Roy Holly (Jack) LARWOOD

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LARWOOD, Roy Holly

Service Number: 2437
Enlisted: 5 April 1916, Petersburg, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Yacka, South Australia, 29 October 1890
Home Town: Yacka, South Australia
Schooling: Yacka Public School
Occupation: Teacher
Died: Killed in Action, Flers, France, 23 February 1917, aged 26 years
Cemetery: Bulls Road Cemetery, Flers
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Dawson War Memorial, South Australian Education Department Roll of Honour, Yacka Public School Roll of Honour, Yacka WWI Honour Board, Yacka War Memorial, Yacka War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

5 Apr 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2437, 50th Infantry Battalion, Petersburg, South Australia
21 Sep 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2437, 50th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
21 Sep 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2437, 50th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Commonwealth, Adelaide
23 Feb 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2437, 50th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages

Roy LARWOOD, remembered at Waikerie

Roy Holly LARWOOD was born in Yacka, South Australia, on the 29th of October 1890 the son of the late John Henry and Elizabeth Larwood. He was known to family and friends as “Jack”. Jack also had a sister, who married a Boer War Veteran Roderick James McLEOD.

After his schooling at the YACKA School he decided to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and become a school teacher. He studied with Mr J.F. COULTER and then entered the Observation School in Currie Street ADELAIDE to be instructed in and teach students there using the latest methods. There he “proved himself a capable and successful teacher.”

Jack was posted to Waikerie; his first head teachers position in February 1910 (replacing Mrs RANBITT). He arrived keen and ready to teach in the new methods to his 23 students.

Waikerie was a building community on the River Murray and Jack was disappointed that the school was so far from the centre of the community. (The school, first opened in 1896, was situated at the corner of what are now Ramco Road and The Avenue at Waikerie).

Jack quickly became involved in the community playing football, cricket and tennis. He helped establish the Scouts in the area becoming the Assistant Scout Master at Waikerie. He also helped design plans for a “modern school” that would cater to both Primary and Higher primary grades. He and the school committee also desired that the new school should be in or nearer the centre of the town area to be more effective. All these changes were accepted, and construction of the new school soon began.

In May 1911 a concert in aid of the local cricket club was held in the Waikerie school room, during the evening a gold medal for the best all round player was presented by Mr R. J. GRAHAM to Jack. He also was regularly mentioned in football game summaries of the time as a good player for “The WAIKERIEs”.

Jack, however, was transferred to another school, for the 1912 school year by the education department. He moved to Little Swamp, Calca, Lipson, Thebarton (as assistant headmaster), Canowie Belt, and Dawson over the next 4 years! Most of these schools were new or needed improvement which it seems Jack was able to provide.

On 5th of April, 1916, Jack travelled from Dawson to Petersberg (now Peterborough) and enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.). A social was held in Dawson on Jacks leaving and the school was taken over by Mr McDONALD. Jack was presented with “a fine set of brushes and a cigarette case”.

On enlistment he was described as 25 and 5/12 years old, 5’11 ½” tall and weighed 165 pounds. He had a dark complexion, grey eyes and black hair. Jack entered the Exhibition Camp in ADELAIDE and was soon transferred to the Mitcham Training Camp. He was with the 5th Reinforcements of the 50th Battalion and the Unit embarked from Adelaide, on board HMAT (A73) Commonwealth on 21 September 1916. Jack was a temporary Sergeant at this time.

Whilst on board the troopship headed overseas Jack wrote this letter to the children of his latest school, Dawson.
________________
No. 2437. Sgt. R. H. Larwood,
5th Reinforcements of the 50th Infantry Battalion, A.I.F.,
on active service at sea ("S.S. Commonwealth.")

— Dear Boys and Girls—
I have written ever so many letters for this mail, but I have time for one or two more, so I thought, well, I would write to you all—not individually, but collectively.

I have thought of you all many times. You see you are all so busy, I expect, that you haven't had time to think of me. I have so little to do and have ample time to reflect. It is a month on Thursday since we left the Outer Harbour, and what a time it seems—years in fact. Lovely weather we have had. only two or three rough days, and then we had some fun!

