Arthur Albert CHANDLER

CHANDLER, Arthur Albert

Service Number: 2511
Enlisted: 17 August 1915, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 3rd Tunnelling Company (inc. 6th Tunnelling Company)
Born: Emmaville, New South Wales, Australia, July 1877
Home Town: Windsor, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: New South Wales, then Berkeley (University of California) and Denver School of Mines (USA)
Occupation: Mining engineer
Died: Natural causes, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 30 April 1958
Cemetery: Mount Thompson Memorial Gardens & Crematorium, Queensland
Mount Thompson Memorial Gardens: 329 Nursery Rd, Holland Park QLD 4121 Gardens Location: Columbarium 12 Section: Section 8 Lot: Lat/Lng: -27.52588, 153.07752
Memorials: Emmaville Public School WW1 Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

17 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 2511, Brisbane, Queensland
31 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sapper, 2511, Mining Corps, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '6' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Star of Victoria embarkation_ship_number: A16 public_note: ''
31 Mar 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Sapper, 2511, Mining Corps, HMAT Star of Victoria, Sydney
9 Oct 1918: Discharged AIF WW1, Sapper, 2511, 3rd Tunnelling Company (inc. 6th Tunnelling Company)

Tribute to Arthur Albert Chandler

ARTHUR ALBERT CHANDLER 16.7.1876 – 30.4.1958

I would like to pay tribute to the selfless contribution made by my grandfather, Arthur Albert Chandler, during Australia’s involvement, as a member of the British Empire, in the First World War of 1914-1918.

My mother’s father, Arthur, one of eight children of whom four died in infancy, was born in Emmaville in northern New South Wales to mining engineer, Thomas Chandler, and his wife Selina, who had settled at Tent Hill, about 5 kilometres east of Emmaville, in 1872 (Selina was the second white woman in the district). There, Thomas established tin mines at Vegetable Creek which were called ‘The Rothschild Mines’. A few years after matriculation, Arthur went to the United States where he graduated from Berkeley, the University of California, and also from the Denver School of Mines as a mining engineer, metallurgist, analytical chemist and geologist. He gained experience in mines in Alaska, Mexico and West Africa before returning to Mareeba, in north Queensland, where he worked as an assayer and mining engineer. Following Arthur’s marriage to my Stanthorpe-born grandmother, Pansy Laura Elizabeth McQuaker, in 1910, the couple returned to ‘The Rothschild Mines’ so that Arthur could assist his father, and it was at Emmaville that their first two children were born: Amy Noël in 1911 and Ænid in 1914. My mother, Laura, was born, however, in Brisbane in the following year.

On August 17, 1915, at the very mature age of thirty-nine, Arthur enlisted as a volunteer in the Australian Mining Corps of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), joining the newly-established Australian Tunnelling Corps which was largely inspired by Edgeworth David who was Professor of geology at the University of Sydney and also a noted Antarctic explorer (in 1908, David had joined Shackleton’s expedition, climbing Mt Erebus at the age of 50, and then, with Mawson and Mackay, marched to the magnetic pole. At 57, he was commissioned as a major in the Tunnelling Corps and was knighted in 1920.). It is interesting to read on my grandfather’s enlistment document that his daily pay was eight shillings, of which three-fifths was allocated to my grandmother to support her and the children. At the beginning, my grandfather was given a commission because of his qualifications and experience. However, when the troop ship was waiting for its orders to sail overseas from Sydney in early 1916, he was contacted by his sister, contrary to the wishes of his own wife, who told him that his eldest daughter was seriously ill with diphtheria, a dangerous and often fatal disease at that time. Arthur’s request for compassionate leave was denied, and with typical independence of spirit, he went absent without leave, hastened to Brisbane where he saw that his child was out of danger, and then returned promptly to Sydney where he was stripped of his rank and remained a sapper throughout the War.

Arthur was a member of the Third Australian Tunnelling Company which served in northern France, especially in the Central Sector between Armentieres and Arras. This included vital work at Lens, Givenchy, Double Crassiers, Laventie-Fauquissart, Loos, Hill 70, Fromelles and Vermelles, and during the great advance to victory in autumn 1918, the Company, while under heavy shell fire, constructed a road bridge at Moudit. Their work at Hill 70 in April 1917 was typical of the dangers they faced: the Australians tunnelled vigorously in underground galleries mined by the Germans, facing the threats of subterranean mine explosions, flooding of those deep levels, shaft collapses, poison gas and the possible breakthrough of enemy soldiers into the galleries. While my grandfather spoke rarely of his war experiences, I do remember his anecdote of using listening equipment in the dark and in complete silence to monitor the Germans’ conversations in neighbouring galleries as they, too, were tunnelling and laying mines. Tunnellers often needed soldiers to protect them in their underground work should a German breakthrough occur in those deep, multi-level galleries. The Third Tunnelling Company entirely destroyed Hill 70 and its German workings on July 27 with a huge explosion of 10,000 pounds of ammonal, after which the Company provided underground headquarters and communication for the Canadian Corps which would move against Lens in August. My mother thought that Arthur was involved in the famous blowing up of Hill 60 in Flanders south of Ypres; however, because this was primarily the work of the Australian First Tunnelling Company, it is probable that this was not the case.

Arthur’s war effort ended in April 1918 at Vermelles, 10km north of Lens in the Pas-de-Calais region, where he was gassed, so severely in fact, that he was shipped back to Australia and was discharged on September 20, 1918. He was so seriously wounded from the effects of the mustard gas, his hearing and eyesight also badly damaged, that he was granted TPI status (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated), and he was never able to work again. It is very likely that his role as sapper, following his loss of rank prior to leaving Australia, made him more vulnerable to major injury. Like many servicemen, he received the 1914-15 Star, a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War 1, as well as the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He died on April 30, 1958 in the former Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital in Brisbane. He was a perfect gentleman, a loving husband and father, whose unfailing courtesy and delicacy of behaviour are exemplified by an incident recounted by my mother. Arthur was in the city centre of Brisbane one day when he stopped to allow the passage of several men who were carrying a long, rectangular box. As they went by, he respectfully removed his hat and waited for some minutes before proceeding. With his poor vision, he had thought it was a coffin; it was, however, simply a box. He was cremated and his remains were placed in the Columbarium Wall for Servicemen at Mt Thompson, Brisbane.

Written by his grand-daughter, Helen Stone, 18.7.2014

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