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Local Heroes WW1

FLETCHER, George Edwin Pearce

poppy-20px(Corp) George Edwin Pearce Fletcher

Corporal George Edwin Pearce Fletcher, a Cleaner Born in Semaphore, SA prior to enlistment on 14 June 1915 and embarked from Adelaide, South Australia with his unit 12th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement, on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on 14 September 1915.

Regimental number 3012
Place of birth Adelaide, South Australia
School Pulteney Grammar School, Adelaide, South Australia
Religion Church of England
Occupation Cleaner
Address 7 Nelson Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Marital status Single
Age at embarkation 19
Height 5' 11.75"
Weight 154 lbs
Next of kin Mother, Mrs E Fletcher, 7 Nelson Street, Adelaide, South Australia
Previous military service Served for 1 year in 78th Bn, Senior Cadets; transferred for 1 year to 76th Bn, Citizen Military Forces; at time of AIF enlistment living in exempt area under Compulsory Military Service scheme.
Enlistment date 14 June 1915
Place of enlistment Keswick, South Australia
Rank on enlistment Private
Unit name 12th Battalion, 10th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number 23/29/3
Embarkation details Unit embarked from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A70 Ballarat on 14 September 1915
Rank from Nominal Roll Corporal
Unit from Nominal Roll 9th Light Horse Regiment
Fate Died of wounds 20 July 1918
Place of death or wounding Palestine
Age at death 22
Age at death from cemetery records 22
Place of burial Jerusalem War Cemetery (Row H, Grave No. 62), Palestine
Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
7
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: George Bailey and Elsie Eliza Ann FLETCHER. Native of Adelaide, South Australia
Other details

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Sources NAA: B2455, FLETCHER George Edward Pearce

Fletcher-GEP1

3012 Trooper George Edwin Pearce (‘Barney’) Fletcher is commemorated on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.


GEORGE EDWIN PEARCE FLETCHER (1895-1918)


Barney Fletcher was born in 1895, the son of George Bailey Fletcher (1870-1920) and Elsie (née Dunstan, 1873-1943) of Semaphore: he was christened with the names ‘George Edwin Pearce’ but throughout his adult life he used ‘Ted’ or ‘Barney’. Barney was a 19 year old fireman and locomotive cleaner with the South Australian Railways at the Mile-End railway yards when he enlisted in the AIF on 14 June 1915. He embarked with light horse reinforcements in Adelaide on 14 September 1915, and in Egypt joined ‘A’ Squadron of the Australian Composite Light Horse Regiment. He was promoted to Corporal, and served on active duty with ‘B’ Squadron of the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF with the Australian Mounted Division. Barney was wounded-in-action near Wadi Auja near Jericho in Palestine on 19 July 1918, and died of his wounds that day, aged 22.

3012 Corporal George Edwin Pearce Fletcher (1895-1918)


Barney Fletcher was born in 1895, probably in the family home on Semaphore Road, Semaphore, the son of George Bailey Fletcher (1870-1920). In 1894, George had married Miss Eliza Ann Elsie Dunstan (1873-1943), the daughter of Edwin Pearce Dunstan; she may have been christened with those names but she was known as ‘Elsie’. Their son was christened with the names ‘George Edwin Pearce’ – named after his father and his mother’s father. Throughout his adult life however, he used ‘Ted’ or ‘Barney’. It is likely that young George was given a nickname to distinguish him from his father George, and from his middle name ‘Edwin’ he was called Ted. It is also likely that from his father’s name ‘George Bailey’ their son was nicknamed ‘George Barney’, and the name ‘Barney’ stuck with him.   


While Barney was a young boy, his father served in the Boer War in South Africa. George volunteered to serve with the 6th South Australian Imperial Bushmen’s Contingent, and was promoted to Lance-Sergeant while serving in South Africa with ‘F’ Squadron of the South Australian Imperial Bushmen in 1901-02.


By 1914, Barney lived on Semaphore Road and was working as a fireman and locomotive cleaner with the South Australian Railways at the Mile-End railway yards. He had completed his compulsory military training with the Australian Commonwealth Cadet Corps under the Universal Service Scheme, serving with the 78th Infantry Regiment Senior Cadets. In 1914, Barney was a volunteer with the 76th Infantry Regiment, within the 19th Infantry Brigade, 4th Military District (South Australia).


Barney was engaged to marry Miss Nell Whaite (1891-1968) from Alberton. Nell’s parents were Robert William Whaite (1858-1903), who had been born in ‘Albert Town’ (Alberton) on 10 September 1858, and Emily Jane (née Josephs) from Port Adelaide. Her paternal grandparents were 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 (his name was possibly 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  married Elizabeth Boyd (c1833-1907) in Trinity Church, Adelaide on 21 September 1850. Elizabeth Boyd is thought to have been either Irish or 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), Nell’s father Robert William Whaite (second son, 1858) and Mary Ann Whaite (fifth child, 1864). Robert married Emily Jane Josephs (1858-1927) in her father’s home in Queenstown, Port Adelaide on 4 February 1880; he was later a butcher, and they lived in Hughes Street in Woodville where he died in 1903, aged 44.


