Thursday, 25 April 2013

ANZAC Stories - The Lincoln Brothers

Frederick Francis Cameron Lincoln and David Spence Lincoln were brothers from Balmain in New South Wales. Their parents were Frederick Andrew Lincoln and Annie Craig Spence. Annie's great grandfather, James Slater, had been one of the early residents of Balmain.

Frederick and David had five older sisters, Mary Isabel, Violet Grace, Angela, Dorothy Irene and Edith Leila, and one younger brother, George Oscar - a big family by today's standards and all close together in age, a common pattern for the time.

Frederick was born in August of 1896 and David the following year, with little George coming along two years later. It is easy to imagine, with so many older sisters, that the boys were close companions.

On leaving school Frederick and David both got apprenticeships, Frederick at the Railway Carriage Workshops and David as a boilermaker at Mort's Docks. The family were living at 93 Mort Street, Balmain, next to the Star Hotel and practically on the doorstep of the Docks, so David didn't have far to go to work each morning. Both boys were still in their apprenticeships when they each signed up.

Frederick was first. He enlisted on 9 February 1915 and gave his father as his next-of-kin. He was 18 years and six months old and had transferred from the Militia. He was unmarried. Frederick took his oath on 12 February at Liverpool.

He was not a big lad, 5 foot and some inches (it is not clear on his papers, but may be 4) and 118 pounds, which is about 8 stone 4 lb. Chest measurements, 33 35 1/2 inches. Frederick's complexion was fair, his eyes blue and his hair brown. He gave his denomination as C of E. Under Distinctive Marks has been written "see Dentist". The Medical Officer declared him fit for active service.

Frederick started in the 19th Battalion, rank of Private, No. 597. The Battalion trained at Liverpool and then embarked on HMAT Ceramic on 25 June 1915, sailing down to Melbourne and thence to Egypt. I don't know how long they were there, can't have been long as on 21 August, 1915, the boys of the 19th arrived in ANZAC Cove and joined the attack on Hill 60. This was another in a long list of strange orders from British command - take this particular place, at all costs, because we know you can do it. Casualties were high. Hill 60 remained in Turkish hands. On 18 September 1915, the 19th was assigned to defend Popes Hill, which they defended until evacuation to Egypt on 19 December, 1915. Frederick had had his baptism of fire.

While in Egypt, the 19th took part in the defence of the Suez Canal, but Frederick clearly was getting up to other things as well. On 17 March, 1916, Frederick was admitted to and then transferred from the Isolation Hospital at Moascar to the Dentention Hospital in Abbassia, suffering from Gonorrhoea. After treatment he was discharged on 29 May 1916 to Tel El Kebir, at the time a training camp for the AIF.

Courtyard of the Abbassia Hospital, George Lambert, Australian War Memorial Collection. Patients are dressed in blue trousers and white shirts.
On 1 June 1916, Frederick Francis Cameron Lincoln was transferred to the 14th Battalion as part of a reorganisation of the 19th. This didn't seem to work well as at the end of the month he was up on charges for 1) refusing to obey an order from an NCO and 2) Insolence, the incidence occurring a week earlier. He was docked 7 days' pay. Fred was back in Hospital again on 13 July, 1916 with an acute ear infection but was discharged two days later. His records claim that the ear infection invalided him to England, but also that he was treated in and discharged to Tel el Kebir. I need to do more work to see what really happened. At any rate, Frederick embarked for Marseilles on 10 August 1916 but was in England by September 1916, as evidenced by his charge sheet:

24 September 1916 Offence 1) Absent from Church parade 24-9-16 Awards Forfeits 2 days pay, Rollestone.

Rollestone is an army camp in Wiltshire, and Fred was there for some weeks:

AIF hdqrts CRIME Rollestone. Absent without leave from 0600.22/10/16 till 0800.24/10/16. AWARD. 14 days C C by Capt WRC Robertson. 25.10.16 7 days pay
Total Forfeiture 10 days pay.

The Princess Henrietta bore him to France leaving England on 2 November 1916 and arriving in Etaple the following day. He marched to his unit on 16 November 1916 and rejoined the 19th on the 19 November. Fred had missed Pozieres and just missed Flers, a battle that saw 318 men killed and injured out of the 451 who went in to fight.

Frederick saw fierce fighting in France, notably 2nd Bullecourt in May 1917, a failed attempt to break the Hindenburg Line, and Passchendale, which ran from June to November 1917. He had two weeks leave in the middle of the Passchendale conflict, catching his breath in England from 1 to 15 September 1917, then straight back into it for the Battle for Menin Road Ridge.

March 1918 saw Frederick back in Hospital, again for Gonorrhea, this time for fourteen days. He rejoined his Battalion on 11 May. The German Spring Offensive was being repelled and it looked like the Allies really could win the war, but things were not going so well for Private Lincoln. He copped a gas attack on 28 May, was admitted to the Hospital at Etaple on 31 May and declared Wounded in Action on 1 June. He was bad enough to be sent to Norfolk War Hospital on 3 June.
Fred was transferred to the Harefield House Army Hospital on 17 July 1918. Harefield was a stately home that was used as a Hospital throughout the war. Two days later he was sent to Hurdcott, a convalescent hospital in Wiltshire, and there he added to his charge sheet:

Offence Hurdcott 22.8.18 AWL from 6.30am 22.8.18 till 9.30pm 23.8.18 Award 7 dys FP. not by Mjr H. Clayton 28.8.18 Total Ffture 9 days pay.

