George Beamish SWANTON

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SWANTON, George Beamish

Service Number: 1159
Enlisted: 3 March 1915, Werribee, Victoria
Last Rank: Corporal
Last Unit: 24th Infantry Battalion
Born: Werribee, Victoria, Australia, 1 January 1882
Home Town: Werribee, Wyndham, Victoria
Schooling: Werribee School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Electrician
Died: Wounds, France, 28 July 1916, aged 34 years
Cemetery: Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension
VII. A. 11.,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Werribee Honour Roll, Werribee St Thomas' Church of England Honor Board, Werribee State School Honour Board, Werribee War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

3 Mar 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
3 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Werribee, Victoria
10 May 1915: Involvement Private, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
10 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT Euripides
10 May 1915: Embarked Private, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Melbourne
12 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
12 Feb 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières
29 Apr 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 1159, 24th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Cpl 1159 George Beamish Swanton 
24th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company,
6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division
 
Under the sun of the Somme, sway in silence millions of red petals, the poppies of remembrance between which stand eternal and solemn the white tombs of thousands of young men who, in the green fields, in the trenches served proudly alongside of their friends and brothers in arms and who side by side, in heroic assaults, for peace and freedom, gave their youth, their lives, their everything for our tomorrow, for a better world in which we live without ever forgetting why we are here, without ever forgetting the bravery and the sacrifices of a whole generation of heroes who today, by our side, in the peaceful cemeteries of northern France, still stand proud and rest in peace in the bathed fields of light where they will always be remembered with honor and whose memory I will always keep strong and alive so that they are never forgotten, so that these heroes live forever in our hearts where their memory will never fade.

Today, it is with the utmost respect and with the deepest gratitude that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, one of my boys of the Somme who gave his today for our tomorrow.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Corporal number 1159 George Beamish Swanton who fought in the 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company, 6th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 106 years ago, on July 28, 1916 at the age of 34 during the Battle of the Somme.

George Beamish Swanton was born on January 1, 1882 in Werribee, Victoria, Australia, and was the son of Samuel Swanton (1854-1931), and Helen Jane Swanton (née Beamish, 1855-1940), of Werribee. George was educated in Werribee School, Victoria, married Isabella McGregor Swanton (née Gordon, 1885-1958), had a daughter, Joan Helen (1915-2012) and before joining the Australian Imperial Force, worked as an electrician.

George enlisted on March 3, 1915 at Werribee as a Private in the 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, B Company, a battalion which was raised in early 1915 at Broadmeadows, north of Melbourne. After a training period of just over a month in Broadmeadows Camp, George embarked with his unit (with a force of 1023 men) from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on 10 May 1915 and sailed for the Gallipoli Peninsula.

On August 30, 1915, George was disembarked at Gallipoli where he joined the MEF (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) and with the 24th Battalion, fought in the Lone Pine sector, taking over responsibility for the front line on the 12 September.The position was very close to the Turkish trenches and was hotly contested. This position was so tenuous, that the troops holding it had to be rotated regularly, and as a result the 24th spent the remainder of the campaign rotating with the 23rd Battalion to hold the position against determined Turkish mining operations.The battalion remained at Gallipoli for three months until the evacuation of Allied troops took place in December 1915.

On January 10, 1916, after evacuating the Gallipoli Peninsula, George was disembarked in Alexandria, Egypt, where with the 24th Battalion, fought in the defense of the Suez Canal, was promoted to the rank of Temporary Corporal on January 31 then proceeded to join the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) on March 20, 1916 in Alexandria from where he embarked for France.

On March 26, 1916, after less than a week on the peaceful waters of the Mediterranean Sea, George arrived in France and was disembarked in Marseilles then, alongside the men of the 24th Battalion, marched into billets at Rebecq,Belgium, where they remained until the April 10 and the following day, joined Fleurbaix where George was promoted to the rank of Corporal on April 16. On April 29, the 24th Battalion was relieved by the 7th Australian Infantry Battalion and marched into billets at Hallobeau via Fort Rompu, Bac St Maur ,Croix Du Bac and stayed here until the end of May.

On June 1, 1916, George and the 24th Battalion marched to Erquinghem where they were mainly employed in working parties but on the night of June 29-30 took part in a successful raid on the German trenches and captured five German prisoners, this was the first minor engagement of the battalion on the western front but a month later they entered the trenches of the Somme front and on July 27, 1916, were thrown into the hell of Pozieres, which was the first major engagement of the Australian Imperial Force but also the deadliest in its history in the Somme.

On 23 July 1916 the 1st Australian Division launched an operation that began Australia’s contribution to the great British offensive of that year, the Battle of the Somme. On that day, some three weeks after the Somme offensive began, the 1st Australian Division attacked the French village of Pozières. Two days later the entire village was in their hands.

