John Thomas ALDRICH

ALDRICH, John Thomas

Service Number: 3190
Enlisted: 26 February 1916, Enlisted at Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 29th Infantry Battalion
Born: Sailors Falls, Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, 1895
Home Town: Daylesford, Hepburn, Victoria
Schooling: Musk Vale School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Farm Labourer
Died: SW to head, 15th Field Ambulance Clearing Station, Bernafay Wood, France, 27 January 1917
Cemetery: Bernafay Wood British Cemetery, Montauban
Row F, Grave 44 Rev. S.A. Beveridge officiated Headstone inscription reads: Sleep on dear Jack, Sleep on Mother
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Daylesford War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

26 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3190, 29th Infantry Battalion, Enlisted at Melbourne, Victoria
4 Jul 1916: Involvement Private, 3190, 29th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '16' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Berrima embarkation_ship_number: A35 public_note: ''
4 Jul 1916: Embarked Private, 3190, 29th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Berrima, Melbourne

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

Biography contributed by Carol Foster

Son of James Grant Aldrich and Naomi Aldrich nee Wise of Sailors Falls, Daylesford, Victoria.

Brother of Ernest George Aldrich who returned to Australia on 18 May 1918 having served with the 37th Battalion, William Allan Aldrich who was killed in action on 4 July 1918 while serving with the 6th Battalion, James Henry Aldrich, Frank Alwych, Ethel Florence Aldrich, Harold Edward Aldrich and Frederick Aldrich

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Francois Berhtout

Pte 3190 John Thomas Aldrich
29th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company,
8th Brigade, 5th Australian Division

Today, across the fields of the Somme on which the poppies close their petals under a silent winter mist, stretch in sacred immortality the graves of thousands of young men who, alongside their friends and comrades, volunteered and came from far away to fight together in the mud of the trenches, through the lines of barbed wire in the name of peace and freedom and who, in the prime of their lives, for France, sacrificed their youth to preserve our humanity,to give us a tomorrow while they gave their today under mortar and artillery fire and charged side by side under dark skies towards the light of a better world and a peace for which so many between them fell and for which each of them was forever changed, marked, haunted by what they endured and passed through among the poppies of the Somme amidst which they now stand proudly and solemnly in remembrance, on sacred grounds on which their voices are heard and today, more than a hundred years after the hell of the great war, proud to walk in their footsteps, I will always watch over them so that their memory, like an inextinguishable flame, live forever so that the sacrifices and names of these men, of these heroes to whom we owe so much, will never be forgotten.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and with the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, of one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow. I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 3190 John Thomas Aldrich who fought in the 29th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company, 8th Brigade, 5th Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 106 years ago, on January 27, 1917 at the age of 21 on the Somme front.

John Thomas Aldrich, who was affectionately called "Jack" by his family, was born in 1895 in Sailors Falls, Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, and was the son of James Grant Aldrich and Naomi Aldrich (née Wise), of Musk Vale Post Office, Daylesford. He had six brothers, Ernest George Aldrich, William Allan Aldrich, James Henry Aldrich, Frank Alwych, Harold Edward Aldrich, Frederick Aldrich, and one sister, Ethel Florence Aldrich. John was educated at Musk Vale School, Victoria , Australia then after graduation, tried to acquire a first military experience but was rejected because of a weakness of heart and worked as a farm labourer until the outbreak of the war.

Despite some heart problems, John answered the call of duty and enlisted on February 26, 1916 in Melbourne, Victoria, in the 29th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company, 7th Reinforcement, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Bennett, and after a period training of a little over four months, first at Seymour Camp then at Broadmeadows Camp, embarked with his unit from Melbourne, on board HMAT A35 Berrima on July 4, 1916 and sailed for England.

On August 22, 1916, the Berrima reached England and John and his unit were disembarked at Devonport then joined the 8th Training Battalion at Larkhill to complete their training under realistic war conditions on Salisbury Plain and three months later, on November 12, embarked on board the SS Folkestone and proceeded overseas to France.

On November 13, 1916, after a short journey on the English Channel, John arrived in France and was disembarked at Etaples where he joined the 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot, marched to unit on November 22 and was taken on strength in the 29th Battalion on November 25 on the front line in the Somme, at Trones Wood where they occupied the Needle Trench and from where they were relieved by the 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion on November 28 and marched to a rest camp a few miles away, at Montauban, but the next day reoccupied the Trones Wood sector and fought there until December 5.

On December 6, 1916, John and the 29th Battalion temporarily left the Trones Wood trenches and moved to Bernafay Camp H then on December 9 returned to the front line but the following day moved back to Bernafay Camp H and during the days that followed, despite of a particularly cold winter, were employed in railway works, in the improvement of the camp then on December 20, were transported by train to Meaulte and marched for Dernancourt which they reached the following day and proceeded here to a reorganization, received reinforcements , followed a period of military exercises but were also employed in working parties consisting in improving the roads.

On January 3, 1917, John and his battalion left Dernancourt and marched through La Houssoye, Coisy, Rainneville, arrived at Buire on January 11 then moved to Fricourt the next day and reached Montauban on January 13 where they relieved the 51st Australian Infantry Battalion and were again mainly employed in railway works until January 24.
On January 25, 1917, the 29th Battalion once again returned to fight at Trones Wood and occupied several positions in this sector including the Needle Trench, the Cow Trench and the Blighty Trench. Unfortunately, on January 27, John met his fate and while he was in the Needle Trench with his company, he was hit, according to witnesses, sniped through the head by a bullet or shrapnel and, unconscious, immediately evacuated to the 15th Australian Field Ambulance which was on the current location of the Bernafay Wood British Cemetery but despite the greatest care he received, he died a few hours later, he was only 21 years old.

