Esson Thomas James RULE

Poppy

RULE, Esson Thomas James

Service Number: 188
Enlisted: 20 August 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: 50th Infantry Battalion
Born: Burra, South Australia, 4 January 1895
Home Town: Burra, Goyder, South Australia
Schooling: Burra Primary School
Occupation: Blacksmith
Died: Killed in Action, Noreuil, France, 2 April 1917, aged 22 years
Cemetery: Noreuil Australian Cemetery
Grave A. 24
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Burra HB1 District WW 1*, Burra HB2 Loyal Burra Lodge WW I*, Burra M*, National War Memorial (South Australia)
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World War 1 Service

20 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 188, 10th Infantry Battalion, Morphettville, South Australia
20 Oct 1914: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 188, 10th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
20 Oct 1914: Embarked AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 188, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Ascanius, Adelaide
25 Apr 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Corporal, SN 188, 10th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
6 May 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Sergeant, 10th Infantry Battalion
12 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 50th Infantry Battalion, Pozières
2 Apr 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 50th Infantry Battalion, German Withdrawal to Hindenburg Line and Outpost Villages
Date unknown: Involvement 10th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

Military Cross Recommendation

Near MOUQUET Farm between 12th. and 15th. August, coolness and bravery under fire and great devotion to duty.

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Biography

Esson Thomas James Rule was born to William John and Ita (Ida) Juliana Rule of "Aberdeen", Burra, on the 4th of January 1895. He was the 2nd son and 4th child of the couple, with him later having the total of 3 brothers and 2 sisters. He was educated at Burra Boys Primary School where he was admitted into the school on the 2nd of February 1903, aged 8. As part of his schooling he joined the school cadets (see photos.)

When World War One broke out the then 19 year old Esson Thomas James Rule enlisted at Morphettville in Adelaide on the 20th of August 1914. He stated that he was an apprentice at his father's blacksmith shop and he himself was now a blacksmith living at Burra with his parents, single. Esson Rule also stated that he had pervious military experience with him serving in the junior cadets for 3 years, the senior cadets for 2 years and the 81st Infantry for 1 year. Given his early position in the line of men wanting to enlist his regimental number was allocated as 188. He was taken into camp and allocated to 'G' Company of 10th Battalion with the rank of Corporal.

The 10th Battalion embarked at Outer Harbour onboard HMAT Ascanius (A11) on the 20th of October 1914. The 10th sailed to Egypt where it underwent a period training. After this the 10th Battalion joined the 9th, 11th and 12th Battalion to form the 3rd Brigade and as part of the Gallipoli landing, the 3rd Brigade were used as a covering force for the main body, therefore meaning the 10th Battalion was among the first battalions to land in the early dawn of the 25th of April 1915. Unlike so many others, Esson Rule survived the landing and the rest of the campaign relatively unscathed. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 6th of May 1915 and taken ill on the 2nd of August 1915 with Influenza. On the 6th of August he was admitted with Influenza to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital on the Island of Lemnos. This stay was short, however, with Esson Rule been taken on strength by the 10th Battalion on Gallipoli on the 13th of August, 1915. In mid to late December the AIF was withdrawn from Gallipoli and sent back to Egypt with the 10th and Esson Thomas James Rule among them.

It was whilst he was back in Egypt with the rest of the AIF assembling that Esson Rule was transferred to the 50th Battalion. This move was part of the AIF's 'doubling' with the 1st Division and the 4th Brigade splitting in two to form the four and fifth divisions (the third was been raised in Australia) while new reinforcements from Australia 'filled in the gaps'. Therefore on the 26th of February 1916 he was transferred to the 50th Battalion. A couple of days later on the 1st of March 1916 he was progressively promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major and Warrant Officer Class 2. By the end of the month on the 17th of March 1916 he was commissioned with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. On the 5th of June 1916 the 50th Battalion embarked at Alexandria heading to Marseilles which they arrived at on the 12th of June. From here the Battalion took a train to Northern France before been introduced to trench warfare on the Western Front near Armentieres in the Nursery section of the front line.

On the 10th of July, 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant and not long later the 50th Battalion was in battle. His first action as part of the 50th Battalion was at Pozieres/ Mouquet Farm where after 5 weeks fighting Australian had suffered 23,000 casualties - it’s worst ever total in 5 weeks. The 50th Battalion had been heavily involved in fighting at Mouquet Farm from the 13th of August to the 15th of August when it was replaced by another Australian Battalion on the 16th of August. Lieutenant Rule served throughout this battle as a platoon commander and remained uninjured. Lieutenant Rule was recommended for the Military Cross for his work at Pozieres, however, this medal was not awarded to him. (See Story) 

After this battle the 50th Battalion received some time in the back line where it rested and recovered from its heavy losses. It was sent back to the line on the 5th of September when the 13th Brigade (of which the 50th Battalion was part of) participated in minor fight, however, the 50th battalion was not used through the fight and casualties were few. The 50th Battalion retired from the line soon after and wouldn’t be involved in another engagement until early 1917. It spent the rest of the 1916/17 winter in the lines near Flers. 

In February 1917 the Germans took the Allies by surprise by withdrawing from their front line to consolidate along the much stronger Hindenberg Line whilst also eliminating a very large salient from their lines.  "Salients" are projections of territory into enemy territory and leave the defender vulnerable to being outflanked and cut off and hence the German consolidation. However, the speed of the process took the Allies by surprise. The Australian Divisions began a cautious follow up which included the 4th Division and the 13th Brigade of which the 50th Battalion was a part of.

The so-called "Outpost Villages" were fortified and well-defended villages prepared by the Germans on the approaches to the Hindenburg Line.  The "Outpost Villages" were a mechanism to impose delay on any aggressive follow-up of the withdrawing German forces by the Allies and were also put in place to cause maximum casualties to the Allies.

The 50th and 51st Battalions were responsible for attacking one of these “outpost Villages” called Noreuil on the 2nd April 1917, with the other Battalions of the Brigade in Reserve (49th and 52nd).

Unfortunately, however, Lieutenant Esson Thomas James Rule was killed during this attack. He was mortally wounded by machine gun fire during the early stages of the attack while he was leading a platoon. He was 22 years old and was buried at Noreuil Australian Cemetery. 

"Sadly Missed at Home" - headstone inscription. 

Nathan Rohrlach

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