Aubrey John MCINTOSH

Poppy

MCINTOSH, Aubrey John

Service Number: 2872
Enlisted: 3 October 1916, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 37th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, September 1892
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Bendigo State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Carter
Died: Died of wounds, Doingt, France, 2 October 1918
Cemetery: Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension
Plot III, Row A, Grave No. 7
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, White Hills Arch of Triumph
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World War 1 Service

3 Oct 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2872, Melbourne, Victoria
16 Dec 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
16 Dec 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Medic, Melbourne
14 Aug 1917: Promoted Lance Corporal, 37th Infantry Battalion
28 Mar 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion, German Spring Offensive 1918
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion, The Battle of Amiens
1 Oct 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion, Breaching the Hindenburg Line - Cambrai / St Quentin Canal, Bomb wound (dropped from a plane)
2 Oct 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 2872, 37th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Lance Corporal Aubrey John McIntosh  SN 2872

On 1 October 1918, 37th Battalion was approaching Le Catelet in Northern France after its role in the assault on the Hindenburg Line on the 29th September. The battalion had only just dealt with the attempts to disband it a week earlier, and feelings were strong. The War Diary of N G McNicol ('The Thirty Seventh') states 'During the night of the 1st a bomb was dropped on the Nucleus Camp at Peronne, killing 5 and wounding 6.' This bomb would kill Lance Corporel Aubery McIntosh who was also the Drum Major of the 37th Battalion band.

Aubrey John McIntosh was born in Bendigo in 1892 to parents William and Mary McIntosh (Nee Pratt) who lived at Cambridge Crescent, White Hills. He enlisted on October 10, 1916 at the Bendigo recruitment depot in Pall Mall at the age of 24. He was married to Janet McPherson whose family came from Bendigo however, now resided in Footscray. She also had a brother (Pte Walter McPherson) at the front.

Aubrey listed his occupation as a carter and he would be allocated to the 6th Reinforcements for the 37th Battalion, a  Battalion which was part of the 10th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division. The 37th had been initiated in February 1916 at Seymour in Victoria. Its recruits were drawn from Melbourne, north-east Victoria and Gippsland.

Aubrey obvioulsy demonstrated leadership material and would spend a week in mid November at the NCO (Non Commissioned Officers) School in Geelong. He would return to Seymour joining the 6th Reinforcements and they would embark for Europe on December 16, 1916.

HMAT Medic A7 had Aubrey and fellow recruits landing in Plymouth in Southern England on February 10, 1917, nearly a three month voyage. The new arrivals for the 37th would spend their first few months in training at various Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) Camps on the Salisbury Plain close to Stonehenge. Hurdcott would be his first camp, followed by camps at Sutton Mandeville, Durrington and finally Perham Downs.During this period, Aubrey would receive word from White Hills that his mother Mary had sadly passed away in May, 1917 at the age of just 49. 

In April, 1917 Aubrey would be transferred to the new 66th Battalion and promoted to Acting Lance Corporal. Later that month he would attend Musketry school at Tidworth being trained in handling the Lewis gun. He would qualify with a fair working knowledge of using the gun and mid August be fully promoted to Lance Corporal.

The 66th Battalion would be disbanded in September and Aubrey returns to the 37th in time to be deployed along with other Reinforcements to the front in France. 

Leaving by troop ship from Southampton on September 19, 1917 Aubrey would be ‘Marched In’ to the AIF depot at Rouelles in Northern France a day later. Sadly at about this time back in White Hills, Aubrey’s wife Janet would receive word that her brother Pte Walter McPherson of the 59th Battalion would be killed in battle in Belgium on September 26. Walter's bravery in battle would be mentioned in despatches two months earlier.

Another 9 days and Aubrey would be 'Marched Out' (MO) for action at the front. The 37th was heavily engaged with other Third Division troops in southern Belgium in the battle of Ypres, Broodseinde and then Passchendele. These were disastrous campaigns in atrocious conditions that senselessly cost thousands of young Australian soldiers lives, largely ordered by incompetent British senior command. 

The War Diary of N G McNicol ('The Thirty Seventh') describes this period;

"The 3rd Division suffered about 3,000 casualties in this enterprise. In the 37th Battalion they were— Killed and Missing: 3 officers, 68 other ranks. Wounded: 9 officers, 170 other ranks. The missing comprised those who had died or disappeared in the awful mud. They were eventually posted as dead".

