Harry (Henry) MONTI

Poppy

MONTI, Harry

Service Number: 3873
Enlisted: 16 July 1915, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 21st Infantry Battalion
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, June 1893
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: White Hills State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Cyanide worker
Died: Died of wounds, Puchevillers, France, 1 August 1916
Cemetery: Puchevillers British Cemetery
Plot 2, Row B, Grave 68
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, White Hills Arch of Triumph, White Hills Baptist Church
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World War 1 Service

16 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3873, Melbourne, Victoria
8 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3873, 21st Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
8 Feb 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3873, 21st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Warilda, Melbourne
27 Jul 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 3873, 21st Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , GSW (chest)
1 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3873, 21st Infantry Battalion

Help us honour Harry Monti's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

PRIVATE HENRY (HARRY) MONTI     SN 3823

 He sleeps not, in his native land, But under foreign skies.                                                                

Far from those who loved him, In a hero's grave he lies. 

He never shunned his country's call, But gladly gave his life, his all;                                                      

He died the helpless to defend, An Australian soldier's noble end. - Inserted by his loving father and mother, sisters and brothers. The Bendigo Advertiser, August 1, 1917

The above Memorial was placed in the Bendigo Advertiser newspaper on the anniversary of Harry Monti’s death in the Somme valley on the August 1, 1916 the prior year.

Just 8 days after this anniversary posting by the Monti family, Harry’s mother (Mrs Mary Ann Monti) would pass away suddenly with the Bendigoian Newspaper reporting on August 16, 1917 that;

"Mrs Monti had six sons and two daughters and that her second son was killed at the front last year and she has fretted a lot since hearing the sad news". 

Harry Monti's real name was Henry Monti, however he enlisted as Harry and was referred to as Harry in all the newspaper reports at the time. He enlisted on July 17, 1915 at the Bendigo Town Hall age 21 with his occupation being a ‘Cyanide worker’.  A 'Cyanider' would possibly not have been an occupation well known outside the gold mining towns of Victoria at the time. Using cyanide in separating gold from ore was a relatively new chemical treatment introduced in the late 1890’s. It led to a small boom in mining in the Bendigo region, especially as the recession meant many had come off farms at the time. White Hills, Epsom and Huntley were all downstream on the Bendigo creek and a good place to process the alluvial tailings deposited over the past fifty years.  

Harry listed his next of kin as his Father, Albert Monti. Harry was the second son of Albert and Mary and they lived at Napier st, White hills.

The Monti’s were a pioneer family on the White Hills gold fields arriving in the late 1850’s from Genoa, Italy. Initially miners, however over generations turned to market gardening to feed the growing population in the Bendigo district.

On enlisting, he would transfer to the Bendigo camp and be allotted to A Company one of the training units at that time. The Bendigo Camp was at the Epsom Racecourse, not far from the Monti family home in White Hills.

From August 9 till mid December he would be assigned to C Company training unit attached to the 12th Battalion. On December 17, 1915 he is transferred to the 9th Reinforcements to be part of the 21st Battalion heading for the action.

At this stage of the 1915 year, the Australian Imperial Forces were in the final throes of defending grimly the cliffs and beaches of Gallipoli in the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign. Harry and fellow recruits would no doubt be thinking that would be their destination as well.

Reinforcements were usually entrained to Melbourne into either the Broadmeadows or the Show Grounds camp at Ascot Vale. The 9th Reinforcements would embark from Port Melbourne, onboard HMAT RUNIC on January 20, 1916. The Runic would stop over at Colombo en route to their destination of Alexandria, Egypt.

Landing in Egypt, the reinforcements would soon join the battered and bruised AIF survivors recently returned from the Gallipoli campaign.

They would spend just a short few weeks in Egypt before embarking for France. They would leave Alexandria on March 21, disembarking in Marseilles, Southern France a few days later.

Captain A. R MacNeill in the Official History of the 21st Battalion A.I.F. would write -

“The voyage was pleasant as regards weather but nervy as regards submarines and we were glad to tie up safety alongside a French wharf in the afternoon of the 24th March. The 2nd Division was the first Australian unit in France except the Siege Artillery and the 1st Divisional Motor Transport. This being the case our reception was exceptionally enthusiastic. During our three days train journey from Marseilles to Aire. We were delighted by the sight of the green countryside, the broad sweep of the Rhone and the undoubted warmth of our welcome from the people.”

Private Harry Monti would be ‘Taken on Strength’ (TOS) in the 21st Battalion in Northern France on April 24, 1916.

Captain A. R MacNeill would continue the description of these few months for the 21st Battalion  -

"Our 9th Reinforcements joined us and the unit kept well up to strength, not being depleted by any disastrous actions or suffering from bad weather or conditions.

