Edgar George ACRES

ACRES, Edgar George

Service Number: 3553
Enlisted: 22 August 1916, Adelaide, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Pioneer Battalion
Born: Moorak, South Australia, 18 March 1898
Home Town: Cheltenham, Port Adelaide Enfield, South Australia
Schooling: Port Adelaide Public School, South Australia
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Wounds, 14th Field Ambulance in Daours, Somme, France, 9 May 1918, aged 20 years
Cemetery: Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, France
Daours Communal Cemetery Extension Plot 111, Row B, Grave 32, Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Daours, Picardie, France
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

22 Aug 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Adelaide, South Australia
10 Feb 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3553, 6th Pioneer Battalion
10 Feb 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3553, 8th Pioneer Battalion
10 Feb 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3553, 6th Pioneer Battalion, HMAT Seang Bee, Adelaide
10 Feb 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3553, 8th Pioneer Battalion, HMAT Seang Bee, Adelaide
9 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3553, 5th Pioneer Battalion

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 3553 Edgar George Acres
5th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers,
5th Australian Division
In the peaceful fields of the Somme, the white graves of a whole generation of men who fought and fell here stand under the sun, they are the silent witnesses but on which we can see the names, the stories of thousands of men who came from so far and who, for their country and for France, gave their lives, their everything and lay side by side in the eternal shroud of the fields of poppies on which they rest side by side, united in a bond of mateship that death did not break.Forever young, they still stand tall and proud in the shadows of their graves but their memory, their stories, will always be kept alive in the light of the flame of remembrance that I would always carry high and proud watching over all these heroes who did so much for us and to whom I will be forever grateful. Gone but not forgotten, they will never cease to live, in the eternal stone of their graves but also in our hearts and in our thoughts in which they will never cease to be loved and remembered.

Today,it is the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow that I would like to honor with the deepest gratitude.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3553 Edgar George Acres who fought in the 5th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers, 5th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 104 years ago, on May 9, 1918 at the age of 20 on the Somme front.

Edgar George Acres was born on March 18, 1898 in Moorak, South Australia, and was the son of George Edward and Katherine Maria Acres, of Berkley Street, Cheltenham, South Australia. He was educated at Port Adelaide Public School and Before the outbreak of the war, Edgar served for four years in the Naval Cadets then in the Naval Reserve then worked as a clerk.
Edgar enlisted on August 22, 1916 at Adelaide, South Australia, in the 5th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers, Reinforcement 9.

The 5th Pioneers were established on 10 March 1916, at Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt, and were subsequently assigned to the 5th Australian Division. The battalion was formed in the aftermath of the failed Gallipoli campaign when the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was expanded as part of plans to transfer it from the Middle East to Europe for service in the trenches along the Western Front. This expansion saw several new infantry divisions raised in Egypt and Australia, as well as specialist support units such as machine gun companies, engineer companies, artillery batteries and pioneer battalions, which were needed to meet the conditions prevalent on the Western Front.

Trained as infantrymen, they were also tasked with some engineer functions, with a large number of personnel possessing trade qualifications from civilian life. As such, they were designated as pioneer units. The pioneer concept had existed within the British Indian Army before the war, but had not initially been adopted in other British Empire forces. In early 1916, the Australian Army was reorganised ahead of its transfer to the Western Front in Europe. A total of five pioneer battalions were raised by the AIF at this time, with one being assigned to each of the five infantry divisions that the Australians deployed to the battlefield in France and Belgium. Tasked with digging trenches, labouring, constructing strong points and light railways, and undertaking battlefield clearance, the troops assigned to the pioneers required construction and engineering experience in addition to basic soldiering skills.

The 5th Pioneer Battalion was formed from volunteers from the 5th Division who possessed relevant trade qualifications, or who were deemed to be suitable for manual labouring tasks. Many were skilled and experienced in mining and other artisanal trades.

On February 10, 1917, Edgar embarked with his unit from Adelaide, South Australia, on board HMAT A48 Seang Bee and sailed for Devenport, England, where he was disembarked on May 10, 1917 then sent to Fovant and received his training in the Pioneer Training Battalion on Salisbury Plain then on September 3, 1917 at Perham Downs and a month later, on October 15, he was sent to Sutton Veny to complete his training.

