Service Number: 534
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 21st Infantry Battalion
Born: Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia, 1885
Home Town: Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Killed in Action, France, 21 November 1916
Cemetery: AIF Burial Ground, Grass Lane, Flers
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

10 May 1915: Involvement Private, 534, 24th Infantry Battalion
10 May 1915: Embarked Private, 534, 24th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ulysses, Melbourne
21 Nov 1916: Involvement Private, 534, 21st Infantry Battalion

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

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Son of George Evelyn Wippell and Marie Wallace Wippell, of "Airlie", 4, Selwyn Avenue, Elwood, Victoria, Australia. Native of Melbourne.

Biography contributed by John Morrissey

Evelyn George Wippell was the second son of George Evelyn Wippell and Mary Wallace Fisher.  George was working as a clerk when war broke out in 1914.  He enlisted in the A.I.F. on 21 January 1915, at the age of thirty.  His enlistment document shows him as 5 feet, 8.5 inches tall and weighing 12 stone.  He had hazel eyes and black hair, and his complexion is stated as fresh.  On enlistment, he allocated two-fifths of his pay to the financial upkeep of his mother.

George, as he always called himself, was assigned to the 21st Battalion, 6th Brigade, 2nd Division.  He embarked at Melbourne on 8 May 1915, aboard HMAT Ulysses (A38).  The battalion arrived in Egypt in June and was ordered to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, embarking for Gallipoli on 29 August.  During transit, the battalion’s transport, HMT Southland, was torpedoed by the German submarine UB14 off the island of Lemnos and had to be abandoned.  Forty lives were lost in the attack.  George eventually arrived at Anzac Cove in early September 1915.  The allied assault on the Dardanelles had been a comprehensive failure, and by the time the 21st Battalion arrived, it was obvious the situation was hopeless, and no further offensives were mounted.  By 7 January 1916, the men of the 21st Battalion found themselves back in Egypt, disembarking from the troopship HMAT Ascanius (A11) at Alexandria.  While in Egypt, the battalion was employed in security operations along the Suez Canal while the military hierarchy decided where to best deploy the Anzac troops.  In March 1916, the 2nd Division embarked for the French port of Marseilles and from there on to a quiet section of the Western Front, south of Armentieres.

The Wippell family back home understood that Australian troops were soon to be committed to battle.  In May and again in November, George’s father wrote to Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, requesting that any telegrams relating to his son’s welfare not be sent to his home address at Airlie, 3 Selwyn Avenue, Elwood.  George’s mother, Mary, was in a very fragile state, and the family was concerned that unwelcome news could cause a shock that would be disastrous to her health.  The family had good reason to be concerned, as after a period acclimatising to conditions on the Somme battlefield, the decision was made to use the 1st and 2nd divisions in an offensive to take the village of Pozieres.  Luckily, the 21st Battalion was involved in a logistics role.  This reprieve was short-lived, with the battalion in the thick of fighting during the battle of Mouquet Farm in late August.  The Australian troops, having overrun the German fortifications at Mouquet Farm, were shocked when German troops counterattacked from the rear.  The Australians realising too late that the Germans had an extensive network of underground fortifications that had survived the artillery barrage.   After vicious fighting, the Australians were forced to retreat.

In early September, the entire Anzac Corps was withdrawn for rest around Ypres, where the various elements took part in peaceful penetration operations.  The fighting around Pozieres and Mouquet Farm had cost the 2nd Division 8,000 casualties, all in the space of some thirty days!  The corps commanders fully expected the troops to spend the winter in and around Flanders, but the British High Command had other ideas.  Soon the 2nd Division found itself supporting elements of the British 4th Army around Gueudecourt.  In early November, the 21st Battalion took part in fruitless attempts to capture and hold German positions in a section of trenchwork called the Maze.  These actions resulted in 2,000 casualties, and ultimately by 16 November, German forces had recaptured the positions.  On 21 November 1916, George Wippell was killed in action.  The circumstances of his death are not known.

We can only imagine the effect George’s death had on the Wippell family.  The only consolation for his poor mother Mary was that her eldest son Eric was discharged from the A.I.F. in May 1916 after it was found he had significantly reduced vision in his left eye.  The Argus reported on George’s death in December 1916:

Mr and Mrs GE Wippell, Selwyn Avenue, Elwood have been advised that their eldest son, Private George Wippell, was killed in action in France on November 21.  Private Wippell enlisted in January 1915.  He was on board when the Southland was torpedoed and saw service in Gallipoli until the evacuation.  He was employed by Messer’s Parsons Brothers for many years before enlisting.  He took great interest in rowing, especially with the Essendon Club, and also took a prominent part in golf, cricket, and football.