Samuel ALEXANDER (1887-1959)

9th Infantry Brigade AIF

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War and Victory Medal to PTE 1873 S ALEXANDER 34 BN AIF

34th BATTALION A.I.F.

Private: 1873 Samuel ALEXANDER.


Born: 1887. Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert:34363/1887.

Married: 1913. Glebe, New South Wales, Australia. Marriage Cert:6639/1913.

Wife: Eva Alexander. nee: Bellis. (1888-1974)

Died: 1959. Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. Death Cert:17335/1959.


Father: Francis Alexander. (18..-1911) Died Kiama, N.S.W. Death Cert:15023/1911

Mother: Annie Alexander. nee Milligan. (18..-1926) Died Kiama, N.S.W. Death Cert:6458/1926.


INFORMATION

Samuel Alexander enlisted on the 11th of April 1916 with the 2nd reinforcements 34th Battalion AIF and left Sydney on board HMAT A15 "Port Sydney" on the 4th of September and disembarked at Plymouth, England on the 29th of October 1916 and was marched to the Durrington Army Camp at Larks Hill. Samuel proceeded overseas for France on board the "Princess Victoria" via Folkstone on the 20th of December and was taken on in strength with the the 34th Battalion on the 18th of January 1917.

Samuel was treated by the 10th Australian Field Ambulance on the 3rd of February 1917 as he was suffering from Scabies and was sent to Hospital to recover before returning to the front line on the 13th of February and was Wounded in Action; 1st occassion on the 8th of June at MESSINES and was evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station at ROUEN.

THE BATTLE OF MESSINES

7th June 1917

The 3rd Australian Divisions first major offencive was at Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917. The Australian 3rd Division was a part of the II Anzac Corps which was allotted to the first assault. The 25th New Zealand, 3rd Australian Division with the 4th Australian Division in reserve. The 4th Division were battle hardened troops who had fought many major battles.The 3rd Australian Division were having problems getting to the "jump off" point. The day before the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades were bombarded by German Gas-Shells around Hill 63 and Plugstreet Wood. Many of the Aussies were not wearing gas masks, but dispite this they pressed on even though they received 500 casulties.

They made it to the "jump off" point but only just with some of the men from the 9th and 10th going straight over the top without stopping. The mines went up and the attack commenced behind a protective barrage. The II Anzac Corps were attacking on the right with their objective being the southern shoulder of the ridge which included Messines, the Dover and St Yves areas as far south to the east of Plugstreet Wood.

Major General Sir John MONASH's 3rd Division had to contend with a tricky 3 mile approach out of Plugstreet Wood and after the German gas attack, but they were not detered. The 9th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General A JOBSON and the 10th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General W R NICHOLL had just made the jumping off point but some of the men did not stop, going straight into the assault from the approach march.

Their objective lay between St Yves and the Douve. The mines at Trench 127 and Trench 12 at Factory Farm were laid to aid this task. The explosions erupted a few seconds before zero hour and created craters of 200 feet in diameter, completely obliterating the German defence line as the 9th and 10th Infantry Brigades went over the top. The mine crates forced the 9th and 10th Brigades to veer to the left and right which caused some confusion with the main assault. It is testimony to the quality of training that every man knew the ground, tasks and objectives so well.

Private: 1804 John Carroll 33rd Battalion, rushed the enemy's trench and bayoneted four of the German occupants. He then noticed a comrade in difficulties and went to his assistance, killing another German. He then attacked single handed a German Machine Gun Team, killing all three of them and capturing the gun. He later rescued two of his comraded who had been buried alive by German Shell Fire, and in spite of heavy shelling and machine gun fire he dug them out alive and saved them from certain death. John was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The German foward zone was completely engulfed and taken by the main assault. The two supporting battalions of each brigade then passed the leading battalion to continue the advance. The men were constantly re-supplied and the ridge was taken. There were many German prisoners taken during the offencive. The 3rd Division was well ahead with the 9th Infantry Brigade pushing on beyond Grey Farm, and on the right the 10th Infantry Brigade were veering left towards Septieme Barn north of Douve.

