Terence LANNEN

LANNEN, Terence

Service Number: 2456
Enlisted: 1 February 1916, Enlisted in newly established Mining Corps at the Bendigo Town Hall
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 2nd Tunnelling Company (inc. 5th Tunnelling Company)
Born: Ararat, Victoria, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Ararat, Ararat, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Ararat, Victoria, 21 May 1953, cause of death not yet discovered, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
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World War 1 Service

1 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2456, Enlisted in newly established Mining Corps at the Bendigo Town Hall
31 Mar 1916: Involvement Sapper, SN 2456, Mining Corps
31 Mar 1916: Embarked Sapper, SN 2456, Mining Corps, HMAT Star of Victoria, Sydney
16 Jul 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, 2nd Tunnelling Company (inc. 5th Tunnelling Company), Gun Shot Wound (GSW) Right Thigh
17 Mar 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Returned to Australia on H T Beltana from Plymouth. Arrives Melbourne June 5, 1917.
27 Jun 1917: Discharged AIF WW1, 2nd Tunnelling Company (inc. 5th Tunnelling Company), Medical grounds

Help us honour Terence Lannen's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Sapper Terence Lannen  SN 2456

The Bendigo Independent newspaper reported on October 21, 1915 –

It has been decided to form a Mining Corp in Australia for active service abroad. The corps will consist of a headquarters and three companies. The conditions of enlistment and pay will be laid down for the A.I.F, excepting that the limits of age will be 18 to 50 years. Men experienced in underground work as foreman, shift bosses, facemen, tunnellers, tunneller’s mates and blacksmiths should apply.’    (Source – Bendigo Independent Newspaper 21/10/1915, P. ?)

Military authorities knew the best place to find men with these skills would be the mining towns across the country especially in the former gold mining towns in Victoria. Whilst gold had been discovered in Ararat in 1857 during the Victorian gold rush, mining activity at the start of the twentieth century was steadily declining, as was the population. (see photo of Ararat main street- 1890)

Terence Lannen had just turned 44 years of age. The enlistment age range for the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) was strictly enforced at 20 - 44 years of age. Terence possibly thought his chance to get to the front and ‘do his duty’ had passed him by, until word of the new Mining Corp reached him in Ararat.

Reading of this opportunity Terence sets off to make the 100 mile cross country trip to Bendigo at the height of a Victorian summer in the pre automobile era. Ballarat was half the distance, however, the Ballarat Star newspaper in November 1915 reported ‘Mining Corp recruitment could not be successfully completed there due to over subscription’. Enlisting in Bendigo was his best chance.           (Source Ballarat Star, 24/11/1915

Following successful enlistment on February 1, 1916 Sapper Terence Lannen would spend his first month in training with the Mining Corp Reinforcements at Broadmeadows.

Terence and fellow recruits would ‘entrain’ to Sydney to join the NSW Mining Corp reinforcements and leave the Port of Sydney on March 31, 1916. Their vessel would be the HMAT Star of Victoria A16.    (See Photo)

Their long voyage would take them to Colombo, up through the Suez canal, and finally to Alexandria in Egypt landing on the 8th May 1916. The AIF camps in Egypt were emptying of AIF battalions who were already heading for the new front in France. The Light horse regiments remained still engaged in fighting Ottoman forces and their tribal allies. Tunneling and trench digging was not needed here in the sands of the middle east.  

After a very brief stay in Egypt, the Mining Corp reinforcements board the transport ship ‘City of Edinburgh’ bound for France, arriving at Marseilles on the 17th May, 1916.

From here it is a series of train journeys of over 600 miles through the interior of France arriving in the British and Dominion forces main depot of Estaples, in Northern France. Terence and the other reinforcements would be ‘Marched In’ at Estaples on June 1, 1916.  

Sapper Lannen’s war was about to begin. The three Australian Tunneling companies were to be involved in both Offensive and Defensive mining activity.

Offensive mining involved sinking shafts under the enemy's front line and digging a chamber at the end to be filled with explosives, which were fired to disrupt enemy defensive positions and shock and stun the defenders as an immediate precursor to attack. 

Defensive mining involved the construction of underground galleries and chambers to shelter personnel from the devastation inflicted by Artillery above ground.  One of the biggest problems they had to deal with was the water table and preventing ingress of water into the tunnels and chamber

On June 25, he would report for duty to the 2nd Tunneling company part of the Fifth Division from the Mining reinforcements in Estaples. The 2nd Tunneling company were being sent to Vimy, a town close to the Belgium border. Here, the Company had relieved the British 172nd Tunnelling Company in May 1916 in the Neuville-Saint-Vaast/Vimy area. This sector was known as a German "Labyrinth" stronghold, located between Arras and Vimy and not far from Notre Dame de Lorette.