Before he enlisted in the AIF, Barney and Nell would do little skits at family gatherings – he would play the piano and she used to sing.


Family connections


8 WO2 George Bailey Fletcher (1870-1920). Barney’s father George was the first in the circle of friends and family to enlist – at Morphettville Camp on 16 September 1914. He dropped his age by four years and joined the 9th Light Horse Regiment AIF as their Farrier Quartermaster-Sergeant, and served at Heliopolis and Serapeum in the Middle East with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. From March 1916, 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.


Through Nell’s family, there were three others who served overseas during World War 1.


6344 Private Harold George Whaite (1893-1988). Nell’s younger brother 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. He completed his war service with the 27th Battalion AIF, and returned to Australia on 21 March 1919. Harold married in 1922, and died in Adelaide in 1988, aged 95.


5133 Private Sidney George Whaite. Nell and Harold’s cousin, Sidney was a 26 year old butcher from Semaphore when he enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide on 1 May 1916. 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. Sidney returned to Australia on  8 January 1919, married in May 1919, and died in Adelaide in 1977, aged 87.


6195 Corporal Kenneth Whaite McKenzie (1892-1941). Another of Nell and Harold’s cousins was Kenneth McKenzie, who 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.


Enlistment


Barney was 19 years old when he enlisted at Keswick Barracks on 14 June 1915. He was assigned to the 10th Reinforcements to the 12th Battalion AIF, with Army number ‘3012’. On 1 July, no doubt because of his cadet and militia service, he was promoted to Lance-Corporal. The World War I Pictorial Honour Roll of South Australians has Barney’s photograph:
http://sa.ww1anzac.com/fi---fl.html


Barney embarked in Adelaide on 14 September 1915 on A70 HMAT Ballarat, and joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He joined ‘A’ Squadron of the Australian Composite Light Horse Regiment on 20 November 1915, and then on 18 January 1916 transferred to the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment AIF. There must have already been a member serving in this regiment with Army number ‘3012’, so Fletcher was given the number ‘3012A’.


On 6 March, Barney joined the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment. On 12 March he was made an Acting Corporal, and he was promoted substantively the following day.


Palestine


On 12 March 1917, Corporal Fletcher joined the 9th Light Horse Regiment AIF in Egypt, where his father was the Farrier Quartermaster-Sergeant. The regiment came under the command of the Australian 3rd Light Horse Brigade, part of the Imperial Mounted Division (later re-named the ‘Australian Mounted Division’). George and Barney were present during the battles to capture Gaza, the assault on Beersheba, the collapse of the Turkish position in southern Palestine and the capture of Jerusalem in December. During 1917, Barney’s father forwarded to friends in Adelaide a copy of an Egyptian newspaper describing the operations of the British and Australian troops in clearing the Turks from the neighbourhood of the Suez Canal and the historic reoccupation of El Arish.


During 1918, the Australian Mounted Division focussed on operations in the Jordan Valley. Official records and media reports state that Corporal Barney Fletcher died of wounds in Palestine on 20 July 1918, aged 22; his Service file shows clearly that he died of wounds “received in action at Wadi Auja”.


By July the 9th Light Horse Regiment had returned to Palestine and was in bivouac at Solomons Pools: this was an opportunity for rest, training, and local leave in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. On 10 July, the regiment rejoined the 3rd Light Horse Brigade and moved via Bethlehem and Jerusalem to Talaat ed Dumm where they established a new bivouac site and horse lines. On 14 July the regiment moved urgently into the Jordan Valley to reinforce the Australian & New Zealand Mounted Division which was under attack by a German force, with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade engaged near Wadi Auja. On 16 July the regiment moved to Madhbeh to garrison No. 3 Sub-Sector in the Jericho district. At midnight ‘B’ Squadron moved up to occupy a counter attack position on Abu Tullul. When the squadron returned to the regimental bivouac position at Madhbeh in the pre-dawn morning of 19 July, two men were wounded by enemy artillery shell fire – Corporal Fletcher and Trooper William Logue (2192 Trooper Herbert William Logue, a horticulturalist from Mitcham).


