Harry EASTGATE

EASTGATE, Harry

Service Number: 51
Enlisted: 1 February 1916, Brisbane, Queensland
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 3rd Machine Gun Battalion
Born: North Bundaberg, Queensland, 29 October 1895
Home Town: Gin Gin, Bundaberg, Queensland
Schooling: Barnes School, Knockroe and Isis Central Mill School
Occupation: Engineer
Died: Natural causes (cancer), Caboolture, Queensland, 9 January 1982, aged 86 years
Cemetery: Mount Gravatt Cemetery & Crematorium, Brisbane
Grave Location: ANZAC-2-H-656, ANZAC Lawn 2/Row H/Grave 656; buried with his Wife: Laurel Eileen Eastgate. Also his (DVA) Official Commemoration - Memorial Location: Wall 37/Row K; at the Queensland Garden of Remembrance (within Pinnaroo Lawn Cemetery).
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World War 1 Service

1 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 51, Brisbane, Queensland
5 Jun 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 51, 11th Machine Gun Company, HMAT Borda, Sydney
5 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 51, 11th Machine Gun Company, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Jan 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 11th Machine Gun Company
29 Sep 1917: Wounded Lance Corporal, SN 51, 11th Machine Gun Company, Polygon Wood, Shell shock
14 Mar 1918: Transferred AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 3rd Machine Gun Battalion
26 Apr 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 51, 3rd Machine Gun Battalion

Harry's unit story and Tales he told his grandson Brian

Harry Eastgate enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 February 1916. The Army records show that his place of enlistment and residence at that time was Gin Gin and that he was an engineer by occupation aged 19 years 5 months.
His father was listed as next of kin and his residence was shown as Palms Mill Mackay Queensland.
As he was under 21 at the time, Harry had to have his parent’s signatures on the enlistment apers. He often recounted how he forged his mother’s signature on the enlistment papers. This act caused him to get into a bit of trouble with his mother and father when they found out.
Harry’s enlistment papers are all dated and signed at Brisbane. On 1 Feb 1916, being born on 29 Oct 1895 makes him 20 years and 4 months – not 19. Some clerk not good at maths perhaps? Who knows. Just one more little mystery for the mix.

Harry’s regimental number was 51 and his military service dates from 1 February 1916 until 18 January 1919.
When he left the army he had attained the rank of Lance Corporal.

Army records show that after enlisting he went to the 11th Brigade Depot for training and on 30 March 1916 was attached to the 11th Machine Gun Company as a machine gunner.
The training was all done at the Army Camp at Enoggera Brisbane.

The 11th Machine Gun Company was part of the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion attached to the 11th BrigadeThey travelled from Brisbane to Sydney by rail and then embarked for Britain on HMAT A30 Borda (His Majesty’s Auxilliary Transport). The ship departed Sydney on 5 June 1916
Pte Harry Eastgate listed on nominal embarkation roll HMAT Borda.
The War Diary for the 11th Marchine Gun Company show that on July 6 1916 the Borda arrived at Port Said Egypt where the unit disembarked and was moved by train to Tel-el-Kebir where they were rested prior to leaving of Alexandria where they again boarded the Borda on 13 July 1916.

The ship then crossed the Mediterranean and docked at Marseilles France on 19 July 1916.
The unit then travelled by train across France to Le Harve and crossed the English Channel, arriving at Southampton England on 23 July 1916.
They then went to Amesbury Salisbury where their training began in earnest.

This was where the 11th Brigade joined with other units to form the Australian 3rd Division.
It was led at differnt times by the two most famous and well respected Australian Generals of WW1.
Major General John Monash 13 July 1916 to 31 May 1918
Major General John Gellibrand 31 May 1918 to past November 1918.
Included in the WWI battle honours were: Third Battle of Ypres, Broodseinde, Passchendaele, Morlancourt, Villers-Bretonneux, Hamel, Mericourt, Suzanne, the capture of Mont St Quentin and Peronne and the Hindenberg Line.
During his time at Salisbury Harry managed to visit with his English relatives and he would often relate how they were all pleased to be able to meet “Hezzy’s boy Harry” – with him dropping the”H” while trying to sound like the northern English manner of speaking.
In September of 1916 King George V inspected the Australian 3rd Division at Salisbury Plain.
On 22 November 1916 after the Somme Offensive the 11th Brigade as part of the 3rd Division embarked for France from Southampton on the paddle ship “La Marguerite”.
On arrival in France the unit went by train to Petit sec Bois and was billeted at Blanche Maison and Bailleui.
From 15 December 1916 to 3 January 1917 poor Harry was hospitalised at the front when he came down with Mumps.

On 22 December while Harry was in hospital his unit went to Armentiers and into the trenches in the Epinette sector where they relieved the 9th Machine Gun Company.

