George Richmond BATES

BATES, George Richmond

Service Number: 632
Enlisted: 15 August 1916, Maryborough, Queensland
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 26th Infantry Battalion
Born: Charleville, Queensland, Australia, 1 March 1896
Home Town: Maryborough, Fraser Coast, Queensland
Schooling: Mungar State School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Stockman
Died: Wounds, 20th Casualty Clearing Station in Vignacourt, France, 16 April 1918, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery, Picardie
Plot I, Row B, Grave No. 6,
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Biggenden Honour Roll, Biggenden Residents of Degilbo Shire War Memorial, Brooweena War Memorial, Broweena Bridge Memorial Shelter
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World War 1 Service

15 Aug 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 632, 7th Machine Gun Company, Maryborough, Queensland
10 May 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 632, 7th Machine Gun Company, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '21' embarkation_place: Melbourne embarkation_ship: HMAT Clan McGillivray embarkation_ship_number: A46 public_note: ''
10 May 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 632, 7th Machine Gun Company, HMAT Clan McGillivray, Melbourne
16 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 632, 26th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 632 awm_unit: 26th Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Private awm_died_date: 1918-04-16

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Biography contributed by Ian Lang

George Bates was born in Charleville. From the scant evidence available in the historical records, it is likely that George’s parents died while George was young and he was taken in by his uncle, John Bates of Boompa near Biggenden. John Bates had become the official guardian for both George and his two sisters. Another uncle, William, was living at Lakeside which was the nearest rail station to Boompa. There is a suggestion that the two families were engaged in dairying and George and his cousin Leslie both stated their occupations as stockmen.


George presented himself for enlistment at Maryborough, having caught the train down to Mungar Junction, on 15th August 1916. He stated his age as 20 years and 5 months and had with him an enlistment document signed by his Uncle John as guardian and witnessed by a JP, as George was still technically underage and required either parent’s or guardian’s permission. George stated his occupation as stockman and he named his sister, Vera Evelyn Bates as his next of kin. The record shows George as measuring just over six feet in height and weighing 140 pounds. He stated he had been granted an exemption from compulsory military training due to his occupation.


From Maryborough, George was given a rail warrant to travel to Enoggera in Brisbane where he was allocated to a depot battalion while going through some basic training. He was granted pre-embarkation home leave before being sent to Seymour on the outskirts of Melbourne in December 1916 where training in the use of the Vickers Heavy Machine Gun was conducted. George was officially taken on as reinforcement for the 7th Machine Gun Company and continued to train as part of a gun crew.


The 11th reinforcements of the 7th MG Coy embarked on the “Clan McGillivray” for overseas in Port Melbourne on 10th May 1917; disembarking in Plymouth on 28th July 1917. George was briefly admitted to the ship’s hospital during the voyage with influenza. Upon arrival in England, George and the other reinforcements marched out to the 7th Australian Training Battalion at Rollestone. After a further two months of training, George may have been rather bored. On 3rd October, he went AWL for 6 days; long enough to travel to London and see the sights. Upon his return to camp, George was paraded before the camp commander who imposed a punishment of loss of leave for 14 days and a loss of pay for 18 days. Five days after returning to camp, George reported to the Military Hospital at Bulford with a case of venereal disease.


VD was huge problem for the AIF during the First World War. Particularly virulent strains of both syphilis and gonorrhoea were difficult to treat without recourse to antibiotics; which at that time did not exist. Sufferers were confined to special wards in hospitals; which were usually referred to as dermatological wards so as not to inflame sensibilities in the general population. VD patients could not perform their normal duties and the authorities considered cases to be self-inflicted; and as such had their pay stopped for the period of time in treatment. George was discharged from Bulford after 73 days on 26th December 1917. Perhaps in an effort to prevent further mischief, George was shipped out overseas on 17th January 1918. He travelled via ferry from Southampton to Havre where he was processed and reassigned to the 26th Infantry Battalion, which he joined on 22nd January.


