Andrew Thomas Gordon CUMMING

Poppy

CUMMING, Andrew Thomas Gordon

Service Number: 898
Enlisted: 19 August 1914, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Company Sergeant Major
Last Unit: 7th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bridgewater, Victoria, Australia, 14 November 1889
Home Town: Bridgewater, Loddon, Victoria
Schooling: Capels Crossing State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Farmer/Labourer
Died: Died of wounds (Lone Pine, Gallipoli), At sea (HMHS Devanha), 12 August 1915, aged 25 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Buried at Sea
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Bridgewater Memorial Hall & Honour Roll, Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing
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World War 1 Service

19 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 898, Bendigo, Victoria
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
30 Apr 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 7th Infantry Battalion
8 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
9 May 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, 7th Infantry Battalion
8 Aug 1915: Wounded AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, The August Offensive - Lone Pine, Suvla Bay, Sari Bair, The Nek and Hill 60 - Gallipoli, Lone Pine. Multiple GSW. Died at sea 12 August 1915 on board HMHS Devanha.
8 Aug 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Company Sergeant Major, SN 898, 7th Infantry Battalion, The August Offensive - Lone Pine, Suvla Bay, Sari Bair, The Nek and Hill 60 - Gallipoli

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Biography contributed by Elizabeth Allen

Andrew Thomas Gordon CUMMING was born in Victoria in 1889

His parents were Thomas CUMMING and Margaret Jane McGOWAN

Biography contributed by Robert Wight

THE RISE AND FALL OF AN ANZAC

ANDREW THOMAS GORDON CUMMING – one of 6 children, was born in 1889 at Pyramid Creek, near the town of Kerang in country Victoria. His parents, Scottish Immigrants, farmed there until 1904, at which time they simply packed up and walked off the land after 3 bad years of weather, driving their cattle before them. Finally reaching the town of Bridgewater, his mother declared she’d had enough, so they settled. Unfortunately Andrew’s father, who was already unwell, contracted pneumonia from the damp trek, and died within weeks of their arrival. Finding work as a labourer on the Sloan’s Bulabul farm, Andrew then filled his leisure hours as a member of the local Brass Band, the Australian Natives Society and the Victorian Rangers.

A man of medium build with a fresh complexion, fair hair and grey eyes, he was 24 when war broke out in the August of 1914. On the 19th of that same month he enlisted in the A.I.F as a private, service no. 898, H Coy (later D Coy), 7th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade. The Battalion shoulder patch consisted of the colours brown over red and they became known as 'the mud-bloods'.

Three weeks after he enlisted, Andrew and his mates were granted a few days leave from the Broadmeadows camp, where they had been training under the command of ‘Pompey’ Elliott, and returned to their homes for a visit. “All looked greatly improved by their brief sojourn in camp, and looked every inch their part, their uniforms contributing to their well-set-up, healthy and well-nourished appearance.” During the reception held for them at the Town hall, “the Mayor announced, amidst great applause, that £18 had been collected. As 18 volunteers were leaving from Inglewood and Bridgewater, each man would now be presented with £1.”

On the 18th October the 7th Bn boarded the troop ship SS Hororata at Port Melbourne, which departed the next day, intended for England, via Albany, W.A. Before leaving port Andrew wrote a farewell postcard to his mother, and during the 7 week voyage kept a comprehensive diary. There was fun to be had on their first night on board ship: “At 8pm hammocks were hung in the messes where hooks were arranged and great trouble and laughter was caused by men hanging their hammocks on wrong hooks, and many a man went flying out as soon as they lay down, and some laying like a half moon on account of not having their hammock extended properly.” The convoy that amassed in the W.A. harbour towards the end of October, finally left Australia’s shores on the first day of November, with the Hororata travelling between the Star of Victoria and the Omrah, with the Sydney to port. Andrew thought it “ was a fine sight to witness as there was 38 troopships and 7 gunboats, we traveled three abreast and our convoy all round us to a distance of about 20 miles.”

