Aug 8, 2014

James Andrew RALPH [1897 - 1915]

James Ernest Ralph is the second child of Alfred Ernest Ralph and Mary Annie Brennan who were married at Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia on 29th April 1893.

James (or Jim as he was known) was born in Carlton,  a suburb of Melbourne on 7th January 1897 and it was probably around 1909 before the family moved to Coolamon in New South Wales.

Jim left his family home at Coolamon, NSW, and unbeknown to his family, enlisted at Liverpool (Sydney) on 19 Jan 1915, and was given the service Number 2013.  His enlistment papers, first copy, are in his own handwriting, and allow the reader to appreciate the human side of his character when compared to subsequent sanitised copies of the form.   Jim gave his age as 21, yet he was born in 1897, making him 17 on enlistment.   He was aware that he needed his parents permission to join, and knowing that wouldn't be given, he cheated and upped his age.  

By the time his parents became aware he had enlisted, it was too late, he had left Australia.  On 13 Apr 1915 he boarded HMAT A55 "Kyarra" enroute from Sydney via Perth to Gallipoli.  

His enlistment form also shows his immaturity and lack of education.   He spelt his birth place Melbourne without the "e".   He left the "r" out of Andrew.   He nominated his "Farther" as his next of kin.   He claimed his occupation as a "Farm Woker", on another form "Farm Wroke".  

None of this should detract from his love of freedom for his nation, his desire to serve his country, and his love of his family.

Jim was 5' 8" tall (170cm) with a chest measurement of 31", expanding to 33 1/2".  He weighed 134lbs, (about 58kg).  His complexion was fair, eyes were blue and his hair was fair.   His religion was RC.  Various subsequent enlistment documents show a variety of "distinctive marks".    Varying from one form to the next he had a vaccination scar (location not stated), on another he had a "scar on right side forehead".   Another states he had only a "scar on left forearm".

While Jim was 'at sea' on board the Kyarra,
his Battalion - The 4th Battalion - took part in the Anzac landing on 25 April 1915 as part of the second and third waves.

This blog posting is perhaps more about the 4th Battalion and the Battle of Lone Pine than of James Ralph himself. It is because we know so little about him personally and quite a bit more is available regarding the 4th Battalion and the Battle of Lone Pine!

The 4th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Battalions it was recruited from New South Wales and, together with these other battalions, formed the 1st Brigade.
The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. The battalion took part in the Anzac landing on 25 April 1915 as part of the second and third waves. The commander of the 4th Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel A. J. O. Thompson, was killed the next day.

At Anzac, the battalion took part in the defence of the beachhead and in August 1915, along with the rest of the 1st Brigade, led the charge at Lone Pine. This is when Pvt James Andrew Ralph was killed.

The battalion served at Anzac until the evacuation in December.

On 17th June 1915, James joined his Battalion at Gallipoli and the following day (18th) he was at McLaurin's Hill where they were doing Trench Garrison Duty.  There was heavy fighting during this time, but they continued with "trench duty" until early August.

On 1st August 1915 the 4th Bn was relieved by the 8th Battalion and withdrew 'for some rest'. 

McLaurin's Hill is named after Colonel H. N. McLaurin who was KIA 27 April 1915 and is buried here McLaurin's Hill.

The "Ottoman Empire" was the original name for Turkey

When going through the diaries of the 4th Battalion, I came across one of the 'messages'.  These 'messages' were delivered by 'runners' usually.  Their duties were quite straightforward - to carry messages to and from the officers, from a Commander stuck in a trench to his battalion CO; from the Battalion to Battalions, and so on.

Clearly identifiable - at least in daylight - by the red arm-bands fixed around their left forearm, trench runners (or messengers) were drawn from both a specialised and everyday background.  The function of a runner was not simply to bear messages from one area or command unit to another, although this featured prominently.

More critically - and requiring specialisation - qualified runners would be expected to closely familiarise themselves with areas of the front line into which a battalion would soon enter, generally so as to relieve the line's present occupants. In order therefore to be able to guide the newly-arriving troops with accuracy - particularly given that many such troop movements were undertaken nocturnally under cover of darkness - runners would need to excel both at map-reading and at reconnaissance, generally working in pairs and often with perhaps eight working upon the same task at various parts of the line.

Speed and accuracy were essential in ensuring that the relieving force were in place before daylight; in short, before the enemy force could catch troops in the open with artillery fire.

The following is one of those message's written on 20th July 1915 from the First Infantry Brigade and it reads as:

Propose to occupy crater opposite 4th Bn. tonight (?) please instruct your night unit and Japanese Mortar not to fire in this direction.

One has to wonder how accurate these messages were, or at the very least how often were they believed or taken notice of?

In the afternoon of Friday 6th August 1915, The Battalion was formed at 3.15pm preparatory to moving to attack in Lone Pine. An attack was launched at 5.30pm.

The Battalion suffered severe casualties and returned to Anzac Cove on 9th Aug.

The Battle of Lone Pine (also known as the Battle of Kanlı Sırt) was fought between Australian and Ottoman Empire (now known as Turkey) forces during the First World War between 6 and 10 August 1915. Part of the Gallipoli campaign, the battle was part of a diversionary attack to draw Ottoman attention away from the main assaults against Sari Bair, Chunuk Bair and Hill 971, which became known as the August Offensive.

The Australians, initially at brigade strength, managed to capture the main Ottoman trench line from the battalion that was defending the position in the first few hours of the fighting; however, the fighting continued for the next three days as the Ottomans brought up reinforcements and launched numerous counterattacks in an attempt to recapture the ground they had lost. As the counterattacks intensified the Australians brought up two fresh battalions.

Finally, on 9 August the Ottomans called off any further attempts and by 10 August offensive action ceased, leaving the Australians in control of the position. Nevertheless, despite the Australian victory, the wider August Offensive of which the attack had been a part failed and a situation of stalemate developed around Lone Pine which lasted until the end of the campaign in December 1915 when the Australian troops were evacuated from the peninsula.

above image .....

A trench at Lone Pine on 8 August 1915. The scene captures something of the savagery of the action. Sergeant Apear de Vine, 4th Battalion, NSW, of Maroubra, Sydney, wrote of the dead:

they are stacked out of the way in any convenient place sometimes thrown up on to the parados so as not to block the trenches, there are more dead than living

[De Vine, quoted in Bill Gammage, The Broken Years, Ringwood, 1990, p 84] [AWM A04029]

Lone Pine was a strong and important position to the Turks. They had not expected such an attack here and the order was quickly given to retake lost positions. For three days and nights Australians and Turks struggled in the trenches and dark tunnels of Lone Pine until the area was choked with the wounded, dying and dead:

The wounded bodies of both Turks and our own … were piled up 3 and 4 deep … the bombs simply poured in but as fast as our men went down another would take his place. Besides our own wounded the Turks’ wounded lying in our trench were cut to pieces with their own bombs. We had no time to think of our wounded … their pleas for mercy were not heeded … Some poor fellows lay for 30 hours waiting for help and many died still waiting.

[Private John Gammage, 1st Battalion, quoted in Les Carlyon, Gallipoli, Sydney, 2001, p 360]

Lone Pine was a battle of bombs, bullets and bayonets fought to defend sandbag walls built by both sides to block up a trench at the forward most point of the advance or counter attack. The Australians tried to hold what they had taken; the Turks fought equally determinedly to expel them from it.

James Andrew Ralph was KIA sometime between 6th and 9th of August 1915 at Lone Pine, though it is believed to have been 6th August when most of the fierce battle took place.

Some readers may be aware of the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery near Anzac Cove.

The 4th Battalion Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was drawn from New South Wales. From the end of April to the beginning of June 1915, it buried its dead, and six from other units, in a cemetery on the road from Wire Gully to Anzac Cove (Bridges Road). This burial ground became known as the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery; and it was enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of 76 graves from two smaller cemeteries and from the surrounding battlefields. The cemetery now contains the graves of 107 soldiers from Australia, three sailors or Marines from the United Kingdom, and six men whose unit in our forces is not known. Seven of the graves are unidentified by name. The area is 636 square yards.

Further information on the above Cemetery is here.

Pvt James Andrew Ralph - aged 18 years - was one of the 4,934 Australian and New Zealand troops killed in the sector that were never identified and have no known grave.

In addition special memorials commemorate 182 Australian and 1 British soldier thought to be buried in the cemetery but whose graves have not been identified.

This year’s artwork by noted Australian artist Drew Harrison was commissioned especially for the 2013 Sands of Gallipoli Collection. It depicts the initial Lone Pine assault late in the afternoon of August 6 as three Australian battalions of the 1st Brigade storm open ground to challenge the main Turkish front trenches. Despite superb fortification by the Turks the Australian battalions took just 20 minutes to win the ground. Over the next three days a bloody battle ensued as Turkish soldiers relentlessly fought to regain the lost territory.

James Andrew Ralph
was one of the above brave men 
that stormed the Turkish trenches
but lost his life in doing so.

may he rest in peace

The short and tragic Army service of James Andrew Ralph was rewarded by the posthumous awards of :

     *   1914-15 Star. (13Aug1920)

     *   British War Medal 1914-20. (15Jul1921)

     *   Victory Medal (1922).

     *   Memorial Scroll and King's message, (15Aug1921)

     *   Memorial Plaque.

      *   Anzac Commemorative Medallion 1965.

AIF Postcard: This "Au Revoir" AIF postcard was not signed by James Andrew Ralph. It is assumed that James intended to send the card to his family, but his death at Lone Pine intervened. It was lovingly kept with his service medals and his War Graves of the British Empire Cemetery Register amongst the private possessions of his sister, Myrtle. Prior to her death in 1977, she passed these only mementos of her favourite brother to her son Robert John Matthews upon his return from active service in South Vietnam.

James Andrew Ralph's 
name will be projected onto the exterior of the
Hall of Memory at AWM in Canberra on:

Wed 20 August, 2014 at 9:03 pm
Sat 4 October, 2014 at 4:37 am
Thu 27 November, 2014 at 12:16 am
Wed 21 January, 2015 at 2:20 am
Sat 14 March, 2015 at 12:50 am
Tue 28 April, 2015 at 12:43 am
Mon 8 June, 2015 at 1:34 am
Wed 15 July, 2015 at 6:31 pm

These dates and times are estimates.
The actual time of projection could change as a result of weather and other factors, so it is advisable to check closer to the date. In the rare  event of a temporary loss of electrical power, the names scheduled for display in that period will not appear until the next time listed.

1914-15 Star, may be awarded to those who saw service in a prescribed Theatre of War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915, commonly referred to as "Pip". (2) British War Medal, for service during and immediately after WW 1, known as "Squeak". (3) Victory Medal, awarded to all members of the 14 Allied Powers who entered a theatre of war on duty in WW 1, known as "Wilfred".
Nicknames came from comic strip characters published in the Daily Mirror.

From Robert Matthews....

James sister, Myrtle Ralph, aged 8 at the time of his death, had a lifelong belief that Jim was buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Grave Site 23.   In April 2008 it was established that Jim's body was never identified, he has no known grave, but is presumed buried with his other 4900 "unknown" comrades and foe, at Lone Pine, known only unto their God.  
His death is commemorated on Panel 23 at the Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli.

In Feb 2010, the son of Myrtle - Robert Matthews - was researching stories of other "Unknown" soldiers killed in WWI.  

He came across a poem, written by Michael Edwards called "The Visitor".   The poem illustrates the distressed feelings of the lost soul of a lonely Unknown Soldier, lost for almost one hundred years, and underlies the relief when family eventually came to the cemetery and reclaimed, not his unknown lost body, but his lost soul.

"I half awake to a strange new calm
And a sleep that would not clear
For this was the sleep to cure all harm
And which freezes all from fear.

Shot had come from left and right
with shrapnel, shell and flame
And turned my sunlit days to night
Where now none would call my name.

Years passed me by as I waited,
Missed the generations yet to come,
Sadly knew I would not be fated
To be a father, hold a son.

I heard again the sounds of war
When twenty years of sleep had gone,
For five long years, maybe more,
Til peace once more at last had come.

More years passed, new voices came,
The stones and trenches to explore,
But no-one ever called my name
So I wished and waited ever more.

Each time I thought , perhaps, perhaps,
Perhaps this time they must call me,
But they only called for other chaps,
No-one ever called to set me free.

Through years of lonely vigil kept,
To look for me they never came,
No-one ever searched or even wept,
Nobody stayed to speak my name.

Until that summer day I heard
Some voices soft and stained with tears,
Then I knew that they had come
To roll away those wasted years.

Their hearts felt out to hold me,
Made me whole like other men,
But they had come just me to see,
Drawing me back home with them.

Now I at peace and free to roam
Where 'ere my family speak my name,
That day my soul was called back home
For on that day my family came."

with grateful thanks to the following websites for help & support
but especially for the use of their data and images so that we can have access to what is needed for us to remember our fallen hero's:

AWM 4th Battalion War Diaries

Australian War Memorial

Australian National Archives

Wikipedia - Battle of Lone Pine

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Sands of Gallipoli

and many thanks to Rob Matthews (nephew of James Ralph)

for the help, support and of course, the extra data!



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