Reginald William (Reg) BRINSMEAD MC

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BRINSMEAD, Reginald William

Service Number: 64
Enlisted: 18 August 1914, Broadmeadows, Victoria
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 8th Infantry Battalion
Born: Leopold, Victoria, Australia, March 1893
Home Town: Leopold, Greater Geelong, Victoria
Schooling: Leopold State School & Central College, Geelong
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Killed in Action, Belgium, 17 December 1917
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
War graves historian, Peter Jones, undertook and investigation and is convinced Reg is buried Oosttaverne Wood in Belgium.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, East Geelong War Memorial, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient)*
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World War 1 Service

18 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 64, Broadmeadows, Victoria
19 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 64, 4th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Wiltshire, Melbourne
19 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 64, 4th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
15 May 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 64, 4th Light Horse Regiment, ANZAC Gallipoli
10 Nov 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Sergeant, 8th Infantry Battalion
8 Aug 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 8th Infantry Battalion
20 Sep 1917: Honoured Military Cross, Menin Road, Courageously took over from Company Commander when he became a casualty at Battle of Menin Rd 20/9/1917

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

Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Biography proudly reproduced from The Brinsmead Family History website

Reginald William Brinsmead was born in 1893, the youngest son of Henry Brinsmead and Jemima Barker. He was, in turn, the grandson of William Brinsmead and Ann Brinsmead, married cousins who arrived from England in the late 1840's or in 1850. They opened up farming land in the Moolap-Kensington area (now Leopold) near Melbourne, Victoria. William and Ann had 13 children, among them Henry, Reginald's father.

Reginald had a twin brother William who did not survive. Hope (Brinsmead) Taylor wrote in her memoirs that: "Reginald Brinsmead volunteered for the armed forces.  He joined a ship taking 800 horses to Egypt.  The poor horses were stabled in the hot, humid hull of the ship for the journey.  Each soldier worked hard caring for the horses, faithfully washing and grooming them, and doing all that they could to comfort the distressed beasts as the ship tossed and rolled.  After several long months, the ship arrived in Egypt.  It was to the credit of the soldiers that only twenty horses died on the trip.  Reg was a brave soldier, and wrote many letters home to his parents describing his movements with his regiment."

Reginald's nephew Tom Brinsmead told his son Max Brinsmead that Reginald: "Was a lieutenant in World War I who fought with the Light Horse Brigade in Palestine.  He transferred to the 8th Infantry Battalion in November 1916.  He was a born leader of men always volunteering for extra duties. He was killed in action in France in 1917 near Ypres after surviving the bloody battles for Passchendaele that year.  2nd Lt Reg Brinsmead was killed on the 17th of December 1917 around 1800 yards from Wyschaete, Belgium at map ref C.17.c.8.7 Map 28.  After a series of skirmishes between Australian and German patrols, Lt Brinsmead lead out a patrol into no man's land to search for two missing men from a previous patrol.  He was initially shot through the mouth by a snipter but typically continued on.  A sniper then shot Lt Brinsmead through the head.  Reginald left a bank account of 10 shillings for his favourite and eldest nephew Thomas Goullet Brinsmead, a son of his older (and only) brother Cedric."

For many years an Australian Vietnam War veteran named Peter Jones devoted himself to seeing that, where possible, diggers who died on the western front in WWI "are given a decent burial". His work led to reporter John Rygiel of the Geelong News writing the following articles that reveal a lot about Reginald's war, an experience that cost him his life but earned him the Military Cross for gallant and distinguished services in action.  

From the Geelong News, Tuesday 13.8.1996: "Search for lost grave" by JOHN RYGIEL

A fascinating account of the unimaginable horrors of war and a Geelong man's remarkable courage, tragic death and the lost grave has unfurled in recent days for the family of a WWI war hero.

For 78 years the relatives of 2nd Lieutenant Reginald William Brinsmead MC of Leopold have believed he was buried in a marked grave in a war cemetery in Belgium.

It has come as a shock to three Geelong members of the family of Lt Brinsmead that their uncle has in fact for all this years been listed as having no known grave.

