Ernest Joseph CUNNINGHAM

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CUNNINGHAM, Ernest Joseph

Service Number: 292
Enlisted: 27 January 1915, Keswick, South Australia
Last Rank: Lance Corporal
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Melbourne, Victoria, 24 June 1893
Home Town: Norwood, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Cabinet maker
Died: Killed in Action, Flers, France, 5 November 1916, aged 23 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
No known grave
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)
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World War 1 Service

27 Jan 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, Keswick, South Australia
31 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
12 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
3 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
20 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 27th Infantry Battalion
5 Nov 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 292, 27th Infantry Battalion, Flers/Gueudecourt

E. J. Cunningham by Noah Leydon

Ernest Joseph Cunningham was born to Tobias Daniel Cunningham and Maria Emma Logan on the 24th of June, 1893 in Melbourne. He and his family later moved to South Australia living at 3 Elizabeth Street, Norwood, where he lived with his sister Mrs M Moyse and his parents. (RSL)

Ernest had a dark completion, with grey eyes and short brown hair, that was curly at the front and without facial hair. Before departing for World War 1, Ernest was measured at a height of 5’4”, (corresponding to 162 centimetres) and weighing 134 lbs, or 60 kilograms in weight. Ernest was particularly short at the time, as the average height during World War 1 was 172 centimetres. As well as this, his chest circumference was measured between 33 to 35 inches. Prior to the war, Ernest’s occupation was a cabinet maker and he was a Roman Catholic, as his father was too. By his peers, Ernest was described as a short, well-liked man. (AWM – Unit Diaries) (RSL)

Ernest enlisted on the 27th of January, 1915, Keswick, South Australia, as an enthusiastic 21-year-old, looking to represent his country in good light. He embarked on his journey 5 months later, on the 31st of May, 1915 at the age of 22 years and 10 months, to represent his country in the First World War. Ernest was given the service number 292 and was part of the Australian Imperial Force. He was taken with the 27th Infantry Battalion on the 16th March, 1915 to Egypt, where he spent two months training in harsh conditions. After this brutal training, there was an urgent request for reinforcements which led the 27th Infantry Battalion on their journey to Gallipoli on the 8,000 tonne HMAT Geelong A2. The HMAT Geelong A2 transported 1,264 soldiers of the 27th Battalion and the 7th Field Ambulance unit. Shortly after the disembarkation in Egypt, the HMAT Geelong A2 sank after a collision with the SS Bonvilston in the Mediterranean Sea, although, fortunately there were no casualties. (Australian War Memorial – HMAT Geelong A2) (RSL)

The 27th Infantry Battalion arrived in Gallipoli on the 12th of September, 1915, along with the 25th, 26th and 28th Battalions, where they took up a defensive position on Chesire Ridge. Throughout October the 27th Battalion had only suffered 5 deaths and 29 wounded people. Ernest was fortunate to not be injured in Gallipoli. He and the 27th Battalion then moved to Pozieres, France, where Ernest was given a new rank of Lance Corporal on the 16th August. (Australian War Memorial – 27th Infantry Battalion)

However, on the 2nd of November 1916, Ernest was reported missing. He was found by informant Arthur Kaynes, rank 363, 27th A.I.F, who reported that Lance Corporal Cunningham was lying dead in a shell hole in No Man’s Land, evidently recently killed. The informant knew Ernest well and was sure of his identity. Referencing Pte. H. Cooper, 4689, No.5 General, Rouen, in an attack in front of Flers, France, Ernest was shot right through the head and killed instantly in the German Trench. The informant was only 3 yards away at the time. Ernest was one of the 40 killed by the heavy German shellfire, as well as 289 wounded and 67 missing. This attack was subject to the battalion sending out patrols into No Man’s Land as reinforcements were brought up. Following that, their positions were exposed to the German guns positioned all around. Ernest was killed in action on the 5th of November 1916, aged 23 years. Sent home were letters and his death was posted in the newspaper. (RSL) (Australian War Memorial – 27th Infantry Battalion)

Ernest was buried in the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, in Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France and his name is located at 110 in the commemorative area at the Australian War Memorial. Ernest was awarded the L-R 1914/15 Star, British Empire War Medal, Victory Medal VWM and a commemorative plaque was given to his family. The 1914/15 Star was awarded to Ernest for service in specified theatres of war between the 5th of August, 1914 and the 31st of December, 1915 and the British Empire War Medal was awarded to Ernest for “meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown”. (RSL) (Australian Government)

ANZAC, standing for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, had several qualities that made them ANZACs. The qualities and characteristics that made up the ‘ANZAC Spirit’ were endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour and mateship. I believe that Ernest Joseph Cunningham most definitely possessed the ANZAC Spirit as he was a great leader, well-liked by his peers and was always positive through tough times. (Australian War Memorial – ANZAC Spirit)

Ernest Joseph Cunningham, 1893 – 1916, was a courageous, loyal and respected soldier who fought and died for his country.

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Biography

Born on 24 June 1893 to Tobias Daniel Cunningham and Maria Emma Logan, Ernest Joseph Cunningham was a single, Roman Catholic 22 year old. He lived with his parents and sister, Mrs M Moyse, and worked as a cabinet maker before his war times. Although he was born in Melbourne he moved to 3 Elizabeth Street in Norwood and was enlisted at Keswick on the 27 January 1915. He was taken on strength into the 27th Battalion in the 16th of  March, 1915. His service number was 292 and he served in Gallipoli and Pozieres, France.

Ernest was described as a short, well liked man, with grey eyes and short brown hair. As the average height was about 5'8" tall in his times, Ernest was only 5’4”.

The 27th battalion left Australia in June,then spent two months training in Egypt before embarking on the HMAT Geelong A2, where he landed on Gallipoli on September 12. At Gallipoli, the 7th Brigade, which included the 27th Battalion, reinforced the weary New Zealand and Australian Division. The 27th had a relatively quiet time at Gallipoli and the battalion departed the peninsula in December, having suffered only light casualties.

Ernest, a private at the time, was lucky to not be injured at galippoli and moved to Pozieres, France where he was then given a new rank, a Lance Corporal on the 20 August 1916. However, he was then reported missing on the 2nd of November, 3 days before he was found lying dead on no man’s land in a shell hole. Evidence showed that he was only recently killed. Letters were sent home and his death was posted on the newspapers and his close friends, C. and F. Stream wrote ‘In loving memory of E. J. Cunningham, killed in action the 6th November. Too far away thy grave to see, but not too far to think' of thee’.

Ernest Joseph Cunningham was found by informant Author Keyes then buried in the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, in Villers-Bretonneux, Picardie, France and his name is located at 110 in the commemorative area at the Australian War Memorial. 

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