Great acts of courage and bravery were demonstrated by many of the men of the Australian Imperial Force during WW1. In this section we recognise the eighteen men of the 5th/22nd that received gallantry awards during the Great War – two of them on multiple occasions – in chronological order, 100 years on to the day that they occurred. Click on the medal award link to read the full citation from the Australian War Memorial website.
9th October 1917 – Broodseinde
29 year-old orchardist from Longwarry Donald Bain was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Broodseinde on the 9th October 1917. ‘As linesman he laid a telephone wire overland through extremely heavy shelling. Though sniped at incessantly and subjected to Machine Gun fire he continued at his work, and throughout the whole of the operation and the succeeding night he maintained communication and repaired breaks. His work proved of the utmost value and information came back quickly to Headquarters, thus facilitating the conduct of the operation.’ Previously Pte Bain was wounded in action on 5th August 1916 at Pozieres with gunshot wound to the face and leg, and in 1918 he would be hospitalised twice with tonsillitis. In 1919 he married Jessie Welsh from Edinburgh before returning with his bride to Melbourne in October 1919.
4th & 9th October 1917 – Broodseinde
20 year-old slaughter man from Port Melbourne John ‘Darkie’ McFarlane was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal ‘for conspicuous gallantry and daring during the attacks at Broodseinde on the 4th October and 9th October 1917, where he acted as runner and did magnificent work carrying despatches through the heaviest of barrages. When the position of one of our new forward positions on the 9th October was obscure he volunteered to look for it. After traversing No Man’s Land under Machine Gun and rifle fire he was successful in locating the post which would otherwise have been cut off. His devotion to duty, courage and endurance were splendid throughout.’ L-Cpl McFarlane was a fine example of the type of soldier that the Australians were becoming renowned for, an athletic man, tough and fearless on the battlefield but also in frequent conflict with authority. Besides his DCM L-Cpl McFarlane’s list of achievements include being Middle-Weight Boxing Champion, throwing the cricket ball with the greatest distance in military sports in France, winning a swimming race across a canal, plus twice captained the Battalion football team. Included in his war bounty was a ribbon of a Prussian Iron Cross. However L-Cpl McFarlane went Absent Without Leave on a number of occasions while in Egypt and England but more seriously neglecting to obey an order and striking an officer in the field in June 1918. Following a Field General Court Martial he was committed to Penal Servitude and prison for 3 years, commuted to one year, from which he attempted to escape and injured his knee in the process. In April 1919 he was released from prison but again went AWL, being discharged from the army in July 1920 in his absence. L-Cpl McFarlane eventually returned to Melbourne in February 1921, one of the last men in the AIF to return home.
8th May 1917 – Bullecourt
25 year-old pastoralist from Wangarrata Gerald Evans was awarded the Military Cross during the latter stages of the assault on the Hindenburg Line during the Second Battle of Bullecourt with the citation as follows: ‘During the heavy fighting in the Hindenburg Line on the 8th and 9th instant, Lieut. Evans was in charge of the flank company which had the enemy in the same trench along side of them. Lieut. Evans organised and personally led a bombing attack along the trench, thereby gaining about 200 yards of same. He personally supervised the consolidation of the new position, and successfully repelled three strong counter-attacks. Throughout the fighting Lieut. Evans courageous and capable leadership and example inspired his men to a wonderful degree. By his dash and courage an almost impossible position was greatly improved and placed on sound tactical basis.’ As 2nd Lieut. Evans he was one of two officers of the 5th/22nd that sailed for Egypt on the RMS ‘Osterley’, where during training he was transferred to the 8th Battalion within the 2nd Brigade of the AIF 1st Division. Rising to the rank of Captain, he was also Mentioned in Dispatches on two occasions and wounded in action at Pozieres in July 1916. Capt. Evans was wounded by a shell during the 3rd Ypres offensive and sadly died of his wounds on 20th September 1917. A popular leader amongst his men, you can read his story in the Family Section of this project website.
3rd May 1917 – Bullecourt
26 year-old miner from Bendigo Gilbert Tripp was awarded the Military Medal during the gallant AIF 2nd Division assault on the Hindenburg Line during the Second Battle of Bullecourt with the citation as follows: ‘For conspicuous gallantry in action near Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917 in charge of Lewis Gun[s]. In the face of severe shell and M.G. fire from the enemy they [with L-Cpl Aimers] kept their guns in action supporting our bomb attacks most successfully in co-operation with the Trench Mortars. Sgt Tripp had previously been wounded at Pozieres and had risen through the ranks from Private to eventual being Sergeant. He was wounded a second time by gassing (severe) in July 1918 which saw him hospitalised in England before returning home to Australia on the ‘Ascanius’ in February 1919.
