Harold William Hastings SEAGER MC

SEAGER, Harold William Hastings

Service Number: S65242
Enlisted: 19 August 1914
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: Kangaroo Island Detention Company
Born: Inglewood, Victoria, 6 July 1893
Home Town: Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Christchurch Grammar School and Pulteney Street Grammar School
Occupation: Bank clerk
Died: Natural causes, South Australia, 3 January 1976, aged 82 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Adelaide HB15 Pulteney Grammar School WW1 and WW2, Auburn Primary School Honour Roll WW1*, ButeHB3*, Tanunda HB1 - Tanunda District WW I Honour Board*, UnleyHB05 St Augustine Church*
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, 10th Infantry Battalion
2 Feb 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Clan McGillivray, Melbourne
2 Feb 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
4 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 10th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
26 Feb 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 50th Infantry Battalion
2 Apr 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, 50th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
23 Jul 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Major, 50th Infantry Battalion
31 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 50th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
30 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, Sea Transport Staff
11 Nov 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Major, 50th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

23 Mar 1942: Enlisted Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Captain, SN S65242, Kingscote, South Australua
3 May 1944: Discharged Citizen Military Forces (CMF) / Militia - WW2, Captain, SN S65242, Kangaroo Island Detention Company

Letter to Mr Armitage describing the fighting at Noureil in April 1917 where Harold Armitage was killed in action

Extract from Dr Roger Freeman's book "Hurcombe's Hungry Half Hundred"
Letter from Major Harry Seager (50th Battalion) to Mr Armitage.

You asked for a description of the doings of the 50th [battalion] from the 20th March, 1917, to 3 April, 1917, and the last days of Harold. Well, I shall endeavour to do so, as best I can. On about the 20th March the Battalion moved up from their billets at Buire (their advance base) to participate in the great German retreat. After leaving Buire we camped in huts at Mamety Camp, just beyond Albert on the Somme battlefield, for a few days. Nearly every afternoon Harold and myself used to go for long rides. On Sunday afternoon we visited Pozieres and Mouquet Farm, the place where he had fought and suffered so much. Even then the mud was so bad we had to dismount and leave our horses. The shell-fire had been so terrific there was no a blade of grass left, and the fields was still littered with fragments of unburied dead, equipment, etc. I saw the site of Harold’s Company Hqrs in a shallow trench, and knew what he had been through. If anyone deserved a decoration for those awful days of fighting, he did. We inspected the farm itself – and no wonder it could not be destroyed by shell-fire. It was a veritable fortress with fortified cellars, deep dug-outs underneath them, and tunnels leading to goodness knows where.

A day or so afterwards the Battalion moved right across the Somme field, past High Wood and other historic places, and billeted in British and German dug-outs at La Sars (near the great Butte de Warlencourt), a great mound three hundred feet in circumference, erected by some prehistoric people over their dead, killed in some big battle. Next morning, the Colonel rode ahead and order his four company commanders to follow him early that afternoon, leaving the battalion to be brought on by his Second in Command. Harold, Todd, Churchill-Smith and myself started early that afternoon and joined the main Albert-Bapaume Road near the Butte. The old Roman road was a sight to be seen, packed with transport, guns, ammunition and troops all moving forward. Every now and then we would come to a mine crater in the middle of the road and engineers intensely repairing the damage. Bapaume itself was a terrible wreck. Every house and building had been blown up. As we passed the place where the town had been, we could see men still digging out their comrades. Not one stone remained upon another. It must be remembered that the Hall had been previously blown up, but was blown up again by a delayed-action fuse some days afterwards, when some troops were in it. One of the very few ruses of the Germans that were successful. After passing through the town we came to open country, here and there defended by strong systems of trenches and wire, but still given up by the Germans for some reason without striking a blow. Along this road we found the Colonel awaiting us. He took us to the ruined town of Vaulx-Vraucourt.

Most of the roads in France were broad, with avenues of trees. But in this country the Germans had cut down all the trees on one side of the road. In Vaulx I also saw fruit trees and rose bushes cut down. Packs, valises, etc., were dumped just before the Battalion entered Vaulx. Transports, cookers, etc., were also left there. A, C and D Companies proceeded straight to the outpost line and B Company and Headquarters stayed in Vaulx. About the 30th or the 31st of March, B Company took over the line from A and C Companies, which returned to Vaulx. I relieved Harold and had a long talk to him that night.

