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What The Hills?!


What Happened to Charlie? (Transcript)

Apr 23, 2022

This week on What The Hills we present a special Anzac program.

For me as a kid growing up in a service family I've seen Anzac day dawn services all over the country.  At military bases, in major cities, in tiny country towns, and at the beach.  I've seen the popularity of attending the services swell leading up to the centenary of the 1915 landing at Gallipoli, and it's been heartening to see so many young people attending, either with their families or independently.

This year, I have a story to share with you.  Over the past few years I've been slowly researching the history of my great great uncle Charlie:  Charles Roy Stanbridge.  Along the way I've learned about not only Charlie, but his group of mates, named in the newspapers of the time as the Gallipoli Die-Hards.

We all have a story of a service person in the family.  Whether it's as old as that of Charlie and his mates, or it's someone serving today, all the stories deserve to be told, and to be heard.

 

Charles Roy Stanbridge was born on 1 December 1894 to Charles and Mary Ann Stanbridge of Wolfram Street Broken Hill.

He had a lot of siblings including his brother George and sisters Florrie, Una, Nina, Gertie, Chrissy and Ivy.  Dad, Charles senior was into a lot of sports, was a member of local community groups, and ran a bit of slightly illegal bookmaking on the side.  Mum Mary Ann was busy wrangling all her offspring - and they were an energetic lot.  The Stanbridge kids were active in school, in sport and at church. 

When Charlie was six years old there was a fire in the kitchen out the back of the house, but the neighbours quickly brought it under control before too much damage was done to the house.  The family's financial situation made repairs difficult, but somehow they managed.

Charlie attended Broken Hill District School, and was an average student.  In fact it's probably fair to say that academic pursuits weren't of much interest to him. Charlie's siblings were also into sports, and his sister Nina was a member of the Bonnie Thistles hockey team which was the centre of a vicious on-field brawl against a visiting team, with the story making it into the local paper.

By the time he was ten years old Charlie was well into sports, following his father's footsteps into any sport around.

He joined the army cadets, and also at the age of ten was entering shooting competitions.

By the time Charlie was  sixteen his sisters had begun to marry and move on to their own lives, although young Nina went on to a long career as a nurse.

When Charlie finished school he went to work at Humphries & Sons and then at Tregoning's, working in the warehouse and driving a horse & cart.

 

On the 18th of August 1914 the call went out in the local newspaper, the Barrier Miner, that local men should be ready to undertake a medical and travel by overnight train to Morphettville for enlistment.

On 20 August Charlie was one of hundreds of men who answered the call and showed up to be given a medical check.

 

The story from the Barrier Miner, 21 August 1914 describes the scenes in Broken Hill that night.

BROKEN HILL MEN FOR ACTIVE SERVICE.
LAST NIGHT'S LEAVETAKING.       
ENTHUSIASTIC SEND-OFF TO EIGHTY MEN.

At 6.25  last night Sergeant Major Hansom ordered his squad to attention, and Broken Hill's volunteers for the Australian expeditionary force were on active service.

Prior to this the local military authorities had been busy throughout the day examining and making final selection of the men who were to leave by the express the same night.

The A.M.C and Engineers contingents were drafted without much difficulty; it was known  that 20 of the former and 43 of the latter were to go, and these were rapidly selected from the large number of volunteers who had enlisted in response to the call to arms.

A little after 6 o'clock the Engineers' drill hall in Crystal-street presented a busy appearance as Sergeant major Ransom lined up his 43 men and gave them a few preliminary instructions. He paraded the squad, about 10 of whom were in uniforms, in two lines, and earnestly appealed to them to "play the game" on the journey down and not get up to any pranks or rough horseplay which would annoy other passengers on the train and give the squad a bad name right at the very outset of its active career.

He then initiated the men into the mysteries of "form fours, "stand at ease," "attention," and other simple orders, all of which, within a few minutes, the men were able to perform rapidly and correctly. A short spell at "ease," and then came the first active service order :"Squad, 'shun Right turn. March! "The kettle-drums provided a smart beat and the men squared their shoulders and marched away four abreast via Sulphide-street and Argent-street to Oxide-street, where they halted and stood at ease in front of the entrance to the Skating Rink.

