Luke COE


COE, Luke

Service Number: 825
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 41st Infantry Battalion
Born: Not yet discovered
Home Town: Not yet discovered
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Killed in action, Belgium, 2 August 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kingaroy RSL Roll of Honour, Kingaroy Stone of Remembrance, Strathpine District Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

18 May 1916: Involvement Private, SN 825, 41st Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
18 May 1916: Embarked Private, SN 825, 41st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Demosthenes, Sydney

Service Narrative

COE Luke #825 41st Battalion

Luke Coe was born into the Methodist family of Samuel and Frances Coe of Strathpine. As a boy he attended Strathpine State School and upon leaving school worked on the family farm. At some point prior to his enlistment, Luke and his brother John purchased blocks of freehold land at Wooroolin in the South Burnett region between Kingaroy and Wondai. It is most likely that he was farming in the South Burnett when he came back to Strathpine to see his family and enlist.

Luke presented himself at the Brisbane recruiting depot in Adelaide Street on 13th March 1916. He was 28 years old and his years on the land had produced a good physique; being 5’8” tall but weighing 168 lbs with a 40” chest. He gave his address as Strathpine and named his father as next of kin. He also stated his occupation as farmer and that he was unmarried.

Luke reported to Bell’s Paddock, Enoggera immediately after enlisting and was placed into the 11th Depot Battalion. Two months later he was taken into the 41st Battalion. The 41st was a new battalion being raised at Enoggera as part of the 11th Brigade of the 3rd Division and comprised of recruits from Queensland and Northern NSW. The battalion boarded trains at Enoggera station and began the long rail journey via Wallangarra to Sydney. Along with other battalions of the brigade, the 41st boarded the “Demosthenes” on 18th May, only two months after Luke had signed up. Luke had allocated 3/- of his daily pay to his brother, John.

The “Demosthenes” headed direct to England via Capetown and Sierra Leone and arrived in Plymouth on 20th July. The 41st were marched into a new camp on Salisbury Plain at Larkhill. Their arrival coincided with the arrival of the newly promoted commander of the 3rd Division; Major General John Monash. Monash’s plan was that he would train the division of 20,000 men as a complete battle group incorporating artillery, signals, administration, transport and medical. Monash was obsessive about things being done the right way. On one of his earliest inspections he dismounted from his horse to demonstrate the correct way to use a pick and shovel when digging a trench. (He was of course a fully qualified civil engineer in peace time).

The training at Larkhill continued at frenetic speed and word of the Australian commander who had fought so “gallantly” and “splendidly” at Gallipoli even reached the ear of the King.
Barely two months after taking control of the division, Monash would host King George V when he travelled down to Larkhill by royal train for an inspection. The march past of the division took two hours and during this time the King and Monash chatted amiably as they rested in their saddles and took the salute. It was obvious that Monash and the 3rd Division had developed some pretty powerful connections. Almost 12 months later, the King would again visit Monash, this time in France where he would invest Monash with his knighthood. (The first commander to be knighted in the field in over three hundred years).

The 3rd Division were now ready to be deployed overseas. Luke made out his will bequeathing his 160 acres of freehold to his brother John of Wooroolin. The timing of departure was delayed until the front had closed down for the winter and it was not until late November that the division began to cross the channel. In spite of their intensive training, most of the men had never experienced action and Monash was determined that his fighting force would be gradually acclimatised to the rigours of trench warfare before any major assault. The 11th brigade would find itself rotating in and out of the line in the vicinity of Ploegsteert Wood (usually referred to as Plug Street), and engaging in limited trench raiding.

The major offensive in Flanders, and one for which the 3rd Division had particularly been trained would be in the area of the Ypres salient. The entire campaign was based on a “bite and hold” strategy; with successive advances along the Menin Road from Ypres towards the village of Passchendaele. Before this part of the campaign could begin, the enemy had to be dislodged from a high ridge on the right flank centred on the village of Messines. The battle of Messines began at 3:20am local time on 7th June with the blowing of 19 underground mines that had been placed in tunnels dug under the ridge in the previous months. The noise from the firing of the mines was heard in London.

The 11th Brigade had been tasked with holding the front line at the base of the ridge while the three other brigades from the division assembled in the rear in preparation for “Magnum Opus”. While holding the line, Luke Coe (by this time his mates had come to call him Loo) was hit by a shrapnel splinter in the leg. He was removed to a Field Ambulance where his wound was treated. Luke’s father was informed by telegram – Regret advise Pte Coe wounded. Further advice provided when it comes to hand.

By the time Samuel Coe received the telegram, Loo was back with his mates. The 41st continued to hold the line just south of Messines near Ploegsteert during July and early August. On the night of 2nd August Loo was on patrol in no man’s land when he was hit in the head by a sniper’s bullet. A Corporal Innes was with Luke when he was shot and reported to the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Inquiry Service that his last words were “I’m done!”. Luke was buried by other members of the patrol in a shell hole near a strongpoint 200 yards out from the frontline. Luke’s military file carries the notation” buried in the vicinity of Messines, no personal effects located”.

At the conclusion of the war, the Graves Registration Unit began to search for isolated graves across the battlefields of France and Belgium. Remarkably, the remains of Luke Coe were located and he was reinterred in the Tyne Cot British Cemetery near Passchendaele. Tyne Cot is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in the world.

During the early part of the 1920’s, Samuel Coe received Luke’s medals, memorial plaque and scroll, and three photographs of Luke’s grave at Tyne Cot. The final entry in Luke’s military file is a request from Walker and Walker solicitors requesting a copy of Luke’s death certificate. The request was sent to base records Melbourne in July 1936. A copy was duly despatched upon receipt of a postal note for 2/6d. No reason was stated for the request.

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