3528 – No. 4 Tunnelling Company / 12th Aust Service Corps

Elbert Walter Freeman stated he was born in Canada about 1878 the son of Nancy Cosby Freeman. He came to Australia.

At the Recruiting Depot in Hughenden, Queensland the unmarried stockman applied to enlist for active service aboard and passed the preliminary medical examination on January 21, 1916. Personal particulars from the form show his postal address was Livingstone, Montana, USA and age was thirty-eight years. Height was 166cms (5ft 5¼ins) with a chest measurement of 92cms (36ins) and his eyes tested to good vision. He was declared fit for active service.

A small group of volunteers from Hughenden arrived in Charters Towers to enlist. On January 24, 1916 he presented the Application at the Town Hall and the medical officer agreed on his fitness accepting him as a recruit. Attestation forms were completed and give further information that he weighed 68.6kgs (151lbs) and was fair in complexion with bluish eyes and brown hair. Roman Catholic was his religion. Next-of-kin nominated was his mother Marridin Freeman, of Lexington, Lafayette, Missouri, USA. He signed and took the ‘Oath of Allegiance’ the same day.

Acknowledgement to the departing volunteers was printed in:

Private Freeman received basic training at the Enoggera camp, Brisbane, Qld with the 11th Depot Battalion from January 28 until March 22, 1916. Recruitment for the No. 4 Tunnelling Company was in progress and was taken as a member soon after. The No. 4 Company embarked from Brisbane, Qld early in May, 1916 aboard HMAT A69 Warilda for Sydney, NSW. Six officers and 152 other ranks together with the 1st Reinforcements of fifteen other ranks made up the two sections.

At Rosebery Park, Sydney, NSW they joined their Headquarters and two sections (8 officers & 153 O.Rs.) plus 1st Reinforcements consisting of one officer and seventeen other ranks for final training. The rank of Sapper and the Regimental number 3528 in No. 4 Company Headquarters, 1st Reinforcements was assigned to him.

The 7713-ton transport departed Sydney, NSW on May 22, 1916 and collected in Melbourne, Victoria the No. 5 Company recruited from Victoria, South Aust. & Tasmania made up of Headquarters and 2 Sections (8 officers & 173 men) (3 M.D.). 1 Section from Tasmania (3 officers & 76 O.Rs); also 1st Reinforcements for No. 5 Company (17 men from Vic. & 8 men Tas.) The ship departed on May 25, 1916 for Adelaide, S.A. to collect one Section of 3 officers & 76 O.Rs with 1st Reinforcements of 8 O.Rs.

Docking at Fremantle, W.A. on June 1, 1916 added No. 6 Company recruited from W.A. of 14 officers and 325 O.Rs along with 1st Reinforcements of 1 Officer & 32 O.Rs departing the same day.

Durban, South Africa was reached on June 16, 1916 and Cape Town on June 21, 1916 while St Vincent completed the African ports of call on July 7, 1916. Discipline was fairly good except at intermediate ports where Away without Leave caused concern. The fifty-eight day voyage experienced remarkable pleasant weather terminating at Plymouth, England on July 18, 1916. Four, Five and Six Companies comprising of 1064 officers and other ranks were detrained to Amesbury and Tidworth marching into the No. 3 Aust Details camp at Perham Downs to begin training for the front.

The Reinforcements departed for France on August 28, 1916 and marched into the 2nd Aust General Base Depot the next day.

They were sent to the 1st Anzac Reinforcement Camp on October 12 and joined the 1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion on October 16, 1916 which was an advanced section of the Base Depot that organised works near the lines and through duties, usually of ten days duration, would accustom the reinforcements to war conditions before being assigned to a company in the field.

Ten days later he was attached to the 1st Canadian Tunnelling Company.

He was disciplined for the following on December 8, 1916:

4/12/16When on active service refusing to obey an order of a superior officer

Award:14 days F.P. No. 1 [Field Punishment]

On December 26, 1916 was taken on strength in the field with the 14th Aust Service Corps being promoted to Driver in the Company’s establishment.

He was transferred to the 12th Brigade A.F.A. on January 27, 1917.

Further problems in the field occurred on February 18, 1917:

(1) Neglect to the prejudice of good order & military discipline

in that he left unattended & unprotected a burning brazier

in his billet.

