ANZAC Remembrance: The Great War 1914-1918

Posted 30 APR 2020
Memory BankOld Scholar News

ANZAC DAY 2020 marked the 105th anniversary of Australian, New Zealand and Allied forces landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. It is a time to remember all who have served and continue to serve in wars and conflicts around the world, and those who made the supreme sacrifice. During World War I alone, over 1100 Saints old scholars enlisted to serve and 180 sadly never returned.

To commemorate the part taken in the Great War by the old boys of St Peter’s College, the following excerpts from School magazines, publications and letters written by old scholars have been compiled by St Peter’s Old Collegians with the assistance of School Archivist, Andrea McKinnon-Matthews.

1914

Call to arms:
Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 and Australia pledged its support alongside other countries of the British Empire. Prime Minister Joseph Cook stated “…when the Empire is at war, so also is Australia.” A call to arms was printed in the old scholars’ column of the School magazine in 1914:
 
“The clarion call to arms has gone forth in this distant part of the Empire. The School is responding nobly: –
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
 
Our thoughts will ever be with them and for them in the responsibilities they have so willingly and so patriotically imposed upon themselves. Should fortune frown, and pray God she never will,
May the voice of a schoolboy rally the ranks,
Play up! Play up! And play the game!”
 
First XVIII enlist to serve:
Eighteen members of the First XVIII enlisted to go to war in 1914:
“On the outbreak of war…it was proudly claimed that 18 of the 1914 SPSC Team served at Gallipoli (the remaining two were still at School in 1915)."
'The Message of its walls and fields. A history of St Peter’s College 1847-2009', Katharine Thornton, 2010
 
Image: 1914 SPSC Football team. Standing, L-R: C Roberts, R D Hall, R G Goodman, O E Colley, T A Caterer (Master & Coach), H O Killicoat, P A Jennings, W H Craven, R G Matheson. Seated, L-R: L R Pellew, C A L Greig, W R G Coman (Vice-Captain), W H D Stewart (Captain), R B Coulter, R G Horwood, G E Jose. On ground, L-R: G L Butler, E P Hill, L M S Hargrave
 
Farewell to the old School:
“Sunburnt old scholars in khaki have been visiting the School during the term to say good-bye before leaving for the front. Good luck to them!”
December 1914, St Peter’s College magazine
 
Cadet Notes, 1914:
 “It was with a thrill of pride that we read the names of so many of our old scholars who had volunteered for the front… there must be quite 200…. Little did these boys imagine a few years ago that the drill they learned so arduously on the grounds would be used so soon in a struggle for the safety, nay, even the existence, of the British Empire.”
August 1914, St Peter’s College magazine
 
Farewell dinner for Saints and Princes:
An account of the combined St Peter’s College and Prince Alfred College farewell dinner held at the Adelaide Town Hall in September 1914:
“A combined farewell to “old boys” of St. Peter’s and Prince Alfred College was held on Thursday evening, September 10th, in the Town Hall, Adelaide. There is an esprit de corps among old collegians which is impressing and pleasing… They all felt confident they would jealously uphold the traditions of the Schools, and cause those institutions to be proud of their sons.”
 
Canon H. Girdlestone (Head Master of St Peter’s College) remarked:
“The Blues had a war cry. It was 'Buck in Saints'. The Reds also had a cry… 'Reds can’t be beat' … Those cries would be heard when they got into a tight corner, and would carry them through.”
December 1914, St Peter’s College magazine
 

1915

The landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli:
On 25 April 1915 the Australians along with troops from New Zealand, Britain and France landed at what became known as Anzac Cove. The allies tried to break through Turkish lines, while the Turks tried to drive the allied troops off the peninsula. Attempts on both sides ended in failure and the ensuing stalemate continued for the remainder of 1915. In fact, the most successful operation of the campaign was the large-scale evacuation of troops on 19 and 20 December. As a result of a carefully planned deception operation, the Turks were unable to inflict more than a few casualties on the withdrawing forces.
 
