Sapper James Robert Pitt

Sapper James Robert Pitt


5805 – 3rd Tunnelling Company

James Robert Pitt was born on February 11, 1891 in Townsville, Queensland the son of James and Caroline Maria (nee Nielsen) Pitt. He stated he had a previous conviction for riding a bicycle without a lamp. His occupation was Hostler/Ostler and resided at Merewether, NSW.

At the Newcastle, NSW recruiting depot on April 17, 1916 the twenty-three year old applied to enlist for active service abroad. Passing the medical examination his description on enlistment shows he was 159cms (5ft 2½ins) tall, weighed 53.1kgs (117lbs) with a chest measurement of 87cms (34ins). Complexion was fair with light brown hair and testing to good vision were his grey eyes. Church of England was his religion. Next-of-kin was his mother Mrs Maria Hill of Maitland Street, Stockton, NSW.

On May 1, 1916 he entered the A.I.F. Depot at West Maitland, NSW as a Private in ‘D Coy’ then allotted on May 5 to the Newcastle Depot Battalion at Broadmeadow camp in ‘A Coy’ to complete basic training. On July 5 was transferred to the Miners’ Training Camp at Seymour, Victoria in the rank of Sapper with the regimental number 5805 as a member of the November 1916 Reinforcement to the Tunnelling Companies.

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. They marched into the Aust Details Camp at Perham Downs for further training for the front on New Year’s Day, 1917.

On January 28, 1917 the Reinforcement proceeded to France on the transport S.S. Onward and marched into the Aust General Base Depot the next day.

Sapper Pitt was assigned on February 6, 1917 to the 1st Anzac Entrenching Battalion 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.

Exactly one year later after his arrival at the West Maitland training camp in Australia he was transferred on May 1, 1917 to the 3rd Tunnelling Company in the field and attached on May 4 and taken on strength two days after that.

During his service he suffered no injuries or illness and was counted in an audit on April 26, 1918. His service continued safely until Peace was declared and the Tunnelling Companies remained as part of the Army of Occupation assisting with the rehabilitation of their area by clearing roads and bridges of bombs and traps left by the enemy.

He proceeded on leave on December 1 and rejoined his unit on December 19, 1918.

He went sick on March 3, 1919 to the 72nd Field Ambulance and diagnosed with a Social Disease then transferred to the 51st Casualty Clearing Station. Two days later was transported on A.T.5 to the 57th General Hospital entering a day later. On March 25 was moved to the 39th General Hospital for four days then conveyed to England on the hospital ship Aberdonian on March 30 and admitted to the 1st Aust Dermatological Hospital at Bulford. After 87 days curative care he was sent to the Convalescent Training Camp at Parkhouse on June 12, 1919 and then relocated to the No. 3 Group Camp at Codford on June 24.

On August 18, 1919 he left for the No. 2 Group camp for demobilisation.

Sapper Pitt boarded the H.T. Port Sydney on September 11, 1919 for the return voyage to Australia. His mother was advised on October 14, 1919 that he was on his way home. The ship docked in Melbourne, Vic (3rd M.D.) on November 12, 1919 and he returned to Sydney, NSW (2nd M.D.) soon after.

Military Discharge was issued in Sydney, NSW (2nd M.D.) on December 29, 1919 at the termination of his period of enlistment.

The British War Medal (60688) and the Victory Medal (58777) were issued to Sapper James Robert Pitt, 3rd Tunnelling Company for serving his country.

He married in 1921 in Merewether, NSW to Elizabeth Haldane.

From 1930 until 1954 their address was King Street, Stockton and his occupation was a carter.

James Robert Pitt died on March 22, 1968 aged 77 years.

A request was issued to Base Records from the Repatriation Department on May 1, 1968 (52 years after his enlistment date) for copies of his service records and these were remitted on May 8, 1968.

© Donna Baldey 2011