Mother: Amy Hannah FISHER (1867 - 1933)
IN MEMORY OF
Gordon Charles Treloggen, service number 33511
Anzac Day, 25th April is forever etched into Australia’s psyche as the most significant national occasion commemorated in Australia. The date marks the anniversary of the Australian and New Zealand forces involvement at Gallipoli. This date also marked the birth of my grandmother’s eldest brother Gordon whose death in 1917 had a far-reaching impact on his family.
Gordon was born on 25 April 1897 at George’s Bay (today known as St. Helens) in Tasmania the eldest of ten children born to Joseph Thomas Treloggen and Amy Hannah née Fisher.1 He was a strapping young man standing 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall. He had a tanned complexion from years of outdoor labour and his features were enhanced by his big brown eyes which shone against his dark brown hair. He was engaged in farming pursuits working alongside his father Joseph on the family’s farm at Goshen.2
When news Britain had declared war on Germany filtered to the communities on the east coast of Tasmania thousands of young men volunteered to serve in the Australian Imperial Force. These young fit men thought they were embarking on a great adventure. Gordon was barely seventeen years old at the time, too young to enlist with the first wave of recruits. After learning of the devastating losses on the Gallipoli peninsula Gordon volunteered at home in the 92nd Infantry, Citizens Military Forces. As the war dragged on heavy casualties on the Western Front depleted the Expeditionary Forces. 3
Following a steady decline in enlistments the Government tried unsuccessfully to introduce conscription in October 1916. Another referendum the following year also failed to pass. However the conscription debate did inspire more men to enlist. Gordon’s parents reluctantly signed the consent form in September shortly before the first referendum was defeated. At the time Gordon was aged 19 years and 5 months. 4
The family said their goodbyes as Gordon departed for Army training at the Claremont Military Camp on the outskirts of Hobart. Gordon was posted to the 20th Army Brigade as a gunner. Shortly after basic training the recruits left Hobart on a steamship bound for Victoria. Gordon must have thought this was a great adventure as this was his first voyage on a ship! Gordon was among a group of reinforcements sent to a makeshift camp at the Artillery Barracks in Maribyrnong. Prior to embarking for overseas service the men were encouraged to make their last will and testament. On the 1st May 1917 Gordon wrote “In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and effects to my mother Amy Hannah Treloggen”. To help support his parents in his absence Gordon allotted two pound two shillings of his fortnightly pay to his mother.5
The reinforcements boarded His Majesty’s Australian Transport (HMAT) A9 Shropshire at Port Melbourne and there was a real buzz of excitement on the pier as families and friends bid goodbye to the troops.6 During the war the Shropshire wasleased for the war effort from the Federal Navigation Company to transport troops, supplies and equipment. The transports were modified and fitted out for their wartime role. Life on board the Shropshire was a new experience for most of the men. Many of the enlistees suffered from bouts of seasickness until they became accustomed to the conditions. The mood was dampened when one enlistee died due to illness. Conditions on board weren’t ideal and the troops were crammed in like sardines. During the day everything from eating to drills occurred in shifts. Whilst at sea the men had time on their hands to write letters home to their loved ones.7
With so many men crowded together disease was a constant companion. An outbreak of the mumps on board the Shropshire saw some men quarantined until landfall. After months at sea the Shropshire arrived at Plymouth on the 19th July 1917. Towards the end of the voyage Gordon contracted the mumps and was admitted to Devonport Military Hospital where he remained until 2 August 1917.7 The hospital was established in 1797 for the British Army and was used until the end of the Second World War.8
On 11 September 1917 Gordon along with the Australian reinforcements departed from Southampton and travelled by sea across the English Channel to France. The troops disembarked at the port of La Havre and the following day they marched to the Australian General Base Depot at Rouelles arriving on 13 September 1917.10 When Gordon arrived in France it was autumn and the constant rain produced conditions totally unsuitable for the movement of artillery and heavy equipment. The pack animals laden with munitions struggled to make progress in the waterlogged terrain and the shells became covered in mud. Leading up to the Third Battle of Ypres fresh troops arrived to support the battle weary men in the field. A few days later Gordon was attached to the 17th Battery of the 6th Field Artillery Brigade which provided artillery support to units on the front-line.11
The North-Eastern Advertiser reported on the casualties from the Portland district.
One cannot measure what it meant to the families who had lost loved ones during the conflict to receive their belongings. To be able touch, to smell and hold these personal items brought some comfort to family members. Joseph and Amy anxiously waited for the return of their son’s personal effects, but alas their hopes were dashed. Gordon’s belongings were on board the steamer Barunga when the vessel was torpedoed in English waters on her return voyage to Australia.16 17 The toll the war took on the family is summed up in a letter written by Amy to the secretary of the War Gratuity Board on the 14th October 1920.
To honour the First World War soldier’s from the Portland district a soldiers’ memorial was unveiled at St. Helens on Saturday 1 December 1923. The red granite obelisk bears Gordon’s name in gold lettering.19
Essay submitted for HAA 107 Families at War, 14 May 2017.