I shall not describe the outpost work or patrol encounters to you, but will get to the main attack. The battle on the 2nd of April was not only carried out in Noreuil, but other Divisions took part and it resulted in the capture of several villages. Noreuil is a village lying some miles north-east of Bapaume. In front and to the south of the village ran a low ridge almost east and west of the village of Queant is a valley – a dismantled railway track ran along this valley. On the north of the village and valley is a plateau running away to the north towards Bullecourt and the Hindenberg Line. Longatte is almost a mile to the west, slightly north of of Noreuil. Lagnicourt was less than a mile to the south-east of Noreuil, and just behind the ridge about three miles to the south-west lay Vaulx. Our outpost line through Lagnicourt on the east, along the reserve slope or crest of the ridge in front of Noreuil, around Longatte, and then north-west to Arras.

The village of Noreuil formed a slight salient into our line. The Germans were slowly falling back upon the Hindenberg Line, destroying villages, etc., as they went. They defended their line by a system of rearguards and outposts, comprised of their best troops. Most of Noreuil had been destroyed or mined. Its evacuation was forestalled, by our attack, for twelve days. The Germans defended Noreuil with the 119th and 120th Regiments (3rd Guard Division). The village was very strongly held on the western side and by fortified, sunken roads on the south and eastern side.

The German line ran along the southern ridge. This was protected by a belt of wire which could not be seen from the top of the ridge owing to the convex slope. The supports were in the sunken roads to the north and west of the village. The Attack The 52nd Battalion in front of Lagnicourt had to advance in a north-east direction for a few hundred yards on to the crest of the southern ridge, and then dig in. This involved practically two waves of two platoons each (four lines). The other company (which was to sweep to the right of the village) formed one wave, with one platoon of the Reserve Company in support. (The platoon joined the company before the attack, that lasted five minutes, and was wiped out.) The frontage for the Battalion was between 600 and 800 yards. The remaining three platoons of the Reserve Company spread across the two thousand yards of front and held the line while the others were forming up.

The 51st battalion were to attack Noreuil directly in a north-east direction. Their right to get in touch with the 50th in the village and their left to get in touch with the 2nd Gordons (who were to attack Longatte). I have forgotten the hour; it was 4:30 or 5:30 a.m. Anyway, it was dark. While the Battalion was waiting on the tapes, I saw Harold and we had a few minutes’ chat. He was very game. He had a presentiment that he would not come through. I remember him saying to be careful of the enemy protective barrage that was sure to descend on the outpost line. He was full of spirit and confident of victory. At zero hour the guns flashed out and the German Very Lights and S.O.S. signals lit up the sky, making a pretty awe-inspiring sight. All the troops sprang up from the tapes and followed the barrage closely.

The Germans were taken completely by surprise, and in the middle of the relief, so were about eight minutes getting their barrage going along the southern ridge. Once over the crest the German machine guns began to rattle out and their own troops came under a deadly fire. On the left of the Battalion the leading wave were mowed down by machine guns concealed in the houses and a piquet in the sunken road. Here the gallant Lieutenant Hoggarth fell. Also that equally gallant gentleman, Lieutenant Bidstrup. His body was found surrounded by a number of dead Germans.

By this time the 51st Battalion began to attack from the left and some of our own men had worked around to the right of the cemetery; thus, the Germans found themselves practically surrounded. With a cheer, both Battalions joined and swept into the village to victory. In the centre of the Battalion they had also suffered machine gun fire before entering village and here also the gallant and lovable Lieutenant Jose fell. The company on the right, although coming under fire, met with better luck. The machine gun situated on the sunken road leading from Lagnicourt to Noreuil was destroyed by the first shot from a trench mortar. Advancing over these positions the company was held up by the belt of wire.

For a few moments the positions was critical; however, the wire was crossed with a rush. The company entered the valley and then swung to the right, but they had gone too far before wheeling, consequently losing touch with the 52nd Battalion just to the right of the road mentioned. Here Lance Corporal (then Private) Jensen won his V.C. by capturing about 60 Germans. The boys on the left and the centre, together with the 51st Battalion, swept through the village, wheeled, and took up a position in the partially-dug trench on the high ground north-east of the village. They were in a trench with the Scottish, who took Longatte on the left, and their right rested about 50 to 100 yards from the edge of the valley. They had advanced about 2000 yards and were only 200 yards short of their final objective. The right company in the valley met with hard fighting right along it and when our second barrage opened, owing to it being a bit ragged, suffered heavy casualties. Here it lost touch with the left, too.