At Fleurbaix and Armentiers the precedent of the 21st and 22nd working together was established. Although all the units of the 6th Brigade have always been in closest sympathy with one another it has nearly always been our lot to be relieved by the 22nd Battalion and vice versa. In out years in France, though repeatedly changing over with the same unit both officers and men came to know and appreciate our sister Battalion and it is not out of place to record here our admiration and affection for our good friends whose only fault was that they wore a red and purple diamond instead of a red and black one.

Four days march during which we stayed at Strazeele (10½ miles), Eblington (11½ miles) and Campagne (5 miles) brought us to the railway at St. Omer (5 miles) on the 11th July. We crowded into the train "40 hommes" to a truck and at 11 am left in the highest spirits for a destination unknown.

We reached ‘Longeaux siding near Amiens after seven hours train ride, via Calais, Boulogue, Etaples and Abbeville, we marched 8 miles to billets at St. Sauveur where we stayed till the 16th July. Blankets were handed in and practices in attack formations were carried out daily. By this time we knew our fate and had a screw up our courage to face with a smile the certainty of entering the Somme push on the heels of the 1st Division.

Marching by easy stages we reached Varennes (22 miles) on 20th July via Villers Bocage (8 miles) and Puchevillers (7 miles). Each day the roar of the battle came clearer to our ears. From Varennes we could see the shells bursting near Ovillers-la-Boiselle and the unit would line up in the evening to watch the strafe. Equipment was fitted and refitted until we evolved the "fighting order" which lasted with small modifications throughout the campaign. We left Varennes for Albert at 5 am on the 26th on two hours notice.

All day long we camped at the Albert Brickfields listening to stories of slaughter from the 1st Division men and at 7 pm moved by platoons through the town to Sausage Valley where we camped in the old German front line in a rather disorganised state. Guns of all calibres were drawn up almost wheel to wheel all round, the noise was deafening and it was hard to imagine that there was any system about the battle at all. For three days we acted as carrying battalion to the Brigade moving up laden with rations, bombs and S.A.A. through the murderous barrage which was kept on the Chalk Pit road and Pozieres village. In those days the art of counter battery shooting had not been invented as a science and the poor old infantry were the target for all types of artillery. Of our trips along the so-called Kay trench, which was really only a track among the shell holes, the less said the better. All troops were under observation by the Germans from the time they cleared casualty Corner at the top of Sausage Valley until they reached the front line. The trenches on both sides were battered day and night with H.E. (high explosive) and the roads in addition received constant attention with shrapnel.

The one satisfaction was that the 1st Division had captured Poziers village and that we were holding it. Moving into the front line on the night 29/30 July we had another rough passage in the village but relief was complete by daylight. Our tour lasted three days during which casualties were hardly as heavy during the carrying period. "C" Company came off worst having lost 60 men out of 140 by shelling alone, by the time we withdrew to supports and carry again. The whole of this time preparations for an attack by the Division on Poziers ridge were under way and while in the line we dug a jumping off trench half way across No Man’s Land. This was a rather remarkable performance as in one section of it 80 men dug 240 yards of trench, plus traverses to a depth of 5 feet between 9.15 pm and 3.45 am under a very heavy fire."                                      (Source - THE STORY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST-  Official History of the 21st Battalion A.I.F. EDITOR; Captain A. R. MacNeil, M.C. PUBLISHED in 1920)

Unfortunately during the Poziers battle Private Harry Monti would be wounded in battle on July 27, with a bullet wound in the chest. He was evacuated to the British 44th Casualty Clearing station near Amiens on the Somme river. Unfortunately Harry would die from his wounds a few days later on August 1, 1916.

Harry Monti’s parents would be advised by cable on August 25, that their son had been wounded in action, however, a few days later we read in the Bendigo Independent newspaper on September 5 that;

‘Yesterday afternoon the Rev. G.H. Mathews, of White. Hills, had the painful duty of conveying to Mr. and Mrs. A Monti that their son, Pte.Harry Monti, had died of wounds. Only a few days ago the parents had received word that their son was wounded. They are naturally grief-stricken’.

Harry was buried at the Puchaviller’s British Military Cemetery, seven and half miles south of the town of Doullens in Northern France. (Plot 2, Row B, Grave 68.) With the Reverend G K Knyvett officiating.

Private Harry Monti 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.

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Biography contributed by Robert Wight

Pte 3873 Harry Monti was wounded at Pozieres on 27 August 1916. Evacuated to 44th CCS which was located at Puchevillers, he died there of his wounds four days later on 1 August 1916.