CONNELLY, Eric Winfield

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 18 August 1914
Last Rank: Major
Last Unit: 3rd Division Headquarters
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, 18 September 1888
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Carlton College, Royal Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Lawyer
Died: Died of wounds, France, 9 September 1918, aged 29 years
Cemetery: Heath Cemetery, Picardie
Plot X, Row B, Grave No. 3
Memorials: Bar of Victoria, Law Institute of Victoria
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World War 1 Service

18 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Officer, 7th Infantry Battalion
19 Oct 1914: Embarked 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
19 Oct 1914: Involvement 7th Infantry Battalion
25 Apr 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli, GSW left elbow. Evacuated to England and then RTA per HMAT Runic 7 November 1915.
1 May 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Staff Captain, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Melbourne, Vic.
27 May 1916: Embarked Captain, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, HMAT Ascanius, Melbourne
27 May 1916: Involvement Captain, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters
6 Feb 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, France
7 Jun 1917: Honoured Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Messines, 3rd Australian Division 2nd ANZAC Recommendation Date; 16th June, 1917 MAJOR (Brigade Major) ERIC WINFIELD CONNELLY 'For conspicuous ability in staff work, and untiring energy and skill under trying circumstances. After having been gassed on the morning of 7th June 1917 during the attack on the MESSINES RIDGE, and rendered unconscious for 8 hours, he went forward to battalion Headquarters at the Black Line on the night 7th/8th June, and organised a successful attack on the GREEN LIINE, returning through most intense shell fire in a state of complete exhaustion.'
7 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Messines
4 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Broodseinde Ridge
12 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, 1st Passchendaele
14 Jan 1918: Transferred AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 3rd Division Headquarters, France
28 Mar 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 3rd Division Headquarters, German Spring Offensive 1918
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 3rd Division Headquarters, The Battle of Amiens
8 Sep 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Brigade Major, 3rd Division Headquarters, "The Last Hundred Days", BW to leg and fractured forearm sustained during German air attack on 3rd Div HQ near Peronne. Evacuated to 41st CCS however died of wounds the next day 9 September 1918.
9 Sep 1918: Involvement Major

Help us honour Eric Winfield Connelly's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Eric Winfield CONNELLY 


The Bendigoian weekly newspaper published the following  news in Mid September 1918: - KILLED IN ACTION. MAJOR ERIC W. CONNELLY.

A private message received by his relatives in Melbourne on Monday, stated that Major Eric Winfield Connelly, general staff officer, No. 2, on the third divisional staff at Australian head-quarters in France, had been killed by a bomb dropped by a German aero-plane. Major Connelly was born at Bendigo 29 years ago. He was a son of the late Mr. T. Jefferson Connelly, founder of the firm of Connelly and Tatchell, solicitors, and Mayor of Bendigo in 1888. Before enlisting in 1914, Major Eric Connelly was practising as a barrister at Selborne Chambers, Melbourne. He left Australia as a lieutenant of infantry, with the first expeditionary force, and received his first wound on Gallipoli. He was invalided to Australia, but left again for the front as a captain with Brigadier-General W. R. McNicoll, C.M.G., D.S.O. Towards the end of last year he gained the D.S.O. His only brother, Captain Clive Connelly, was killed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Major Connelly married Miss Dorothy McLellan, a daughter of Mr. J. McLellan, of Windsor. She left Australia recently to join her husband, and was expected to arrive at Vancouver, on Monday.[1]

Three years earlier in May 1915, the same paper provided some insight into Eric’s bright future and the family.                             ‘Lieut. Connelly removed from Bendigo with the remainder of the family some years ago. Like his father, the late Mr. Jefferson Connelly, who did much to bring about federation, Lieut. Connelly took a keen interest in public and political questions. He was one of the active members of the Speakers' Association attached to the Liberal Party in Melbourne, and could acquit himself very creditably on the public platform. He gave promise of a very useful career, and his many friends in Bendigo hope that his wounds are not serious’.[2]

Eric would write home to his mother of the landing and of his wound which he describes at not serious: - Deaconesses' Hospital, Alexandria, 7th May.

