George Dewhurst (05 September 1893 – 05 November 1916)

DEWHURST George PM0589George Dewhurst (PM0589) was born on 5 September 1893 in Marton, near Blackpool, Lancashire, England, to parents Thomas Dewhurst and Annie (neé Ibbison). Dewhurst lived in a cottage with his parents at the family farm. His uncle Daniel also worked and lived on the farm with his immediate and their extended families. Ten years later, Dewhurst moved to 6 Abbey Rd, South Shore, Lancashire with his mother and younger brother William (4). His father passed away four years previoulsy and Annie and William are listed as Cartmell but there is no record as to why the family’s name has changed. Dewhurst attended Thomas Road Council School in South Shore, at completion receiving training as a gardener. He was ‘a good lad, and dearly loved’. (Particulars for the Roll of Honour, AWM)

Later the same year the census was taken, Dewhurst arrived in Brisbane on SS Kaipara, on 21 June (https://www.data.qld.gov.au/dataset/ba182873-e8a7-45e1-b0e7-e0b6671fa1a9/resource/aa710ad1-42ce-413e-aa6a-6c87ac63ced6/download/assisted-immigration-1848-1912-d.csv)

He initially worked as a grocer before joining Royal Australian Field Artillery for three months, which he left to join the Queensland Police Force.

Police

Dewhurst was sworn in on 11 February 1914, and after four months at Roma Street Police Station he was transferred to Mungana on 15 June 1914 (Reg No 1806). (QSA file 2942) Later the same year, Constable Dewhurst applied to join the Australian Imperial Force.

Military

On 29 December 1914, Sergeant Dewhurst joined 25th Battalion, Infantry Brigade in Cairns (616). He was just over 21 years at the time, 5 feet and 8 and a half inches tall, 147 pounds, of ruddy complexion, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. He listed his faith as Church of England.

HMAT_A60_Aeneas_1
HMAT Aeneas, build in Belfast in 1910 https://birtwistlewiki.com.au/wiki/HMAT_A60_Aeneas

Dewhurst embarked at Brisbane on HMAT Aeneas on 29 June 1915. On 4 September, he proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF). The MEF was a part of the British Army during World War One, that commanded all Allied forces at Gallipoli and Salonika. At the end of the same month, Dewhurst was hospitalised in Lemnos for three weeks having been diagnosed with secondary syphilis. In total, he was absent from duty for 29 days. In Military Discipline: Policing the 1st Australian Imperial Force 1914-1920, historian Geoff Barr, classes syphilis as a military disease. Barr shows, ANZACs were notorious for overindulging both in Turkey and in Egypt.

Dewhurst re-joined his unit mid-October, but not for long.  Already immunocompromised, he was re-hospitalised with tonsillitis and catarrhal jaundice in November 1915 first in Gallipoli and later at St Patrick’s Hospital, Malta. In the 1940s, it was established that ‘catarrhal jaundice’ was in fact viral hepatitis, ‘the treatment of wounds and shock with intravenous blood, serum or plasma exposed recipients to a number of blood-borne pathogens including certain agents of viral hepatitis.’ (Clement R Boughton, ‘Jaundice and War: Viral Hepatitis and Other Causes of Jaundice in Times of War’, Health and History, Vol 4, No 2 (2002), p. 41) Dewhurst contracted the infection soon after it first manifested in July 1915 ‘among the troops stationed in Egypt, then spread rapidly to Gallipoli and to Mesopotamia. The disease occurred as frequently among the French as among the British, but no cases were recorded among the Turks. This observation indicated a fundamental difference in the epidemiology of infectious hepatitis (now called hepatitis A) in Western nations as compared with developing countries.’ (Boughton, p. 43). Boughton attributes this to the fact that in the developing nations (Ottoman Empire in this case) most children would get infected in infancy and enter adult life with developed immunity. Butler in his Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services erroneously classes the infective jaundice epidemic as Weil’s disease (leptospirosis). Regardless of the more recent epidemiological findings, Butler rightfully concludes ‘contagious diseases, begotten of social promiscuity or low standards of cleanliness were general’ among the troops. (Butler, 1930, p. 12).

