Gilbert Kevern RICKARD

Badge Number: 30285, Sub Branch: Penola

RICKARD, Gilbert Kevern

Service Number: 3261
Enlisted: 17 August 1915, Infantry Volunteer Company: E Company, Penola (3 years, disbanded)
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, July 1890
Home Town: Penola, Wattle Range, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grocers assistant
Died: Heart disease, Keswick Military Repatriation Hospital Adelaide, South Australia, 11 January 1928
Cemetery: AIF Cemetery, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, South Australia
Section: LO, Road: 3N, Site No: 2
Memorials: Penola District WW1 Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

17 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3261, 27th Infantry Battalion, Infantry Volunteer Company: E Company, Penola (3 years, disbanded)
12 Jan 1916: Involvement Private, SN 3261, 27th Infantry Battalion
12 Jan 1916: Embarked Private, SN 3261, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Medic, Adelaide
21 Jul 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 3261, 27th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , Shell shock...
13 May 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 70th Infantry Battalion
16 Sep 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Corporal, 70th Infantry Battalion
1 Nov 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Corporal, 32nd Infantry Battalion
12 May 1918: Discharged AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 3261, 32nd Infantry Battalion
11 Nov 1918: Involvement Corporal, SN 3261, 32nd Infantry Battalion

A Life Cut Short

Gilbert Kevern Rickard was the second son of Stephen and Elizabeth Rickard born in July 1890. He had an older sister, May and two brothers, Clifton and Albert. Gilbert’s parents Stephen and Elizabeth were very community minded people; Stephen being a highly respected accountant for Balnaves Limited in Penola, earning himself a silver tea and coffee service on a polished oak tray, for his loyalty, continuing in their employ for 32 years. During this time both his and his employer’s sons were serving Australia in the Great War. Stephen also was an active participant in local activities, including the Triton Cricket Club as both a player and later an umpire. He was also Secretary for 22 years for the Penola Agricultural and Horticultural Society, the Oddfellow’s, President of the South Eastern Football Association and Penola Football Club. With this background it was inevitable that his sons had a highly developed civic pride.
Post school Gilbert worked as a Grocer’s assistant in Penola. He was an active member for 3 years of the Penola Volunteer Infantry Company before he and his brother Clifton enlisted on 17th August 1915, a month shy of his 24th birthday. The two brothers received consecutive enlistment numbers, Clif 360 and Gilbert 361. As did his other brothers, Gilbert also listed his mother Elizabeth, as his next of kin. Initially, Gilbert served with the 7/27th. The horrific conditions in France affected both Gilbert, and his brother Clifton, with both being diagnosed with shell shock in July 1916 after being wounded in action. In that particular encounter, Major John James Hughes 2nd in Command of 9th Battalion was also severely wounded. Gilbert’s eye-witness account was one of several used to ascertain Major Hughes’ fate. Gilbert reported that he saw the Major “wounded near the German 3rd line trenches Pozierres early in August. He was hit in the thigh; his wound was dressed and we lifted him up and placed him in a saple just behind the German trench. He lay there and continued to give orders. I was hit soon afterwards and managed to crawl back into our lines. I did not see him again and have heard nothing further about him.” Through other reports the Army was able to confirm that Major Hughes refused to be carried back to his own lines as it was at a critical moment in the skirmish and he would not let them. He had been taken as a Prisoner of War by the Germans who treated him for his injury in Ohrdruf hospital, Germany and did eventually recover. In that encounter, Gilbert, also wounded in the leg, managed to drag himself back to his own lines. The piece of land for which they had been fighting, was lost.
His family and the small country community of Penola were distressed to receive the news that both Private Gilbert and Clifton who, at that stage were together in the 32nd Battalion, were wounded in France in August of 1916. “regret reported wounded will promptly advise if anything further received.” Little detail was available to his family who vainly sought information via a series of telegrams and heart wrenching letters from an anxious Stephen throughout that month, one in which Elizabeth expressed her extreme anxiety. Eventually the family were informed on the 15th August that the nature of their sons’ wounds “are unknown here but… it would appear they are not seriously wounded.. in the absence of further favourable reports favourable progress may be assumed.” They were given the name of the hospital in which Gilbert and Clif were recovering at Horseferry Road in London. At that stage, their younger brother, Alfred was also in France, with a signalling company, but was safe.
By September Gilbert was again hospitalised with rheumatic fever, a condition which can cause permanent heart damage to the valves as well as heart failure. This reoccurred in October then November before Gilbert re-joined his unit in November but again succumbed to ill health with the invidious trench foot which damages skin, blood vessels and nerves in the foot from damp conditions at the front, necessitating him being evacuated to England in December 1916. In September of 1917 Gilbert was promoted to L/Col and transferred to the 32nd Battalion where, within a week he was again promoted, this time to Corporal with the 70th Battalion. He rose to become a Corporal. However, conditions he had endured took a toll on his body with him being hospitalised in England for a month from February to March 1918 with trench fever, caused by body lice but which also can contribute to an infection of the heart valves. With ongoing joint pain, lack of sleep, heart pain and continuing to re-live dreams of warfare, Gilbert’s prognosis was challenging.
Inevitably, he was returned to Australia in May of 1918, having served for 3 years and 56 days. Like his brothers, Gilbert was also awarded awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He experienced some normality with his marriage to Hilda Maud, sixth daughter of Mr. John Williams, Lochaber on the 30th March 1923 at her parents’ residence View Bank, Lochaber. They had two daughters Mary and Dorothy while living at Morambro, Naracoorte. In a sad twist of fate, the couple shared less than 4 years together. Aged just 36, Gilbert died of heart disease at the Keswick Military Repatriation Hospital on January 11th 1928, pre-deceasing his father, Stephen in March 1936 and mother Elizabeth in November 1937.
Gilbert was buried at the A.I.F. West Terrace Cemetery. Ten years later, his daughter Mary Patricia married Douglas Allen, (a twin) in 1946 with Gilbert’s youngest brother, Alfred walking her to the altar at Naracoorte. Gilbert’s daughter, Dorothy attended as a bridesmaid. In a close community gesture, a guard of honor was formed by the Girl Comrades and Order of Knights. Similarly, the Junior Red Cross, Girl Comrades, and relatives were responsible for the wonderful display of mixed bowls and troughs of lilies in the Church.
Then in May 1951 Gilbert and Hilda’s second daughter, Dorothy Vera married Norman Anderson in the Naracoorte Methodist Church. Gilbert’s brother in law, (May’s husband Frank Lynn) escorted her to the aisle.
Gilbert’s service is commemorated on the Honor Roll at Penola with Alfred and Clifton.
Tribute researched and written by Kaye Lee, Daughter of Bryan Holmes SX8133