Old Saints at the landing at Anzac Cove:
“Sunday 25th. 1 a.m. Was just awakened from a couple of hours’ rest, and have had a snack and are going ashore in an hour or two… I don’t feel so very excited… We are now in the boats in the dark… The bullets were zipping all round…”
William de la Poer Beresford MC, old scholar 1908-1910; 10th Battalion, E Company
 
“GE De Mole was killed in action at Walker’s Ridge, Anzac, on August 7th, during one of the most sanguinary engagements that has taken place at the Dardanelles. Of 800 who went out, only 40 answered the roll call on the return.”
† George De Mole, old scholar 1896-1897; 10th Light Horse Regiment
 
“Immediately on landing we were taken up a hill about 1 1/2 miles from the beach… They even came within 50 yards of our trench, but our fire was too hot… We took the trenches at the point of a bayonet, but we paid an awful price for them. They enfiladed us with machine guns and rifle fire from the left, which was rather nerve breaking.”
Ernest Hollis, old scholar 1906-1907; 16th Battalion, B Company
 
“JL Lewis was in the landing party on the Gallipoli peninsula on April 25th. One of his fellow signallers tells that he hurt his back in climbing the cliffs … with much suffering to himself, he (Lewis) had been rendering splendid help to his wounded comrades; and it was in the performance of this noble duty that he was killed.”
† James Lewis, old scholar 1907-1910; 10th Battalion, E Company
 
 † Eric W Talbot Smith (old scholar 1906-1910) – Lieutenant, 10th Battalion Infantry, Australian Expeditionary Forces:
“On April 24th the night before the landing he sat with Col. Price Weir, who made use of his draughtsmanship to prepare the landing plan. In the attack at dawn he had first command of scouts, and being allowed to choose his men, he selected a team entirely of old “saints” as he wrote on his last letter home.”
He was severely wounded whilst manning a machine gun and later died from his injuries.
August 1915, St Peter’s College magazine
 
Raising funds towards the war effort:
In 1915, St Peter’s Old Collegians started a fund to donate a motor ambulance to the British Army to be used on the Western Front on behalf of the old scholars. The ambulance was driven by old scholar, R.C. Baker and displayed the School emblem and a plate stating that it had been given by the Old Scholars of St Peter’s College.
With the balance of money raised, a travelling kitchen was also presented by St Peter’s Old Collegians to the military authorities on behalf of the old scholars for use in Gallipoli to support Australians at the front.
August 1915, St Peter’s College magazine
 

1916

They were heroes all:
Headmaster Girdlestone’s 1915 Speech Day address was recorded in the School magazine of the following year:
“The splendid response that the old boys of the School had made to the call of King and Country. The nobility of their devotion had won for the School an undying tradition, and through the long ages to come, men and boys would look back with reverence to the days when the School entered into its most glorious heritage – the right to serve.”
 
It is noted in the School magazine “Of the distinctions gained by old boys at the front he (the Headmaster) purposely refrained from making mention. Not that he did not feel proud of them, but they were heroes all.”
May 1916, St Peter’s College magazine
 
ANZAC evacuation from Gallipoli:
‘Letter from the Front’ – A graphic account of the evacuation of Gallipoli from an old St Peter’s Boy:
“When you heard of the evacuation you must have been rather anxious, and will be interested to know how we got off. Well, it was absolutely the most wonderful piece of work done in the Turkish campaign – everything worked like clockwork and without the slightest hitch…. It was an inspiring sight and wonderfully impressive to witness – I shall never forget it… As you would have heard, every man got off safely, the total casualties of the evacuation being only three”
May 1916, St Peter’s College magazine
 
Old Scholar accounts:
“My Brigade was at Loos and had lost half its men.  For two months I was attached to a Tunnelling Company of Royal Engineers as listening officer, an exciting experience.”
Herbert Hopkins, old scholar 1909-1914; King’s Liverpool Regiment
 
“I am now Brigade Major to the Mhow Cavalry Brigade, 1st Indian Cavalry Division, France…The time for the cavalry has not yet come.  We go on, day after day, training for the time to come, but it is wearisome work…”
Guy Wylly VC DSC, old scholar 1895-1898; 3rd Australian Division
 
“(I’ve) travelled by transport via Suez, and then overland from Marseilles to Havre. We are getting fairly solid work here…have just put in three days in the local trenches under service conditions with the exception of fire.”
† Charles Herbert, old scholar 1900-1906; 43rd Battalion, C Company
 
“CC Hayward joined the Royal Flying Corps. While on service at the front, all of his controls were smashed by shell and his machine fell 2,000 feet (over the Somme). He was badly injured…has started for Australia on four months leave.”
Cedric Hayward, old scholar 1905-1914; Royal Flying Corps
 
“I was in the fourth wave, and our objective was the German’s second line. The ground between the lines was nothing but shell holes… This second line was just over the brow of the hill the other side of Pozieres… As fast as we filled sand-bags and dug down deeper his shells would fill it in again for us.”
Ronald Horwood MM, old scholar 1910-1914; 27th Battalion, D Company
 
“Each day and each night…(at) the entrances of the communication trenches may be seen working parties. They are either to dig new trenches, improve others, or clear up trenches which have been under shell fire. Now to go on to a new point, bombing parties, to which I had the good luck to be detailed.  It is an interesting job…”
Edward van Senden MC, old scholar 1906-1908; York and Lancaster Regiment
 

