|Corporal George Finlay Knight's Service Record, National Archives of Australia|
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.|
|The AIF camp at Mena in Egypt, 1915. AWM image.|
|Foot inspection for the 5th Battalion Anzacs on Lemnos, 1915. AWM image|
|5th Battalion headquarters at Anzac, 1915. AWM image|
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:
|5th Battalion trench at McLaurin's Hill after an enemy artillery bombardment. AWM image|
“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.|