Remembering Montville’s Fallen
Plaques on the six fig trees on the Montville Village Green, along with one fig tree in the school grounds commemorate Montville’s Fallen from World War I. The seven metal plates were purchased from F.W. Buckham, a roller caster and poster block cutter at 20-22 Charlotte Street, Brisbane on 23 April 1934 at a cost of 8/- each.
They were attached to the six weeping figs along memorial close and the fig tree inside the front gate of the Montville State School
The names on the plaques are as follows:
Palk Died in Action
McKenna Died in Action
Thos. Waller Died in Action
C.S. Smith Died in Action
Cecil Greber Died in Action
Harmening Died in Action
Charles Smith Died Sickness
The last fig tree – obtained for Charles Smith was donated by E.W. Bick the curator of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in response to a request by the secretary for the Anzac Day Celebration Committee (Montville), Mr H.O. Dick.
The following Information was gathered by researchers for the Adopt a Digger Project to commemorate the centenary of WWI.
Private Ernest T. Palk No 6833
9th Batallion 20th and 26th Units as well, Montville
Awarded Victory and British War medals
Ernest Palk was born in London to George and Sarah Palk – his next of kin was his sister Rosa of Redhill Surrey UK. He was a labourer and listed his address as Montville. He was 5’10”, wore glasses and had a cockney accent. He joined in Brisbane 20/3/1917 aged 24. He sailed on 14 Jun 1917 on the Hororata. Just one year later he was killed on the 19 July 1918 by shell whilst he was in the phone post trench, Metren, Flanders (he was a signaller for C Company 9th Battalion,) He was 25 when he died. He is buried in the field and then acknowledged at the Outersteene Communal Cemetery, Bailleul, France. RIP He is commemorated at Montville on the District Roll of Honour Board, Montville Village Hall.
Private Edward Wilfred McKenna, No. 2789
9th Battalion, 5th Reins 25th Battalion Montville. Killed in Action
Enlisted 24/7/1915 Awarded 1914-1915 Star, Victory and British War medals
Private Edward McKenna, was the son of John McKenna and Mrs Ann Hallett. He was born in 1881 in Rockhampton. His mother lived in Montville. He was born in Rockhampton, a Miner and religion Church of England. He was 35 years 10 months when he joined. 5’7″ 140 lbs blue eyes light brown hair. Joined 24/7/1915 and embarked on 21/10/1915 from Brisbane on HMAT Seang Bee A48.
He was killed in action 20/4/1916 and buried in field. His body was exhumed and reinterred 23/4/1921 to Rue Du Bacquerot 13th London Graveyard, 8 miles south west of Armentieres, Laventie. RIP
He is commemorated at Montville District Roll of Honour Board, Montville Village Hall, Montville as well as on the Memorial Gates, Memorial Close, Montville; Montville Memorial Trees, Maroochy Shire Honour Roll, Shire Chambers, Bury Street, Nambour; Nambour (Maroochy Shire) Roll of Honour Scroll, Private Collection, Nambour (this scroll was available for sale to the public after the war); Maroochy Shire War Dead, Quota Park, Matthew Street, Nambour, Australian War Memorial Panel 56, Honour Roll 145
Private Thomas Robert Waller, No. 3966
9th Battalion, Montville, Mapleton. Killed in Action also 2nd Pioneer Battalion D Company AIF
Thomas Waller was awarded the Victory and British War medals
Thomas Robert Waller, son of William James (a Methodist Preacher) and Constance Rachel Waller was born in London. Joined 22/3/1915 aged 19 years 9 months – a fruitgrower – assigned to 9/26 reinforcement. Height 5’6″, eyes blue, hair dark brown. Waller sailed on the HMAT A62 Wandilla on 31 Jan 1916
He was wounded in action 7/4/1916 in Suez, Egypt.
He was wounded in action on 12/5/1917-gunshot wound to right arm and leg. Waller rejoined his Regiment on 30/6/1017. He was killed in action whilst on Patrol near Westhoek Ridge Belgium on 11/10/17. He and four fellow soldiers were killed by the same shell and buried there. His body was exhumed and interred at Hooge Crater Cemetery, Leper, West-Vlannderen His Grave V1.B.13 RIP
June 9 reported Thomas Robert Walker of Yandina(?) severely wounded.
The Chronicle 8 February 1918, p3 Honours List reported Pte Thos Robt Walker of Montville killed in action Oct 1917.