In January 1917 after Harry rejoined the unit, the war diary indicates that the 11th Machine Gun Company provided covering fire for raids on German Trenches by the 44th and 42nd Battalions and came under heavy artillery bombardment. On 25 January 1917 Harry Eastgate was promoted to Lance Corporal.

On 31 July and 1 August the Brigade saw action at Fme de La Croix and were at Poperinghe in September where they sustained a severe and heavy bombardment from German artillery.
They also underwent a heavy attack by Gotha Bombers on 29 September 1917 and sustained several casualties – among them was Lance Corporal Harry Eastgate who was severely wounded in action after a shell exploded near him and showered him with shrapnel.
On 2nd November he was classified as suffering from “Shell Shock” as well and transferred to the 9th Field Hospital at Rouen.
On the 2nd March 1918 he was transferred from the 11th Brigade to the Australian Employment Company and attached to the 1st Australian Divison HQ on 16 March 1918 where he was engaged in light duties such as Transport Duties and Traffic Control, being judged unfit for front line service due to his injuries and that he was still convalescing.

He was with that unit when the war ended with the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 and continued his service in France until 14th December 1918.

During the time he was convalescing Harry was billeted with a French family.
While living with the French family Harry became fluent in speaking French. He could not read or write the language but could speak and understand it quite well. His grasp of the language remained with him throughout his life and when his grandson Brian was learning French at High School he would confuse the lad by speaking swiftly in French and then ask “What did I just say?”

On 14 December 1918 he left France and was transferred to 2 Convalescent Depot Weymouth England. He remained there until 18 January 1919 when he embarked for his return to Australia on the vessel HMAT Ulysses.

Harry arrived back in Australia, disembarked in Brisbane Queensland and was discharged from the Army on the 26th April 1919.
Harry served 3 years and 86 days in the AIF of which 2 years and 288 days were abroad.

The injuries and the shell shock he had suffered stayed with him for the rest of his life. He later became a TPI Pensioner (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) ex-Veteran.

Like a lot of returned veterans Harry didn’t talk too much about conditions in the trenches and his experiences during the war. He would relate only a few stories now and then about his time in France.

He was always a good athlete and very good at sprints and running and used to tell (brag to) his grandchildren how he was a unit champion.
He enjoyed telling the story of how one time when the Germans were shelling their position with what the soldiers used to call “whizz bangs” everybody ran for cover and while he was heading for cover to his great dismay he, the unit champion runner, was overtaken by one of the cooks. It just goes to show what strong motivation can do.

He enjoyed the company of his grandchildren and especially enjoyed that his grandson Brian also shared his love of books and reading and history. He had a large collection of books and magazines which the young lad would eagerly devour whenever visiting his grandparents.

He also had several “souvenirs” of the war and once remarked to his son Merv that he particularly liked it when Brian would ask him all sorts of questions about what the “souvenir” was and showed a genuine interest in what they were and what they meant and how he came by them.

It was during one time when Harry and Brian (at the time a teenager) were having one of their chats that Harry related a story about the time he had met up with a German veteran of the First World War at the TPI (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) rooms in Brisbane.

They had got to talking about their experiences during the war and it turned out that they had apparently faced each other in opposite trenches at the same time. Harry admitted that he liked this German veteran as he was a really nice person and voiced his thoughts about how it would have been sad if he had been killed or if he had been the one to harm him.
He said it brought back a memory to him of how he had to physically kill a German soldier with his bare hands during a fight in the trenches because both of them had lost their weapons. He also started to talk about how bad it was in the trenches and how terrible war was.

It was very rare for him to talk about things like this and it was evident from the look on his face when he related that tale that it was a painful memory for him.

Another tale he recounted was when an occasion when a volunteer was required to temporarily man a machine gun in an aeroplane. Harry volunteered and during the course of the mission the plane was shot up.

Harry was again injured, but not seriously, on this occasion because when the pilot went to make an emergency landing behind Allied lines they crashed into a field of melons while landing as from above it looked like a grassy cleared area.
He used to say that the moral of that story was never to volunteer

The injuries he received from the artillery explosion and/or bomb explosions were so severe that doctors were unable to remove all of the shell fragments from his body. Even up to the 1960’s dentists were still recovering shell fragments from Harry’s mouth when the fragments would work their way up through to his mouth and cause him problems.

He was a talented sketch artist and loved to make sketches, drawings and cartoons. He had a diary which he kept during the war and it contained many drawings and sketches made during his service. He would often show the diary to his grandchildren. Unfortunately the diary has since been lost over the years.

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Biography contributed by Brian Eastgate

On 29 Sep 1917 Wounded at Poperinghe after shelling and then while at casualty station wounded again after attack by Gotha Bombers