Robert Ralph (Ralph) FRENCH


FRENCH, Robert Ralph

Service Number: 36211
Enlisted: 21 November 1916
Last Rank: Gunner
Last Unit: 3rd Field Artillery Brigade
Born: Oaks, Tasmania, 16 November 1885
Home Town: Scottsdale, Dorset, Tasmania
Schooling: Lietinna State School
Occupation: State School Teacher East Zeehan
Died: Killed in action, vicinity Mont St Quentin, France, 4 September 1918, aged 32 years
Cemetery: Hem Farm Military Cemetery, Hem-Monacu
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

21 Nov 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 36211, Field Artillery Brigades
9 Nov 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 36211, Field Artillery Brigades, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '4' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Port Sydney embarkation_ship_number: A15 public_note: ''
4 Sep 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 36211, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade , Mont St Quentin / Peronne

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Biography contributed by Rowena Newton

North-Eastern Advertiser (Scottsdale, Tas. : 1909 - 1954), Tuesday 3 December 1918, page 2

Late Gnr. R. French


Mr H. French Scottsdale, has received the following letter detailing how his son, Pte R. French, met his death: — You will doubtless have heard from official sources long ere you receive this letter of the death of your son, and my good and true friend, Ralph. Before we left the Base in France to proceed to the firing line together we made an agreement between ourselves that if anything should happen to either of us, the other would write to the parents concerned in connection with the matter. The painful duty has now devolved on me to relate to you the circumstances of his sad and noble end. It occurred on the evening of 3rd September, on the River Somme near Peronne, and the enemy's artillery was particularly active that night, consequent on an advance we had made on the previous day to the position we then occupied. We had retired to our billets, which consisted of a tarpaulin covering over an old German trench, after having made preparations at the guns for a fresh attack next morning. As the shelling was fairly heavy, we were considering the advisability or otherwise of turning in under the circumstances, (the gas shells being our bete noir) when suddenly with very little warning, a high explosive shell landed right in our shelter at our feet. What happened exactly then I cannot tell. I was wounded myself and managed to crawl out of the trench half choked by the gas fumes of the shell. My wound was attended to, and on arrival at the aid post half an hour subsequently. I enquired of those who had assisted us to the place, whether Ralph had been hit. Imagine my horror on being told that he had died before reaching the post. I could not grasp it at first. There is just the one redeeming feature about the sad business and that is, that if he was in a condition to feel any pain, his sufferings must have been short-lived, and were released by a quick and merciful death. Ralph and I had formed a close friend ship, having been together ever since we left Tasmania. We were together during the long months of training at Malbyrnong, we embarked for Eng land, and trained in England together, except for fix weeks whilst I attended a special school at Woolwick, London. We left England together and joined the 9th Battery and formed part of the same gun detachment. To know Ralph intimately was to love and respect him, and during the months of intimate companionship I enjoyed with him, I was privileged to gain a deep insight into his character. To those who were; thus privileged, and there were not many as he was of a reserved disposition, his splendid ex ample of straight and clean living stood one as one worthy to he followed, and was often a great help to me. Knowing him as I did, I can feel for you, and my whole being gone out to you and his mother in deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement. But you have the consolation that he gave up his life nobly fighting in a just and righteous cause. Once again assuring you of my heartfelt sympathy. I remain sincerely yours, W. H. THUMMLER, Gnr 85816