Letters of Captain DG EVANS

Date of enlistment 8th February 1915
Age at enlistment 25
Profession Pastoralist
Town Wangaratta
Status Single
Rank at enlistment 2nd Lieutenant
Company 5th/22nd Battalion; transferred to 8th Battalion
Significant events while with the AIF Served in Egypt, France and Belgium

Awarded Military Cross and Mentioned in Dispatches twice

Promoted to Captain

Hospitalised sick

Wounded in Action – Pozieres

Died of Wounds – 3rd Ypres, 20th September 1917

Evans - P06566.001.JPGCaptain Evans full WW1 service record can be located in the National Archives of Australia, and summarised within the 5th/22nd focus group. Full details are available online, NAA Series B2455

The following extracts are taken from the letters of Captain Evans from training in Egypt through to his time on the Western Front, compiled in the article ‘The Valiant Never Taste of Death but Once’ written by his great nephew Evan Evans, and acknowledgement goes to the family enabling the subsequent publishing within this commemorative project.

Egypt

26th October 1915: We have arrived in Egypt at last. We got to Suez at 6 yesterday morning & left there about midday arriving at Zeitoun at 6.30. Zeitoun is about 10 miles from Cairo & very near Heliopolis. The trip from Suez was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen, right up the valley of the Nile & through the Irrigation Area. The place is swarming with natives working or pretending to. The ploughs look about 2000 years old & are drawn by two cows or bullocks that look like they come out of the old Bible pictures. The funniest thing is to see the little donkeys getting along with great loads, and sometimes a nigger or two. The weather is pretty hot in the day & cool at night & the sand is the very devil to walk in. There are thousands of horses over here doing nothing!

7th November 1915: Last Sunday half a dozen of us went out to the Pyramids & had a pretty good time. The Sphinx is a good deal knocked about in the face. We went all around on camels & finished up by having a race on donkeys down to the Bena Station. I went through the Museum last week, they have plenty of Mummies there, lots of them thousands of years old, also some Alabaster statues. This week I have been over to Abbassia for three days doing the Musketry course at the Rifle Range, it was pretty hot in the day time. I am getting together quite a fluent vocabulary in Arabic & can swear with the best of them. They have some beautiful Mosques but I haven’t been through them yet. Some of the ladies don’t look bad over here but they have their faces half covered by a veil. Don’t know what they are like after it is removed.

19th December 1915: The Censoring of the letters has been very strict lately & as I have to do it all for my men, I get pretty sick of it. It takes us a lot of the day in time, but I should be able to write a good love letter soon. Some of them are very lovey dovey.

France

1st April 1916: We arrived quite safely last night. I managed to dodge the Torpedoes; the Captain never left the bridge all the way from Alexandria. We left on Monday and arrived here on Friday. This is the prettiest port I have seen yet. We got in about 4 pm and passed the Notre Dame de Armeniers right up on a hill & as we came into the harbour, passed within 50 yards of the Chateau d’if where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned, it is a very small island right in the mouth of the harbour with a very old stone building on it. All the troops but two corps went on by train, I stayed and we had to march about a mile and a half to this camp getting here at 11 pm. The country around the bay is very hilly and rocky and our camp is in a small basin with old houses & vineyards and orchards all around it & quite close. Everything is beautifully green with the Spring just coming on and I am afraid La belle France knocks poor old Australia into a cocked hat for beauty.

29th April 1916: There are six of us in this Billet & we live jolly well. The tucker in the trenches is not bad either & the dugout fairly comfortable but you have to keep your clothes on all night. This week the weather has been beautiful just like the Spring in Australia, in fine weather the aeroplanes are always very active. On Tuesday last the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli (25/4/1916) this Battalion held a sports meeting.

17th May 1916: It was funny the night we came in; the trenches here are very close to the villages & as we came in through the homes the Hawthorn hedges were quite white with blossom. There are plenty of quail, pheasants and partridges about the trenches but I have not shot any yet. There is a full moon & it shows things up well.

25th May 1916: This is not a bad war if one can dodge the few chances of getting cracked that are going, we live fairly well, even here in the front line, we have a cook who is an excellent forager & last night had cold roast beef with three vegetables & salad with dressing & spring onions all complete, & we topped it off with stewed rhubarb & whipped cream.

4th June 1916: The grass among these trenches is wonderful, prairie & cocksfoot mixed with self- sown stuff of all kinds three foot high, I would like to take up a run here for bullocks, but not just now.

31st July 1916: I have not written for some time as we have been rather busy & have not had an opportunity – but I was lucky enough to get out of it with a slight crack on the ribs & did not leave the Company. Our Battalion has done remarkably & my Company was furthest ahead of the lot

3rd August 1916: We have had an easy off the last few days & the boys are celebrating it in great style; they deserve it too, if anyone says anything to the detriment of the Australian Soldier, give him one for me.

28th August 1916: Have you got many sheep to shear? It is dead funny to see them shearing here, they round them up in the paddock, stick a couple of hurdles round them & get busy, most of them will eat out of your hand. Reapers and binders are very scarce, but one day during a march we halted near where one was working & one of the boys did a couple of rounds on the binder to keep his hand in, he looked a trick going around with his pack on.

10th September 1916: The Germans have a bomb called the “Minenwerfer” (Minnie for short). It holds about a gallon of scrap iron, bits of shell etc., anything that will hurt, you can see them coming through the air quite plainly in the day time, they have sent a lot over here, but have not caught anybody yet, but make a dickens of a noise.