The cousins, Mrs Thelma McAllister and Mrs Roma Austin, both of Newton, and Mr Jack Bayley of Geelong (pictured left) will now apply to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to have the final resting place of their uncle registered and rededicated.

The Geelong News traced Mrs McAllister, Mr Bayley and Mrs Austin down as the eldest surviving relatives of Lt Brinsmead after we were contacted recently by a remarkable Vietnam war veteran.

From page 4 of the same paper: Shock for family in news of soldier's grave - Search for lost grave

"The least we can do for these young men who fought and died for their country is to make sure that they have a proper grave and headstone," Mr Jones says.

He is convinced that Lt Brinsmead is buried at a war cemetery called Oosttaverne Wood in Belgium (6km South of Ypres) after being killed in action on December 17,1917 at Wytschaete on the western front.

Family records confirm that the funeral service as conducted by the Rev. Capt Joseph Booth MC, CMG, who later became the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne.

Then some months later the cemetery was hit by a barrage of enemy shellfire and many of the graves and headstones, including Lt Brinsmead's were obliterated.

At the end of the war the authorities were faced with the impossible task of remaking the graves of the horrific number who died in "the war to end all wars"

Although hundreds of cemeteries today mark the line of the western front across France and into Belgium, an estimated 40 percent killed have no known grave and their memory is preserved on great memorials such as the Menin Gate at Ypres, now Ieper, where Lt Brinsmead's name now appears.

However, Mr Jones and the Geelong family hope to have the name removed from the memorial and placed on the original burial site.

Lt Brinsmead's family was notified of the burial site in 1918 given the grid co-ordinates of its location. These co-ordinates match closely Mr Jones' own research on the location of the grave, although there are small anomalies which will have to be investigated by the War Graves Commission.

And from page 5: Shock for family in news of soldier's grave. Brinsmead family was among area's pioneers

The Brinsmeads were pioneers of the Geelong district and indeed the new Port Phillip District.

William and Ann Brinsmead arrived from England in the 1840's and opened up farming land in Moolap-Kensington (now Leopold area). They had 13 children, among them Henry, Reginald's father.

Reginald Brinsmead was only 19 years of age when he signed up it the Australian Light Horse almost immediately war was declared in 1914.

He was a strapping young man - an expert horseman and crack shot.  The Geelong Advertiser in August 1914 reported his marksmanship after he won the regimental shooting championship. 

By the time his regiment, by then an infantry unit, sailed for Gallipoli in May 1915 he as a sergeant and already showing signs of being an outstanding soldier. 

After three months at Gallipoli enduring all its well documented horrors, Sergeant Brinsmead came down with typhoid fever and had to be repatriated to Malta and then England.

Brinsmead was obviously the consummate warrior. As soon a he was sufficiently recovered from a disease that would have killed most people, he was off to the western front where he was wounded in action and sent again to England to recuperate. 

Again, he insisted on being sent back to battle as soon as possible and in October 1917 at the Battle of Polygon Wood he won the Military Cross and was commissioned in the field for his extraordinary bravery.

His action prompted the commander in chief of the 1st Anzac Corp., General Birdswood, to write him a letter which the family still keeps proudly.

On December 17, 1917 Lt Brinsmead led his platoon in pursuit of a German patrol which had taken 10 Australian soldiers prisoner during an action at a neighbouring command post.

He was wounded in the neck during the action but insisted on continuing the pursuit in the hope of freeing his comrades. After losing a lot of blood, he was eventually persuaded to turn back to the Australian line to seek medical treatment.

Not long after his unit found his body - he had been shot through the head by a sniper. Lt Brinsmead's last moments were documented in a letter to his father by his commanding officer Captain Gilbert Lovett.

Captain Lovett was killed in action the day after he hastily wrote it in pencil.  It was found on his body and forwarded on to Reginald's father back in Leopold.

Lt Brinsmead's name is inscribed on memorials at the end of Boundary Rd in Whittington and St Marks Anglican Church in Leopold."

