Charles Patrick PHIBBS MM

Poppy

PHIBBS, Charles Patrick

Service Number: 344
Enlisted: 25 August 1914
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 10th Field Artillery Brigade
Born: Albury, New South Wales, Australia, 15 December 1894
Home Town: Albury, Albury Municipality, New South Wales
Schooling: St. Patrick's School, Albury, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Telegraph operator at Australia Post
Died: Killed in action, Belgium, 1 August 1917, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Hooge Crater Cemetery
Hooge Crater Cemetery (Plot XIX, Row D, Grave No. 14), Zillebeke, Belgium
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

25 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 344, Field Artillery Brigades
18 Oct 1914: Involvement Gunner, SN 344, 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Third Ypres
18 Oct 1914: Embarked Gunner, SN 344, 1st Field Artillery Brigade, HMAT Argyllshire, Sydney
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Gunner, SN 344, Field Artillery Brigades, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
28 May 1917: Honoured Military Medal, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages, 'Gallantry and devotion to duty during the operation against the HINDENBURG LINE in vicinity of BULLECOURT on the morning of 3rd May. This Non Commissioned Officer maintained efficient communication by repeatedly repairing, at great personal risk, wires cut by hostile shell fire. Again on the 13th May 1917, whilst working with the advanced Infantry Brigade headquarters, he displayed great courage during a heavy bombardment in which the entire Signal personnel were killed, and instruments destroyed, having been directly hit by an enemy shell. This Non Commissioned Officer, with Gunner O'BRIEN at once hurried to the spot and made every endeavour to restore communications. Sergeant PHIBBS has previously done excellent work through the SOMME operations.'
1 Aug 1917: Involvement Sergeant, SN 344, 10th Field Artillery Brigade , Third Ypres

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Biography contributed by Stephen Phibbs

Charles Patrick (Charlie) Phibbs was born on 15 Dec 1894 at Albury, NSW. He was the son of Patrick James Phibbs and Mary Anne Phibbs, nee Hawkins. His father was a cordial manufacturer in Townsend Street, Albury. Charlie was educated at St. Patrick's School in Albury and joined the Post Office after completing his Leaving Certificate and became a telegraph operator.

Charlie Phibbs had been with the AIF from the very beginning of the Great War. He enlisted on 25 August 1914 in Sydney and departed Australia on 18 October 1914 on the ship H.M.A.T. A8 Argyllshire. (Hired Military Australian Transport). This ship was part of the first contingent of the AIF sent overseas. They were originally bound for England to undergo further training prior to employment on the Western Front. However, the convoy was diverted to British-controlled Egypt to pre-empt a Turkish attack against the Suez Canal. On 25 April 1915, the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops landed on the beaches of Gallipoli in Turkey. It was their first major action in World War One (or “the Great War” as it was called at the time). However, the Australian and New Zealand troops faced steep cliffs and Turkish soldiers determined to defend their homeland. Charlie Phibbs saw service on the Gallipoli Peninsula from April to September 1915. Because of his experience as a telegraph operator before the war, he worked in the communication section of the 3rd Field Artillery Battery of the First Brigade. He received orders of what to target from officers on the front line and relayed those to the gun crews.

Charlie Phibbs remained there until 5 September 1915 when he was invalided from Gallipoli to the hospital ship "Fleet Sweeper" because of illness. On 3 October 1915 his condition was considered serious enough for him to be transferred to hospital in England.

By the 21 April 1916, the health condition of Charlie Phibbs had improved. He was returned to a new unit (10th Field Artillery Brigade) in France.  He was promoted from Gunner to Bombardier on 24 June 1916, and then to Sergeant on 1 August 1916. On 28 May 1917 he was recommended for the Military Medal for Bravery. The citation reads:-

'Gallantry and devotion to duty during the operation against the HINDENBURG LINE in vicinity of BULLECOURT on the morning of 3rd May. This Non Commissioned Officer maintained efficient communication by repeatedly repairing, at great personal risk, wires cut by hostile shell fire. Again on the 13th May 1917, whilst working with the advanced Infantry Brigade headquarters, he displayed great courage during a heavy bombardment in which the entire Signal personnel were killed, and instruments destroyed, having been directly hit by an enemy shell. This Non Commissioned Officer, with Gunner O'BRIEN at once hurried to the spot and made every endeavour to restore communications. Sergeant PHIBBS has previously done excellent work through the SOMME operations.'

From 31 July until 31 November 1917, the AIF once again joined its British, Canadian and French allies in another offensive against the Germans on the Western front - the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

Charlie Phibbs was severely wounded by an exploding shell as he attempted to repair communication cables cut by enemy artillery late in the evening on the 31 July 1917 and died several hours later in the early morning of 1 August 1917.

