Arthur Joshua Stevenson CALDWELL


CALDWELL, Arthur Joshua Stevenson

Service Number: 162
Enlisted: 15 January 1915, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 21st Infantry Battalion
Born: Kamarooka, Victoria, 1890
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: White Hills State School
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed In Action, To Be Determined, France, 13 March 1917
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Bendigo White Hills Arch of Triumph, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

15 Jan 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 162, Bendigo, Victoria
28 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 162, 13th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
28 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 162, 13th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Persic, Melbourne
4 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 162, 13th Light Horse Regiment, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
29 Oct 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 21st Infantry Battalion
1 Mar 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 162, 21st Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
13 Mar 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 162, 21st Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages

Help us honour Arthur Joshua Stevenson Caldwell's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Second Lieutenant Walter Middleton Whitehead, of the 21st Battalion wrote to Mrs Agnes Caldwell of Murphy st, White Hills on April 3, 1917 outlining the details of her son’s death on the Western Front on March 13. The following extracts are lifted from his letter, which was published in "The Bendigonian" newspaper on June 28.

“We had not been in our new position about an hour when a huge shell landed in our midst, killing Arthur instantaneously and wounding another man very badly. I am certain that your son did not feel the least pain, for it was so quick. We buried him in the same shell hole, and erected a rough cross with his name written on it in pencil. This will be better attended to later on."

He goes on to say-

"I have some idea of what a mother's feelings must be for her to have a son over here. My mother's own letters tell me that.To offer my deepest sympathies in your great bereavement seems irreverent for what are our feelings compared to a mothers ?”

This heartfelt letter informing a mother of how her son had met his death must have been one of the hardest tasks of the junior officers at Western Front. Walter Whitehead says he and Arthur had been friends from their days training together in the Light horse regiment at the Broadmeadows camp in early 1915. By the time this letter was published on June 28, 25 year old Lieutenant Whitehead from Collingwood had also sadly been killed in action.   

 Arthur Caldwell was born at Kamarooka north of Bendigo and listed his occupation as a farmer. He enlisted on January 15, 1915 at 24 years of age. His was the son of John Thomas Caldwell and Agnes Amy Caldwell of Murphy st, White Hills.

 Being from farming stock no doubt assisted Arthur to be enlisted in the Light Horse regiment. After training at Broadmeadows the Light Horse (LH) unit and their horses embarked on HMAT Persic from Port Melbourne on May 28, 1915.

The Persic disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt where Arthur underwent further training with the Light horse. The Light horse were initially considered unsuitable for the Gallipoli operation, but were soon deployed without their horses to reinforce the infantry at Gallipoli from September till the evacuation in late December, 1915. Arthur was to survive three months on those dangerous cliffs of the Gallipoli Peninsular before being evacuated with the Anzac forces on December 21,1915.   

 Arriving back in Alexandria on January 8, 1916, via the Greek port of Mudros, Arthur would be transferred into the 1st Light Horse Regiment in mid April which joined the ANZAC Mounted Division at Tel-el-kebir. Between January and May 1916, the Ist Light Horse was deployed to protect the Nile valley from bands of pro-Turkish Senussi Arabs. On May 14, it redeployed with its parent brigade to join the forces defending the Suez Canal. (AWM site)

Two weeks later on May 28, Arthur’s horse riding adventures in Middle East come to a halt and he sails for England on the HMAT Corsican. Landing in England, Arthur’s record shows he is ‘Taken on Strength’ and transferred into the 11th Light Horse then rejoins the 13th Light Horse attached to the 3rd Division of the AIF.

 At this stage of the war the role for cavalry style warfare had been largely made redundant by the new industrial trench war that was engulfing Western Europe. In late October, Arthur is transferred to the 21st Battalion and embarks for France from Folkestone on the SS Victoria arriving on the north coast of France and entering the British staging town of Estaples.

Throughout 1917, the 21st battalion took part in two major battles after the Germans shortened their lines and withdrew towards the prepared defenses of the Hindenburg Line.

The strategic battle for the town of Bapaume took place in March 1917 where Arthur was killed by mortar shell on March 13 near the village of Grevillers, just two miles from Bapaume. AWM records tell us that the town was taken by British and Commonwealth forces four days later on March 17.

Thanks to Lieutenant Whitehead, we know how Arthur died, another record by the Australian Section, 3rd Echelon General Head Quarters dated November 29, 1917 tells us that he was buried in isolated grave near a fork of the road at Grevillers, two miles west of Bapaume and a half mile south west of Grevillers.

Unfortunately, we learn at an Australian War Memorial commemoration in February 2014 that Arthur’s hasty burial site in that shell hole near Grevillers was lost in the confusion of days that followed in the battle for the town of Bapaume. Arthur along with 10,000 other diggers were also to have 'no known grave'. These heroes are remembered at the Australian Memorial at Villers Bretonneux in Northern France. 

Arthur is also remembered by the people of White Hills in Victoria and his name is forever etched in bronze on the White Hills Arch of Triumph at the entrance of the Bendigo Botanic gardens.