Raymond Hadden CHOAT

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CHOAT, Raymond Hadden

Service Number: 67
Enlisted: 21 July 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Goodwood, South Australia, 22 March 1892
Home Town: Clarence Park, South Australia
Schooling: Goodwood Public School, Sturt Street Public School and University of Adelaide
Occupation: Train controller's clerk
Died: Killed in Action, Fromelles, France, 20 July 1916, aged 24 years
Cemetery: VC Corner Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
Name listed on Panel Number 5A on the Australian Memorial to the Missing
Memorials: Adelaide HB09 South Australian Railways - Adelaide Railway Station*, Adelaide National War Memorial (South Australia), Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Cherry Gardens Memorial*, Cherry Gardens WW1 Honour Board, Goodwood HB1 Goodwood Primary School*, Goodwood M Anglican Church / District Fallen of WW1 and WW II*, Unley HB01 Town Hall*
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World War 1 Service

21 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 67, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Keswick, South Australia
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 67, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 67, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 67, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

"We are feeling very anxious..."

Dear Sir,

Your note to hand in reference to my son R.H. Choat. I might state that he enlisted July 1915 in A Company, Private, 32nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Brigade.

Left these shores in November, stationed in Egypt for six months and then was transferred to France, when he last wrote in [sic] July 17th he was well, that [was] the last we heard of him. We are feeling very anxious about him. He has not been reported missing or sick or a prisoner; we have been trying to get tidings of him but up to the present have been unsuccessful. Soon after landing in Egypt he had a slight accident, but was soon back in the trenches again. Two other brothers left with him. One was killed in action on July 20th in France. The other one reported missing on the same date. He has since been reported a prisoner of war in Germany.

I Remain

Yours Respectfully

Joseph Choat


Sourced from the University of Adelaide.

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A Tragic Coincidence………a family’s loss

For Joseph and Alice Mary Choat who were living in Clarence Park, Fromelles would be the battle that impacted their lives forever. Out of their seven sons, three of them enlisted in July, 1915.

On the 12th of July, 1915, the third son Archibald (Archie) Percy Choat enlisted with his older brother, the second son, Wesley Paul Choat. They were given the regimental numbers 66 and 68 respectively. The first child of Joseph and Alice, Raymond (Ray) Hadden Choat enlisted just a few days later on the 21st of July, 1915. He was given the service number of 67. They were all placed in ‘A’ Company, 32nd Battalion.

Private Raymond Hadden Choat was the academic mind in the family and his one aim in life was to, “excel.” Studying at Adelaide University and working as a clerk when he enlisted he was, “deeply attached to… home,” and always looking out for his two younger brothers.

Private Wesley Paul Choat was the farmer of the family and before the war broke out he had being farming on the York Peninsula for six years.

Private Archibald Percy Choat was also a farm hand, working as a labourer for several years in the Clare Valley before enlisting with his brother Raymond. Unlike Raymond Hadden, who was described as quite, Archibald Percy was “a bright, loveable disposition,” and he, “enjoyed the esteem of a wide circle of friends.”

All three brothers embarked at Adelaide on the 18th of November 1915 on HMAT Geelong (A2) and were sent to North Africa. After staying six months in Egypt, the three brothers were moved with the rest of the 32nd Battalion to the Western Front and were soon placed in the Front Line at Fromelles.

On the 19th- 20th of July 1916 all three brothers fought in the Battle of Fromelles.

Raymond Choat was killed in Action during the Battle of Fromelles on the 20th of July 1916. He was allegedly killed by a shrapnel wound that entered his heart and allegedly buried at a Cemetery nearby.
The details could not be corroborated.

Wesley Choat was luckier than his older brother and escaped the Battle of Fromelles without injury; however, like many men of the 8th Brigade, having penetrated German lines he was taken prisoner by German Troops and was not be reported as a POW for some days.

In this time he was listed Missing in Action.

Archibald Choat was also killed in Action on the 20th of July 1916 during the battle. After the battle, though, his body was recovered and identified. He is buried at the nearby a Rue-Petillon Military Cemetery, behind Allied lines.

Back in Adelaide, Joseph and Alice Choat were in a state of disbelief. All three of their sons who had enlisted to go to war were listed Killed or Missing in Action either on the 19th or the 20th of July.