Over the next six weeks, the three divisions of 1st Anzac Corps, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions battled their way along the high ground, securing the menacing OG Lines to the north-east of the village, and inching towards the fortified German strongpoint at Mouquet Farm. In the process, the Australians suffered some 23,000 casualties.

The most successful phase of the Battle of Pozières Ridge was its first. On 23 July 1916, the 1st Division of 1st Anzac Corps advanced under the cover of a lifting artillery barrage from a trench some 1500 yards to the south east of Pozières, to the south side of the Albert-Bapaume Road. Vicious hand-to-hand fighting ensured the capture of German strong posts in the houses, cellars and yards along the south-east edge of the village and Gibraltar, a significant strong point at the south-western edge of the village itself. Over the next two days, the Division was able to push through the main part of the village, which lay to the north-east of the road, and extensive fortifications to take possession of the entire village.

This first attack, while successful, failed to deal with the major German defences in the Pozières sector,the OG Lines. These heavily-defended trench lines were part of the German second line of defence on the Somme, and ran more or less parallel to the direction of the operation, that is, from the south-east to the north-west. When the 1st Division was relieved by the 2nd on 27 July 1916, the capture of the OG Lines became the highest priority. The 2nd Division took two attempts to capture these lines, struggling to make headway against uncut barbed-wire defences and German defenders who were well aware of the coming attack and well-armed with machine guns. It wasn’t until the second attack on 4 August that the division successfully captured the lines and secured the right flank of the Australian operations.

From this point on, the OG Lines were held more or less in a defensive capacity only, and the main focus of operations shifted to the north-west. The overall plan in the sector was to capture the ridge which swept away towards the village of Thiepval. The 4th Division, on its arrival to the line on 7 August 1916, began a complicated series of operations that inched the line towards Mouquet Farm, the major German defensive work between Pozières and Thiepval. Each of these operations was conducted on a small front with smaller objectives and achieved a slight modicum of success in advancing the line, but at a high cost in men and materiel. On its relief some nine days later, the 4th Division had advanced the line to within 600 yards of Mouquet Farm.

Each of the three Australian divisions returned to the front line once more before the 1st Anzac Corps was replaced in the line by the Canadian Corps. Even Charles Bean, with his determination to put as much detail into his Official History as possible, had to preface his chapters on what happened next with the statement "the series of battles which ensued, repeating as they did within a narrower area than most of the horrors of the Pozières fighting, cannot be described with the minuteness hitherto employed". The Australians never managed to capture Mouquet Farm, and in fact only directly assaulted the position twice. Their attacks slowly petered out before all three divisions were sent to Belgium to recover.

Although the Battle of the Somme is largely remembered for its major operations,1 July, 14 July, 15 September,the other 138 days comprised of small-scale, disjointed attacks just like those conducted by 1st Anzac Corps along Pozières Ridge. These operations were too often so rushed, disjointed and badly integrated with firepower that on most occasions they didn’t stand a decent chance of success. In too many cases the objective didn’t matter to the success of the overall campaign, instead attacks were launched on little more than the next trench, the next strongpoint, the next machine gun. Men struggled towards ill-defined objectives on a moonscape battlefield under an interminable hail of artillery shells and machine gun fire. In 1916, this was the war the infantry knew.

Mouquet Farm was not captured until 26 September 1916, long after it had been outflanked. On that day the 6th East Yorkshire Pioneer Battalion was working in the vicinity of the farm digging communication trenches. After a bomb fight lasting four hours, the small garrison of around 35 Germans gave themselves up. If Pozières Ridge was part of the battle that had to happen on the way to success, it was a costly path indeed.

Unfortunately, the hell of Pozieres was brief for George who was mortally wounded on July 27, 1916, his first day on the front line and was immediately evacuated to the 1/2nd South Midland Field Ambulance in Warloy-Baillon suffering from a gunshot wound which fractured his skull and died the following day, on July 28, 1916 at the age of 34.

Today, Corporal George Beamish Swanton rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme.

George Beamish Swanton had two brothers who fought bravely in the war, the first of whom was Private number 222 John (Jack) Swanton who served with the 2nd Australian Infantry Battalion but unfortunately was killed in action on May 2, 1915 at Gallipoli at the age of 27.

An account of how he died has been sent to her by his cousin Private W. H. Dukelow, who was with him when he was hit. Private Dukelow who has himself since been killed, in his letter says:
"I know that Jack shot five or six of the enemy at different times. He was one of the best shots in the company. We were fighting together when he got hit. We kept together, so, if one of us got hit the other would take him back, and not leave him to the enemy. Three men were shot around me, and Jack was the fourth. As soon as he got hit he asked me to take him back. I don't know how I escaped. The bullets were flying in hundreds while I was carrying him back to the trenches. I could only get along slowly. He had fainted and was quite helpless. He was shot about 10 o'clock in the morning and died at 4 the same evening. He was unconscious most of the time. He was buried by our boys the next morning in a little cleared space at the foot of the hills near the beach. I think it is an old orchard. There is long barley grass growing there, and a few fruit trees of some kind. It is a peaceful spot, at the foot of the valley."