Some of them reached their final objective but they were enfiladed from both flanks, from a sunken road on the ground about 200 yards in front of the other companies, and also from the sunken road in front of the 52nd Battalion on the southern ridge. They were also heavily attacked from the front. Some 300 Germans running from the village attacked them from the rear. Outflanked and surrounded the end came quickly and, after a short, unequal fight some 100 surrendered. The Germans then turned their attention to the other two companies of the 51st in the trench. From the sunken road in front of them the Germans bombarded them with pineapple bombs (trench mortar) and enfiladed them with machine-guns from the sunken road on the southern ridge in front of the 52nd Battalion. They also bombarded up their trenches some way from where it ended on the north side of the valley. Losses were heavy in some places and the trench soon filled up with dead. It was in this trench that your very gallant son was killed during the latter part of the morning on the 2nd of April, shot through the head while looking over the top of the trench to see what had become of the companies in the valley. His last words were “watch the right flank” just before he looked over the top.

His poor men were heartstricken with grief, and I saw his lying in the trench that morning and heard the details. It was a terrible shock. He was buried beside Lieutenant Rule in a little quarry by the side of a road in the valley, and a cross erected. He had done splendid work that day and, if he had been spared would have been rewarded. The Germans had suffered heavily while running away. The ground in front of the trench and around the sunken road was covered with dead. The gap so caused in the line was serious. The 52nd Battalion, who had dug in on the crest of the southern ridge, could not see or command the valley, thus leaving it open for the Germans to retake the village, envelop the Brigade or cause them to fall back, and possibly the Brigade on its left. On receipt of a pigeon message from Harold, saying some Germans had been overlooked in the village and were causing trouble, the Colonel ordered one platoon from Reserve Company under Lieutenant Rule to move up to support the company in the valley, and the two remaining platoons to mop up the village. Going over the southern ridge this company had to pass through the enemy’s barrage, and consequently suffered casualties. On discovering the fate of the right company, this company was thrown into the gap and advanced up the valley without artillery support.

Before going far it came under the same murderous fire, enfilade and frontal, also heavy shelling from the field guns, 5.9 inch. Within 200 yards of the sunken road these attacks were held up, and the company took up positions to cover the valley and protect the flank of the Battalion. The Germans, being so prevented from pursuing their attacks against the Battalion’s flank, devoted their attention to the newcomers. Towards evening the enemy, under cover of a heavy bombardment, massed for a counter-attack along the whole front. But snow was falling and the enemy were plainly visible to the troops on the high ground. In answer to the S.O.S. signals out artillery played such havoc with them that the attack never developed. That night touch was gained with the 52nd battalion and the gap was closed. Next morning this company now 60 strong) appeared to again attack the sunken roads. However, it proved unnecessary as its patrols reported that the enemy had evacuated them and the positions were occupied without opposition, and quantities of material and several wounded prisoners were found there. Patrols followed up the remaining enemy who had fallen back on Queant and Bullecourt. The next night the whole line was advanced for a distance of 1900 yards.

Harry Seager, pp 94-97 'Hurcombe's Hungry Half Hundred

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Military Cross Recommendation - 10 April 1917

At Noreiul on the 2nd and 3rd April 1917, this Officer was in charge of the reserve Company of the Battalion. During the attack the right flank of the Battalion met exceptionally strong opposition and suffered heavy casualties which prevented them from linking up with the Battalion on the right. In this gap the enemy made three local counter-attacks and threatened to dislodge the rest of our line. On receiving orders to assist the right flank Captain Seager rapidly got his Company forward scarcely losing a man. On arrival he counter-attacked with such effect that the right flank was relieved of the hostile pressure. He then seized positions from which he could effectively cover the whole of the gap and established touch with the right Battalion. During the night he pushed forward posts and securely linked up. The next day he went out and made a personal reconnaissance which resulted in getting the whole Brigade front further forward. Later he took over a wider front, relieving the Companies which had been more heavily engaged. He then pushed his patrols forward some 1500 yards and cleared up the ground. This enabled the Brigade front to advance another 1500 yards. Throughout the operations he handled his Company with great skill, boldness and promptness.

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Biography

From "The Fighting Tenth"  - the 10th Battalion unit history.

Born 6 July 893 at Powlett, Victoria.

Son of the late Clarendon James Seager, who was an ex-Captain of the 8th Hussars, and for many years was engaged in the pastoral industry in Queensland.

