Keith HERITAGE MC

Poppy

HERITAGE, Keith

Service Numbers: Not yet discovered
Enlisted: 14 August 1914
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 19th Infantry Battalion
Born: Longford, Tasmania, Australia, 16 September 1882
Home Town: Launceston, Launceston, Tasmania
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Traffic manager, Union Steam Ship Company
Died: Killed in action, Pozieres, France, 26 July 1916, aged 33 years
Cemetery: Pozières British Cemetery
Pozieres British Cemetery (Plot IV, Row L, Grave No. 37), Ovillers-La-Boisselle
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World War 1 Service

14 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 19th Infantry Battalion
19 Jun 1915: Involvement Lieutenant, 19th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
19 Jun 1915: Embarked Lieutenant, 19th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Kanowna, Sydney
6 Feb 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Captain, 19th Infantry Battalion
26 Jul 1916: Involvement Captain, 19th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
25 Aug 1916: Honoured Military Cross
30 Nov 1916: Honoured Military Cross, For a raid Sth of Armentieres, night 25/26 June. 'For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches. About twenty of the enemy were killed and four prisoners taken. He carried back a wounded man single-handed, and throughout the raid set a fine example of cool courage.' Source: 'Commonwealth Gazette' No. 176 Date: 30 November 1916

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

François Berthout, Australia and New Zealand in WWI

Today, it is with benevolence and gratitude in my thoughts and in my heart, under the sun of the Somme that I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Captain Keith Heritage who fought in the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion and who was killed in action 104 years ago,on July 26, 1916 at the age of 33 on the Somme front.
Keith Heritage was born on September 16, 1882 in Longford, Tasmania, Australia and he was one of eight children of George and Eleanora Heritage of Longford in Tasmania. His father was an inspector at the Tasmanian Department of Education. at the age of 9, Keith was educated at The Sacred Heart School, winning a prize for second in Arithmetic and At the age of 14, Heritage had won a music prize at the local Launceston Mechanics Institute, with his father giving out prizes.

Keith Heritage was a well-known oarsman who rowed in a winning crew that competed in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, and was a member of the Australian crew that won the Grand Challenge Cup at the Royal Henley Regatta in 1912. He was selected as reserve for the rowing eight at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm until Hugh Ward replaced him in that crew. Some believe dropping Heritage from the crew was a mistake as the British beat the Australian team in the finals.

At the outbreak of the first world war,Keith was single and lived in Victoria Barracks, Sydney, New South Wales and was employed as traffic manager for the Union Steam Ship Company in Sydney. His previous military experience had included five years with the Tasmanian Infantry Regiment as a Sergeant in the machine gun section and six years with the Launceston Rifle Regiment.
Enlisted on August 11, 1914 in the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement, he is credited to be the first Australian to volunteer for world war one.

Keith Heritage was appointed Lieutenant transport officer with the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force and sailed on the HMAT Berima on 17 August 1914 to Rabaul, in New Guinea. The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force was a mixed military force that aimed to remove the German threat from the Pacific. Lieutenant Heritage was part of the force that secured the German communications facility in German New Guinea.
After that campaign, in which Australian forces suffered their first casualties of the war, Heritage returned to Australia and he embarked with his unit from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A61 Kanowna.

On 21 August 1915 Lieutenant Heritage landed at Gallipoli with fellow Sydney Rowing Club rower Sydney Middleton as part of the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion. During 1915, he was promoted to Captain. Captain Heritage left the Gallipoli peninsula during the evacuation on the night of 19 December and was one of the last Anzacs to be evacuated from the peninsula.

After Gallipoli, Keith was sent to Egypt to help defend the Suez Canal then he was sent to France where il served avec un tres grand courage and was awarded the Military Cross for his successful raid on enemy trenches on the nights of 25 and 26 June 1916.A party that consisted of 40 officers and men was led by Captain Keith Heritage and they carried out a raid that had been planned by the Australian Major General William Holmes on the forward trenches of the 231st Prussian reserve infantry regiment. The German position was near Amentières. The Diggers stormed into the trenches, killing 20 enemy soldiers.

Planning to get in and out before the Germans could counter-attack, they occupied the trenches for just five minutes and blew up two munitions stores. They also captured four prisoners to be taken back to the Allied lines for interrogation.Heritage ordered his men back to the Australian positions and waited in the German trench until the rest of his patrol was on its way. By this time the main enemy force was fully alerted to what was happening and poured fire towards the Australians.As the last man to leave the enemy trench, Captain Heritage came across a badly wounded Australian lying in no-man’s land.He hauled the 12-stone (76kg) soldier on to his back and carried him back to the Australian positions through an intense artillery bombardment. He was the last man of the party to leave the hostile trench. His action earned him the Military Cross for gallantry, dash, and leadership.

Sadly, by the time the award was gazetted, Captain Heritage was dead. On the July 26th 1916, he was in the trenches with his battalion at Pozières,Somme,France and while making his inspection round he noticed that two of the soldiers on guard appeared exhausted. Captain Heritage told them to get a few hours’ sleep and took over their sentry duty. He also gave them some of his own food, which was scarce because supply routes to the unit had been blocked by heavy shell fire. As the two men lay down to rest nearby, a high-explosive shell landed near Captain Heritage, killing him almost immediately. He was 33 years and 10 months old
Keith Heritage’s sister, a nurse at St Joseph’s Hospital in Auburn, Sydney, was celebrating her brother’s medal by wearing the colours of the 19th Battalion at work. As she was dressing a patient, she noticed on the bed the newspaper story announcing her brother’s death and collapsed in shock.

Today, Captain Keith Heritage rests in peace with his men and brothers in arms in the Pozieres British Cemetery.

Of George Heritage’s five sons who served on the Western Front, four survived the war. Francis Bede Heritage was Director of Musketry Training and later headed the Royal Military College, Duntroon.He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre in 1919. He retired as Army Quartermaster-General.

Lieutenant Austin Heritage of the 12th Battalion, received the Military Cross for heroism while leading his men in an attack on a heavily defended position and rallying them while wounded and under heavy fire.

Sapper Robert Benedict Heritage (enlisting 16th October 1915) served with the 2nd Pioneer battalion and was sent home after suffering a severe septic infection.

The fifth brother, Stanley Heritage, was working in Nevada,United States when war broke out and he went north to join the 99th Canadian forces.

Keith, Sir, no words would be strong enough to express my gratitude to you, to say thank you, you have done your duty with admirable bravery and honor, you have commanded and guided your men showing exemplary courage through the battlefields and in the trenches, through the darkness of war that took the lives of so many of your men and friends, you were a very good officer, not just leading your men but also taking care of them and I am sure that you were admired by many as you are today through our eyes and in our hearts which express our gratitude to you.More than an officer, you were a brave man and we will always honor your memory with a very with great respect and with much love The Somme will always remember you as a hero, a brave man and as one of my Somme boys and I will always be there to watch over you and to pass your story on to future generations.We will always remember your sacrifice but we will also always remember the man you were and that's how I see you when I visit your grave and those of your comrades who fell here, I see soldiers standing in front of me but above all I see men whom I respect deeply and whom I admire with a lot of respect and tenderness, men who gave their today for our tomorrow, for a better world and we will always be grateful to you. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him, we will remember them.🌺

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