INGRAM, Roland

Service Number: 1593
Enlisted: 2 August 1915, Victorian Rangers 4 years
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 31st Infantry Battalion
Born: Beaufort, Victoria, Australia , January 1888
Home Town: Beaufort, Pyrenees, Victoria
Schooling: Beaufort State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Engine Driver
Died: Mildura, Victoria, Australia, 10 July 1943, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Mildura (Nichols Point) Public Cemetery, Victoria
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World War 1 Service

2 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1593, 31st Infantry Battalion, Victorian Rangers 4 years
5 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1593, 31st Infantry Battalion
5 Nov 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1593, 31st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Bakara, Melbourne
15 Aug 1918: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 1593, 31st Infantry Battalion, MU ulcer on thigh

Help us honour Roland Ingram's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Ballarat & District in the Great War

Pte Roland Ingram, 31st Battalion AIF

I was once told, “You cannot write what you do not know.” It is a precept that I hold to whenever I’m forming a story about one of our Great War servicemen or women. Yes, it is frustrating when the details you want aren’t available and you are left wondering about the holes that break the flow of the narrative. Conversely, we can’t know everything about any of these intriguing individuals. That has certainly been the case with Roland Ingram.

The Ingram family was already well established in Beaufort when Roland was born in January 1888. His own father, Walter Orsland Ingram, was born in the small town, at a time when Beaufort was growing from a centre of goldmining to a strong agricultural, pastoral and timber area.

Walter had learned the trade of boot-making from his father and established shops in Neill Street in the centre of Beaufort. He extended his holdings to general storekeeper and then became the local postal contractor. His marriage to Anne Emma Whiting took place in 1886. Anne had arrived in Australian in 1873 from the London suburb of Brentford. She had been working as a domestic servant in Kennington before she made the remarkably adventurous decision to migrate to Australia.

Roland was the second of the couple’s five children and the eldest of three sons. Sadly, the family, like so many of the era, were to lose two of their children as small babies.

There was also a near tragedy on 28 September 1894, when Walter Ingram had a serious accident driving to Ballarat. According to reports, he stood up in the waggonette to put on his overcoat, which caused the horse to shy and he was ‘precipitated violently to the road.’ He was discovered laying unconscious on the road by Alfred Cunnington, the teacher at nearby Trawalla State School. Fortunately, after being attended to by Dr Johnston back in Beaufort, it was found that Walter had avoided any broken bones, but was suffering severely from shock.
By this time, six-year-old Roland had started his formal education. Unfortunately, I was unable to confirm where he went to school – it is fairly safe to assume that he was a student at the nearby Beaufort State School in Hill Street.

Once again, the family was struck by misfortune, when the youngest son, Orsband, died from diphthertic croup (laryngeal diphtheria) on 1 June 1905. The 13-year-old had been at school when he developed a sore throat. As he was ‘somewhat subject’ to throat infections, ‘very little notice was taken of it.’ As a result, by the time the doctor was called the boy was very ill and quickly died.

Less than a year later, Winifred Ingram, Roland’s only surviving sibling was injured in a freak accident when the large hat pin in her friend’s cap pierced her eye. It is not difficult to imagine the anxiety experienced by Walter and Anne.

Meanwhile, Roland had completed his time at school and had begun working as a labour around Beaufort. He also joined the Beaufort Rifle Club and became one of their top shooters. His military training was rounded out by four years spent with the Victorian Rangers, one of a number of voluntary militia groups of the period.

By 1912, Roland had moved to Ballarat East and was working as an engine driver. Unfortunately, with no sources available to confirm whether he was working in the local mines or with the railways, another gap in the narrative appears. Given his youth, it is to be supposed that he was most likely employed driving industrial engines.

He lived at 164 Eureka Street for a period of time before moving to 42 Victoria Street – both addresses being close to the centre of the city on the council boundary with Ballarat East.