 He goes on to say;

"The beginnings of criticism, began to be voiced by front-line men generally after Passchendaele. The previous attack (Broodseinde) had left the battalion in good spirits. This one left it in the depths of depression. Reduced in strength from over 800 men on 1st October to less than 300 on the 14th,the unit was in no state to take part in any further operations on the front. Immediate steps were therefore taken to send the 37th back to its peaceful village home of Blequin. The whole unit was transported by motor lorries on 15th October. The villagers welcomed the remnant as they would have done their own sons. They prepared hot meals, and gently and sympathetically comforted the tired and dispirited men. In some homes sons on leave from the French Army gave up their beds to these Australian boys of the 37th. It was a sad "homecoming." The whole village seemed to be in mourning for the men they found would be missing from their homes for ever". - Source - The War Diary of N G McNicol ('The Thirty Seventh')

On November 8, Aubrey would be fortunate to be sent back to the AIF Camp at Longbridge Deverill in Southern England for further training which is not specified. This would give him three weeks away from the front, however, he would be back in France by the end of November.

Belgium remained the focus of the 37th Battalion's activities for the next five months, until it was rushed south to France in late March 1918 to meet the German Army's Spring Offensive. The Allies launched their own offensive on 8 August 1918, but the 37th Battalion was in reserve on this day and was not ordered into action. It was involved, however, in an ill-conceived attack that failed to capture the village of Proyart on 10 August. The battalion nevertheless continued to play an active role throughout August and early September in the 3rd Division's advance along the Somme Valley.  (Source - AWM website 37th battalion)

Despite its success, this advance sapped the strength of the AIF. In September 1918 several battalions were ordered to disband to provide reinforcements for others. The 37th was one such battalion. Its CO, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Story, was dismissed for questioning the order in letters written to all of his superior commanders, including the Prime Minister. The men of the battalion subsequently mutinied. On 23 September the order to disband was temporarily suspended, and the battalion fought its last battle 'St Quentin Canal' six days later. (Source – AWM website 37th Battalion) 

On 1 October 1918, the 37th Battalion was approaching Le Catelet after its role in the assault on the Hindenburg Line on 29 September. The battalion had only just dealt with the attempts to disband it a week earlier, and feelings were strong. The War Diary states, During the night of the 1st a bomb was dropped on the Nucleus Camp at Peronne, killing 5 and wounding 6. One of those wounded was Aubrey. 

Red Cross reports state Aubrey McIntosh died of wounds the next day. Private Walter Smith informed – “I was with l/Cpl Aubrey McIntosh (37.H/Q) when he was severly wounded in the leg by a bomb from a German aeroplane on the night of October 1st at Peronne. We were in a tent together behind the lines, and I was hit myself by the same bomb. We were both taken in the ambulance to the 41st C.C.S at Doingt. I had my operation first and I saw him lying on a stretcher waiting for his. Our doctor Lieut. Moorehead R.A.M.C. I went to Rouen two days later. Before I left I was told that he had died.” The ground was held.

Another informant to the Red Cross a Sergaent A Attenborough of the 37th stated- “He was in the band, came from Victoria, and was married. He was killed by a bomb while in his tent with the band at Peronne about 9pm. He was badly knocked about and was buried in a cemetery just outside Peronne”.

Finally, an informant Pte E A Richmond in the same battalion stated the following – “Tall and very stout, inclined to be fair, very chubby face, was Drum major in our Battn band. Clean shaven about 27 years of age. We were in bed in our tents at Peronne on 1st Oct, 1918. He was in the next tent to mine. We were bombed by Aeroplane. He was badly wounded and was taken to the C.C.S. I do not know where he was buried”. 

Lance Corporal Aubrey John McIntosh was later buried in the Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension.

Ten days later on 12 October 1918 the 37th Battalion, then with a fighting strength of 90, disbanded. The war would conclude with the Armistace being signed one month later on November 11, 1918.

Lance Corporal Aubrey John McIntosh, Drum Major in the 37th Battalion band is remembered by the people of White Hills. The names of the local lads who sacrificed their lives and those that were fortunate to return from the Great War are shown on the embossed copper plaques on the White Hills Arch of Triumph, at the entrance to the White Hills Botanic Gardens.

Post script to above story

- ITEM IN THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL COLLECTION

This same bomb that killed Lance Corporal Aubrey McIntosh also damaged a wooden mace or staff, causing damage to the wood below the head - a small pellet of shrapnel remains lodged there. The battalion donated the staff to the Australian War Records Section in the early 1920s. It cannot be confirmed whether this staff belonged to Aubrey McIntosh however, as Drum Major in the battalion band it is more than likely he inherited this piece of equipment from the prior Drum Major in the band.

See Description on AWM website -  https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C118087

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