Clifford William SENIOR

SENIOR, Clifford William

Service Number: 3972
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 5th Infantry Battalion
Born: Northwich, England , date not yet discovered
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Electrician
Memorials: White Hills Arch of Triumph
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World War 1 Service

8 Feb 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 21st Infantry Battalion, 9th Reinforcements
8 Dec 1916: Involvement Private, SN 3972, 21st Infantry Battalion
8 Dec 1916: Embarked Private, SN 3972, 21st Infantry Battalion, HMAT Warilda, Melbourne
1 Sep 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, 21st Infantry Battalion, Mont St Quentin / Peronne, SW to face on Sept 1 in battle of Mont St Quentin. Discharged two days later.
6 Oct 1918: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 5th Infantry Battalion, AIF reorganisation in late stages of the war. 21st battalion disbanded after much protest. Cliff assigned to 5th battalion.
19 Apr 1919: Involvement

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Clifford William SENIOR    SN 3972

Clifford (Cliff) Senior enlisted in Melbourne on July 28, 1915. He was 24 years of age and stated his Next of Kin was his mother Mary E Senior, c/o of the White Hills Post office. His father John Charles Senior was deceased.

Cliff was born in 1892 in Northwich, Cheshire a rural town on the confluence of the rivers Weaver and Dane. He was an electrician by trade and had completed a 4-year apprenticeship with the Northwich Electricity Supply.

It is not known when the Senior family arrived in Australia however, with the outbreak of the war and the opportunity of serving in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) for King and Empire there was incentive enough for Cliff to enlist.

Cliff’s White Hills neighbour and fellow northerner from England Albert Yates had signed on with the 21st Battalion a week before so this may have been Cliff’s logic for travelling to Melbourne in order to ensure he’d join the same battalion.  

The 21st Battalion was raised, as part of the 6th Brigade, at Broadmeadows in Victoria in February 1915. Recruits hailed from all over the state of Victoria. The later enlistment of these men, and their average age of 29, would seem to indicate a more considered decision to enlist that set them apart from those who did so amidst the heady enthusiasm of late 1914.                                       (Source – AWM

Cliff Senior and Albert Yates would go into the Bendigo camp at the Epsom Race course that same day, July (28th) and be in training through to early December (2nd). The camp was not far from their homes in White Hills. On December 3, both would be officially transferred into the 9th Reinforcements for the 21st Battalion and they along with the other recruits make the journey to melbourne and the large Army camp at Broadmeadows.

The next month on February (8th) they would embark for war. The ship carrying the 9th Reinforcements was the HMAT Warilda. The HMAT A69 Warilda weighed 7,713 tons with an average cruise speed of 16 knots or 29.63 kmph. It was owned by the Adelaide SS Co Ltd, Adelaide, and manned by Australian officers and mainly by Australian crews. (The Warilda was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine in the English Channel, in August 1918.)

Their destination was Marseille on the south coast of France. The voyage would be long and hot, nearly 7 weeks as the journey involved stops in Colombo, the Suez Canal, Alexandria and then up into the cooler Mediterranean. They would arrive in Europe March 27, 1916. From Marseilles it was 600 kms of train trips through the lush interior of France in late winter, early Spring reaching the AIF staging base at Estaples.

Cliff, Albert and the other 9th Reinforcements would be ‘Taken on Strength’ (TOS), into the battle worn and depleted 21st battalion on April 24 in the field in France. Another White Hills lad, market gardener Harry Monti, SN 3823, would join them in the 21st.   

Captain A. R MacNeill in the Official History of the 21st Battalion A.I.F. would describe those first three months and the arrival of the reinforcements -                                                                       ‘During the three months, April, May and June, 1916, we had received a good ‘breaking in’ to warfare as practised on the Western Front. Our 9th Reinforcements joined us, and the unit kept well up to strength, not being depleted by any disastrous actions, or suffering from bad weather or conditions. The weather was perfect, and the country looked beautiful. On the whole we voted that the war in France was a good war, particularly in the month of May, 1916’

In April, the 21st Battalion was the first Australian battalion to commence active operations on the Western Front. During the battle of Pozieres it was engaged mainly on carrying duties, however, unfortunately during this battle Private Harry Monti from White Hills would die from his wounds a few days later on August 1, 1916.

The twenty first would suffer its heaviest casualties of the war during the fighting around Mouquet Farm. The Australian War Museum describes the battle –                                                               ‘Mouquet Farm was the site of nine separate attacks by three Australian divisions between 8 August and 3 September 1916. The farm stood in a dominating position on a ridge that extended north-west from the ruined, and much fought over, village of Pozieres. Although the farm buildings themselves were reduced to rubble, strong stone cellars remained below ground which were incorporated into the German defences. The attacks mounted against Mouquet Farm cost the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions over 11,000 casualties, and not one succeeded in capturing and holding it. The British advance eventually bypassed Mouquet Farm leaving it an isolated outpost. It fell, inevitably, on 27 September 1916.’

Cliff would survive both the battles Pozieres and Mouquet farm however, his fellow neighbour and British companion Albert Yates would be wounded on August 24. He would be taken out of line and did not return till January, the next year.