Following the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign, the need for fresh recruits became imperative. Young men stepped forward in unprecedented numbers. Although Roland Ingram is formally recorded as having enlisted in Melbourne on 19 July 1915, his medical was conducted at Beaufort nearly a week earlier. Local doctor, Allan Jackson, performed the examination; he found Roland to be of average height – standing 5-feet 7-inches tall. He was strongly built, weighing 159-pounds and having a chest expansion of 38-inches. His dark complexion, which appeared to attest to long hours in the sun, was balanced by hazel-coloured eyes and dark brown hair. When a captain from the Australian Army Medical Corps re-examined him on 19 July, he concurred with Dr Jackson’s findings and Roland was accepted into the Australian Imperial Force.

On 26 July, a farewell function was held at the Riponshire Hall to tender a send-off to ten district volunteers. Shire President, Councillor Daniel Hannah proposed the toast of ‘“Good Luck” and a safe return’. This was followed by the usual speeches made by several prominent members of the community; the new recruits were then called on to respond. Private William Ferguson elicited laughter when he said ‘if it came his way, he hoped to bring the head of the Kaiser back and hang it on the door.’ Roland, however, showed he was far more reticent, if not shy of public speaking. He thanked those gathered for their kind remarks and told them ‘he was no good at this game, but hoped to do better among the Turks.’ This was greeted with hearty applause.

By 2 August, Roland was with the 96th Depot Company receiving rudimentary training.

Expansion of the AIF was already underway when the 31st Infantry Battalion was raised in August 1915. Predominantly a Queensland unit, the majority of the companies were trained at Enoggera on the outskirts of Brisbane. However, some were also trained at the Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria.

Roland joined C Company of the 31st Battalion at Broadmeadows on 27 October, but was posted to the unit’s first reinforcements. The bulk of the 31st embarked from Melbourne on 9 November onboard HMAT Wandilla. Oddly, the reinforcements had sailed four days earlier, with Roland Ingram making the crossing to Egypt onboard HMAT Bakara.

The Bakara docked at Suez on 7 December, and Roland disembarked the same day. He was not destined to have his proposed “crack” at the Turks – the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula was already underway and would be completed by the early hours of 20 December.

With the continued expansion and restructuring of the AIF, the newly arrived reinforcements were not officially Taken on Strength of the 31st Battalion at Serapeum until 11 February 1916.

Roland then spent the next four months training with his unit. Inexplicably, letters home confirmed that the men were still being instructed in “British squares” – an outmoded battle formation from the Napoleonic era that would have no use in trench warfare. However, instruction in the use of modern weaponry would prove extremely valuable.

During his time in Egypt, Roland caught up with a number of Ballarat and district boys and old mates from Beaufort, including young Arthur Eyckens, who was also with the 31st.

Entraining orders were finally received on 13 June and two days later the 31st Battalion boarded a train at the Moascar Siding for the trip to Alexandria. They travelled all night, arriving at the wharf at 6am where the transport Hororata was waiting.

With an escort provided by a light cruiser, the convoy made its way across the Mediterranean to Marseilles without incident. They landed in France just after 10pm on 22 June. The next day they were back on a train – this time headed for Steenbecque in the north of France. Three days later they reached their destination and immediately marched to billets in nearby Morbecque.

The men had barely received their tin hats and gas masks before they were thrust into their first major action and one of the worst disasters of the Western Front: the Battle of Fromelles. Just three days after entering the frontline trenches, the 31st Battalion were launched over the top in the face of relentless German machine gun fire. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Fred Toll, led the 4th wave across the parapet at 5:58pm on 19 July

‘…At 5:58pm CA over 9 first and second waves across parapet and deployed in No Man’s Land, ready to launch attack. CO leaving with 4th wave.

