Arthur John GRAHAM


GRAHAM, Arthur John

Service Number: 16694
Enlisted: 22 February 1916, Bendigo, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 13th Field Ambulance
Born: Epsom, Victoria, Australia, November 1892
Home Town: White Hills, Bendigo, Victoria
Schooling: White Hills State School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Potter
Died: Killed in Action, Villers-Bretonneux, France, 25 April 1918
Cemetery: Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery
Plot X, Row C, Grave No. 5
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, White Hills Arch of Triumph
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World War 1 Service

22 Feb 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, Bendigo, Victoria
17 Jan 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, Army Medical Corps (AIF), Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
17 Jan 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, Army Medical Corps (AIF), RMS Omrah, Melbourne
12 Jun 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 4th Sanitary Section, France
29 Aug 1917: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 13th Field Ambulance, Belgium
26 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, 13th Field Ambulance, Polygon Wood
12 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, 13th Field Ambulance, 1st Passchendaele
28 Mar 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, 13th Field Ambulance, Dernancourt/Ancre
5 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, 13th Field Ambulance, German Spring Offensive 1918
25 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 16694, 13th Field Ambulance, Villers-Bretonneux

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Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

The Bendigo Independent Newspaper published the following letter addressed to Mr Fred Graham of 370 Napier st, White Hills on Thursday August 22, 1918.


The following letter has been received by Mr. F. W Graham, White Hills, whose son, Private A. J. Graham, was killed in action in France on Anzac Day, 1918: —

Dated May 1, 1918 —

Dear Mr. Graham,

Long before this, no doubt, you have been informed of the death ofpoor old Arthur and, perhaps, others in the unit have, written giving you particulars.I feel, though, that I must write you a few lines, although it is almost as painful for me to write as it will be for you to read. For I was his partner, his mate in everything. For months we had slept together, shared our money, our cigarettes, and our confidences and been pals in the true and full sense of the word. So when I write to express my deepest sympathy with you I am sure you will believe that it comes from the bottom of my heart.

I still find it hard to realise that my pal has gone; the boy I knew through and through and whose company I always sought,- but to-day it is to you, who have been robbed of the son you must have been proud of, that my thoughts go out in heartfelt sympathy.

We had planned to go on leave together, with "Ludy," another good friend, who is also writing as soon as this stunt is over. I am not looking forward to that leave with any real pleasure now.

It happened on Anzac Day, April 25. Our brigade had made a stunt on the previous night, and all that night and the following day we stretcher-bearers were busily engaged in clearing up the casualties. It was hard, exhausting work, and the wounded had to be carried over country that was continually swept by shell and machine-gun fire. Several times during the night and day I saw Arthur, who was working with another squad but over the same country, and not once did he pass without some cheerful greeting. He was always like that. Don't think I am exaggerating when I say that there was not a better bearer in the unit or a more steadfastly cheerful boy in the face of danger than Arthur, for anybody in the unit would say the same. We have very little idea of the time on days such as these, but I suppose it was about midday when it happened.                                        

His squad was returning to the collecting post for another patient when a shell exploded only a few yards away and inflicted the wounds. A few minutes later our squad came along, and when we saw one of those wounded was Arthur we stopped. He was quite conscious and recognised me at once, but as we had a wounded man with us, and there were already several boys dressing his wounds, I just said a few words of good cheer and went on to the relay post, where we got rid of our case and waited. In a very few minutes Arthur was brought along, still quite conscious. He recognised us all, but it was very evident that the poor boy could not last long. Hurriedly and sorrowfully we said good-bye, and though he spoke only a few words there was an answering pressure to my handshake that I will never forget.

We were not surprised, only very sad to hear later that he passed away before the bearers reached the dressing station. Experienced as we are, we all knew that nothing could save him, but his wounds were dressed with special care, and while he breathed the bearers carried him with all possible speed for the station. It is poor consolation, perhaps, but I am sure you will be glad to know that everything possible was done to save him pain, and that he passed away. The end was very peaceful, surrounded by good friends, not one of whom could trust themselves to speak. Arthur was brought out of the line, and the burial service was read by the padre. Others will be writing to tell you of the cross we are erecting for him and two others of the unit (fellow-bearers), who are buried alongside. His comrade (L. W. King), who was wounded by the same shell, died at the dressing station, and during the day a third member of the unit (R. Banks) was mortally wounded, so that only one (Playford) survived the day. Others will be giving you all other particulars. Arthur's personal possessions will be returned through the authorities.                                                                            

In conclusion to you, the parents of the best pal I have had, I would say that I only hope you will find comfort in the knowledge that your boy was highly respected by all who knew him; that his life away from you was upright and honorable; that he was a real white man: and that, finally, he gave his life in performance of a duty that is noble and full of honor. A little while ago a padre, over the grave of one of our bearers, said:— "If Christ was on earth today he would be a stretcher bearer." Arthur never funked it; he always played the game, and I was proud to call him my pal. Allow me to offer you my very deepest sympathy. I think of you, his sisters and Miss Ruby and share your sorrow.

Sincerely yours, H. A. M. Campbell.


