Fritz Newton BASEDOW MC

BASEDOW, Fritz Newton

Service Number: 260
Enlisted: 21 July 1915, Keswick South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 8th Machine Gun Company
Born: Caltowie, South Australia, 28 November 1893
Home Town: Kensington, South Australia
Schooling: Caltowie Public School, South Australia
Occupation: Bank Clerk
Died: Died of Wounds (Mustard Gas Poisoning), Rouen, Haute-Normandie, France, 25 April 1918, aged 24 years
Cemetery: St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen
Officers, B. 4. 24
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Caltowie Public School WW1 Roll of Honor, Gladstone High School WW1 Roll of Honor, Hackney St Peter's College Fallen Honour Board, Mannum District Roll of Honor, Norwood War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

21 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Corporal, 260, Keswick South Australia
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, 260, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1,

--- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Geelong embarkation_ship_number: A2 public_note: ''

18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, 260, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
26 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 260, 8th Machine Gun Company, Polygon Wood
4 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 260, 8th Machine Gun Company, Villers-Bretonneux

Award of Military Cross at Polygon Wood

During the operations in the vicinity of POLYGON WOOD, east of Ypres from 26-29th September 1917. "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He set a splendid example to the men of his battery by his untiring efforts under very heavy fire. When two officers of the battery on his right were wounded, he supervised the firing of that battery as well as his own. His services were invaluable to the group commander".

March 4 1919 Brigadier General J.M.Antill, Comd 4th Mil District SA

Service record extract.

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Caltowie in the State's north is these days a small hamlet.  In the early 20th century it was a bustling rural centre and it provided a large number of recruits for the Australian Imperial Force. Fritz Basedow was among them, although by the time he enlisted his father had passed away and his mother had moved to the city.

His father Friedrich Wilhelm BASEDOW was deceased at time of enlistment.
Mother Widow Mrs Eleanor Mary Basedow (nee Kearney), of High Street, Kensington, later 14 Arundel Avenue Millswood Estate. 

Fritz enlisted and trained with the 32nd Battalion, and embarked with the nucleus of the recently formed Battalion as a Corporal on 18 November 1915 aboard the HMAT Geelong.

On arrival in the Middle East, Fritz Basedow was detached to the 8th Machine Gun Company, part of the 32nd Battalion's parent Brigade's (the 8th Brigade) integral fire support.  He was posted / taken on strength  9 March 1916

A few weeks later he was promoted Sergeant on 1 April 1916.  At this time the 8th Brigade (including the 32nd Battalion) were on their way to the Western Front and the "nursery Sector" in northern France

Fritz was commissioned on 1 June 1916 as Second Lieutenant.  This was just before the 8th Brigade was committed to battle at Fromelles.  Had Fritz remained with the 32nd Battalion it is likely that he would have become a casualty; either killed, wounded or captured as happened to nearly 90% of his 32nd Battalion colleagues in the combat elements of the Battalion.

He was promoted Lieutenant 1 Nov 1916.  
Fritz was hospitalised in December 1916 and admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital with influenza / bronchitis

The 8th Brigade took part in the Third Ypres campaign in late 1917.  
Fritz was Awarded the Military Cross for his actions 26/29 September 1917 during fighting at Polygon Wood as part of the Third Ypres Campaign.  (See related story for his citation.)

In early 1918 the Australians were back on the Somme and in March - April the German offensive broke over the Allied Front.  The 8th Machine Gun Company was deployed near Villers Brettoneux where Fritz was critically wounded on 17 April 1918 in a mustard gas attack.  The unit diary records the attack as occurring at 4.35am, catching many by surprise, resulting in 5 officer and 28 other rank casualties among the Company.  Fritz Basedow's injuries were severe and he died as a  result, which would have been hideously painful, on the 25th April 1918.  In an ironic twist of fate that was the day that the Australian 13th and 15th Brigades re-captured Villers Bretonneux, in the defence of which Fritz had given his life.

