Percy Edward Royal FENNELL


FENNELL, Percy Edward Royal

Service Number: 2252
Enlisted: 27 November 1914, Oaklands, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 3rd Field Ambulance
Born: Penola, South Australia, 8 December 1894
Home Town: Penola, Wattle Range, South Australia
Schooling: Penola Public School
Occupation: Locomotive Engine Cleaner
Died: Accidental (fell overboard - drowned), Egypt, 30 March 1916, aged 21 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Chatby Memorial, Alexandria, Egypt
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Adelaide South Australian Railways WW1 & WW2 Honour Boards, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Chatby Memorial, Alexandria, Egypt, Elliston War Memorial, Kaniva District Pictorial Honour Roll, Kaniva Serviceton Roll of Honor, Murray Bridge Hospital Memorial Gates, Penola Coonawarra & Penola Sub-Branch R.S.S.&A.I.L.A. Honour Roll, Penola District WW1 Roll of Honor, Penola War Memorial, Tailem Bend Roll of Honor to Loco Employees Murray Bridge
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World War 1 Service

27 Nov 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, Oaklands, South Australia
6 Feb 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, HMAT Surada, Adelaide
6 Feb 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
26 Jul 1915: Wounded Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
30 Mar 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2252, 3rd Field Ambulance

Help us honour Percy Edward Royal Fennell's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Percy Edward Royal Fennell was born at Penola, Wattle Range, South Australia, on the 8th December 1894, the youngest son and child of James and Jane Fennell.  He had three siblings, a sister Edith and brothers James and Rufus.

Percy attended the Penola Public School and in later years was a star player in his local football team.  After completing his schooling he became an engine cleaner with the South Australian Railways.  Prior to enlisting for the war Percy served 2 years with the Senior Cadets and 2½ years with the 74th Infantry, “F” Company.

On the 27th November 1914, Percy enlisted with the AIF at Oaklands, South Australia.  His service number was 2252 and on his service records he’s described as being 5 feet 8½ inches tall with a sallow complexion, brown eyes and dark hair.  After completing his training he was posted to the 3rd Field Ambulance, 3rd Reinforcements.  He embarked from Melbourne on the ship “Surada” on the 6th February 1915 and proceeded to Egypt.

In early March 1915 he proceeded from there to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in the landing at Gallipoli on the 25th April 1915.  A month later he was admitted to hospital at Lemnos with influenza and discharged for duty a week later.  The ship “Newmarket” conveyed him to Gallipoli where he rejoined his unit on the 22nd July.  Just 4 days later he sustained a shell wound to his back and was evacuated to the 24th Casualty Clearing Station then to the 1st Stationary Hospital at Mudros.  A month later, on the 28th August, he rejoined his unit at Gallipoli, but not for long.  Just a week later he was admitted to the 3rd Field Ambulance with a sprained ankle.  Ten days later he was discharged for duty on the 15th August.  Two months later he was again admitted to the 3rd Field Ambulance with another sprained ankle.  On the 30th November he was evacuated to the 1st Casualty Clearing Station then onto the hospital ship “Karapara” which took him to Malta where he was admitted to the St Elmo Hospital.  It was here that he celebrated his 21st birthday 4 days later on the 8th December.  He would also spend Christmas and New Year’s Day here before being transferred to the Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp on the 6th January 1916.  From there he went to the St Barnabas Hospital where he was discharged for duty on the 11th February.  He embarked from Malta on the hospital ship “Bornu” and disembarked at Alexandria a week later.  He proceeded to base camp at Giza where he remained till he rejoined his unit on the 11th March at the camp at Tel-el-kebir.

On the 27th March 1916 the entire 3rd Field Ambulance embarked from Alexandria on the ship “Kingstonian” bound for France, including my grandfather, Cyril Morsley SN 1707.  He recorded the following event in his 1916 diary. 

During the voyage, on the night of the 30th March about 9.30pm, according to several eye witnesses, Percy was sleep walking on deck and was heard to fall overboard.  The alarm was given at once, the ship was stopped, a flare sent up, a lifeboat lowered to search for him and life belts thrown overboard but no trace was found of him so he was reported missing.  A Court of Enquiry held on the 1st April 1916 declared he was accidentally drowned at sea. 

Percy was the first Penola man to enlist for the war, the first Penola soldier to be wounded and now he was the first Penola soldier to pay the supreme sacrifice.

His family were notified of his death and his mother later received 2 parcels of his personal effects in December 1916 and July 1917.  She also received a Memorial Plaque and Scroll in 1922.

A sad advertisement appeared in the “Border Watch” Newspaper in July 1916, 4 months after Percy’s death.  It read:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN.  (To the Editor "Border Watch.)

Sir, - I crave a little of your valuable space to ventilate what I must call a shocking affair. Private P. E. R. Fennell, of Penola, gave his life for his King and country. Before leaving his happy home, he gave his favourite dog into his brother's keeping until he returned. Now that he has fallen, some person has stolen his dog. The parents of this hero would not have parted with their dead son's dog. Perhaps if you published this they would chance to get it returned to them. Thanking you in anticipation,                          Yours, etc.,                                                                    GILBERT HARDING.

The following article appeared in the Adelaide ‘Chronicle” newspaper on the 30th December 1916.


Mr. and Mrs. James Fennell, of Penola, have received information that their youngest son, Private P. E. R. Fennell, was drowned on his way to France on March 30, 1916. He enlisted from Murray Bridge in 1914, and prior to that was working in the Railway Department. He was the first Penola man to enlist, the first to be wounded, and the first to pay the supreme sacrifice. Private Fennell was in the landing at Gallipoli and was wounded once. He spent his twenty-first birthday in the Malta Hospital. Private Fennell was a fine young soldier, loved and respected by all who knew him, and took a keen interest in sport. He left Australia for the front in February, 1915.

Percy is remembered and honoured at the Chatby Memorial in Alexandria, Egypt, from where he last embarked just prior to his death.  Chatby is a district on the eastern side of the city of Alexandria.  The Chatby Memorial stands at the eastern end of the Alexandria War Memorial Cemetery and commemorates almost 1,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the First World War and have no other grave but the sea.

Percy’s name also appears on several War Memorials in South Australia: the SA Railway Employees Honour Board at the Adelaide Railway Station, the Penola War Memorial Hospital Honour Board, the Penola War Memorial in the park off Church Street and the Penola District Honour Board found in the Tourist Information Centre in Arthur Street which honours all those who enlisted for WW1 from the district.

His family remembered him, faithfully putting a notice in the newspaper on the anniversary of his death for many years afterwards.          

Percy Edward Royal Fennell was awarded:

1914-1915 Star       24175

British War Medal    40367

Victory Medal          39962

The Anzac Medallion

The Anzac Commemorative Medallion was instituted in 1967 by Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt.  It was awarded to surviving members of the Australian forces who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula, or in direct support of the operations from close off shore, at any time during the period from the first Anzac Day in April 1915 to the date of final evacuation in January 1916.  Next of kin, or other entitled persons, are entitled to receive the medallion on behalf of their relatives if the medallion has not been issued.

The medallion is cast in bronze and is approximately 75 millimetres high and 50 millimetres wide.  The obverse of the medallion depicts Simpson and his donkey carrying a wounded soldier to safety.  It is bordered on the lower half by a laurel wreath above the word ANZAC.  The reverse shows a map in relief of Australia and New Zealand superimposed by the Southern Cross.  The lower half is bordered by New Zealand fern leaves.  The name and initials of the recipient is engraved on the reverse.  The medallion is issued in a presentation box.

(Australian Government - Department of Defence)

Sue Smith October 2016