Clyde METCALF MM

METCALF, Clyde

Service Number: 3080
Enlisted: 10 July 1915
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 4th Motor Transport Company
Born: Coalville, Victoria, Australia, February 1892
Home Town: Daylesford, Hepburn, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Motor mechanic
Died: Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Victoria, Australia, 13 October 1964, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: Springvale Garden of Remembrance & Crematorium, Victoria
Memorials:
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World War 1 Service

10 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3080, 7th Infantry Battalion
29 Sep 1915: Involvement Private, SN 3080, 7th Infantry Battalion
29 Sep 1915: Embarked Private, SN 3080, 7th Infantry Battalion, RMS Osterley, Melbourne
11 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 59th Infantry Battalion
1 Apr 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Captain, 59th Infantry Battalion
19 Jul 1916: Wounded AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 3080, 59th Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix), SW to legs, chest& back - lie in no man's land for 34 hrs
30 Jun 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Sergeant, 4th Motor Transport Company
12 Feb 1919: Honoured Military Medal, Allonville, Nth East Amiens, 30/31st May bravery under shell fire. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 12 February 1919 on page 261 at position 192
30 Aug 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 3080, 4th Motor Transport Company, 3rd MD

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Ballarat & District in the Great War

When it comes to sifting through the life of Clyde Metcalf, it is clearly apparent that it was one that was well lived. He went through more than most, and, no matter what the mortal coil threw at him, he persevered.

Born at Coalville, Gippsland in February 1892, Clyde was one of just five children born to Robert Metcalf and Mary Ann Rodgers. He was the youngest of their three sons.

Coalville was well away from the couple’s usual home. Robert Metcalf was himself born in Daylesford, as were their older children. Mary was born in Lincolnshire, England, which was also the ancestral home of the Metcalf family. What they were doing in Coalville is essentially up for conjecture.
A small settlement just 7-kilometres from Moe, Coalville had grown rapidly following the opening up of a railway to access a substantial seam of coal. As a miner, Robert Metcalf was most likely looking to establish himself in an area that appeared to have promising prospects. However, by 1898 due to multiple issues, all the mines were closed. The Metcalf family returned to Daylesford, where they lived in a house in Little Street.

For young Clyde, it was a decent walk up the hill to the Daylesford State School, where he received his basic education. It was a large and bustling school, which had a flourishing military cadet team that was noted for winning shooting tournaments against the best schools in the State. However, Clyde indicated that he did not take part in these activities.

By the time Clyde left school, his family had moved to new home in adjacent Trimble Street. Robert Metcalf was working as an engine driver in the mines. He had seemingly prospered during these uncertain years and was able to purchase the battery and housing of the defunct Glenmona gold mine. On the 25 November 1912, whilst he was dismantling the building, a timber in the roof gave way and Robert fell 25-feet, striking the shaft of the battery, which broke his fall. He landed on the floor, severely shaken, and nursing a damaged left wrist, but luck was definitely on his side.
Clyde decided against pursuing a career in mining like his father and paternal grandfather (Christopher Metcalf of Kidd’s Gully). Instead, he moved to the Melbourne suburb of Malvern and worked as a chauffeur and motor mechanic.

With the advent of motor cars on Australian roads came the inevitable problems to which we are now all well accustomed. Clyde Metcalf certainly was a fairly typical young male – on 11 March 1914 he was convicted of speeding along Toorak Road, South Yarra, at the then excessive rate of 30-miles an hour! He was fined 40-shillings for his indiscretion.

The urgent need for new recruits following the early stages of the Gallipoli Campaign prompted a massive recruitment drive in July 1915. Clyde, who had reached the age of 23-years 5-months, saw his way clear to enlist at the Victoria Barracks in St Kilda Road, Melbourne, on 10 July.

In completing his attestation papers, Clyde stated that his only military training was two months with the engineers. His medical examination revealed that he stood 5-feet 6-inches, weighed 11-stone and could expand his chest to 37½-inches. His complexion was described as sallow; his eyes were grey and his hair brown.

