Reginald Bruce COULTER

COULTER, Reginald Bruce

Service Number: 772
Enlisted: 1 March 1915, Adelaide South Australia Australia
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Adelaide, South Australia, 18 July 1896
Home Town: St Peters (SA), Norwood Payneham St Peters, South Australia
Schooling: St. Peter's College, Adelaide, South Australia
Occupation: Student
Died: Wounds sustained at Passchendaele, Lijssenthoek Flanders Belgium, 16 October 1917, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, St Peters All Souls Anglican Church Honour Board WW1, St Peters Heroes War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

1 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide South Australia Australia
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT Anchises
15 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 772, 27th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC / Gallipoli
5 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, 772, 27th Infantry Battalion, 'The Winter Offensive' - Flers/Gueudecourt winter of 1916/17
7 Jun 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 772, 27th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
31 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Third Ypres
31 Jul 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Third Ypres
16 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 27th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: awm_unit: 27 Battalion awm_rank: Second Lieutenant awm_died_date: 1917-10-16
Date unknown: Involvement 27th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

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This material derived from his service record and information held at SA State Records


Reginald Coulter was born in the Adelaide suburb of St Peters SA on the 18th July 1896. His parents were Mr George Frederick Bruce Coulter and Mrs Ada Coulter, of 12 Third Avenue East Adelaide.

He had recently been a student at St Peter's College at the  the time of the outbreak of war. He had service in the 78th Battalion Cadets. He enlisted on 1 March 1915 (he was just 18 years old) and was allocated to the 27th Battalion, his service number 772.

Following initial training at Mitcham Reginald was promoted Sergeant on 16 May 1915. He embarked with the Battalion on 31 May 1915 aboard HMAT Anchises at Outer Harbour. See the 27th Battalion page for photos of the embarkation.

The Battalion engaged in further training in Egypt, before embarking for Gallipoli where it landed on 15 September 1915. By this stage living conditions were poor and inadequate sanitation, hygiene and disease control were causing more casualties than the Turks.

Like many others Reginald succumbed to illness in the form of Enteric Fever, a form of Typhoid Fever, which was rife among the disembarked force on the Peninsula. Reginald was admitted for treatment on the 6th November 1915 to Lemnos island and was subsequently evacuated seriously ill to Australia via Malta on 16 December 1915 on the Transport "Suffolk". He was admitted to No 7 Australian General Hospital at Keswick Barracks on 9th March 1916.

After a period of recuperation, he was declared fit and re-embarked for France, now with the prefix 'R' (meaning reinforcement) in front of his Regimental Number, as part of the 5th reinforcements and with the rank of Sergeant, on the Transport "Buller" on 23 June 1916. He likely would have spent his 20th birthday en route to the UK. He rejoined 27 Battalion in Belgium in September 1916. At this stage the 27th Battalion had moved north to Belgium after the fighting at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. It was reinforced with several drafts before returning to the Somme, where it was engaged in heavy fighting around Flers, near Bapaume, while enduring appalling winter weather.

It was during this phase that Reginald was seriously wounded on the 5th November 1916, sustaining a serious gunshot wound (GSW) to his right thigh. He was evacuated to the United Kingdom for treatment and rehabilitation at Cheltenham hospital.

Reginald returned to the Front for the third time in June 1917, this time to France. He was not yet 21 years old. With his experience and capability amply demonstrated, he was Commissioned as an officer (Second Lieutenant) in August 1917and returned to the 27th Battalion. This marked the start of the Third Ypres campaign in Belgium, with engagements at Menin Road, Polygon Wood and Broodseinde. Then on the 7th October, units moved into position for a battle that would attempt to capture Passchendaele.

Having been twice evacuated already, Reginald's luck ran out near Passchendaele.  He was again seriously wounded, sustaining a chest wound inflicted by an artillery shell 'splinter' fragment. He was evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station near Popperinge where he died of his wounds on 16 Oct 1917 aged just 21.

He was interred in the nearby Lijssenthoek cemetery, Belgium. A hospital cemetery, it is the second-largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Belgium after Tyne Cot and is located south of Popperinge. He is commemorated at All Souls Church in St Peters SA, on the Adelaide National War Memorial, the Australian War Memorial Canberra and at Lijssenthoek cemetery in Belgium.

He was survived by a married sister, Mrs Annie Thelma Gall, who moved to Melbourne,  and later received his Gallipoli Medallion in 1967 while resident at 76 Williams Rd Toorak VIC.

Commemorative Plaque  357394

1914/15 Star 22918

British War Medal  13137

Victory Medal 13078


Research by Steve Larkins January 2013


From the book Fallen Saints 


Reginald Bruce Coulter was born at Saint Peters, Adelaide in July 1895. He attended the Collegiate School of St Peter 1907-1915 and while there served in the cadet unit; in his final year he shared the role of School Captain with Howard Florey who thirty years later along with Ernst Chain and Alexander Fleming was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. After leaving school, Reginald studied medicine at Adelaide University to but discontinued his studies to join the AIF.

He enlisted at Keswick on 12 March 1915, was posted to the Infantry Base Depot at Oaklands Park, and as he had served eight months in the 78th Infantry was promoted to sergeant; on 6 April 1915 he was transferred to D Company, 27th Battalion.  