The military situation at the beginning of 1918 was very different from that which had existed in the previous years of the war on the Western Front. The Bolshevik Revolution and subsequent peace treaty on the Eastern Front had released almost 50 divisions of German Troops from the east; and presented the German commanders with a temporary numerical advantage which could be exploited on the Western Front. The advantage would only be short lived though as the expected troop surge of almost one million men provided by the United States Army would begin to have an impact in the latter half of 1918. The British and French Commanders were expecting a large German offensive in the first half of 1918, but their intelligence was unable to pinpoint where the offensive would strike. The British Commander on the Western Front, General Douglas Haig, expected the offensive in his sector to come in Belgian Flanders and as a consequence he kept his most reliable troops, the five Australian Divisions, in the area between Ypres and Armentieres to meet the threat.


When George was taken on strength by the 26th Battalion, the unit was rotating in and out of the line near Messines. This would have been George’s first taste of action. The battalion remained in the northern sector of the front throughout the winter. Time not spent in the line was taken up with sports competitions, visits to divisional baths for change of underwear and socks, and time in rest camps far from the front.  On 18th March 1918, George was granted nine days leave in Paris. While he was on leave, the much-awaited spring offensive codenamed Operation Michael began on 21st March with a well-executed drive by the German army from their defences on the Hindenburg Line down the line of the Somme Valley towards the vital communication hub of Amiens.


Haig had gambled that the advance would be in Belgium, and he had lost. The British 5th Army which held the line astride the Somme River near Peronne was completely overrun, with men falling back in disarray. Realising that if Amiens was taken the war would be lost, Haig began to order units of the AIF south to take up holding positions. George had just arrived back to the 26th Battalion at Warneton when orders were received to pack up and move by bus, train and forced march to the Somme.


The 26th Battalion, as part of the 7th Brigade of the 2nd Division AIF arrived at their designated defensive position on 9th April 1918 and occupied a line of support trenches near the village of Baizieux, overlooking the Amiens to Albert Road. At this time, the situation was dire with the British and Australians well out numbered on both sides of the river. In an attempt to bolster his troops, Haig delivered his famous “backs to the wall” speech and the text was read out to all.


On 15th July, while occupying the support trenches, George was hit by shrapnel from a high explosive artillery shell. He received a serious wound to his left thigh resulting in a fracture and other wounds to his wrist and arm. He was taken to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station near Vignacourt where he died of his wounds the next day without regaining consciousness. George was buried in what was to become the Vignacourt British Cemetery.


When news of George’s death reached his sister, Vera, in Boompa, she wrote to the authorities to seek more information. It is likely that she also wrote to Leslie Bates, her cousin who was also serving in the 26th Battalion. As a result of the request from Leslie, the Red Cross Wounded and Missing Inquiry Service began to trace possible witnesses to George’s death. Several witnesses described the artillery barrage and George’s wounding. One witness stated that George was with a group of men near the support trenches scrounging potatoes when he was hit.


Vera wrote several times to the authorities in Melbourne and her letters in a beautiful flowing script give some sense of the grief that was felt by Vera and her sister. Vera had requested that any personal effects that George may have had be returned to her as she and her sister were planning to create a memorial book to commemorate the sacrifice of their only brother.


In due course, some personal items were packaged to be despatched back to Australia. The package was one small part of the cargo of the S.S. Barunga, a German registered freighter which had been requestioned by the Australian Government in Sydney at the outbreak of the war. The Barunga sailed from Plymouth in late July 1918 with a number of soldiers returning to Australia, and the personal effects of many deceased servicemen on board. Four days out of port, the Barunga was torpedoed by a U-Boat off the Scilly Isles. All passengers and crew were rescued but all the cargo was lost.


In the 1920’s, Vera married a Methodist Clergyman and moved to the parsonage in Beaudesert. She signed for her brother’s service medals, memorial bronze plaque and scroll signed by the King.


Biography contributed by Evan Evans

From François Berthout

Pte 632 George Richmond Bates 
26th Australian Infantry Battalion,
D Company, Machine Gun Company 7,
7th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division
Through the fields of the Somme, stand silent, proud and forever young the souls of thousands of young men who gave their today and their lives among the poppies that remind us that more than a hundred years ago, a whole generation of heroes stood bravely for the peace and freedom we live in and for which they fought and fell in the trenches of the great war, in the blood red mud that was shed among the barbed wire.Behind them they left their loved ones and answered shoulder to shoulder the call of duty to fight for France, a country so far from home that they did not know so much but for which they gave so much in the camaraderie that united them and in which they rest in peace. They were young and went through the apocalypse but served with pride until their last breaths and did what was right but death does not mean the end of their lives and among the white cities and on the old battlefields they live by our side and with respect and care, with love and gratitude I will always watch over them, I will keep their memory alive to live forever, to be remembered and honored for who they were and what they will forever be through my eyes and in my heart, my boys of the Somme.