Captain A. R MacNeill in the Official History of the 21st Battalion A.I.F. outlined the dreadful impact on the battalion of these two battles -  

The Battalion at this time numbered 11 officers and 491 other ranks all told, our casualties during the Pozieres-Mouquet Farm operations being — Officers Killed, 9, wounded, 14, missing, 1 (P O W ); total, 24. Other Ranks Killed, 61, wounded, 459, missing, 131, total, 651’

With White Hills mates Harry Monti dead, Albert Yates wounded and ill, Cliff would spend time in hospital himself in December suffering Synovitis to the right knee. (inflammation of the tissues that line a joint.) He would be out of action for nearly five months, being taken to Amiens, Le Havre and Estaples for treatment. Cliff rejoins the battalion on May 6, where the battalion fights at Bullecourt, and then in October participated in the 3-kilometre successful advance that captured Broodseinde Ridge, east of Ypres.

In early August (2), 1917, Manchester born Albert Yates who enlisted with Cliff goes missing. The circumstances of his disappearance are not fully known, however, in a Court of Enquiry held in the field it is declared ‘that number 3972 Pte Alb Yates illegally absented himself from the AIF 21st battalion on 02-08-17 and is still absent’.

Cliff spends a few days in hospital in August 1917, rejoins the unit and in October (5th) however, this is not a good time for Cliff. He is charged with a ‘Crime’. ‘When in Active service failing to comply with a lawful order by an NCO’. He is punished by a being deprived of 10 days pay. (There is no association made here that this incident and the Yates disappearance are connected.)

Cliff would not have been alone in receiving this punishment. The behaviour of Australian troops would continue to be a sticking point throughout the war. Looser discipline was considered by many of the superior officers as an acceptable ‘price’ when put beside their performance on the battlefield. Australians and New Zealanders were known as among the most fearsome and willing troops of the Allied forces.

Like the rest of the AIF the 21st battalion saw out the 1917 year recuperating from the trials of the Ypres sector. Cliff would spend another winter in the field of 1917/18. He would be granted some leave in March 1918 and return on April 2nd, just in time for a major offensive by the Germans.

The three major German attacks on the Western Front in late March, April and May 1918, known collectively as the "Kaiserschlacht" (Kaiser's Battle) offensive. Using troops released from the Eastern Front, following the revolution and collapse of the Russian Armies in late 1917, the German General Staff attempted to win the war before the Americans arrived in sufficient force to tip the strategic balance firmly in favour of the Allies. (source - )

After helping to blunt the German spring offensive of April 1918, the 21st battalion participated in the battles that would mark the beginning of Germany's defeat ' Hamel, Amiens and Mont St. Quentin. The fighting for Mont St Quentin resulted in the battalion's only Victoria Cross, awarded to Sergeant Albert Lowerson.

Cliff would be Wounded in Action (WIA) on September 1 a most momentous day when the combined AIF force took the German stronghold of Mont St Quentin.

By the end of August, the Australians found German troops at their last stronghold at Mont St Quentin - overlooking the Somme River and the town of Péronne. Mont St Quentin stood out in the surrounding country, making it a perfect observation point and a vital strategic area to control. This area was key to the German defence of the Somme line. As it was such an important area, Lieutenant General Sir John Monash was keen to capture it and thus possess a valuable position.                                                                 (Source  

Private Cliff Senior is taken behind the lines initially to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station and then to the General hospital in Rouen. He is diagnosed with a Shrapnel Wound (SW) to the face although it was not severe as he would only spend a few days in hospital and be discharged on September 3.

Like many Australian battalions, the 21st could barely muster a company after the 1918 offensive. It was ordered to disband and reinforce its sister battalions. In response, the men of the 21st mutinied on 25 September 1918. By the end of that day, the order was withdrawn, and the battalion fought its last battle at Montbrehain on 5 October. The following day it became the last Australian battalion to withdraw from active operations on the Western Front. The 21st Battalion was disbanded on 13 October 1918. Throughout its service during the war, it suffered 872 men killed and 2,434 wounded (including those who were gassed).


With the war over and with the 21st disbanded, Cliff would be transferred to the 5th battalion and would spend winter at the Australian Infantry Base Depot, Le Havre.

Le Havre is situated in the Upper Normandy region of north-western France on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine, and today is France’s second largest port after Marseille. During the First World War Le Havre was one of the ports used to disembark the British army. The Australian Division Base Depots, and then replaced by the Infantry Base Depot were located at Harfleur (Rouelles) from June 1917 until the end of the war. (Source -  )

During this time Cliff aged 27 meets and marries French woman Helene Antoinette Nattier age 24 from Rue Des Halles, Centrales in Le Havre on April 19, 1919. 

Six weeks after their marriage in April, Cliff would travel to England from Le Havre and be Marched In (MI) to the Number 2 AIF camp at South Venny on the Salisbury Plain on May 26, 1919. Due to a shortage of ships still many thousands of Australian soldiers were awaiting passage to return Australia a full seven months after the war had concluded.

On July 12, 1919 he would leave England for Australia with his wife Helene on the new Steamship Indarra of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company. He would disembark in Melbourne September 6, an eleven week voyage.   

Private Clifford Senior of the 21st Infantry Battalion is remembered by the people of White Hills. The names of the local lads who sacrificed their lives and those that were fortunate to return from the Great War are shown on the embossed copper plaques on the White Hills Arch of Triumph, at the entrance to the White Hills Botanic Gardens.