Lewis Reginald DUFF

Lewis Reginald DUFF

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4766), Lewis Reginald Duff was born at Katoomba, N.S.W. [1]  He gave his age as 18 years and 6 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as labourer.  His description on his Certificate of Medical Examination form was height 5 feet 5 ¾ inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair.  His religious denomination was Presbyterian.  He claimed that he had no previous military service.

His father Lewis J. Duff gave his consent on his son’s Application to Enlist in the Australian Imperial Force form.  Lewis Reginald Duff completed his medical examination at Katoomba on 5th November 1915, and was attested by Lieutenant F. Middenway at Katoomba on the same day.

‘Lewis Duff’ was named in The Blue Mountain Echo as one of ‘the lads who answered the call, and marched out with the Coo-ees’ at Katoomba.[2]

After completing the Co-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Alma Cottage, Lurline Street, Katoomba, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, L. Duff, at the same address.

On 8th March 1916 Private Duff, along with many of the other Coo-ees, departed Sydney on the HMAT A15 Star of England.  He arrived in Egypt on 11th April 1916.

On 19th April 1916 he was transferred to the 45th Battalion in Egypt.

On 2nd June 1916 Private Duff left Alexandria aboard the transport Kinfauns Castle bound for France.  He arrived at Marseilles on 8th June 1916.

Private Duff served with the 45th Battalion in France and Belgium for most of the remainder of the First World War.

Letters sent home to his parents which were published in The Blue Mountain Echo, in which he is usually referred to by his middle name, “Reg. Duff” (as both his father and grandfather were called Lewis Duff), tell us something of his experiences during the war.

A letter dated 15th September 1916 that Private Duff wrote to his parents at Katoomba was printed in The Blue Mountain Echo: “I have just come from the trenches, after a solid seven days without a spell. This is my third stretch out, and, so far, I’m altogether. Scratched in several places, but nothing serious. Our last experience was the worst, so far. It rained nearly all the time, and, in some places, we were up to our knees in mud and water. It was deadly, but we bogged through. We were relieved by the Canadians – fine fellows, fine fighters. I doubt if we will go back to the old lines. We are being re-fitted, and it is rumoured we are to the entrained and sent to another part of the front. All our old cloth go to the wash. It is commencing to get very cold here, and we are getting the misty rains, just like the Mountains… I forgot to mention our company received ‘special mention’ in army orders for the work done. Our officers are very proud- so that’s something”.[3]

His brother Cecil Duff wrote home to his parents from England in late 1916 that “I met an officer of the platoon young Reg. is in last Monday, and he gives a good account of him’’ and he said “Reg. was a game little fighter, very hardy, and was well liked…”.[4]

The next entry in Private Duff’s service record is not for nine months after he arrived in France, when it was recorded that on 5th March 1917 he was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Three months later, on 14th June 1917 he was promoted to Temporary Corporal.

His rank was made Corporal on 15th July 1917.

In a letter to his parents [not dated] that was published in The Blue Mountain Echo on 28th September 1917, Corporal Duff wrote: “Orders are out for another push on the Flanders front, and long ere you receive this we will be back and up to our neck in it again.  We are getting quite used to it now, as, although I have not mentioned much about it, I have been right in the thick of it all along. I have been in very push from the beginning of last year’s offensive at Pozieres. Our Battalion went through that. We were then recalled and sent up to Ypres, in Belgium, and then back down on the Somme again, landing there for the big start in November. We hung on there till April of this year, through all the fighting at Gueudecourt. We were instrumental in forcing Fritz to retreat from Bapaume, and we followed close on his wake right up to the Hindenburg line, at Bullecourt. We didn’t go over here, but, later, when our other Battalions broke through, we returned and aided in holding our gains for a couple of days. When we were relieved, the Huns drove out successors out again, but we doubled back and took them again. After that we were sent to Messines, where there was more rough work. On the completion of that stunt (“stunt,” by the way, is a soldierism for engagement or contract), we went further along the line, where they were hard at it when my squad got furlough. You will see by the foregoing that our boys have done their bit. There are not many left of the old Battalion – that is, of the boys who came with me from Egypt. One by one they drop out, and now men take their places, but so far I’ve been lucky, very lucky. I’ve had enough escapes to account for half a dozen good men, but I’m still all together, so that’s the main thing. Hope I pull through as well on my return, as there’s lots of work ahead”.[5]

On 27th February 1918 Corporal Duff was granted leave to England.  He rejoined the 45th Battalion on 15th March 1918.

On 15th July 1918 Corporal Duff was promoted to Sergeant.

On 31st August 1918 Sergeant Duff was detached for duty to the Permanent Cadre of the 3rd Training Brigade in England.

On 2nd September 1918 Sergeant Duff arrived at Folkstone, England from France.  On 3rd September 1918 Sergeant Duff marched in to the 3rd Training Brigade and to the Permanent Cadre at the Musketry School in Tidworth, England.

On 23rd September 1918 Sergeant Duff was detached to the Drill School at Chelsea, England.

On 20th October 1918 Sergeant Duff was taken on strength of the 12th Training Battalion at Hurdcott, England.

On 11th November 1918 Sergeant Duff was transferred to the No. 2 Camp at Park House, England.

On 14th December 1918 he returned to the 12th Training Battalion.

The Blue Mountains Echo on 28th March 1919 printed an extract from a letter sent by Sergeant Reg. Duff to his mother from Hurdcott, England, in which he stated that he “received three parcels last night (23.1.19)” and that” One was from home, with Xmas cake and sox…”, and that “I was expecting to be going home shortly ; but I had a disappointment yesterday, when they told me I would be going back to France on January 28… I am just back from my Xmas leave. I had a few days in Scotland, but spent most of my time in London, as I know some nice people there. I had only been back from my leave a few days when they gave me the Xmas leave. Well, I don’t want any more leave now ; I’ll wait until I get home”.[6]

On 29th January 1919 Sergeant Duff departed Southampton bound for France.  He arrived at the Australian Base Depot at Le Harve, France, on 30th January 1919.  He rejoined the 45th Battalion on 5th February 1919.

On 6th April 1919 Sergeant Duff arrived at the Australian Base Depot at Le Harve to commence his return to Australia.

On 15th April 1919 Sergeant Duff departed France bound for England.  On 16th April he marched into the No. 4 Group at Hurdcott, England.

On 2nd June 1919 Sergeant Duff departed Devonport, England, aboard the H.T. Beltana bound for Australia.

He arrived in Australia on 19th July 1919.  He was discharged Termination of Period of Enlistment on 12th September 1919.


[1] NAA: B2455, DUFF L R

[2] ‘March o’er the Mountains’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 12 November 1915, p. 3. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108042142

[3] ‘The Soldiers’ Mailbag’, The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 – 1928), 10 November 1916, p. 1. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108042760

[4] ‘Fragments from France, The Blue Mountain Echo, 2 February 1917, p. 3. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108248522

[5] ‘Right in the Thick of It’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 28 September 1917, p. 1. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108249657

[6] ‘News of Our Boys’, The Blue Mountain Echo,  28 March 1919, p. 6. Retrieved March 7, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108246428

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