10th October 1916: There was a little matter of a raid that I happened to be in charge of, and I did not feel inclined to write till it was over; however it went off very successfully, and now can tell you all about it, it was very well done, & they have all said very nice things about me, and what you will probably like much better, I will not feel it is my turn to take part in a raid for a long time to come.

29th October 1916: Since writing to you I have returned to the Battalion from leave; it has been raining a good deal here so things are not very cheerful but suppose I will soon settle down again soon. I have told you about my trip in previous letters to various members of the family so will not repeat it – I had a glorious time, quite the best holiday I have ever had. When you come over we will go for a trip to Ireland together. We went for a bonzer trip through the islands of the west coast of Scotland & my only regret was that you could not be there too. It is quite a short trip from there to Ireland.

19th November 1916: We are having a bit of a spell now and it is very acceptable, the weather conditions are worse than the Germans and the mud is indescribable, though I have heard some excellent attempts at describing it from the men.

24th November 1916: We have been having a spell lately and feeling quite bucked up. We had a football match yesterday with the 7th Battalion and beat them easily – some very good men were playing including several league players. The old French woman in this billet is a hard case, she is about 80 & lives by herself, is a good old sort & told me her whole history the other night, I don’t think she has ever been out of the village.

7th February 1917: I will not be sorry to get back to the Battalion, as it becomes quite like home and one misses everything that is going on there. The are some grand fellows in my Battalion and it is almost worth going to war to know them.

22nd March 1917: [letter from brother Ken (Francis)] I saw Gerald for a few minutes yesterday. I was marching through a village where his Battalion had been billeted for four days and he happened to be standing on the side of the road, I couldn’t stop but we saw one another at about the same time, and he walked along side me for a good way & we had a bit of a talk. I was more than glad to see him as I have been wishing to for some time & he looks really well. He was leaving there that afternoon and we are moving in the opposite directions at present.

25th March 1917: [letter from brother Ken (Francis)] All we want now is for the infernal war to end so as we can go to our dear homes in the only country in the world for me, Australia. However all will be well yet Mother dear & try not to worry too much as 1917 ought to see the end of it.

1st May 1917: The men are in great heart and appreciate the change of weather; we had a hurried move forward some little-time ago and when the Company was ready to move I found one platoon had a football ready to take along, these men will always play football under shell fire.

Belgium

27th August 1917: Your letter of June 19th came a few days ago after we came out of the last stunt, which I managed to get through with just the tiniest crack on the shoulder which didn’t hurt at all – It is great to get back and have a good hot bath & undisturbed sleep. Am glad to hear you are having the house fixed. You had better get to work & build a dug out for me, I will have it 40 ft. deep & two entrances like the Germans with electric light laid on – they must feel very annoyed to know that we are using them now. One place they had entire hospital underground with kitchens, baths – everything billiard tables etc. They come in very useful now. Yesterday we came through some very pretty country. They are harvesting now; the women do most of the work & do it very well. Reapers & binders are very rare. Mostly reaping hooks & scythes. One valley we passed through was surrounded by a low hill, they were harvesting right up the valley as well as hops & other green crops & hedges, there were about a dozen old windmills working around the hills & right on top was a very old Convent; been there since the flood. They were playing baseball this afternoon near our Camp & get very excited over it, suppose you know what troops I mean; they are very hard cases & have a very pronounced twang.

25th September 1917: [letter from Capt. Chaplain Booth] I knew him as a personal friend and tried to see him as often as I could for his friendship was a coveted thing. All his officers and men alike regarded him as a model man, clean and strong. His Company loved him and every man in his charge spoke of him as “one of the best”. Perhaps the highest praise a soldier can bestow on any man. Fearless and true in all his dealings. He was in every sense a nobleman. He did not reach the front line but was caught by a piece of shell as the boys were marching forward. Loving hands bore him to the aid post and he reached the Casualty Clearing Station some miles behind the line. We were deeply shocked to learn that he passed away the next day. Those who saw him say he did not suffer and slowly slipped into the great beyond….He died as he lived an example to all. None need ever be ought but proud to call him friend. He paid the greatest price that man can pay. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friend.”

28th September 1917: [letter from Capt. Hurrey on death of Capt. Evans] Gerry was a grand man… I cannot speak highly enough of Gerry’s courage and behaviour…. The test of a man is to know what the men think of him and Gerry was, to use the boy’s own phrase betokening the hall-mark ‘A Dinkum Bloke.’ Believe me, that is the highest tribute a man can be paid.

3rd October 1917: [letter from Capt. Campbell] He and I had managed to stick together since we were Non. Coms. at Broadmeadows, and he is the best friend I have ever had.… He died at the 10th Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, and I shall go across there sometime this week and get whatever information I can about him. So far, I have only heard that some pieces of shell went through his leg and body, but I have heard no other details. I also went to the Cemetery, which was close by and saw his grave. The registration unit people are putting up a Cross, but the Battalion is having a special one made for it. I saw the man who is responsible for looking after the graves, and made arrangements for him to look after Gerry’s, and to plant some flowers on it.”

3rd October 1917: [extract from letter from father John Evans to son Ken on the death of Gerald. This letter was returned stamped ‘DECEASED’ and ‘UNDELIVERABLE’ as Ken was killed in action 13th October 1917]  Your Mother is standing by me and saying tell him I wish I could have my arms around him and love him & tell him to bear-up & come back to us. We will pray for you.

 

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