Trooper Logue received shell abrasions, and finished the war as a Sergeant. The Australian War Memorial holds an American six-shot Smith & Wesson .38 revolver from the 1880s which was captured by Logue from a Turkish soldier while serving in Palestine:


REL34682

ID number     REL34682
Title     Smith & Wesson .38 Revolver : Sergeant H W Logue, 9 Light Horse Regiment, AIF
Collection     Technology
Object type     Firearm
Maker     Smith & Wesson
Place made     United States of America
Date made     c 1880
Physical description     

    Plastic
    Steel

Description

Smith & Wesson .38 revolver. The gun is made from ordnance steel and is a break-open, six shot, double action revolver. The weapon has plastic grips which are broken. The gun is badly corroded. Markings - Smith & Wesson logo on plastic hand grips. There is no serial number.

Summary

The revolver was captured by 2192 Sergeant Herbert William Logue from a Turkish soldier while serving in Palestine during the First World War. Logue was 33 years old and a horticulturist when he enlisted on 29 December 1915. He embarked overseas from Adelaide, South Australia on 16 January 1917 on board HMAT Bulla with the 23rd reinforcements of the 9th Light Horse Regiment. He disembarked at Suez on 16 February. while serving in Palestine he was wounded in July 1918, receiving shell abrasions. At various times during the war Logue had been temporarily promoted to sergeant or corporal, before reverting to his nominal rank of trooper. In 1919 while waiting to return home he was again promoted extra regimental corporal, while being an instructor in irrigation and fruit growing. He embarked for Australia on 10 July 1919.


The regimental diary confirms that this action occurred on 19 July, and notes that Corporal Fletcher died two hours later. He was buried at 4 pm that afternoon, near Wadi Auja northwest of Jericho in the Kuruntal District Military Graves, by the regiment’s Chaplain.


“3012. Cpl. G. E. P. FLETCHER, 20/7/13” was among those listed in the 422nd Casualty List (South Australia) in local South Australian newspapers in August 1918. His family published the following tribute:

FLETCHER.— Died of wounds in Palestine on the 20th July, 1918, No. 3012a, Cpl. George Edwin Pearce (Ted, Barney), 9th Light Horse Regiment (late 12th Battalion), enlisted June, 1915, aged 22 years 8 months (late Mile- End Railway), darling elder son of Regimental-Sgt.-Major George B. Fletcher, of 9th Light Horse Regiment (enlisted September, 1914, still on active service), and Mrs. G. B. Fletcher, of 7 Nelson street, city (late Rundle street). Always happy and cheerful, With heart that knew no fear; He stood to face life's battle   For the ones he loved so dear.   When the flags are o'er the roadways, When the troops are marching home, When the sweethearts lean to bless them, And the mothers to caress them, O God, have pity for the watching ones Whose boys will never return. —Inserted by his sorrowing mother and brother. The Register (Adelaide, SA) Saturday 10 August 1918

 

Fletcher-GEP-2
Corporal Barney Fletcher’s listing as a fatality in The Register of 1 August 1918.

Honours


The commemorative book Where the Australians Rest, prepared under instructions from the Minister of State for Defence, Senator G F Pearce, contained a description of many of the cemeteries overseas in which Australians were buried or commemorated. Barney’s archived Service record shows that a copy of Where the Australians Rest was forwarded on 18 January 1921 (it was addressed to his father, but George Fletcher had died at Semaphore on 4 August 1920).


Barney Fletcher was eligible to receive the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal trio, and the Memorial Plaque was made available to his next-of-kin as a remembrance. The 1914-15 Star was most likely posted out by Base Records Melbourne in about February 1921. The Commemorative Scroll and King’s Message which accompany the Memorial Plaque were posted on 12 September 1921. Mrs Fletcher authorised her son Octavius Fletcher to collect the Memorial Plaque from Keswick Barracks on 11 January 1923. Barney’s Victory Medal was received by his mother Elsie on 31 January 1923, and the British War Medal about the same time.


The 1914-15 Star rewarded operational service within a theatre of war between the commencement of hostilities on 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915. Almost 2.3 million Stars were awarded throughout the Commonwealth, of which 82,000 were awarded to Australians serving in an Australian unit.


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. Eligibility was later extended to include service in various theatres up to 1920. Some 6.6 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. Eligibility was later extended to include service in various theatres during 1919. Some 6.3 million medals were issued throughout the British Commonwealth – 336,000 were awarded to Australians serving in an Australian unit.

Fletcher-GEP-3
The book ‘Where the Australians Rest’ gives a brief description of the Jerusalem War Cemetery.

 


Barney Fletcher was buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery in Israel (grave H-62). Looking northeast past the ‘Great Cross’ (the Cross of Sacrifice) towards the War Stone and Memorial Chapel, Barney’s grave and headstone are off to the left towards a grove of Cypress trees: Barney’s grave is in the second row from the back.

Fletcher-GEP-4
Corporal Barney Fletcher’s entry in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Record of War Dead, Index No. P.3, Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel.

