Arthur Bertie CARTER

CARTER, Arthur Bertie

Service Number: 1656
Enlisted: 17 May 1915, Brisbane, Qld.
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 25th Infantry Battalion
Born: Marrickville, New South Wales, Australia , 1894
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Coorparoo State School
Occupation: Draper's Assistant
Died: Killed in Action, France, 14 November 1916
Cemetery: Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Brisbane Albert Street Uniting Church Honour Roll, Coorparoo Roll of Honor, Coorparoo Shire Memorial Gates (Greenslopes), Coorparoo State School Honour Roll
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World War 1 Service

17 May 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1656, 25th Infantry Battalion, Brisbane, Qld.
29 Jun 1915: Involvement Private, 1656, 25th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '15' embarkation_place: Brisbane embarkation_ship: HMAT Aeneas embarkation_ship_number: A60 public_note: ''
29 Jun 1915: Embarked Private, 1656, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Aeneas, Brisbane


Arthur Bertie Carter #1656 25th Battalion

Arthur Carter was born according to the Roll of Honour card in Marrickville, NSW. The Admission Register for Coorparoo State School shows that Arthur was enrolled at the school in 1898, By the time of his enlistment on 17 May 1915, he was living with his mother; Rachel Carter, at Lincoln Street, Stones Corner. His attestation papers list his occupation as draper’s assistant and his age as 21 years and 7 months.

Arthur was drafted into the 25th Battalion which had been in training at Enoggera since March. He was lucky to have made it into the original battalion having enlisted at such a late stage. The 25th left Pinkenba Warf on 28th June 1915 for Sydney, and then direct to Egypt where the “Aeneas” discharged the battalion on 4th August, exactly one year since war was declared.

After a one month stay in camp in Egypt, the 25th boarded the “Minniwaska” for Mudros Harbour and then transferred to the “Sarnia” for the journey to Gallipoli, where they were landed on the beach at 11:00pm on 11 September 1915. By this time both the Turks and the Australians were preparing for the coming winter. The earlier disasters of May and August (Lone Pine, Suvla Bay, The Nek) had convinced both sides that frontal assaults were foolhardy with little prospect of gaining ground. The 25th Battalion was put into the front line at the Apex below the heights of Chunuk Bair reinforcing trenches and moving supplies up from the beach.

Water for drinking and washing was in short supply, flies were in plague proportions and dysentery was rampant. Disease was a serious problem, so much so that Birdwood in Army Corps Orders of 15th October wrote “… it is equally our duty to keep ourselves fit as it is to kill Turks (and) we cannot hope to do the latter unless we are every one of us in good health……I cannot help feeling that all ranks do not look after themselves as they should.”
Without a better diet, availability of clean water and access to good sanitation it is not clear how the other ranks were supposed to action the General’s orders. Birdwood had hoped (not planned for) a decrease in the number going sick as the weather became milder and when the figures did not improve, the best he could do was blame the men.

Things were to get worse for the men of the 25th. The work they had been performing in repairing and revetting trenches was put to the test on 26th November when the weather broke, and fierce storms accompanied by heavy rain washed out many of the trenches and dugouts. Then it snowed, probably the first sight of snow for the Queenslanders. By this stage of the campaign, the decision had been made to evacuate the peninsula as the position was untenable. Just one week before the bulk of the 25th were evacuated, Arthur Carter was evacuated via Hospital Ship to the #1 Australian General Hospital in Cairo with what was finally diagnosed as enteric fever (typhoid). This was in spite of the fact that all servicemen were inoculated against typhoid before embarkation. Typhoid was endemic on Gallipoli, no doubt due to the lack of washing facilities and crude sanitation (which makes Birdwood’s comments above sound completely out of touch), and perhaps also due to the ineffectiveness of the vaccine available at that time.