In front of the Skating Rink a band formed of instrumentalists from the Broken Hill, Broken Hill City, and the Salvation Army bands, took the lead. A huge crowd of people was assembled here, but there was no demonstration as the volunteers once more put their best feet foremost and commenced the march to the station. Just after rounding into Argent-street, however, there was a loud cheer, which was repeated again and again before the men got to Sulphide-street, while there were frequent calls from the spectators, who recognised friends among the men, of "Good luck, lad," "Good-bye, Jack,"

At the railway station an immense crowd of thousands of people had assembled to witness the departure of the troops. So congested with people was the platform and all the approaches thereto, that it was with difficulty that the men got through the booking hall and across the intervening space to the train. There was some minutes to spare before the departure of the express, during which goodbyes were uttered; not entirely without wet eyes, pathetic speeches, and clinging embraces, though these were few and far between. On the whole the last words of farewell were cheery and lively. Here and there women, some with babies, in arms, struggled through the tightly packed crowd towards friend or relative among the departees, while some sought in vain for those whom they wished to see but who were hidden  from view among the crowds in the carriages or on the platform.

Those of the volunteers who could get to the windows or on the end platforms of the carriages talked with  friends or joined in the singing of popular songs.

 Just before the whistle went for the train to draw out, the  scene became still more wildly enthusiastic. Cheers mingled with the calling out of goodbyes and the names of friends. A great cheer from thousands of throats rent the air, and a forest of hats and handkerchiefs waved farewell. The demonstration continued until the last carriage had crossed over Bromide-street.

The total number of the troops who left last night was 77, making 123 who have so far departed.

From the Barrier Miner 21 August 1914

 

Charlie's family were among those lining the streets and the train platform that night.  I can imagine that with three of his fond sisters to see him off, as well as his parents and brother, Charlie wouldn't have been able to get away without quite a few hugs and kisses and maybe a few tears.

Charlie was in good company though.  He was surrounded by his mates.  Local lads who he'd grown up with, and who would now venture into the unknown at his side.  Some of the names heard again and again alongside Charlie Stanbridge are Jacky Meade, Curly Richards, Doc White, and Sandy Glades.  When they got to Morphettville they met up with Jack Macarty, who had spent some time in Broken Hill, and was soon part of the group.

The day after boarding the train, the young men arrived in Adelaide and marched from the train station to the camp at Morphettville.  Charlie was assigned the serial number 297 and the rank of Private in H company, part of the 10th Battalion, 3rd Brigade.

You'd think that all the bustle of new men arriving every day to be processed, enlisted, supplied, trained, and prepared would be enough going on, but thousands of people visited the camp every day to see what was happening. Even the Governor visited on 1 September.

Some time during all of this busyness, Charlie found time to have a studio portrait taken in his new uniform.  It shows him so young, not yet twenty years old.  He was tall and fit and proud to be doing something for king and country.  He sent the picture home to his mother.

Three of Charlie's older sisters lived in Adelaide, and it's a good bet that they were among the visitors to the Morphettville camp as well.  I wonder, did they bring some comforts of home, maybe a cake to share with his friends?  Did they take him out for a meal?  Were they proud to see him in his uniform? What did they say to him during that long goodbye?

On the 20th of October 1914 Charlie and his mates boarded the Ascanius at Outer Harbour.

They sailed at 4.30pm, with a total of 1004 on board, made up of 31 officers, 969 men, two sister nurses, 1 YMCA representative, and somehow one man more than they had expected.  I'm a little curious about this extra individual who was noticed when they counted heads.  A photo taken in the camp once they arrived in Egypt shows that someone managed to get a kangaroo on board.

Five days later, after a very pleasant voyage, they arrived at Fremantle at 8am on a Sunday morning.  They stayed in Fremantle for a few days.  During this time two more nurses and two chaplains joined the ship

The Governor, Major General Sir Harry Barron and Lady Barron came on board to visit for a couple of hours, and enjoyed lunch with the officers.

On the first of November they set sail for Egypt.

Just over a week later the wireless operator intercepted a message from Cocos Island - an SOS to say that the Australian Navy Ship HMAS Sydney was in trouble.  The Ascanius at once steamed to the rescue.  Four hours later another message was received "The Emden is beached and done for".  This was received with great enthusiasm and cheering from all on board. The Ascanius resumed its journey northward.

Captain Müller of the Emden had taken his ship to raid the Cocos Islands, where he landed a contingent of sailors to destroy British facilities. There, Emden was attacked by the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney on 9 November 1914. The more powerful Australian ship quickly inflicted serious damage and forced Müller to run his ship aground to avoid sinking. Out of a crew of 376, 133 were killed in the battle. Most of the survivors were taken prisoner.

On the 21st of November, in the early hours of the morning, those on board had a rude awakening when the Ascanius collided with the troop ship "Shropshire".  The collision alarm was sounded, and everyone reported to the top decks with their life belts.  The officers had loaded revolvers in hand.  Soon they were instructed to move to the boat deck in case they needed to evacuate, which they did in complete silence, staying there until 5.30am.  An inspection showed that the damage was above the waterline, and the sea was calm, so everyone returned to their normal duties while repairs were carried out.

