pope’s Hill – 1915

On 7 Jan 1916 Hedley is noted as being in Mudros in Greece where on 24 Jan 1916 he is admitted to hospital in Tel el Kabir in Egypt, but he was discharged just two days later.  For an unknown reason Hedley is promoted to Corporal on 11 March 1916 just before returning to Alexandria. Promotions weren’t handed out lightly and it is very sad not to know how this came about.  Did Hedley display courage on the battle field, did he show promising leadership skills?

Hedley leaves Alexandria for France on 18 March 1916 arriving on 25 March 1916.  After arriving in France he participated in a bayonet training course on 19 May 1916 and then with his battalion he fought near Pozieres where he was Killed in Action on 27 July 1916. He is memorialised at Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France.

 

Bayonet Charge WW 1 - Unknown Soldiers
Bayonet Charge WW 1 – Unknown Soldiers

 

Bunker - Pozieres, France
Bunker – Pozieres, France

Hedley Alexander Browne’s name is located at panel 88 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial (as indicated by the poppy on the plan).

Position of Hedley's name at the Australian War Memorial
Position of Hedley’s name at the Australian War Memorial

Hedley Alexander Browne’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on:

  • Tue 18 August, 2015 at 9:26 pm
  • Thu 8 October, 2015 at 9:03 pm
  • Wed 9 December, 2015 at 3:21 am
  • Sat 6 February, 2016 at 2:57 am
  • Sat 2 April, 2016 at 5:53 am
  • Wed 18 May, 2016 at 11:47 pm
  • Thu 30 June, 2016 at 1:04 am
  • Fri 12 August, 2016 at 8:17 pm
  • Sat 1 October, 2016 at 3:06 am

 

 

 

Lest We Forget

 

Sources:

Australian War Memorial:  https://www.awm.gov.au/

Wikipaedia:    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hill_60_(Gallipoli)

Pixshark:    http://pixshark.com/ww1-bayonet-charge.htm

National Library of Australia

Victoria University of Wellington:    http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/WH1-Well-fig-WH1-WellP009a.html

 

 

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