Arthur was transferred to a convalescent depot in January 1916 but a medical board assess his condition as requiring a long rest (the report recommends three months change). Consequently he was placed on a ship returning to Australia. His mother received a curious communication from Base Records in Melbourne informing her that he was returning home sick but due to security issues she could not be informed of the time and place of his arrival. The letter also stated that due to the” possibility of cabled advice being mutilated, this advice may not be correct.” Nevertheless, Arthur did return to Australia.

The three months change must have had the desired effect as on 4th May 1916, Arthur embarked again in Brisbane on the “Seang Choon” along with the 13th reinforcement contingent of the 25th Battalion bound for Egypt. It appears that whilst on board the transport Arthur was promoted to acting corporal, no doubt because of his previous experience. After a brief stay in Alexandria, Arthur and the rest of the reinforcements proceeded to England and then to the training camp at Etaples in France. On 25th September, while still at Etaples, Arthur reverted to Private. Four days later he was charged with “neglect to obey orders, talking in the ranks” for which he received 14 days Field Punishment #2. (Field Punishment #2 meant that the offender would have to be shackled with cuffs for two hours in every 24) The drill instructors at Etaples Camp, known as the Bullring, were particularly disliked by the Australians and Arthur’s actions may be explained as being a soldier who had seen front line service not taking too kindly to British drill instructors. Five days after the charge, Arthur was returned to the 25th where is can be assumed that the Field Punishment was quietly disregarded.

When Arthur rejoined his battalion on 2nd October they were in camp outside Ypres in Flanders where the battalion was regrouping and re arming after suffering extremely heavy casualties at Pozieres the previous August. On 19th October, the battalion marched to Arques and entrained for Dernacourt. They were heading back to the Somme.

Since the battles of Pozieres in July and August 1916, Haig’s advance had crept forward a meagre six kilometres with the front now at the bottom of the ridge at Bapaume. In spite of heavy rain which had fallen all through October, Haig wanted to keep pressing forward to achieve a better line before closing down the front for the winter.
The 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions were sent in to achieve the objective at Flers. The 25th were called into the action on 5th November but due to poor planning and the fact that troops were so bogged down in the mud that they had not reached the start line by zero hour, the attack on the Maze failed miserably. After a short rest, the 25th was again called into the line for a further attack on the Maze on 14th November. On the eve of the attack, the Brigade Commander, Brig Gen Holmes had described the men of the 25th and 26th Battalions as “pretty cheap.” Again, the mud and poor leadership failed to gain the objective. Two days later, a muster parade back at Fricourt showed the battalion strength at 250, and this included 85 men waiting to see the medical Officer. Flers had crippled the battalion, 4 officers and 80 men had been killed. Amongst those killed was Arthur Carter. The attack on Flers had been badly planned and even more badly executed. Both the Commanding Officers of the 25th and 26th Battalions were relieved.

Arthur was originally reported as Missing in Action, and then subsequently in January 1917 as Wounded and Missing in Action. Arthur’s mother, on being advised that her son was missing contacted a Gunner A. Cannon who wrote to authorities inquiring into Arthur’s situation. The reply advised that his name did not appear on the lists of Prisoners of War and that a Red Cross investigation recorded witnesses who advised that during the action of 14th November, Arthur Carter and 4 others went out into no man’s land to fetch Capt. White who was lying wounded. Carter was hit, probably by a shell or grenade and badly wounded. The Corporal who had been part of the rescue party told the others that Carter was badly wounded and that going out to retrieve him would be useless. Captain White died of wounds a fortnight later.

After an official Board of Enquiry in July 1917, it was determined that Arthur Carter had been Killed in Action on 14th November 1916. Remarkably, given the uncertainty over Arthur’s fate, he had apparently been buried in no man’s land and a cross erected. At the war’s end, Arthur’s remains were exhumed and reburied in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval south of Bapaume.

Arthur’s widowed mother received his medals, a photo of his grave, a pension of two pounds a fortnight as well as the coverage from a life assurance policy and a funeral benefit from the Ark of Safety Lodge.

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Son of Rachel CARTER of Lincoln Street, Stone's Corner, South Brisbane, Qld.