'As I have lost for the present my duplicating pad, I am writing you a full account of our recent doings. Let me say straight away, as I have already said in my cable I am only slightly wounded, and will be out of here in a day or so. I got a bullet in the left elbow, just below the joint. It hit the bone and turned out, doing no further damage than making my arm useless for two or three weeks. I've got the bullet, and will send it out, so you can keep it as a curio for me.  Eric continuous describing the landing: -

We were up and had breakfast before daylight; then just before the break of day we slipped close in and dropped anchor close to the shore. There were warships and transports all around us, but we hadn't much time to look about us, as we had started on the beach, and we could hear pretty lively rifle fire. The 3rd Brigade landed first, and got ashore before the guns started, but got it hot rifle and machine gun fire; but they charged the devils, and chased the enemy off the beach and up into the hills, which rose very steeply off the sand. Meanwhile the 2nd Brigade was landing, the 7th going first. I got my platoon into the boats, and a naval launch got us in tow and ran us in. By this time the Germans and Turks had their guns going, and shelled us all the way in; in fact they shelled our transport before we left her. The launch slipped our towrope when we got close to the beach and we had to row the rest of the way. Up to this time, although rifle bullets had been plopping in the water around us, and shells had been flying, none of us was hit, and I thought we were going to get ashore without a casualty. Anyhow, as soon as we had started rowing, two shells in quick succession exploded right over the boat and showered us. I called out, "Is any one hit," and got no answer, so kept on coaching them as they rowed. One man wouldn't keep time, and was throwing the others out, so I was cursing him. After we got ashore alright, and when I was getting the men out of the boat (into the water) I discovered that the man who had not been keeping time had a shrapnel bullet right through his shoulder, and had sat there rowing away without saying a word, even though he was being sworn at. One of the others had one right through his wrist, and he also hadn't said a word. I sent them both back to the troopship, and we went on. We stacked our packs on the beach and went along to the place where we were to assemble, and although we were being shelled they never got any more of us there. We formed up, and then started on the rather difficult job of finding Turks. It a difficult job, because the country is covered with scrub up to your knees, and they had well concealed trenches all over the place. You could not stand up and look around too long, as too many bullets were buzzing, and they had snipers all over the place. So as to conceal their snipers, they had dug pits, and in those pits stood men with bits of scrub tied round their shoulders and heads, making it almost impossible to see them. Our fellows at first thought they were seeing things when a bush would hop up and run like mad, but the said bushes never ran very far without getting a message to stop.' [3]


Place of birth: Bendigo

School: Carlton College, Royal Park, Melbourne

Religion: Church of England

Occupation: Barrister at law

Address: Waverley, Wellington Street, Brighton, Victoria

Marital status: Single when enlisted. Returned wounded from Gallipoli and married before re-embarking for western front. 

Age at embarkation: 26

Next of kin:Mother, Mrs F Connelly,Wellington Street, Brighton

Enlistment date: 18 August 1914

Unit name: 7th Battalion, G Company, 10th Battalion

Embarked: Transport A20 Hororata on 19 October 1914

Final Rank: Major

Distinguished Service Order Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 57 Date: 18 April 1918

Mention in despatches Source: Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 23 May 1919 on page 878 at position 49

Fate: Died of wounds 9 September 1918, France

Age at death 29.11. Buried: Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres.  

[1] Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic. : 1914 - 1918)  Thu 19 Sep 1918  Page 15  KILLED IN ACTION.

[2] Bendigonian (Bendigo, Vic. : 1914 - 1918)  Thu 20 May 1915  Page 24  LIEUT. ERIC CONNELLY.
[3] Bendigo Advertiser (Vic. : 1855 - 1918)  Thu 10 Jun 1915  Page 5  LETTERS FROM THE FRONT. LETTER FROM LIEUT. E. CONNELLY.


BENDIGO ADVERTISER November 15, 2017

(Commerative Seat is located at the Bendigo fountain)

 'A restored seat and new plaque that honour four young Bendigo lawyers who were killed in World War I will be officially unveiled and re-dedicated today.

The seat and plaque honour the lives of Captain Clive Connelly, Major Eric Connelly, Lieutenant Alan Hyett and Major Murdoch Mackay.

Each of the four men honoured were from Bendigo families, had studied at Melbourne University Law School before commencing in legal practice, were members of the Bendigo Law Association and had promising careers ahead of them. Yet they chose to put their careers on hold to enlist for their country.

The City of Greater Bendigo, the Bendigo Law Association and the soldiers’ families have funded the restoration of the barrister seat and a new plaque that honours the soldiers’ sacrifice.

Today’s event is the 96th anniversary of the unveiling of the ornamental seat and memorial tablet by his Excellency, Lord Stradbroke, Governor of Victoria, in his first official visit to Bendigo in 1921.

The original memorial tablet was lost over time, so a new plaque was commissioned.

About the soldiers

Captain Clive Emerson Connelly (Eric's brother) 

Clive Emerson Connelly and Eric Winfield Connelly were both sons of Mr Thomas Jefferson Connelly, founder of the Bendigo firm Connelly and Tatchell, solicitors.  Mr Thomas Jefferson Connelly also served as mayor of Bendigo in 1885.

Clive Emerson Connelly was born in 1885, schooled at Carlton College and completed his further studies as an articled clerk at Melbourne University in 1903. Clive was admitted to the Bar in 1907, and practised in a partnership with Mr Luke Murphy in Bendigo before setting up his own practice in Melbourne just prior to the war.

