George MCMASTER

Poppy

MCMASTER, George

Service Numbers: 3431, 3455A
Enlisted: 9 February 1917
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 49th Infantry Battalion
Born: Morinish, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia, 1875
Home Town: Winton, Winton, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Grazier
Died: Killed in Action, France, 20 May 1918
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery
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Memorials: Cloncurry & District, Cloncurry War Memorial, Sandgate Honour Roll, Sandgate War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

9 Feb 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3431, 41st Infantry Battalion
9 Feb 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3431, 41st Infantry Battalion
14 Jun 1917: Involvement Private, SN 3431, 41st Infantry Battalion
14 Jun 1917: Embarked Private, SN 3431, 41st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Sydney
20 May 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3455A, 49th Infantry Battalion

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

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Son of William and Jessie MCMASTER, Dunmoyne, Rockhampton, Queensland

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 3431 George McMaster
49th Australian Infantry Battalion
 
Over a hundred years ago, here in the poppy fields of the Somme, fought and fell a whole generation of young men who answered the call of duty.They came from all over the world and gathered here, in France, a country they knew very little about but for which they did and gave so much.They were young and brave and left their homes to live a great adventure and with courage, perseverance and determination, served proudly side by side in the comradeship that united them in the trenches and on the battlefields on which they gave their youth, their today and their lives.All fought but many of them did not have the chance to return home and it is always side by side, through the peaceful cemeteries of the Somme in which grow in silence the first poppies that they rest in peace and that they will be forever remembered and honored with the highest respect so that beyond the years that pass, they never cease to live and so that they are never forgotten, we will be forever grateful to them and we will keep their stories, their memory alive with the utmost care and it is with honor and pride that I will watch over them by carrying high and proud the Flame of Remembrance under which they sleep and live for eternity.We will never forget.

Today, it is the memory of one of these men who gave his today for our tomorrow that I would like to honor with the deepest gratitude.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3431 George McMaster who fought in the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion and who was killed in action 103 years ago, on May 20, 1918 at the age of 43 on the Somme front.

George McMaster was born in 1875 in Morinish, Rockhampton, Queensland, and was the son of William and Jessie McMaster, of Dunmoyne, Rockhampton, Queensland. George was educated in Rockhampton and on January 12, 1915, he married Winifred Eliza McMaster, daughter of John and the late Sarah Phillips, of Northgate Junction. They had a daughter, Jessie Winifred McMaster and two sons, Philip Fergus McMaster and George William McMaster.Before the outbreak of the war, George lived with his wife in Winton, Queensland, then in Albion Street, Sandgate, Queensland,and he worked as a grazier.

George enlisted on February 9, 1917 in Townsville, Queensland, in the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion.
The 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion was raised in Egypt in 1916 as part of the process that was known as "doubling the AIF" to create the 4th and 5th Divisions.Following the evacuation from ANZAC and with recruits arriving from Australia in large numbers,it was decided to split the 1st Divison (1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades) and the 4th Brigade in two to create sixteen new or so-called "Pup" Battalions.The 3rd Brigade was split to create the 13th Brigade and together with the 4th and 12th Brigades comprised the new 4th Division.

On June 14, 1917, George embarked with his unit from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A20 Hororata and sailed for Liverpool, England, where he was disembarked on August 26, 1917 and the next day,on August 27, was sent to Larkhill Camp to receive his training with the 11th Training Battalion on Salisbury Plain then three months later, on November 5, 1917, was sent to Fovant to complete his training with the 9th Training Battalion.

Four months later, after a long and intensive training, George embarked with his battalion from Southampton on March 4, 1918 and proceeded overseas for France where he was disembarked at Le Havre the following day, on March 5 and two days later, on March 7, he was sent to the Somme front to join the 52nd Australian Infantry battalion and was taken on strength on March 9 and a month later, George fought with great courage during the first and then the second battle of Villers-Bretonneux, Somme.
On March 21,1918,reinforced with divisions from the Eastern Front, the Germans launched a great offensive against the British forces which withdrew across the 1916 Somme battlefield towards the major city of Amiens. The Australian units were hurried south to help hold back the German advance north of the Somme at Dernancourt and Morlancourt. However German engineers had extended rail communications south of the Somme towards Villers-Bretonneux, close to the key city of Amiens. If the Germans could capture Villers-Bretonneux and reach the edge of a plateau, Amiens would be within range of their artillery.

On April 4,1918, Australian units helped the British defend Villers-Bretonneux. The Germans attacked from the north east forcing the British out of the village of Le Hamel. An Australian battalion had to swing back to avoid being enveloped but the German advance was stopped by British cavalry working with Australian infantry. In the afternoon, the Australians withdrew to the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux but at the crucial moment, the Australian 36th Battalion (New South Wales) dashed forward in a spectacular charge. Supported by other British and Australian infantry, and later by British cavalry, the 36th threw the Germans back to old trenches nearly two kilometres from the town, stabilising the line.

