Monthly Archives: April 2015

Vaulx Hill Cemetery – France


On 6th September 2014 Stephen and I drove to Vaulx Hill Cemetery, which is located near the village of Vaulx-Vraucaourt in France, 6 km north-east of Baupaume.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, Vaulx Hill Cemetery started in September 1918, and further graves were added after the Armistice from the nearby battlefields.

There are 856 Commonwealth soldiers either buried or commemorated in this cemetery.

Samuel Luke, a labourer on enlistment per his service record, who joined the Coo-ees at St. Marys, is the only Coo-ee buried in this cemetery. He was killed in action on 21st April 1917.

The photograph below shows Samuel Luke’s grave (centre) at Vaulx Hill Cemetery.

Vaulx Hill Cemetery, France (Photograph: S & H Thompson, 6/9/2014)

Vaulx Hill Cemetery, France (Photograph: S & H Thompson, 6/9/2014)

A photograph of the headstone on Samuel Luke’s grave will be placed on his individual blog entry, and form part of a Roll of Honour for the fallen Coo-ees on this blog.

New tab titled The Men

I have added a new tab titled “The Men” to the website, which provides an alphabetical list of those Coo-ees for which I have written an individual blog entry to date.

I am writing a blog entry for each of the 263  individual Coo-ees.  However, it takes time to research each one’s service record and to find any newspaper articles, photographs, etc. relating to each person.  This is an ongoing project, so please go to the website from time to time to see what new names have been added to the list.

Please click on the name  of the Coo-ee to be linked to their blog entry.  Please also click on the tags for their names at the bottom of their record to go to other entries on this website containing a reference to their names.

Coo-ees in the Battle of Fromelles, and the first Coo-ee to die on active service

Coo-ees in the Battle of Fromelles, and the first Coo-ee to die on active service

On the 16th February 1916 15 Coo-ees departed Sydney as 14th Reinforcement for the 13th Battalion aboard the HMAT A70 Ballarat. These men left Sydney before the bulk of the Coo-ees embarked from Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on the 8th March 1916.

Upon the arrival of the HMAT A70 Ballarat in Egypt on the 22nd March 1916, these 15 Coo-ees were transferred to the 54th Battalion. Two of them (Percy George Brown and John William Thompson) fell ill and was hospitalised, but the other 13 departed for France on 19th June 1916 aboard the HT Caledonian, arriving at Marseilles on 29th June 1916.

After their arrival in France another Coo-ee fell ill (John Martin) and was hospitalised in England. Two others (John Tarlington and Colin David Wren) transferred to the 4th Pioneer Battalion, and another (Eugene Norris) to the 57th Battalion, with nine Coo-ees remaining with the 54th Battalion.

The 54th Battalion was one of the four battalions that comprised the 14th Brigade, and the 57th Battalion was one of the four Battalions of the 15th Brigade. Both Brigades were part of the 5th Australian Division that fought in the Battle of Fromelles. The Battle of Fromelles on the 19th July 1916 was the first major battle to be fought by Australian troops on the Western Front, and the 54th Battalion suffered heavy casualties. The 57th Battalion was in reserve during that initial assault, and the Coo-ee in that Battalion was not injured.

According to the Australian War Memorial (, the Battle of Fromelles was a disaster, and  the ‘worst 24 hours in Australian history’, with 5,533 Australian casualties in one night, which was  ‘equivalent to the total Australian casualties in the Boer War, Korean War and Vietnam War put together’.   The attack commenced at 6 pm on 19th July 1916, and was over by 8 am on the 20th July.

Of the nine Coo-ees in the 54th Battalion at Fromelles, 42 year old Charles William Gordon Conroy (who joined the Coo-ees at Orange), and 19 year old Joseph Patrick Wallis (Wailes) (who joined the Coo-es at Dubbo) were both killed in action during the Battle of Fromelles, on 19th/20th July 1916.  They were both listed with no known grave, and their names were commemorated at the V.C. Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles, France.   The body of Joseph Wallis was identified in 2010, and he was reinterred in the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery in France.

Henry Blakeman (Lithgow), James Dawson (Lithgow), John Fox (Bathurst) and William Walker (Molong) were wounded at the Battle of Fromelles. Joseph Armstrong (who joined the Coo-ees at Dubbo) and Donald Stewart, one of the youngest of the Coo-ees, (who joined at Wellington), were captured, and spent the rest of the First World War as prisoners of war. Only one of the nine Coo-ees in the 54th Battalion (Edwin Fuller from Orange) survived the Battle of Fromelles unscathed.

However, Thomas Thorne, (who joined the Coo-ees at Lawson), was the first of the Coo-ees to die while on active service overseas. He embarked from Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on 8th March 1916, and had arrived in Egypt on the 11th April 1916. Acting Sergeant Thomas Thorne became ill while on a transport ship taking him from Egypt to England, and he was admitted to Devonport Military Hospital on 16th June 1916. He died of illness two days later of Pneumonia on 18th June 1916 (aged 23), having not seen any active service.

Note: I wish to acknowledge the research assistance of Stephen Thompson in writing this article.