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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

Friday, 15 August 2014

Lemnos Hero – Private Harold Abbey

Private Harold Abbey, 1914. Photograph courtesy of the Dobbyn Family


Over 970 burials at sea took place during the Gallipoli campaign. Many of these were poor diggers wounded in the fighting on the peninsula. They were placed aboard hospital and other transport ships for transport to the hospitals of Lemnos and beyond. But they didn’t survive the journey, succumbing to their wounds and being buried at sea.
This is the story of one of these poor diggers, Private Harold Abbey.
Private Harold Abbey's enlistment papers. NAA
A Digger from Yarraville
Harold Claude Abbey had been born in Yarraville in 1892. He was working as a woodworker when he enlisted at Melbourne on 15th September 1914. He came from a Methodist family and the family home was at 17 Albert Street Yarraville, where his mother and father, Elisabeth and Frederick, lived. They would later move to 113 Miller Street and then 22 Dudley Street, both in North Fitzroy. He was nearly 22 years old.
Harold was one of 284 other Yarraville born lads who volunteered in the First World War.
The shoulder colour patch of Harold's Battalion. AWM
He was recruited into the soon to be famous 14th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, as Private 158. With the 13th, 15th and 16th Battalions, the 14th formed the 4th Brigade which was commanded by Colonel John Monash, who would become one of Australia’s most celebrated military commanders. One of Harold’s fellow recruits was one Albert Jacka from Wedderburn who would become so famous for his bravery at Gallipoli that the 14th would be known as “Jacka’s Mob”.
Opening its headquarters at 178 Collins St in the last week of September 1914, the 14th recruited mostly from Melbourne and its suburbs. Harold would have left with his comrades for the big training camp at Broadmeadows on 1st October.

HMAT Ulysses and Cermaic transport troops to Egypt. Indian Ocean/Red Sea, January 1915
From Port Melbourne to Egypt
Harold and the rest of the 14th Battalion embarked for overseas on 22 December aboard the HMAT Ulysses, A38, from Port Melbourne. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, they arrived in Egypt on 31 January 1915. In Egypt, the 4th Brigade became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division with which it would serve at Gallipoli.
At Lemnos
Harold left Alexandria and Egypt at 7.45 am on 13th April aboard the HMT Seang Choong, “destination unknown”, according to the 14th Battalion unit diary.
They arrived at Lemnos’ Mudros Harbour at 1.15pm on the 14th April 1915.  Harold’s time on the Island was spent in physical training and preparing for the coming landings. Much time was spent practicing disembarking from the troop transports into smaller boats and rowing to the shores of Mudros Bay.
He might even have helped transport some of his sick comrades to the Stationary Hospitals on Lemnos. But Harold’s stay on Lemnos was short and he was never to return.

The 14th Battalion going ashore in a destroyer from HMAT Seang Choon. Gallipoli, April 1915. AWM
Into Battle
The 14th Battalion sailed from Lemnos at 9.30 am on the 25th April, arriving with the rest of the 4th Brigade at Anzac Cove at 5pm. The 14th then went to take part in the defence of Anzac Cove.
By the 19th May, the Battalion was defending a position known as Courtney’s Post. On 19 May, the opposing Ottoman forces launched a massive counter-attack along the Anzac defence line. In the words of Kiazim Pasha, Chief of Staff to the German commander of all Turkish forces on Gallipoli, Liman Von Sanders:
"The plan was to attack before day-break, drive the Anzac troops from their trenches, and follow them down to the sea."
The 14th Battalion’s Unit Diary records that the Turkish attack followed an artillery bombardment the previous day that had damaged the unit’s trench defences. Anticipating the attack, the 14th had stood to arms in preparation for the coming assault. It came at 3.30am in the morning. The diary for the 19th records it as:
“… a determine charge on the part of the enemy, who threw many bombs. Our men reserved their fire until the enemy advanced when they at once poured in a heavy fire. Two companies were then holding the trenches and another was sent up as support. A very heavy fire was kept up until daylight when the enemy commenced to retire to their trenches … our artillery opened fire at daybreak and the enemy replied with shrapnel on our trenches, without much damage.”
What the Unit diary doesn’t convey is the ferocity of the Ottoman attack and that in some places they captured part of the 14th Battalion trench line.
The approach to Courtney’s Post was up a gentle rise from the enemy side, relatively well covered with undergrowth. In one spot, the attackers reached the lip of the Australian trench and, hurling bombs into it, killed some of the defenders and drove the rest off. As the Australians pulled back, Ottoman soldiers occupied a few metres of the trench. It was here that Lance Corporal Albert Jacka defended his position and led a personal counter-attack which would re-capture the Australian trench. For his bravery, he was awarded Australia’s first VC.
From May to August 1915 the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the Anzac front line. Later, in September, they would return to Lemnos and its Anzac Rest Camp and their famous Lance Corporal be photographed proudly on the Island.
 
Australian soldier sniping from Courtney's Post trenchline, 21 May 1915. Two days after Private Harold Abbey was fatally wounded. AWM
Fatally Wounded
It was during this May engagement that Private Harold Abbey was severely wounded by a grenade explosion. It would appear that Harold suffered as a result of these wounds, the official report starting that he had “wounds all over body, effects of hand grenade”. He died the same day, the 19th May, and was buried at sea. 
While it is not recorded exactly where he was buried at sea, it could be assumed from the severity of his injuries and the timing of his reported death that he was most likely buried in the waters of the Aegean, possibly near to Lemnos and its Australian Hospitals.
An Anzac burial at sea, July 1915. AWM
7 months into his 22nd year and Harold was dead. In December 1915, his effects were forwarded by the AIF through homas Cook to his mother – his diary, a testament, an army book, a rosary, belt, a pipe, a tin opener, scissors, match box, a knife, a disc, a card and three pamphlets.
In 1918, Harold’s mother was granted a fortnightly pension of 25 shillings due to the death of her son at Gallipoli. At war’s end, Private Harold Abbey was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Lone Pine Cemetery, Gallipoli. CWGC.
Along with many others buried at sea or whose bodies were never found, Harold is memorialised on Panel 40 at the Lone Pine Cemetery at Gallipoli.
Harold, the 22 year old woodworkers from Yarraville, was fatally wounded defending his Battalion’s position at Courtney’s Post – in an engagement that saw them earn respect for their bravery in the face of determined attack. If he has survived, Harold would have been a proud member of Jacka’s Mob.
His descendents in Victoria can be proud of his service.
Lest we forget.
Our Call – A Burial at Sea Commemorative Service at Mudros Bay 2015
The Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee has been lobbying for a Burial at Sea commemorative service to be held as part of the coming Centenary of Anzac. 
The Royal Australian Navy - along with the Hellenic Navy - are scheduled to be at Mudros Bay as part of the Centenary commemorations at this time.
No such ceremony has yet been held, to honour the nearly 1,000 allied soldiers who were commited to the waters of the Aegean and beyond - Diggers like Private Harold Abbey. 
And what a fitting place for such a service is Mudros Bay on Lemnos – where these diggers and their comrades departed on their last journey to Gallipoli.
Support our call for a Burial at Sea Commemorative Service at Mudros Bay in April 2015 - write to your Federal MP now.
Jim Claven
Secretary
Lemnos Gallipoli Commemorative Committee

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