Soldiers of the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion

Readers of the John Oxley Library Blog may remember a post about the digitisation of the Alfred Powell collection, Accession 29895, which included an interesting photograph of Alfred with four other soldiers at the Enoggera training camp in Brisbane during World War I.  Guest Blogger, Jay De Sousa, has carried out extensive research on this photograph, identifying the men involved.  His research is outlined below.

While researching my grandfather-in-law's World War 1 military history (he was an original of A Company, 26th Australian Infantry Battalion), I came across the blog about Private Alfred Powell, another A Company original.

The group photo within the blog caught my attention, and I found it frustrating that the four soldiers with Alfred had not been identified.  I could see they were not in Egypt as they were wearing trousers rather than shorts, and their collars were missing the Rising Sun badges.  So they had to be at the Enoggera training camp in Brisbane before they embarked for Egypt.

In July this year, I obtained a copy of the May to August 1915 nominal roll of A Company.  The roll, located at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, showed that Alfred belonged to No.14 Section of the 4th Platoon.   It was more than likely the men in the photo were also from No.14 Section.   These were Private George Archibald, Private Robert Archibald, Private Alfred Baker, Private Thomas McGarvey Brooks, Private James Callinan, Private Moreton Cameron Crocker, Private Thomas Lindsay Fisher, Private Albert Edward Harrison, Private Charles Thomas Law, Private William Reinhardt Lude and Private Frederick Pressey.

Private Alfred Powell (seated far right) with other soldiers from the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion at the Enoggera training camp, Brisbane, 1915. Collection Reference: 29895 Alfred Powell Papers. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 29895-0002-0001

Names without faces are next to useless, but thankfully, the State Library of Queensland's digitisation of the soldier portraits in the Queenslander Pictorials was a tremendous help. 

After I had located the individual portraits of all soldiers in No.14 Section, I then compared each one to the men in the group photo.  The task was not easy, as the Talma photos had men looking away from the camera, whereas the men with Alfred were facing the camera.   The different angles can make it hard to identify people.

However, I believe I have identified three of the men with a reasonable amount of certainty.  From Alfred's right, the man at the far right is possibly Private Frederick Pressey (regimental number 146).  The soldier next to him is definitely Private George Archibald (regimental number 1).  The man sitting on the ground with his legs crossed is possibly Private Arthur Northcott (regimental number 132).

Portrait of F. Pressy, published in the Queenslander Pictorial Supplement, 12 June 1915. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No. 702692-19150612-s0026-0053

Portrait of George Archibald, publihsed in the Queenslander Pictorial Supplement, 12 June 1915., Queenslander Pictorial Supplement, 12 June 1915. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No.  702692-19150612-s0026-0003

Portrait of Private Arthur Northcott, published in the Queenslander Pictorial Supplement, 12 June 1915.John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No.702692-19150612-s0025-0044

The fourth and last man holding the rifle is not so easily identifiable.  I believe it could be Private Thomas Lindsay Fisher (regimental number 63).  The other men in Alfred's section do not have a similar appearance to this man, so it is a case of "last man standing".

Portrait of Private Thomas Lindsay Fisher, published in the Queenslander Pictorial Supplement, 19 June 1915. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image No.702692-19150619-s0024-0023

Hopefully my efforts may prove useful to other researchers, or to the descendants of the men. 

Shortly after the photo was taken, A and B Companies embarked from Brisbane on 24 May 1915 and arrived at Port Suez, Egypt, on 30 June 1915.  A few notable passengers were Private Alfred Chalmers Borella,  Private Ronald Alison McInnis,  Private Eric Honeywood Partridge and Richard James Fildes Boyer.

After a two day wait for a berth at the wharf, the men finally disembarked on 2 July 1915 and made their way by train to Polygon Camp near Cairo for two months of training in the heat and sands of Egypt.

The 26th Battalion landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in the early hours of 12 September 1915 and bivouacked at Taylor's Hollow.  A few days later, No.4 Platoon were transferred to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, and would remain with this unit until 4 November 1915.  The platoon were tasked with improving and strengthening saps and trenches in the northern part of the Anzac theatre of war, and the men would come under enemy fire on numerous occasions while carrying out the work. 

On 5 November 1915, the whole Battalion moved to Russell's Top to relieve the 20th Australian Infantry Battalion for garrison duty, and this continued until 7 December 1915 when the 28th Australian Infantry Battalion relieved the 26th.

The five men in the photo survived the Gallipoli campaign.  The Battalion itself was transported off the Peninsula on 12 December 1915, and some of the five soldiers would fight the Germans on the Western Front during the next three years. 

The State Library of Queensland also has blogs of other A Company originals, such as Sergeant William Henry Cooling,  Private Edmund Warrington,  Private Frank Owen and 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Kevin Murphy.  Joseph was the platoon commander of No.4 Platoon at Gallipoli.

I would like to acknowledge the assistance of Owen Cook in Canberra (grandson of Corporal Harold Owen Cook, regimental number 30), and Courtney Goltz, a researcher at the AWM.

The men of the 26th Battalion will not be forgotten.

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