The German resistance was heavy but was generally brushed aside by tanks and artillery before the infantry had to become too involved.The 4th Bavarian Divisions Artillery had mede little impact, but as the day wore on the 3rd Division and later the 4th Australian Division received many casulties from German artillery. (70% of all casulties during WW1 were from artillery).

By 9:00am nearly 6 hours after the assault began the Germans were in dissaray, but there was a major problem as the Australians received less casulties as anticipated and when ordered to dig into the ridge they had so many men, that some could not find shelter. the 35th battalion were bug in around Seaforth Farm.

The second phase of the operation was to take the Oosttaverne Line. The 3rd Australian Division would now be in reserve with the 4th Division attacking. The 9th Infantry Brigade (33-34-35-36Bn) were near Thatched Cottage facing Warneton. The river Lys was to their right and the Plugstreet Wood was now behind them.

Once their objectives were taken the troops consolidated. A barrarge to stop and counter attack was shortnened and caught three battalions which had to retire. By 9:00pm this part of the Oosttaverne Line was abandonded. At 10:45pm General Godley ordered the 3rd and 4th Divisions to retake it. This they did by the early hours of the 8th of June.

The Battle for Messines Ridge during May-June 1917 saw 35 officers and 1,631 other ranks looses their lives.

9th Infanry Brigade Casulties.
33rd Battalion. AIF 8 Officers 382 Other ranks
34th Battalion. AIF 10 Officers 378 Other ranks
35th Battalion. AIF 5 Officers 431 Other ranks
36th Battalion. AIF 9 Officers 421 Other ranks
9th Machine Gun Company. AIF 2 Officer 17 Other ranks
9th Light Trench Mortor Battery. 1 Officer 2 Other ranks

After a 5 month recovery in England Samuel rejoined the 34th Battalion on the 16th of November 1917 but was Charged with being Absent Without Leave from 14:00hs until 23:00hrs on the 23rd of November with attempting to mislead using a worthless pass and improper language to an N.C.O, by Major: Henry Vince CARR 35th Battalion.

Samuel remained in the front line until the 13th of January 1918 when he attended Brigade School in France. After returning to the Battalion Samuel was Wounded in Action; 2nd occassion on the 2nd of April 1918 at Villers-Bretonneaux, France where he received a Gun Shot Wound to the Right Hand and was evacuated to the 5th Casualty Clearing Station and returned to England on the 6th of April and was addmitted to the 1st Auxillary Hospital at HAREFIELD.

After recovering from his wounds and brief furlo Samuel again proceeded overseas via Southampton and was taken on in strength with the 1st Australian General Hospital in France on the 8th of October 1918 and remained attatched to the Hospital until he returned to England on the 5th of May 1919 before returning to Australia on the 27th of August on board the "Prinz Hulierities" and was discharged on the 11th of October 1919 with service number 1873a.

Samuel Alexander, right

Samuel Alexander; standing (studio photo courtesy Kerrie Alexander)

Samuel was a married 27 year old Farmer from Kiama upon enlistment, he and his wife Eva lived at "Malvern" Earl Street Randwick N.S.W. His parents Francis and Annie Alexander were married in 1866 at Kiama, N.S.W. Marriage Cert:2194/1866 and had at least 7 children. John Thomas Alexander born 1874 Berrima, N.S.W. Birth Cert:7862/1874 and died in 1878 Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Death Cert:9562/1878. Alice Rebecca Alexander born 1876 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:20170/1876. Alice Alexander born 1878 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:22097/1878. Archibald B Alexander born 1880 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:24211/1880. Martha Alexander born 1882 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:27566/1882. Francis George Alexander born 1884 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:31611/1884 and died 1970 at Grafton, N.S.W. Death Cert:44159/1970. Samuel Alexander born 1887 at Kangaroo Valley, N.S.W. Birth Cert:34363/1887 and died 1959 at Wollongong, N.S.W. Death Cert:17335/1959.

Samuels British War Medal:51963 and Victory Medal:50615 to PTE 1873 S. ALEXANDER 34BN AIF were acquired from Conglomerate Medals Queensland in August 2002 and are now in the collection.

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Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia)

Under Construction; 18/08/2007-26/04/2016.


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