In face of the terrific shell fire now on the Battalion bravely lead by its Officers sprung over the parapets and charged across No Man’s Land. Unfortunately, many Officers were struck down in this early stage together with senior NCO’s and in many instances were without leaders. Our wire had been well cut and there was no difficulty in getting through. No Man’s Land was fairly easy to cross although badly cut up by large craters and ditches full of water, etc. The enemy’s wire entanglements were found to be badly broken. No Man’s Land was swept mostly by enemy machine gun fire. The enemy’s first line was won and thoroughly cleared, many Germans were killed and prisoners taken. The dugouts were thoroughly searched by bombs. A temporary search was made for the communication trenches by (sic) could not be found except in one instance. Only sufficient men were left behind to assist the Lewis Machine Gunners in establishing Posts. The remainder swept on with the intention of capturing the second and third trenches in the first line system, but we went on and on but no trace could be found of same. It now appeared evident that the information supplied as to enemy defences and aerial photographs were incorrect and misleading…’

Not only was the information incorrect as to the German lines, the distance between the two lines of trenches (No Man’s Land) was considered too wide for a successful attack – especially with the enemy machine-gunners holding a superior firing position from the Sugar Loaf. Casualties across the AIF were horrific – 5,533 in total, with nearly 2000 men killed. The 31st Battalion alone suffered 573 casualties – over half its strength, effectively negating any further significant role on the Western Front for the remainder of 1916.

During the fighting, Roland acted as a company stretcher-bearer going out into No Man’s Land to retrieve the wounded, and also administering first aid. He later wrote home to his mother telling her that he had been through his first major battle and had come through ‘without a scratch.’ He also mentioned that he had bandaged the fingers of Arthur Eyckens, from Beaufort, after the younger boy was shot.

At the conclusion of the battle, Lieutenant-Colonel Toll made several recommendations for special recognition for men who had performed outstanding services as Army Medical Corps details and stretcher-bearers. As he pointed out, ‘…the work of all the men named was splendid, every one went in No Man’s Land repeatedly and brought back wounded men…’ Amongst those named was Roland Ingram.

Shortly after being withdrawn from the trenches at Fromelles, Roland was marching through a nearby town when he heard his name called out. On turning to see who was hailing him, he quickly spotted Frank and Bert Carter from Beaufort. The connections to home were seemingly everywhere!

As the months passed, the heavy work began to take its toll. Roland was experiencing lower back problems that caused sciatica and neuritis. The pain was severe enough that, on 1 November, he was admitted to the 5th Australian Field Ambulance before being transferred, via the 36th Casualty Clearing Station, to the 1st Canadian General Hospital at Étaples.

Although the issue was considered slight, it was nevertheless severe enough to warrant Roland being evacuated to England, and he sailed from Calais onboard the Hospital Ship Dieppe on 5 November. After receiving treatment at the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford, Roland was transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park on 13 December. Ever mindful of his mother’s concerns, Roland sent a cablegram through to let her know exactly where he was.

Roland spent Christmas 1916 at Harefield surrounded by comrades who were also recovering from battlefield wounds or illness. He was finally discharged from hospital on 5 January 1917 and granted the usual two-week furlough. On 20 January he marched into the No4 Command Depot at Wareham on the River Frome in Dorset.

Seemingly, the issues that had given rise to Roland suffering from sciatica meant the military authorities were loath to hasten a return to the frontline. As a result, he was transferred to the 65th Battalion, a training unit that was maintained in England.

On 21 April, Roland reported sick to the 16th Field Ambulance Hospital. Although it was not mentioned what illness caused him to require medical treatment, when he was later admitted to the Wareham Military Hospital (on 17 May) suffering from a carbuncle on his left thigh, it appears that an old condition had resurfaced.

After a month in hospital, Roland returned to his unit at Wareham Camp. But it wasn’t long before he was back in hospital – the carbuncle had developed into a deep-seated ulcer. He was admitted to the Tidworth Hospital from the Windmill Hill Camp on 16 August. The ulcer had flared whilst Roland was at Ludgershall and had infected the connective tissues of upper posterior aspect of his left thigh. On 28 August, an operation to curette the ulcer was performed at Tidworth Hospital.

Meanwhile, Roland, who appears to have been a frequent letter writer, wrote to Beaufort soldier, Private Leslie Robert Scott. Scott, who was in England with reinforcements for the 5th Battalion, then mentioned Roland when writing home to a friend on 1 August.