On April 24,1918,British troops were defending Villers-Bretonneux. The Germans attacked at dawn, and with the aid of 13 tanks, which they were using for the first time, they captured the town. A British counter-attack commenced at 10 pm the same day led by Australians to the north and south. The Australian brigades enveloped Villers-Bretonneux and attempted to join forces to the east of the town. They were unable to join up in the dark and many Germans managed to escape. After dawn, the gap was gradually closed and Australians entered the town from the east and British from the north and west. Villers-Bretonneux was cleared of enemy troops on 25 April 1918, the third anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. This action marked the effective end of the German offensive that had commenced so successfully more than a month earlier.

A month after the battle of Villers Bretonneux, George was transferred and taken on strength in the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion on May 16, 1918 but unfortunately four days later, on May 20, 1918, while George and the 49th Battalion were on their way to join the village of Querrieu, Somme, George was killed in action by a shell, he was 43.

Today, George McMaster rests in peace with his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery and his grave bears the following inscription "Beloved husband of Winnie and son of W. and J. McMaster of Rockhampton . "
George, Sir, you who, for Australia and France have served with so much bravery and loyalty alongside your comrades and brothers in arms with whom you fought and fell, I would like, with all my heart, with the deepest respect and gratitude, say thank you for all that you have done for us in the name of justice and democracy, in the name of freedom and peace which was won at the cost of millions of lives in the trenches and on the battlefields of the Somme in which so many lives were lost.Coming from Australia, you answered to the call of duty alongside your friends who, together, for their country, courageously decided to do their bit to put an end to all wars and side by side, they joined the ranks of men who gathered for the same causes, under the same flag to fight together in the name of their loved ones who suffered to see them go, to see husbands, sons and brothers who, side by side, in streets of towns and villages, paraded one last time before getting on the boats that would bring them to France and the battlefields, to the uncertainty of the future with the fear of never coming back.After a last heartbreaking farewell, after having kissed and hugged their mothers, their wives, their loved ones to whom they were grateful for having let them go, they turned their gaze for the last time on the country that had seen them born and grow up, tears in their eyes flowed down their cheeks but they had in their hearts a very great pride, the pride to fight for noble causes, the pride to make their country proud but also the pride and the honor to be with courageous men .After a long journey at sea and months of training in England, they were finally disembarked in the sunny north of France and were ready to march towards the battlefields, towards the front lines.More determined than ever, they followed their comrades, their friends on the roads with the deep desire to do their duty. They met the French people with whom they exchanged smiles, cigarettes, wine and with whom a very strong friendship was born.Day and night they walked for hundreds of miles singing and whistling with ardor and enthusiasm even when they saw the first villages in ruins, their desire to fight was stronger than fear and apprehension and it is with confidence that they reached the trenches from which they saw the first wounded come out, horribly mutilated and unable to move or speak, suddenly the reality of the war struck their eyes and their hearts and they took their first steps in an apocalyptic world, a universe of mud and of blood in which they would fight.The reality of the war was terrible, an immense shock for all these young men who thought that this war would be short, day after day they stood brave under deluges of fire, under the fury of the endless howls of tons of shells that rained on them and which saved nothing and no one, under which nothing and no one could survive.They fought in a thick, sticky, deep mud that they sank into, into which they drowned and in which the guns would no longer work,this mud was as terrible as the fire of the machine guns, first brown, it became in a few days, red with blood.These men were incredibly courageous, they fought in the worst conditions and stood bravely next to each other, they made their unity, their mateship, their strength to defy their fear and the omnipresent death that lurked around of them and that they could smell and see on no man's land.There, a few meters from them, on lifeless soils, on lands once peaceful and silent, they could see fields of death on which men, their friends, their comrades fell in previous assaults and who lay without life in the barbed wire, in the mud, in the shell holes and that soon, they knew it, they should try to cross hoping to have more luck.Brave among the bravest, they never backed down despite what they lived and what they saw in this hell on earth and they showed exceptional bravery, in a war which had lost all its humanity, they kept their smiles and their sense of humor, together, united to each other they were stronger than anything and it is together, next to each other, that they went over the top, they came out of the trenches, last shelter, final limit between life and death, worthy and courageous, they charged the enemy, bayonets forward under a deluge of bullets, under the rolling fire of the artillery but they moved forward, through the smoke and the flames, they saw their friends who fell in puddles of blood, hit head-on by the bullets. Quickly, killed and wounded lay on the battlefield, unable to move, what a difficult sight it must have been to see the friends on the ground and of being unable to stop to rescue them. With rage in their hearts, they continued to move forward until, in their turn, in a last act of courage, they stopped and fell.For their country and for France they gave their youth and their lives and today still rest side by side as they were in life and on the battlefields, in the eternal shroud of fields of red poppies that grow between their graves and on the old battlefields and which remind us every day that for the peace and freedom in which we live, they gave their all and it is so that they are never forgotten and to bring them back to life that I would always watch over them, so that they remain forever the proud and smiling young men that they were and it is with my heart and my energy that I would protect their memory, that I would keep their stories alive so that they are never forgotten.Thank you so much George,f or everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning,we will remember him, we will remember them.

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