1917

Old Scholar accounts:
Printed in the School Magazine, May 1917 in extracts from letters:
“I have just received your parcel… I have just returned from another scrap; again we came out on top, this time getting 2,000 prisoners, 4 guns, 4 machine guns, and ammunition, but our casualties are much heavier than a week ago.”
Eric Dowling, old scholar 1906-1911; 3rd Light Horse Regiment
 
“The battalion in these billets before was from SA, and I ran across Nip Pellew and young Jack Mursell, who seemed very fit. There are some fine open field about here, and we are arranging a sports meeting for Ney Year’s Day, and inter Company football matches, and I am one of the Committee of five, of whom three are old Saints, and one old P.A.C. Harry Powell is our medical officer now.”
Patrick Auld MC, old scholar 1906-1911; Field Ambulance 4, Section B
 
Combined dinner in France for Old Reds and Blues:
The following is an extract from a letter from L. B. Laurie with reference to a combined old scholars dinner held at Amiens, France for Old Reds and Blues.
“Last night we had a great time. All old saints and Princes available gathered for the Annual Dinner…. About 160 turned up, so you can imagine we had a good time in a reserved hall in a very fine hotel. The dinner, a sumptuous French one, cost us 15 francs (officers 30 francs), and was well worth it after bully beef for weeks on end…. Rank and distinction were thrown to the winds. We sang old college songs, made speeches, ate, drank, and made merry. It was a highly successful affair, and enjoyed by everyone of us.”
December 1917, St Peter’s College magazine
 

1918

The war ended in late 1918, after the member countries of the Central Powers signed armistice agreements one by one. Germany was the last to sign on 11 November 1918. The war had cost Australians dearly. 60,0000 Australians had been killed in the war and as many as 150,000 men returned home badly wounded in mind or body.

A message of congratulations from the front:
In response to hearing the news that Saints had won the 1917 Intercollegiate Cricket Match, a group of old scholars serving in France sent a telegram congratulating the team. A cable signed by Lindsay, Pellew, Henderson, Bonython, McDowall and Moyes was received in March 1918 from France. It ran as follows: “Congratulations Cricket, all well”
May 1918, St Peter’s College magazine
 
Old Saints are ‘everywhere I go’:
In early 1918 (during World War I), AG Moyes (old scholar 1905-1911), a junior infantry officer, wrote to the School Magazine from France: “Everywhere I go I meet Old Boys of the best School on Earth’’
 
Old Scholar accounts:
In an extract from a letter from W. M. Hughes, written shortly before he was killed:
“Today I ran into quite a colony of old Saints. There were Pat Auld (Capt.), W Beresford, Fred Wakelin, and Ray Goodman, John Hill, and McBride, and stopped yarning with them for a long time.”
 
“Letter from WN Birdwood: Dear Bonython, This is a line to send you my very hearty congratulations on the Military Cross…for operations near Villers Bretonneux. When all senior officers had become casualties…you took charge…which you led with great coolness and determination.  Although wounded, you gallantly remained on duty…”
Guy Bonython MC MM, old scholar 1907-1911; 9th Light Horse Regiment
 
“AG Bagot along with a Lieutenant Commander, jumped into their dinghy, rowed to the wreck, got on board, and removed the depth charge, thereby preventing an explosion which might have caused serious loss of life amongst the crowd of English and French sailors on the quay. Awarded the Albert Medal [George Cross] for their daring act.”

Arthur Bagot DSC Albert Medal, old scholar 1900-1903; Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve

Peace at last:
Speech Day 1918 was held during an armistice. “The Council had decided to erect a noble Memorial Hall almost on the spot where they were at that moment assembled, a hall which should be a lasting tribute to the men who were their School’s pride.”
The old scholars would raise £13,500 towards the construction of Memorial Hall which took eight years to build and was officially opened in 1929.
 
His Excellency the Governor, Sir Henry Galway, in his 1918 Speech Day address said; “The School’s motto “Pro Deo et Patria” was indeed well chosen. Their love of the old School was what helped to carry the old boys on, and the feeling that, whatever happened, they must be worthy of her. These men had made a tradition for her of which she might well be proud. It was for the boys of today to see that they did not fall short of the standard set on the field of battle.”
May 1919, St Peter’s College magazine
 

Lest we forget – Pro Deo et Patria

Compiled by SPOC Events & Administration Manager, Annie Bawden

Thank you to School Archivist, Andrea McKinnon-Matthews for her contribution to this feature.