As Anzac Day approaches let us reflect and remember two Brave Bonegilla Boys.
Before they left Australia, on the 23rd November 1915 Archie and Tom were photographed together, great mates off overseas on a challenging army adventure. After being shipped to Marseilles, they journeyed across France in a train which was designed to carry horses.
On reaching Godewarede, they could hear the distant thunder of guns as they marched towards the front. Tom was a member of the Lewis machine gun crew during the terrible trench warfare in France.
While Tom was recovering in hospital from mumps, Archie marched out to join the entrenching Battalion, preparing for the big Allied push on the Western Front. Tom rejoined the Battalion in France mid-July. Amongst heavy fighting, he suffered a gunshot wound to the legs and returned to hospital on the 26th July 1916.
This is most likely the reason why Tom survived this terrible carnage at Pozieres, as very few of his mates did. For seven weeks the merciless shells rained almost continuously, the men powerless beneath. There was dead and dying everywhere, and sadly Archie didn’t escape the carnage. Archie was listed as missing on the 18th August, later recorded as killed in action. Tom had lost his Bonegilla mate.
In November 1917 Tom was severely affected by mustard gas. After a long period in hospital he was returned to Australia on the 12th March 1918. A leader in the public life of the district, Tom was a member of the Wodonga Shire Council for several years and in 1948-49 was Shire President.
Tom was a foundation member of the Wodonga RSL, a foundation member of the Wodonga Show Society, Hospital appeal committee, Dairyman’s Association, Albury and Wodonga Milk Producers’ Association, a director of the Albury Co-operative Butter Factory, and a past master of the Masonic Lodge.
Unfortunately Tom was diagnosed with cancer, thought to be a legacy of his war service, and after an illness of three months died in November 1950, aged 57 years. Tom is buried in Wodonga Cemetery.
Written by Marie Elliot Vice President of Wodonga Historical Society