Local Heroes WW1
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(Pte) Harold George Whaite
Private Harold George Whaite, a Store Assistant from Woodville, South Australia, prior to enlistment 16 June 1916, he embarked with the 10th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement from Adelaide, South Australia,on board HMAT A68 Anchises on 28 August 1916.
|Religion||Church of England|
|Address||Woodville, South Australia|
|Age at embarkation||22|
|Next of kin||Mother, Mrs Emily Jane Whaite, Hughes Street, Woodville, South Australia|
|Rank on enlistment||Private|
|Unit name||10th Battalion, 20th Reinforcement|
|AWM Embarkation Roll number||23/27/4|
|Embarkation details||Unit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A68 Anchises on 28 August 1916|
|Rank from Nominal Roll||Private|
|Unit from Nominal Roll||27th Battalion|
|Fate||Returned to Australia 21 March 1919|
HAROLD GEORGE WHAITE (1893-1988)
Harold 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. Harold George Whaite was born on 19 October 1893 in the family home in Woodville, SA which was at that time part of the Port Adelaide district. Harold was a 22 year old store assistant when he enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide on 16 June 1916. His father Robert had passed away in 1903, so his next-of-kin was his mother Emily Jane Whaite. Harold embarked with reinforcements for the South Australian 10th Battalion AIF on 28 August 1916. He served on the Western Front in France and Belgium with the 27th Battalion AIF (2nd Australian Division), and was twice wounded-in-action during 1918. Private Whaite returned to Port Adelaide on 7 May, and was discharged on 14 June 1919. He married in 1922, and died in Adelaide in 1988, aged 95.
6344 Private Harold George Whaite (1893-1988)
Harold George Whaite was born on 19 October 1893 in the family home in Woodville, South Australia which was at that time part of the Port Adelaide district.
Harold’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.
Harold’s father was Robert William Whaite (1858-1903), the third child and second son of John and Elizabeth born in the family home in Alberton on 10 September 1858. On 4 February 1880, Robert married Emily Jane Josephs (1858-1927) in her father’s home in Queenstown, Port Adelaide. Harold’s mother Emily (1858-1927) was the daughter of Joseph Josephs and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Hazell, and was born at Gumeracha on 21 September 1858. Robert was a butcher, and he and Emily later lived in Hughes Street in Woodville until Robert passed away in 1903. Among their 12 children were Murray (their second child, born in 1882), Nell (8th child, 1891) and Harold (10th child, 1893)
Harold was living with his mother Emily in Hughes Street, Woodville and was a 22 year old store assistant when he enlisted in the AIF on 16 June 1916. He was given the Service number ‘6344’, and first underwent training with ‘A’ Company of the 2nd Depot Battalion. On 18 July he joined the 10th Battalion reinforcements who were training at Mitcham Military Camp. On 28 August 1916, he embarked in Port Adelaide on A68 HMAT Anchises with the 20th Reinforcements for South Australia’s 10th Battalion AIF (by then already known as ‘The Fighting Tenth’). He was 22 years of age.
Mrs Emily Jane Whaite (née Josephs, 1858-1927) kept these two photographs in a locket she wore around her neck – in memory of her husband Robert William Whaite who had died in 1903, and her son Private Harold George Whaite while he was overseas at the war.
Through Harold’s father’s side of the family, there were four others who served overseas during World War 1.
5133 Private Sidney George Whaite (1890-1977) was Harold’s cousin, the son of John Thomas Whaite (1853-1908) and his wife Jane (née Schollar, 1858-1936) from Alberton. Sidney was also a grandson of John Whaite (1822-1892) from Lancashire, England and Elizabeth (née Boyd, c1833-1907). Sidney was a 26 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 served on the Western Front in France with the 32nd Battalion AIF (5th Australian Division), and 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.
6195 Corporal Kenneth Whaite McKenzie (1892-1941). Another of Harold’s cousins was Kenneth McKenzie. Harold’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.
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 Harold’s sister 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, SA on 4 August 1920, aged 50.
Private Harold Whaite disembarked from A68 HMAT Anchises in Plymouth on 11 October 1916. On 17 December 1916 he transferred to the 27th Battalion AIF, for duty with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and embarked at Folkestone on the SS Golden Eagle for France. On 23 January 1917 Harold marched-in to the 27th Battalion in France. Because there would already have been a member of the battalion with the Service number ‘6344’, Harold’s number was adjusted to ‘6344A’. The 27th Battalion had been raised in South Australia in March 1915, and served on the Gallipoli Peninsula from September 1915 (New Zealand and Australian Division). The battalion went to France with the 7th Brigade (2nd Australian Division). When the Australian infantry unit colour patches were introduced, they 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. The 27th Battalion AIF had a colour patch in the shape of a diamond – signifying that it belonged to the 2nd Australian Division. The lower colour (‘brigade colour’) was ‘saxe-blue’ (light blue), signifying that the battalion belonged to the third brigade within the division – the 7th Infantry Brigade. The upper colour (‘battalion colour’) was brown, signifying that the unit was the third battalion in the brigade – the 7th Infantry Brigade was made up of the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th Battalions.
The battalion fought at Pozières in France in 1916; it then served in Belgium, then back in the Somme Valley later in the year. When Harold joined the battalion in early 1917 it was participating in some minor battles during the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. On 20 September 1917, the 27th Battalion was part of the first wave of troops in the successful battle of Menin Road, followed by the capture of Broodseinde Ridge on 4 October.