He comes of a fighting stock, his grandfather, Lieutenant-General Seager, CB, as a young Lieutenant of the 8th Hussars taking part in the historic charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava, in the Crimean War of 1854, whilst Hugh Seager fought against the Spanish Armada on HMS Nonperilla, whilst another ancestor, Sir Halsall Seager, served in the land forces at the same time, and was buried in York Minster.

He is one of three brothers who served in the AIF, and his mother Alexandrina Seager, during the Great War supervised the Adelaide Cheer-Up Hut for over four years.

He was educated at Christchurch Grammar School, Victoria, and the Pulteney Street Grammar School, Adelaide, and for a short time was employed as a Clerk by the Alliance Assurance Co. Ltd.

On 21 March 1910, he commenced duties at the Bank of Australasia, and at the time of joining the AIF had attained the position of teller, having served in both the Adelaide and Port Adelaide branches. As a youth he was interested in military training, and commenced his military career in 1908 by joining the old senior cadets as a Private.

He subsequently joined the 10th Australian Infantry Regiment, in which he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, and on 21 July 1911 received his first commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.

On 1 July 1912 consequent upon the introduction of universal military training, he was transferred to the 74th (Boothby) Infantry with same rank. On 18 November 1912 he was transferred to the 78th (Adelaide Rifles) Infantry, in which he was promoted to rank of Lieutenant on 31 January 1913.

He received his Captaincy on 16 February 1914, and held this commission at the outbreak of the Great War. He was one of the first South Australian Officers to offer his services for overseas, and was also one of the first Company Commanders selected by Lieutenant-Colonel S P Weir of the 10th Battalion. He was appointed a Captain in the 10th at Morphettville on 19 August 1914, and was posted to the Command of the original C Company.

Early in September 1914 he became seriously ill with pneumonia, and was thus precluded from leading his company in the memorable first AIF route-march through the city of Adelaide on 21 September 1914. He was admitted to hospital, and thus prevented from accompanying the original Battalion on the Ascanius to Egypt, Lieutenant K E Green, of original G Company, being posted to the Command of C Company.

After regaining health he embarked as O.C. of the 2nd reinforcements of the 10th Battalion at Melbourne on HMAT A46 Clan MacGillivray on 2 February 1915, and disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt on 7 March 1915. He then proceeded to Mena Camp, and in the absence of the 3rd Brigade, which had been dispatched to the Dardanelles ahead of th  other units of the 1st Australian Division, he became attached to the 1st Brigade. He subsequently re-embarked at Alexandria, on the Piraeus for the Dardanelles, being entrusted with confidential papers for the Commanding Officer (CO) of the 3rd Brigade and 18,500 pounds in cash to pay AIF troops.

This transport also carried the first two flying officers dispatched to the Dardanelles. He joined the Battalion on the Ionian at Mudros Harbour, Lemnos, on 10 April 1915, and a few days later was appointed Ship’s Transport Officer, which appointment prevented him from landing with the main body of the Battalion in the covering force at the historic landing at Anzac on 25 April 1915.

In the capacity of Ship’s Transport Officer is devolved upon him to act as the medium of communication between the British Navy and the Captain of the Ionian. With Captain C F Minagall, he stood off the Peninsula on the Ionian, and at first obtained a wonderful panoramic view of the naval and military operations then being staged in the vicinity, but as the land-battle
progressed was kept more than busy with the hundreds of wounded and dying, who day and night were packed into the transport. The vessel was converted into a temporary hospital ship, and when no more could be admitted, proceeded to Alexandria, and then immediately returned to cape Helles with troops, and afterwards came on to Anzac, where he landed and rejoined the Battalion in the line about 4 May 1915. 

His experience as a Ship’s Transport Officer on board the Ionian, to say the least of it, was most gruesome, and in a letter to a friend from Anzac he said:
“Never again do I want to be on a temporary hospital ship. The poor mangled, quivering pieces of humanity were placed on the decks, in the saloons, cabins, boat decks, and even down the holds.” At Anzac he was posted to the Command of B Company, which included his old C Company of Morphettville, and by his fearless conduct both in and out of the line earned for himself the name of “Daredevil Harry”.

On 17 September 1915, he was invalided ill from Gallipoli, and proceeded to hospital at Malta, and later reembarked for England, where he was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth.

He subsequently to the Dardanelles on the Olympic, and rejoined the Battalion at Lemnos on 21 November 1915, this being the day that the 10th arrived from the Peninsula when the blizzard was blowing at its hardest.