‘…I had a letter from Roland Ingram last week. He is camped at Tidworth, about six miles from here. They have a regular collection of Beaufort boys there, viz., Roy Rogers, Bob Bates, Don Carmichael, Bert Carter, and Denny Maher. Roland had a pretty bad time out on the Somme last winter, but says he has quite recovered. He was telling me that George Wilson is in hospital…’

To allow recuperation, Roland was transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford in Kent on 13 September. Two weeks later he was released to the No2 Command Depot at Weymouth, where he was transferred back to his old unit, the 31st Battalion.

Although this appears to indicate anticipation he would soon be fit enough to return to France, there was no further move by the Australian Command.
On 7 January 1918, Roland marched out to the No3 Command Depot at Hurdcott in Wiltshire – and the joys of winter on the edge of Salisbury Plain. A Medical Board held a week later confirmed that Roland was far from fit. Indeed, the medical findings considered the condition, caused by sepsis during war service, had caused a 20-percent disability and that it would be seven months before he would be fit.

The true picture was far more graphic. Roland had a two-inch deep sinus in his thigh that was still discharging. Another operation had also been performed to open and drain the infection. Although Roland was not in pain and was walking ‘fairly well,’ an open wound was not acceptable in any active position.

As a result, the decision was made to repatriate Roland back to Australia for a “change.” He sailed on 8 April 1918 onboard the transport Karoola. On reaching Suez, his leg was examined again on 26 April, with no change in his condition.

Whether it was due to the healthy, restfulness of sea air, or simply the lapse of time, by 22 May, Roland’s wound, although still emitting a slight discharge, had certainly improved.

The voyage took just short of seven weeks and the Karoola docked at Melbourne on 26 May. Roland was greeted in Beaufort the very next day…

‘…Pte. Roland Ingram, of Beaufort, who has been invalided home from the front, arrived in the township by the express train on Tuesday night, and was met at the station by a number of relatives and friends. Cheers were given for the returned soldier. Pte Ingram has been abroad on active service for nearly three years. He was invalided from France to England owing to illness, and upon his recovery, a long-standing injury to one of his legs again put him out of action…’

Roland was transferred to the No11 Australian General Hospital in Caulfield. He was assessed as experiencing an incapacity of one third and it was noted that he experienced some stiffness, which was caused by the large scar on his thigh.

After a transfer to the No16 Australian General Hospital at Macleod, further details of Roland’s condition were revealed. The wound had finally healed completely, but a significant area of scar tissue caused him to experience a dragging pain across the area and surrounding muscle tissue on flexing his thigh. It was recommended that daily massage be applied to the thigh to help break down the scar tissue.

By 22 July, the treatment had achieved excellent results. Roland had achieved very good flexion, without pain, of his thigh. His incapacity had not changed, but Roland wished to be released from hospital.

With his discharge on 15 August 1918, as medically unfit, Roland’s part in the Great War officially came to an end; but he had survived, unlike his friend, Arthur Eyckens, whose fingers he had bandaged during the Battle of Fromelles. Arthur was killed in action on 29 September 1917 near Black Watch Corner outside Ypres in Belgium and is buried in somewhere in the gentle fields of his father’s homeland.

Beginning a new chapter of his life, Roland Ingram married Annie Elizabeth Scriven at St John’s Presbyterian Church in Peel Street, Ballarat, on 14 September 1918, the ceremony being performed by the Reverend Phillip Shepherd. Annie was from Newport in Melbourne, so, yet again there is a mystery as to how the pair met.

Roland returned to his pre-war occupation as an engine driver, and the couple made their home in Frederick Street in the inner-western Melbourne suburb of Yarraville. Post-war Yarraville was very much a working-class suburb, quite different to the up-market district it has now become.

The sudden death of Roland’s father, Walter, came as a shock to the Beaufort community. The popular mail-contractor succumbed to a virulent attack of pneumonia on 20 March 1919. He had only been ill for just three days, which raises the question: was the main cause actually the Spanish influenza pandemic, which had finally taken hold in Australia? Another unknown detail…

By the early 1920’s, Roland and Annie had moved to 270 Melbourne Road in Newport. Whilst he continued to work as an engine driver, he speculated on a business venture with a George Edward Crawford, who manufactured batteries at a shop in Windsor.

