Charles Fleming ATHERTON MM

ATHERTON, Charles Fleming

Service Number: 1505
Enlisted: 25 November 1914, Bendigo
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Infantry Battalion
Born: Dunolly, Victoria, Australia , 1894
Home Town: Bendigo, Greater Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Marist Brothers' College, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Australia, 30 June 1920, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Eaglehawk Civil Cemetery
Roman Catholic Section, Plot Mon C2, Grave 178
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

25 Nov 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1505, Bendigo
19 Feb 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1505, 5th Infantry Battalion
19 Feb 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1505, 5th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Runic, Melbourne
20 Sep 1917: Honoured Military Medal, Third Ypres, MM Recommendation for action:- ‘During the operations east of YPRES 20/23rd September 1917, L/Cpl ATHERTON was told at rear Camp that he was to remain behind at the wagon lines on account of having sore feet. He asked that he be allowed to go into the front line and was permitted to do so. He limped to the assembly position carrying his Lewis Gun and refused to allow any one to relieve him of it. Through the operation he behaved with great grit and coolness getting well up to our barrage and firing at the retiring enemy from the hip. Though buried twice by shell bursts he always had his gun in perfect order and always had ammunition. He displayed great determination throughout. 'Military Medal Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 76 Date: 23 May 1918

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Charles Fleming ATHERTON

Military Medal

‘During the operations east of YPRES 20/23rd September 1917, L/Cpl ATHERTON was told at rear Camp that he was to remain behind at the wagon lines on account of having sore feet. He asked that he be allowed to go into the front line and was permitted to do so. He limped to the assembly position carrying his Lewis Gun and refused to allow any one to relieve him of it. Through the operation he behaved with great grit and coolness getting well up to our barrage and firing at the retiring enemy from the hip. Though buried twice by shell bursts he always had his gun in perfect order and always had ammunition. He displayed great determination throughout.'

Charles Atherton was born in 1894 in the gold mining town of Dunolly. His parents Charles (senior) and Rita Cameron would move to the north of Bendigo in an area known as Ironbark. Unfortunately for the family, Charles Atherton senior would die in 1899 when Charles was just five years of age.

Charles enlisted on November 25, 1914, just four months after war had been declared. He declared he was a single man, twenty years of age, a labourer and living with his widowed mother Rita at 82 Mount Korong Road. The Bendigo Advertiser reports that ‘Charles was educated at the Marist Brothers’ School and was for some time a prominent player in the Park View football team and that he was also a well-known cricketer’.[1]

Charles is assigned to the 3rd Reinforcements of the 5th Battalion, which left Port Melbourne on HMAT A54 Runic in the second major flotilla of Australian and New Zealand troops on 19 February 1915.

It is not clear when Charles lands at Anzac Cove on the Dardanelles Peninsula, however his record shows he is wounded and admitted to the Casualty Clearing Station at Mudros on the Greek island of Lemnos in July 1915. He rejoins the fight at Gallipoli on December 7 just two weeks before the eventually evacuation of all the forces off the Peninsula. Following the evacuation, his unit returns to Egypt in January and by March 1916 commenced to the journey to England.

Charles finds the routine of soldiering difficult and is disciplined in Egypt and England multiple times. He rejoins the fighting on the western front and proceeds to France in May 1917.

The front for the Australian forces moved north from the Somme to border area between France and Belgium over the course of 1917. The third Ypres battle took place from the end of July 1917 to mid November 1917.  

Charles was most likely awarded the Military Medal for his action taken in the Battle of Menin Road which commenced on September 20.

Menin Road is named for the road that connects the towns of Ypres and Menin.  The Battle so named was fought to gain ground in the vicinity of Zonnebeke to the east-southeast of Ypres (now known by it’s Flemish name of Leper).  

On 20 September 1917, the Australians sustained 5,000 killed and wounded across the First and Second Divisions. The final objective, 1,500 metres from the start line, was secured. By noon, the Australians had taken all the objectives and were at the western end of Polygon Wood.[2]

Charles would serve in the trenches all through 1917 and the first half of 1918. He was severely wounded in August 1918 as the Allied forces pushed the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line and was evacuated to the UK for surgery. He would suffer paralysis to both legs and return to Australia at the end of March 1919. He would survive just a further 15 months and pass away on June 30, 1920.

 

SERVICE DETAILS:  

Service Number: 1505

Born: Dunolly 1894

Address on Enlistment: 82 Mount Korong Road, Bendigo.

Age at Enlistment: 20

Occupation: Carter

Served: Gallipoli, Egypt, Western Front.

Unit: 5th Battalion

Final Rank: Corporal 

Fate: Returned to Australia March 31, 1919

Died: June 30, 1920

Military Medal Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 76

Date: 23 May 1918

East of YPRES 20/23rd September 1917.

‘The two Australian divisions (with the 9th Scottish of the 5th Army, on their left) formed the centre of the attacking force. Never before had two Australian divisions attacked side by side, and the ‘Diggers’ were consequently elated with a confidence and enthusiasm which British leaders did not, at that time understand.’ [3]


[1] Bendigo Advertiser August 13, 1915, Page 7. Source Trove
[2] Battle of Menin Road, Australian Virtual War Memorial https://vwma.org.au/explore/campaigns/26
[3] Anzac to Amiens, C.E.W.Bean. Penguin Books.2014. P.364-367.

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Biography contributed by Elizabeth Allen

Charles Fleming ATHERTON was born in 1894 in Donolly, Victoria

His parents were Charles ATHERTON and Rita CAMERON

His brother Harold William ATHERTON (SN1678) also served in WW1 and returned to Australia in 1919

Biography contributed by Sharyn Roberts

Military Medal

'During the operations east of YPRES 20/23rd September 1917, L/Cpl ATHERTON was told at rear Camp that he was to remain behind at the wagon lines on account of having sore feet. He asked that he be allowed to go into the front line and was permitted to do so. He limped to the assembly position carrying his Lewis Gun and refused to allow any one to relieve him of it. Through the operation he behaved with great grit and coolness getting well up to our barrage and firing at the retiring enemy from the hip. Though buried twice by shell bursts he always had his gun in perfect order and always had ammunition. He displayed great determination throughout.'
Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 31
Date: 7 March 1918

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