As they had no knowledge of the Battle of Fromelles at that point in time, all they knew was that their three sons had gone missing all on the one night somewhere in France. Both in ill health at this point in time, this shocking news made matters worse.

Only then news came through that Wesley Paul Choat, their second son, was being held as a POW in Germany. One of their three sons was alive.

In September, 1917 Wesley Choat tried to escape from captivity and after managing to escape from the camp he was later caught.

But that didn’t stop this resourceful South Australian boy. At this time he knew nothing of his brother’s deaths. In December the same year he escaped again and this time he made across the border to Holland and safety.

By January 1918, he made it across the channel to England. He was awarded the Military Medal for bravery whilst escaping from captivity and discharged from duty and sent on a ship back to Australia.

By December, 1918, he was back in Adelaide, alive.
From losing all three sons in one night in one battle, the Choat family, almost by sheer luck managed to get one of their three boys back.

Wesley Paul Choat, while sailing back to Australia, wrote a personal memoir of his escape from Germany called, “A Bold Bid for Blighty.” It is available to be read at the following web-link: http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2012/D14739/a3900.htm

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Biography

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

The first son of Joseph and Alice Mary Choat who were resident in Clarence Park, Raymond Hadden Choat was and born on the 22nd March 1892.  His story is part of one of the most remarkable tales of family tragedy from WW1 in general and the battle of Fromelles in particular.  Fromelles was to mark the Choat family like no other.

Private Raymond Hadden Choat was a clerk at Railway Controller's office in 1915.  He had been educated at Goodwood Public School, Sturt Street Public School and the University of Adelaide where he studied accounting and a diploma of commerce.

Brother of Regimental No 66 Archibald Percy Choat (rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au) and No 68 Wesley Paul Choat (rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au).

Having witnessed the outbreak of war and the departure of Australian troops in October 1914, and the casualty lists from Gallipoli in early 1915, the Choat brothers became “Fair Dinkums”.  This was the name given to men who were under no illusion that this was some great adventure, but rather a deadly serious high risk undertaking.

On the 12th of July, 1915, his two younger brothers, Archie and Wesley enlisted in the AIF. They were given the regimental numbers 66 and 68 respectively. Then finally Ray enlisted just a few days later on the 21st of July, 1915. He was given the service number of 67. All three were placed in ‘A’ Company, 32nd Battalion.  To anyone with military experience reading this today, one is immediately filled with foreboding by this information.

Their service paralleled that of their colleagues in the 32nd Battalion from embarkation on the HMAT Geelong, to their transit in Egypt and then on to the green fields of France and their arrival in the 'Nursery' sector near Armentieres and a little village called Fromelles.

The Choat brothers were caught up in the maelstrom of the battle of Fromelles  (www.rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au)on 19/20th July.

Archie and Ray were killed in the assault most likely by the machine gun fire which swept the ground over which they attacked.  It is likely that Ray was killed close to or behind the German lines.  His body was neither recovered nor his remains identified (Many of the ID discs of the dead were retrieved at great personal risk in the following days by comrades.  Their remains lay on the battlefield until the Armistice two years later by which time the remains were no longer identifiable).

Ray's body is either in the common grave at VC Corner Cemetery (he is commemorated on the Wall there), still in the farmland where he fell or perhaps among the unidentified remains in the Pheasant Wood Mass Grave discovered in 2008. .  Archie's body was recovered and identified, suggesting he may have been hit and killed closer to the Australian lines.  He was interred in the nearby Rue Petillon cemetery on the 20th July 1916.  Wesley’s fate was not immediately confirmed.

Imagine the impact in Adelaide when the Choat  family received news that all three sons had been listed as killed or missing in just one night "somewhere in France".

Wesley, who had been wounded behind enemy lines, became a prisoner of war.  He managed to escape twice, the first time unsuccessfully.  In December 1917 he got away again and made it back to Britain before being repatriated back to Australia by December 1918, having being awarded the Military Medal.

From losing all three sons in one night in one battle, the Choat family had managed to get one of their three boys back.  It must have seemed like an act of providence.

Raymond was remembered as, “deeply attached to… home,” and constantly looking out for his younger brothers.

 

Nathan Rohrlach and Steve Larkins Jan 2014

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