Next stop was the Sutton Veny Camp Hospital. Many of the patients here died of Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919, to the extent that there is an Australian War Cemetery in the village. Fred still couldn't stay put:

Offence Sutton Very 4.10.18 AWL from 2359 4.10.18 till 2120 9.10.18
Award 12 days FP not by Mjr Clayton 11.10.18
Total Ffture 17 days pay.

He was finally sent home to Australia aboard the Burma on 30 November 1918.

So what of David Spence Lincoln?

David lied about his age in order to follow his older brother. NSW BDM gives his birth year as 1897, yet on his enlistment papers he stated that he was 18 years and 10 months old on 30 August 1915. This would put his birth date as Otober 1896, two months after Fred was born. This is, to say the least, unlikely.

David Spence Lincoln, no. 3710, was assigned to the 8th Reinforcement, 18th Battalion. He listed his previous military experience as 30th area (1 month) and Senior Cadets (4 years). David was bigger than his brother, 5 feet 8 1/4 inches and 9 stone 2lbs, chest 33 35 inches, complexion grey, eyes grey, hair light brown, denomination C of E. He had two vaccination marks on his left arm and a healing wound on his left heel. He was fit for duty. He gave his address as 89 Mort Street, Balmain. Since Frederick's leaving, the family had moved to the other side of the Star Hotel.

The HAMT Aeneas left Sydney on 20 December 1915, with David and other members of the 18th aboard. The Aeneas was a cruise ship leased to the Commonwealth as a troop transport. Like his brother, David was sent to Egypt for additional training. Unlike Fred, David didn't get up to mischief, or wasn't caught if he did. The two brothers were in Egypt at the same time. I hope they met up and spent time together, between Frederick's bouts in hospital.

On 18 March 1916, David and his Battalion sailed out of Alexandria, landing in Marseilles on 25 March.  They were sent straight to the front and were engaging the Germans by the night of the 26th. Then came Pozieres. Beginning in mid July, Pozieres ran for about four weeks. David made a will on 22 July, leaving everything to his father. It was witnessed by George Sutherland of the 18th and William Sutherland of the 7th. The fighting continued apace. Under heavy fire and gas attack, the Allies managed to take the German trenches, but with great loss of life and at the cost of many men wounded. The landscape had been reduced to a series of craters, making it difficult to work out where trench lines ran. By 23 July a sizable part of the village had been taken and a number of German soldiers captured.

Having lost ground, the Germans were determined to win it back and began to bombard the occupying troops, among them the 18th Battalion. Mad orders from panicked generals saw ill-timed attacks in poor visibility, men ordered into machine-gun fire or into wire which, though thought to be cut, was still very much intact. Haig laid the blame for failure squarely at the feet of the Australians.

So it was planned to attack the main ridge at dusk, and the work began digging trenches for assembly. Each time a trench was completed, it was bombed out of recognition. The attack, due for 2 August, was postponed to the 3rd and then to the 4th, when the Australians managed to take the ridge. But they paid dearly for this victory. Sometime during this assault, David Spence Lincoln was killed.
 His Battalion was then withdrawn over the space of the next three days, under constant heavy fire, including from the rear.

A telegram was sent to Rev. Stanley Best in Balmain, who informed David's family. David's life insurance company was sent a certificate of report of death on 11 December 1916, but by the end of the month his mother still had not received a copy nor word of his belongings. She was particularly anxious for his watch, which she had given him, and a silver cigarette case.

On 11 April 1917 Annie wrote again "The effects are just a few trifling little things, amongst them being a wrist watch & a presentation silver cigarette case. I am sorry to trouble you but they are of value to me". And in May a package did arrive at 89 Mort Street, bu with no watch, no cigarette case.

A letter left Mort Street the following day "I cannot sign the receipt as not one article ever belonged to my deceased son... the name you sent with the outfits F. H. CALDWELL perhaps that will help a little as I daresay the poor lad's mother or relatives would like to have his effects". She also gave a full description of what she thought David should have:

"a wrist watch inscribed Dave Lincoln from Mother, a silver Cigarette case inscribed presented to Dave Lincoln from his fellow Apprentices at Woolwich, a wallet & a carved pearl handled pen knife with silver blade (for peeling fruit)"

Annie was asked to return the items (she had asked for Mrs. Caldwell's address to deliver the package herself) and the hunt for David's belongings continued.

Finally, on 2 June 1917, a package turned up containing David's effects - an identity disc, a wallet (damaged), photos, cards, letters. No watch, no cigarette case, no pen knife. These were personal items and most likely with David when he died, buried with him where he fell, or blown apart along with his body. Annie signed the receipt and wrote a letter to Major Lean and his staff at the Base Records Office, thanking them for the trouble they had taken. She had to accept that these small items "of value to me" were, like her boy, gone.

David's body was never found and his name is recorded on the Memorial at Villers-Brettoneux Military Cemetery and on the Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour.
Villers Brettoneux Military Cemetery and Memorial
In 1920 Frederick Francis Cameron Lincoln married Violet May Waller. They went on to have a sizable family: Frederick, Katherine, Patricia, Violet, Lena, David, Joyce, Francis and Mavis. The family lived in 89 Mort Street, Balmain, the house Fred's family had moved into after he signed up back in 1915.

He died on 2 March 1954, aged 57, at Sydney Hospital and was cremated at Northern Suburbs Crematorium on 4 March 1954. Frederick's funeral notice states "late of 19th batt., 1st AIF" He remained proud of his service, but 57 is not that old to shuffle off one's mortal coil. Was this a result of the gas attack back in 1918?

David and Frederick's service records can be found online at the National Archives. Follow the links and then click on "view digital copy" if you want to see the documents.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Megan for this sad but timely story reminding us of the sacrifice so many young men paid for our freedom!