Barney Fletcher’s name is today commemorated online by the Royal British Legion: http://www.everymanremembered.org/profiles/soldier/646859/  
This site includes a tribute from the great-grandson of Robert William Whaite and Emily Jane (née Josephs):
“Barney Fletcher was the fiancé of my Great Aunt, Nell Whaite of Woodville, South Australia . . . They were looking forward to being married but Barney’s life was cut short. Nell would not consider another man, as far as she was concerned no one could replace Barney. She died a spinster, so very sad”.
“I wish I had known you and had a chance to thank you for everything you gave to us who survive you”.
ROBERT WHAITE


National commemoration


Roll of Honour. The name of George Edwin Pearce Fletcher is commemorated on the Roll of Honour in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (panel 7).
Roll of Honour name projections. During the Great War Centenary period, from 4 August 2014 until 11 November 2018, the name of each of the 62,000 Australians who gave their lives during the First World War will be projected onto the façade of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. The names will be displayed from sunset to sunrise every night, and can be seen from the Memorial’s grounds. Each name will be visible for 30 seconds. Barney Fletcher’s name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory on various dates throughout the commemorative period – see here for the scheduled timings: http://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1733167/


The Australian War Memorial advises that the published dates and times are estimates: “The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date. In the rare event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed”.


Local commemoration


Adelaide. In Adelaide, Barney’s name is included on the Adelaide Railway Station WW1 Roll of Honour – before the war, Barney had worked as a fireman and locomotive cleaner with the South Australian Railways at the Mile-End railway yards.


Semaphore. 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.


No doubt Barney’s mother Mrs Elsie Fletcher, would have attended the laying of this stone in 1924 – with its immediate relevance to her. The stone for the parents of those who fell, such as Corporal Barney Fletcher, was laid by Mrs Magnus Wald. The late Magnus Wald had been owner of Glanville Hall, proprietor of the South Australian Stevedoring Company, a yachtsman, and member for Scarborough Ward 1898-00. The foundation stone laid by Miss Edith A Sanders on behalf of the widows would have had meaning for her too, her husband George having died at Semaphore so soon after the war, on 4 August 1920.


Elsie was also most likely among the several thousand people who attended the actual unveiling of the Semaphore War Memorial the following year. Joining Mrs Elsie Fletcher on these occasions would undoubtedly have been Barney’s fiancée Miss Nell Whaite, and her mother Mrs Emily Whaite (her father Robert had died in 1903); returned soldier Private Harold Whaite, ex-27th Battalion AIF (Nell’s brother) and his wife May; Harold and Nell’s cousin Private Sidney Whaite (ex-32nd Battalion AIF) with his wife Beatrice and his mother Mrs Jane Whaite, and John and Mary Ann McKenzie, the parents of Corporal Kenneth McKenzie, ex-4th Australian Mechanical Transport Company (Ken by this time was living in East Fremantle, WA).


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.

Fletcher-GEP-5
Corporal Barney Fletcher’s name on the Adelaide Railway Station Roll of Honour.

State commemoration


Barney Fletcher’s name is commemorated on the large honour rolls lining the walls of the crypt inside the South Australia National War Memorial on North Terrace, which was unveiled by the State Governor on Anzac Day 1931. Inside the crypt, bronze panels contain the names of the 5,511 South Australians who fell in the war – Barney Fletcher’s is listed under the 9th Light Horse Regiment.
Barney’s father George did not live to see his son’s name on this memorial: he died at Semaphore on 4 August 1920. Among those who attended the unveiling of the monument in 1931 would no doubt have been Barney’s mother Mrs Elsie Fletcher and his fiancée Miss Nell 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 Barney Fletcher from Semaphore who sacrificed his life in Palestine. Family memories record that his fiancée Nell Whaite never got over Barney’s death. Even though her mother Emily encouraged her to try to find someone else, she never considered another man, and she died in her residence on 3 November 1968, a spinster aged 74. To Nell there would never be a replacement for Barney:

Always happy and cheerful,
With heart that knew no fear;
He stood to face life's battle   
For the ones he loved so dear.   
When the flags are o'er the roadways,
When the troops are marching home,
When the sweethearts lean to bless them,
And the mothers to caress them,
O God, have pity for the watching ones
Whose boys will never return.

Notes:


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 (Nell’s brother) in case he did not return from the war.

Fletcher-GEP-6
The Semaphore War Memorial was dedicated on 24 May 1925 to honour all those from the district who fought in the war. Before this however, on 27 April 1924 four foundation stones were laid at the approach to the jetty – including this stone laid by Mrs Magnus Wald on behalf of the parents of those who fell such as Corporal Barney Fletcher.

Written by: Major (retired) Paul A Rosenzweig MA JP
With Robert W M Whaite

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