Private Whaite was involved in the fighting to turn back the German spring offensive in April 1918. As the year progressed, the battalion participated in a series of offensive battles as the German forces continued to withdraw and they attacked Morlancourt on 10 June. At the start of July, the battalion had a strength of 49 officers and 815 other ranks, dropping to 44/788 by 31 July. The battalion’s War Diary records that at the beginning of July it occupied a support area in the Villers-Bretonneux area south of the Somme in northern France, and played a support role during the battle of Hamel on 4 July. The enemy attitude was ‘quiet’, with aircraft active during the day; the allied artillery was becoming increasingly active against enemy targets, fighting squadrons of aircraft patrolled the lines by day, and the enemy rear areas were bombed by night. On the night of 5/6 July the 27th Battalion moved into the front-line trenches east of Villers-Bretonneux, where they remained until 12 July when they returned to the Support Battalion Area.
Harold Whaite was present on 13 July when a divisional parade was held on the banks of the Somme near Lamotte-Brebiere, when decorations were awarded and a collection of war trophies collected in the recent actions was displayed. Private Whaite’s records show that he was wounded slightly on 16 July 1918 – but he remained on duty (this was reported on 22 July). The battalion’s War Diary records that there was gas shelling in the rear areas on this day, but there were no casualties for the day – so it is likely that Harold suffered the effects of gas but did not require evacuation. The War Diary also records that on 17 June two companies moved forward to support the 25th Battalion in a successful local attack on some enemy trenches, suffering three casualties. It is also possible that Harold was one of these casualties, with the wrong date entered in his record.
At the start of August, the battalion was at rest in a reserve area near White Château in the Villers-Bretonneux area. The War Diary notes that on 6 August they received Operations Orders and Administrative Instructions for an attack ‘on a large scale’ south of the Somme, eastwards from Villers-Bretonneux. On the afternoon of 7 August the companies moved to their concentration areas, and then that night moved to their respective Jumping-Off Lines. At 04.20 am on 8 August ‘a terrific artillery barrage came down’, and the 27th Battalion was in the first wave at the battle of Amiens – assaulting west to east, with the 7th Brigade on the extreme southern flank. Their objective, the ‘Green Line’, was captured at 6.30 am, which allowed the second wave to push through to the ‘Red Line’, and within 3 hours the enemy’s front line had been overrun. The battalion’s casualty figures for the month were 28 killed-in-action, 127 wounded-in-action, 6 missing and 9 in hospital.
Private Whaite was among those wounded-in-action on the morning of 8 August (second occasion), suffering a gunshot wound to the left arm. This time Harold was invalided to England by Hospital Ship, and on 11 August was admitted to Fort Pitt Military Hospital at Chatham in Kent (since the 1920s this has been Fort Pitt Grammar School for girls). Through this, Harold became eligible to wear one ‘Wound 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 – so Harold’s first wounding may not have qualified him for the award because he remained on duty. 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.
Private Whaite embarked on the Hospital Transport SS Kildonian Castle on 21 March 1919, and his return to Australia was announced by local Adelaide newspapers on 26 April: his contingent disembarked at Port Adelaide on 7 May. Before the war, Harold and Nell’s older brother Murray Hilton Whaite (1882-1960) had married Miss Amelia Bailey (1881-1949) in Port Adelaide in 1905 and they had two children, born in 1907 and 1908. Murray and Amelia had a third child, born on 21 August 1917, who they named ‘Harold George Whaite’ after his uncle who was then serving overseas with the AIF. He was named in Harold’s memory in case he did not return from the war. Private Harold George Whaite completed his war service with the 27th Battalion AIF and returned to Australia however – to find he had a 1 year old nephew also called Harold George Whaite. Apparently confusion reigned in the family for several years with two Harolds – Harold George Whaite (1893-1988) and Harold George Whaite (1917-1996).
Harold Whaite was discharged in Adelaide (4th Military District) on 14 June 1919 as ‘Medically Unfit’. At the Methodist Parsonage in Glenelg on 16 September 1922, Harold married Miss May Victoria Russell (c1901-1982). Harold died in Adelaide on 7 May 1988, aged 95.
The Whaite family at Belair National Park in 1927 after the funeral of Mrs Emily Jane Whaite: Harold (the returned soldier) is standing in the back row, with Nell standing next to him on his left. The man seated with the hat in his lap is their older brother Murray Hilton Whaite (1882-1960).
Harold Whaite was certainly entitled to wear one ‘Wounded Stripe’ on the left forearm sleeve of his tunic. When he was wounded on 8 August, the entry in his service record noted “2nd Occasion”, so he may well have been awarded two stripes. Further research reveals that Harold was in fact included in a casualty list after being wounded the first time – published in The Advertiser on Friday 2 August 1918. His name was then included in the 442nd Casualty List published in The Advertiser on Tuesday 13 August 1918. His name also appeared in the 428th Casualty List published in The Chronicle on Saturday 14 September 1918 as having been wounded on a second occasion. This confirms that Private Harold Whaite was entitled to wear two ‘Wounded Stripes’. 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.
He was later awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal pair which were sent to him by Base Records Melbourne in about 1923. 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. There were 338,000 medals in silver 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. There were 336,000 medals in silver awarded to Australians.
Harold 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 Harold 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 RSSILA, one on behalf of the parents of the fallen men, and one on behalf of the widows and orphans.
Private Harold Whaite and his wife May were most likely among the several thousand people who attended the unveiling of the Semaphore War Memorial on 24 May 1925. With would have been his sister Miss Nell Whaite and their mother Mrs Emily Whaite, together with Mrs Elsie Fletcher, the mother of Nell’s fiancé the late Corporal Barney Fletcher. Also joining them would undoubtedly have been his cousin Private Sidney Whaite with his wife Beatrice and his mother Mrs Jane Whaite, 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 Harold 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 Harold George Whaite, a Store Assistant and a twice-wounded veteran of service in France and Flanders.
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 Harold the soldier in case he did not return from the war.
Great War veteran Harold George Whaite (1893-1988) in Adelaide in 1983, aged 90.