Alexander Milo BEATON

BEATON, Alexander Milo

Service Numbers: 1512, 1412
Enlisted: 23 December 1914
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 13th Infantry Battalion
Born: Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, April 1893
Home Town: Bairnsdale, East Gippsland, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Dentists assistant
Died: Killed in action - hit by shell, Pozieres, France, 2 September 1916
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
Plot III, Row C, Grave No. 30
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

23 Dec 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 1512
11 Feb 1915: Involvement Private, 1412, 13th Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '11' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Seang Choon embarkation_ship_number: A49 public_note: ''
11 Feb 1915: Embarked Private, 1412, 13th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Seang Choon, Sydney

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Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From Francois Berthout

Pte  Alexander Milo Beaton 1512
4th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers,
4th Division AIF
The Somme, on these sacred grounds bathed in light and dotted with a red mantle of millions of poppies, stand in the silence of an immaculate white, the solemn graves of thousands of men who, in the name of peace and freedom gathered from the other side of the world and united in camaraderie, in the prime of their lives, took a step forward to come to the aid of France which they defended with determination through the muddy trenches of Pozieres, of Mouquet Farm, Villers-Bretonneux and Amiens where thousands of young Australian soldiers fought with bravery.

Affectionately and respectfully nicknamed Diggers, they became, through their courage and their sacrifices, the sons of France who gave their today and their lives for our tomorrow and whose colors proudly wave above their last resting places of serene cemeteries, immortal shroud of their memory in which walk in silence the innocent souls of these heroes who, alongside their comrades and their forever young brothers, extend their hands to us to transmit their memory so that we can tell our children who these exceptional men were and what they did for us who live thanks to them and on whom I will always watch with love and care so that their faces and their names live forever.

Today, it is with infinite and deep gratitude but also with the utmost respect that I would like to honor the memory of one of these young men, of one of my boys of the Somme, who, on the battlefields, for Australia and for France, gave his life.I would like to pay a very respectful tribute to Private number 1512 Alexander Milo Beaton who fought in the 4th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers, 4th Division of the Australian Imperial Force and who was killed in action 107 years ago, on September 2, 1916 at the age of 19 during the Battle of the Somme.

Alexander Milo Beaton was born in 1893 in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia, and was the son of James Beaton and Lillian Emily Beaton (née Cunningham), of Nicholson Street, Bairnsdale. He was a very good sportsman, was a respected member of the Bairnsdale Rowing Club and an active participant in local regattas and worked as a dental assistant until the outbreak of the war.

In August 1914, the war began and after seeing his comrades leave for the front, Alexander traveled to Liverpool, New South Wales, where, without any parental authorization, (because he was only 17 at the time) and unknown to the recruiters, he declared to be 21 years old and enlisted on December 23, 1914 as a Private in the 13th Australian Infantry Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement, then, after a training period of just over a month, he embarked with his unit from Sydney, New South Wales,on board HMAT A49 Seang Choon on February 11, 1915 and proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at Gallipoli.

Along with the rest of the 4th Brigade, under the command of then Colonel John Monash,Alexander and the 13th Battalion took part in the Landing at Anzac Cove, arriving late on April 25, 1915.For the first four months, between May and August, they undertook defensive operations as the Anzacs attempted to establish themselves on the narrow beachhead that had been captured on the peninsula. On 8 August 1915 an attempt was made to break out from this position and the battalion took part in a costly, and only partially successful, attack on Hill 971.

Hill 971 (or Koja Chemen Tepe), the highest point of the Sari Bair Ridge, Gallipoli, was the objective of the 4th Infantry Brigade as part of the main break-out operations, from ANZAC in early August 1915. The intention was to seize the high ground between Hill 971 and Chunuk Bair in order to secure a drive across the peninsula to capture the forts guarding the Straits. The 4th Brigade forming part of the left column of the assaulting force, advanced during the night of 6 August but made slow progress due the difficult terrain and by dawn on 7 August was well short of its objective. An assault on the summit attempted on 8 August proved a costly failure.