He eventually accompanied the Battalion to Egypt on the Seeang Bee, and at Gebel Habieta, on 26 February 1916, was transferred to the 50th Battalion.

He subsequently embarked on the Arcadian and accompanied the 50th to France, where he had many marvellous escapades.

In June 1916 he was seconded for duty with the 13th Training Battalion at Codford, England. Returning to France, he rejoined the 50th Battalion in December 1916. At Noreuil, on 2-4 April 1917, he distinguished himself in the fighting, and was awarded the Military Cross (MC), which was promulgated in the London Gazette on 15 June 1917, the official citation being:
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He rendered valuable service while in Command of a rescue company. He attacked with the utmost skill and determination, thereby relieving the pressure at a very critical time. He set a fine example of courage and coolness throughout.”

He attained the rank of Major on 23 July 1917, but on 26 September 1917, was seriously wounded with a gundhot wound to the neck,  and was subsequently invalided from France with severe head-wounds. He proceeded to hospital at Boulogne, and later was transferred to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth.

In November 1917 he embarked on the Karoola, and returned to Adelaide, his services with the AIF terminating on 25 January 1918.

In August 1918 he embarked at Sydney as O.C Troops on the Bakara, which proceeded to England via the Cape. This transport was escorted by HMS Africa, which was the last British naval ship to be torpedoed during the Great War.

He subsequently embarked for Australia as O.C. Troops on the City of York, which proceeded to Brisbane via the Suez Canal.  His services with the AIF finally terminating on 10 July 1919.

Returning to civil life, he resigned his position with the Bank of Australasia on 29 July 1918, having no desire to resume a sedentary occupation, but was keen on applying himself to an outdoor occupation.

In October 1922 he was residing at Ashbourne Avenue, Mitcham and on 14 November 1924, with his brother, Edward Clarendon SEAGER, late of the 4th Light Horse AIF, obtain a pastoral lease of sixty-six square miles at Hawke’s Nest South and White Lagoon South, Kangaroo Island, situated south-south-west of Queenscliffe.  This tract of country is a long distance from the coast, over chiefly bush road, which is bad in parts.

On 12 December 1924, he individually secured a pastoral lease over1,780 acres, also at Hawke’s Nest and on 1 December 1933, he and his brother were allotted 3,284 acres under an acquired soldier’s agreement, and situated in the Hundred of MacGillivray, County of Carnarvon. On 31 January 1935 they were allotted another 1,228 acres, also in the Hundred of MacGillivray.

On 28 October 1930, he was granted permission by the Hon. Minister of Repatriation to allow officers of the Commonwealth Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (Division of Animal Nutrition) to investigate disease amongst his sheep known as ‘coast’.

On 28 July 1925 he married Joy Debenham, daughter of Professor Tearne, of Sydney, there being one son of the union.  His wife was a qualified medical practitioner, and assisted in the research investigations, acting as a Liaison Officer by extracting thyroid glands from sheep killed for food on the station, and forwarding same to the Adelaide laboratories of the council, and also conducted blood tests and mixes sheep licks. Various soil and pot culture tests had been conducted on his holdings by the Waite Research Institute.

He was awarded the Volunteer Decoration, and was appointed a Captain in the 2nd/10th Infantry on 1 October 1918, and promoted to rank of Major in the same unit o 2 April 1919. On 31 March 1921, he was transferred to the 10th Battalion, and on 1 January 1922, was placed on the Unattached List.

On 1 January 1927 he was listed on the Reserve of Officers with rank of Major. In 1935 he was engaged in sheep farming with his brother on the above-mentioned holdings, his postal
address being, “Hawke’s Nest, Kangaroo Island”.

 

He is listed in the RSL-SA member database but his Badge number is not recorded.  His Sub Branch is listed as Mount Pleasant.  His date of death was extracted from this record.

It also lists two children - Michael and Genevieve.  The transcript above mentions only the son.

Later life - more to follow

Medals:

Military Cross

1914/15 Star: 269

British War Medal: 181

Victory Medal: 189

Married on Wenesday the 29th of July 1925 at St. Paul's Church to Dr Joyce (Joy) Debenham Tearne daughter of the Mrs Mary Maud Tearne (nee Lee) and Mr Theodore Stephen Tearne.  

See his 'Fighting 10th' biography (rslvwm.s3.amazonaws.com)

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