Edgar Douglas (Edward) WHITEHORN

Badge Number: MS1394, Sub Branch: Brinkworth

WHITEHORN, Edgar Douglas (Edward)

Service Numbers: 950, 3728, 3728A, S7509
Enlisted: 27 November 1914, Oaklands, South Australia
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: General / Motor Transport Company/ies
Born: Koolunga, South Australia, 16 July 1893
Home Town: Koolunga, Port Pirie City and Dists, South Australia
Schooling: Koolunga Public School
Occupation: Farmer
Died: Natural causes, Adelaide, South Australia, 13 October 1978, aged 85 years
Cemetery: Centennial Park Cemetery, South Australia
Memorials: Clare 9th Light Horse WW1 Memorial
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World War 1 Service

27 Nov 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 950, 9th Light Horse Regiment, Oaklands, South Australia
2 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 950, 9th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Botanist, Adelaide
2 Jun 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 950, 9th Light Horse Regiment, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
11 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Trooper, SN 950, 9th Light Horse Regiment, 'ANZAC' / Gallipoli
24 Jun 1916: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 950, 9th Light Horse Regiment, M/U (deafness)
15 Jun 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728, 50th Infantry Battalion, Adelaide, South Australia
4 Aug 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728, 50th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Themistocles, Melbourne
4 Aug 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728, 50th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
5 Apr 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728A, 50th Infantry Battalion, Dernancourt/Ancre, Shell wound (ankle and face)
24 Apr 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728, 50th Infantry Battalion, Villers-Bretonneux
8 Aug 1918: Involvement AIF WW1, Driver, SN 3728A, 13th Machine Gun Company, "The Last Hundred Days"
28 Apr 1919: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, SN 3728A, 50th Infantry Battalion

World War 2 Service

16 Oct 1941: Enlisted Sergeant, SN S7509, Gawler, South Australia
16 Oct 1941: Enlisted Australian Military Forces (Army WW2), Sergeant, SN S7509
17 Oct 1941: Involvement Sergeant, SN S7509, 9th Light Horse Regiment, Homeland Defence - Militia and non deployed forces
16 Dec 1942: Discharged Sergeant, SN S7509, General / Motor Transport Company/ies

Edgar Douglas Whitehorn and his Military Service

Edgar Douglas (Toby) Whitehorn - WW1

Edgar Douglas Whitehorn, nicknamed Toby, was the fifth and last born to Frederick and Louisa Whitehorn, born on 16th July, 1893 at the family farm at Koolunga in the South Australian mid-north. Edgar was the grandson of Daniel Whitehorn, one of the state’s early settlers, who emigrated from Berkshire, England to South Australia in 1849 and who eventually settled in the mid north of the state in the newly surveyed Hundred of Koolunga, near the River Broughton in 1874. Edgar attended the Koolunga school, and like all his brother and sisters, walked or rode his horse the five miles (8 ½ kms) to school. He became quite an accomplished horseman, working on the farm during the time he was not at school. On completion of his schooling Edgar, being the youngest son, stayed home and worked on the family property.

Edgar had already witnessed close at hand his family’s Military service. His oldest brother Stanley served with the 2nd Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horses (South Australia) as a Private #998 in the Boer War in South Africa between 1899 and 1902. At the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in 1914, Edgar Douglas Whitehorn enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 27th November 1914 at Oaklands Park in Adelaide at the age of 21 years and 4 months. An experienced and gifted horseman, he was attached to the 5th Reinforcement 9th Light Horse Regiment at the rank of Private, his Regimental number being 950. Edgar enlisted that same day with his older brother, Roy (Royse Hedley) Whitehorn who was 27 years at the time of enlistment (born 6th April 1887), and he took Regiment number 951, also attached to the 9th Light Horse.

After their basic training, which was conducted at the Morphettville Race Track Training camp in Adelaide, the 9th Australian Light Horse Regiment, AIF, 5th Reinforcement Botanist Group, embarked from Adelaide, South Australia on board “HMAT A59 Botanist” on 2 June 1915. They sailed to Alexandria in Egypt with their horses onboard. The exact date of arrival at Alexandria is not known. The 5th Reinforcement Regiment were based in Alexandria until they were deployed to Gallipoli on 11th September 1915. As mounted troops, the Light Horse Regiments were originally considered to be unsuitable for work in Gallipoli. The mounted troops volunteered to operate as infantry and thus were sent to Gallipoli without their horses. The famous and proud “Lighthorsemen”were forced to leave their beloved horses in Egypt. Most of the horses were destroyed prior to the Australians leaving for Gallipoli. This was done for fear of them being taken by the local’s and mistreated, used as work horses or for food.

