George Stewart GREIG

GREIG, George Stewart

Service Number: 1093
Enlisted: 13 January 1917
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 5th Broad Gauge Railway Operating Coy
Born: Willowie, South Australia., 22 August 1892
Home Town: Newton Boyd, Clarence Valley, New South Wales
Schooling: Willowie Primary, South Australia.
Occupation: Locomotive Fireman
Memorials: Willowie Schools and District Roll of Honor
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World War 1 Service

13 Jan 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 1093, 5th Broad Gauge Railway Operating Coy
13 Jan 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1093, Railway Unit (AIF)
24 Jan 1917: Involvement Private, SN 1093, Railway Unit (AIF)
24 Jan 1917: Embarked Private, SN 1093, Railway Unit (AIF), HMAT Miltiades, Adelaide
1 Dec 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sapper, SN 1093, 5th Broad Gauge Railway Operating Coy

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Biography contributed by Di Barrie

George Stewart Greig was born to Murray and Ann (nee Fisher) Greig on the 22 August 1892. He was the seventh son of nine children born at Willowie, where the Greig family farmed on Sections 51, 108, 196, 90 and 105. Following a period of prolonged drought in the Willowie area, Murray Greig and his family moved to Kingsthorpe in Queensland in 1902 to take up farming there.

George had been working as a locomotive fireman based in New South Wales prior to enlistment, which he did on the 13 January 1917 at Newtown, NSW. He was aged 24 years 9 months, was 5’ 7” (170cm) tall, weighed 140lbs (63.5Kg) and had a fair complexion and dark hair. On enlistment he was a Private in the Railway Unit, Section 3.

He embarked from Adelaide on the HMAT A28 “Miltiades” on 24 January 1917 as a Sapper with the 5 Australian Broad-Gauge Railway Operating Company (5 ABGROC) which he joined on arrival in Western Australia. After arriving in Devonport, England on the 27 March 1917 he entered camp at Bordon.

He was shipped to France on 11 May 1917. (George’s oldest brother, Malcolm Murray Alexander, (SN 2322 42nd Battalion), enlisted in May 1916 in Queensland and was already serving in France.)

After two extended stays in hospital for illness, he re-joined his unit overseas in early August 1917. The 5 ABGROC operated out of Peselhoek, Belgium, approx. 10Km west of Ypres. The Third Battle of Ypres was well underway at this time. The Company was responsible for the shipment of supplies for troops, ammunition, track and train maintenance, and troop and vehicle transport. Due to the amount of traffic required on the tracks, and the wet weather causing a boggy base, almost every day large amounts of ballast had to be sourced, carried in and spread. The broad gauge delivered stores and ammunition for distribution by road or light rail to front line troops, but the depot itself was not immune to attack from aerial bombing, especially at night. The Australians were using large steam locomotive engines belonging to the British Railway Operating Department. (ROD).

On the 20 April 1918 the bulk of the 5 ABGROC were transferred to Andruicq, in France, about 18km south east of Calais. This was a major rail and transport depot for the war effort.

Then in September 1918 the 5 ABGROC, as a whole unit, was transferred down to Conchil-le-Temple where the company was based when hostilities ended.

As a sapper, George would have been involved in track maintenance and rebuilding, freight handling and assisting mechanics amongst other duties.

In April 1919 he was accepted for “non-military training /employment” in England for four months, and he worked at the “Keighley Gas & Oil Engine Coy Ltd” at Keighley. His work report was “satisfactory”.

He left England on the 6th September 1919 on the ‘Euripides’, for Australia, disembarking in Sydney on the 24 October 1919 and was discharged on December 1 1919.

Source: "Diggers From the Dust" Di Barrie & Andrew Barrie.


In late 1916-early 1917, the French Government appealed to the British War Cabinet for help in running the French Railway system which was acutely under-manned because of the War. The British felt they were similarly under-manned to assist, so requested assistance from Australia for crews to operate rail transport.

A Railway Unit and Reinforcements and Special Draft was made up of Category B men, (experienced railway personnel, over 40 years of age but fit enough for the Home Service) from New South Wales. This was then expanded very rapidly with urgent requests from the War Office for more railway men. Sections were sponsored by the various State and Commonwealth Government Railways, (1st Section–New South Wales; 2nd Section–Victorian Railways; 3rd Section Western Australian Government Railways and the 4th Section sponsored by the Queensland and South Australian Government Railways.)  The British also urgently requested that some of the troops who were already in France be directed into railway transport companies, which led to the raising of the 17 ANZAC Light Railway Operations Company. A 5th Section was also raised in Australia to supplement the requirements for Railway men.

The various Sections were shipped from Australia during early 1917, and on arrival in England they were re-named Companies and put through training not only on the use of British Rolling Stock, but also infantry training at the Railway Troops Depot at Longmoor Military Railway before being shipped to France.

The Australian Railway Companies used English Rolling Stock and Engines and were divided into Broad Gauge Railway Operating Companies and Light Rail Operating Companies. They went through several name changes and designations, but eventually the AIF transport assets were organised into the Australian Railway Operations Group and renumbered 1st Light Rail Operating Company (1st LROC), 2nd LROC, the 3rd Light Railway Forwarding Company, 4th Broad Gauge Railway Operating Company (4th BGROC), 5th BGROC and the 6th BGROC.

The men were almost exclusively serving and experienced railway men, and they made an enormous effort on the Western Front, often under direct fire from German aircraft and artillery. The Broad-Gauge Units moved supplies forward from the major supply points and depots to designated rail heads where the Light Railway Units transhipped to the front lines. The Light Railway Units carried a varied range of cargo, (ammunition, supplies, medical supplies, road and rail repair equipment, army and medical personnel and soldiers) to many depots over a wide web of light railway lines and to the front. On return trips sick and wounded soldiers often were transported back to medical services further back from the front line.

The Australian Railway Operations Group served not only all its own Australian troops but had the ability to support some other British and Allied units in the field as well.

The job of the Railways increased after the Armistice as arms and ammunition stockpiled for the battles had to be returned to the coast, and the return of demobilised troops to the coastal ports as they were released from duty. As part of repatriation work in Belgium and France the Railways also moved civilians and assisted in rebuilding the civilian railway network. Most of the railway troops were demobilised by mid-1919 and returned to Australia.

The Railways Units were a relatively unknown part of the AIF’s contribution to the effort on the Western Front.