Frank Alexander HARDIE

HARDIE, Frank Alexander

Service Number: 3849
Enlisted: 2 August 1915, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: Army Pay Corps (AIF)
Born: Bendigo, Victoria, April 1892
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grocer's assistant
Memorials: White Hills Arch of Triumph, White Hills Baptist Church
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World War 1 Service

2 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3849, Bendigo, Victoria
23 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3849, 5th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
23 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3849, 5th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ceramic, Melbourne
29 Jun 1916: Promoted Lance Corporal, 5th Infantry Battalion
25 Jul 1916: Wounded
21 Jul 1919: Promoted Sergeant
17 Sep 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 3849, Army Pay Corps (AIF)


The details provided are taken from the book "Stealth Raiders - a few daring men in 1918" written by Lucas Jordan, published in 2017, refer to pages 107 + 267. Prior to the war he was a grocer's assistant of Kerang Vic. He enlisted 2nd Aug 1915 aged 23 years. He served with the 5th Infantry Battalion. Read the excellent biography of his life which is also written for this soldier. He rose to the rank of Sergeant before the end of his service. He survived the war, departing the UK for home 17th Apr 1920.

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Frank Alexander Hardie    SN 3849

Frank Hardie enlisted on August 3, 1915 at Bendigo Town Hall Recruitment Centre. The declaration of war had occurred a year earlier and the initial Australian Expeditionary Force was currently pinned to the cliffs and beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula after their landing in April.  

Frank was born in Bendigo, however, a ‘lucrative appointment’ had taken him to Kerang in 1912 according to the Bendigo Independent newspaper. (attached) The paper reported that at a meeting of the White Hills Baptist church the chairman of the committee reported that one of their hardest workers, Mr Frank  Hardie would leave the parish. We read later in the Kerang Times that Frank was a Grocer’s Assistant at the General store of Mr E. Pay of Kerang.

Frank was 23 years of age, not married and he listed his NOK (Nearest of Kin) as his mother Mrs L Hardie of St.Killians Rd, White Hills. We know from Church reports that Frank had a number of sisters who were active in the church and would perform at all the farewell and welcome home ceremonies in White Hills.

Frank would be assigned to the 12th Reinforcements of the 5th Battalion and along with the other new recruits would initially commence training at the Bendigo camp, the current site of the Bendigo Race course in Epsom.  (see photo of the trainees of the 12th Reinforcements).

Just a few weeks later, the Bendigo Independent newspaper reports that on September 10, 1915, one hundred reinforcement troops left the Bendigo camp for the train journey to Melbourne and although fellow troops gave them a hearty farewell from the camp not even a band in the ‘Golden city’ had been engaged to farewell these newly enlisted men.  This low-key exit was in stark contrast to the farewell for new recruits who had left Bendigo a year earlier in 1914 when war was declared.

Along with fellow White Hills recruits, Issac Cahill and Lesley Knight, Frank would receive further training at the Broadmeadows camp from late October through till November 23, 1915 when they would embark from Port Melbourne on HMAT Ceramic A40 for Egypt.

Frank and fellow recruits possibly lucked in by being allocated passage onboard HMAT Ceramic A40 as she was a relative new vessel, recently launched in Belfast in December 1912. The Ceramic had also been deployed in the second AIF flotilla to leave Australia in 1914 and had just returned to Melbourne to ferry thousands more AIF troops off to the war. The Ceramic went on to serve in both World Wars being tragically sunk by a German submarine in 1942, leaving only one survivor from the 656 people aboard.

After a month at sea, Frank along with his White Hills colleagues arrive in Egypt in late December (23/12/1915) at Cario and are  ‘Marched In’  to the AIF Camp at Serapeum. Here depleted AIF Battalions were recovering from the horrific and devastating Gallipoli campaign. These AIF Battalions were now preparing for a totally new and different theatre of war on the western front. 

The 5th Battalion camp at Serapeum, was the site of the ancient and great temple dedicated to the Greek – Egyptian god of Serepis in ancient Alexandria founded around 300 BC. Very little of this ancient monument remained standing, however the troops would pitch their tents within sight of the ancient pyramids. (see Photo)

After just a month in Egypt, Frank and the 5th Battalion would sail for France landing at Marseilles on March 30, 1916. Possibly a very welcome sea journey of just 5 days after the stifling heat of Egypt.   

