Edward Claude (Claude) PERKINS

PERKINS, Edward Claude

Service Number: 4503
Enlisted: 4 January 1916, Royal Agricultural Society Ground, Sydney
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 17th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bowral, New South Wales, Australia, 10 March 1900
Home Town: Leichhardt, Leichhardt, New South Wales
Schooling: Crystal Street School, Petersham, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Horse Driver
Died: Shell Blast, France, 8 November 1916, aged 16 years
Cemetery: AIF Burial Ground, Grass Lane, Flers
IX. D. 5.,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Leichhardt War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

4 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 4503, 17th Infantry Battalion, Royal Agricultural Society Ground, Sydney
9 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 4503, 17th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '12' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Nestor embarkation_ship_number: A71 public_note: ''
9 Apr 1916: Embarked Private, 4503, 17th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Nestor, Sydney
8 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 4503, 17th Infantry Battalion, 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17

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

Biography contributed by Michael Silver

Edward Claude Perkins (Claude) was born on 10th March 1900 in in the Glenquarry area of the Bowral district of New South Wales. Claude’s father, Thomas Henry Perkins (1859-1929) and his mother, Mary Jane Shippley (1860-1930) were married in 1878 at Robertson, New South Wales, Australia.

The Perkins family had lived in the area since the early 1840’s.

In October 1901 Tom and Mary moved the family from Bowral to Leichhardt around 6km from the centre of Sydney.

On the 22 December 1915, three days before Christmas, Edward Claude Perkins applied at the Sydney Town Hall to join the AIF. 

On the 4 January 1916 at the Royal Agricultural Grounds in Sydney, Claude was accepted and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, 11th Reinforcements for the 17th Battalion at just 15 years and 10 months old.

How did they let young men under age of 21 join up? Well, that was the easy part. On the application to ‘Enlist in Australian Imperial Force’ they never asked for a date of birth, only the enlistee’s age. Claude entered his age as 21 years and 1 month.

After embarking for overseas on 16 April 1916, Claude underwent training in England before being sent to France in early Setember. 

The early part of November 1916 saw some of the worst weather conditions in battle for the Somme. The rain and the mud made life unbearable. It also made it treacherous, as troops in the trenches became “sitting ducks” for enemy artillery fire.  

After just eight weeks on the front line of the Western Front, Private Edward Claude Perkins, at the age of 16, was killed by the relentless shell fire at High Wood near Flers on November 8.

2770 Corporal GH Robinson later reported that “I saw Perkins killed by shell fire on the 8 November near High Wood. His body was buried in a shell hole outside the trench.” 

The area were Claude was buried was later lost to the enemy. It was some six months later when the battle had shifted and the Allies were able to return to exhume his body and that of other soldiers and provide them with a more dignified burial.

There is every likelihood that Claude’s body was carried back from the front line with the body of 2nd Lieutenant W.G.Devitt, also of the 17th, who was killed by shell fire on November 9, as both Perkins’ and Devitt’s grave exhumation record has their names together.

Both soldiers were finally laid to rest in Grass Lane 3 miles, south west of Bapuame.

The sadness of this story is that not only did Edward Claude Perkins lose his life as an under age soldier, but equally, a mother and father were reminded of their son’s death and sacrifice till the time of their own deaths. Claude’s brothers and sisters also grieved for a longer period.

 From 1916 through to 1937 the family paid for a small ad in the “Family Notices” section of the Sydney Morning Herald to remember Claude.

Source: https://ecperkins.com.au/