(2) Disorder to the prejudice of good order & military discipline

that his bedding & kit were left in an untidy condition.

Award:3 days F.P. No. 2 by O.C.

Total forfeiture:3 days pay.

He went to the 3rd Aust Field Ambulance sick on March 11, 1917 and was discharged on March 29 and rejoined his unit two days later.

On November 14, 1917 the following was dealt with:

Crime:(1) Contravening Army Standing Orders, in that he, at railhead did leave

his horse unattended from 11.45 noon – noon 3/11/17

(2) Absent without leave from 9 a.m. – 12 noon 4/11/17

(3) Disobeying the lawful command of his superior officer, in that he,

after being ordered to clean his harness, failed to do so, 4/11/17

Award:28 days F.P. No. 2 by A/C.O. 12th Army Brigade.

An audit noted him to be with his unit on November 25, 1917 and again on June 19, 1918.

Further misconduct was dealt with by the C.O. on November 2, 1918:

Crime:Absent without leave from 10 a.m. 2/11/18 to 9.30 a.m. 3/11/18

Award:10 days F.P. No. 2

Total forfeiture:11 days pay.

He was with his unit when Peace was declared later that month and remained with them on the front.

Disciplinary action was again served by the C.O. 12th Army Brigade on January 5, 1919:

Crime:While on Active Service absent without leave from 6.45 a.m. 3/1/19 to

9 p.m. 4/1/19

Award:7 days F.P. No. 2

Total forfeiture:9 days pay.

Leave to the United Kingdom was granted on January 18, 1919 from January 20 until February 3, 1919 and he rejoined his unit on February 22, 1919.

On April 8, 1919 his unit was recalled to Base Depot to prepare to return to England and the following day crossed the English Channel and arrived at the No. 3 Training Brigade camp.

Driver Freeman departed from England on May 12, 1919 on board H.T. Port Napier for the voyage to Australia.

He was marked to disembarked in Sydney, NSW (2nd M.D.) due on July 7 but got off in Fremantle, W.A. (6th M.D.) on July 4.

Military Discharge was granted on termination of his period of enlistment in Perth, W.A. (6th M.D.) on August 5, 1919.

Sapper / Driver 3528 Elbert Walter Freeman, No. 4 Tunnelling Company / 14th Army Service Corps / 12th F.A.B. was issued with the British War Medal (11045) and the Victory Medal (10918) for serving his country.

In 1925 he was working in the Margaret River district in Western Australia as a labourer.

He wrote to Base Records from Tibooburra, via Broken Hill, N.S.W. on November 21, 1932 requesting a duplicate Discharge as his original to the best of his knowledge had been destroyed by fire while in a clerk’s hands. He attached details that he could remember were on his Attestation papers. He also stated that his people would be eventually glad to have a copy of his Discharge in the family records as his two brothers served in the American Expeditionary Forces. He also inquired having repeatedly been told that all F.P. No. 2 punishment pay which had been deducted from A.I.F. men was to be paid. On his Discharge 70 odd days pay was deducted and also a Canteen Fund payment due. Should that have been correct he would be glad of the same. He went on to write that he was naturally a wanderer and a poor scholar who tried to write several times but finished by tearing up his attempts.

Base Records replied on November 23, 1932 advising that a Statement of Service now took place of a duplicate Military Discharge which would be issued on the completion of a Statutory Declaration in terms of the circular enclosed. No remission for F.P. No. 2 under any circumstances is made for fines or forfeitures incurred whilst serving in the A.I.F. and the Canteen Fund had been closed for some time.

In January, 1933 he forwarded the Statutory Declaration to Base Records in which he declared that his Discharge had been lost while in the hands of the Public Works Department, Western Australia in 1926. The certificate on February 2, 1933 was sent.

On May 4, 1937 a Statement of Service was forwarded to the Repatriation Commission in Adelaide, S.A. The following year he applied for a Mineral Lease in Darwin, N.T. which was advertised in the:

Elbert Walter Freeman died in Innisfail, Qld on August 7, 1952 aged 75 years. His grave is located in row 152, plot 4. There is no headstone.

A few days later the minutes of the R.S.L. Sub-branch was published in the:

Further acknowledgement to Innisfail’s late soldier was also published in the:

© Donna Baldey 2011/2018