Samuel Septimus ALLOM

ALLOM, Samuel Septimus

Service Number: 1886
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Napier, New Zealand, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Murgon, South Burnett, Queensland
Schooling: Church School Napier, New Zealand
Occupation: Farm Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 9 June 1918, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Murgon Memorial Wall, Murgon RSL Honour Board, Murgon War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

16 Aug 1915: Involvement Private, 1886, 25th Infantry Battalion
16 Aug 1915: Embarked Private, 1886, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Kyarra, Brisbane
9 Jun 1918: Involvement Private, 1886, 49th Infantry Battalion

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

Biography contributed by Ian Lang

#1886  ALLOM Samuel Septimus. 49th Infantry Battalion
Samuel Allom was born in Napier, New Zealand to parents Alfred and Ann Allom. He attended the Church School in Napier up until he was 9 years old. At the age of 13, Samuel emigrated to Queensland. It appears that his mother did not accompany him as her address continued to be in Napier.
Samuel gave his religion as Seventh Day Adventist and it is likely that he went to work for George Welsey Burgess, a landowner in the Murgon district. There was another young man working on Mr Burgess’ farm; D’Arcy Amos who was of a similar age to Samuel and was also of the Seventh Day Adventist faith. D’Arcy was George Burgess’ nephew. It is reasonable to assume that Mr Burgess was also an Adventist.
The First World War created a dilemma for the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church which due to its religious teachings did not embrace the idea of the war. This was in sharp contrast to the attitude of the mainstream Christian Churches. In England, SDA members who were conscripted were given non-combatant roles but in Australia where there was no conscription, there was no compunction for SDA members to enlist. Anti-War sentiments were perhaps not part of Samuel’s family’s thinking as his mother had signed the form giving her permission for her son to enlist. Additionally, Samuel’s friend at the Burgess farm, D’Arcy Moses also enlisted, as did Samuel’s brother in New Zealand who was awarded the Military Medal. All three young men fought in combat units.
Samuel presented himself for enlistment at Wondai on 5th June 1915. He had come prepared with the written permission from his mother in New Zealand. The note indicated that Sam’s father was deceased. Wondai was not an approved recruitment centre so Sam was issued with a chit which indicated that a local doctor had examined him and passed him as fit. The chit permitted Sam to travel by train to Brisbane where he was formally admitted into the AIF on 17th June 1915. At the time he was 18 years and 10 months of age, stated his occupation as farm hand and named his mother Anne of Napier, NZ, as his next of kin.
After a brief period of training in a depot battalion at Enoggera, Samuel was allocated as part of the 3rdReinforcements for the 25th Battalion, part of the 7th Brigade of the 2nd Division AIF. On 16th August, Samuel and the other 150 odd reinforcements boarded the “Kayarra” at Pinkenba Wharf and sailed via Sydney and Melbourne to Egypt. Once in camp in Egypt, the reinforcements were put through their paces to prepare them for being sent to the fighting at Gallipoli. The main body of the 25th Battalion were already ashore when Samuel and the other reinforcements landed at Anzac Cove at night on the 12th October 1915.
After the frantic and bloody battles on the Anzac Front of April, May and August in which no new ground was acquired by either side, the situation had developed into a stalemate. The arrival of the men of the 2ndDivision, allowed the sick and exhausted men who had been on the peninsula since the first day to be evacuated to Mudros for a period of rest and recuperation. The 25th was engaged in mainly fatigue duties in the first few weeks carrying water and rations up to the firing line. They also had their share of frontline duty at Cheshire Ridge and the Apex. November 1915 was a watershed for the Australians at Gallipoli. The weather changed for the worse, with flooding rains which filled the trenches and snow. Field Marshall Lord Kitchener, the Minister of War in the British Government and a man with a reputation as the empire’s greatest soldier, staged a surprise inspection of the positions at Anzac and Cape Helles. Upon his return to London, Kitchener informed the War Cabinet that the situation on Gallipoli was untenable and decisions were made to withdraw all troops.
Before the mass evacuation took place, Samuel reported sick to a Field Hospital on Anzac. He was transferred to a Hospital Ship on 16th December 1915 and admitted to the Australian Hospital at Mudros on the Greek Island of Lemnos. By 21st December, Samuel was admitted to the Bombay Presidency General Hospital in Cairo with trench feet caused by frostbite.
Samuel was discharged from hospital on 18th January and then rejoined the 25th which after being evacuated from Gallipoli was camped at Tel-el-Kabir adjacent to the Suez Canal. During February 1916, the 25th was engaged in the defence of the Suez Canal from a possible Turkish incursion. At the beginning of March, the 25th was ordered to prepare for embarkation and subsequent sailing from Alexandria to Marseilles in Southern France. For reasons that are not stated, Samuel did not accompany the main body of the battalion but remained in camp in Egypt until boarding a ship at Alexandria for the voyage across the Mediterranean on 7th June 1917. Upon arrival in Marseilles, Samuel was sent to a depot camp at Etaples where he remained for six weeks.
The major offensive of the British forces (which included troops from the dominions and rest of the empire) was the campaign launched on 1st July 1916 on the Somme. Things did not go well on the first day, with 60,000 casualties reported. Once committed to the plan, the British Field Commander General Douglas Haig continued to send his fresh battalions, many of which were comprised of young conscripts, up against the German wire and machine guns. Two weeks after the start of the campaign, the front had progressed only a short distance and Haig was forced to throw some of his reserve divisions, which included the Australians, into the battle.
