Hendersons at War
HENDERSONS AT WAR
Of the six eldest sons of William and Annie Henderson of Melbourne, five volunteered for service in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in 1915-16; three of these five lost their lives.
With the help of records freely available from the Australian Army Central Records Office in Melbourne and the War Memorial in Canberra, it has been possible to find out many details of the war service of the five sons of William Henderson.
The eldest son, named William Henry (right) after his father, was born in North Melbourne in 1883. He married Olive May Brilliant in 1904 and they had eight children. He worked as a boilermaker, as did his father. He was living in Fitzroy when he enlisted on 21st February 1916 at the age of 32. He was 5 feet 4½ inches in height and weighed 9 stone 2 pounds. He had blue eyes and brown hair. He was given service number V22531 with the rank of Sapper and allotted to the 3rd Reinforcements at Seymour Victoria, after his basic training he was appointed to the Engineer Reinforcements at Moor Park Sydney New South Wales on 3rd April 1916, where he was to serve until he was discharged medically unfit on 14th June 1916. Thus he served less than four months and did not go overseas as did his four brothers and therefore did not receive any service medals.
The second son, Arthur James (left)
, was born in Kensington 20th September 1885. He married Mabel Mary Greer in 1907.
Arthur was working as a horse-driver when he enlisted at Maribyrnong on 25th August 1915, aged 31. He was 5 feet 3½ inches in height and weighed 9 stone 8 pounds. He had brown eyes and dark brown hair. He had an anchor tattooed on his left arm. He was given the service number V27592. He served as a horse-driver with the Field Artillery and embarked for overseas service on 20th October 1916, aboard the troopship Borda, arriving in Plymouth, England on 9th January 1917. He was stationed at Larkhill for three months before going to France.
In February 1917 he was charged with being drunk in Salisbury and disobeying an order, found guilty and sentenced to 14 days detention, by Lt. Colonel W. Mailer. On 19th April 1917 he proceeded to Folkestone for embarkation to France. On 26th April 1917 he reported to the 3rd Army Field Artillery Battery at Etaples. While in France he again misbehaved, being AWOL on three occasions and drunk once, for these offences he forfeited a total of 54 days pay and also received 28 days No 2 field punishment. On 13th January 1918, after almost 9 months in the field he, with other members of his unit proceeded to England on leave, rejoining his unit ex leave on 29th January 1918. He died of illness on Wednesday 1st May 1918 at Pont Noyelles, France. A post mortem conducted on 4th May 1918 showed acute oedema of the lungs. He is buried at Vignacourt Cemetery, near Amiens, France. For his service he was awarded, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These Medals, along with a memorial scroll, a bronze plaque and a photograph of his grave were sent to his father in 1921.
The third son, Herbert George (left)
was born in Kensington in 1887. He married Elsie May White in 1911 and they had four children. Herbert was a plumber and living in South Melbourne, when he enlisted on 23rd February 1916, at the age of 30.
He was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 8 stone 8 pounds. He had brown eyes and black hair, he was given service number V15075 with the rank of driver in the 10th Field Company Engineers. On 30th September 1916 he embarked aboard the Aenaes, arriving in Plymouth, England 19th November 1916.
On 3rd March 1917 he embarked ex Folkestone for France, arriving Etaples 5th March 1917. He served in the field for over a year before being sent back to England where he spent a few days in hospital with influenza before sailing for Australia on 9th July 1918, where he was discharged from the AIF. He died 14th February 1958, his grave is looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The fourth son Frank Edward was born in Kensington in 18th February 1891. Did not enlist.
The fifth son, Ernest Albert (right)
was born in Kensington in 1897. He was not married and worked as a lad labourer in a foundry. He enlisted on 8th July 1915 stating his age as 19. Ernest had previously tried to enlist but had been rejected because he was only 5 feet 2¼ inches in height, however the minimum height was later reduced to 5 feet 2 inches, thus allowing for his acceptance. He weighed 9 stone 8 pounds with hazel eyes and black hair. He was given service number V3798 with the rank of private. He did his basic training at Broadmeadows, Victoria. On 23rd November 1916 he embarked for the Middle East with the 12th Reinforcements 8th Battalion aboard the troopship HMAS Ceramic.