Sergeant Coulter sailed from Adelaide with his unit aboard HMAT Geelong on 31 May, and after further training in Egypt, sailed for Gallipoli aboard HMAT Ionian.  Towards the end of October he fell ill with neuralgia and enteric fever and on 5 November was evacuated to 7th Field Ambulance and then to 16th Casualty Clearing Station on the beach. He was later transferred to Mudros and placed aboard HS Devanha for transportation to Malta where on 12 November he was admitted to Tigné military hospital. 

The following brief notes from his personal diary describe the events that occurred between leaving the battalion at Anzac and his reunion with them in Belgium almost nine months later.

Nov 5 - Sent away with enteric fever. Got shelled by high explosive shells.

Nov 6 - Went on board hospital boat

Nov 7 - Left for Mudros

Nov 11 - Arrived at Malta

 Dec 14 - Dr wrote out discharge sheets & told me I was going to Australia. Great excitement!!!!!!

On 7 January, he was transferred to Egypt where he was admitted to No 1 Auxiliary Convalescent Depot, Heliopolis.

Jan 28 - Left Luna Park for Australia. Reached Suez & got on board A 23 ‘Suffolk’

May 6 - Due south of dear old Adelaide

May 8 - Arrived Melbourne met by Uncle Gerald

May 9 - Home. Glorious. Hurrah. [i]

On 23 May 1916, R772 Sergeant Coulter boarded HMAT Bulla as the OC of the 13th quota of reinforcement for the 27th Battalion and in mid September rejoined the Battalion in Belgium.

At 2 p.m., on 4 November, the 7th Brigade received orders they were to conduct an attack the following morning with the objectives being to take Bayonet Trench, The Maze and Grid Trench. This was necessary to shorten the line and enhance the forward observation of the main Albert-Bapaume Road while also reducing the enemy’s observation posts.

Nov 4 - We hop it tomorrow at 8 am. Goodbye darlings. Say goodbye to darling Jess. Kisses for the kid.

During the attack, Sergeant Coulter suffered a severe gunshot wound to the right thigh and was evacuated to the 36th Casualty Clearing Station.

 Nov 5 - Hopped it at 9.10 am. We took his trench but had to withdraw. Ray got slightly wounded going over. I caught it in the rt thigh coming back. It was awful. Got dressed at Battn D.S. Helped on about 4 miles where we got into motor lorries. Had a terribly long rough drive to Bicourt? C.S. Motor ambulance there through Albert to CCS where I was put on train.

After reaching Rouen at about 3 p.m., the following day, he was admitted to No 5 General Hospital where he underwent an operation on his hip that day. On 14 November, he was transported by Hospital Train to Havre and there he embarked aboard HS Asturias bound for England.  

Nov 15 - Crossed in the night to Southampton. Hospital train to Cheltenham to Naunton Park Hospital. It is a V.A.D. Hospital and very nice too.[ii]

 After a lengthy recovery in England, Sergeant Coulter rejoined the battalion in France on 12 June, was appointed second lieutenant on 3 August and granted Paris leave. 

Sep 30 - Moved up to Pioneer Camp. Much activity last night and this night by Hun aeroplanes. Many bombs dropped.

Oct 1   - Move up to Westhock (sic) Ridge via Ypres. In charge fatigue party. My position by Old Pill Box.

Oct 3 - Went up to ‘C’ Coy. Riggs & Brownell wounded. Got hit in arm coming back. Wrote to Betty. Letter in wallet. Please post if I throw a seven. Cheer-awfully-oh

 Oct 4 - Went out at 6 am supporting 26th.Good show. All objs taken. I went up that night to support ‘A’ Coy.

Oct 6 - …Have to go in again tonight and relieve Manchesters. Batt now very weak. I am going to ‘C’ Coy. [iii]

The 27th Battalion relieved the 2/6th Manchester Regiment in the line at 10 p.m., on 6 October and after being relieved the following night by the 17th Battalion they  moved back to Railway Wood for rest and reorganisation.

 The fact that Reginald made no entries in his diary after 6 October seems to indicate he may have been completely exhausted.

At 3 a.m., on 9 October, the 27th Battalion moved forward to ANZAC Ridge as the reserve battalion for the 5th and 6th Brigades. That afternoon they were moved further forward and located in Docile Trench near De Knoet Farm. When writing the history of the battalion shortly after the war, the commanding officer recalled how these positions were heavily shelled during the day, which resulted in the battalion sustaining ‘many casualties.’

Capt Gould and Lieuts Jury and Organ were killed and Lieut Coulter severely wounded….On October 16th we received the unfortunate news of the death of Lieut R B Coulter. [iv]

With shrapnel wounds to his chest Second Lieutenant Coulter was evacuated to the 10th Casualty Clearing Station and died there on 16 October; he was 20 years of age.

When writing about this incident years later Charles Bean described the hopeless situation the men of the 27th were in. 

… the 27th was now ordered up to the old British trench near Daisy Wood. It found the old front line crowded with troops driven back, and could only stay there and be shelled. ... By this shelling the 27th alone lost Captain E S Gould and Lieuts. J Jury and S Organ killed, and Lieut. R B Coulter mortally wounded. … [v]

[i] Coulter, Reginald Bruce -  diary courtesy of  Coulter family
[ii] ibid., p. 51-52
[iii] ibid., p. 76-77
[iv] Dollman, W & Skinner H, The Blue and Brown Diamond, History of the 27th Battalion (AIF) on Active Service, Lonnen & Cope, Adelaide 1921, p. 105
[v] Bean, C E W, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Vol IV, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1933, p. 898