On 19 July, Clyde joined 52nd Company Depot. He was then promoted to the provisional rank of sergeant on 1 August. There was also a transfer from the 10th reinforcements to the 21st Infantry Battalion to the 10th reinforcements for the 23rd Battalion.
In spite of all this activity, Clyde had more important things on his mind. At St Thomas’ Church of England, in Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds, on 25 August, he married Lillis Evelyn Challen. The ceremony was conducted by Reverend Canon William Hancock.
For the short time they had together before Clyde was due to embark, the young couple lived at 28 Chaucer Street in Moonee Ponds.

Clyde was training at Broadmeadows when he received confirmation that he had been posted to the 10th reinforcements to the 7th Infantry Battalion – the unit synonymous with Essendon – on 1 September. He sailed from Melbourne on RMS Osterley four weeks later.

By the time he arrived in Egypt the Gallipoli Campaign was already drawing to a close, and he watched as the evacuated troops began to arrive back from the front.

The restructuring and expansion of the AIF that followed resulted in the raising of new battalions. Fresh troops were threaded throughout the experienced and new units. As a result, Clyde, who had been with the 2nd Training Battalion at Zeitoun, was transferred to the 59th Infantry Battalion. He joined his new unit on 26 February 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir and immediately reverted to the ranks. This, however, was only temporary, as on 4 March, after the 59th moved to Ferry Post, Clyde was returned to the rank of sergeant.

At 4:30pm on 17 June, the 59th left Moascar Camp and entrained for Alexandria. They boarded the Kinfauns Castle and embarked at 2am the following morning, although the ship did not get fully underway until 10am on 21 June.

The voyage across the Mediterranean took them via Malta, where they anchored in the port of Marsa Scirocca awaiting the arrival of their escort vessel, HMS Rifleman. The convoy continued around Cape Bon (Tunisia) and then along the northwest coast of Corsica. All-in-all it was a routine crossing, with the men mostly in good health – the only enlivening moment came with the discovery of a stowaway on 26 June.

The Kinfauns Castle docked at Marseilles at 7am on 29 June and the men were immediately bundled onto a train bound for Northern France.

As history now records, battalions from the AIF’s 5th Division saw their first action on the Western Front during the disastrous Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916. The 59th Battalion attacked in the first wave and were decimated by the German machine-gunners and ‘faltered far short of its objective.’

For the men involved, Fromelles was a bloody holocaust, an exercise in utter futility. As Private Jimmy Downing would later recall,
‘…Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked from a comb, but still the line went on, thinning and stretching. Wounded wriggled into shell holes or were hit again. Men were cut in two by streams of bullets. And still the line went on... It was the charge of the Light Brigade once more, but more terrible, more hopeless…’

The AIF suffered a staggering 5533 casualties in less than 24-hours. One of those who fell during the early stages of the fighting was Clyde Metcalf. He lay out in No Man’s Land for about 34-hours, seemingly knocked senseless by shell concussion and suffering shrapnel wounds to his back and legs.

On 21 July, Clyde was finally rescued by stretcher-bearers and carried to the 8th Australian Field Ambulance, before being transferred to the 8th Casualty Clearing Station. There was major concern over the wound to his back – the shrapnel had hit him between the left shoulder blade and spine, and he was coughing up blood. The medical team transferred him immediately to an ambulance train and he was evacuated to the No9 British Red Cross Hospital at Calais.

His condition deteriorated over the next three days and his case file was marked “dangerously ill.” By the 30 July, he had stabilised enough for evacuation to England. He sailed from Boulogne onboard the Hospital Ship Cambria; he was then admitted to the 4th London General Hospital (King’s College) in Denmark Hill. As would later be noted, Clyde had ‘little clear knowledge’ of the fortnight after he was wounded.

