Anzac Day 2018


In Australia and New Zealand, Anzac Day commemorates not only the date on which their joint forces landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 2015 during World War I, but also the service and sacrifice of all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations since then.

Anzac Day 2018 also commemorates the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest battles involving Australian forces at Veillers-Bretonneux on the Western Front in France in 1918. Anzac Day 2018 is one that is appropriate to commemorate the memory of my close family members who served and are no longer with us.

Captain Frank Hutchings MC - my maternal grandfather (WW I/WW II)

Frank Albert Hutchings was a medical student serving with the 39th Infantry Militia prior to his enlistment with the 7th Reinforcements, 33rd Battalion AIF on 9th January 1917 (with the rank of Sergeant). Promoted to Lieutenant on 8 February 1918 on the voyage to England, he appears to have disembarked in Devenport (Plymouth) on 17 March 2017 and been involved in training in England until 8 November 1917 when he embarked for France (with the rank of Sergeant).

On 10 November 1917 he marched to the Western Front from Rouelles. In the field he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and then Lieutenant on 2 March 1918. On 6 April 1918 he was wounded in battle at Veillers-Bretonneux and evacuated to England for treatment of a gunshot wound to the head. Apparently, he had “…led this platoon against the enemy at a critical moment and checked their advance. Though wounded, he remained with them, and  in the afternoon again led them forward with the cavalry and caused the enemy to withdraw” (from the citation for the award of the Military Cross in recognition of his gallantry and devotion to duty in the field).

On 1 June 1918 he rejoined his Battalion in the field. On 8 August 2018 33rd Battalion was tasked with capturing Accroche Wood. The official report of the battle included the following reference to my grandfather-

Seven officers, 500 other ranks were captured. This is a conservative estimate and much below the totals submitted by the Companies. 457 can be definitely accounted for these having passed through Battalion Headquarters. 4 x 4.2 Howitzers and 6 x 77 MM Guns. These were captured by Lieutenant: 3072 Frank Albert HUTCHINGS M.C. and party and were marked and tagged. 

On 23 August 1918 he was gassed in action and again evacuated to England for treatment. On 5 December 1918 he sailed again for France and on 25 December 1918 rejoined 33rd Battalion in the field. On 12 May 1919 he was posted to a base in France in preparation for return to Australia.

Frank remained on the Reserve List until WWII when he re-enlisted and served on-board troop ships as an AIF Captain.

Flight Sergeant Fred Rollo - my father (WWII) 

Frederick Arthur Rollo II was a carpenter who enlisted in the RAAF for 6 years on 25 January 1937. He served in Australia with 23 Squadron and 6 Squadron. On 9 October 1939 Fred was posted to 8 Squadron at RAAF Fairbairn, Canberra. 8 Squadron was re-equipped with Lockheed Hudson bombers in May 1940 and deployed to Singapore in August. Fred embarked from Sydney for Singapore on 10 August 1940 where he disembarked on 26 August and proceeded to RAF Station Sembawang where 8 Squadron aircraft had been deployed. The Squadron was transferred to RAF Station Kota Bahru on 9 February 1941.

On  4 August 1941  8 Squadron moved back to Sembawang (Kuantan). On 6 December 1941 a Japanese invasion force was spotted and shadowed by Lockheed Hudsons from 1 Squadron Kota Bahru and 8 Squadron Kuantan. Shortly after midnight on 7 December 1940 the Japanese Kota Bahru invasion force attacked. The Japanese Pearl Harbour invasion force was also on its way - World War II had begun in the Pacific.

On 8 December 1941, 1 Squadron took off to bomb the Japanese fleet troop transports and made their initial attacks at 2:00am. 8 Squadron formed four flights of three Hudsons and set off to attack the Japanese transport fleet from 6:00am. The Japanese force reached Kota Bahru by 10:00am and once it became clear that the airfields could not be held, all serviceable aircraft were withdrawn to Singapore. 

Records of the movement of Australian and British troops and RAAF ground crew from the time of withdrawal are sparse. Many of the army personnel were captured by the Japanese and their plight was dire.

My recollection of what my father told me about the withdrawal is that RAAF Commissioned Officers were ordered to depart with the aircraft. Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers (Flight Sergeants and below) and other ranks self-evacuated to Singapore in trucks. There was some mention of being strafed by Japanese aircraft on the road, but I have not been able to find any written records about the actual withdrawal and journey to confirm this. My father’s official record indicates he embarked Singapore for Palembang (Sumatra) on 28 January 1942 and rejoined 8 Squadron on 30 January 1942. 

Staff Sergeant Ernest Leon Wade - my father-in-law (WWII)

Ernest Leon Wade enlisted in 1942 and served with the 14th Australian Field Company RAE AIF in Port Moresby, Moratai and Labuan. Much of his service in Port Moresby was in the construction and maintenance of the base camp for the Kokoda Track. We are seeking access to detailed records of Ernest’s service.

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