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From How We Served

3261 Corporal Gilbert Kevern Rickard of Penola, South Australia had been employed as a grocer's assistant when he enlisted for War Service on the 17th of August 1915. Allocated to reinforcements for the 27th Battalion 1st AIF Gilbert was embarked for Egypt and further training on the 12th of January 1916.

Following his arrival Gilbert was transferred over to the 32nd Battalion with whom he would be shipped to France with,- arriving on the 23rd of June. Within a month of their arrival his Battalion was committed to the Battle of Fromelles on the 19th/20th of July and it was due to which Gilbert was evacuated suffering from shell shock. After a short period of convalecence Gilbert returned to his Unit in the field on the 16th of September. Gilbert would continually suffer ill health after his return, being hospitalised for rheumatic fever and after this 'Trench Feet' due to which he was sent to England for treatment at the start of 1917.

Whilst Gilbert was in England he was temporailly transferred to the 70th Battalion of the the proposed 6th Division on the 12th of May 1917 but following the disbanding of this whilst still in England he was returned to the 32nd Battalion and rejoined his Unit in France on the 1st of Novemeber 1917. By the 14th of March 1918 Gilbert had again arrived back in England for hospitaisation having been diagnosed as suffering 'Trech Fever' and it being determined that Gilbert required being sent back to Australia as an invalid.

Gilbert was admitted into the 7th Australian General Hospital (Keswick) and on the 11th of October 1918 with Gilbert's health having been heavily affected by his service with the 1st AIF, his premature death occurred on the 11th of Janurary 1928 at the age of 36. Corporal Gilbert Rickard of the 32nd Battalion was formally laid to rest within West Terrace Cemetery, South Australia.