Ernest George BEESLEY


BEESLEY, Ernest George

Service Number: 1501
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 20th Infantry Battalion
Born: London England, 1877
Home Town: Auburn, Auburn, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Superintendent life assurance
Died: Killed in action, Gallipoli, 29 August 1915
Cemetery: Lone Pine Cemetery, ANZAC
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

6 Jun 1915: Involvement Sergeant, SN 1501, 20th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
6 Jun 1915: Embarked Sergeant, SN 1501, 20th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Sydney

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Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks


BEESLEY, Pte. Ernest Richard, 3358. 11th Australian Light T.M. Battery. Died of wounds 7th April, 1918 age 18. Vignacourt British Cemetery I. A. 8.

1501 Sergeant Ernest George Beesley, 20th Bn. AIF, was killed in action on the 29th August, 1915. He was 38 years of age.

Ernest had been an old soldier in England, serving with various units and had seen active service during the Boer War, with the 21st Imperial Yeomanry (Sharpshooters). He had arrived in Australia during 1907, and seemed to struggle to make a living for some time. He admitted one of his children to the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children during 1912. Ernest was one of the very first to enlist and served with the Naval and Military Expedition which left Sydney for New Guinea on the 19th August 1914, and contained a high proportion of old British soldiers. He was returned to Sydney in early March 1915 and was discharged from the ANMEF. Only a month later Ernest enlisted into the AIF in April 1915, at the age of 37. He arrived on Gallipoli on the 22nd August 1915, and was killed in action only a week later on the 29th August 1915, by a bomb at Brown’s Dip. From the 26th August, until its withdrawal from the peninsula on 20 December, the 20th Battalion was responsible for the defence of Russell’s Top. According to his wife and another soldier, Beesley was acting as a Company Quarter Master Sergeant at the time of his death. Ernest was originally buried in the Victoria Gully Cemetery. His body was exhumed in 1923 and reburied in the Lone Pine Cemetery. This was deemed necessary due to flooding of the original cemetery in wet weather. Ernest was the father of eight children, each of received a pension of 13 pounds per annum.

One of his sons, 3358 Private Ernest Richard Beesley, 11th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery AIF, died of wounds in France on the 7th April 1918. He is buried in Vignacourt British Cemetery, France.

Ernest Beesley the junior, a station hand in NSW, enlisted during November 1916 over 12 months after his father was killed at Gallipoli and was probably just 17 years old as he gave his age as 21 years 2 months, yet his mother said he was 18 years and 8 months when he died during April 1918. Ernest was hit in the groin and abdomen by shrapnel on the 5 April 1918, whilst carrying up rations, and died of his wounds late on 7 April in the 20th Casualty Clearing Station.

A second son, 53802 Private John George Beesley enlisted in February 1918. Born during July 1901, he was only 16 and a half years of age and although he sailed to Egypt later in the year, the war finished before he reached the front. He did however enlist for Special Service and did not return home to Australia until January 1920.

Mrs. Beesely submitted the following headstone inscription for her husband,

“Never the lotus closes, never the wild fowl wakes,

But a soul goes out on the east wind,

That died for old England’s sake.”

Which was taken from a poem called “The English Flag” by Kipling.

For her son, she sent the words,

“Shine, sun, upon them where they lie, and storm and winter pass them by,

And darkness pleading to the earth for light,

Lean over them as a mother might,

Lean over them and say “Good night!”, “Good night!”

These lines are from a Mary Cameron Gilmore poem called “The Passionate Heart” Neither inscription was accepted as they exceeded the 66 character limit, which was set by the CWGC.