A month earlier on 21 May 1916, a major German offensive had began with a powerful bombardment lasting several hours which focused on a narrow section of the front, the Germans firing deep into the Allies' lines. In relative terms, the bombardment was one of the heaviest of the Great War with 70,000 shells fired in four hours. The attack was in response to the British winning the war under ground so the Germans decided to launch a surface offensive for the purpose of capturing the entrances to the Allies' tunnels. The Germans had captured the French and British trenches and new front lines were needed to be established.                                      (source - http://www.remembrancetrails-northernfrance.com/history/battles/the-german-offensive-on-vimy-ridge-21-may-1916.html )

When Terence arrives, the 2nd Tunnelling Company, together with British and New Zealander tunnellers were ‘digging in’ to hold the German advance to the sea. The Company’s Weekly Mine Report submitted by the Commanding Officer indicates there are 408 Tunnellers, 257 supporting Infantry and 19 officers in the section. He reports ‘New shafts and galleries are being cut into hard blue clay. Our own and enemy bombardments are practically of nightly occurrence here now’.                                                           (Source - Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War- AWM4 Subclass 16/3 - 2nd Australian Tunnelling Company )

On July 16, Terence is ‘Wounded in Action’ (WIA) with a ‘Gun Shot Wound’ (GSW) to the right thigh.  He is taken behind the lines, 70 miles to the west coast and admitted to the Number 3 General Hospital at Boulonge.

With his wound requiring further attention he is evacuated from Boulonge on H.S St Dennis for England three days later on July 19. That same day, Terence sees the coastline of England for the first time, albeit from a stretcher bed and finds himself in the county East Anglia and admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

Terence’s Nearest of Kin (NOK), his brother James of the Court House Hotel in Ararat is notified in August that he has been WIA with the wound described as ‘Mild’.  This is reported in the Bendigo Independent on August 5, 1916 and also the Ararat Chronicle. 

Terence’s writes home in September and part of his letter is published in the Ararat Chronicle’s ‘Letter from the Front’ section on October 31, 1916 -                                                                        “ Mr Terence Lannen, writing under date of 6th September from Norwich (Eng.), states that he is still confined to bed, his leg being very slow in mending. A few weeks back, he states, the Zeppelins came very close, and he could hear the buzz of them and the reply of the anti air-craft guns firing in the distance. You can hear the sound a long way off on a calm night. They are very particular about lights, and fines are inflicted at the least sign of a light shining through a window. All lights are turned out at the power-house about two or three times a week, so the nurses have to use lanterns. We had a raid on London a few weeks ago — a large number of them — and the aeroplanes had the good luck to bring one down in a field and to cripple the other, which is supposed to have come to grief in the North Sea. The work we have to do in the trenches is not very strenuous — about 40 hours on and 48 off. The writer here describes the operations of sapping, listening posts, etc. The worst part is in having to sleep in wet clothes. He had often heard the Huns driving and sapping in the distance, but becoming used to the sound took little notice of it.”                                                                 (Source – The Ararat Chronicle – Oct 31, 1916, P.2)

 Not mentioned in Terence’s letter home is, that in addition to being treated for his GSW to the thigh, Terence is also diagnosed as suffering ‘Severe Nephritis’ a painful condition of inflamed kidneys.

He spends 6 months in total at Norwich and then Harefield House Hospital (No. 1 Australian Auxilliary Hospital) recuperating including Christmas 1916 and the New Year 1917.  

Harefield Park House was used as the No. 1 Australian Auxilliary Hospital from December 1914 until January 1919. Originally it was estimated that the house would accommodate fifty soldiers under winter conditions and 150 during spring and summer. At the height of its use, it accommodated over 1,000 beds and had a large nursing and ancillary support staff. (See Photo)

At the end of January 1917, it is decided that Terence cannot return to the front and will be sent home for ‘home service’.

On January 29, Terence is transferred to the Number 2 AIF Command depot camp at Weymouth, the Dorset seaside town on the south coast of England. Here soldiers deemed no longer fit for active service and waiting for repatriation to Australia were accommodated. It is estimated that during the years 1915-1919 over 120,000 Australian and New Zealand troops passed through the seaside town of Weymouth. (Source - https://anzac-22nd-battalion.com/training-camps-england/ )

Terence would spend 6 weeks in the depths of an English winter awaiting a passage home. On March 17, (St Patrick's day) Terence leaves the port of Plymouth bound for Australia. The voyage on board HMAT Beltana A72 takes just under two months arriving in Melbourne on May 12, 1917.

In Ararat, a cenotaph commemorates those who have served in the various conflicts in which Australia has been involved. The memorial was erected in the town hall square in honour of the men of the Ararat district who fell and fought  in the Great War and was unveiled in August 1930 by Senator Major General (Pompey) Elliott in the presence of a large number of people.