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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

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Lemnos Hero - Mildura's Lance Corporal Thomas Hurtle Thomas

Service Record of LC Thomas H Thomas. NAA
Peterborough-born 20 year old Thomas Hurtle Thomas was a horticulturalist living in Mildura when he enlisted at Melbourne on 19th August 1914.
Thomas Family Photo c1910s, possibly taken at Mildura before Aug 1914. Thomas standing second from right. Source: web
He eventually was enlisted into B Company, 8th Battalion. When he enlisted he recorded his 5 and half years previous military training with the militia and cadets, listed as with the “73rd Infantry”. He was the only son of Mr and Mrs Thomas H Thomas of 14 Walnut Street Mildura.
Thomas and the 8th Battalion embarking on to the HMAT Benalla, Princes Pier, Melbourne, 19th October 1914. AWM
He sailed from Australia aboard the HMAT Benalla on 19th October 1914. After training in Egypt, Thomas and the Battalion sailed from Alexandria for Lemnos on 8th April 1915, arriving 3 days later.
The Unit Diary records that, like most other diggers at Lemnos in the period before the Anzac landings, Thomas and the Battalion practised disembarkation in Mudros Bay.
Landing at Anzac on 25th April as part of the second wave, Thomas would have taken part in the battle of Krithia, the defence of the ANZAC beachhead and the offensive around Lone Pine in August. Surviving the deadly August Offensive, Thomas was promoted in the field to Lance Corporal on 13th August 1915.
The Battalion Unit Diary records that prior to the launch of the August Offensive, Thomas’ Battalion was defending a stretch of trench from Courtney’s Post to Scott’s, with one yard of trench per man. It records on 4 August that of those who had left Broadmeadows in October 1914 only 484 (12 officers and 472 other ranks) remained with the battalion. These accounted for only half of the Battalions strength of 916 (22 officers and 894 other ranks).
A view of Turkish front line trenches, marked by timber and barbed wire entanglements, seen from trenches situated directly opposite at Courtney's Post. AWM
The attack on Lone Pine commenced on 6th August, with the 8th Battalion defences sustaining “terrific” enemy shell-fire on the 7th – 300 shells day and night - resulting in 18 killed (including Lieutenant Glasson “an excellent officer”) and 53 wounded. Over the following days the unit was subject to rifle and shell fire, including at night.
By the 15th August the Battalion’s front experienced a lull in the shelling. While the Battalion defended its position, the Unit Diary records the ever-present prevalence of illness, it recording on 16th August that 419 men were ill with diarrhoea and a further 118 sick with “Barcoo” rot. This totals over half of the Battalions complement. Men are regularly recorded as being removed from the line and being sent to hospital.
Barely nine days after Thomas’ promotion on 22nd August and during this “fairly quiet” period at Courtney’s Post as the Unit Dairy records it, Thomas was wounded when a mortar bomb exploded by accident. The 8th Battalion Unit Diary records for the 22nd August 1915:
“Fairly quiet. Lt Grainger and 1 NCO badly injured by trench mortar accident. Lt Grainger died during day. 20 men to hospital. Men looking worn out.”
Two diggers who witnessed the explosion described the accident:
“Thomas was in a trench at Courtney’s Post. Lieutenant Grainger came along and asked how a trench mortar near them was worked. They loaded it and by mistake opened the bottom chamber. The bomb fell out and burst. Both men were badly knocked about, Thomas was wounded in the leg, abdomen and arms. He was taken sown to a Clearing Station and sent to a Hospital Ship. Witness saw the accident from a sap nar by. Thomas was so bad that some of his property was taken in the belief that he would die. It is now in the property chest of D Coy, 8th Battalion.” Sergeant J.D. Mcintosh, D Company, 8th Battalion, Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt, 22 March 1916
“Both witnesses (Private 1411 T.R. Tyrer and Private 1873 C Powell, D Company 8th Battalion) knew L/C Thomas. He was in D Company. He was so badly wounded in the leg at Courtney’s Post in August. It was soon after the Suvla Bay operations. Lieut Grainger and Thomas were using some bombs when one exploded and wounded them both. Thomas was taken away. Both witnesses were there and actually saw the occurrence.” J.L.K., O/S Base, Gize, Cairo, 25 March 1916.
Hosptial Ship Gloucestor Castle, Lemnos, where Thomas died . Photo Trooper Lovett. AWM
He was transported from Gallipoli aboard the Hospital Ship Gloucester Castle. Thomas passed away on the ship as it sat in Mudros Harbour on 23rd August 1915. He was an only son.
His service file contains evidence that family members and friends wrote anxiously seeking confirmation of reports of his death, including a friend from 407 Skipton Street, Ballarat.
After his death Thomas’ family sought his personal effects, which he had communicated to his family had include “snapshots”. They also unsuccessfully sought the name of the Chaplain of the Gloucester Castle.
He is buried in Plot 2, Row H, Grave 128 at East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos, Greece. He was awarded the British war Medal, Victory Medal and the 1914/15 Star.
The grave stone of L/C Thomas H Thomas, East Mudros War Cemetery. Photo Jim Claven 2015.
Lest we forget.
For Andrea O'Connor, a descendant of Thomas Hurtle Thomas.

Jim Claven
Secretary
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

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