Local Heroes WW1
- Last Updated: Monday, 13 July 2015 13:26
- Written by Paul Rosenzweig
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(Pte) Sidney George Whaite
Private Sidney George Whaite a Butcher from Semaphore served with the 27th Battalion, 13th Reinforcements AIF. His Unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria on the 27th of June 1916, on board Transport A37 HMAT Barambah.
|Religion||Church of England|
|Age at embarkation||26|
|Next of kin||Mother : Mrs Jane Whaite|
|of South Terrace, Semaphore, SA|
|Rank on enlistment||Private|
|Unit name||27th Battalion AIF|
|AWM Embarkation Roll number|
|Embarkation details||Embarked in Melbourne on 27 June 1916|
|13th Reinforcements, 27th Battalion AIF|
|A37 HMAT Barambah|
|Rank from Nominal Roll||Private|
|Unit from Nominal Roll||32nd Battalion AIF|
|Fate||Returned to Australia 8 January 1919|
SIDNEY GEORGE WHAITE (1890-1977)
Sidney Whaite was the descendant of an old English family which variously went by the names of ‘Wayte’, ‘Weatt’ or ‘Whait’, which can be accurately traced back to Nottinghamshire in the 17th century and then Manchester from about 1797. Born in the family home in Woodville on 31 May 1890, Sydney George Whaite used the spelling ‘Sidney’ for his name throughout his adult life. Sidney was a 25 year old butcher from Semaphore when he enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide on 1 May 1916: his father John had passed away in 1908, and his mother Jane lived on South Terrace in Semaphore. Sidney embarked with reinforcements for the South Australian 27th Battalion AIF, but served on the Western Front in France with ‘D’ Company of the 32nd Battalion AIF (5th Australian Division). Sidney was wounded-in-action following intense shelling of the frontline trenches by heavy and medium high explosive and shrapnel shells on 5 March 1917. He returned to Australia on 8 January 1919, married in May 1919, and died in Adelaide on 14 September 1977, aged 87.
5133 Private Sidney George Whaite (1890-1977)
Sydney George Whaite was born on 31 May 1890, in the family home in Woodville, South Australia, which was at that time part of the Port Adelaide district. He was the son of John Thomas Whaite (1853-1908), who had married Jane Henrietta Schollar (1858-1936) in her father’s house at Alberton, Port Adelaide on 9 November 1875. His name at birth was ‘Sydney’ but throughout his adult life he used the spelling ‘Sidney’.
Sydney’s grandfather was John Whaite (1822-1892) from Lancashire, England who had arrived in Adelaide in about 1848 – the first of the Whaite family to come to Australia (for the passage out it seems his name was recorded as ‘Weight’). He had been born in Manchester, the son of a cotton spinner who had a mill in Hallsworth Street, Manchester. In South Australia, John settled near Port Adelaide, and on 21 September 1850 married Elizabeth Boyd (c1833-1907) in Holy Trinity Church in Adelaide. Elizabeth Boyd is thought to have been Irish, or possibly even Scottish, but so far all attempts by her descendants to trace her ancestry have come to nought. It is believed she came to Australia in about 1845-46; she died in Alberton on 29 November 1907, aged 74 years.
John and Elizabeth had seven children born in the family home in Alberton on the corner of Wellington and Angas Streets, including John Thomas Whaite (their first child, born in 1853), Robert William Whaite (second son, 1858) and Mary Ann Whaite (fifth child, 1864). Curiously though, when Mary Ann Whaite was born on 28 March 1864 she was incorrectly registered at birth as ‘Wheat’. Her mother Elizabeth was illiterate, and family folklore suggests that the registrar could not understand her accent and wrote down what he thought he heard – ‘Wheat’. From 1878 they lived in High Street [now called Port Road] in Queenstown. John died at Alberton, SA on 17 March 1892, aged 69, and was buried in Woodville Cemetery. After John's death, Elizabeth moved back into the Angas Street property and then later lived in Napier Street, Exeter with her daughter Mary Ann and son-in-law John Lauder McKenzie until her death in 1907.
Sidney’s mother Jane was the daughter of John Sampson Thorne Schollar (1829-1875) from Dorset, England who lived at Alberton in Port Adelaide. He had married Henrietta Tucker (1835-1936) on 29 May 1856, and died at Alberton aged 47, noted as ‘An old colonist of 37 years’.
John Thomas Whaite and his wife Jane had eight children, including Sydney George Whaite (1890-1977), their fifth child and fourth son, born on 31 May 1890 in their family home in Woodville. John passed away on 29 March 1908, and Jane lived until 1935 in Gray Avenue, Welland. They were buried in Cheltenham Cemetery.
