Reginald Leslie BASTER

BASTER, Reginald Leslie

Service Number: 4270
Enlisted: 16 February 1916, Blackboy Hill, W.A.
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 3rd Tunnelling Company (inc. 6th Tunnelling Company)
Born: Blackheath, New South Wales Australia, 12 December 1890
Home Town: Kalgoorlie, Kalgoorlie/Boulder, Western Australia
Schooling: Unknown
Occupation: Butcher, Shearer, Miner
Died: Recurrent Tuberculosis, Kalgoorlie Western Australia, 9 February 1961, aged 70 years
Cemetery: Kalgoorlie Cemetery, W.A.
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World War 1 Service

16 Feb 1916: Enlisted Australian Army, SN 4270, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company), Blackboy Hill, W.A.
1 Jun 1916: Involvement Sapper, SN 4270, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company)
1 Jun 1916: Embarked Sapper, SN 4270, 1st Tunnelling Company (inc. 4th Tunnelling Company), HMAT Warilda, Fremantle
1 Jul 1918: Discharged Australian and Colonial Military Forces (Boer War / Boxer Rebellion), SN 4270, 3rd Tunnelling Company (inc. 6th Tunnelling Company)

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A WW2 veteran commented in something I read, “they got the best part of my life". Although my grandad Reg (a WW1 veteran) lived until he was 70 years old  I’m imagining he might have said the same.

Grandad was born in the Blue Mountains town of Blackheath New South Wales  at the end of the 19th Century. His family were butchers by trade but like many Australians they followed opportunities with the gold rush and moved to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia at the turn of the century. It was here grandad gained experience as a miner.

 By the time he enlisted in 1916, his experience on the mines was enough to see him provide service to the Tunnelling companies on the Western Front. The Tunnellers were mostly all miners who took part in the secret subterranean war beneath the Western Front aimed at destroying enemy territory from below.

Only a year into these dangerous and difficult assignments, grandad suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs and contracted pneumonia and nearly died.  He spent the year before his discharge in hospitals in England and France.

 After he was discharged, he was a tough survivor from all accounts, always looking for a break.  He started a number of small businesses and farming experiments around Kalgoorlie. He suffered throughout his life from his wounds and from untreated post-traumatic stress (shell shock), and consequent alcoholism. His condition was later diagnosed as tuberculosis and he received a veteran’s disability pension in later life until his death at the age of 70.

Mum told us, as tough and unsentimental as he was, he cried when he heard the announcement of WW2, because of the loss of life and brutality he’d witnessed in WW1.

 I never knew my grandfather personally, as he was estranged from most of my family by the time I was born. My late mother kept a candle burning for him  however throughout her life and forgave him his transgressions, stressing what a strong and resourceful man he could be. She always knew most of his problems were expressions of war related traumas. My grandmother told wonderful stories of their early marriage and days on the goldfields when he was at his peak as an inventor and gold prospector.


Biography contributed by Elizabeth Allen

Reginald Leslie BASTER was born in Blackheath, New South Wales on 12th December, 1890

His parents were William Edward BASTER & Julia CORIDASS who married in Victoria in 1880

He married Bertha HARRIS on 7th April, 1920 in Fremantle, Western Australia - two known children, Lawrence Reginald & Valencia Dorothy

He returned to Australia on 5th April, 1918 and was discharged on 1st July, 1918