A month later, on November 14, 1917, Edgar embarked with his battalion from Southampton, England, and proceeded overseas for France and the next day, on November 15, he was disembarked at Le Havre then was taken on strength in the 5th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers on November 24 and served with courage in Ypres where the 5th Battallion of the Australian Pioneers were working to construct plank roads behind the lines around Zillebeke and Hooge to make the roads passable for artillery and supplies in an effort to prepare for the coming offensive.
In early 1918, Edgar and the 5th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers were sent to the Somme and supported the Allied defensive actions that were fought in response to the German Spring Offensive. In mid-April, during the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, elements of the battalion were subjected to a gas attack whilst guarding road-mines around the village.

One month later, in early May 1918, They were later employed to dig a defensive switch to provide flank defence prior to the German attack and connect the first and second line of defensive systems.Unfortunately, it was on May 9, 1918 in Villers-Bretonneux that Edgar met his fate and was seriously injured by a shrapnel in the head and was immediately evacuated to the 14th Field Ambulance in Daours, Somme, where despite the greatest care, he died a few hours later, he was 20 years old.

Today, Edgar George Acres rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at the Daours Communal Cemetery Extension and his grave bears the following inscription "peacefully Sleeping, resting at last, life's troubles over sufferings past".

Edgar, you who were so young, in the prime of your life but already so brave, you have, with determination, like your brothers in arms, answered the call of duty and fought with the greatest courage in the battlefields of Belgium and the north of France and it is today by their side, still standing on the poppy fields of the Somme, that you rest in peace.For your country, for Australia and France, you have done more than what a man can do and you who gave your life and done so much for my country, I would like today, with all my heart and an eternal gratitude say thank you.Young and brave, it is under the rising Australian sun that you have joined the ranks of your comrades to fight alongside your friends and travel the oceans to join the battlefields. Brave and determined, it is with your head held high that you have walked through the roads of France, which was dying under the weight of four years of an interminable war which wiped off the map hundreds of once peaceful towns.with confidence and with a valiant heart, under the sky of an uncertain future, you walked through the hills, through the green plains and the fields of poppies, last moments of peace and calm before reaching the trenches where the red of blood flowed in the mud and the barbed wire but without fear, under the endless howl of the shells you did your duty alongside men as brave as you who, in this hell on earth remained strong despite the appalling conditions in which they lived and in which they fought.In the cold, among the rats and the lice, deep in the mud which they dragged under their shoes like the weight of the war which already weighed heavily on their shoulders, they showed the courage and the conviction of a whole generation of men who fought side by side in the same uniform and for the same causes that brought them together and kept them strong.Together they fought for their country, for justice and freedom, they fought to end all wars and together they went through this endless nightmare, standing and determined in the trenches, they held their positions under downpours of howling metal, under storms of fire that devastated the battlefields that were once green and peaceful and which turned into quagmires and fields of death on which nothing could survive in the face of the murderous fire of the machine guns which mowed down, in courageous assaults, millions of men. Brave among the bravest, in the face of this cataclysm, in the face of brutality under the fire of increasingly deadly weapons, they remained strong and held the line in the strength of their unity and brotherhood which gave them the courage and strength to fight and to move forward, they were friends, brothers, comrades but fought as a united family and showed the courage, the convictions of a whole young nation, Australia which, on the battlefields of the Somme, lost so many of its sons and which helped France to rise up, they were deeply admired and loved and became, in the trenches, in our towns and villages of the Somme, our friends, our brothers,our sons, what they did for us will never be forgotten. For us, they gave their lives, their everything and rest in peace, always close to us, in our villages and our towns of the Somme where we remember their courage, their sacrifices but also the friendship and the respect which unites our two countries, we will always remember Australia and it is with the highest respect that I will always watch over your loved ones, over your sons who are also ours and who will be forever in my heart, my heroes, my boys of the Somme of which I would keep the memory and the stories alive, to bring them back to life and so that in the flame of Remembrance, in our hearts, their memories shine and live forever so that they are never forgotten. Thank you so much Edgar, for everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him, we will remember them. 



Son of George Edward and Katherine Maria ACRES, Berkley Street, Cheltenham, South Australia

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal