Tag Archives: HMAT Demosthenes

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Leo Edward Cavanagh

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Leo Edward Cavanagh was born in 1894 in Reedy Creek, the son of Charles Alexander and Emily Cavanagh (nee McManus). Sometimes his surname is spelt Kavanagh. Leo attended the Kilmore State School.

When Leo enlisted on November 10, 1914 in Melbourne he gave his next of kin his aunt, Mrs J Anderson of Kilmore. He joined 1st Reinforcements, 5th Battalion as a private. Somehow two enlistment forms were filled out and Leo was allocated two service numbers 2352 and 2783. Leo gave his age as 21 years and 1 month. It is likely he overstated his age by one year.

After training, Leo embarked at Melbourne on HMAT Borda on December 22, 1914, bound for Egypt, where he became seriously ill.  This resulted in him being returned to Melbourne on the Ceramic, arriving May 25, 1915.

After a period in hospital at Broadmeadows, Leo was transferred to 7th Reinforcement Company and embarked on HMAT Demosthenes on July 16, 1915, bound for Egypt where he rejoined the 5th Battalion. He served about 3 months on Gallipoli at Anzac Cove, including time at Rest Gully. On return to Egypt he transferred to the 57th Battalion in February 1916, then to 58th and in March 1916 to the 14th Field Artillery Brigade as a driver.

In June 1916 Leo left Alexandria for France where he saw action on the Western Front. He took two weeks leave in June 1917 in France and soon after he returned Leo became ill with P U O in July. This was short for pyrexia of unknown origin, probably as a result of being gassed. In late August he was transferred from the 5th General Hospital in Calais to the Reading War Hospital in England.

In October 1917 Leo went AWOL in London and as a result forfeited 4 days pay. However he was arrested by the civil police on October 24, 1917 and later convicted for assaulting two police constables at Milcombe Regis, Dorset. At a court hearing in Weymouth on December 26, he was sentenced to  prison for three months with pay forfeited for 92 days.  After leaving prison Leo sailed to Melbourne on the Marathon.

On return Leo was medically assessed in July 1918 and was found to have had an accident on a chaff cutter before enlistment, which resulted in a serious wound to his right wrist. This was rated “powerless right hand” and he was operated on August 7, then discharged medically unfit on November 6, 1918.

Leo was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name is recorded on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll in the Memorial Hall, and on the Kilmore State School Honour Roll.

The Kilmore Advertiser reported on 22 June 1918 that “Private Leo Cavanagh, who left Kilmore in December 1914, with the Australian Light Horse, returned home last week. He has been amongst some strenuous fighting, being at Gallipoli, and afterwards at Lemnos. From there, he was drafted to France, and has been in several engagements, notably at Possiers. It was here that he was disabled. His horse stumbled over a wire on the ground, throwing him into a shell trench, breaking his gas helmet, with the result that Private Cavanagh got a dose of the Hun gas. He managed to get back to the lines, but was invalided to England. The transport in which he came back in voyaged by way of America and through the Panama Canal, and the South Seas, a most interesting journey, which the returned soldier and his comrades enjoyed immensely.”

After the war Leo married Maude Webb in 1919 and they had three children. Leo died on September 3, 1973 at Healesville.

Rest Gully, Gallipoli (Source: – AWM-C01482)

 

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 9 February 2016

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Harry Vinicombe

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Harry Vinicombe was born in Kyneton in 1893, the son of Albert Orchard and Ann Mary Vinicombe (nee McGrath). His mother Ann died in 1900 at Kyneton and his father became a manager of a property at High Camp Plain. Harry attended Pyalong School and later became a motor driver and chauffeur.

He enlisted on July 7, 1915 in Melbourne and for a month was stationed at B Company, Flemington Depot. Harry was then posted to the 2nd Reinforcements, 29th Battalion for training. He embarked on HMAT Demosthenes at Melbourne on October 29, 1915.

By January, 1916 Harry was in the Suez, Egypt, and soon after spent 8 days in hospital with tonsillitis. Following further training Harry was allocated to the 45th Battalion as a private, 1781, on April 2, 1916 at Serapeum.

The 45th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 2 March 1916 as part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division, and arrived in Marselles on June 8, 1916, for transfer to the Western Front. It fought in its first major battle at Pozieres in August, defending ground previously captured by the 2nd Australian Division.

Harry was injured in action with multiple gunshot wounds on August 6, 1916 and next day, being dangerously ill he was transferred well behind the lines to Camiers where he died in the 4th General Hospital on September 14. Harry was buried in nearby Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

Harry was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. It would seem he was promoted to Lance Corporal at some time. His name is recorded on the Pyalong State School Honour Roll.

During the war his father was living in St Kilda where he received by post Harry’s effects including a photo and letters. Later he received Harry’s medals, a memorial scroll and plaque. His brother Thomas also served in World War One returning home in 1919.

Harry Vinicome Photo: Australian War Memorial

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 10 May 2016