Back in Australia word had been received that caused the Metcalf family considerable worry.
‘…Mr Robert Metcalfe, of Trimble street, Daylesford, is in receipt of the sad intelligence that his son, Sergeant Clyde Metcalfe, is dangerously ill as a result of a gunshot wound in the chest. The Base Records office will furnish progress reports when received. Everyone who knows the young soldier will extend to him the best wishes for his speedy recovery, and to his father the sympathy that is generally felt for the illness of a brave son who is fighting for his country…’
Clyde’s condition continued to cause concern. He had developed empyema, a condition where pus gathers in the area between the lungs and the pleural space - the inner surface of the chest wall. An operation was performed on 12 August where a portion of rib was resected from the left axilla underneath his shoulder. Further operations were performed to drain fluid and pus.

On 13 September – nearly two months after he was wounded – Clyde was pronounced out of danger. He was transferred to the 4th Northern General Hospital in Lincoln on 30 September, before being admitted to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford on 9 October.

During a Medical Board held on 27 October, Captain J. H. Downing explained the case notes: Clyde had developed a high-pitched systolic murmur; he had also lost nearly two stone in weight. Captain Downing concluded that Clyde was at that time suffering a three-quarters incapacity to earn a living and would be unfit for service for six months. He recommended that Clyde be sent back to Australia for a “change.”
However, the Board chose not to follow the recommendation and Clyde remained in England. By mid-November he was slowly improving and, on 22 November, he was discharged to furlough and then reported to the No4 Command Depot at Wareham on 6 December.

On 5 January 1917, Clyde was transferred to the Australian Army Service Corps Training Depot at Parkhouse.

(In an interesting aside, at this time back in Daylesford, Clyde’s father purchased the land on which the three-storey Dolphin’s Brewery, an old local landmark, had stood for over half a century. Bidding had been spirited and the land (measuring just under 2-acres) cost Robert Metcalf the princely sum of £438).

Despite the severity of the wounds Clyde received at Fromelles, on 9 February 1917, he was on his way back to the Front. He boarded the transport Princess Alice at Folkestone and embarked for Boulogne on the French coast. The same day he marched into the Base Mechanical Transport Depot at Rouen.

At the end of July, Clyde was transferred to “K” Supply Column and appointed sergeant of mechanical transport.

After just over three months, Clyde was transferred to the 4th Divisional Supply Company. He was granted a well-earned leave to the United Kingdom on 29 December and spent the first two weeks of the New Year away from the frontline.

In mid-March, Clyde was transferred again, this time to the 4th Division Mechanical Transport Company.
The unit was stationed at Allonville, northeast of Amiens, during May 1918. At 1am on 31 May, the lorry park and adjacent billets was subjected to intense hostile enemy shellfire. Two direct hits to the billets caused some 200 casualties. Realising that the 100 lorries parked in the square were in imminent danger from the large quantity of petrol in the park and the significant amount of ammunition nearby, Clyde took charge and organised the evacuation of all the wounded to the Field Dressing Stations using the lorries. He also removed the remaining lorries to safety. His cool actions, under continued enemy fire, resulted in not only the saving of a number of lives, but also prevented the loss of any of the vehicles, this meant that lorry details for the next day continued without interruption. For his bravery and initiative, Clyde Metcalf was awarded the Military Medal. He later arranged for the medal to be sent home to his wife.

With the war reaching its conclusion on 11 November 1918, many Australian units remained behind to help with mopping up exercises. Clyde, who was in France on that seminal day, was granted a second leave pass over the New Year period, but he returned to his unit on 18 January 1919 and spent another month on the continent before he was transferred back to England on 21 February.

On 19 April, Clyde sailed for home onboard the transport Sardinia. He arrived safely in Melbourne on 8 June. His discharge from the AIF (as medically unfit) was completed on 30 August.

By this time, Clyde had resumed his pre-war occupation as a motor mechanic, and he and Lill moved into a house at 28 William Street in Essendon. They continued to live in the suburb for the next seven years, first at 918 Mt Alexander Road, and then in Keilor Road.

The couple welcomed the birth of two children – their daughter, Gwendoline Maud, who was born on 29 October 1920, and then their son, Kenneth Clyde, who arrived on 10 April 1922. Both babies were delivered at the St Aidan’s Private Hospital, in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds.