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 Private number 632 George Richmond Bates who fought in the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion, D Company, Machine Gun Company 7, 7th Brigade, 2nd Australian Division, and who died of his wounds 104 years ago, on April 16, 1918 at the age of 22 on the Somme front.

George Richmond Bates was born on March 1, 1896 in Moombria, Wallal, near Charleville, Queensland, and was the son of George and Ellen Maria Bates, of Boompa, Queensland. He was left an orphan at an early age, and in 1907, in company with his two sisters, Vera and Vida, he came to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Bates, of Boompa Station. George was educated at Mungar State School, Queensland, and after graduation worked as a stockman.

George enlisted on August 15, 1916 at Maryborough, Queensland, in the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion, Machine Gun Company 7, Reinforcement 11, battalion whose motto was "Nunquam Non Paratus" (Never Unprepared) and under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Ferguson. After a training period of nine months, George embarked with his unit from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A46 Clan Macgillivray on May 10, 1917 and sailed for England.

On May 12, 1917, two days after embarking, George fell ill and was treated for influenza but recovered quickly, then on July 28 he arrived in England and was disembarked at Plymouth. The same day he was sent at Rollestone in the 7th Training Battalion who underwent intensive training on Salisbury Plain. During this period, George showed a slight lack of discipline and was absent from his unit without leave from October 3 to 9 and received the sentence forfeit of 18 pay days. Six days later, on October 15, he was admitted to the 1st Australian Divisional Hospital at Bulford suffering from venereal disease and was discharged for a period of 73 days and after recovering he was transferred to the 5th Training Battalion in Fovant with which he completed his training and on January 17, 1918, he embarked from Southampton and proceeded overseas for France.
On January 18, 1918, George arrived in France and was disembarked at Le Havre, proceeded to unit on January 20 and was taken on strength on January 22 with the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion at Canteen Corner Camp, Romarin, Belgium, where he remained until to January 26. Two days later, on January 28, the battalion marched for Locre and the next day, embarked by train for Henneveux, Pas-De-Calais, where they arrived on January 30 and where the men followed a light training but also sports exercises until mid-March.

On March 18, 1918, George was granted leave in Paris and a little over a week later, on March 27, he joined his battalion then in late March the Somme front erupted as the Germans unleashed their make or break Spring Offensive, intended to dislocate the French British front and cut Paris off from the Channel Ports to give the Germans the best possible position from which to sue for peace on their terms before the arrival of US forces in large numbers. The AIF was despatched piecemeal by the British High Command to block gaps in the crumbling British 5th Army front.
On April 6, 1918, George and the 26th Australian Infantry Battalion arrived in the Somme, more precisely in the small village of Allonville then marched through La Neuville, Baizieux,then joined the front line near Albert on April 10. Unfortunately, five days later, on April 15, 1918, George met his fate and was seriously injured by a shell in Buire. He was immediately evacuated to the 11th Australian Field Ambulance then to the 20th Casualty Clearing Station in Vignacourt suffering from multiple shell wounds to his left arm, wrist and femur which was fractured and despite the greatest care, he died of his injuries the next day, he was 22 years old.

The circumstances which led to George's death are documented in the records of the Australian Red Cross Society Wounded And Missing Inquiry Bureau and a comrade of George wrote:
"I knew him well. He was in my section.He came from Queensland and I think was a farmer.He was about 20 and tall.About the 15th April we were at Buire in reserve. At night a party of us were salvaging potatoes and a shell came and hit several, including Bates. He was badly wounded and I saw the streatcher bearers attending to him. He was taken to the Dressing Station and I heard that he died later."

Today, George Richmond Bates rests in peace alongside his friends, comrades and brothers in arms at Vignacourt British Cemetery, Somme, and his grave bears the following inscription: "Rest well beloved, we softly say ye who for us your life laid down."