While in Gallipoli, Alexander described the advance at Walker's Ridge as follows:
"Our brigade advanced for about four miles from the left of our old position under a heavy gun fire of shrapnel and machine gun, but as the enemy was only firing at random very little harm was done. When, however, we were crossing a flat piece of country our own searchlights were swung on to us by mistake and our men began to shout out in protest, giving the alarm to the Turks. Bullets and shells were at once poured on to us in showers, and men began to fall around me. How I escaped God only knows. The chap with whom I was camping was shot dead beside me. He got it right through the stomach, which is about the worst place a man can be hit for it causes intense pain and is nearly always fatal. But that is a subject best left alone, as to me it seems one hideous nightmare."
This was the attitude on many of those at Gallipoli and he also reflected the attitude of how many saw their opponents as follows:
"There is not a slightest doubt the Turks are as brave as the next one. They actually leave their trenches and crawl up to ours and then let drive a bomb amongst us. There is one thing, however, they cannot stand and that is the Australian bayonet. They fear the Australians more than any of the others. I know for a positive fact that they had to bring down Turks from the Russian front to lead their attacks on our positions. The Turks who knew us were not having any, and they had reason on their side, for in all their charges against us they never shifted us an inch, I think if they had their choice a very large percentage of them would surrender, but they fear their German officers. I have seen them when peeping over the trenches, these officers driving the Turks to charge our position at the point of the revolver."

On August 13, 1915, a few days after the attack on Walker's Ridge, Alexander suffered from septic hand and was evacuated from Gallipoli on August 21 on the hospital ship Andania then was conveyed to Malta where he arrived on August 26 and admitted on another hospital ship, the "Carisbrook Castle" and made his way to England where Alexander was disembarked on September 3 and admitted to the 4th London General Hospital, suffering, in addition to septic hand, from nasal trouble then, a few months after recovering , proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on March 4, 1916 at Zeitoun, Egypt then joined the 13th Battalion at Tel-El-Kebir but was transferred and taken on strength in the 4th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers on March 16 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Corlette.

The men of the 4th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers,trained as infantrymen, were also tasked with some engineer functions, with a large number of personnel possessing trade qualifications from civilian life. As such, they were designated as pioneer units. The pioneer concept had existed within the British Indian Army before the war, but had not initially been adopted in other British Empire forces. In early 1916, the Australian Army was reorganised ahead of its transfer to the Western Front in Europe. A total of five pioneer battalions were raised by the AIF at this time, with one being assigned to each of the five infantry divisions that the Australians deployed to the battlefield in France and Belgium. Tasked with digging trenches, labouring, constructing strong points and light railways, and undertaking battlefield clearance, the troops assigned to the pioneers required construction and engineering experience in addition to basic soldiering skills. Alexander and the 4th Pioneers followed an intensive period of training in the heat of the desert then on June 4, 1916, joined the British Expeditionary Force in Alexandria and proceeded overseas for France on board the "Scotian".

On June 11, 1916, Alexander and his unit finally arrived in France and were disembarked in Marseilles then marched for the "Carcassone Camp" and, after a little rest, were sent by train to Bailleul which they reached on June 14 and moved into billets at Strazeele where they remained until June 21 and the following day marched to the front line at Armentieres where they relieved the 2nd Battalion of the Australian Pioneers then moved to Bois-Grenier on June 25 and were mainly employed in the construction of trench lines and roads under German artillery fire which caused some casualties, some of which were accidental from unexploded shells which the men dug in with their shovels and pickaxes.

On July 7, 1916, Alexander and the 4th Battalion of the Australian Pioneers left Bois-Grenier and marched for Fleurbaix then for Merris on July 12 where they practiced loading wagons but also followed infantry exercises including musketry and bayonet fights. The following day, they embarked by train for the Somme and arrived at Doullens on July 14 then marched for Canaples where they were billeted in good condition and followed a new period of training there including practice attacks.On July 28, they approached the front line and moved for Albert and were engaged in the construction of a road and lines of communication through La Boisselle then on July 30, near Pozieres, built many strong points and entanglements of barbed wire under artillery fire that was among the most brutal and intense that the battalion bravely faced.
On August 1, 1916 the 4th Battalion Australian Pioneers moved to Becourt Wood and there too were employed in establishing strong points defended by machine guns, constructing communication trenches protected by lines of barbed wire which were constructed mainly during the nights to avoid sniper fire and enemy artillery but were also employed to dig dugouts then on August 6, two days after the capture of the windmill at Pozieres, dug new trenches from the "Tramway Trench" towards " OG1 Trench" but had to face violent German counterattacks which tried to retake this vital position but were repulsed with exemplary courage by the Australians then in the days that followed, were heavily shelled and worked on the maintenance of the trenches which suffered heavy damage every day.

