George Alexander (Alex) MCPHERSON

MCPHERSON, George Alexander

Service Number: 1429
Enlisted: 26 September 1914, Rutherglen, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 15th Infantry Battalion
Born: Rutherglen, Victoria, March 1893
Home Town: Rutherglen, Indigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grocer
Died: Natural Causes, Goulburn, New South Wales, 24 November 1966
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

26 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Rutherglen, Victoria
22 Dec 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1429, 15th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
22 Dec 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1429, 15th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Melbourne
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1429, 15th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli

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George Alexander (Alex) McPherson's military service as an Anzac at Gallipoli as extracted from his diary: 

George Alexander (Alex) McPherson enlisted as a Private with the 15th Battalion, 4th Brigade of the AIF on 26 September 1914. He was 21 years old and a grocer from Rutherglen, Victoria.

On Tuesday 23 December 1914 Alex embarked from Port Melbourne Pier at 4 pm on the HMATSS 'Berrima'. There were eighteen transports and one submarine, the AE.2 which was towed by the 'Berrima'.

The fleet arrived at Albany (WA) on 28 December and left there again on Thursday 31 December at 9 pm. The fleet arrived at Colombo on Monday 11 January 1915, leaving on Wednesday 13 January for the Suez. On Wednesday 27 January the ship arrived at Suez at day break, no leave was granted. The ship left the Suez on Friday 29 January and entered into the Suez Canal which took five days to go through, although only about 98 miles in length. 

Alex arrived at Alexandria on Wednesday 2 February and disembarked next evening at 7 pm and took the waiting troop train to Cairo, arriving at 3.20 am on Thursday morning and marched about 3 miles into camp Abbasia at 4.30 am.

After being in camp at Abbasia for about 3 weeks Alex’s Brigade left and went into camp at Heliopolis joining the 15th Battalion. Two months training was undertaken at Heliopolis - solid work, long dreary marches out over the desert for 15 or 20 miles each way with full packs and rifles.

The training in Egypt finished, Alex embarked again at Alexandria. The 15th Infantry Battalion going on board the 'SS Australind' on Monday 12 April 1915, sailing from Egypt on 15 April and arriving at the Greek Island of Lemnos on Thursday morning of 15 April, 45 miles from the Dardanelles.

Alex sailed again on Friday 23 April bound for the Dardanelles, arriving off Gallipoli on 24 April 1915.

At 6.40 pm on the 25 April the 4th Brigade came ashore and the next day 26 April the Brigade went into action and entrenched at 'Lone Pine' at the head of 'Shrapnel Gully' (or as it was called 'The Valley of Death').

On 28 April the Turks, led by some German officers commenced to attack the 4th Brigade along their whole line of trenches (or as they were then, only shallow ditches, with little or no protection from shrapnel fire). However, the Turkish attack was beaten back with heavy losses to themselves. The 4th Brigade soldiers never left their trenches, although the order came down the line once or twice to prepare to charge with the bayonet, but it was not necessary.

The casualties on that occasion were very slight, once during the attack a bullet pierced Alex's cap and left its track on his head, cutting away the hair and a strip of skin where it passed over.

The Turks on that occasion got to within 3 or 4 yards of Alex's parapets.

Relief came on Thursday 29 April at 9 pm but only for a few hours, as they were in reserve.

About 7 pm on Saturday evening 1 May, the 15th Battalion again came back to the trenches at 'Pope's Hill' to relieve the 16th Battalion. The snipers around that area were very troublesome, they were potting at the soldiers from all directions, from behind as well as in front. One of the snipers shot Alex's commanding Officer, Cpt. Moran, in the leg as he was walking up the trench. A good many other men were shot also by the snipers.

On Sunday 2 May Alex got his first issue of rum and tea in the trenches. On that day the Turks also shot at them but with no results. Later that afternoon the Turks again charged the trenches and got through in one place. It was a close go, for the place they charged - 'Quinn's Post' was the key of the whole position, and had to be held at whatever the cost or sacrifice.

The next afternoon allied field artillery missed the range and put several shells over which fell short and dropped into Alex's trenches on Pope's Hill killing 2 or 3 men and wounding a good many others, besides wrecking that portion of the trenches.

On Thursday 6 May the 15th Battalion again went into the trenches at 'Quinn's Post' where the Turks were giving a good deal of trouble with their bombs. The Turks gave the Australians 24 hours to surrender and said that the navy had deserted them and they were cut off from ammunition supplies.

Eight hundred reinforcements from Egypt had landed on the peninsula the day before and on 7 May the Turks were very busy all that day strengthening their position and mining towards Alex’s trenches. They were preparing for a big attack.

Eight or nine of them got out over their own parapet and started to run towards Alex’s position, but they never got too far. 