He is commemorated at Australian War Memorial – Panel 173
Honour Roll 145, Montville District Roll of Honour Board, Montville Village Hall, Montville Memorial Gates, Montville Memorial Trees, Maroochy Shire Honor Roll, Shire Chambers, Bury Street, Nambour, Nambour (Maroochy Shire) Roll of Honor Scroll, Private Collection, Nambour (this scroll was available for sale to the public after the war), Maroochy Shire War Dead, Quota Park, Matthew Street, Nambour.
Private Charles Stanley Smith, No. 6596
9th Batallion, Hunchy,Palmwoods,Montville, Mapleton. Died from Wounds
Private Charles Stanley Smith was a farmer from Hunchy, Palmwoods and the Son of William Edward and Mary Smith of ‘Alveno’ Nambour. He was born at Moss Vale NSW in August 1884 and educated at Moss Vale Public School. He was 5’9″ Light Brown hair, Blue eyes and 150 lbs.
He enlisted on 17/7/1916 in Brisbane age 32 years 9 months and was assigned to the 9th Battalion 21st Reinforcements He left Brisbane on HMAT A36 “Boonah” on 21/10/1916 and disembarked in Plymouth 10/1/1917.
26/8/1917-8/9/1917 Fargo Military Hospital with sprained left ankle whilst undertaking bayonet training.
He proceeded from No 3 Training Camp, Durrington on 23/10/17 to France.
27/12/1917 in Hospital sick (scabies) rejoined unit 6/1/1918
He was wounded in action at Messines on 14/5/1918. He was taken to the 15th Casualty Clearing Station with the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance with gunshot wounds to his hip, knee and ankle He died at 12.10am on 17/5/1918 from these wounds. He is buried in Ebblinghem. Private Smith was Awarded the Victory Medal and the British War medal. He is buried in the Military Cemetery France RIP Plot 2 Row B Grave 24.
The Chronicle 14 June 1918 p5, Roll of Honour for Pte Charles Stanley SMITH, third son of the late William Edward and Mary Smith, Hunchy, died of wounds 17 May somewhere in France. Aged 35 years.
The Chronicle 14 June 1918 p5, Thanks from Mrs Mary Smith also published.
The Chronicle 5 July 1918 p5, OUR HONOUR LIST – JUNE’S ADDITIONS
The seven casualty lists made public during the past month gave this district a share of their unwelcome attentions. List 409 hit somewhat harder, mentioning Pte. Charles Stanley Smith, of Hunchy (Palmwoods) as killed in action on 17th May 1918;…..
The Chronicle 2 August 1918 p3, Montville – medals from the residents presented to returned soldiers…while that for Chas Smith (who had paid the supreme sacrifice) was handed to his brother. Charles Stanley Smith is commemorated at Montville District Roll of Honour Board, Montville Village Hall, Montville Memorial Gates, Montville Memorial Trees.
Private Alfred Cecil Greber No 2890
Alfred Cecil Greber, (Cecil), farmer, born at Rous Mill, Richmond, NSW 14/7/1900. He was one of 15 children (4 died in infancy) born to Christian and Mary Ellen Greber (nee Collins). His religion is listed as Church of England.
Pte Greber enlisted 29/8/1916 and embarked on the HMAT Marathon from Brisbane on 27/10/1916 52nd Battalion 7th Reinforcement. Pte Greber changed his birth year and was only 16 years 1 month when he enlisted.
He was wounded by shellfire in the arm and leg on 17/10/17 – rejoined his unit on 16/2/1918 and was killed in action 3 months short of his 18th birthday on 25/4/1918 at Villers- Bretonneaux. RIP
Pte E.J. O’Neill (2952) recounts, “We (Pte Greber and myself) were proceeding from Battalion Headquarters to the frontline and under a barrage of fire took shelter in a shell-hole for 5 mins when a 5.9 shell landed outside the hole – Pte Greber did not survive’” Pte Greber is Honoured on the memorial at Villers-Bretonneaux – only Australians with no known grave are recorded here. He was with the 52nd Battalion and was the B company Headquarters runner. 2 of his brothers also enlisted. When Pte Greber’s mother received his deferred pay after his death, she received £45 6 s 11d and used it toward buying a house in Mayfield NSW for herself and 2 of her children. However only a few weeks later she died in the influenza pandemic of 1919. Cecil was awarded the Victory and British War medals.
Private Frederick William Harmening (F Hatton) No. 5412
Unit: 15th Bn
Date of Death: 11/04/1917
Memorial Panel: 76
Cemetery or Memorial Details: 26 Villers Bretonneux-France
Place Of Enlistment: Montville, QLD
Notes: HARMENING (served as HATTON), Pte. Frederick William, 5412. 15th
Bn. 11th April, 1917. Son of Charles Henry Clemens Harmening, and his
wife Amy Elizabeth Waltisbuhl. Born at Maitland, New South Wales.
Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army
Frederick William Harmening was born in Maitland,New South Wales in 1887. His mother, Amy Elizabeth Filmer had married the German born Charles Henry Clements Harmening in 1880. Together they had six children with Frederick being the youngest. However Charles died in 1892 and shortly thereafter Amy married another German by the name of Anton Waltisbuhl in 1893. Together they had a further four children although two died as infants. In 1913 the electoral roll shows that Frederick was living in Montville and gave his occupation as a labourer. His mother was living in Beenleigh just south of Brisbane and there is correspondence from a certain Miss.Devereux to the Australian military authorities after Frederick was listed as missing in action and she lived and gave her address as being Ipswich, Queensland. So it is likely that Frederick was a very mobile individual prior to his enlistment.
He enlisted in Brisbane on the 18th of November 1915. However given the anti-German feeling that was prevalent in Australia at the time Frederick had enlisted under the alias of Frederick William Hatton. Hatton being the maiden name of his maternal grandmother. Frederick’s enlistment papers note that he was 5’7″ tall , twenty seven years of age, weighed 128lbs, had a dark complexion with blue eyes and brown hair and gave his religious denomination as Church of England. He is also listed as having tattoos on both forearms and a scar on the left elbow.
Frederick undertook basic military training at the AIF camp at Enoggera, Brisbane and then departed from Sydney on the HMAS Hawke’s Bay on the 20th of April 1916 bound for Egypt where he arrived on the 24th of May 1916. Frederick was admitted to hospital two days later suffering from hydrocele (a sac of fluid around the testicles) and was in and out of hospital until the 10th of July 1916. In France, the winter of 1916-17 was the coldest winter in living memory and undoubtedly Frederick and his comrades suffered greatly during this period of very cold weather.
In March 1917 the German army staged a planned withdrawal from its forward trenches to the Hindenburg Line and they were closely followed by the British and Australian armies.
The proposed attack at the local was part of a wider attack planned along the various parts of the Hindenburg Line. The German defences were formidable. Throughout the winter months a double trench line system had been dug from Vimy in the north to near Rhiems in the south. Throughout its length towns and villages were heavily fortified with more trenches, pillboxes and barbed wire. The section the AIF was tasked with attacking ran from the village of Bullecourt in a crescent shaped with the village of Reincourt in the curve to the village of Quent to the south . Effectively it was a re-entrant reverse salient – meaning that the line curves inwards from two ends. What this really meant is that any attack on Reincourt would require military to pass by the fortified villages of Bullecourt and Quent leaving their flanks exposed enfilading (a volley of gunfire directed along a line from end to end) from both sides.
Facing the Australian attackers were two trench lines in front of which were massed lines of barbed wire as well as various fortified strong points. Communication trenches connected the two main front line trenches which were some 100-200 yards apart. Behind the second trench lines were the heavily fortified villages. The Australian attack was in the direction of the section in front of Reincourt. Two additional communication trenches ran backwards from the main front line trenches to Reincourt. One was named Ostrich Trench (which was on the left) and the second was called Emu Trench (which was on the right). General Birdwood, commander of I Anzac Corps, was very concerned about attacking Reincourt unless a support attack was made against Quant at the same time to suppress any fire from that village on to his exposed right flank. The British High Command deemed this unnecessary.
The plan for the attack was similar to most attacks – that was to saturate the area in advance with heavy artillery fire to destroy the wire in front of the trenches and to keep the Germans under cover. Then at the appointed hour a creeping artillery barrage would begin allowing the advancing troops to shelter behind the falling shells ahead of them. Unfortunately this plan just like many other similar plans ended in failure
The attack was scheduled for the night of the 9 -10th of April 1917 but it soon became obvious in the days leading up to this at the artillery fire had not done much to destroy the wire lines in front of the trenches. Rather than postpone the attack the British High Command decided to use tanks to advance in front of the men and use them to destroy the barbed wire prior to the soldiers arriving. As the tank was vulnerable to a artillery fire it was decided that no artillery barrage would be arranged. The officers and men involved in the attack were amazed by such a reckless scheme. Tanks were untested in this role and any attack by infantry without artillery support was tantamount to suicide. Unperturbed the High Command insisted the attack go-ahead as planned.