In January 1916, Sergeant Dewhurst was deemed fit for duty and on the 26th he embarked for Egypt and placed on a supernumerary list. A half a year later, he was re-admitted to hospital in Abbassia, dermatological section (VD SC, or syphilis chancre). Following his discharge, Dewhurst embarked for England on the Arcadian. In September 1916, having arrived at the Base Depot he proceeded to join his battalion and left for France on 30 September. Just under a week later, on 4 October, Sergeant Dewhurst was reprimanded for neglecting to obey an order, no details of the offence are known. Later that month, Dewhurst re-offended (31 October) and was severely reprimanded on 2 November for neglect of duty ‘in that he allowed Guards to dismount not properly dressed.’ (NAA Item 3503935)

Three days later, in the morning of 5 November 1916, the 25th battalion mounted an attack at 9:10am ‘when about halfway across NO MANS LAND the enemy opened on them with the G fire causing many casualties. The objectives of the attacks were THE MAZE and [illegible] Trench boys of the 26th and 27ths Btn reached their position of the MAZE and captured it.’ (War Diary, 25th Battalion, AWM4-23/42/15) The men of Dewhurst’s battalion:

 ‘suffered heavy casualties and were unable to gain their objectives, the remaining men stayed in the shell holes in NO MANS LAND all day and came back to original front back at night. The advancing across NO MANS LAND was very difficult owing to heavy nature of the ground and as the troops had to move slower than anticipated, full advantage could not be taken of our barrages.’ (War Diary, 25th Battalion, AWM4-23/42/15)

The soldiers’ strength was also undermined as the men’s rations did not arrive until 11:30 at night.

AIF War Diaries 25th Infantry Battalion DEWHURST (downloadable pdf)

DEWHURST BattleField
The field where the fighting took place. Image courtesy of QPM.

Sergeant Dewhurst was killed in action on 5 November 1916 along with 76 men and one officer, with two more wounded. (War Diary, 25th Battalion, AWM4-23/42/15). Dewhurst was only 23 years old when he was killed. The biographical evidence shows him as a vivacious and brave young man, eager to experience what the fate had in store for him.

Sergeant Dewhurst was buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, 5 ¾ miles SW of Bapaume, Somme, France plot 24/J/8:

Caterpillar Valley was the name given by the army to the long valley which runs West to East, past “Caterpillar Wood”, to the high ground at Guillemont. Longueval village is on the Northern crest of this valley and 500 metres West of the village, on the South side of the road to Contalmaison, is Caterpillar Valley Cemetery. Caterpillar Valley was captured during a successful night assault by the 3rd, 7th and 9th Divisions on Bazentin Ridge on 14 July 1916. It was lost in the German advance of March 1918 and recovered by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 28 August 1918, when a little cemetery was made (now Plot 1 of this cemetery) containing 25 graves of the 38th Division and the 6th Dragoon Guards. After the Armistice, this cemetery was hugely increased when the graves of more than 5,500 officers and men were brought in from other small cemeteries, and the battlefields of the Somme. The great majority of these soldiers died in the autumn of 1916 and almost all the rest in August or September 1918. (https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/61400/Caterpillar%20Valley%20Cemetery,%20LONGUEVAL)

On 19 September 1922, Dewhurst’s mother, Annie Cartmell, contacted the military authorities requesting a photograph of her ‘dear son’s grave’.

Letter
Annie Cartmell’s request for a photo of George Dewhurst’s grave. NAA Item 3503935
Caterpillar Valley Cemetery
Caterpillar Valley. Image courtesy of QPM.

Sergeant Dewhurst was awarded a Star, Memorial Plaque, Scroll, Victory and British War Medals.