Dr. Philip Beauchamp SEWELL


SEWELL, Philip Beauchamp

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 5 September 1916
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Coleraine, Victoria, 9 September 1893
Home Town: Malvern East, Stonnington, Victoria
Schooling: The Geelong College (1907 - 1910), University of Melbourne (MBBS., 1916)
Occupation: Medical Practitioner
Died: Killed in Action, Villers-Bretonneux, France, 24 April 1918, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery
Plot X, Row E, Grave 6 Headstone Inscription "A GOOD SON, A BRAVE SOLDIER"
Memorials: Adelaide The 50th Battalion Commemorative Cross, Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, The Geelong College WW1 Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

5 Sep 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer
16 Dec 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, Medical Officers, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
16 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, Medical Officers, HMAT Berrima, Adelaide
28 Aug 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 13th Field Ambulance
7 Sep 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 52nd Infantry Battalion, Temporarily Detached
10 Sep 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 12th Field Ambulance
3 Oct 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Captain, 50th Infantry Battalion
24 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Captain, SN Officer, 50th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux

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Biography contributed by Michael Silver

Philip Beauchamp Sewell was born in 1893 at Coleraine, Victoria, the second youngest of eleven children of school master Thomas Murcott Sewell, an Englishman and Irish born Sarah Amelia nee Bull. His mother died when he was just seven - he was raised by his father and eldest sister May.

Philip Sewell was a day student at Geelong College from 1907 until 1910, when he went on to Melbourne University, and graduated MB BS in 1916. Dr Sewell enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) as a Captain on 12 September 1916. He embarked from Adelaide on HMAT A35 Berrima on 16 December 1916 for France, where he served firstly with 13th Field Ambulance from 28 August 1917, then 12th Field Ambulance from 10 September, before he was posted as Medical Officer to 50 Battalion on 2 October. He was killed by a machine gun bullet on 24 April 1918 while establishing a first aid post near Villers Bretonneux.

Bean wrote in his Official History:
‘Captain P B Sewell (Malvern), MO of the 50th, was killed near Villers Bretonneux. Captain Forsyth of the 52nd afterwards moved his own men to Cachy, where he found Sewell’s men. The bearers of the 13th Field Ambulance took all the wounded from his post by 4 p.m. on the 25th. Forsyth was himself wounded.’

Sewell’s medical orderly, Cpl C F Donnelly spoke in glowing terms of his superior officer:
‘Re the death and burial of Captain P B Sewell, the following particulars are correct and may be relied upon. I was his Field Orderly, afterwards his First Aid Corporal. On the night of 24 July 1918 at about 9.30 pm we moved off from the forest near Villers Bretonneux, we were going forward to a counter-attack, Captain Sewell was in the rear of the Battalion, with his First Aid men, and 12 Ambulance bearers. When we arrived at Cachy which was 500 yards from where we were to establish an Aid Post, we came under very heavy shell and MG fire. We moved forward about 350 yards when the shell fire was deafening and blinding, we were within a few hundred yards of the enemy, here Captain Sewell ordered his men into a small trench, while he himself, alone, went forward to HQ 150 yards away to find our exact position. After waiting for about two hours for his return, I went forward myself and found that he had never reached HQ. His body was found three days later, about 200 yards to the left, at the bottom of a large shell hole. Some think that he had misjudged his direction a little, but we who knew him intimately believed that he had heard the cry of wounded for help, many of whom were lying about, and had gone over to bandage them up. This is the most probable cause of his being out of the line, for he was fearless and would go and do anything for the wounded. Never was man more liked and respected than he, nor was man ever missed by those who knew him. He had been shot through the throat by a machine gun, his death had been instantaneous. There was a smile upon his face, and no sign of any struggling. His body was carried back about three miles and buried in a Military Cemetery known as Le Petit Blangy Caberet Cemetery, now named the Austral Cemetery, but its former name is the official one. His grave number is 958. It is situated on the Amiens-Villers Bretonneux Road, about 4 miles from Villers Bretonneux. Name on board outside Austral Cemetery.’

Padre Sydney Leonard Buckley, 13th Bde HQ, read the service at the graveside, and Bugler Horton Joseph Jennison, 50th Battalion Band, played the Last Post. Jennison gave these details to the Red Cross Information Bureau, also stating that ‘he (Sewell) came to us from 13th Field Ambulance, educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, was a medical student’.

Phillip Sewell was re-interred in Villers Breton-neux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy - Grave X.E.6. This cemetery was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other burial grounds in the area and from the battlefields.

Source: Edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck.