Sapper Henry Maxwell

Sapper Henry Maxwell


5779 – Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company

Henry Maxwell stated he was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England about 1877. He said he had been an apprentice to his father as a mechanic for six years. He had been previously rejected as a sixteen year old for military service due to the scars on his neck. Military experience was gained from two years and 124 days service with the Imperial Light Horse. He came to Australia and was a farmer at Leeton near Yanco, New South Wales. In 1914 he is a witness for a Small Debts Court case which was reported in the:

In 1916 he worked for the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission of New South Wales in the Leeton district.

At the Recruiting Depot in Leeton, NSW on May 30, 1916 he applied to enlist for active service abroad. His address was Farm 537, Leeton and was a mechanic and engine driver and passed the preliminary medical examination and declared fit for service. Personal particulars of the thirty-nine year old married man show his height at 166cms (5ft 5½ins) with a chest measurement of 102cms (40ins).

A month later at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, NSW on June 29, 1916 he applied to enlist passing the medical examination. Additional information was his height measuring at 171cms (5ft 7½ins) and a chest expansion of 93-98cms (36½-38½ins) with address, age and occupation the same. His application was accepted by the recruiting officer.

Attestation forms were completed at Rosebery Park, Sydney adding further details that he weighed 79.5kgs (175lbs) with a fresh complexion, brown eyes that tested to good vision in one eye and poor in the other and had black hair. Church of England was his religion. Distinctive marks and notes were a tendency to flat feet; scar both sides of his neck for excision of glands and an injured left shoulder with movement slightly impaired. Next-of-kin was his wife Mrs Fanny Maxwell of Farm No. 537, Leeton via Yanco, NSW nominating three-fifths of his pay to support her and their children. He was sworn in at Rosebery Park the same day.

Allotment was to the Mining Corps Reinforcements until July 7, 1916 then transferred to their training camp at Seymour, Victoria and placed with the October / November 1916 Reinforcements to the Tunnelling Companies. His rank was Sapper with the regimental number 5779. In preparation for departure he was Acting Corporal for the ‘voyage only’.

The 516 Reinforcements departed Melbourne, Victoria on October 25, 1916 at 1.30pm aboard the transport HMAT A38 Ulysses. The Australian coastline disappeared from view on October 30, 1916 with the port of Durban reached at 11.30am on November 13, 1916. Windy weather was experienced going around the Cape and arrived at Cape Town at 7am on November 19. Sierra Leone was the next port of call but their departure was delayed until December 14, 1916 as it was not safe to proceed further. Arrived at Plymouth, England on December 28, 1916 after 65 days at sea, with the troops disembarking at 1.30pm and detrained to the station at Tidworth marching into the Aust Details camp at Perham Downs for further training for the front. He was assigned as E.D.P. Corporal (extra duty pay) while in camp.

The Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission at 33 Hunter Street, Sydney wrote to Base Records on January 19, 1917 requesting information of rank, regimental number and date of embarkation on their employee Sapper Henry Maxwell. They also required information on any military promotion since embarkation including the date, his rank and pay rate. Base Records replied on January 26 to the Commission giving them the information and place. The writer also included he was promoted to Acting Corporal at the pay rate of six shillings per diem with an extra duty pay of four shillings for the voyage only. The Commission wrote back on January 31, 1917 asking if they could be advised when he ceases to be paid the four shillings extra duty pay as such information was necessary to enable adjustment of payments between Civil and Military pay made by the Commission.

The Reinforcement proceeded to France from Folkstone on January 28, 1917 arriving at the Aust. General Base Depot at Etaples a day later where he reverted to the rank of Sapper then appointed acting Corporal E.D.P.

On February 7, 1917 Base Records wrote to the District Paymaster 2nd Military District quoting the Commission’s last request adding that they had no record at present of the soldier’s reversion from Acting Corporal.

With his civil qualifications of mechanic and engine driver he would be more beneficial to the work of the Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company therefore was transferred on Supernumerary strength with this company on February 24, 1917 reverting to the rank of Sapper.

Service continued without incident until August 7, 1917 when he went sick to the 2 /3 London Field Ambulance with N.Y.D. (not diagnosed yet) and was discharged to duty on August 15 returning on August 28, 1917.

Blue Chevrons were issued to wear on his uniform for serving twelve months abroad.

The Commission sent a letter to Base Records dated May 5, 1918 referring to the reply dated January 25, 1917 and were inquiring if Sapper Maxwell had received any further promotion since embarkation and if so, the details. Base Records replied on May 14, 1918 that Sapper embarked as Acting Corporal and reverted to the ranks on January 28, 1917 and appointed Acting Corporal the following day and reverted to Sapper on February 23, 1917 and since then no further advice on promotion has been received. The same pay rates were given.

The Commission wrote to Base Records on June 10, 1918 stating that advice from the Paymaster, 2nd Military District gave the dates from 25/10/16 to 28/12/16, a period of 65 days amounting to £13. These details did not reconcile with the dates contained in their last letter and could they again go into the matter and advise which date is correct. In their June 20, 1918 reply Base Records stated that in a report to hand he marched into Perham Downs on December 29, 1916. It appears that the date from the District Paymaster is correct and that the soldier was again appointed Acting Corporal between 28/12/16 and 29/1/17 although there was no advice to hand to that effect. Records show his reversion to the ranks and re-appointment on the latter date.

Sergeant E.G. ‘Hughie’ Dodd was also a member of the company and kept a diary of his work and service while on the front. He mentions Sapper Maxwell as follows during 1918:

July 29
No. 1 cylinder on Austin missing pretty badly. Shall go over tappets when it closes down. The driver on tonight (Maxwell) could not get Aster to start up. Some things men don't know.

He was noted to be still attached to the Company and on August 1, 1918 taken on strength.

Further 1918 entries in the Dodd Diary are as follows:

August 6
Rees and myself went around to Barts. Cut off about 16 lamps. Maxwell and myself had a argument on HP of petrol and steam. Things seem to be going pretty well down south.

September 2

McLean and Woolfe went out to Annequin for rhubarb. Pick and myself went to Barts. Everything Jake. On getting home found Fernandez missing. He was eventually found buried in a latrine. Shall try for a congratulation for Pick and Taylor, both kids. Johnny shelling pretty heavily when these two and Maxwell went out and dug him out. He was not hurt very badly if all reports be true. McLean and Lionel put up a fine tea tonight. This division never put over gas last night but at 3.30 Maxwell was on shift. Came in with a "stand-to" as Johnny was over and at 4.30 we tried to advance our lines, and you never saw anything like it in the whole of your life! One great big mess. One platoon of Black Watch got over and could not get back.

September 4
McLean sent a wire to say that Piccaninny and Maxwell had been gassed and were in hospital.

On September 5, 1918 Sapper was gassed in a shell attack and classed as wounded in action being admitted to the 112th Field Ambulance then sent to the 18th Casualty Clearing Station the next day. The following day was conveyed on A.T.11 to the 2nd Aust General Hospital at Boulogne on September 8 remaining for treatment of mustard gas poisoning until transferred to the 7th Convalescent Depot on October 15, 1918.

Base Records regretfully advised his wife on September 23, 1918 that her husband had been admitted to hospital on September 6 after being gassed but his actual condition had not been stated.

The Water Commission sent their inquiry letter dated October 9, 1918 to Base Records if any further promotion had occurred since reversion on February 23, 1917 for Sapper Maxwell. Base Records replied on October 14, 1918 that they had no record of promotion and referred them to the District Paymaster at Victoria Barracks, Sydney.

He was transferred to the 10th Convalescent Depot at Escault and on October 20 was discharged to the 5th Rest Station. He returned to the Aust General Base Depot in Rouelles on October 24 and returned to his unit on November 5, 1918.

Sapper Maxwell was with the company when Peace was declared and they remained on the front continuing to generate electricity and supply and service small engines and pumps for water supplies to those rehabilitating their areas.

Leave was granted to England from December 2 to December 16 and returned to duty.

He was to proceed on Special Leave on April 3 to April 17, 1919 to England and taken on strength from April 16 with A.I.F. Headquarters for Non-Military Employment (NME) with pay and subsistence for three months for the purpose of attending Castle Motor Coy Ltd, Kidderminster to learn erection of Electrical Machinery.

The Water Commission sent their inquiry letter dated May 21, 1919 inquiring if any further promotion had occurred since 23/2/17. Base Records advised on May 27 that no record of promotion had been received since his reversion to his present rank on 23/2/17.

On July 16, 1919 he returned to Headquarters, London and granted further leave until July 30 before reporting to Sutton Veny.

After demobilisation Sapper Maxwell embarked for Australia on September 7, 1919 on board H.T. Euripides. Base Records advised his wife on October 2, 1919 that he was on his way home. The ship docked in Sydney (2nd M.D.) News of their arrival was reported in the:

At the Anzac Buffet in the Sydney Domain on October 24 he was medically assessed by the Embarkation Medical Board. His statement of case reads:

I am not suffering from any disability due to or aggravated by War Service and feel fit and well.

(sgd) H. Maxwell.

He was confirmed for discharge.

Military discharge was issued in Sydney (2nd M.D.) on December 8, 1919 on termination of his period of enlistment.

Henry is registered in the New Zealand Electoral Roll in 1935 residing at 20 Eltham Road, Kohimaram E.1 working as a salesman.

In 1954 he is living at 112 Barker Street, Kingsford with no occupation.

Henry Maxwell passed away on January 1, 1961 at Randwick, NSW. Funeral announcement appeared in the:


Former members of the (Alphabet Company) Aust Electrical & Mechanical Mining & Boring Company and Tunnellers’ in Sydney would meet to march in the Anzac Day parade then attend their annual luncheon. Roll Registers for newsletters of this annual event were kept and his name appears as follows:

1928H. Maxwell112 Barker St, Kingsfordchanged to: c/o Kitts Ltd, Mining Brokers, Auckland, NZ

changed to: 634 D.I.C. Buildings, Wellington NZ

notation: letter returned 5/3/29

1934H. MaxwellD.I.C. Buildings, Wellingtonnotation: not at this address

Aarons Crt, 7 Upper Bayview St, Nth Sydney

changed to: 295 New North Rd

changed to: 4 Darley St, Darlinghurst

changed to: 29 Norfolk st, Paddington

noted 1953: 112 Barker St, Kingsford

1960-68Maxwell, H.112 Barker St, Kingsfordnotation: letter returned unknown 1960

© Donna Baldey 2013