Landing in Marsailles would be their first sight of Europe. “The harbour in spring was a beautiful site after our long stay in desolate Egypt” wrote Private Roy Ramsey of the AIF 3rd Field Ambulance. We all hoped for a few days in Marseilles but the authorities were reluctant to let us loose on the city, no doubt on account of our doubtful reputation earned in Egypt.”

The Australians journeyed by troop train up the Rhone valley heading for Calais, then eastwards to the western front in French Flanders, 200 km north of Paris. Estaples, the British and Commonwealth staging depot in Northern France was their destination close to the Belgium border.

Finally at the front, the 5th battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army. The battalion's first major action in France was at Pozieres in the Somme valley in July 1916.

Frank is appointed Lance Corporal just prior to the commencement of the major battle at Pozieres on June 29, 1916.

Under a month later, on July 25, 1916 he is initially reported missing. This entry is later deleted and changed to ‘Wounded in Action’. On July 27 his Casualty report details a GSW (Gun shot Wounds) to the right hand and Shell wounds to the head and left ankle.

He is treated in Rouen an ancient market town on the Seine river in Northern France that would become a major hospital centre for English and Commonwealth troops. Frank’s wounds are serious enough for him to be transferred back to England and on July 28, 1916 he is admitted to the Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester on the southern coast. His mother is advised by telegram a month later that her son has been wounded. This is then reported in a number of local Bendigo and Kerang newspapers. (see attached)      

Frank’s second Christmas away from his home would be in the recuperation camps of southern England, still a lot safer place to spend Christmas than on the western front. 

Because of the manpower shortages in the AIF, in March 1917, Frank is transferred to the 63rd Battalion. The 63rd was a battalion of the 16th Infantry Brigade, part of a new 6th Division raised briefly in 1917, however it was broken up in October 1917 to provide reinforcements before seeing action. (Wikipedia)

In November 1917, Frank is transferred back to the 5th battalion and from the Training camp at Longbridge Deverill on the Salisbury Plain and on November 23, 1917 proceeds overseas from Southampton. He arrives in France to rejoin his unit on November 30.

In his absence at the front the 5th battalion participated in the operations that followed-up the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, and then returned to Belgium to join the great offensive launched to the east of Ypres. Frank would have found his fellow 5th Battalion reeling from the loss involved in the Battle of Passchendaele between June and November 1917. All up, the first and second battles of Passchendaele cost over half a million lives in 3 months. The Germans lost 250,000 lives and the British Imperial forces and French 300,000 of whom 36,500 were Australian.

Ninety thousand British or Australian bodies were never identified, 42,000 were never recovered; these had been blown to bits or had drowned in the dreadful mud morass. Many of the drowned were exhausted or wounded men who had slipped or fallen off the duckboards and were unable to escape the filthy, foul-smelling glutinous mud, sinking deeper to their deaths as they struggled.

In his Memoirs of 1938, Lloyd George wrote, "Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war ... No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign.  (Source – AWM)

In early 1918, Frank is again admitted to hospital, this time sick. First diagnosed as Bronchitis however when being treated back in England it is labeled Influenza.

He would recover at Longbridge Deverill on the Salisbury Plain and return to a very different war being played on the Western Front in late May, 1918.

He spent more time at the Australian Base in Northern France again ill returning to the front on September 3, 1918. By this stage the AIF had blunted the two German offensives and had taken the important town of Peronne on the Somme River. There was no longer trench warfare taking place but fast moving attacks on weakening and demoralized Germans divisions.

With the war drawing to a close, AIF troops were exhausted and given a well deserved spell, sent behind the front line to rest when Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918.   

In December, 1918 Frank is sent to Battalion school back in England, promoted to Lieutenant Corporal in early 1920, eventually being promoted to Sergeant in mid July. Whilst other troops had returned to Australia Frank stayed on duty through till February 18, 1920. He would be granted leave subject to embarking for Australia.  Two months later on April 17 he would finally leave on the Bahia Castillo. He would be back in Melbourne on June 19 and be discharged from the AIF on September 17, 1920.

Sergeant Frank Hardie had spent over 5 years in the Army. He was gone from Australian shores for nearly four and half years. Frank is possibly one of the longest serving White Hills AIF soldiers and is remembered by the people of White Hills. The names of the local lads who sacrificed their lives and those that were fortunate to return from the Great War are shown on the embossed copper plaques on the White Hills Arch of Triumph, at the entrance to the Botanic Gardens.