On their arrival at the battleground at Gallipoli, the 5th Reinforcement Regiment were primarily used as support as part of the holding of Hill 60 after the battle there during late August 1915. Edgar was part of that reinforcement regiment. The 5th Regiment, in a very short space of time, took many casualties as the Turkish Army continued to throw resources at the Australian and New Zealand troops in and around Hill 60. Canon deafness and infectious shrapnel wounds from hand thrown bombs created signficiant health issues for those soldiers in the trenches. On the 30th October 2015, Edgar was admitted to the Field hospital on the shores of Gallipoli with Cannon/bomb deafness and fluid discharge from the ears due to shrapnel wounds. He was subsequently transferred to the Military hospital in Malta on 2nd November 2015 with his cannon/bomb deafness condition deteriorating. On 18th November 1915, Edgar was transferred from the Malta Military Hospital to the Royal Victorian Hospital in Netley, England, travelling there on the “Glenart Castle” (ship) and then the “Aquatania” (ship).

Edgar spent several months in hospital recuperating from his injuries until, he was released. On the 23rd February 1916, he returned to duty in Egypt and returned to the 3rd Reserve Regiment, travelling from Weymouth England, to Alexandria, Egypt on the “Kingstonian” (ship). On 18th March 1916, Edgar was formally reattached to the 3rd Reserves at Heliopolis in Egypt. However the injuries and ailments sustained by Edgar at Gallipoli took their toll and he was in and out of hospital throughout April and May 1916. On 23rd June 1916, Edgar was discharged from hospital in Egypt and on the 24th June 1916 he embarked from Egypt bound for Port Sydney, arriving on 22nd July 1916. His deteriorating health from those front line injuries saw him no longer fit for active duty. On 19th September 1916, Edgar was formally discharged on medical grounds from the AIF (Australian Imperial Forces) at Sydney, with the condition of deafness and otorrhoea (discharge from the ears).

He travelled home to Koolunga and after a short time recuperating at home, Edgar made the decision to re-enlist. Due to his previous discharge being for medical grounds, he re-enlisted at the age of 23 years in Adelaide on 15th June 1917, under the false name of Edward Whitehorn, Private, Number 3728, and was immediately attached to the 10th Battalion. Interestingly he reinlisted under the false name (Edward) but using the same residential details and date of birth, but his previous service at Gallipoli in 1915, and subsequent medical discharge due to injuries sustained in the field was not discovered or more likely it was conveniently ignored. On 4th August 1917, the 10th Battalion embarked from Melbourne for Glasgow, arriving on 2nd October 1917. On 7th October 1917, Edgar/Edward and the members of the 10th were encamped at the Codford Military camp in England. On 16th January 1918, as part of the 10th Battalion, Edgar/Edward was moved from Codford to Southampton in the south of England in preparation for movement to the western front in France and then on 19th January 1918, they transferred across the English Channel to LeHavre France. From there on 3rd February 1918, as part of the 10th Battalion, Edgar/Edward was taken on strength into the 50th Battalion in the field in France.

The 50th Battalion was originally raised in Egypt on 26 February 1916 as part of the “doubling” of the AIF. Approximately half of its recruits were veterans from the original 10th Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia (Edward/Edgar’s re-enlistment group). Reflecting the composition of the 10th, the 50th was predominantly composed of men from South Australia. The battalion became part of the 13th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division and was dubbed “Hurcombe’s Hungry Half Hundred”, after its first CO, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Hurcombe. Utilizing troops freed by the collapse of Russia in October 1917, the German Army launched a major offensive on the Western Front at the end of March 1918. The 4th Division was deployed to defend positions south of the River Ancre in France. At Dernancourt, on 5 April 1918, the 50th Battalion assisted in the repulse of the largest German attack mounted against Australian troops during the entire war.

On 6th April 1918, Edward (Edgar) was wounded in action in the field of France – the exact location where he was wounded is unclear – but from his medical records, it was during the military actions at or near Noreuil, which is also believed to have been associated with the defense of key positions south of the River Ancre (as mentioned above). This action was within the Second Battle of Dernancourt, where the 4th Division assisted in repelling the massive German counter offensive. In a period of 48 hours, 1230 Australian/New Zealand men lost their lives on the field of battle and some 1300-1600 Germans suffered a similar fate. (see Battle of Dernancourt)

Edward’s (Edgar) injuries sustained in battle that day were severe. His medical records show he received serious gunshot wounds to his face and right ankle and right shin. The injuries were so severe that he was admitted to the hospital in Calais from which he was subsequently transferred to the Fulham military hospital in Harefield England on 8th April 1916. His injuries were significant and his stay in and out of hospital endured until the end of the war. On the 19th February 1919, Edgar embarked from England on the “HMT Orca”. He returned home on 29th March 1919, some four months after the guns fell silent over Europe.

