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Our Committee is raising funds to create a lasting legacy telling the story of Lemnos' link to Gallipoli and Australia's Anzac story. Our projects include the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park, the publication of a major new historical and pictorial publication and more. To make a donation you can also deposit directly by direct debit into the Committee's bank account: Account Name: Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee Inc; Bank: Delphi Bank; Account No: 204299-020 BSB No: 941300; Include your surname in the reference section. For further information on our legacy projects or to make a donation please contact either Lee Tarlamis 0411553009 or Jim Claven 0409402388M

Monday, 14 October 2013

Lemnos Heroes - Corporal George Finlay Knight

Corporal George Finlay Knight's Service Record, National Archives of Australia
The story of Corporal 2174 George Finlay Knight has many connections with the Anzac link to Lemnos. His Battalion spent time on Lemnos, he lived prior to enlistment in Albert Park (the proposed site of our Memorial Statue) and he would die during the Gallipoli campaign and be buried on Lemnos where he remains. 

Born in 1893 in Jika Jika Melbourne, George was 21 years old and single when he joined up on 9th March 1915. A young electrician, his service records reveal that he served a 5 year apprenticeship in Melbourne prior to enlistment. He lived with his parents at 53 Palmerston Crescent Albert Park – not very far from the proposed location of the Lemnos Gallipoli Memorial in Albert Park.

A Methodist by religion, he was the son of Robert Findley and Eliza Morris Knight. His father Robert had been born on 1st June 1851 in Broughty Ferry, Angus, Scotland. His father would die in 1931 in Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.
HMAT (A30) Ceramic. George was sailing on this transport ship. AWM image.
He was joined up to the 6th Reinforcements to the 5th Battalion AIF. On the 25th June 1915 he embarked on the HMAT A30 Ceramic from Sydney.

The AIF camp at Mena in Egypt, 1915. AWM image.
The 5th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War and had taken part in the landings at Anzac cove on 25th April 1915, as well as the battle of Krithia at Cape Helles in March 1915

Foot inspection for the 5th Battalion Anzacs on Lemnos, 1915. AWM image
George landed at Anzac on 5th August 1915. It is more than likely that he would have spent time in Egypt, most likely at the AIF camp at Mena, and then at Lemnos. The 5th Battalion, like all Anzac units, spent time on Lemnos prior to their arrival at Anzac. Lemnos was the final staging post for troops on their way to Gallipoli. He may have drilled there and prepared for battle. He most likely would have been billeted at the Australian camp at Sarpi on Mudros Bay.

5th Battalion headquarters at Anzac, 1915. AWM image
He arrived at Anzac on 5th August 1915. Around this time, the Victorian battalions forming the 2nd Brigade had returned from Cape Helles to Anzac to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine. One of the many battle honours of the 5th Battalion at Gallipoli, the 5th Battalion Unit diary records that they were heavily involved in the battles around Lone Pine when Corporal Knight was with the unit. The battle of Lone Pine was one of the major and bloodiest battles of the whole Anzac campaign at Gallipoli

The 5th Battalion’s role in Lone Pine was to relieve the 1st Brigade's 7th Battalion on 9th August. The intensity of the fighting at Lone Pine and the section of it to be defended by George’s unit is reflected in the words of one of its soldiers, a bomb thrower, on entering the former 7th Battalion trenches. The soldier asked the 7th Battalion commander, the famed Lieutenant Colonel Pompey Elliot, where the 7th was. Elliot said they were in the trench. The bomb thrower wrote: 

“They were in there all right. There was nobody alive. They’d blown the end of the trench down and enfiladed them. Dead Australians, all 7th battalion.”
This would be young George’s baptism of fire at Gallipoli as his Battalion relieved the 7th Battalion. The Unit diary reveals that George’s unit suffered intermittent but heavy enemy shelling and bombing in the Lone Pine trenches from the 9th August onwards. While it fails to mention casualties in the diary, we know that on Monday the Unit suffered enemy bombing, recorded as having been “heavy all night”. The 5th Battalion’s Captain Robert Hooper was killed by one of these bombs in the early hours of the following morning, 10th August. He would be one of the many officers killed at Lone Pine.
5th Battalion trench at McLaurin's Hill after an enemy artillery bombardment. AWM image
The 5th were relieved occasionally by the 3rd Battalion for periods of rest in the reserve, then returning to the trenches at Lone Pine. George was promoted from Private to acting Corporal and then Corporal during his time with the 5th Battalion at Anzac. As referred to earlier, the state of the trenches only worsened as the days past as the heavy fighting continued on 9th and 10th August. One battalion diary noted:

“Dead bodies were in a very bad state of decomposition. Men can only carry out work while wearing respirators.”

This situation could only increase the incidence of disease amongst the men. With the heavy fighting in August, the very hot weather, limited variation in rations and high stress levels, an alarming increase in the already high incidence of sickness and disease began to be reported. An inspection of the 5th Battalion carried out by the Director of Australian Medical Services, Sir Neville Howse, VC, on 18th August, recommended that:

"The men require a good long rest and unless they get it soon many of them will suffer permanent ill effects and be unfit for further service for at least one year …”

The losses from sickness at Gallipoli were far greater than that to be suffered on the Western Front. A comparison for the NZ&A Division in the NZ Army Medical History found that average losses from sickness was 100 per 1,000 per week at Gallipoli, compared to 5 per 1,000 per week in France.

The 5th Battalion would stay at Lone Pine until the 9th September when it would be rested on Lemnos. It would continue to serve at Anzac until the evacuation in December.But George would not be with his comrades after August. He became a victim of the poor health conditions at Gallipoli, no doubt exacerbated by the conditions in trenches he occupied at Lone Pine. After just over 2 weeks on the trenches of the peninsula and seeing action at the dangerous Lone Pine area, George would be struck down by one of the most common illnesses at Gallipoli - dysentery. He was taken sick to the field ambulance at Anzac on 21st August. He died of dysentery (or more specifically acute diarrhea) aboard the Hospital Ship Arcadian on 23 August 1915, while at sea.

He was awarded three war medals - the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. George’s grave is located at Plot 2, Row G Grave 122, East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos. Below is a photograph of his grave stone.

George’s story is one of the thousands of young Anzacs who volunteered and served at Gallipoli, only to be struck down by one of the horrors of war – the ravages of illness and disease. He remains on the northern Aegean Island of Lemnos, where he and his fallen comrades are remembered at the annual Anzac Day services conducted on the Island at East Mudros Military Cemetery. Lest we forget.

Corporal George Finlay Knight's grave at East Mudros Military Cemetery, April 2013. Photograph Jim Claven.

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