His personal effects were being returned to Australia and were lost at Sea aboard the aboard the  HMAT "Barunga",  a captured German ship formerly the "Sumatra", which was torpedoed and sunk on the 15th July 1918 in the North Atlantic.  It was crewed by Australian officers and men.

Fritz is listed in both the Honour Roll and CWGC as belonging to the 31st or 32nd Battalions.  Research to determine whether he may have been attached to either of these units in his Brigade at the time of his wounding drew a blank. 

The 8th MGC war diary describes in detail the gas attack in which he was wounded, so there is no reason to believe other than that he was with the 8th MGC when he was gassed and that the Honour Roll and CWGC records are in error in this instance.

Awards:     Military Cross 38/17; 1914/15 Star 25679; British War Medal 24735; Victory Medal 24568;
                 Commemorative Medallion 357764

Submitted by Steve Larkins, Jan 2014


From the book Fallen Saints 

Fritz Newton Basedow was born at Caltowie in South Australia and educated at Caltowie Public School and the Collegiate School of St. Peter and before the war was a clerk with the Bank of Adelaide. He enlisted at Keswick on 21 July 1915 and was posted to A Company, 32nd Battalion at Mitcham Camp as a machine gunner. He was promoted to Corporal on 16 August 1915, sailed from Adelaide with his unit aboard HMAT Geelong on 18 November, and disembarked at Suez on 18 December 1915. There he was taken on the strength of 8th Machine Gun Company, 5th Machine Gun Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir Barracks and was promoted to Sergeant on 1 April 1916.  He was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 32nd Battalion on 1 June and sailed for France aboard the SS Tunisian with 8th Machine Gun Company a fortnight later. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 November and at the end of the month proceeded on leave to England where he fell ill and was admitted to hospital with severe Bronchitis and Influenza; on 8 December he was discharged to Cobham Hall Convalescent Depot on 11 January and rejoined his unit in the field on 16 January 1917.

Recommendation for Military Cross

During the operations in the vicinity of POLYGON WOOD from 26th/29th September 1917. Lieut. Basedow set a splendid example to the men of his Battery of (8) Machine Guns, by his brave and untiring efforts under very heavy enemy shell fire, and, 26th September when two officers of his Battery on his right were wounded, he supervised the firing of that Battery as well as his own. By his efforts in reorganising the Battery on his right, which had many casualties, that Battery was enabled to respond well to the S.O.S. on every occasion. He was invaluable to the Group Commander. [i]

In keeping with his tradition of writing a personal letter of congratulations to those who received awards Sir William Birdwood wrote the following brief note to Lieutenant Basedow MC.                             

I write to congratulate you very heartily upon the award of the Military Cross in recognition of your very good work during the operations at Polygon Wood from 26th to 29th September. I know exactly how you controlled your battery of eight machine guns in the attack, and when two officers of the battery on your right were wounded, you supervised the firing of that battery as well as your own, thus enabling the former to respond to the ‘SOS’ on every occasion. Thank you very much for your good service, and with kind regards.  [ii]

On 17 April 1918, Basedow was gassed at Villers-Bretonneux; he was evacuated through 41st Casualty Clearing Station and two days later was admitted to the 8th General Hospital Rouen with advanced Mustard Gas poisoning.

Lieutenant Basedow MC died on 25 April 1918; he was 24 years of age.  He was buried at St Sever Cemetery Rouen France and his life is permanently commemorated on his parent’s headstone in the Caltowie cemetery South Australia.

[i] Australian War Memorial, Honours and Awards (Recommendations): First World War - Basedow, Fritz Newton File: 1/281P3 - 5th Australian Division - 24/9/1917 to 30/9/1917 - Citation: AWM 28 1/281P3, p. 18 viewed 2 April 2006
[ii] St Peter’s School Magazine - W K Thomas & Co, Adelaide, December 1918, p. 56-57