After suffering the discomfort of sea-sickness brought on by rough weather, and the ‘punishment’ of being inoculated in both arms at once, it wasn’t long before they had their first real taste of danger: “At night we travelled with all lights out, and on Nov 9th about 9am we noticed a big change in our fleet and all troopships slackened speed and the gunboats changed their positions at great speed. And we knew full well that great danger was dancing not far away and that the enemy was probably sighted but did not know anymore till we received particulars by wireless next day.”

Having received details of the Emden’s demise by the Sydney, Andrew described the chase and ensuing battle in great detail and concluded that “ this fine capture made great excitement in the fleet.” Crossing the equator on the 12th Nov, Andrew didn’t escape the traditional dunking or the liberal coating of ash from the stoke hold, and he felt they all ‘looked fine pictures’ by the end of their fun.

When they reached Columbo three days later it also afforded them some ‘grand sights’, and even more so on their departure another three days later: "The evening we sailed out of the bay was a fine one and which we are not likely to forget, for the beautiful golden sunset over our fleet after the hot day gave the town a brilliant appearance, and as darkness pierced the light, many different coloured lights shone brightly over the sea, and also five searchlights were throwing their rays over the boats in our fleet five mile away”.

Their next port of call was Aden on the 24th Nov, where they took on coal, which was loaded by ‘very hard-working natives’. However, the place itself did not impress, “……it is hard to consider any town hamsom [handsome] situated on the fringe of a dreary desert such as Aden is.” Little did Andrew realize at this stage, just what was in store for them, because it wasn't until the 28th of that month that they received word that they were to land in Egypt instead of England, and there they would finish their training before heading to the front.

Having marveled at the telegraph stations along the Suez Canal, and taken on more coal at Port Said, Andrew's Battalion finally disembarked at Alexandria on the 6th December, without him. Along with 29 others, he had been detailed to stay behind and clean up the boat. They were reunited with their comrades at the Mena Camp at 1am on the 8th, where they found them rolled in blankets, fast asleep on the sand. Of course, their arrival being at such an unsociable hour, they had to make do until reveille with only their greatcoats to keep out the desert chill. “Our camp is situated on the fringe of the Great Sahara desert, nothing but rocky ridges and sand hills as far as the eye can see on two sides of us, on the other are the Great Pyramid overlooking us like a sentry.” [sic] While they trained and waited for their call to arms, they also got to see the sights. Andrew climbed the Great Pyramid of Cheops, wandered through tombs, visited the Zoo and the Museum, and even went skating.

His battalion, together with the 3rd Bn were also picked for a special duty: “On Dec 20th 1914 the seventh Battn marched into Cairo to take part in the claiming of the protectorate of Egypt by Great Britain and the Sultan's accession to the throne.” And Cairo showed him both sides of her coin: “Cairo is full of the most unscrupulous people in the world and some of them would do you for your last penny, in parts it is nothing but filth, dirt and loose women ...” “But in Opera Square it is just the reverse, everything is kept spick and span and it is a pleasure to spend a few hours in, ……” In early February they were sent to Ismailia ‘to meet the oncoming Turks’. For nine days they had to lay to arms every night, sleeping in their clothes and waiting for the call to arms that never came. As consolation, Andrew had the pleasure of viewing the ‘prettiest place’ he’d ever seen. “Along the edge of Lake Timsah is one of the most beautiful sights one could wish to see for it is all gardens in one mass of different kinds and colour of flowers and are well kept and looked after.”

Unfortunately, Andrew’s diary came to an end before his unit finally departed from the desert sands on the 8th of April. They arrived in Mudros Harbour off the Island of Lemnos on the 11th, where they underwent further training, until their sailing orders came through on the 24th, for the attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

In the early morning hours of the 25th April, with a hot breakfast in him and dressed for the cold, Andrew and his mates sat off the Peninsula on their transport, Galeka. Around 5am, amongst a rain of enemy fire, they landed themselves by the ship's boats, and those that made it ashore then set about their task of scaling the heights. By the end of that day, the scattered remnants of the battalion were to be found across the western edge of 400 Plateau. 188 of them were lost that day, and another 340 were wounded, so it's little wonder that on the 30th of that month, Andrew was appointed Lance Corporal. The 7th had finally been relieved from the firing line on the 29th and had made their way down to Shell Green, where the reorganization of the battalion took place.

