Ernest William James SLATCHER

Poppy

SLATCHER, Ernest William James

Service Number: 1579
Enlisted: 11 March 1915, Place of Enlistment, Cairns, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 25th Infantry Battalion
Born: Cairns, Queensland, Australia, 14 August 1891
Home Town: Stannary Hills, Tablelands, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Miner
Died: Killed in action, France, 29 July 1916, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval
XV1. Q. 10
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Cairns Cenotaph
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World War 1 Service

11 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1579, 25th Infantry Battalion, Place of Enlistment, Cairns, Queensland
29 Jun 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1579, 25th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
29 Jun 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1579, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Aeneas, Brisbane

Beyond the Front line

Private Ernest William James Slatcher
Service Number 1579
"A Company" 25th Battalion
Australian Imperial Force

23 year old Ernest Slatcher was among the very first Australians to sign up for service during WW1. Enlisting in the Australian Naval & Military Expedition Force which was tasked with the capture of German New Guinea at the outbreak of the war Ernest was given the Service Number 1897 and rank of Lance Corporal. Embarking at Cairns Queensland on the 8th August 1914 Ernest and his Battalion headed for Thursday Island where they would take up garrison duties.

14 August 1914 - Ernest enlisted for service outside Australia, two days later he embarked on the troopship "KANOWNA" and headed for Port Moresby New Guinea where he and the men on board "KANOWNA" would rendezvous with the majority of the AN & MEF which had previously left Sydney.

7 September 1914 - The Australian Naval & Military Expedition Force sailed for German New Guinea - without the "KANOWNA" which was left behind at Port Moresby due to the stokers refusing to work. Ernest's record shows " Returned to Townsville on 18-9-14 on account of the trouble caused by the firemen on troopship. Did not participate in capture of German New Guinea ". Ernest was discharged on the 18th September and after serving for 44 days he returned home to Cairns.

11 March 1915 - Ernest enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Cairns Queensland, upon enlistment he was given the Service Number 1579 and placed in the 25th Battalion.

29 June 1915 - Ernest and the 25th Battalion board the troopship HMAT "AENEAS" in Brisbane and sail for Egypt. Arriving at Suez on the 2nd August Ernest went into camp on the outskirts of Cairo, he would spend the remainder of the month there training before moving to Alexandria and preparing to embark for Gallipoli.

5 September 1915 - Ernest and the 25th leave Egypt and sail for Lemnos Island where they arrived at 8am on the 7th September.

11 September 1915, 5.30pm - The 25th Battalion transferred to the "SARMA" and sailed for Gallipoli, the Unit Diary shows that they "disembarked at ANZAC during the night and were in bivouac at Taylor's Hollow on early morning of the 12th".

20 September 1915 - Ernest was admitted to the 7th Field Ambulance reported as "sick", he was immediately transferred and admitted to the 16th Casualty Clearing Station. The following day 21-9-15 Ernest left Gallipoli and was transferred back to Lemnos Island, from there he was transferred to the Valetta Convalescence Hospital on the Island of Malta suffering from Pneumonia. It took Ernest several months to recover from his bout of Pneumonia but by the end of December he was ready to rejoin his unit, but before that and whilst still on Malta Ernest was charged with being "Absent off Parade", for his misdemeanor he was given 5 days Field Punishment Number 2.

4 January 1916 - Ernest is discharged from the Valetta Convalescence Hospital and declared fit for active service.

12 January 1916 - Ernest disembarked the HT "BORNU" at Alexandria Egypt and rejoined the 25th Battalion who were in camp at Tel-el-Kebir at the time.

14 March 1916 - Ernest and the 25th proceed to "Join the British Expeditionary Force in France". Boarding troopships they sailed for France the following day and arrived at Marseilles at 2.30pm on the 19th March. The Unit Diary notes "First Australian Battalion to arrive in France".

4 April 1916 - After moving North by train and spending time in the rear area Ernest and the 25th moved towards the trenches in the vicinity of Armentieres, at this stage of the war the area was supposedly a quiet sector, known as the "Nursery Sector" it was an area where men gained experience of life on the Western Front.
Ernest moved into the front line trenches for the first time on the 12th April 1916, whilst in the line the men spent their time repairing the parapet (or trenches), they experienced enemy shelling and sniping, gas alarms and wet weather, patrols were sent out most nights to try and gain information on enemy activities. Ernest would continue to rotate in and out of the line in the same area for the next two months before moving into the trenches opposite Messines Ridge which was over the border into Belgium.

10 July 1916 - 25th Battalion on the move South to the Somme
Boarding trains at St.Omer Ernest and the 25th headed South to Amiens where upon arrival they marched into billets at Vaux, they would remain there until the 20th July training for the upcoming offensive on the Somme.

20 July 1916 - 25th Battalion move to Herissart.

22 July 1916 - Orders received for 25th Battalion to leave Herissart and move to Warloy and continue training.

26 July 1916 5pm - Orders received for Battalion to move to Albert at 6pm. Ernest and the 25th arrived at the brickfields on the outskirts of Albert at 9.30pm and bivoucced.

27 July 1916 - "Left bivouac at 5.45pm for Tara Hill on rear of firing line and bivoucced in open".

28/29 July 1916 - The 25th Battalion Unit Diary states - "7th Brigade ordered to make night attack on enemy position opposite Pozieres- 25th Battalion left Tara Hill at 7.30pm and got into positions at jumping off point at five minutes to twelve. Attack timed to start at 12 midnight 28th/29th. 25th Battalion allotted centre sector. Attack precedded by heavy bombardment from our artillery. Objectives are enemy trenches OG1 and OG2 on Pozieres Ridge. The attack was launched at 12 midnight, the Battalion was sent over in 5 waves. The lines moved up towards enemy positions in splendid order. Company on right (A Company, Ernests Company) encountered heavy machine gun fire from enemy and had considerable difficulty with wire in front of first objective ".
The report goes onto state that the other 3 Companies (B,C and D) of the 25th Battalion reached their objective OG2 but owing to the high casualty rate they had to pull back to the first objective OG1 and then the order was given to withdraw back to their own lines. The casualty list for the attack on Pozieres by the 25th Battalion consisted of,
4 Officers and 28 Other Ranks killed
3 Officers and 129 Other Ranks wounded and
4 Officers and 175 Other Ranks missing
Of the 343 casualties, Private Ernest Slatcher was one of them, listed as killed in action on the 29th July 1916 Ernest had no known grave, he either lay where he fell or was buried in a shallow grave by his mates.
It wasn't until the 4th July 1923 that Ernest's family received word that his remains had been found along with his identity disc, the family were informed that Ernest's remains had been re-interred in the Delville Wood Cemetery and his identity disc was being sent home.

Delville Wood Cemetery originated after the armistice in November 1918, graves were brought in from a few small cemeteries and isolated sites and from the old battlefields.
The majority of the burials are from the fighting during July, August and September 1916.
There are now over 5 500 burials from the First World War at Delville Wood Cemetery, of those 3 593 are unidentified. Private Ernest William James Slatcher is one of them.

On his headstone the family had inscribed

We Think Of His Life
A Duty Done
Manly, Unselfish And Brave

Rest easy mate, you're not forgotten

With thanks to Ken and Karen Lees from
Explore 1914 -18

https://beyondthefrontline.com.au

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