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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

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lemnos Heroes - Sandringham's Able Seaman Thomas Chitts and Bendigo's Stoker John Godier

Australian Cruiser HMAS Brisbane, the only cruiser constructed in Australia, December 1916. AWM image P01886.001
Amongst the last soldiers, airmen and sailors to be buried on Lemnos were these two Australian sailors, Able Seaman Thomas James Chitts and Stoker 2nd Class John Francis Godier.
These young sailors were only in their twenties when the died on Lemnos. This is their story.
Thomas was born in Sandringham, the son of George and Margaret Chitts. He had joined the Royal Australian Navy on 14th August 1912 and served on various ships throughout his service. He served on HMAS Yarra which would go on to serve in the Adriatic, operating out of Corfu and Brindisi, and would be part of the Allied forces who entered Constantinople in 1919.
HMAS Sydney leaves the Australian troopship comvoy to search for the German Raider SMS Emden, off WA coast, November 1914. AWM image H02014
He also served on the Australian Light Cruiser the HMAS Sydney from July 1914 until March 1916. During his service he saw action against the German Raider SMS Emden - which Thomas and the crew of the Sydney successfully destroyed in the Battle of Cocos in 9 November 1914. This was a major naval engagement, the HMAS Sydney being hit by the SMS Emden's long range guns, killing four and wounding twelve of Thomas' fellow sailors. After continuing with its convoy protection work, Thomas and the HMAS Sydney saw service in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
The Ship's Band of the HMAS Brisbane performing on its deck. AWM image A00103.
Thomas began his service on the HMAS Brisbane on 1st October 1918. This was one of the first cruiser class vessels constructed in Australia at Cockatoo, Sydney. After service in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, HMAS Brisbane departed Australia at Fremantle for England on 30th October 1918 - the day the Armistice of Mudros was signed ending the war with the Ottoman Empire. She proceeded to Lemnos, arriving on 26th November 1918 and spent a month with the Australian Destroyer Flotilla in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Sea of Marmara, Constantinople and the Black Sea before completing her voyage at Portsmouth in January 1919. Photographs held in the Australian War Memorial (reproduced below) show the HMAS Brisbane arriving at Smyrne on the Asia Minor coast to enforce the terms of the Armistice.
Grave of Thomas Chitts, East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos. Photograph Jim Claven 2013.
It was during her service in the waters surrounding Lemnos, that Able Seaman Chitts succumbed to pneumonia and died on 2 December 1918. He is buried at East Mudros Military Cemetery on Lemnos, at Plot 4, Row A, Grave 3.
Stoker 2nd Class John Godier was another HMAS Brisbane sailor who died and is buried on Lemnos. John was born in Neilborough, near Bendigo in 1898. When he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy on 20th May 1918, his parents were resident in Yarraville. His service records states that he was able an of "very good' character".
He transferred to the HMAS Brisbane on 27th August 1918 and would serve on her until his death in December. Like Able Seaman Chitts, John died of pneumonia and was buried in East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos - in Plot 4, Row A, Grave 4.

Grave of John Godier, East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos. Photograph Jim Claven 2013

Both these Australian sailors were buried on Lemnos only a few weeks after the official armistice had been signed ending the war between the Allies and the Ottoman Empire – an armistice that had been signed aboard HMAS Agamemnon in that same very harbour. It would be hoped that Thomas and John were aware that the war was now over – even though he would not survive to enjoy the peace.

Lest we forget.

HMAS Brisbane enters Smyrne harbour. 13 December 1918. AWM image EN0144
Residents of Smyrne on the Asia Minor coast looking out to the harbour to welcome the HMAS Brisbane. 13 December 1918. AWM image EN0147

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