Amazingly, Edgar’s older brother Roy (Royce), who he had enlisted with originally in 1914 and had served with at Gallipoli in the same Regiment had survived. When Edgar was vacated from Gallipoli due to injury, Roy remained with the 9th Light Horse regiment. On the vacating of the Gallipoli Peninsula on 19th and 20th December 1915, and with Edgar being nursed back to health in England and Egypt, Roy and his regiment were moved to Alexandria in Egypt and he served in and around the defence of the Suez Canal. Turkey had originally sent troops to seize the canal in February 1915. This attack was beaten back and by 1916 British defensive lines had been driven deep into the Sinai desert to prevent any further attempt, however skirmishes during the protection of the Canal Zone continued throughout 1916. On 9th August 1916, Roy was seriously wounded in action in the defence of the Suez Canal Zone and on 2nd September 1916, he was repatriated back to Australia on the “HMAT Ascanius”, and discharged from the AIF with right ankle, hand and right thigh gunshot injuries. Roy spent only 12 months at home reunited with his brother Edgar after both returned home due to injuries - only two months apart, before Edgar re-enlisted under the false name of Edward in 1917. Roy (Royce) had married Emilie in 1911, and had one child, and eventually one grand-child and two great grandchildren. Emilie passed away in 1959. Royce died on 3rd November 1975. Roy was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. Roy’s 1914/15 Star has been recovered and retained by Edgar’s family.

Edgar Douglas Whitehorn (or Edward as he was known in his second stint) was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and ANZAC Commemorative Medal for his service with the Australian Imperial Forces in WW1.

On returning from the War, Edgar’s health slowly returned and went back to work on the family farm at Koolunga. Several years after returning from the war, Edgar purchased land near his original family block and began his own farming adventure. On 4th March 1922, he married Clarice Victoria Crouch. They had 5 children, three sons and two daughters.


Edgar Douglas (Toby) Whitehorn – WW2

On 30th December 1938, after the second outbreak of hostilities in Europe, Edgar once again displayed his dedication to his country by re-enlisting in the Australian Military Forces in the local Militia Force. Interestingly, he again lied about his age, giving his date of birth as 16th July 1899 (16/7/1889 being the true date of birth). This done because he would have been too old for enlistment. Amazingly on his enlistment documents he admitted to previous service in WW1 in the 9th Light Horse Regiment and 50th Battalion and that he had enlisted on 27th November 1914. With his second false date of birth that would have made him 15 in WW1 – obviously the recruiting officers were not taking a lot of notice of dates of birth!

At the same time, Edgar’s two eldest sons, Basil and Doug were enlisting in the Military, one in the Army and one in the Navy. Edgar was now serving in his second Military involvement at the same time with his two sons. Edgar was initially attached to the 9/23rd Light Horse and then to the 9th Mounted Regiment. In early 1939, he was on the Militia service roll book of serving at camp at Gladstone and then Gawler. Due to his previous military experience he took a rapid rise in rank in the local Militia, going from Trooper to Lance Corporal on 15th January 1939, to Corporal on 13th August 1939 to Sergeant on 24th February 1940. Because of Edgar’s previous experience in WW1, his principle role was as a Trainer and Troop leader. On 16th December 1942, he was discharged from the Militia after having completed his 3 years of Military Service.

He was awarded the War Medal 1939/1945 and the Australia Service Medal. On the completion of his second Military service he returned to the farm he had started after WW1.

His wife Clarice passed away, after many years of ill-health, in 1968. Edgar continued to work the family farm with his youngest child - his son Fred and his family until the age of 84, when he passed away due to ill health on 13th October 1978. Both Edgar and Clarice were laid to rest - originally at Centennial Park in Adelaide, and subsequently moved to the family plot at the Koolunga Cemetery.

As his Grandson, I was incredibly fortunate to spend the first 15 years of my life with my Grandfather on the farm and I spent many warm afternoons with him sitting on the back porch of his house on the farm, remaining silent as he quietly spoke, listening in awe to the odd tale he would tell of his time at Gallipoli and on the Western Front. He was always reluctant to speak about it, the pain of the memories was obvious, but he always opened up to me, his grandson, who was closest to him. Edgar spoke very little of his time in Gallipoli and on the Western Front in WW1. The times that he would open up, he spoke of the suffering, the noise, the fear and the pain. He was a silent sufferer and he usually kept his thoughts to himself about his experiences of war. I know from his tales that the injuries he sustained were severe and painful, both physically and mentally. He walked with a limp and his right leg had a severe bend in the lower half, no doubt from the gunshot wounds sustained to the shin and ankle. He was a quiet, strong willed, and at times stubborn man, who was undoubtedly affected by his experiences in WW1, experiences that he carried right throughout his life. On the odd occasion I would be with him at the local RSL as they ritually toasted their departed friends. Again the talk was often quiet, almost silent and reflective. It was very clear that they celebrated their fallen friends and they hated the war that took them away from them. Before he passed away he gave me the lapel badge from his uniform that he wore when he went to Gallipoli. This “Badge of the Rising Sun” remains a family heirloom and takes pride of place with his slouch hat “Badge of the Rising Sun”, again also worn at Gallipoli, that was eventually passed on to my own son, Brad, who is now a veteran of the Afghanistan Military campaign.

“War is always fought by young men, sent by older men to fight their battles for them”.

…… and …….

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity”.

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