Finally, on the 6th of December, five days after Charlie's 20th birthday, and more than five weeks after they left Adelaide they arrived at Alexandria in Egypt at 4pm.  They immediately began unloading the ship.  The next day they disembarked and boarded an electric train for Cairo.  The company finally reached the training camp at Mena at about 4am.

From then on it was training day after day as they waited for word on when their active service would commence.  They learned and improved all the expected skills needed, including marching, setting up camp, digging trenches

I have a photo of Charlie and a lot of other young soldiers posing in front of the Sphinx.  Imagine the culture shock of these young men, who travelled from their homes and jobs and families, joined the army, sailed across the world for weeks on end, and found themselves in the middle of Egypt, within sight of the pyramids.  And the great unknown of war ahead of them.

Christmas day was celebrated in camp.  And boys will be boys - In February of 1915 Charlie, along with his friend George "Curley" Richards,  was AWOL from night parade and confined to barracks for 4 days.  Whatever they were doing that night proved to be their last hurrah before history overcame them.

Many of the men were becoming very aware of what they were about to face.  They wrote up hurried, and usually very short, wills with instructions for what was to be done with their worldly possessions.

On the 28th of February 1915 new orders came in.  The company left Mena by road and marched to Cairo.  From there they travelled to Alexandria where they boarded the "Ionian" at 8am on Monday 1st March.  The next day they left Alexandria and sailed to Lemnos.  From there they expected to leave for the Dardanelles within a few weeks.

During the afternoon of the 24th of April they arrived near what is now called Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

We all know what happened before the sun rose that morning.  Australian troops landed on the beach, facing an almost impossible struggle to establish and defend a position inland.

A letter published in the Advertiser on 15 July 1915 tells the story of the landing at Gallipoli, from the point of view of Charlie's mate Jack McCarthy.

LETTERS FROM THE FRONT
HOW PRIVATE STANBRIDGE DIED.

"Just a short note to let you know how Charlie Stanbridge met his death. As you know, we had to land on Gallipoli Peninsula against an enemy strongly entrenched. The 10th landed first, being the covering  party. We landed early in the morning with machine gun fire and shrapnel shell flying about us everywhere. We lost heavily, but we pushed the enemy back with the bayonet about one and a half miles. They were then too strongly entrenched for us. We were on open country, and had to dig ourselves in under heavy artillery, machine gun, and rifle fire. Several of our chaps went under. You know, I expect, by now who suffered. We are not allowed to give particulars. Just a few of us shifted back hundreds of our enemy. Poor Charlie was right up in the front line. He got hit through the head, dying instantly. He was a game boy and died doing his duty for his country. No man can do more. He always played the game and was every inch a soldier and a man. No one can realise what we have gone through. Australian people were always giving us (in Broken Hill) a bad name. I would like some of our critics to be here and see what we are doing. The Australians are the bravest lot of men that ever one would  wish to meet. They have no fear of death: in fact, they do not know what death  means. They will go anywhere. This game is good, but I think the next army I join will be the Salvation Army. We are right on a sea frontage, but do not have a swim very often. My boots have not been off for two weeks, but we don't mind as long as we beat these black devils."
Advertiser 15 July 1915

But the story doesn't stop with Charlie's death.  He was survived by some of his friends.  Another letter from Jack McCarthy was published in the Barrier miner on 18 May 1915

We have been in the trenches three weeks. It is our home now: we never  leave, them.

It is a strange life, but we are quite used to it now. We make our trenches as comfortable as possible. We get splendid food, tea three times a day, and are as happy as Australians always are.

Shrapnel is bursting around us all day, and the Turkish snipers are always busy. We fought against fearful odds; we were in the open country, and at the mercy of the enemy's artillery.

If we could have entrenched ourselves we would have been all right, but we had to lie down flat. If we raised our heads it was good-bye. It was two days before I was under cover.

We landed at 3o'clock Sunday morning, and it was Wednesday night before we got relief. I had only one bottle of water and one tin of beef the whole time. We were always thirsty, but never hungry. We were being attacked the whole time. No sleep, only watching and waiting for the Turks to rush us. We were all exhausted, and had to be taken out of the trenches. Our minds seemed dazed, and it was a week before we got over it.

We had a splendid lot of officers at our head. No one will ever know what good work they did. There were only 57 men in our line of trenches, and we kept hundreds of Turks at bay. We mowed them down as quickly as they came up. The only orders we received were "Hang on, hang on; these trenches hare got to be held while there is a man left."