After the death of their son, Mr. and Mrs. P. J. Phibbs of Albury received the following letter. It was published in The Albury Daily News, on Wednesday, November 7, 1917.

“The late Sergeant, C.P. Phibbs

AN OFFICER’S TOUCHING TRIBUTE

By the last mail Mr. and Mrs. P. J. Phibbs, of Townsend Street, Albury, received a letter, under date August 28, 1917, furnishing particulars with reference to the death of their son, Sergeant C. P. Phibbs. The letter is as follows: 

"Dear Mrs. Phibbs, It is with feelings of the deepest sympathy that I write to you of the death of your son, No. 344 Sergt. C. P. Phibbs, who died of wounds on 31/7/17. He was with me forward in the big attack of that date, and it was at the O.P. that he was wounded and died. I had been detailed as Group Observer, and he was in charge of my communications. During the earlier part of the morning your son had repeatedly, under heavy shell fire mended the telephone lines, and it was in an effort to restore communication that he was wounded. He had set his lamp on a concrete dugout and was trying to raise a station when a shell exploded a few yards from him and between us. I was about six yards away, but by throwing myself flat escaped it. As soon as I got up I could see your son was wounded, and ran over and carried him into a dug out. We did our best for him, but we had no doctor; though I do not think it would have been any use. Fortunately we were able to ease the pain by morphia, and he passed away in great peace. His last words were for you and that I would write you, and I shall always treasure it that when he knew he was dying he could still think of his O.C., and some of his words I shall treasure to my dying day. I can't tell you how it affected me. I've been away since 1914, and I suppose I am callous now, but I will frankly confess I sobbed like a child when he had gone. The Colonel sent me a message of sympathy, for he knew how greatly I esteemed him, and he would also convey to you his deep sympathy. It will be a big shock to Colonel King, too, when he knows. For myself, I have never got over it yet. We had been in every stunt in France together, and I relied on him more than anyone else in the Battery. It was a tremendous shock to the Battery, for they had begun to look on him as invulnerable. He was so brave, so absolutely fearless. I feel I am not making it any easier for you by writing this, but perhaps afterwards you will be glad to know what we thought of him. We buried him where he fell, for the shelling was too heavy to take him back. But I would like you to know that the other day the Padre and I went up and put up a large white cross, so that his grave will not be unnoticed and untended. Now I must close, and believe me I feel that my loss is only second to yours. With deepest sympathy, - Yours, &c. HAROLD DE LOW, Major and O.C., 38th Battery, A.F.A.” The Albury Daily News, on Wednesday, November 7, 1917

Charlie Phibbs was also awarded The 1914-15 Star, The British War Medal, and The Victory Medal in addition to his Military Medal. He is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery (Plot XIX, Row D, Grave No. 14), Zillebeke, Belgium.

Charlie and his best friend from school, Jack McDonnell who was killed in 1916, were not forgotten. They had been “friends forever” but were also members of the St. Patrick's branch of the H.A.C.B.S. (Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society). The following article about the two appeared in the local newspaper.

"HONORING THE BRAVE.

On Tuesday night there was a large attendance of members of St. Patrick's branch, H.A.C.B.S., to witness the unveiling and blessing of a tablet to the memory of Bros. John A. McDonnell and Charles P. Phibbs, M.M., who were killed at the war. The tablet is a fine piece of work, and was produced by Mr. T. T. Molloy, of Albury. His Lordship, Dr. J. W. Dwyer, performed the ceremony. In doing so he voiced his appreciation of the members' action. It was a happy coincidence that the signing of peace had been reported that day. He trusted that this Peace would end for ever the inhuman, miserable kind of way nations had of finding out which was the strongest. He hoped that never again would we hear of such a thing as war between nations calling themselves civilised. However, the purpose of their gathering that night was to pay a tribute of respect to the boys who had gone away to fight in the cause they believed to be right, and who had died on the  battlefield.

Those two lads whose memory they were honoring belonged to their society, and he was pleased the society had the thoughtfulness to recognise their worth. They had shown they were brave and good lads. He hoped such voluntary sacrifice would inspire others to make sacrifices and be always ready to do so. It was only things that cost a great deal that were worth having. No one could expect to get on in this world, or win merits for the world thereafter by doing cheap things. Those boys had done something that meant a great sacrifice, and they hoped God in His mercy would give them full credit for their splendid valour. He hoped the members would not forget to pray for the souls of the members to whose memory the tablet was erected, as well as for the souls of many others of their faith, in the district who had died on the battlefield.

Rev. Father Slattery intimated that a proposal had been made to erect memorial gates with the names of all the Catholic soldiers in the district who had lost their lives in the war inscribed on marble tablets in the gate pillars. It was proposed that they be erected in front of the Hibernian Hall in Smollet-street." The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express Fri 27 Jun 1919 Page 28 HONORING THE BRAVE

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