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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: Bendigo Bank; Account No: 188010037; BSB No: 633000; 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

Sunday 6 July 2014

Lemnos Hero - Private Frank Brent - TV Interview with a Gallipoli Veteran

Frank Brent being interviewed by the BBC in 1964. Source: BBC
In 1964 the BBC interviewed many First World War veterans for a major TV series, The Great War.
One of the veterans interviewed was Private 168 Frank Thomas Brent, a digger in the AIF's 6th Battalion.
Frank was a digger who had been born in Lincoln in England. A 25 year old clerk, he joined up in Melbourne on 20th August 1914 only a few weeks after the outbreak of war. He wrote of his previous military experience as being 4 years with the A.S.C. (Imperial).
On enlistment, his address was given as Nar-Nar-Goon in Gippsland but this was amended to Springvale Post Office, Victoria. His next of kin was recorded as his mother, Margaret, who lived in Kennington, London, England.
He embarked in Melbourne aboard the HMAT Hororata A20 on 18th October 1914.
The HMAT Hororata crossing the Indian Ocean in November 1914, part of the first Australian and New Zealand convoys. Private Frank Brent was on this ship. Source: AWM

In the interview he describes leaving Lemnos on the evening of the 24th April, the voyage to Gallipoli aboard the Galeka - refusing food and being unable to sleep because of the landing to come, the landing itself, the 6th Battalions capture of Anzac Ridge, the 6th Battalions move to Cape Helles further south to take part in attacks there, the disorganization of the campaign, the dangers of shrapnel wounds and bombardments from your own sides' artillery. He recounts his feelings at the deaths of his friends on the battlefield.
This is an amazing recording.
Frank and the 6th Battalion aboard the Troopship Galeka at Lemnos, prior to the departure for the landings. Source: AWM
Frank and the 6th Battalion's experience at Gallipoli was one of taking part in some of the fiercest engagements of the campaign, sustaining massive casualties.
They took part in the Anzac landing on 25 April 1915, as part of the second wave, and going on capture Anzac Ridge on that day as Frank recounts. Following his unit's relief by the British Royal Naval Division, Frank reported his experience of those first days on Anzac and the terrible cost in casualties:
 "Then on the 28th Royal Naval Division came an we were evacuated from the line into these little humpies just in the sand hills and it was then for the first time since the landing that we'd been able to look around for our cobbers. On the first day we were just mixed up and running around like a lot of rabbits - nobody could see who was who and what was what. And it was then for the first time that we realized what the taking of Anzac Ridge had cost, because hardly any of our mates were left."

Ten days after the landing, Frank and the 2nd Brigade was transferred from Anzac to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions returned to Anzac to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine - a battle that raged over 4 days from 6th August - ending with over 2,000 Australian casualties.
Frank was wounded at Gallipoli on 18th August - with a severe gunshot wound to his thigh.
A view of Anzac Ridge, where Frank served. This image shows the 22nd Battalion relieving the 6th Battalion. Source: AWM
He was repatriated to Malta, then England.
Frank's Battalion would return to Lemnos for rest and recuperation and also in December after the evacuation of the peninsula. Below members of Frank's Battalion march to Therma, passing local Lemnians. Thus photo could have been taken either before the Anzac landings or after the August offensives.
6th Battalion soldiers pass some local Lemnians on the road to Therma. Frank could have been amongst them. Source: AWM
Below they play a famous football match against the Royal Navy team from HMS Hunter on Lemnos in December.
Frank's Battalion in "battle" against the HMS Hunter football team, December 1915, Lemnos. Source: AWM

After recovering from his wounds, Frank re-joined his unit and served on the Western Front for the rest of the war. Frank describes in the interview taking part on the terrible Battle of Pozieres in France in July 1916.
During leave in England in October 1917, Frank married a young lass from the Beckenham - Agnes Etherington, the daughter of a postman.
Frank would be promoted through the ranks, ending the war as a Company Sergeant Major (he had been promoted to this rank in May 1917). He was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in November 1917. The citation states that this was:
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in an attack. He took command of a party, and attacked an enemy strong point, capturing twenty prisoners and two machine guns. He also rendered valuable assistance in consolidating the captured position, and set an example to his men."

Franks Distinguished Conduct Medal citation. Source: NAA
He was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
He would live in England after the war. He is reported to have carried the Australian flag at the Anzac Commemoration Service in London in 1953. He died in London in 1966. His son Alan (95 years old) and grandson Paul are alive and living in Ireland.

Springvale and Anzac
Continuing the Australian and Springvale connections, Frank's sister Ethel Brent married an Australian soldier - William Henry Fleming (No 780, 8th Batalion) and moved to Australia in 1919. While William was living in Carlton when he enlisted in 1914, the Fleming family had a connection to Springvale in Victoria. He listed his next of kin as his brother Thomas, who resided on Racecourse Road, Springvale.
William Henry Flemings enlistment papers, recording his brothers address and his marriage to Ethel Brent. Source: NAA

After the war the Fleming family played an active role in fighting for veterans and their families welfare. Another brother, Victor Fleming, with his brothers and a couple of cobbers (around the kitchen table of his corner shop) decided that Springvale needed to bring together its servicemen and actioned the birth of the Springvale RSL on January 13th 1920.
William Fleming was the first President of Springvale RSL. Frank Brent was one of the first vice Presidents of Springvale RSL. William and Ethel's ashes are in the memorial garden in Springvale RSL.
I would like to thank Frank's grandson Paul Brent who lives in Ireland for additional information on the Brent and Fleming families.

Watch Frank's interview by clicking below:
BBC 4 Collections - The Great War Interviews Part 1 - Frank Brent

Jim Claven
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

1 comment:

  1. I watched his onterview on YouTube last night and was in utter awe at the humility of this gentleman and his experiences. It totally put into context my, modern life and "complaints " which I thought about.
    The TRUE encapsulation of a Hero.
    God rest and thank you for your service...I wish I could have met and spoken to you.πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§