After his death, George's obituary was published in the Maryborough Chronicle on April 27, 1918 as follows:
"Private George Richmond Bates Killed,
The distressing news of the death on active service, of Private George Richmond Bates, reached Boompa yesterday morning, and has cast a deep gloom over the whole community. The telegram from the military authorities contained no information beyond the bare announcement of his death. The deceased, who was slightly over 22 years of age was a splendid specimen of Australian manhood, and will be mourned by a large circle of relations and friends to whom he had endeared himself by his sterling qualities. Born at Moombria, Wallal, near Charleville, on March 1, 1896, he was left an orphan at an early age, and in 1907, in company with his two sisters, he came to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Bates, Boompa Station. He enlisted on August 14, 1916, sailed for England in May, 1917, and left for France early in January of this year. The supreme sacrifice has been made by a soldier of the brightest and purest character, one who can ill be spared, and yet one who was prepared to sacrifice his all, for the cause of truth and right. To the sorrowing relatives, the community as a whole extends its deepest sympathy in their dark hour of sorrow."

George, it was with determination and conviction that you answered the call of duty in the prime of your life under the Australian sun and that you joined the ranks of a united army alongside your friends and brothers who volunteered to do their bit on the battlefields of northern France and who, with determination and pride, marched with their heads held high behind the echoes of bagpipes and drums that led a whole generation of heroes through the trenches and the mud of the Somme in which stood, lived and fell so many of them who had to charge under machine-gun fire which rained down death and destruction at a relentless pace and ruthlessly broke waves of young men who crumbled in barbed wire and shell holes that filled with bodies and blood in deadly battles that today are the echoes of the bravery and sacrifice of thousands of young boys who went through hell on earth in the slaughterhouses that were Pozieres and the Mouquet farm, eternal symbols of the bravery and the remembrance of the Australian soldiers who fought and were lost in the Somme but despite catastrophic losses, despite nameless horrors which remained engraved in their hearts and in their eyes they did not give up and fought the good fight for democracy and for justice alongside their brothers in arms, they fought like lions, with ferocity and perseverance guided by the ANZAC spirit which kept them strong and united in the darkest hours of history and carried together on their shoulders the burden of war but also the hopes of all freedom-loving peoples and together they stood in their slouch hats and fought yard by yard for the peace that was paid for in so much sacrifices.Throughout the Somme they fought fiercely and were deeply loved by the French people who, in Amiens and Villers-Bretonneux wrote in gold letters "Do not forget Australia" in eternal gratitude to all they did and gave for our country and who today more than ever feels proud and honored by the friendship that united our two nations who fought together in the darkness of no man's land, their knees deep in the mud among the rats, under storms of fire and steel which transformed once peaceful and flowery fields into fields of death and desolation on which quickly rose thousands of wooden crosses under which young men found peace and who wanted to live, who a few hours before their death were full of hope and will, who were loved and who today, solemn and proud, stand silently in the shadow of their white tombs on which are remembered and honored their names and their lives.Far from home they found through the poppies the peace they fought and served for. For us they gave their lives and they will always be loved and remembered as our sons. I will always watch over them with utmost respect so that never be forgotten, to bring them back to life so that their memory never fades.Thank you so much George,for everything. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him,we will remembre them. 




The distressing news of the death on active service, of Private George Richmond Bates, reached Boompa yesterday morning, and has cast a deep gloom over the whole community. The telegram from the military authorities contained no information beyond the bare announcement of his death. The deceased, who was slightly over 22 years of age was a splendid specimen of Australian manhood, and will be mourned by a large circle of relations and friends to whom he had endeared himself by his sterling qualities. Born at Moombria, Wallal, near Charleville, on March 1, 1896, he was left an orphan at an early age, and in 1907, in company with his two sisters, he came to live with his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Bates, Boompa Station. He enlisted on August 14, 1916, sailed for England in May, 1917, and left for France early in January of this year. The supreme sacrifice has been made by a soldier of the brightest and purest character - one who can ill be spared, and yet one who was prepared to sacrifice his all, for the cause of truth and right. To the sorrowing relatives, the community as a whole extends its deepest sympathy in their dark hour of sorrow." - from the Maryborough Chronicle 27 Apr 1918 (