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33rd BATTALION AIF.

Lance Corporal: 2073 Claude Henry HOWARD. M.M.


Born: 1892 Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert:(No Birth Record; Adopted)

Married: 24th July 1912. Wiseman's Creek, New South Wales, Australia. Marriage Cert:10798/1912.

Wife: Hannah Margaret Howard nee: Foley. (1890-1957)

Died: Death Cert:.


Father: John Howard.

Mother: Mary Howard. nee: Kitt.


INFORMATION

Claude Henry Howard enlisted with the 3rd Reinforcements, 33rd Battalion AIF on the 10th of April 1916 and left Sydney on board HMAT A68 "Anchises" on the 24th of August and disembarked at Devonport, England on the 11th of October and was marched to the 9th Training Battalion at the Durrington Army Camp at Larks Hill. Claude proceeded overseas for France via Southmapton on the 21st of November 1916.

Claude was Taken on in Strength in the field and was treated by the 9th Australian Field Ambulance on the 7th of December 1916 but remained in France and returned to the front line soon after.

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 dug 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 loose 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

MILITARY MEDAL

Private: 2073 Claude Henry HOWARD. 33rd Battalion AIF. For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty in the Battle of MESSINES RIDGE from June 7th to June 11th. Private Claude Henry Howard acted as Stretcher Bearer. He worked indefatigably with the wounded during a very heavy enemy bombardment. On four occasions he proceeded alone over open country to the forward line where the wounded were lying and dressed their wounds thereby greatly alleviating their pain. Many times he traversed the whole battalion front, heedless of all personal danger. This splendid devotion to duty and his gallant and thoughtful actions earned for him the gratitude af many of our wounded.

London Gazette 16th August 1917. Page 8427 Position 87.

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 20th of December 1917. Page 3773 Position 86.

Claude was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 4th of November 1917 after Corporal: 3146 William Arthur WELLS was evacuated with Trench Feet and a month later he was Wounded in Action on the 14th of December 1917 where he received a Gun-Shot wound to his Left Thigh where an Explosive Bullet fractured his Left Fermur and he was evacuated to England where he remained until he returned to Australia on board the "Dunluce Castle on the 18th of May 1919 and was discharged from the AIF on the 5th of September 1919.

Family Information

Claude was a married 24 year old Engine Driver from Cross Street Portland, N.S.W. His Wife Hannah lived at Wiseman's creek via O'Connell near Bathurst upon enlistment. He was a member of the Portland Rifle Club. Claude was adopted. His adopted parents John and Mary Howard had 2 children registered in N.S.W. Caroline Ann Howard born 1881 at Bathurst, N.S.W. Birth Cert:10941/1881. John Howard born N.S.W. Birth Cert:.

Hi Dave, I have tried to trace my grandfather but have had the same problems you have had. I have not been able to find a birth date or death date for him either. My mother told me once that her father had been adopted. His marriage certificate shows he was married on the 24th July, 1912 at Wisemans Creek near Bathurst, aged 21. This would put his birth date about 1891. He was born at Bathurst, NSW and his parents were John Howard and Mary Kitt. He married Hannah Margaret FOLEY (not Annabel). John & Mary Howard had two children (registered), John and Caroline Ann. No mention of Claude. Adoption seems to be a good explanation.

I am not aware of any connection with the Howards you have mentioned, however, there were a lot of Howards around the area. He was supposed to have left the family when my mother was about 2 years of age which would put it about the time he returned from England. My mother told me she believed that he had gone to Armidale where he had a bike shop – Howard & Wright. I haven’t been able to find anything on the shop name.

That really is the sum of all that we know of him. I do have a photo (attached). I have just offered the photo to the Australian War Memorial and they have accepted it. Before I give it to them if you want to use the photo, please do. It’s funny, I don’t know anything about him before the war or after the war but in between I have been able to find out where he was for every day he was in France and Belgium. I am currently writing a chapter on him for my family history and would love to be able to include what happened to him. I have also put him on the ‘Medals Gone Missing’ site hoping something may turn up there.

Regards and thanks, (Wayne Laycock; Grandson. April 2009)

Military Records

Australian National Archives

Under Construction. 17/06/2009-10/10/2013.


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