Two very different events in 1924 must have given Clyde cause to wonder if he’d been conceived under either an ill-omened star or a four-leaf clover…
On 28 March, Clyde and Archibald Melville, a young farmer from Malvern, were at the rural suburb of Oaklands. Apparently, Melville was handling a revolver when it accidentally discharged. Clyde was hit in the chest by the bullet; he was admitted to a private hospital in Essendon.

Then, on 23 August at 9:30pm, Clyde was driving through the intersection of Church and Victoria Streets in Abbotsford when he struck Henry Asker who was riding a bicycle. The 60-year-old was admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital suffering injuries to his arms and legs. There were no further details revealed, but the cyclist survived the encounter.
The government initiative that became known as the Soldier Settlement Scheme was already well in place by this time. Parcels of land had been purchased across the country. On 19 December 1919, the Victorian State Government purchased 33,000 acres of land at Red Cliffs, near Mildura, and by 1924 a total of over 700 blocks around the Sunraysia town had been prepared, and distributed to applicants.
‘…The value of each block was between £20 – £30 ($40-$60) per acre. The Settlement Scheme allowed for funds to be allocated towards clearing, vine & tree stock, posts, implements and a horse, drying racks and a house. Funds were also advanced for improvements and living expenses. While no repayments were required for the first 3 years, the interest rate increased from 3.5% to 5% after that time…’

On the face of it, the scheme seemed an excellent concept, and ‘what hopes and ambitions filled the hearts and minds of the returned diggers, who fresh from winning a war had now won an allocation of about 15 to 16 acres of Pine, Belah or Mallee covered earth…’

Ultimately, a large percentage of the settlements failed. Even though the Red Cliffs project was seen as one of the most successful, by November 1926, a significant number of settlers had abandoned their blocks. A number of factors were at work, including the dried fruits industry passing through a severe depression from 1922 to 1924. The bulk of the development at Red Cliffs had centred around this industry.

In 1925, Clyde Metcalf had successfully acquired Block 188 from Douglas Arthur Hinton, and moved his family to Red Cliffs.

Although Clyde quickly adapted to his new career, a terrible tragedy very nearly destroyed everything.
On 12 March 1928, whilst Clyde and Lill were having dinner, the two Metcalf children were playing around the fruit drying racks on the property. Young Kenneth climbed onto the draining board that sloped into a vat of caustic soda solution used for dipping sultanas. He had watched the workers scooping the scum from the surface of the dip and was pretending to do the same when he slipped and fell into the scalding liquid. He was immersed up to his neck. The poor child died from burns and shock four hours later, his distraught parents watching on.

From this heartbreaking event, the Metcalfs managed to survive. Their property thrived and they became active members of the community. However, further catastrophe occurred in 27 December 1933, when Lill’s 18-year-old nephew Stanley Ian Watson, who was visiting with his family, drowned in the Murray River in front of his mother and sister. His older brother, Charles, swam to his aid and brought him back to the bank, but the teenager was unable to be resuscitated.

As the world descended into a second global conflict, the Metcalfs were finally able to enjoy some happy times.

On 25 August 1940, the couple celebrated their 25th Wedding Anniversary. Then, in 1944, they watched as their daughter, Gwenie, was married to John Henry Young, from Mildura. Their new son-in-law was already serving with the 2nd AIF and would attain the rank of staff sergeant.

They were then able to celebrate the birth of their grandson, who was born 15 February1946.
Clyde continued to work Block 188 at Red Cliffs into the early 1950’s. He and Lill then settled into a new home in Blanche Avenue, Parkdale. Clyde continued to work as what was obliquely referred to as an assistant, but I was unable to define precisely what work he had undertaken.

On 13 October 1964, Clyde lost his final battle at the Repatriation Hospital in Heidelberg; he was cremated at Springvale two days later.

Given everything Clyde Metcalf had survived it is safe to assume he had a particularly strong mental and physical constitution. His was a life lived through extraordinary times and unimaginable hardships – he was one of the Great War generation who truly left an enduring legacy.

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