While in camp at Etaples, Samuel was reallocated to the 49th Battalion; another Queensland battalion which was part of the 4th Division. On 21st July, Samuel was taken strength by the 49th. The 49th Battalion entered its first major action at Pozieres on 7th August when it was put in to relieve troops of the 2nd Division. No sooner had the relief been completed than a huge counterattack was launched, pounding the trenches for several days. Eventually, the village of Pozieres, although a pile of rubble, and the trenches along the crest of the ridge were secured and the focus of the battle shifted less than a mile towards a ruined farm which the Germans had heavily fortified by extending the cellars and creating a line of three defensive trenches. The farm was depicted on the maps as “La Ferme du Mouquet” but the Australians referred to it as “Moo Cow Farm” or “Mucky Farm.”
The assault of the farm was conducted on an ever-decreasing front that was enfiladed by German artillery and machine guns. The ground was so churned up that advancing troops could not recognise a trench line when they reached it. Attempts to dig new trenches were unsuccessful due to the loose ground caving in. In an attack beginning at 5:10am on 3rd September 1916, the 49th battalion advanced on the farm under an intense artillery barrage, inflicting the heaviest casualties encountered so far. Mouquet Farm remained in German hands until abandoned in October.
The Australians had been involved in the Somme campaign for 45 days during which they had launched 19 attacks against the formidable German defences. The attacks had cost the AIF 23,000 casualties with almost all survivors suffering shell shock to some degree. Samuel was fortunate that he had come through the ordeal relatively unharmed. The 4th Division was withdrawn to the rear areas around Albert as the war continued. Battalions such as the 49th spent the time resting and replacing lost equipment, and men. The onset of Winter curtailed any offensive operations. The men of the AIF, while occupying the front line had to endure freezing temperatures, rain, frost and snow. In an attempt to keep the men warm, the authorities quickly sourced sheepskin waistcoats from Australia.
On 3rd January 1917, with the western front still in the grip of winter, Samuel was granted two week’s leave in England. A month after returning to his unit, he reported to the 12th Field Ambulance suffering from influenza. Samuel was transported via a casualty clearing station to the 1st Australian Hospital at Rouen. His condition did not improve and Samuel was carried onto the Hospital Ship “Panama” on the 1st March for evacuation to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, a suburb of Southampton where he remained until 16thMay. Upon discharge, Samuel reported to the 13th Brigade depot at Dartford before being shipped back to France in June. Following a short stay at the Reinforcements depot, Samuel finally rejoined his battalion on 4th July 1917.
In the summer of 1917, British operations shifted north from France into Belgium and the part of the Front close to the ancient city of Ypres. When Samuel walked into the 49th lines, the battalion had just come out of the attack on Messines Ridge. Casualties had been heavy but the objective was taken and held. The time between battles was spent in training for the next assault that would involve the AIF, the capture of high ground in front of Ypres and to the north of the Menin Road.
Again the 49th was withdrawn after the success of Menin Road in late September and prepared for the next call up to the front. The Flanders campaign, which began at Messines in June had enjoyed unparalleled success at Menin Road and Polygon Wood. In October, just after the capture of Broodseinde Ridge, the weather turned. Heavy rain flooded the already boggy ground of the battlefield turning it to a sea of mud. The 49th were ordered up to the line at Broodseinde and they had to slog through conditions that brought many of their ranks to exhaustion. On 23rd October, Samuel was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples with a case of malaria, a disease which he probably contracted while in Egypt.
By the time that Samuel was discharged to his battalion, the front had been closed down for winter once more and the Australians spent a more comfortable time in billets around the town of Poperinghe. The military situation at the beginning of 1918 was very different from that which had existed in the previous years of the war on the Western Front. The Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent peace treaty on the Eastern Front had released almost 50 divisions of German Troops from the east; and presented the German commanders with a temporary numerical advantage which could be exploited on the Western Front.
The British and French Commanders were expecting a large German offensive in the first half of 1918, but their intelligence was unable to pinpoint where the offensive would strike. Haig, expected the offensive in his sector to come in Belgian Flanders and as a consequence he kept his most reliable troops, the five Australian Divisions, in the area between Ypres and Armentieres to meet the threat. Operation Michael began on 21st March with a well-executed drive by the German army from their defences on the Hindenburg Line down the line of the Somme Valley towards the vital communication hub of Amiens.
Haig had gambled that the advance would be in Belgium, and he had lost. The British 5th Army which held the line astride the Somme River near Peronne was completely overrun, with men falling back in disarray. Realising that if Amiens was taken the war would be lost, Haig began to order units of the AIF south to take up holding positions. One of the first units to be rushed south was the 13th Brigade of the 4th Division.
The 49th Battalion travelled through the night on trains, buses and finally a 20 kilometre march, to take up position near the village of Dernacourt. On the morning of the 5th April, a German force estimated to be two and a half divisions engaged the heavily outnumbered Australians. At least two companies of the 47thBattalion were overrun with heavy casualties before a counterattack by amongst other units, the 49th, rescued the situation.
The 49th continued to hold its tenuous position at Dernacourt during April and into May before a brief rest before being put back into the line at Sailley-le-Sec on the banks of the Somme Canal. The war diary of the 49th records on the 9th June, a particularly heavy artillery barrage by 5.9 howitzers lasted several hours. It is presumed that it was during this bombardment that Samuel Allom was killed in action.
Samuel was buried initially in the Vaux Communal Cemetery but his remains were reinterred in the Villers Bretonneux Cemetery when it was established in the 1920’s. Samuel’s mother received his personal effects which included a bible, photos, letters and cards. Samuel’s good friend, D’Arcy Amos who survived the war to return to Murgon, requested photographs of Samuel’s grave.