Therefore in the freezing cold and snow that night men of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th Battalions of the 4th Brigade and the 45th and 48th Battalions of 14th Brigade trudged towards the starting line in a sunken road some hundreds of yards in front of the first German trench line where they waited in miserable conditions for the arrival of the tanks. The order had been given the attack would not commence until the tanks were in place. Unfortunately the tanks weren’t on time. Some got lost, some broke down so in the early hours of the morning the attack was called off and the men had to trudge back to their the starting point. By the time they got back they were frozen and exhausted. However as the Germans held the high ground this entire episode was seen by them as dawn broke and very heavy artillery shelling was to cause many casualties on the retiring Australians but more importantly the Germans were made aware of an impending attack in that location and were kept on a higher state of alert.
The attack was postponed 24 hours. So the following evening the same troops trudged back to their starting position in the snow and the cold. This time the Germans knew they were coming. Most tanks arrived on time and so at 4:45 am on the morning of the 11th of April 1917 the attack on Bullecourt began. As the Australians advanced across no man’s land no artillery support was offered to them and the Germans were in position and waiting for them. Advancing into the re-entrant with both left and right flanks exposed to the Germans heavy machine gunfire and artillery shells were fired on to such an easy target. Most of the tanks got hit, broke down or just couldn’t keep up with the infantry all of which meant that the barbed wire had not been destroyed. Despite this and despite the heavy fire from the Germans the first wave of Australian troops captured the first trench and the second wave moved through them and on to capture the second-line which they did but with appallingly high casualties.
Frederick’s 15th battalion was part the second wave tasked with capturing the second trench line and to then advance and capture the village of Reincourt. However once they captured the front lines all the units were mixed up, many officers were killed and the ability to control the battle had been lost. As such small groups of men rallied together to clear the trench lines, defend against counter-attacks while some advanced up both Emu and Ostrich Trenches to try and capture the village. But they were not successful in this attempt.
The commanding officers of the brigades involved that had responsibility to the attack were unable to ascertain what was going on from their positions well to the rear of the battlefield. The attackers were effectively on their own. German counter-attacks wore down the Australians in the trenches who were exhausted and eventually ran out of ammunition. With no support and no ammunition they had no choice but to either retreat across no man’s land back to their starting point or to surrender. Many attempted to retreat but few made it back alive. Hundreds surrendered. Not surprisingly those that survived were furious at the lack of artillery and material support not to mention the near suicidal plan of attack.
Frederick Harmening was one of those that never came back. We may never know exactly what happened to him on that fateful day but we do know that his 15th battalion was in the second wave of attack. We also know that from the Red Cross investigation into his death that he survived the initial attack and he made it over the wire. We also know that elements of his battalion advanced up ostrich trench towards Reincourt but were eventually surrounded and the troops were either killed or captured.
Frederick has no known grave and is commemorated on the Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, the Australian War Memorial, the Montville Memorial Fig Tree Plaque and the Montville Memorial Gate, Queensland. (Researched by Paul Sutton)
Private Charles (Charlie) Smith No 53265
Charles (Charlie) was the sixth son of Henry and Jane Smith and was born in Montville on 28 August 1898. During his short life of twenty-four years he lived with his family at their home, Eastnor, in Western Road, Montvuille, before enlisting to serve in World War I. He never married.
Charlie was enrolled, in 1904, as pupil no. 99 at the Montville Provisional School. He later attended the Southport School where he joined the Cadets for a year. His occupation following this is recorded as a fruit carrier.
On 25 February 1918, Charles enlisted and was accepted into the 9th Battalion. He embarked for England on the ‘Osterley’ on the 8th May but shortly after contracted an attack of bronchitis which lasted for a month. He had another attack in England, contracted influenza which led to chronic bronchitis and this developed into emphysema. He returned to Australia on the ‘Nevasa’ and was discharged on the 16th May 1919 as ‘medically unfit, attributed to exposure during the present war’. He had never actually taken part in a battle. In September 1922 the Governor, Sir Matthew Nathan, visited the Smith family home in Montville, ‘specially (sic) to see Mr Charles Smith who is incapacitated through war injuries’. His never recovered from his illness and died in Corinda, Brisbane on 22 November attended by his father and brother Tom.
At the Anzac Day Service in Montville in 1935 it was announced that The Anzac Day Committee had planted another weeping fig tree, in front of the school, to honour Charles among the fallen. This was the seventh such tree commemorating the supreme sacrifice made by local servicemen in World War I. Charlie is buried in the little bush cemetery in Mapleton and is remembered as the only one of the Montville Fallen who was born and raised in Montville, one of the early settler families, part of his community and although he had never taken part in battle, he gave his life for his country.