Sadly the body of John (Jack) Swanton was never found and his name is today remembered and honored on the walls of the Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli.

George Beamish Swanton's second brother was Private Number 2760 Henry Swanton who served with the 29th Australian Infantry Battalion but was sadly also killed in action on November 2, 1916 at the age of 23 at Flers, Somme. Sadly, his body was never found and his name is honored on the walls of the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, Somme.

George, John, Henry, united in life, in the joys of a loving and devoted family, it is together, in fraternity that you walked side by side to answer the call of duty under the colors of the Australia, to serve your country and fight in the name of noble ideals which united a whole generation of men and who, without hesitation, with pride and patriotism, for their comrades, their families and their loved ones, in the ardor of their youth, embarked on the steamboats which, under a light breeze, took them away from home to guide them towards an uncertain future, towards unknown places which soon became the symbol of the courage of the young Diggers who, wearing their slouch hat with honor, landed on the sand of the beaches of Gallipoli which became red with blood but with bravery, facing the Turks, moved forward with determination to the arid hills of Lone Pine on which so many young Australians were decimated alongside their brothers in arms. In pain, suffering and chaos, it is on these distant beaches of Turkey that the spirit of ANZAC was born, a spirit of camaraderie, mateship, gallantry and courage which guided these young men to surpass themselves , to give the best of themselves, not for themselves but for their comrades who stood bravely with them in those dark hours but who wrote by their courage the most glorious pages of the young and strong Australian nation which sent its sons and his daughters on the battlefields and who, with the greatest bravery, made their country and their brothers in arms proud.After a first terrible shock, it is bruised and tired by months of bloody fighting on this sad peninsula that these young men left behind their friends and their brothers who fell in the prime of their lives leaving behind families broken by the weight of grief nothing could comfort and yet the war was far from over and the Diggers looked straight ahead to their fates in fear of never coming back but they did not back down and together in the heat of In the summer of 1916, they were disembarked in the north of France, far from knowing what hell they were going to descend into and behind the bagpipes, behind the drums, they marched with determination through the fields of poppies to join the battlefields of the Somme over which the smell of death hovered and joined the stinking trenches of Pozieres, under the fires of hell from a devastating enemy artillery which crushed and buried alive so many young men who had nowhere to hide from this incessant fury and found death in the mud alongside their comrades who, after Gallipoli, had to face a new hecatomb in these putrid quagmires of blood and steel, of flesh and bones and who, powerless, saw again so many of their brothers who fell, mercilessly mown down by fire machine guns and shells in the face of which nothing could survive and yet, in this nightmare, the camaraderie and the spirit of ANZAC never faded and once again, even in the face of almost certain death, the young Diggers moved forward under fire and for their country, for France, for us they gave their lives and in the fields of Pozieres , in the fields of the Somme, forever resound the voices of these young men who, young forever, watch together on these sacred grounds where so many of them fell in fear of being forgotten, but today, more than ever, we remember Australia, we remember the young Diggers who fought and gave their all in the silent fields who, through the poppies, keep their memories strong and alive and that is with dignity and honor that I will always watch over them who for more than a hundred years have become the sons of France for whom I would give my today, my life so that they are never forgotten, so that their bravery, their deeds and their sacrifices can be told so that their names live forever. Thank you so much George,J ohn, Henry. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

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Biography contributed by Elizabeth Allen

George Beamish SWANTON was born on 1st January, 1882 in Werribee, Victoria

His parents were Samuel SWANTON and Helen Jane BEAMISH

He married Nellie Isabella McGregor GORDON in Victoria in 1913 and they had one daughter, Joan Helen born 1915

Two of his brothers also died in WW1

1. John (Jack) SWANTON (SN222 -Killed in Action at Gallipoli 2.5.1915

2. Henry SWANTON (SN 2760) - Killed in Action at Pozieres 2.11.1916

Biography

"1159 Private (Pte) George Beamish Swanton, 24th Battalion, of Werribee, Vic. Pte Swanton enlisted on 28 April 1915 and embarked on board HMAT Euripides on 8 May 1915. He died of wounds on 28 July 1916 at Pozieres, France. Pte Swanton had two brothers who were also killed in action; 222 Pte John (Jack) Swanton, 2nd Battalion, enlisted on 27 August 1914 and was killed in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 2 May 1915; and 2760 Pte Henry Swanton, 29th Battalion, enlisted on 5 March 1916 and was killed in action at Pozieres, France, on 2 November 1916." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)

Brothers: 222 John SWANTON (/explore/people/333082) & 2760 Henry SWANTON (/explore/people/105156)

Killed in Action aged 34

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