25th February 1917 – Warlencourt
26 year-old boilermaker from North Richmond Patrick McCormack of C Company was awarded the Military Medal during a raid on the enemy trenches at Warlencourt at the time of the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line with the citation as follows: ‘For distinguished gallantry in command of his platoon under heavy Machine Gun fire at Dinkum Spur, near Warlencourt. He led his men forward with great coolness and skill right up to the enemy’s wire and eventually withdrew them in good order on receipt of instructions.’ Sgt McCormack had previously been wounded in action at Pozieres and would be wounded a for a second time during the attack on Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917 which would result in the amputation of his right leg above the knee on account of the wounding and subsequent onset of sepsis. Sgt McCormack returned to Australia on the HS Karoola in November 1917 and would be discharged from the AIF on 15th Febraury 1918.
5th August 1916 – Pozieres
23 year-old driver from Ararat Robert Batton of A Company was awarded the Military Medal as the 22nd Battalion attacked the German OG1 and OG2 second line of defence on the Somme at Pozieres, with the citation reading as follows: ‘During heavy bomb fighting on the morning of 5th August at Pozieres these men did excellent service as bomb carriers to the captured trenches. Their work involved long exposure to very heavy shell fire which they faced repeatedly with great coolness.’ Pte Batton rose through the ranks to become Sergeant by the end of the war and became one of the most decorated men in the Battalion receiving the Military Medal with Bar and the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1918 at Ville-sur-Ancre and Mont St.Quentin respectively. He was also wounded on two occasions at Bois Grenier in June 1916 and near Warlencourt in February 1917. Sgt Batton returned to Australia in April 1919 for discharge three months later. Photograph of Sgt Batton seated bottom left, courtesy of Jennie Marshall and Lieut. LW Harricks collection (see Family Stories).
26 year-old student William Salter from Kerang was a Battalion stretcher-bearer since the arrival of the Battalion in France. Pte Salter was awarded the Military Medal with fellow stretcher-bearers as follows: ‘For consistent gallant conduct and devotion to duty as Stretcher-Bearers during the operations at Fleurbaix, Armentieres and on the Somme. They have answered the call without hesitation and regardless of heavy fire, setting a fine example of devotion to duty and self sacrifice for the sake of their wounded comrades.’ As part of D Company and during the fighting on 28th/29th July at Pozieres Pte Salter was wounded in action, being shot in the left humerus and radius, an injury that would see him invalided back to Australia on the ‘Karoola’ in October 1916. Discharged in 1917, William Salter would re-enlist in 1943 for the Second World War, this time as a chaplain, and after the war he was a Reverand.
26 year-old labourer Harry Farrington from North Williamstown was a Battalion stretcher-bearer since the arrival of the Battalion in France. Pte Farrington was awarded the Military Medal with fellow stretcher-bearers as follows: ‘For consistent gallant conduct and devotion to duty as Stretcher-Bearers during the operations at Fleurbaix, Armentieres and on the Somme. They have answered the call without hesitation and regardless of heavy fire, setting a fine example of devotion to duty and self sacrifice for the sake of their wounded comrades.’ Despite being wounded in action twice – at Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917 and gassed on the Somme in July 1918 – Pte Farrington survived the war returning to Australia in May 1919.
24 year-old carpenter Harry West from Kerang was a Battalion stretcher-bearer since the arrival of the Battalion in France. Pte West was awarded the Military Medal with fellow stretcher-bearers as follows: ‘For consistent gallant conduct and devotion to duty as Stretcher-Bearers during the operations at Fleurbaix, Armentieres and on the Somme. They have answered the call without hesitation and regardless of heavy fire, setting a fine example of devotion to duty and self sacrifice for the sake of their wounded comrades.’ As part of D Company and during the fighting on 28th/29th July at Pozieres Pte West was wounded in action, being shot in the leg. Pte West would survive the war and in 1919 he married his wartime sweetheart in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, before returning to Australia with his wife Martha in 1920.
26 year-old driver James Simkin from Kew was a Battalion runner since the arrival of the Battalion in France. Pte Simkin was Mentioned in Despatches as follows: ‘In the trenches in the North during the frequent bombardments when all lines were cut, and at Pozieres, by his consistent devotion to duty, he made it possible for communication between Battalion Headquarters and the front line to be maintained.’ Pte Simkin would be wounded in action during the Battalion’s attack on the German Second Line (OG1 & OG2) on the 4th August 1916 and sadly die from his wounds 11 days later at the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station, Puchevillers.
29th June 1916 – Bois Grenier
20 year-old ironmoulder Garnet Robbins from Mooroopna volunteered to take part in the 6th Brigade raid on the night of 29th/30th June 1916. These raids up and down the British front were designed to act as a diversion to the main Somme offensive that was to take place on 1st July. The 252 strong 6th Brigade raid, under the command of the 22nd Battalion’s Capt ARL Wiltshire was the largest of all the raids conducted by the AIF and resulted in about 100 German casualties and five prisoners brought back for identification, but with 32 casualties for the 6th Brigade including eight killed and three missing. L-Cpl Robbins received the Military Medal for ‘gallantry cutting the enemy wire while under fire and for helping to bring back the wounded as a stretcher-bearer under a barrage of shrapnel fire.’ Pte Robbins would sadly be killed in action a month later, between 27th July – 4th August 1916 at Pozieres.