Saturday, 23 November 2013

Australian Imperial Force - part 2

David Christopher Anderson (Service No. 5030) enlisted on 29 January 1916. As a member of the 7th Battalion Reinforcements he embarked aboard HMAT Suffolk A23 for Egypt on 1 April 1916. On 28 May 1916 he transferred to the Cyclist Training Battalion until 7 September.

Australian Cyclist Corps
The AIF Cyclist Corps was formed in Egypt in 1916, and fought in France and Belgium. Some of the recruits at Broadmeadows Training Depot had received initial training from 1915. Bicyles had also been used as a form of transport in the army before the formation of official corps.
Image from The Bicycle in Warfare
The Australian War Memorial website has a detailed article about the Cyclist Corps entitled The Bicycle In Warfare. The article states that "it is not well known that the AIF had cycling units that were used in many of the major battles during the First World War such as Messines in June 1917, and Passchendale July 1917. These units were deployed to the front line as well as undertaking cable burying, traffic control and reconnaissance work."

David Anderson transferred to the 46th Battn AIF 4th Australian Division and served in France where he appears to have fought in the infantry.

Cycling to War: the history of the AIF / NZ Cyclist Corps 1916-1919 by Ronald J Austin is available from the Australian War Memorial.

Australian Corps Workshops
On 15 April 1919 David Anderson completed his military service in the Australian Corps Workshops. The soldiers role was to maintain and repair equipment required by the AIF. The Australian War Memorial has a series of images of the Australian Corps Workshop in Jeune, France in 1919. Two of the images appear below:
A truck carrying German Prisoners of War
outside Australian Corp Workshop building

Interior of Mess Hut
Although the war officially ended on 11 November 1918 it was many months before the peace negotiations were finalised. The Versailles Peace Treaty was signed by leaders of participating countries on 19 June 1919.

In October 1918, after the Battle of Montbrehain, the Australian troops in France had withdrawn to regroup and refit for forthcoming battles. They were not needed on the front again. After the Armistice soldiers were not immediately withdrawn from France and when the troops were sent home it was a gradual process. The Australian War Memorial provides a brief outline of the process.

As Australian forces were not part of the occupation forces sent to Germany as part of the post war settlement it was possible to start returning troops home when ships became available. Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash was in charge of the repatriation and demobilisation of Australians from Europe. Instead of returning men by units it was decided that men who had been away from Australia the longest should return home first. However due to the size of the forces needing to be returned home plus the logistical requirements involved in bringing them home the process of repatriation took most of 1919. Schemes were developed to occupy the troops while they waited and to help prepare them for the return to civilian life. Some of the men took part in such courses while others took the opportunity to explore parts of France and Britain. This may explain why David Anderson transferred to the Australian Corps Workshops in April 1919 before he returned to Australia in October 1919.

Stretcher bearers
The third brother, Frederick Anderson (Service No. 2572), was a member of the Second Pioneer Battalion and arrived in France in January 1917. For his courage as a stretcher bearer at Montbrehain on 5 October 1918 Frederick Anderson was awarded the Military Medal. Stretcher bearers were an essential part of army units in retrieving the wounded for medical attention and also the dead when safe to do so. Each soldier had an emergency field dressing to apply if wounded but they would have to then wait until it was safe for stretcher bearers to try and rescue them. Dr Emily Mayhew has made a study of stretcher bearers in the First World War and writes that the basic first aid provided by some stretcher bearers was instrumental in saving lives - Uncovering the unsung medical heroes. More detail in an article on British stretcher bearers is provided in the article - Stretcher bearers - on Spartacus Educational. The Australian War Memorial article on Medical personnel includes a section on stretcher bearers.

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