James PIANTO MM

PIANTO, James

Service Number: 2762
Enlisted: 16 August 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 28th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Eaglehawk, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Millers Flat State School. Whipstick, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

16 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 28th Infantry Battalion
2 Nov 1915: Embarked Private, SN 2762, 28th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ulysses, Fremantle
2 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, SN 2762, 28th Infantry Battalion
25 Apr 1918: Honoured Military Medal, Villers-Bretonneux, 'On night of 24th/25th April, 1918, during a counter-attack by their Battalion on strong enemy position South of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX these (8) men who are Stretcher-bearers, continually under very heavy machine gun and shell fire, and at great personal risk, collected the wounded. Their untiring energy, bravery, and devotion to duty in clearing casualties were undoubtedly instrumental in saving many lives.' Recommendation date: 5 May 1918

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

James PIANTO

Military Medal

'On night of 24th/25th April, 1918, during a counter-attack by their Battalion on strong enemy position South of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX these (8) men who are Stretcher-bearers, continually under very heavy machine gun and shell fire, and at great personal risk, collected the wounded. Their untiring energy, bravery, and devotion to duty in clearing casualties were undoubtedly instrumental in saving many lives.'

Recommendation date: 5 May 1918

 

The Bendigo Advertiser announced a significant gold find in 1894 that excited the faltering mining sector in the city.

The headline announced: -GOLD IN THE WHIPSTICK—A LUCKY FIND. A SCHOOLBOY GETS A £40 SPECIMEN.

‘This is the scene of the find. A little boy, James Pianto, attending the Miller's Flat State School, Whipstick, while on his road to school noticed in a wheel track a remarkable looking stone, picked it up and told his schoolmates of his find. It reached the ears of the teacher (Mr. M. J. Moran), and he on looking at the stone found that it was one of the richest specimens of gold that he had ever seen—about three inches long, two broad and 1½ through, thickly studded with solid gold, bearing the imprint of many a wheel track’.[1]

The area of country lying to the north of Bendigo, known as the Whipstick scrub had in the past been mined as for alluvial gold however, yields had not been sustained. This find would soon lead to an immediate renewed interest in the area.

The following day the Bendigo Advertiser followed up with: -

The particulars published yesterday regarding the finding of a very rich specimen at Miller's Flat by a schoolboy named Pianto caused about 40 or 50 people to put in an appearance on the ground yesterday morning, and in a short time the hammering in of pegs showed that the prospectors were intent upon testing their fortunes. The Piantos were yesterday, so report goes, offered £50 for their specimen. It will probably be exhibited in the window at the Beehive Exchange to-day.[2]

James Pianto was ten years old when he found this sizable nugget of gold in 1894. The Pianto family were from either Italian or Swiss background and engaged in the wood carting business. A strong community of Italian and Swiss migrants as was in evidence by over 50 families contributing to the Eaglehawk’s Mayoral Fund in 1900.[3] Many of these families went on to be leading business people and farmers in the district. Eaglehawk’s rich diversity was reflected in the sporting arena and the Pianto name was constantly referenced in football columns of Bendigo. 

Prior to enlisting James had joined the many hundreds of Bendigo miners who had made the journey to the gold fields of the Kalgoolie area in Western Australia. Here he enlisted in Kalgoolie in August and sailed from the port of Fremantle in November 1915. The first report on James reaches the Bendigo press in May 1917: -  ‘Mrs. Pianto, of Whipstick Road, Eaglehawk, has been informed by the Defence Department that her son, Private, J. Pianto, 51st Battalion, has been wounded in France. He enlisted in Western Australia in 1915’.[4]

James would earn his bravery award as one of seven stretcher-bearers at the crucial battle to retake the high point town of Villers –Bretonneaux on the night of Anzac day 1918. The British had lost the town the day before and two Australian Brigades undertook the task to retake it, possibly changing the course of the war.

SERVICE DETAILS: 

Regimental No. 2762

Place of birth: Bendigo Victoria

Religion: Roman Catholic

Occupation: Labourer

Address: Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, and post war 76 Church Street, Eaglehawk

Marital status: Single

Age at enlistment: 33

Next of kin:                  Mother, Mrs Jane Pianto, Eaglehawk Post Office

Father Giovanni (John) Pianto deceased 1897.

Enlistment date: 10 August 1915

Unit name: 28th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement & 51st Battalion

Embarked from Fremantle, W.A, on board HMAT A38 Ulysses on 2 November 1915

Final Rank: Private                  

Military Medal

Fate: Returned to Australia 31 December 1918

 

On night of 24th/25th April, 1918, South of VILLERS - BRETONNEUX.

One of the most hazardous medical jobs was that of stretcher-bearers and field ambulance workers, who were often the first to see the wounded and to carry them to treatment. Frequently in the French battlefields, this would involve long and dangerous journeys on foot, carrying the wounded through mud and gunfire. Many stretcher-bearers and medical personnel recalled that the worst part of the work in collecting the wounded was hearing them cry out for their family, especially mothers, which brought home to them how young most of the soldiers were.[5]

Private Harold Campbell wrote to the parents of Arthur Graham (stretcher bearer) of White Hills on their son’s death: - ‘A little while ago a padre, over the grave of one of our bearers, said:— "If Christ was on earth today he would be a stretcher bearer."

 

[1] The Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 13 Apr 1894. Page 2  GOLD IN THE WHIPSTICK—A LUCKY FIND. A SCHOOLBOY GETS A £40 SPECIMEN.
[2] Bendigo Advertiser Sat 14 Apr 1894. Page 3  GOLD IN THE WHIPSTICK—A 2 OZ. SPECIMEN FOUND.
3  Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic. : 1914 - 1918)  Thu 4 Nov 1915  Page 6  EAGLEHAWK WOODCARTERS.
[4] The Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 - 1918)  Sat 12 May 1917  Page 8, WOUNDED SOLDER
[5] Australian War Memorial Website https://www.awm.gov.au/visit/exhibitions/1918/medical

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