How many of you have been on a ship in a rough sea? When every wave threatens to come right over you. and swallow you up for good! When the crockery and tinware have sports on their own account and race and plunge about the decks and tables. To have your breakfast in then a work of art. Yon rock about so much that if you are not careful you will put the fork in somebody else's mouth instead of your own. Somebody's chop makes a mad rush for your porridge, and in your endeavour to stop the chop you knock your pals' tea over. He in turn anxious for the safety of his uniform, waves his arms to ward off the attack, only to find that he has knocked several more things over; such the destruction goes on.

Anyway, as we are all getting fatter and fatter the rough weather cannot have disturbed our meals too much. Now, kiddies, you'll feel like getting cross with me for calling you that, but I'm out of reach, you know. I cannot tell you where we are because the censors would only cross it out. We called at Fremantle-. and went to Perth. We had such a good time.

We get to our next port of call tomorrow.: I do wish I could tell you where it is. This morning we were in sight of a range of hills that I have taught many times, to you, and we also saw the first ship since leaving Western Australia.

I had a change in the hospital for a day—only influenza. Some of the chaps in our company came to have a look at me. They thought it very funny that a big fellow like me should get ill. but I'm feeling "tip-top' again.

Now, pardon my scribble, the nib is bad, and the boat is rocking and rolling. You know even though I'm away from the school I still have inspectors. I can't seem to get rid of them somehow.

My work on board is that of Troop Deck Sergeant. I have to keep the part of the deck we use clean; twenty-four men are given to me for the purpose. They have to wash the dishes, sweep and scrub the door, etc. My word! you should see the polish they get on their kettles and pans, etc. Of course, I don't have to wash dishes, etc. I have to see that the job is done. Then at 11 o'clock the inspection comes along. There are about 10 of them, and if there are any dirty corners you bet they will find them.

My work ends at 11 o'clock, and then I'm free to sleep or write or smoke a "fag' on the boat deck, or to lounge in an easy chair. We rise at 6 in the morning, breakfast at 8. The men work from 10 to 12. and from 2 till 3. and then they are free too.

The time is filled in with sports—wrestling. boxing, potato races, tug of wars, etc. By the way, it is quite the fashion for the "boys" on board to grow moustaches—Charlie Chaplin ones—that is about 1-inch each side of the nose. After seeing some of the other attempts I have sworn off. The majority of the "boys" are attending church service, but letter writing has claimed my attention. Everybody seems busy on his letters now because the mail closes very soon, and most of them leave their writing to the last minute, and they have to hurry.

You have often beard me speak of the differences in time, well we are between seven and eight hours later than you are in dear old South Australia, It seems strange to think that when you are fast asleep we are only having tea. -

Now. I do hope that some of you will write a few lines, or a few pages, will be better. You cannot imagine how pleased I shall be to hear any news of South Australia. I have given yon my address on the top of this letter. Do you know I started with the intention of writing a couple of pages? I would love to keep going and tell you many tilings about the ship and the men and our ports of call, but I can’t as I explained before.

Don’t forget I’ll be pleased to hear. Best wishes to you all.
Roy LARWOOD.
My best wishes to Mr McDONALD.
__________________

Jacks letter, posted to the Dawson schoolchildren from the troopship in September arrived in early December 1916.

On reaching England they entered a military school at Tidsworth, and on December 13, 1916 left for France and joined the 50th Battalion at the front. At this time his rank reverted to that of Private.

After arriving in France on 11 June 1916, the 50th had fought in its first major battle at Mouquet Farm between 13 and 15 August and suffered heavily. It took part in another assault launched there on 3 September. The battalion saw out the rest of the year alternating between front-line duty, and training and labouring behind the line. This routine continued through the bleak winter of 1916–17 and it was into this stalemate that Jack entered the trenches.

In early January Jack was advised that his service number of 2437 would now be 2437A as there was another member of the 50th with the same number. (This was a common occurrence in the First World War.)

Only 6 weeks later, on the 23rd of February 1917, Jack aged 26 years was killed in action, at Flers, France during the ANCRE offensive on the Somme. This offensive involved the 50th and others fighting to force the German Withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line and through “Outpost Villages” like Flers.
Jacks mother was devastated and her health deteriorated badly after receiving the news.

