Frederick William (Dutch) HUMPHREY


HUMPHREY, Frederick William

Service Number: 342
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 31st Infantry Battalion
Born: Footscray, Victoria, Australia, 1877
Home Town: Footscray, Maribyrnong, Victoria
Schooling: State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Blacksmith
Died: Killed In Action, France, 20 July 1916
Cemetery: VC Corner Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

9 Nov 1915: Involvement Private, SN 342, 31st Infantry Battalion
9 Nov 1915: Embarked Private, SN 342, 31st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Wandilla, Melbourne
Date unknown: Involvement 31st Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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Biography contributed by Susan Weisser

Son of Louisa Hislop and Henry Humphrey, Frederick was 38 years old and a Blacksmith when he enlisted in the AIF on 15 October 1915. His Next of Kin was listed as his mother Louisa living at 12 Napier St Footscray.

Only a few weeks after enlisting he was on a ship to Suez and Egypt. On 16 June 1916 he boarded a ship at Alexandria and was taken to France disembarking at Marseilles on 23 June 1916. He only lasted a month in France being reported Missing on 21 July 1916. A subsequent Court of Enquiry held on 1 August 1917 pronounced him, and numerous other men of his Battalion, as ‘Killed In Action in the fields of France on 20 July 1916’.

Frederick served with No 2 Platoon, A Company of the 31st Battalion which was part of the Australian 5th Division. The 31st Battalion saw their first action in France on the morning of 19 July 1916. After a preliminary bombardment, the 5th Australian and British 61st (South Midland) Divisions undertook what is officially known as the Attack at Fromelles. The 61st Division attack failed with the loss of over 1,500 officers and men out of 3,400 who took part. The Australian left and centre reached the German trenches and held their second line during the day and night, but the right was held off by fierce machine-gun barrage and only reached the front line in isolated groups. The action was broken off on the morning of 20 July, after the 5th Australian Division had lost over 5,500 officers and men. 31st Battalion suffered 572 deaths and casualties – over half its strength - with Frederick Humphrey being one of these.

Frederick William Humphrey is commemorated on Panel 3A at V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial Fromelles. This V.C. Corner Cemetery at Fromelles was made after the Armistice. It contains the graves of 410 Australian soldiers who died in the Attack at Fromelles and whose bodies were found on the battlefield, but not a single body could be identified. It was therefore decided not to mark the individual graves, but to record on a memorial the names of all the Australian soldiers who were killed in the engagement and whose graves were not known. The memorial was built to commemorate nearly 1,300 Australians. Since then many have had graves identified for them - in particular those found in the Pheasant Wood mass grave site in 2009 where familial DNA was used to identify the bodies discovered. These bodies were reinterred at a new cemetery Pheasant Wood cemetery at Fromelles. Frederick Humphrey remains one of the remaining 1,100 people commemorated at V.C. Corner today whose body has never been identified.