Joseph Raymond STEAD

Poppy

STEAD, Joseph Raymond

Service Number: 187
Enlisted: 1 June 1915
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Murray Town, 14 November 1894
Home Town: Tintinara, The Coorong, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in action, Fromelles Nord-Pas-de-Calais France, 20 July 1916, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Murray Bridge Roll of Honour WW1
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World War 1 Service

1 Jun 1915: Enlisted
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 187, 32nd Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note: ''
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 187, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 187, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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Biography contributed by Steve Larkins

Joseph Stead was a farmer from the small town of Tintinara in South Australia's upper south east when he enlisted into the 32nd Battalion, which was forming in Adelaide, on 30 June 1915.  This was just as the stories of what was happening at Gallipoli began to filter back to Australia, along with mounting casualty lists.  He was thus a "fair Dinkum" under no illusions of what this war meant in terms of the risk of death or wounding.

Joseph was born on November the 14th 1894 and was the 13th child of 15 to his parents Thomas Stead and Ann Elizabeth Dunhill. He was 5’4¾” and weighed 140lbs. He had brown hair, blue eyes with a tanned complexion.

OLike many other men at the time he was a member of the local (Tintinara) Rifle Club a part of the national defence framework of the day.

After basic training at various sites around Adelaide, the 32nd Battalion embarked from Port Adelaide on a total of three ships on 18 November 1915.  After a relatively quick run across the Indian Ocean, they disembarked at Suez, 18 December 1915.

His service record reveals a typical series of minor ailments;

  • Admitted to 15th Field Ambulance, Tel el Kebir, 6 March 1916 (influenza); discharged to duty, 10 March 1916.
  • Admitted to 8th Field Ambulance, Outpost Road Head, 3 April 1916 (mumps); discharged to unit, and rejoined, Ferry Post, 25 April 1916.

A major re-organisation of the AIF took place in Egypt, including the so-called 'doubling of the AIF'  whereby original Battalions and Brigades were 'cloned' by drafting 50 % of the officers and men of the original units to form te basis of the new.  

The 32nd Battalion was not directly affected by this but in short order, the 8th Brigade to which the 32nd belonged and comprising Battalions from the 'outer States' was allocated to the newly raised 5th Division.  The other two Brigades, breaking the otherwise numeric progression of AIF Battalions and Brigades, comprised the 14th (NSW) and 15th (Vic) Brigades respectively.

Joseph embarked with his Battalion from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force on 17 June 1916.  They disembarked Marseilles, France, 23 June 1916.

From Marseilles, the Battalion travelled north through the lush verdant fields of France.  Many soldiers noted the contrast to the homes they had left in Australia which were often parched and dry.

The 32nd Battalion underwent theatre training in the "Nursery" sector near Armentieres before, along with the rest of the 5th Division, it took its place relieving other Divisions of the AIF which were moving south to the SOmme sectors.  So the 32nd Battalion found itself on the left of the Australian line,  taking its place in front of a small town called Fleurbaix, looking towards another, called Fromelles,  in northern France.

In mid July the Division was tasked with a 'raid' as part of a plan to fix and hold German forces in the sector so they could be not used to reinforce the major action taking place further south on the Somme.

This raid has since become known by the name of the town the Australians faced.  See the link here for information on theis apocalyptic battle.  Fromelles (/explore/campaigns/2).  The 5th Division suffered grievously, and the 32nd on the far left of the attack lost much of its fighting strength in less than 30 minutes in the face of withering machine gun fire.  The battle took place overnight 19/20 July.  Joseph Stead was reported missing, 20 July 1916.  

He like many of his Missing comrades, became the subject of a Red Cross investigation, which can be viewed at the sidebar of this page.  These investigations were put in place by Vera Deakin, daughter of a former Prime Minister, to support the inquiries of grieving families back in Australia struggling to undersand how the lives of loved ones had been extinguished in a place  far far away which they would likely never see. 

He was one of numbers of 32nd Battalion men who had penetrated the German front line, only to be caught in flanking fire from adjacent German positions, or cut off by counter attacks and killed in German clearing operations, as the Australians fought to regain their own positions.    Later a set of ID discs were returned through the Red Cross, byt the Germans, confirming his death behind German lines, and he was officially listed as Killed in Action.

Large numbers of Australian remains were never accounted for.  In 2008, a mass grave was unearthed in the vicinity of a small wood near the township of Fromelles.  In it were the bodies of hundreds of Australian and British sodliers who died behind the German lines and whose remains were placed in lime filled pits as a field hygiene measure.

After extensive DNA matching, Joseph Stead came to light once again .  His remains and those of many others , as they were unearthed, identifed and re-interred in the newest AWGC site on the Western Fronti in 2010, at the newly opened Pheasant Wood Cemetery.

 

Steve Larkins Nov 2016

 

Jospeh like his comrades, was the subject of a Red Cross File - File (p. 7) bears notation: 'Identification disc received from Germany. No particulars were afforded except that soldier is deceased. To be reported as KILLED IN ACTION 20/7/16.'

Note on Red Cross File No 2610403: 'The above name appeared on German death list dated 4-11-16.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Originally listed as 'No Known Grave' and commemorated at V.C. Corner (Panel No 6), Australian Cemetery, Fromelles; subsequently (2010) identified, and interred in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery, France.

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