The 2nd May saw them back in the support trenches, then on the 5th May it was decided that the 2nd Australian Brigade would be sent to Cape Helles to supplement the British. They assembled on Brighton Beach that evening, and in the early hours of the 6th were taken out to the Folkestone, and made comfortable by the crew who welcomed them with hot cups of tea. A couple of hours later they landed at ‘V’ Beach, were they were ‘welcomed’, but luckily missed by, 2 shells fired from the Asiatic shore. Having been mere observers for a couple of days, the 2nd Brigade were thrown hastily into the fray at 5.30pm on the 8th May. As a result the 7th Battalion sustained 88 losses and 179 wounded, and on the following day Andrew was promoted to Company Sergeant Major.

The Brigade was relieved on the 11th and returned to Anzac Cove 5 days later by the Ionian. As they disembarked on the following morning of the 17th, they were given a farewell gift, courtesy of the captain – a loaf of bread for each man. The day following their return the 7th Battalion received a visit from General Birdwood at their camp on the Razorback, south of Shrapnel Gully. From here they moved to the area opposite Braund’s Hill on the 11th June, before taking over the firing line at Steele’s Post on the 3rd July, where they endured days of howitzer fire from Battleship Hill. The constant exposure to shelling, and the endless effort to rebuild trenches, together with lack of real food, and the debilitating dysentery, began to drag the men down.

It must have come as a great relief when on the 19th July they moved into reserve positions at Walker’s Rd, although for the next 2 weeks they were still employed on exhausting fatigue work. And then came Lone Pine. Andrew’s battalion didn’t join the fighting until the 8th August, when they took over the captured enemy trenches in the southern sector. Here they faced repeated counter attacks by the Turks, and Andrew was put out of action before the day was over. He was taken first to No.3 Field Ambulance, and then transferred to the Hospital Ship, Devanah.

As it made its way back to Alexandria, Andrew had a visit from another patient, Jack Lucas, his future brother-in-law, though neither of them knew this at the time. And for that matter Andrew never did, riddled with gun shot wounds, he gave up the fight for good on the 12th August, and was buried at sea 15 miles N.W. of Alexandria, only a week shy of a year since embarking on 'the great adventure'. Andrew had never married and never left a will. His few possessions were returned to his mother, and along with these she was granted a £52 per annum death pension, which came into effect on the 13th October 1915. This was the benefit paid for a Private, the benefit for a Sergeant was £70. The Statement showing details of this grant listed him as a Private, yet all his other papers showed his promoted rank of C.S.M. (or Warrant Officer Class 2). It seems this promotion was, in more ways than one - temporary.

His passing was noted in ‘The Inglewood Advertiser’, his home-town local paper on Friday the 20th August 1915: "Word was received yesterday by the Rev. A.L.G. Ash that Sergeant A.T.G. Cumming, who enlisted from Bridgewater, had died of wounds received at Gallipoli on the 12th inst. The young man was well known and highly esteemed, having been employed prior to his enlistment by Messrs John Sloan and Sons, of Bulabul. His death is deeply regretted, and much sympathy is felt for the bereaved mother, who is a resident of Bridgewater. The deceased is the first member of the local A.N.A. in the fighting line to lose his life."

Andrew's name is inscribed on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli, The Australian War Memorial in Canberra, the Bridgewater Memorial Hall, the Bridgewater and Memsie Districts Honour Board and the Bridgewater Brass Band Honour Board.

His name is also listed in one of the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance Memorial Books, and The Shire of Marong Memorial Books; as well as being inscribed on his parent’s grave at the Bridgewater Cemetery. Although it does him great honour each time his name is listed, I hope that by sharing the story of his short life, it will help to ensure that he is remembered as more than just a name on countless memorials. Lest We Forget.

My Great Uncle – by Heather 'Frev' Ford (2006)

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