We landed first, and pushed the Turks in about a mile. Our work was to keep them back while the rest of the Australians landed. If they broke through our lines we would have all been swept into the sea. . It would have been good-bye to all of us then. The Turks,  though they said in their paper they had us, we had them surrounded, and are slaughtering them in hundreds. They said "the Australians know they are doomed, but are too stubborn to give in.

We are now giving the Turks all they want - we are getting our own back; they will know pretty soon whether we are beaten or not. We have our artillery landed, so that they get plenty of shrapnel now. They are lying all over the country in front of us, and I can assure you the dead bodies don't smell too pleasant. Now and again our men sneak out and bury them, but very few in front of the firing line are buried here.

I have not changed my clothes for three weeks; sometimes I think I am lousey, other times I am sure of it. We manage to wash once a week. If we go  into the sea for a bathe they shell us,  so we remain dirty.

Captain Shaw is  our commander. He is one of the  gamest officers we have struck. We will follow him wherever he leads us. 

I suppose the Australian papers hare twisted a bit now, and instead of running us down are giving us a little praise. I would like some of those wowsers and long tongues who were continually running us down to have been with us the first week on the  Turkish soil. They would have seen then what sort of stuff Australians are. We never once retreated. The  Turks were given to understand that  we were a lot of wasters, and they  were going, to wipe us off the face of  the earth. Poor Jack Turk got the  shock 'of his life when we started on them.

If we had more men with us  I think the Turks would have been in Constantinople by now. We were  only a handful, and they were in hundreds, or I should say thousands. This may be my last letter. We cannot get paper, and are only allowed two cards  a week. We are right in the wilder-    ness, amongst scrub: not bad country, but a little too Turkish:

I feel splendid ; was never better in my life, and I  am only waiting my chance to get right I in amongst these Turks again. God help them when we get loose amongst  them again; we have got to avenge our dead comrades.

We will all be glad when we are home again. Tell Frank to dig me a trench in the backyard. I will never be able to sleep on a bed again. You would laugh if you could see us cooking. We get onions and potatoes. I was cook, and got the sack first day. They said I could not boil eggs without burning them.

Our officers will not let us send much news. We get no news of the world what-ever; we don't know anything about the war; we seldom get a paper. I would he glad if you would save the papers, so if I am lucky enough to come back I would be able to read of some of our doings; I only want to get beck to have a bath. Though we seldom  have a wash we don't feel dirty. When our clothes get too bad and the fleas make things too hot, we throw our clothes away ; then we have to do a bit of skirmishing to get more clothes; we can nearly always get some from the dead or wounded.

The dead were good friends to us the first four days in the trenches - which were days of starvation. We had plenty of food in our packs, but on our landing we had to throw our packs away, because as we had to rush forward up very steep hills, we could not carry any weight. We had to make the little food we had in our knapsacks do until night, when we had to crawl out and search our dead comrades for whatever food we could get. Those four days seem like a dream to us now.

I think we have along job here. They thought' the Dardanelles impregnable. Well, we are miles up them now, so the Turks have not got their pet place impregnable yet. The Australians are the only troops which have ever landed here successfully. When Bulgaria was fighting the Turks she attempted to land here, and all her men were cut up. And when the Greeks were fighting the Turks they lost an army attempting to land here. So you can imagine the job we have had. Well, we are here, and I don't think all the Turks in Turkey can shift us. We have warships backing us up, and they are doing splendid work.

The British sailors are the finest lot, of men we have met. They treated us like gentlemen all the time we were on their warships. I never had much time for immigrants, but my views have changed now. It was an immigrant who helped me when I nearly had my leg knocked off; he carried all my equipment for me back to the beach.

When we were relieved from the trenches a great cap off a shrapnel shell banged me a wallop on the kneecap. I thought a railway engine had run into me. My leg was stiff for a while, but it is all right now. 

Another letter home from Jack, written nearly a year after the landing, was accompanied by a picture of a couple of his mates.  The newspaper published it under the title:

THE GALLIPOLI "DIE-HARDS"
SOME BROKEN HILL MEN.

Corporal Jack M'Carthy sends to the editor of "The Miner" two postcards, each bearing the photograph of two soldiers. The cards are dated December 12 1915, from Lemnos Island. On the writing side Corporal M'Carthy gives the particulars printed below the pictures.

"The lad sitting is Private J. Midwinter, well known in South Broken Hill. He left the Hill with the late Privates Charles Stanbridge and Jacky Meade. Midwinter was wounded in the landing on April 25, but has  now been back in the firing line four months. The lad photographed with him is Private J. Kent, who was also severely wounded in the landing, and was laid up for six months. He is back again with the 10th Battalion.