Clive had prior experience as an officer with both the Victorian Senior Cadets and the Militia with 67th (Bendigo) Infantry prior to the War, and was appointed to 14th Australian Infantry Battalion as Captain and Officer Commanding D Company in October 1914 under the Command of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Courtney.   Lieutenant Colonel Richard Courtney was also a practising solicitor, and Courtney’s Post on the Gallipoli battlefield was named after him. The 14th Australian Infantry Battalion was one of four battalions belonging to 4th Australian Infantry Brigade, under the Command of Brigadier John Monash.

Captain Connelly returned from injury on 24 August 1915, and was detached from 14th Australian Infantry Battalion together with three other officers and 100 men as part of a combined force under the command of 4th Australian Infantry Brigade to undertake a further attack on Hill 60 at Gallipoli on 28 August 1915.  These men were subjected to terrible carnage with three quarters of them falling as casualties within a few minutes.  Captain Connelly was shot three times as he led the first wave of the attack, and was killed.  He was 30 years old.


Major Eric Winfield Connelly, DSO

Eric Winfield Connelly was born in 1888, schooled at Carlton College and completed his further studies as an articled clerk at Melbourne University in 1906.  Eric signed the Bar Roll in 1911 and was practising as a barrister at Selbourne Chambers when war broke out.

Australia’s involvement in the war began on 4 August 1914, and Eric enlisted on 18 September 1914.  Eric had prior experience as an officer with both the Victorian Senior Cadets and the Militia with 2/8th and 6th Australian Infantry Regiments prior to the War, and was initially appointed 2nd Lieutenant to the 7th Australian Infantry Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel “Pompey” Elliott. Lieutenant Connelly suffered his first injury on 25 April 1915 on the Gallipoli Peninsula.   After his recovery, he would serve with distinction on the staff of HQ 10th Australian Infantry Brigade and HQ 3rd Australian Division, eventually being promoted Major.  Major Connelly was twice mentioned in despatches and was awarded a DSO. 

On 8 September 1918, an enemy aeroplane dropped a bomb on HQ 3rd Australian Division, east of Peronne. Major Connelly was struck by two fragments from the bomb whilst sleeping, and died of wounds on 9 September 1918.  He was 29 years old.


Lieutenant Alan Newcombe Hyett

Alan Newcombe Hyett was born in 1889, and undertook his schooling in Bendigo and then at Caulfield Grammar.  Alan completed a Bachelor of Laws at Melbourne University in 1913 and was admitted to the Bar later that same year. Alan entered into partnership as Hyett and Hyett to practice law with his father Barkly Hyett, in 1914.

Alan enlisted in the AIF as a private on Australia Day 1916 and progressed through the ranks with 38th Australian Infantry Battalion before being commissioned in January 1917.  Lieutenant Hyett was subsequently detached from 38th Australian Infantry Battalion for duty as the burials officer for HQ 3rd Australian Division on 21 May 1917.

On 2 June 1917, Lieutenant Hyett was travelling by bicycle between 38th Australian Infantry Battalion and HQ 3rd Australian Division when he was struck by an artillery shell and killed at Hyde Park Corner in Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium.  He was 27 years old.

The current law firm of Robertson Hyetts in Bendigo originates from the same firm that was originally founded by Alan and his father. Prior to forming Hyett and Hyett in 1914, Barkly Hyett had practised law together with Sir John Quick since 1892.  Sir John Quick was a significant contributor to Federation and was instrumental in drafting the Australian Constitution.


Major Murdoch Nish Mackay

Murdoch Nish Mackay was born in 1891 and following schooling in Bendigo, commenced studies at the age of 16 for a Bachelor of Laws at Melbourne University in 1907. Murdoch completed his Bachelor of Laws at the age of 20, and signed the Bar Roll in 1912.  He received first class honours and the Supreme Court Prize in 1911.

Murdoch had prior experience as an officer with the Militia with 60th Infantry prior to the War, and was invited by Lieutenant Colonel “Pompey” Elliott to join the first expeditionary force.  Although he did not do this, he answered the call to duty just after the Australians landed at Gallipoli.  Murdoch was appointed to 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion as Captain in May 1915. He was in the trenches at Gallipoli in September, promoted Major in November and participated in the evacuation in December 1915.  Some of this time he was second in command of his Battalion, and for the journey to France he held command.  Major Mackay was in the trenches in France by April 1916.

On 4 August 1916 at Pozieres, Major Mackay was rallying Australian soldiers for an attack on the German trenches when he was shot through the heart by machine gun fire.  Major Mackay was mentioned in despatches for his conduct during his final actions. He was 25 years old.