Sidney was a 25 year old butcher from Semaphore when he enlisted in Adelaide on 1 May 1916. He was appointed to ‘C’ Company of the 2nd Depot Battalion for training. On 1 August 1916 he joined a reinforcement detail for the 27th Battalion at Mitcham Camp. Private Whaite embarked in Melbourne on A37 HMAT Barambah on 27 June 1916 with the 13th Reinforcements for Colonel Walter Dollman’s 27th Battalion AIF (‘Dollman’s Dinkums’).
Through Sidney’s father’s side of the family, there were four others who served overseas during World War 1.
6344 Private Harold George Whaite (1893-1988).
Sidney’s uncle was Robert William Whaite (1858-1903), his father’s younger brother, born in the family home in Alberton on 10 September 1858. Robert married Emily Jane Josephs (1858-1927) in her father’s home in Queenstown, Port Adelaide on 4 February 1880. Among Robert and Emily’s 12 children (Sidney’s cousins), were Nell Whaite (1891-1968) and Harold George Whaite (1893-1988). Harold was a 22 year old store assistant when he enlisted in the AIF on 16 June 1916. He embarked in Port Adelaide on 28 August 1916 with a reinforcement detail for South Australia’s 10th Battalion AIF (by then already known as ‘The Fighting Tenth’). He completed his war service with the 27th Battalion AIF (‘Dollman’s Dinkums’), and returned to Australia on 21 March 1919. Harold married in 1922, and died in Adelaide in 1988, aged 95.
3012 Corporal George Edwin Pearce Fletcher (1895-1918).
George’s son also served in the AIF, in the same regiment. Barney Fletcher was born in 1895, probably in the family home on Semaphore Road: he was christened with the names ‘George Edwin Pearce’ but throughout his adult life was known as ‘Barney’. His fiancée was Miss Nell Whaite (1891-1968) from Alberton, the daughter of Robert William Whaite (1858-1903) and Emily Jane (née Josephs, 1858-1927). Before the war Barney and Nell were well known for doing little skits at family gatherings – he would play the piano and she used to sing. Barney served with his father in the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF, and was wounded-in-action near Wadi Auja near Jericho in Palestine on 19 July 1918. He died of his wounds the same day, aged 22, and was buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery. Nell never got over Barney’s death, and died in 1968, a spinster aged 74.
8 WO2 George Bailey Fletcher (1870-1920).
Barney’s father was George Bailey Fletcher, a stockman and veteran of service in the Boer War in South Africa in 1901-02 with the 6th South Australian Imperial Bushmen’s Contingent. George Fletcher from Semaphore was one of the first from the Port Adelaide area to enlist – at Morphettville Camp on 16 September 1914. He was a storeman, and a Boer War veteran, married to Elsie. He dropped his age by four years when he enlisted in 1914, and went overseas on 11 February 1915 with the 9th Light Horse Regiment AIF as their Farrier Quartermaster-Sergeant. George served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force and later the ANZAC Mounted Division in the defence of the Suez Canal, in southern Palestine and in the Jordan Valley. George returned to Australia in December 1918 with the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2, but died at Semaphore on 4 August 1920, aged 50.
6195 Corporal Kenneth Whaite McKenzie (1892-1941).
Another of Sidney’s cousins was Kenneth McKenzie. Sidney’s aunt Mary Ann Whaite (1864-1936) married John Lauder McKenzie (1858-1934) at Christchurch in North Adelaide on 21 December 1885, and later came to live on Military Road at Largs Bay. John was a gold prospector and later a fisherman. Their son Kenneth was born on 17 September 1892, most likely in the family home in Napier Street, Exeter on the Le Fevre Peninsula of South Australia. Kenneth was a 23 year old Shipping Clerk with the Adelaide Steamship Company Ltd in Fremantle when he enlisted in the AIF on 29 September 1915. He first served with the 4th Field Ambulance in Egypt and at Gallipoli, and then with the 12th Field Ambulance and the 8th Field Ambulance in France. Finally, he was a Motorised Transport Driver with the 4th Australian Mechanical Transport Company, promoted to Corporal and one of just 406 Australians to be awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre [‘War Cross’]. Kenneth returned to Australia in 1919, married in Western Australia in 1921, and died in Fremantle in 1941, aged 48.
Private Sidney Whaite disembarked from A37 HMAT Barambah in Plymouth on 25 August 1916. After training in the Overseas Training Brigade, on 29 September 1916 he proceeded to France with the 27th Battalion AIF, for duty with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). On 13 October 1916 he transferred to ‘D’ Company of the 32nd Battalion AIF (which had been raised as part of the 8th Brigade at Mitcham south of Adelaide in August 1915). At this time, his cousin Private Kenneth McKenzie was also serving with the 8th Brigade – with the 8th Field Ambulance.
