George Laurence BRIGHT

BRIGHT, George Laurence

Service Number: 5338
Enlisted: 12 June 1915, Brisbane, Qld.
Last Rank: Gunner
Last Unit: 1st Divisional Ammunition Column
Born: North Pine, Queensland, Australia, 3 January 1896
Home Town: North Pine, Queensland
Schooling: North Pine State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Watchmaker
Died: Died of wounds, 2nd Canadian Clearing Station, Belgium, 27 October 1917, aged 21 years
Cemetery: Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Kallangur Pine Rivers Memorial Gates, North Pine State School Roll of Honour, Windsor War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

12 Jun 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Gunner, 5338, 1st Divisional Ammunition Column, Brisbane, Qld.
27 Sep 1915: Involvement Gunner, 5338, 1st Divisional Ammunition Column, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '22' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Hororata embarkation_ship_number: A20 public_note: ''
27 Sep 1915: Embarked Gunner, 5338, 1st Divisional Ammunition Column, HMAT Hororata, Melbourne

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Biography contributed by Ian Lang

BRIGHT Thomas Laurence  #5338 1st Field artillery / 1st Divisional Ammunition Column


Tom Bright was the son of well-known Petrie residents, Charles and Mary Bright. Charles Bright was one of a number of prominent citizens of the district who had formed a committee to establish a school on the north bank of the North Pine River in 1877. Tom Petrie was also a member of the committee.


Tom Bright attended the North Pine State School and was then apprenticed to Herga and Company in Brisbane as a watchmaker. Herga and Company were a firm of clock, watch and instrument makers. Most of the Queensland Government contracts for clocks used by the  railways and schools were supplied by Herga. Additionally, instruments such as theodolites and surveying equipment sold by Herga were also branded F.J. Bright and sons. There would appear to be a strong connection between the two companies and this perhaps explains young Tom’ s apprenticeship.


When Tom Bright presented himself for enlistment at Adelaide Street on 12th June 1915, he came bearing a form signed by both parents giving their permission for him to join the AIF; as he was only 19 years old at the time. He had been presented with a gold ring and a wristwatch (no doubt made by Herga’s craftsmen) by his employer and family. These items would in the course of the next few years be the cause of considerable concern to Tom’s parents.


Tom’s enlistment papers show that he was above average height (5’10 ½”) and was in peak physical condition. He had been a member of the North Pine Rifle Club for three years. Tom was drafted into the 8th reinforcements of the 1st Field Artillery Brigade and after a brief period of home leave, travelled to Melbourne to join other artillery reinforcements for rudimentary training at Broadmeadows before boarding the transport “Hororata”. He had allotted 3/- of his 5/- daily pay to his mother.


The “Hororata” arrived in Suez on 6th November 1915. Unbeknown to the bulk of the AIF which were at that time enduring winter at Gallipoli, plans were already well advanced for the withdrawal of all forces before Christmas. When the remnants of the 1st Field Artillery arrived back in Egypt from the peninsula, Tom was taken on strength and began training in the use of the 18 pounder rapid fire field guns that comprised the bulk of the artillery arsenal.


The now four divisions of the AIF remained in Egypt as they went through a rapid expansion in numbers. Tom, as part of the artillery attached to the 1st Division left Egypt in late March 1916 and upon arrival in Marseilles, travelled by train through the spring countryside of southern France to the large British Camp at Etaples near Le Havre. Here the artillery took possession of new 18 pounder guns along with their attendant limbers and team of six horses or mules. While in camp, Tom was admitted to hospital with mumps; a not uncommon disease among the men of the AIF.


The 1st FAB supported the 1st Division Infantry Brigades during the latter part of 1916, particularly in the battles of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. One of the critical requirements of artillery was the supply of ammunition. To keep the guns firing, a separate logistical unit named the 1st Division Ammunition Column was created to provide a ready supply of shells. On the 23rd July 1916, while troops from the 1st Division were in the line at Pozieres, Tom was transferred to the 1st DAC.


The campaign on the Somme continued into the winter of 1916/17 but few if any strategic gains were achieved. By then the Australians were more interested in keeping warm in the bitter French winter than taking on the enemy. For the Germans it was a similar situation and both sides dug in to winter quarters to wait for Spring. During the winter close down, Tom was sent off to trench mortar school. The Stokes Trench Mortar was a rather primitive and dangerous weapon consisting of a cast iron barrel and heavy base plate, but it had been hastily introduced as a support to infantry. It does not appear from Tom’s records that he was deployed to a trench mortar company and was soon back at the ammunition column wagon lines for a short time before being transferred to the 101st Field Battery as a gunner on 1st March 1917. In May of that year Tom had a blissful three weeks at a summer rest camp on the French Coast.


Tom returned from his rest ill and was hospitalised in the  #1 Australian General Hospital at Rouen. His file states PUO (Pyrexia of Unknown Origin: Military Code for “ we don’t know”). In total Tom would spend two months in hospital and convalescing before reporting back to Etaples. He was ordered back to the 1st DAC on 19th August and a week later was on leave in England for two weeks.


While Tom had been in hospital and on leave, the summer offensive in Belgium had begun. A series of engagements on the Menin Road line east of Ypres had yielded achievable gains which became the springboard for the next offensive. The key to these early successes was artillery, both in sheer volume of guns and shells and in calculated barrage plans which protected the advancing infantry behind the “creeping barrage.” When Tom returned from leave he was sent back to his original unit, 1st Field Artillery Brigade.


Battle success at Menin Road and Polygon Wood had brought the advance to the base of the Broodseinde Ridge. On 26th October 1917, Tom received a scalp wound; almost certainly the result of counter battery fire from German artillery. He was transported; probably by light rail from the front, to the 2nd Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Poperinghe some ten miles back from the front on the western side of Ypres. The following day Tom died of his wounds and was buried in the Lijssenthoek Cemetery adjacent to the CCS.


Tom’s parents were informed of his death a few weeks later. The family were anxious to wind up their son’s affairs and wrote on several occasions to Base Records in Melbourne requesting a death certificate which was not forthcoming until almost twelve months later. Charles Bright was also anxious to obtain Tom’s personal effects and the first parcel he received did not contain the presentation gold ring and wristwatch Tom had been given on his departure to the war. Charles wrote to Base Records advising them of the missing items.


Eventually the missing items were located in the kit store at Horseferry Road in London (Tom may have left them there when on leave) and Charles was advised that a second package of effects had been despatched. The baggage was loaded onto the S.S. Barunga in July 1918. Also on board the Barunga was a number of returning wounded and discharged servicemen heading for Australia. On 15 July 1918 the Barunga was torpedoed by a German submarine south of the Scilly Isles. She sank quickly with all cargo being lost but all survivors were rescued. Ironically, the Barunga was previously registered as the Sumatra, and had been confiscated from the German owners by the Australian Government when she was discharging cargo in Sydney in August 1914.


During 1921 and 1922, Medals were issued, along with a commemorative bronze plaque and a memorial scroll signed by the King. Charles signed for receipt of these items as well as three photographs of Tom’s grave with the permanent headstone erected by the Imperial War Graves Commission. Charles and Mary Bright had by this time moved from North Pine to McMaster St, Nundah.


Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

George's parents were Charles Duncan Bright and Mary Elizabeth Esther Duffield of McMaster Street, Nundhah, Qld. George's mother was from a well-known pioneering family. George attended North Pine State School. He was working as a watchmaker when he enlisted on 12 June 1915. George died of wounds received in action, aged 21.