On 4th March 1916 he was allotted and proceeded to join the 14th Infantry Battalion at Zeitoun, on 17th March 1916 he transferred to the 60th Battalion at Tel-el Kebir. A month after arriving in the Middle East he was awarded 14 days No. 2 field punishment for disobeying orders whilst on line of march. On 29th June 1916 he embarked at Alexandria aboard the Kinfaus Castle
bound for France, disembarking at Marseilles 29th June 1916.
He was reported missing in action on 19th July 1916 in the Battle of Fromelles
and recorded as killed in action on 4th August 1916. He is buried in VC Corner Cemetery Fromelles, France and is commemorated on panel twenty. For his service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal, these being sent to his father, along with a bronze plaque and memorial scroll.
The sixth son Leslie Donald (left),
was born in Kensington in 1898, he was unmarried and worked as a boilermaker, having served three years as an apprentice. He enlisted with his parent's consent on 30th June 1915, the first of the sons to do so. He stated his age as 19, when in fact he was only 17. He had served 1½ years in the Williamstown High School Cadet Corps and 2 years in the Naval Cadets.
He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 10 stone. He had hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He was issued service number V2603 and the rank of private. He was allotted to the 8th Reinforcements, 8th Battalion and sailed for Gallipoli on 15th September 1915, arriving at Anzac Cove 7th December 1915. On 24th February 1916 he transferred to the 60th Battalion at Serapeum.
He was appointed Lance Corporal on 29th February 1916, but reverted to private at his own request on 10th June 1916.
On 17th March 1916 his brother Ernest also transferred to the 60th Battalion, presumably to be with his brother. On 18th June 1916 they both embarked at Alexandria for France aboard the Kinfaus Castle, arriving Marseilles on 29th June 1916.
Leslie was killed in action in the Battle of Fromelles
on 19th July 1916, the same day as his brother Ernest, although their deaths were not confirmed until after a court of inquiry, which was held in the field on 4th August 1916. Leslie is buried with his brother in VC Corner Cemetery, Fromelles, France and is also commemorated on panel twenty.
For his service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. These being sent to his father along with a bronze plaque and a memorial scroll.
Family tradition has it that both Ernest and Leslie were killed at the same instant, when side by side they were hit by an artillery shell, but this is unlikely, as the official history of the AIF states that of the men killed on 19th July 1916 in the battle of Fromelles, most were caught in a deadly crossfire of German machine guns. The artillery was used mainly on the trenches before the infantry attack.
They probably were side by side at the time they were killed, as brothers in the same battle would try to be, particularly as this seems to be the reason they both transferred to the 60th Battalion.
Two other members of the Australian branch of the Henderson family served in the AIF during the 1914-18 war.
The first was David John Henderson, a first cousin to the five brothers, the son of John Edward Henderson (the brother of William Henry Henderson, their father).
David John was born in Broadford, Victoria in 1895. When he enlisted on 16th September 1916 he was not married and gave his trade as coachbuilder and his age as 21. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 9 stone 1 pound. He had blue eyes and light brown hair. He had served in the Sea Cadets for two years and the Citizens Forces for two years. He was issued with service number V3354 and the rank of private in the 8/2nd Pioneers, he did his training at Seymour.
On 16th December 1916 he embarked aboard the troopship Medic for service overseas, arriving Plymouth, England on 18th February 1917.
On 16th June 1917 he proceeded overseas to France, to reinforce the 1st Division Train, his rank now being Wheeler.
On 20th December 1917 he returned to England were he was admitted to the Military Hospital at Tidworth for a minor operation for the removal of piles. After convalescence in England until 2nd April 1918 he proceeded overseas to France to rejoin his unit. On 12th April 1918 he was transferred to the 3rd Division Train. He stayed in France until the end of the war. After a two week leave in Paris he returned to England and on 3rd July 1919 boarded the Prinz Herbertus for Australia. He was discharged on 17th January 1920. His rank while in the AIF were variously Private, Acting Corporal, EDP Corporal, Wheeler and Corporal.
For his service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal
The second was Rupert Seddon Henderson, also a first cousin of the five brothers and the son of John Edward Henderson.
The story of Rupert's service cannot be written at this time, as his service is not listed on the Nominal Rolls of the 1st AIF. It is possible that he served under an alias.
VC Corner Memorial, Fromelles, France
Left to right 1914-15 StarBritish War medal Victory Medal
Lest We Forget