The 32nd Battalion AIF formed part of the newly raised 5th Australian Division on the Western Front. Australian infantry unit colour patches generally conformed to a logical pattern, whereby the shape of the patch, and the lower and upper colours had specific meanings. By looking at a colour patch, you could generally tell a man’s division and therefore calculate his brigade and battalion. Initially, the 32nd Battalion AIF had a colour patch in the shape of a rectangle, yellow on light green. Later in the war, members of the 32nd Battalion AIF wore a colour patch in the shape of a vertical rectangle, signifying that the battalion belonged to the 5th Australian Division. It had the colours white and yellow, with yellow as the ‘lower colour’, worn to the wearer’s front, signifying that the battalion belonged to the 8th Infantry Brigade. The ‘upper colour’ (‘battalion colour’) was white, signifying that the unit was the fourth battalion in the brigade.
In early 1917, as the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line, the 32nd Battalion participated in follow-up operations during the advance. During the heavy fighting to breach the Hindenburg Line during the second battle of Bullecourt, the 32nd Battalion (with the 8th Brigade) was deployed to protect the 5th Division's flank.
At the beginning of March 1917, the Battalion’s War Diary records that it occupied trenches near Trônes Wood in the Albert-Combles area on the Somme in France, which had been devastated during the battles of 1916. The battalion had a strength of 38 officers and about 750 other ranks, dropping to 720 within a few days. ‘Don’ Company was in a position known as ‘Miller’s Son Trench’ (it seems some misunderstood the name and called it ‘Millicent’s Trench’). On 4 March the frontline in this region was heavily shelled during the afternoon, patrols were deployed, and wiring parties worked at night. It began snowing at midnight.
On 5 March 1917 the frontline was intermittently shelled by heavy and medium ‘minnies’ during the day. These were high explosive rounds from a German Minniewerfer trench mortar – the incoming projectiles were sometimes called ‘Moaning Minnie’ shells from their distinctive sound. The trenches were then heavily shelled from 7 to 8 pm that night by German 5.9-inch and 4.2-inch Feldhaubitze howitzer shells. These high explosive and shrapnel shells were known simply as ‘five-nine’ and ‘four-two’ respectively. The battalion’s War Diary reports for that day that there were 6 men killed, 10 wounded and 10 sent to hospital: among those killed were regimental stretcher bearers such as 197 Private Roy Underwood from Third Avenue in St Peters, SA. Sidney Whaite was among those wounded-in-action that day, with ‘shell concussion’ from the blasts.
The 32nd Battalion AIF War Diary entries for 3, 4 and 5 March 1917 showing the casualties from the German shelling of the frontline trenches: Sidney Whaite was among those wounded on 5 March.
On 10 April his condition was classified as “Shell Shock (W)” indicating that he was actually ‘wounded’ rather than ‘sick’. This made Sidney eligible to wear one ‘Wounded Stripe’ This insignia was approved by King George V in 1916 for wear by all officers and soldiers who had been wounded in any of the campaigns since 4 August 1914. It was introduced on 9 August 1916 as a strip of ‘gold Russia No.1 braid’, two inches in length, sewn vertically on the left forearm sleeve of the service dress jacket. Instructions issued on 22 August 1916 and 3 November 1916 clarified what constituted being ‘wounded’ – being listed in an official casualty list. Later, a blackened brass badge in the form of a stripe of gold braid was introduced, and this was worn vertically above the left cuff of the uniform tunic. The early version of the badge (‘The Wounded Stripe No.2’) had fold over tabs and the ends, with a backing plate. A later version (‘The Wounded Stripe No.4’) had two lugs on the reverse for fixing the badge to the tunic, again with a backing plate.
‘The Wounded Stripe No.4’ – a brass badge representing a stripe of gold braid, with two lugs on the reverse for fixing the badge to the lower left sleeve of the tunic.
“5133 Pte. S.G. WHAITE, Semaphore” was among those listed in the 285th Casualty List (South Australia) in local South Australian newspapers in April 1917.
Private Whaite embarked on the troopship A67 HMAT Orsova on 8 January 1919, which was by this time operating as a hospital ship returning soldiers to Australia.
The Orsova was a passenger liner previously operated by the Orient Steamship Navigation Company of London for the London-Australia route (via Suez Canal), which had been commandeered as a troopship in April 1915. As the troop transport ‘A67’, the Orsova carried reinforcements from Australia to Alexandria, and from England back to Australia throughout the war. The ‘Officer Commanding Troops’ for this return passage in January 1919 was Major Mervyn James Herbert – in 1914 Herbert had been one of the first company commanders personally selected for the 10th Infantry Battalion, appointed to command ‘D’ Company which was primarily composed of men from Port Adelaide. Wounded at Gallipoli and evacuated, Herbert had later told a reporter about the Gallipoli landing: “The Port Adelaide boys deserve great credit for the part they played” and “The Port Adelaide boys always had a reputation for daring”.