It appears that Crawford was trouble from the outset.
In December 1932, Roland Ingram, accompanied by Senior-Plainclothes-Constable Alexander McKerral, approached Crawford at his shop in Wellington Street. The man was obviously in no mood to be interviewed and brandished a tomahawk at Roland. When McKerral attempted to disarm him, Crawford resisted, swinging the weapon and threatened ‘if you don’t let go, I will cut off your wrist.’ The resultant court case saw Crawford charged with assault and resisting arrest. He was fined a paltry 10-shillings on the assault of Roland Ingram and a further pound for the latter charge. The leniency was reportedly due to Crawford being an ‘excitable man.’ Crawford, in offering a defence, denied having committed an assault, and said that ‘Ingram and the constable annoyed him without any reason.’ He had also made a complaint to the then Police Commissioner, Major-General Thomas Blamey.

The dispute between the pair continued and was played out during a significant court case in August 1933.

‘…On a judgment summons taken out by Roland Ingram, of Newport, George Ernest Herbert Crawford, battery manufacture, of Prahran appeared before Judge Macindoe in the County Court, to show cause why he had not satisfied a judgment for £75 obtained against him by Ingram. Mr. Clyne (instructed by Mr. E. H. Hick) appeared for Ingram. Crawford said that he had not told Ingram that the profits from the manufacture of batteries was £20 a week. He might have described the business as a flourishing one. "I really do not remember what I did say," added witness. His Honor: I can tell you that Pentridge is a very cold spot at this time of the year. You had better pull yourself together and try to remember these things. Mr Clyne: Did you advertise for a partner? Witness: Yes. Did you describe it as an old established business-, and say that a partnership for £75 entitled the partner to draw £5 a week and a share in the profits? Yes. "Be Careful," Advises His Honor: Did any one of the five partners you have had draw £5 a week? - No. There were no profits in this case anyway, because Ingram refused to buy stock. Witness said that Ingram thoroughly understood the terms of the agreement before, he signed it. His Honor: You think you know a bit of law, but if you are not careful it will land you in a queer place. What did you do with the £70 Ingram paid you for stock? Witness: I paid it into my account. I received it for half the plant. Mr. Clyne said the business was a bogus one. In the course of 10 months Crawford had five partners, who paid sums of from £55 to £175. Ingram said he went into the partnership in October, 1932. Crawford told him the partnership was worth £20 a week, and that he was making from 20 to 40 batteries a week. He remained in the business for a fortnight, and during that time 15 batteries we're made. Only a few of these were sold. Two boys were employed. At the end of a fortnight (continued Ingram) Crawford told him he did not recognise him as a partner because he did not buy stock. He refused to do this on Crawford's valuation. Crawford would not let him bring in anyone to value the stock and had threatened if anyone were brought in to throw him out. Crawford cross-examined the witness at some length. His Honour: I can give you a little advice. There is a man named Gulliver at Pentridge serving a sentence of four years for what you appear to have done. Ingram said he believed Crawford when he said the profits were £20 a week. Crawford said he did not say the profits were £20 a week. He said he was making 20 batteries a week. He could not make any profits, because Ingram would not buy stock with which to make the batteries. His Honour said that Crawford had contracted a liability under false pretences. He would give Crawford a fortnight to pay Ingram the £75, and in default of such payment he would be imprisoned for three months…’

Following this unpleasantness, Roland and Annie left Melbourne for the new farming community of Cardross, a small town 15 kilometres southeast of Mildura. They lived there for a number of years before moving into Mildura, where they lived at 68 Orange Avenue.

Throughout this period, Roland continued to find work as an engine driver.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Roland Ingram watched as a new generation of young men marched away. He was not able to offer his services again – and as he and Annie had no children, there was neither the fear nor the pride that parents felt for those serving in the services.

Sadly, Roland was not to see the result of the second conflict – he died at Mildura on 10 July 1943. He was buried in the Nichols Point Cemetery.

After Roland’s death, Annie moved to South Street in Ballarat. She was a resident at what was then the Queen Elizabeth Geriatric Centre at 102 Ascot Street south, Ballarat, when she died on 4 June 1972.