Archie Lorne BOX

Poppy

BOX, Archie Lorne

Service Number: 1621
Enlisted: 22 November 1915, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 55th Infantry Battalion
Born: Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, 13 May 1896
Home Town: Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Schooling: Wagga Wagga Primary and High Schools
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Killed in Action, France, 6 April 1918, aged 21 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

22 Nov 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1621, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
14 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1621, 55th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
14 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1621, 55th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Sydney
6 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 1621, 55th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux

ARCHIE BOX - by Sherry Morris

The Kangaroo March was the longest of the recruiting marches held in New South Wales and Queensland during the First World War. It commenced in Wagga Wagga on December 1, 1915 with about eighty-eight marchers and arrived in Sydney on January 7, 1916 with a nominal strength of 222 after a march of 350 miles (560 kilometres). Altogether the march had attracted 251 recruits.

Archie Lorne Box was the Acting Quarter Master Sergeant for the March. He was just 19 years, 5 months of age when he enlisted on November 22, 1915 with the permission of both his parents, Benjamin and Jane Box.

Archie came from a farming background. Grandfather Charles Lindon had managed properties for the Macarthur family before he brought the family by bullock dray to the Wagga area about 1864 and settled north of the river. Unfortunately he died within a few years during the disastrous floods of 1870 but Grandmother Frances (nee Patterson) survived until just a few months before Archie’s enlistment.

Grandfather Benjamin Box, an English immigrant, had been a farmer in Victoria and his son, Archie’s father (also named Benjamin), had come to Wagga to take up land in the Bomen area north of Wagga about 1890.

Archie’s parents were well known in Wagga. Benjamin, in addition to running his dairy farm, managed the Wagga Freezing Works and Butter Factory for many years. He was actively associated with many local organizations particularly swimming clubs and the Eight Hour Association and was a Justice of the Peace. Both he and his wife Jane were prominent members of the Wagga Political Labor League. During the First World War he devoted considerable time and energy to recruiting.

Archie had been educated at Wagga Primary School and Wagga High School and had been employed as a clerk by Messrs Charles Hardy and Co, a prominent building company, in Wagga. He had served for three years with senior cadets and one year with the Australian Field Artillery and had been a member of Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows. He was 173 centimetres in height, and weighed 68 kilograms. He had brown hair, grey eyes and brown complexion.

Archie’s older brother Charles Andrew later enlisted in September 1916 while his older brother Harry (Henry George), a clerk at Council Chambers, volunteered three times but was rejected each time.

After their arrival in Sydney, the Kangaroos returned to the Goulburn Military Camp where they received some rudimentary training, mainly basic military drills and lessons in shooting and marching. Archie was appointed as an EDP (Extra Duties Pay) corporal.

With most of the Kangaroos Archie was assigned to the second reinforcements of the 55th Battalion. When he embarked with the bulk of the Kangaroos on the Ceramic April 14, 1916, he was again appointed an EDP Corporal for the duration of the journey. The Ceramic arrived in Port Said just over two months later.

After a few months training in Egypt Archie embarked on Arcadian at Alexandria on July 29, 1916. He again served as an EDP Corporal from August 1, 1916 to October 1, 1916 when he was promoted to Temporary Corporal until October 31, 1916.

In England the Kangaroos trained with the 14th Training Battalion at Hurdcott, Tidmouth and Temporary Corporal Box was used as an instructor in self-defense and bayonet fighting. He was retained at Hurdcott after the remainder of the Kangaroos left for France in September 1916. It was about that time that he would have been notified of the death of his mother, Jane.

Eventually, on December 30, 1916, three months after the departure of the main Kangaroo contingent, he embarked on the Princess Henrietta. He was promoted to Corporal on January 24, 1917 and joined the 55th Battalion ‘in the field’ in France about two weeks later.

At that stage the Germans were withdrawing from the Somme to the Hindenburg Line, a network of trenches protected by broad barbed wire entanglements up to 100 metres thick and interspersed with several machine gun posts and strongpoints. The Australian forces were pursuing the Germans and the 55th Battalion was among the Australians that entered Bapaume on March 17, 1917.

On April 2, 1917 the 55th and 56th battalions which included most of the Kangaroos attacked the little village outposts of Doignies and Louverval on the Cambrai Road which had to be captured before the Hindenburg Line could be reached. Several Kangaroos were casualties including Archie who was severely wounded in the stomach by a bullet which had grazed his lower right quadrant of his abdomen.

After receiving treatment at the 9th Casualty Clearing Station and then the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Wimereux, he was transported to England where he was admitted to the Norfolk War Hospital at Thorpe in Norwich. Within two months, he had recovered from the wound and, the doctor decided, he had ‘practically no disability although he still had pain in his back’.

By the time Archie rejoined the 55th Battalion in France on August 27, 1917 the Australians were engaged in the Flanders Offensive in an effort to drive the Germans from Belgium. The 55th played a major role in the Battle of Polygon Wood in September soon afterwards.

Then the 55th Battalion had to endure appalling conditions at Passchendaele – heavy and incessant rain and mud that was so deep and enveloping that if the soldiers ventured off the duckboards they became bogged – together with unrelenting bombardment and machine gun fire which caused heavy casualties. Two weeks’ leave in Britain from March 18, 1918 gave Archie some relief.

Unfortunately just two days after his return to the front, on April 6, 1918, he was killed in action while the 55th was defending the village of Villers Bretonneux against a major German offensive to regain lost ground on the Somme. He was buried 1400 metres North East of Villers Bretonneux.

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