Sidney Whaite was discharged in Adelaide (4th Military District) on 4 May as ‘Medically Unfit’. He married Miss Beatrice May Collins at St Augustine's Church in Unley on 30 May 1919 (she may not have been born in South Australia. Sidney died in Adelaide, SA on 14 September 1977, aged 87. His widow Beatrice Whaite died in Adelaide in 1981.
This bread knife comes from the transport and hospital ship, the former passenger liner SS Orsova.
Sidney Whaite was entitled to wear one ‘Wound Stripe’ on the left forearm sleeve of his tunic, and was later awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal pair which were sent to him by Base Records Melbourne in about 1923. From 336,931 Australians who embarked for overseas service (excluding the RAN), there were 155,133 ‘woundings’ (including gassing and shell-shock). There were 5,583 Australian soldiers wounded three times, 807 four times, 105 five times and 10 six times. One soldier is recorded as having been wounded seven times.
The British War Medal 1914-1920 was awarded to members of British and Imperial forces for service between the outbreak of hostilities on 5 August 1914 and the Armistice on 11 November 1918, although eligibility was extended to include service in various theatres up to 1920. Some 5.7 million medals in silver were issued throughout the British Commonwealth, of which 338,000 were awarded to Australians.
The Victory Medal 1914-1919 was awarded to members of British and Imperial forces for operational service only, between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918, although eligibility was extended to include service in various theatres during 1919. Some 5.7 million medals were issued throughout the British Commonwealth – 336,000 were awarded to Australians.
This display represents the medal entitlement of Sidney Whaite for his service in the Great War
Sidney Whaite was also entitled to receive the ‘Discharged Returned Soldier Badge’, which was instituted in 1916 for members of the AIF who had returned to Australia from active service overseas and been discharged. Some 267,300 badges were issued: it was only for wear with civilian dress, to allow veterans to show that they had served.
The Semaphore War Memorial was dedicated in 1925 to honour all of those from the district who fought in the war, such as Private Sidney George Whaite.
The Semaphore War Memorial on the Esplanade was dedicated in 1925 to honour all of those from the district who fought in the war. A temporary ‘Memorial Arch’ of wood and iron was first erected at the entrance to the Semaphore Jetty bearing the banner title, ‘For King & Empire’. On 27 April 1924, four foundation stones for the new memorial were laid at the approach to the jetty – one on behalf of the citizens of Port Adelaide district, one for the returned soldiers and sailors, one on behalf of the parents of the fallen men, and one on behalf of the widows and orphans.
Private Sidney Whaite with his wife Beatrice and his mother Mrs Jane Whaite were most likely among the several thousand people who attended the unveiling of the Semaphore War Memorial on 24 May 1925. Joining them would undoubtedly have been his cousin returned soldier Private Harold Whaite and his wife May, and Harold’s sister Miss Nell Whaite and their mother Mrs Emily Whaite, with Mrs Elsie Fletcher, the mother of Nell’s fiancé the late Corporal Barney Fletcher, and possibly also Corporal Kenneth McKenzie’s parents John and Mary Ann (Ken by this time was living in Western Australia).
The following year, a granite obelisk was erected on the foundation stones, with an electric ‘turret type’ clock and topped by a marble Angel of Peace with wings outspread. The local newspaper noted, “all the names of those who enlisted from the district or who made the supreme sacrifice cannot be placed on the monument” so it instead bears a simple commemorative plaque.
On 27 April 1924, four foundation stones for the Semaphore War Memorial were laid at the approach to the jetty – including this stone laid by Colonel Charles Philip Butler DSO (ex-43rd Battalion AIF) on behalf of the returned sailors and soldiers such as Private Sidney George Whaite.
Semaphore & Port Adelaide RSL
For the 2015 commemoration of the Anzac Centenary, the Semaphore & Port Adelaide RSL has created a virtual Honour Board listing the names of over 2,000 local men who volunteered to serve in World War 1. Among them are counted Sidney George Whaite, a butcher from Semaphore and a wounded veteran of service on the Somme in France.
Paul Rosenzweig is a retired Army officer and author of military history and biography. He was born in the Le Fevre Community Hospital in Semaphore. Through his Facebook page “Thanks Digger” Paul is helping families research an ancestor who is a military veteran and to promoting remembrance in young Australians. More information and images on these veterans is available through ‘Thanks Digger’: https://www.facebook.com/Thanks.Digger
Rob Whaite is the great-great-grandson of John Whaite (1822-1892) from Lancashire, born in Manchester, and Elizabeth (née Boyd, c1833-1907); the great-grandson of Robert William Whaite (1858-1903) and Emily Jane (née Josephs, 1858-1927); the grandson of Murray Hilton Whaite (1882-1960); and the son of Harold George Whaite (1917-1996) who was named after his uncle the soldier in case he did not return from the war.