On August 14, 1916, Alexander and the men of the 4th Pioneers worked hard in the repair of trenches on the "Sausage Valley", between La Boisselle and pozières then two days later, marched for Warloy-Baillon, for a period of rest and reorganization because the battalion suffered heavy losses and after having received reinforcements, followed a period of training and on August 22, were engaged in the construction of an enclosure for the German prisoners then on August 24, moved for the "Avoca Valley "near Pozieres and worked hard again on the front line under the shells which did not stop falling then on September 1st, moved for the trenches of Mouquet Farm where the next day, while he helped to deepen a position with several of his comrades, he met his fate and was killed in action by a shell which fell near him. He was 19 years old.

At first after his death, due to too intense bombardment, it was impossible to bring Alexander's body back to the rear lines and was declared as "missing" but just a year after the end of the war, in 1919, he was found and buried with military honors.Lakes Entrance minister, Reverend Birch, had the onerous task of informing his mother who was living at Swan Reach, of her son’s death.

Today, Alexander Milo Beaton rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at the Courcelette British Cemetery, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "We try to see and dimly understand.Mother and sister Enid."
Alexander, today we gather around you to honor the memory of your life which was cut short, stopped by the brutality of the war in which you fought with the most beautiful spirit of courage alongside your comrades and brothers for whom you stood strong on the front line, in the dark and crowded trenches which, for four long years, was the only world known to a whole generation of men who sacrificed their youth to do what was right, and together did their duty with honor and loyalty, with endurance and coolness and who all marched forward for peace and freedom, so that their war could end all wars so, determined, serving proudly and hard under rains of bullets and hails of shells, they bit the ground and never backed down but witnessed a hell on earth never seen before and endured the horrors, the fury of a world that descended into madness and despair through fire on the battlefields which were only open graves and faced the death day and night which awaited them a few meters from the parapets, crouched slyly in the mud and the barbed wire but, in the face of this nightmare, the young Diggers found , in camaraderie and fraternity, the strength to push forward again and again in the attacks they carried out with courage on the blood red no man's lands of Pozieres, Amiens and Villers-bretonneux where they marked the history of their footprints and here, after Gallipoli, after Fromelles, through the poppies of the Somme, honored the ANZAC spirit which was born in courage and in sacrifice, a spirit of endurance and effort which united all the great and beautiful nation of Australia whose sons and daughters fought with love for their country in the front line alongside their brothers in arms on the sacred fields of northern France, a friendly country for which the Diggers fought as lions beyond their limits, beyond courage, beyond what was expected of them and who here, were and will be forever admired and loved by the people of France who will always stand with respect, united in the beautiful bond of friendship that unites us to the Australian people that we are proud to welcome where their ancestors, where our sons fought and fell and whose bodies live today in peace but where their names will live forever.Young they were when they lived, proud they were when they carried their colors under the southern cross, united they stood in the trenches, strong they went forward in the battles, determined, confident they stood alongside their brothers, bayonets and rifles in hand, shoulder to shoulder united in the same spirit of bravery, a spirit which survived them and in which, solemn, proud, tall and young they will always stand, a spirit of which they were proud and which will never cease to live like the eternal blood red of poppies that remind us every day of what these exceptional men did and gave for us through which and whose memory will never fade and will always be remembered with love and care, over whom I will always watch over with respect and gratitude so that their names live on forever.

Thank you so much Alexander, for all you have done for us and for my country whose love, respect and gratitude will forever be yours and where the spirit of Australia, the ANZAC spirit, will live forever.At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remember them. 


Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Served as Alexander James Beaton