In late May, 1917, Jacks brother, Mr. L. L. LARWOOD of Booboorowie North, received a letter from his brother-in-law, Private Rod J. McLEOD (who had since writing the letter been killed in action). It detailed the death, of his brother in law Sergeant Roy Holly LARWOOD in France. It appears that Jack and three other Australians were together in the line when a shell burst in their midst. Sergeant Larwood and the others were killed instantly.
Hearing the news Private. C. H. VIRGO wrote to the Murray Pioneer and River Record

"Mr. Roy LARWOOD was staying at Mrs. John FRANCIS place at WAIKERIE when I was staying there, and words fail to restore how grieved I am to know that such a fine chap as Roy has had to sacrifice his life in this wretched war. I have watched Larwood on the football field, and at tennis, and he was always a gentle man and a clean sportsman."

On May 29th, 1917 Empire Day was celebrated at the WAIKERIE school. "The day was fine and there was a large attendance of parents and visitors. At 11 o’clock the children sang the Song of Australia and the head master (Mr. BECK) welcomed the parents and called on Mr. Wilson FRANCIS to unveil a photograph of the late Private H. LARWOOD (as he was a former teacher of the school and had been killed in action only two months before.)

Mr. FRANCIS in a “few feeling remarks referred to his acquaintance with the deceased soldier and eulogised him for his manly qualities whether in the school or on the football and cricket field, or the home. The children could do their part by learning well and faithfully from their teachers and parents to be fair and kind to each other; then our soldiers would not die in vain.”

Mr. A. E. ROSS moved a resolution that the sympathy of the parents, teachers and children of the WAIKERIE school be forwarded to the late Pte. Larwood's mother. This was seconded by the Rev. E. H. WOOLLACOTT and carried unanimously.

Sadly the photograph was later stored with the school archive and was amongst a lot of property badly damaged beyond repair during storm flooding.

Jack was buried in the BULLS ROAD CEMETERY, (Plot 1, Row A, Grave 42), in FLERS, FRANCE. His parents opted for the inscription “HIS DUTY NOBLY DONE” on his tombstone.

It was noted that Jack was buried with his mates that he bravely fought and died alongside, all of whom died in the same blast. They are Lance Corporal Alfred Leslie PITT, Private Andrew HALVORSEN, and Private Francis Gordon ANGRAVE.

Jack is commemorated on the Adelaide National War Memorial (WW1), the Australian War Memorial, the Roll of Honour, the Dawson Memorial, the Yacka Public School WWI memorial, and the Yacka WWI and WWII Memorial to the Fallen.

He is also remembered at Waikerie as he had spent a few years heavily involved in the community in Waikerie only a few short years before enlisting for service.

LEST WE FORGET

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Biography

Private Roy Holly Larwood is buried in Bulls Road Cemetery with his mates that he bravely fought and died alongside;

Lance Corporal Alfred Leslie Pitt,

Private Andrew Halvorsen, and,

Private Francis Gordon Angrave

"LATE SGT. R. H. LARWOOD.

The late Sgt. Roy H. (Jack) Larwood, of Yacka, who has been killed in action in France, was a fine athlete. He took an enthusiastic interest in cricket, football, and tennis, and played all three games successfully. He was also actively interested in literary society work. He was born on October 29, 1890, and was educated at the Yacka school. He decided to follow his brother's profession as a teacher, and after studying under Mr. J. F. Coulter, now of Wilmington, he entered the Observation School. He proved himself a capable and successful teacher, and had charge successively of the following schools during his six years in the Education Department:— Waikerie, Little Swamp, Calca, Lipson, Thebarton (assistant), Canowie Belt, and Dawson. He enlisted from Dawson in May last, and left with the 5th Reinforcements of the 50th Battalion in September as a sergeant. On reaching England he entered a military school at Tidsworth, and on December 13 left for France. He was for about six weeks in the firing line before he was killed." - from the Adelaide Journal 21 Mar 1917 (nla.gov.au)

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