Midwinter, when landing, had to jump into 6ft. of water. He lost his rifle and he dived over the side of the boat twice with a 70lb. pack up, but could not reach it. At last he gave up and swam ashore without it. He charged the Turks with his entrenching tool. We all had to laugh to see 'Mid' diving for his rifle with bullets whistling all around him. 

"On the other card is a photo of myself (wearing the cap). I am still attached to the 10th, and I have been right through the Gallipoli campaign. Though I have lost my five bosom friends, all Broken Hill lads - Corporal Glades, and Privates 'Doc' White, Jacky Meade, Charles Stanbridge, and George ('Curley')  Richards - I am still left to go on with the fight. The one with me is Private Fred Bessel, son of Mr. R. Bessel (motor-car proprietor). He was for several years employed at De Barny's works. Bessel is a member of the11th Battalion. He has been six months on Gallipoli, and is still going strong. These photos were taken only a few days ago, and you will see that we do not look too bad after our many months in the trenches.

The Barrier Miner 27 February 1916

The body of Charles Roy Stanbridge, like so many killed in war, was never recovered.  He is listed on the memorial at Lone Pine and the Australian War Memorial

It was not until the 15th of June that Charlie's family was informed of his death.

His footy club back home adjourned its regular meeting for 15 minutes that week in his honour, and the players all wore black arm bands for that week's game.  I imagine those black arm bands got a lot of use over the next few years.

A notice in the paper showed a picture of Charlie, that one he had taken while he was training in Morphettville.  The text reads: "Private Charles Roy Stanbridge, killed in action at the Dardanelles, was born in Wolfram Street, between Chloride and Oxide Streets, where his parents still reside.  He was just over 20 years of age and was over six feet in height.  He was among the first dozen to enlist in Broken Hill, and left Australia with the First Contingent.  Just prior to enlistment he was working for Mr JE Tregoning, and was previously in Humphries & Sons Warehouse.  Three sisters are living in Adelaide and some others in Broken Hill.  Private Stanbridge's parents came to Broken Hill in 1885, and have been here ever since.  He had been brought up from his earliest years in the Congregational Sunday School, and there are other members of the family attached to the church."

In March 1916 a parcel wrapped in brown paper was delivered to the Stanbridge home in Wolfram Street.  It contained

Charlie's effects, which he had left safe when he landed at Gallipoli.

·         A gift box
·         Some Cigarettes
·         A few coins
·         A silk handkerchief
·         2 purses
·         and some Curios
Clearly much of this was intended as gifts for his family.

More than two and a half years after his death, Charlie's mother finally started receiving a small pension of two pounds per week. With the familiar financial difficulties faced by the family, this amount was very important to help them stay afloat.

Later the family were presented with Charlie's British War Medal, Victory Medal, the 1914/15 Star and a memorial plaque.

Every year on Anzac Day, Charlie's mother Mary Ann placed a notice in the newspaper remembering her son.  This continued until her death years later.

Charles senior went on with his life.  He was a well known figure around Broken Hill, and in 1941 he was featured in the local newspaper as still being fit and active, and still riding his bike all over town at the age of 80.

Charlie's brother and most of his sisters went on to be married and raise families of their own.  His sister Ivy is my great grandmother.

As you'll appreciate from listening to this program, one of my main primary sources of information was letters sent home by Jack McCarthy, and subsequently published in newspapers.  I owe so much to this man who wanted to tell his story and that of his mates.  I feel like he's speaking directly to me when he describes what happened at Gallipoli.  It's partly through Jack that I know so much of the story of the Gallipoli Die-Hards.  But strangely, Jack himself remained a mystery to me for years.  

This week, while researching some minor detail for my program, I accidentally came across the name Jack Macarty.  I followed some links, and confirmed that this Jack is the same one I've been searching for, for so long.  In his diary he mentions Charlie Stanbridge, Sandy Glades, Curly Richards and Jacky Meade.

And the punchline of the story?  Humphrey Warren Baker Macarty, known as Jack to his friends, lived in Mount Barker, where he was an electrician when he enlisted at Morphettville, the day after Charlie and his mates from Broken Hill.

Jack was at Gallipoli throughout the campaign until December 1915.  By April of 1916 he was in hospital suffering from an illness, and from there he travelled home, via Fremantle, Melbourne, and finally to Adelaide where he spent some more time in hospital recovering.

Jack married and had a family.  He moved to New South Wales, where he lived until his death in 1960. 

 

Thanks to the Australian War Memorial and the National Library of Australia for making available records crucial to my research.