On that same Friday after a heavy bombardment from allied field guns as well as from the big guns on the ships the English asked the Turks to surrender themselves – but they refused .

The next day Saturday 8 May was quiet. A private from the Royal Marine Light Infantry committed suicide by blowing out his brains.

The 15th Battalion were again relieved from duty in the firing line at about 6 pm on 8 May but had to go back to the trenches about 10 or 11 pm and take part in an advance. At about 1 am the Turkish trenches were captured and Alex’s Brigade managed to hold them until dinner time on the following Monday.

Then the Turks counter attached and they outnumbered Alex’s Brigade by about six to one and the Brigade had to retire to a line of trenches (badly made ones too) which the engineers had dug in the time that Alex was in the Turk trenches.

The Turks followed up the Brigade with bombs and did damage.

On Monday 10 May whilst fighting at ‘Quinn’s Post’ Alex was hit with a Turkish bomb which injured his right leg, both hands and face. After getting a first aid dressing Alex was placed on a stretcher and taken a distance of nearly 2 miles to the beach to the casualty clearing station where a surgeon dressed the wounds properly.

Alex was taken along with a lot more wounded and placed in a row of boards and taken out to a waiting hospital ship ‘The Gascoyne’ and sent back to Egypt to the hospital there.

Alex spent the next 2 weeks in the General Hospital at Ras-el-tin in Alexandria and then left Egypt on Friday 4 June in the hospital ship ‘Delta’ bound for England.

Arriving at Southampton on Saturday 12 June Alex was taken on the Red Cross train to Manchester which he was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital on Sunday 13 June, 1915.

X-rays were taken on Wednesday 7 July and some pieces of the bomb were found to be embedded in the bone of Alex’s leg and an operation was carried out on Monday 12 July, but only some of the metal was removed, but the leg improved.

After about 5 months Alex was taken away from Manchester and sent to the Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield Park in Middlesex about 15 miles from London. He started to be able to get around on crutches.

On Tuesday 23 November Alex left Harefield Hospital and went to Oxford on furlough, then to Bournemouth on the south coast for two weeks. Then he reported back to headquarters in London and was sent down to Weymouth, to the invalid’s camp to wait for a boat back to Australia.

Alex saw three boats go but missed them as his papers had not been sent through from London in time. But at last on Friday 17 March 1916 Alex was lucky to be told of a boat coming home. He embarked at Portland on the ‘SS Ascanius’. Alex arrived at Durban in South Africa on Saturday 8 April and all on board who were able to walk were allowed to go ashore for the day. In the evening a civic welcome was accorded them.

Alex sailed from Durban on the Monday morning and arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on Tuesday 25 April 1916 (Anzac Day), where the West Australians were disembarked. The boat continued on and there was a special service on board on Anzac Day in memory of the men who fell at Gallipoli.

At about 4 pm on the evening of Saturday 29 April the boat arrived at Queenscliff and passed through the Heads shortly afterwards. The Victorians and Tasmanians disembarked at the Port Melbourne Pier on Sunday morning at 10 am and were driven through the streets of the city in motor cars to the Victoria Barracks. Alex was given a fortnight’s leave then to report back to the overseas hospital at Caulfield.

Alex reported to the Caulfield Base Hospital on Monday 22 May, seven days over leave and was fined seven days pay (his first crime in the army for two years).

On reporting to Caulfield Alex was put into a Sub-acute ward and his khaki taken away and a blue suit issued. The next day he was transferred to the convalescent side and got his uniform back. He was given day leave of absence from 2 pm until 10 pm the same night.

Later Alex’s wounds were x-rayed and some more shell was found in the shin bone and on Sunday 6 August 1916 he was operated on and a couple of bits of shell were taken from the knee.

After a couple of months, Alex’s wounds were again x-rayed and some more iron was found, this time lower down the shin, and he was again operated on and a large piece of metal was taken from the middle of the shin bone.

In January 1917 he was operated on again, for a wound that would not heal up and also to have a toe taken off, and the foot straightened.

The Volunteer Motor Corp used to come to the hospital two or three times a week and take the men out for motor drives.

The Red Cross Society erected a beautiful Rest Room at the Hospital for the use of the men. It cost sixteen hundred and thirty pounds to build and was fitted with a large writing and reading room, billiard room with two large tables, Post and Telegraph office and an afternoon tea room. Besides the Rest Room a big concert hall was also built by the YMCA with proper stage and electric lighting. The latest addition to the hospital was a bowling green.

On Friday 5 January 1917 Alex was recommended for discharge from the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and he became a civilian again.

Extracted from the diary of George Alexander (Alex) McPherson

By: Julie Wells, (great niece)