Earlier on May 13 1918, The Bendigo Advertiser published the following report - 


Profound regret was expressed in White Hills on Saturday morning when it became known that word had been received from the Defence department that Private Arthur John Graham had been killed at the front. He was the third and youngest son of Mr. Fred. Graham, of Napier-street, White Hills, and enlisted on 19th February. 1916, in the Army Medical Corps. He sailed with the reinforcements on 10th February, 1916.                                                                      

Prior to enlisting he was employed by the Bendigo Pottery Company. He was 25 years old last November, and was dearly beloved by all who knew him, being of a genial disposition, and always ready to lend a willing hand. He was a native of Epsom, and his elder brother joined the Garrison Artillery some years ago, but he now is in the barracks at the Defence department.                                      

Private Graham was a committeeman of the Reading Room, White Hills, and was a most ardent worker for the institution.


Arthur John Graham story                                                       

Arthur enlisted on February 22, 1916. Arthur's brother had already enlisted and fellow worker at Bendigo Pottery, Jack Pocock had enlisted just twenty days earlier.

Arthur’s father lived at 370 Napier st, White Hills with his sisters. His mother Barbara had died 16 years earlier in 1900.

Arthur signed up with the Medical Corp and his first posting was to the Clearing House at the Broadmeadows camp, during which time he would spend a month in hospital at Seymour recovering from Bronchitis.

It would be 11 months in training before Arthur would leave for overseas. He along with other members of the Army Medical Corp would embark for Europe on the RMS Omrah A35 on January 17, 1917. The sea journey would be long, taking over 90 days. They would land at Devenport on the Southern Coast of England on at the end of winter, March 27, 1917.

After a such a long period waiting to embark from Australia, it would be just one month in England, before Arthur would proceed to France via Folkestone arriving in the British Base camp at Estaples on April 7, 1917. 

His first assignment in France would be with the 4th Division Sanitary section, ensuring the health of the soldiers in the field.  The unit would be accountable for sanitary conditions behind the lines and in the field medical facilities. They would also bring in the casualties during and after battles. 

In late August, he would be back with the 13th Field Ambulance unit. He would serve another 6 months in the field before being given two weeks leave to Paris on February 2, 1918. 

On February 21, 1918 he rejoined his unit, and would follow the Australian Divisions as they were called upon to defend the crucial railway city of Amiens in Northern France. 

In March and April 1918, AIF battalions helped to stop the major German spring offensive near Amiens. The Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux took place during the Battle of the Lys, 24–27 April 1918, when an assault was launched against the Allied lines to the east of Amiens. It is notable for the first major use of tanks by the Germans and British. (Wikipedia)

The famous counter-attack by two Australian battalions took place during the night of 24 April when they partly surrounded Villers-Bretonneux and on 25 April the town was recaptured. The two brigades swept around Villers-Bretonneux and the Germans retreated, for a while escaping the pocket along a railway cutting. The Australians eventually captured the German positions and pushed the German line back, leaving the German troops in Villers-Bretonneux surrounded. The British units attacked frontally and suffered many casualties. By 25 April, the town had been recaptured and handed back to the villagers. The battle was a great success for the Australian troops, who had defeated the German attempt to capture Amiens and recaptured the important town of Villers-Bretonneux while outnumbered; the village remained in Allied hands to the end of the war.

As we read in Private Campbell’s letter to Arthur’s father, Arthur Graham was mortally wounded on Anzac day 1918.

In a series of letters to Mr Graham, from the Base Records office, he is told Arthur has been killed at Villers – Bretonneux, buried initially under the supervision of Reverand W Warren at first the Le Blangy Caberet cemetery south east of Amiens. He is later informed Arthur's remains have been exhumed and re-interred in the Villers – Bretonneux Military Cemetery one and half miles north of VB. The work is carried out with every measure of care and reverence in the presence of the Chaplin.  

Inscribed on Arthur's headtone at the Villers – Bretonneux Military Cemetery  is 'THERE'S A LINK DEATH CANNOT SEVER LOVE & REMEMBRANCE LAST FOR EVER'.

Private Arthur Graham 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.

Postscript - The Private Harold Maurice Campbell 16261 who wrote that beautiful letter to Arthur Graham's father was honoured for his bravery on the night of that same battle at Villers-Bretonneux. See link.

Harold Campbell was born near Ballarat however, had moved to Western Australia where he became a reporter before enlisting in WW1. He would go on after the war to become a journalist of some acclaim becoming the editor of The Age newspaper in 1939. The reputation earned by the Age under Campbell's editorship and his standing as a journalist were acknowledged in 1945 with his appointment by Prime Minister Curtin to the Australian delegation to the conference at San Francisco, United States of America, which drafted the charter of the United Nations. He attended the U.N. General Assembly in New York in 1949 as one of three non-official advisers to the Australian delegation to discuss freedom of information. Appointed C.M.G. in 1953, he was knighted in 1957 for his services to journalism. 

Source - Australian Dictionary of Biography on Sir Harold Alfred Maurice CAMPBELL (1892–1959)