Another article by the same reporter from page 4 of the August 13, 1996 Geelong News is headed: "Ceremony rewards veteran's search"

"Last May, years of dedication paid off for Vietnam veteran Peter Jones when he attended a moving ceremony at Somer Farm Cemetery outside of Ieper in Belgium. 

The ceremony, attended by the ambassador of Belgium, various dignitaries and relatives of servicemen killed in action, was the dedication of the graves of privates Ralph Pendleton and Stanley Mears, both of NSW.

The belated ceremony, 78 years after the end of the war, was the result of 10 years of incredibly persistent detective work by Mr Jones.

Twenty years ago, he decided to retrace the war service of his grandfather Lance Corporal Wallace Jones and his comrades buried at the cemetery.

Mr Jones managed to account for 19 of the 21 Aussie diggers in the cemetery.

But, the details on the missing two, Mears and Pendleton, took 10 years of patient work to put together.

Eventually he convinced authorities that the two men were buried with two others in a common grave, but the headstones – like that of Lt Brinsmead - had been destroyed by shell barrage and the names were listed on the Menin Memorial as having no known grave. 

After his visit to Belgium, Mr Jones turned his attention to Lt Brinsmead

The wheelchair bound war historian and sleuth is delighted that this "case" has been solved so quickly and hopes to turn his attention to other missing graves in his quest to get as many as he can "a decent burial".

Max Brinsmead also kindly supplied the following records and transcriptions:

Letter to H. Brinsmead, Esq., LEOPOLD, Vic. From the Office of War Records and dated 2nd June, 1919:

Dear Sir,

With reference to the report of the regrettable loss of your son, the late 2nd Lieutenant R. W. Brinsmead, M.C., 8th Battalion, I am now in receipt of advice which shows that on 17.12.17 one of our Outposts had been captured by the enemy.  The late Officer took out a party to ascertain if the Outpost was still held by the enemy, and while doing so was wounded in the mouth by a sniper.  He continued on, but shortly afterwards was shot through the head. He was buried about 1,800 North North East of Wyschaete, Belgium.

The utmost care and attention is being devoted, where possible, to the graves of our soldiers.  It is understood photographs are being taken as soon as practicable for transmission to next-of-kin.

These additional details are furnished by direction, it being the policy of the Department to forward all information received in connection with deaths of members of the Australian Imperial Force.

Yours faithfully (Initialled only)

Major,

Officer i/c Base Records

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

Capt Percy Lay (MC, DCM, MM) in his diary was clearly impressed with 2nd Lieut Brinsmead's performance on the 20th of Septempber 1917, Battle of the Menin Rd attack. It was in this action Brinsmead deservedly won his Military Cross. 

Lay wrote:  "We gained all we were asked to and a little more. It was amusing to see the way the chaps went into battle. It looked more like a race meeting than a battle Consolidated postions for the counter attacks that were sure to come and we caught him missing for the attack and cut him up before any of them reached our lines. Our casualties were very light for the day but our company lost most of our officers, Capt Gerald Evans, Lt’s Alexander Fulton [b1883, KIA 20/9/1917], James Wicks [b1891-returned] and Reg Brinsmead [MC, b1893, KIA 17/12/1917], got wounded, leaving only one officer unwounded but Lt Brinsmead would not go away."

2nd Lt Reg Brinsmead was killed on the 17th of December around 1800 yards from Wyschaete, Belgium at map ref C.17.c.8.7 Map 28.  After a series of skirmishes between Australian and German patrols, Lt Brinsmead lead out a patrol into no man's land to search for two missing men from a previous patrol.  He was initially shot through the mouth by a snipter but typically continued on.  A sniper then shot Lt Brinsmead through the head.  Lance Corporal Harold Gray was also shot and killed by the sniper.  He was buried at C.15.d.22 (ref sheet 28 SW Belgium) but his grave was lost before the war ended. Ron Austin (Cobbers in Kahki) pgs 174-175 has some details to describe the action in which Lt Brinsmead was lost.

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