The circumstances leading to John's death are described by some of his comrades in the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded And Missing Inquiry Bureau Files as follows:
"Aldrich Was killed at Trones Wood.He died on a stretcher as he was being carried down the trench.When I saw him,he was unconscious and he died very soon.They had great difficulty in burying him as the ground was frozen as hard as iron but they managed to dig a grave somewhere near the Needle Trench" (3241 Lance Corporal Stephen Gordon Hollow, 29th Australian Infantry Battalion,B Company).

"Was in B Company.Was a stretcher bearer. He was sniped, hit through the head. He was in the reserves at the time.It happened on the Somme front. He died at the Dressing Station (15th Australian Field Ambulance).He was buried there. I saw his grave, it had a cross with his name. I did not see him hit."
(3523 Lance Corporal John Edmond Connop,29th Australian Infantry Battalion. Died of wounds on October 16,1917 in Belgium).

"On Somme. He was at Company Headquarters with me. Was hit in the forehead by shrapnel. Taken to the 14th (15th) Field Ambulance Clearing Station and when I got there was nearly dead. Doctor in the clearing station told me there was no hope.Don't know where buried." (3342 Private Charles Richard Ford,29th Australian Infantry Battalion).

Today, John Thomas Aldrich rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Bernafay Wood British Cemetery, Montauban, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Sleep on dear Jack, sleep on mother."

After John's death, these few terribly poignant words were published on March 2, 1917 in the Daylesford Advocate as follows:
"Somebody wept when he sailed away, somebody clung to his parting hand. It was his mother."

John Thomas Aldrich had two of his brothers who also fought in the Great War. The first of them was Private number 3253 Ernest George Aldrich who served bravely in the 37th Australian Infantry Battalion. Ernest survived the war and returned to Australia on May 12, 1918. He died peacefully on October 20, 1978 at the age of 80 and is now resting in peace at Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Springvale, Greater Dandenong City, Victoria, Australia.

The second brother of John Thomas Aldrich who fought during the war was Private number 6458 William Allan Aldrich who served with the 6th Australian Infantry Battalion. Unfortunately, William was killed in action on July 4, 1918 at the age of 22 near Hazebrouck, Nord-Pas-De-Calais. He now rests in peace alongside his brothers in arms at Borre British Cemetery, Hazebrouck, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Sleep on dear Will, sleep on mother."

During the Second World War, one of John Thomas Aldrich's other brothers, Private number QX10051 Harold Edward Aldrich also served his country with courage in the 2nd/10th Australian Field Regiment. Unfortunately, while he was a prisoner of war of the Japanese in a camp in Malaysia, he died of illness on July 26, 1945 at the age of 44 and now rests in peace alongside his brothers in arms at Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Beloved husband of Muriel. He gave his all that we might live."

John, convinced of the cause for which your country came to the aid of our old France, it was with devotion and courage that you responded without hesitation to the call of duty in the prime of your life to do what was right, to do your bit alongside your brothers and comrades who, with faith and determination under the Australian flag, took a step forward to defend the highest values and together sailed the ocean to join the battlefields and alongside of their friends, alongside the horses, in clouds of dust, marched to help the people of France who, seeing the young Diggers under their slouch hats, had a new hope, a new light that pierced through the darkness of a world at war which, in the thunder of artillery, left only smoking ruins on what were once peaceful villages in which could be heard the smiles of the children whom the young Australian soldiers took with love in their arms thinking of their young brothers and sisters whom they left behind, they knew how to find the words for us to keep confidence in the future, they helped us to get up from this darkness and with the most beautiful spirit of camaraderie, of fraternity, they joined their French brothers in arms in the trenches, united in the same fight, for the same causes and in this hell of fire and steel was forged between our two nations, the most beautiful and unfailing friendships that neither bullets nor shells could break and by our side, these young men became more than our friends, they were our brothers who fought like lions like, they joined the fight knowing that many of them would not return home and seeing them advance without fear in the face of machine guns, the young Poilus, the soldiers of France said of the Australians that they were the most admirable soldiers with whom they had the honor to fight.At Pozieres, at Mouquet Farm, after the first fights delivered by their comrades at Fromelles on French soil, it was all the courage of the Australian nation that was shown and that flowed through the blood of its sons who, despite the horrors, the pains they endured never took a single step back and throughout the Somme, battle after battle, liberated our cities, they defended our city of Amiens, they were the first to enter our sacred cathedral under the cheers of the children, men and women of France who ran towards these young men, these heroes with in their eyes and in their hearts tears of eternal gratitude and became the adopted sons of France.Far from home, they served with loyalty and honor and gave their youth, their today to defend and preserve our humanity. Watching over each other, they always remained united in the face of adversity and charged towards enemy lines guided by the ANZAC spirit that was born on the blood red beaches of Gallipoli, a spirit of mateship that bound these men forever in life and death. All of them did more than what was asked of them, beyond their limits, beyond their duty and endured what they could never have imagined when they left the warmth and love of their families, their homes to fight in the mud and blood of the trenches and the battlefields, not for the glory or the medals but because they knew that on their courage and their actions would depend the future of the world, so that this war put a end to all wars and thousands of them fell among the poppies but knew that their sacrifices would not be in vain and today, it is thanks to them that we live in peace, that we can enjoy every moment of life without being afraid of tomorrow, without being afraid of rains of bullets and shells in which for us they gave their lives their all.Young they were when they took the final step between life and death and young they will remain for eternity in the light of remembrance and until my last breath, I will dedicate my life to them so that they will never be forgotten, to bring them back to life by watching over them so that, like the poppies of the Somme, their memory never fades.Thank you so much John, for everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them.