Alfred Victor MOMPLHAIT

Poppy

MOMPLHAIT, Alfred Victor

Service Number: 3282
Enlisted: 17 July 1915, Keswick South Australia Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Alberton, South Australia, 14 January 1887
Home Town: Alberton, Port Adelaide, South Australia
Schooling: Alberton Public School
Occupation: Clerk (British Imperial Oil Co.)
Died: Killed in Action, Fromelles, France, 19 July 1916, aged 29 years
Cemetery: Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery
(IV. B. 2.)
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, National War Memorial (South Australia)
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World War 1 Service

17 Jul 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Keswick South Australia Australia
27 Oct 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3282, 10th Infantry Battalion
27 Oct 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3282, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Benalla, Adelaide
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3282, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)

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Biography

A 28 year old clerk, Alfred listed his mother, Mrs Edith Helen Bushell, of Castlemaine House, Morgan Road Croydon, as his next of kin when he enlisted at Keswick Barracks on 17 June 1915. (per service record)

He was assigned to and embarked for overseas with the 11th Reinforcements of the 10th Battalion from Adelaide on 27 October 1915 aboard HMAT Benalla.  The 10th Battalion was at that time on the front line at Gallipoli having been one of the first units ashore on 25 April 1915.

On arrival in Egypt, too late to see service at ANZAC, the 11th reinforcements were incorporated in the massive re-organisation of the AIF that took place to raise the 4th and 5th Divisions.

Alfred Momplhait was originally allocated to the 50th Battalion, which had been created by splitting the 10th Battalion as part of the process of 'doubling the AIF' to create the 4th and 5th Divisions.  However Alfred was one of number of men who were subsequently transferred to the 32nd Battalion in the 8th Brigade of the 5th Division.  Not long afterwards they embarked for France, via the southern port of Marseilles, followed by a long train journey north.

The 5th was the last of the AIF Divisions to cycle through the "Nursery Sector" near Armentieres on the Belgian / French border.  They occupied positions near the town of Fleurbaix.  Behind the German front lines the men would have been able to see the ruins of Fromelles. With the 1st 2nd and 4th Divisions directed to the Somme, the 5th Division was held in place.  It was decided they would be used in an operation to fix the German forces opposite them in place and prevent their movement south to reinforce the Somme front.  The attack went in on the 19th/20th July in what was the single most costly day in Australian military history. 

The 8th Brigade, with the 32nd Battalion in the forward echelon, was on the left hand flank of the Division frontage.  When the attack went in it was met with a torrent of machine gun fire that felled the attackers in their hundreds at a time.  The 8th Brigade penetrated the forward trench line but becasue their flanking Brigade could not maintain the frontage, the 8th Brigade then found its right flank exposed and they were progressively cut off and destroyed in detail by German counter attacks which went on through the night.  See the campaign entry here FROMELLES (/explore/campaigns/2)

Pte Alfred Momplhait was one of the nearly 2,000 men killed at Fromelles during the attack.  His body was behind German lines and was identified and his death advised to the British authorities.   After the war his remains could not be located and he was commemorated on the VC Corner Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles.

It was speculated that the dead had been buried in a mass grave by the Germans, but there was nothing to go on.

In 2008 thanks to the tireless efforts of Mr Lambros Eglesios a Melbourne school teacher, a burial ground was located at Pheasant Wood, on the outskirts of Fromelles, containing the bodies of 250 British and Australian soldiers. Forensic examination determined that Alfred Momplhait was one of them. All of the remains were reburied in the newly created Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery. At the time of the official dedication of the new cemetery on 19 July 2010, ninety-six of the Australians, including Alfred Momplhait, had been identified through a combination of anthropological, archaeological, historical and DNA information. Work is continuing on identifying the other remains relocated from the burial ground and buried in the new cemetery, currently recorded as unknown soldiers.

 

 Steve Larkins June 2013.  Steve Larkins commanded the Guard of Honour that opened the Fromelles Memorial park in 1998.

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