Donald Henderson ARTHURSON

ARTHURSON, Donald Henderson

Service Number: 5032
Enlisted: 12 January 1916, Liverpool, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 54th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Leichhardt, Leichhardt, New South Wales
Schooling: Leichhardt Superior Public School, New South Wales, Australia
Occupation: Junior Railway Porter
Died: Killed in Action, Bullecourt, France, 15 May 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Haymarket NSW Government Railway and Tramway Honour Board, Leichhardt War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

12 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Liverpool, New South Wales
1 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5032, 2nd Infantry Battalion
1 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 5032, 2nd Infantry Battalion, SS Makarini, Sydney
9 Apr 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT A71 Nestor from Sydney
15 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 5032, 54th Infantry Battalion
Date unknown: Involvement 54th Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

Great Sydney Central Station Honour Board

Donald Henderson ARTHURSON was born on 3 January 1899 at Woollahra in Sydney, and he attended the Superior Public School at Leichhardt. He joined the NSWGR&T as a junior porter in the Traffic Branch, Sydney District, on 11 August 1915. He stayed a junior porter for the duration of his employment.
On 12 January 1916 he enlisted in the AIF at the rank of Private (Service Number 5032) and was assigned to the 16th Reinforcements to the 2nd Infantry Battalion. He nominated his mother, Mrs Edith Margaret Arthurson of the Fire Station at Leichhardt, as his next of kin. He gave his age at enlistment as 18 years, whereas in fact he was only 17. It was in February 1936, when his mother wrote to AIF Base Records pointing this out, that this fact finally registered (she had mentioned it before in a letter to AIF Base Records in September 1916, wanting to know his whereabouts). By then it was too late to amend any of his records, including information held by the Australian War Memorial.
Donald embarked at Sydney for Egypt aboard the SS ‘Makarini’ on 5 April 1916, disembarking at Suez on 1 May 1916. While in Egypt, on 24 May 1916 he was allotted to the 14th Training Battalion as reinforcements to the 54th Battalion and subsequently embarked at Alexandria for France on 21 June 1916. He joined the 54th Battalion in France on 3 August 1916.
While serving in France he suffered a number of ailments. These included ‘trench feet’, which led to him being hospitalised for the first half of November 1916 and confined to Base Depot from then until 6 December 1916. On 16 March 1917 he was admitted to hospital with tonsillitis and was not discharged until 6 April 1917. He re-joined his unit on 17 April 1917 and was killed in action at Bullecourt on 15 May 1917, aged 18 years and 4 months. In the Red Cross Enquiry Bureau file for Donald there is general consensus among witness statements describing the circumstances of his death, that
‘he was in a dugout with a number of others when a shell exploded, burying them all.’ Another witness stated:
‘A shell exploded, burying 15. A party dug them out and found 10 were dead. I helped to bury them in the Sunken Rd and Arthurson was among the number. … I do not think it would be very easy to trace the graves, as the place has been under heavy shell fire.’
In accordance with the custom prevailing at the time, Donald’s effects were sent to his father, Mr Kenneth Arthurson, of the Fire Station at Leichhardt.
In a letter dated in 15 March 1923, responding to an enquiry from his mother asking for details of his gravesite, AIF Base Records said that the Graves Section had not yet succeeded in locating his resting place, and further that:
‘The vicinity of Bullecourt was repeatedly the scene of heavy firing during April and May 1917, and it is quite possible all traces of his burial place were obliterated by shell fire’.
As his gravesite was never found, Donald is commemorated at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France.
(NAA B2455-3036567)

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Biography contributed by Brio Dos Santos

War service: Western Front

Enlisted with Reinforcements to the 2nd Batt at the age of 16 yrs. Was transferred to the 54th Batt when the 5th Div was formed in Egypt. Left for France and went into action for the first time in July 1916.



Kenneth and Edith Arthurson, Fire Station, Leichhardt, New South Wales

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal