Augustus Adolphus LEYCESTER "LESTER" (1896-1918)

9th Infantry Brigade AIF


Augustus Lester


Private: 2109 Augustus Adolphus LEYCESTER "LESTER". (Aboriginal, Wonnaruah)

Born: 1896. Mount Olive via Singleton, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert: (No Birth Record)

Died: 23rd August 1918. Killed in Action Vaire-Sous-CORBIE, France.

Father: Edward Valentyne Leycester.

Mother: Mary Smith. (Wonnaruah)


Augustus Adolphus Lester enlisted with the 3rd Reinforcements 34th Battalion AIF on the 23rd March 1916 at Singleton, N.S.W. where he was entrained to the Rutherford Army Camp at West Maitland. The 3rd Reinforcements were marched to the newly pitched camp at Rutherford and was completed with the exception of the Transport. These joined later and came from the Army Service Corps camp near Sydney. Here strenuous training was carried out. The men were very keen and fit, whilst their comfort and health were made a special study. Food was good and ample and sports and recreation were not overlooked.

Maitland Camp at Rutherford 1916


The 3rd Reinforcements remined at Rutherford until they entrained from Farley Station for Sydney, here they embarked onboard HMAT A68 "Anchises" for England. The Reinforcements disembarked at Devonport, England on the 11th October 1916. Here they were marched in to the Durrington Army Camp at Larkhill where they settled down to hard training, which included Route Marching, Trench Digging, Bomb Practice, Musketry and General Camp Routine.

The 34th Battalion left Larkhill on the 21st November and entrained at Amesbury for Southampton, embarking on the S.S "Arundel". The transport section left by S.S. "Princess Victoria". The Battalion arrived at Le Harve, France on the 22nd November 1916. Disembarkation commenced at 8:00am and the Battalion marched to No;1 camp on the Hill, arriving at 2:00pm. The men carried heavy loads, in some cases amounting to miniature Q.M.' Stores. The march over cobblestones was very tiring, notwithstanding the many route marches which had been carried out at Larkhill. However, after bathing their feet and receiving treatment, as well partaking of a good meal, some spent a comfortable night.

The following morning the Battalion moved to Le Harve Railway Station, leaving D Company behind. On arrival at the Station entraining commenced at 8:00am and the train left at 11:15am. The journey was slow and occupied until 4:30pm on the 24th. On arrival at Bailleul the men detrained and marched to Outtersteene. D Company arrived at 4:00pm the following day. The Battalion rested here in billets for two days previous to taking over garrison duties in the Line at Armenties. The Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. with the Adjutant, Company Commanders, N.C.O's and Specialists went into the Line to inspect Trenches, Stores, Plans and to arrange for the taking over this Section of the line on the following day.

The specialists and N.C.O's remained in the Line. On 27th November the Battalion went into the Line in the L'Epinette Sector. The men were taken up by motor lorries as far as the Square near Houplines Station, and marched via Butterne Avenue and Willow Walk to the Line, carrying their packs and blankets into the trenches. Lewis Gun ammunition was taken into the Line with the tin cases. The going was difficult owing to the conditions of the Trenches and the heavy and bulky loads. Later the blankets were dumped near Tussage Dump, from which most of them disappeared. This was the main incident of our relief in the Line.

7th April 1917.

Our Artillery fairly active. Trench Mortors fired in retaliation for pinapples from locality 16.13 and behind J Gap, No Mans Land as usual. Patrols, a number of Eney covering parties discovered but disappeared on fighting patrol sending shot. Aircraft Patrol of 8 Planes passed over enemy lines returning in 1 hour. Enemy recconaissance, a plane which flew low over our lines, it would appear likely that enemy anticipate some action. Killed 1 Evacuated 3.

Private: 1801 Albert Joseph CLARK was Killed in Action in the Houplines Armentieres, France on the 8th of April 1917. Albert was the only man from the 34th who was Killed in Action during April 1917.

(34th Battalion War Diary)

17th May 1917.

On the 17th of May the Germans tried to raid the 34th Battalion at Le Touquet. The enemy this time employed the British method of a very short, though heavy, preliminary bombardment. The preliminary registration however had been observed and the Australian counter-barrage came down within 10 seconds of the S.O.S signal fired by Lieutenant: 4559 Frederick Murchison WAUGH. M.C. 34th Battalion. A party of Bavarians attempted to enter by a gap in the front line. One climbed the parapet and said "Hands Oop!" He was at once shot, and fell dead into the trench. Lewis Guns, in particular that of Private: 1416 Joseph Edward KIRK. M.M 34th Battalion, drove the enemy off.

On the 18th of May the previous night's attempt against the 34th Battalion was repeated after a short heave bombardment. On the S.O.S. being fired by Lieutenant: 1118 William Wright EDMONDS. M.C. 34th Battalion, the protecting barrage again came down instantly, but the enermy entered a gap near a sector in which cylinders had been installed for an impending release of gas. Working alone the line, they bombed a Lewis Gun Team, wounding three. The remaining men, Lance Corporal: 1530 James HAM D.C.M. 34th Battalion and Private 1248 Bertram Guy TAYLOR M.M. 34th Battalion, continued to fire, and killed all five intruders.

Lieutenant: Benjamin Greenup BRODIE and the scouts afterwards went out, driving back the German covering party and stretcher-bearers, brought in a wounded Baverian Pioneer, and evidence and identification from 11 Germans who had been killed.

( History of World War 1. Vol IV. Bean) Charles Edwin Woodrow BEAN

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: Alexander 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 made 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 Infantry 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

Field Dressing Station, Messines 07/06/1917


Augustus was Wounded in Action on the on the 7th June during this action at Villers Brettoneux where he received a Severe Gun Shot Wound to his Back and was treated by the 9th Australian Field Ambulance before he was evacuated to the 3rd General Hospital at Etaples the next day before he was invalided to England where he was admitted to the Bevan Military Hospital on the 9th June 1916. After spending time in hospital he was granted a furlo upon discharge in July and proceeded overseas for France via Southampton on the 19th September and re joined his unit on the 6th of October 1917 as the Brigade was preparing for the advance on Passchendaele.

12th October 1917


At 1:30am rain showers began. By 2:30am it was raining lightly but steadily, by 3:30 fairly heavily. the infantry moved through the pitchy dark in single file. In some battalions each man held on to the equiptment of the man ahead of him; if touch was broken, those in front had to come back. The news that the line as reported by the 66th division was not held only just reached the incomming troops. Accordingly, in the right brigade (9th) the leading Company Commanders Captain: Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. and Captain: Telford Graham GILDER M.C. both of the 34th Battalion stopped their men at the entrance to Broodseinde railway cutting, and themselves went to make sure that their column might not run into the enermy.

At Keerselaarhoek Cemetery they found the tape duly laid, and met the officer of the 36th Battalion who had laid it, and by 3:00 am the time set, the 34th battalion was extended on its jumping-off position. But during the previous halt and afterwards, as it lay on the tape, the battalion was persistently shelled and suffered many casualties.

The first shell killed three signallers. Lieutenant: Albert Leslie WATSON. a signal officer of the 34th Battalion, a brave and enterprising leader who also was at the head of the column was severely wounded and all his staff hit. After establising a forward command post Lieutenant: Thomas Fraser BRUCE 36th Battalion was also killed. Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE. 36th Battalion supervising the assembly was knocked down by a shell but continued to command. Captain, Chaplain: Charles MURPHY was also wounded.

(BEAN; History of World war 1 Vol IV p911) Charles Edwin Woodrow BEAN

Only one Australian Division, the 3rd, was wholly employed in the days offensive. but the division was to capture Passchendaele an in spite of the depressing conditions, it was eager to achieve the distinction of doing so. One unit carried the Australian flag,to be planted in Passchendaele, and although officers and men in general were not enthusiastic concerning such "stunts" the Commander-in-Chief had been informed, and had told General: MONASH that, when this flag was planted, the news would be immediatly cabled to Australia.

Some keen spirits looked on the operation simply as a dash for Passchendaele. One young company commander of Monash's reserve battalion, the 33rd, in face of a strict prohibition, led on his company as soon as the barrage fell. Starting from a line 350 yards in rear of the general alignment, the 3rd Division was out of touch with its neighbours from the outset. The heavy shelling on the tapes had made orderly disposition there almost impossible, as German Machine-Guns, undisturbed by the barrage now opened immediatly, no opportunity offered of restoring proper formation.

The 9th Brigage went forward in the utmost confusion and a terrible mix up as reported by Captain: Willaim Derwent DIXON D.S.O 35th Battalion at 6:40 am and "Great Confusion" was the description given by Captain: Henry Vince CARR 35th Battalion. Even on the ridge, the mud was difficult, the hope, if there ever was one, of catching up before the quick barrage finished.

The 9th Infantry Brigade's intendered direction lay not along the ridge and the Passchendeale road, but diagonally across them, and parallel to the railway, which most of the brigade could not see. As the jumping-off line was practically at right angles to the ridge, the brigade tendered to advance alone the heights. The Machine-Gun fire at the start came, on the 9th Brigade's right, from the ruined house near Defy Crossing; on its centre from, "Hillside Farm"; and on its left from Augustus Wood.

The pillbox opposite the centre was supported from the rear by a trench in which were Germans with Machine-Guns, and here occured a delay which threatened to wreck to whole attack. it was not until an hour after the programme time that these places were rushed by the neighbouring portion of the line under Captain: Henry Vince CARR and Captain: Robert Derwent DIXON. D.S.O of the 35th Battalion. The trench contained 35 Germans and 4 Machine-Guns. Part of the line was also held up by a pillbox close to Passchendaele road near the highest point of the ridge.

Here there was practically no shelter from attack, but Captain Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. of the 34th Battalion managed to organise a party, with Sergeant: 21 James BRUCE and another N.C.O Corporal: 2036 Vere Cummings STEVENSON and a dozen men, and outflanking it, charged the place from the rear, capturing 25 Germans and 2 Machine-Guns. These actions set free the advance. The pillbox captured by Captain Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. being not far short of the first objective, the 34th Battalion dug in there.

Great loss had been incured; the 34th Battalion had only three officers left and there were wide gaps in the line. The right flank had swung far away from the railway, along which the 4th Division was attacking, but on the left Captain: Thomas Graham GILDER M.C. of the 34th Battalion who had been wounded by a Machine-Gun bullet, but was carrying on found the 10th Brigade digging in slightly to his left under Captain: LATCHFORD, 38th Battalion, and fell back seventy yards to join it.

The Advance to the second objective was to begin at 8:25, the low clouds had opened, and fleecy cirrus with patches of blue were widening overhead and the sun had come out. The 9th Brigade had been so late in reaching the first objective that, while most of the 34th Battalion dug in, the 35th Battalion, allotted for the second phase, moved straight on. Standing on the Passchendaele road, Captain: Henry Vince CARR and Captain: William Derwent DIXON. D.S.O of the 35th Battalion endevoured to decide where the barrage then was; at first Carr thought it may be behind them, but finally decided that it was ahead.

The confusion at the start had split the brigade into mixed parties of all battalions and many of the 34th went on with the 35th, the main body of which, about 100 in all, now advanced along the south-eastern side of the ridge in order to catch the barrage. The hour was probably a little before that for the second advance. A German Machine-Gun in the gap between the brigade's right and the railway immediately opened with deadly effect.

Major: John Bruce BUCHANAN 36th Battalion, the senior forward officer was killed. At this critical juncture Captain: Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. of the 34th Battalion, again accompanied by Sergeant: 21 James BRUCE, led out a few men from the first objective and made for the gun. it was shooting in short bursts, and he was able to work up fairly close. Seizing a moment when it was firing to the north, he and his men rushed at it from the west. It was switched round, killing him, and sending his men to the ground.

But when its fire eased they worked round it, rushed the position, seized 25 Germans and 2 Machine-Guns. This gallant and effective action Captain: Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for removing the chief danger to the advance along the crest, but as soon as the 35th Battalion crossed to the eastern side of the hill it became the target of a number of field and heavy guns which, from the hedges and other cover in various parts of the landscape, fired over open sights.

After passing a corpse on its right, the 35th Battalion settled down on what its officers took to be the second objective, although on the extreme right they were actually short of the first. Captain: Henry Vince CARR, now the senior officer on the spot, reported; 8:35. On objective, with about 100 Captain: William Derwent DIXON. DSO and three officers. Casulties 25 or 30 per cent. Captain: Henry Charles Dight CADELL M.C   Lieutenant: Charles Teesdale MAIN   Lieutenant: Keith Maitland DAY reported killed and Lieutenant: Frank HORNE   Lieutenant: Christopher Kyffin MEARS  Lieutenant: Charles John HENRY were wounded. Prisoners sent back 400-500. Contact on flanks uncertain, being heavily shelled.

Three posts were established under surviving officers, right Lieutenant: Norman Beade D'ARCY M.C centre Lieutenant: Joseph Francis ADAMS left Lieutenant: Harold Sydney WYNDHAM. In this brigade the battalion for the final objective was the 36th, and a report came along that it had gone through. Actually, it had advanced with the 35th, but, on the left, penetrated to the second objective, which bad been reconnoitred during the previous halt by the commander of the company Captain Robert Austin GOLDRICK. M.C.

He went up the road towards Passchendaele. The barrage, he said afterwards was no hindrance to him, although he left the line lying as close to it as possible "or where he thought it was." He was unable to detect the intensification of the barrage for the second phase, but led his men forward at the proper hour.

As no other battalion was there, he now established the line with its left on the road 600 yards from the church, about the point reached by the 66th Division's troops on October 9th. In front of the position Captain: Robert Austin GOLDRICK. M.C. and Lieutenant E.H Fleiter (39th Battalion) found hidden in a shellhole men of the 66th Division. One had a broken arm, the other trench-feet. They took the Australians at first for Germans. When reassured,"we knew the Australians would come," they said, 'We prayed hard."

From the direction of the church, which lay straight down the highway, no fire came. two Germans ran up the road and surrendered. South-east of the village, along the Moorslede road, were the Germans who seemed "very windy," and near the road two 5.9-inch howitzers began to blaze at the troops bigging in.

The 9th Brigade had taken its second objective and the 10th its first, but the position of the officers in charge of these advanced lines was full of anxiety. On the eastern slope Captain: Henry Vince CARR 35th Battalion, the senior officer in this part of the 9th Brigade's front, could see the 4th Division somewhat ahead of its right, and by 10:55 he had discovered that the 36th was on the left, but farther left than the 10th Brigade was far behind on its first objective . The German Guns ahead were sniping with dreadful accuracy. Carr on the western slope, sent back for instructions: "what am I to do?"

Word of the true situation reached headquarters slowley. As on the 9th, the first news was all encouraging. General: MONASH in the Ypres ramparts heard shortly after 7 that both brigades were "well away"; but by 8:26 he had ample evidence that the first objective was taken. At 9:25 the intelligence officer examining prisoners(Lieutenant Cutlack, Official War Correspondent) reported having heard from the wounded men that the second objective had been reached.

At 10:28 headquarters was informed of a statement of a wounded man, that the 38th Battalion had gone through. A further report that Australians had been seen at Crest Farm although quickly contradicting but probably true nevertheless. Which confirmed Monash's impression that his division was succeeding. Concerning the New Zealand brigade on his left, however, there was no word until, at 10:50, there arrived the tragic information that the New Zealand Division was stopped by the enemy alone the entire front.

Monash has already heard at 9:55 that the 10th Brigade was held up by fire from Bellevue Spur. Believing that his division was still advancing, he asked that every gun that the New Zealand Division could spare should be turned upon that ridge to suppress the fire. Meanwhile, he would order the reserve (39th) battalion of the 10th Brigade to be ready to assist in holding the ground already won. The reserve battalion the (33rd) of the 9th Brigade he was still keeping back to assist in the capture of Passchendaele.

Shortly sfter noon news of the true situation arrived. Lieutenant Jackson of the 40th Battalion had established at Waterfields pillbox near the Ravebeek a forward report-centre from which a series of messages, admirably accurate, was flashed by lamp to the headquarters of Lieutenant Colonel Lord of the 40th Battalion. Thus Bridadier General McNicoll of the 10th Brigade was able to inform Monash of the pricise position of Giblin's Line. He added that the situation was very serious and the casulties very heave. At the same time from the front line of the 9th Brigade arrived a pigeon message, sent by Captain: Richard GADD of the 36th Battalion.

We are on the Blue Line (second objective) with composite force all three battalions, both flanks in the air.

The New Zealand Division was to make a second attempt at 3:00pm, and Monash was of the opinion that from the 9th Brigade, well forward on the ridge, patrols might still work northward around Crest Farm. His reserve, the 33rd Battalion (9th Brigade), was accordingly ordered to attempt this at 4:30pm and the 10th Brigade's foward line being meanwhile reinforced by its own reserve, the 39th Battalion.

These orders went out, but none of them were fulfilled. The New Zealand Division had been defeated by obstacles which no hastily renewed bombardment could have overcome. no infantry in the world could have crossed the Ravebeek mud, penetrated the dense wire, and attacked the crowded pillboxes of Bellview with the assastance of a barrage which did not even screen the advance. No blame can attatch to the artillery. Its commander, according to the New Zealand official history, had reported on the previous day that his guns might be unable to give efficient support.

This magnificent division, which lost nearly 3,000 men, had been held up in almost exactly the same position as the 49th three days before-the left brigade penetrating half-way to the first objective, the right stopped almost at the start.The Germans were reinforcing. The New Zealand battalion commanders knew that their men had no chance of succeding by renewed attack, and the order was eventually cancelled.

As for the Australians, of the two battalions that Monash had now ordered to participate, the 39th had already to a large extent been involved in the fighting, and the 33rd, endevouring to reach its position of readiness for outflanking Passchendaele,had suffered great loss. No less than 6 of its Officers were killed or mortally wounded. Captain: Wilfred Frank HINTONin command of the forward company, Lieutenant Leonard Rockley BROWNLOW  Lieutenant: Thomas Acheson ARMSTRONG   Lieutenant: Albert George KILPATRICK  Lieutenant William REES-REYNOLDS and Lieutenant: Norman Francis GOBLE.

By the time Lieutenant Colonels Henderson DSO 39th Battalion and MORSHEAD attempted to carry Monash's orders, they found that the attacking force of both brigades was back almost at its starting point. What had happened was as follows.

Neither Major: Giblin near the Ravenbeek nor Captain: Henry Vince CARR on the ridge had received their messages sent serveral hours earlier. The 9th Brigade's line was still being battered by the German Guns. Captain: Richard GADD 36th Battalion, whose troops were being wiped out, informed Captain: Henry Vince CARR 35th Battalion that Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE D.S.O 36th Battalion had now come forward to Hillside Farm. Carr accordingly sent Captain: William Derwent DIXON. D.S.O with Gadd to explain to Milne the desperate nature of their situation. Milne said that he would try to get their troops relieved after dark, but till relieved they must hold on.

(BEAN; History of Word War 1 Vol IV page 921) Charles Edwin Woodrow BEAN

Meanwhile, however, the German artillery was annihialating some parts of their line. All leaders of Carr's three posts were out of action. Lieutenant: Joseph Francis ADAMS was Killed in Action and Lieutenant: Norman Beade D'ARCY M.C and Lieutenant: Harold Sydney WYNDHAM were wounded. Of the remaining officers of the 36th Battalion, Major: John Bruce Buchanan and Lieutenant: Fredrick William PUTNEY had been Killed in Action and Captain: Robert Austin GOLDRICK M.C wounded. Farther back Lieutenant: Sydney COOK had been Killed in Action and Lieutenant: William WAND and Lieutenant: Herbert Reginald MAILER were wounded.

At 3 o'clock rain began to fall steadily. at 3:15pm Captain: Richard GADD 36th Battalion, thought agreeing with Captain: Henry Vince Carr 35th Battalion that to hold on meant innihilation, refused, in view of his Colonel's orders, to retire. Carr consented to wait while Gadd again sent word to Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE D.S.O. Carr himself at 12: 30 had sent Captain William Derwent DIXON. DSO to the headquarters of the 35th Battalion at " Seine", from which no word had been received all day.

At 3:45pm, no reply having come from Milne, and Dixon not having returned as he had been kept at 35th Battalion headquarters awaiting the arrival of an order from brigade headquarters concerning the projected operation by the reserve battalion, Gadd agreed to withdraw and Carr sent along the line a note: The 35th Battalion will retire.

When visiting Gadd, Carr had warned the troops of the probable order to withdraw, and he now saw that the left had already begun to retire. He told men whom he passed to get back as fast as they could to the 34th Battalion (which he believed to be on the first objective). Captain: William James GORDON M.C 36th Battalion, strongly dissatisfied with the order, went straight to Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE D.S.O urged that the forward position was tenable, and with Milne and Major: John Martin HAWKEY M.C rushed out to stop the withdrawal. But it was too late.

The 34th was not, as Captain: Henry Vince Carr 35th Battalion, believed, on the first objective. The Commander of the line, Captain: John William RICHARDSON 34th Battalion, on hearing of the extreme weakness of the force at the second objective, had reinforced it. He and his only remaining officer's Lieutenant: James Clement BURGES  Lieutenant: Bruce Gray McKenzie  Lieutenant: John Abbott LONGWORTH had all been Killed in Action while organising on the first objective, and the first objective now lay empty. The retiring troops, being without orders as to the position to be taken up, streamed back past Milne's headquarters.

All that Hawkey, Gordon, Gadd, and others could then do was to lead a fraction of them forward again to the first objective, where they remained during the night. Captain: William Derwent DIXON. D.S.O. with Captain: John Grieve PATERSON adjutant of the 35th, went up to organise the 35th there, but could find none of it's men. When eventually re-formed the remnent of the 35th was temporarily attached as a Company to the 33rd Battalion.

9th-12th October 1917 saw the 3rd Division, 9th and 10th Infantry Brigade in action during the Battle of Passchendaele, which saw massive losses and suffering in the Australian ranks. The casualties numbered 3,199 men in 24hours during the height battle. The 34th Battalion lost every officer that day, either killed or wounded including their Medical Officer, Major: Gother Robert Caslide CLARKE and some of his staff were killed while dressing the wounded. The spirit of some of the wounded is illustrated by the case of Corporal: 3170 Winsleigh Alexander MURRAY 35th Battalion, (formerly a Methodist Minister from Newcastle) gave up his place in a queue waiting for stretcher bearers and was never heard of again.

The Battle of Passchendaele saw 60 Officers and 1,322 other ranks loose their lives.

9th Infantry Brigade Casulties.
33rd Battalion. AIF 11 Officers 273 Other ranks
34th Battalion. AIF 15 Officers 323 Other ranks
35th Battalion. AIF 18 Officers 296 Other ranks
36th Battalion. AIF 15 Officers 383 Other ranks
9th Machine Gun Company. AIF 1 Officer 36 Other ranks
9th Light Trench Mortor Battery. - Officer 11 Other ranks

3rd March 1918.

9:00am. Weather dull and very cold. Our Artillery fairly active throughout the day, Enemy Artillery quiet. 11:45am. 9th Infantry Brigade Raiding Party of 300 strong racked enemy trenches opposite 33rd Battalion Sector on our right. Raid very successful 1 Officer 11 other ranks being brought back prisoners. 34th Battalion casualties in the raid were 1 other ranks Killed 3 other ranks Wounded. There was no Artillery retaliation on our Sector.

30th March 1918.

9:30am: weather wet, Battalion left CACHY and marched to BOIS LE ABBE, where they bivouaced in readiness to go forward as Counter attack troops. "B" Teams were sent to BLANGY-TRONVILLE. Battalion moved up as support Battalion to 33rd Battalion AIF who were attacking on north side of BOIS DE HANGARD and LANCERS WOOD. Battalion moved West and south of CACHY when approaching BOIS DE HANGARD advanced in Artillery formation. Battalion halted just north of BOIS DE HANGARD in position of rediness to support 33rd Battalion AIF.

6:00pm: About 6:00pm A Company 34th Battalion was detailed to go forward to report to Commanding Officer 33rd Battalion AIF who were on left flank of attack. In moving up A Company extended into 4 lines of skirmishes and laid down with cover fire from line near 33rd Battalion Headquarters. Officer Commanding A Company Captain: Telford Graham GILDER went forward to reconnoitre 33rd Battalion's line. B Company 33rd Battalion was found to have suffered heavy casulties and enermy were still holding the top of ridge. It was therfore decided to attack enermys position on ridge.

Shortly before 8:00pm A Company 34th Battalion moved forward in two waves each of two platoons. When 100 yardsin rear of 33rd Battalion Head Quarters the 2nd wave inclined to the left and came up on the left of the leading wave and the whole Company attacked the ridge in one line. The enermy were driving out of what apparently was there Picquet Line where two Machine Guns were captured. The line extended its advance and drove the enermy out of his continuous line at the point of a bayonet, and advanced a further 50 yards at this point 7 prisoners were captured, 4 of whom actually went ptisoners rage.

The number of enermy casulties was estimated at 60 killed and wounded. Machine Gun fire was very heavy from enermy lines on the left flank and was responsible for the death of 2nd Lieutenant: 1973 Reuben PARKES a very gallant officer and most of the casulties were suffered by this company. The enemy continuous trench systme was then occupied for about 2 hours. In the meantime patrols were sent out to the right flank to try to establish communication with the 33rd Battalion AIF. These patrols encountered enermy posts behind our own line on this flank. Touch was eventually gained through a patrol of the 33rd Battalion under Captain: Telford Graham GILDER. On informantion received from Lieutenant: 916 Robert Cecil KING That it was impossible for the 33rd Battalion to push forward on to the line which the 34th Battalion were holding, it was decided to move back to the line which the 33rd Battalion had then dug in on about 250 yards to our rear.

We then dug in our men filling a gap of about 650 yards in the 33rd Battalion line apparently the enemy did not discover our tactical withdrawal until sometime later at about 1:30 am, the enemy appeared on the sky lineadvancing in extended order. This apparent counter attack was completely broken up by our Machine Gun and Lewis Gun fire. About 3:00am "A" Company 34th Battalion were relieved by a Survey Regiment Company then moved to CACHY. "B" Company 34th Battalion also occupied a position in 33rd Battalion line but did no actual fighting and had no casulties.

34th Battalion War Diary

4th-5th April 1918


The Strength of the 9th Infantry Brigade was about 2,250 but their casulties during the 2 days of fighting numbered 30 Officers and 635 men either killed in action or missing.

9th Infantry Brigade Casulties.4th-5th April 1918
33rd Battalion. AIF 3 Officers 82 Other ranks
34th Battalion. AIF 5 Officers 120 Other ranks
35th Battalion. AIF 9 Officers 282 Other ranks (including 44 missing)
36th Battalion. AIF 12 Officers 133 Other ranks (including 1 missing)
9th Machine Gun Company. AIF 1 Officer 18 Other ranks (including 4 missing)

Augustus was Wounded in Action; 2nd occassion at Villers Brettonuex on the 5th of April when he received a Gun Shot Wound to the Leg and was treated by the 74th Field Ambulance before being transported bt Truck to the 6th General Hospital at Rouen, France. Upon his discharge he went to the Convelescent Depot at Harve before rejoining his unit on the 24th of April 1918.

21st August 1918.

Midnight. Fighting Patrols out to exploit Green Area. Plenty of Machine gun Fire. Heavy Fog. Shelling increased, apparently enemy very nervous. 10:am Wire received French captured 10,000 Prisoners and was communicated to all ranks. 12:15. Our planes brought down a hostile balloon. Shelling lighter during the day, at night 10 minute shoot every 30 minutes till midnight. Casualties 5 Other Ranks.

22nd August 1918.

3:45am. Evacuated to Reserve Position in K.12.d., k.18.a and b. Enemy started to shell our lines with all calibres. 6:00am. Three prisoners arrived and stated that the enemy expected out attack and were standing to since midnight. Identifications were normanl and forwarded on to Bridage. 7:30am O.K. received from front line. English troops on the Left Flank. 8:00am Weather clear and hot. Prisoners 2 Officers and 40 Other Ranks put on stretcher carrying. Enemy artillery fire still very active. All objectives gained and troops on left in position. 9:00am Artillery slackening and then temporarily ceased. Planes over our lines machine gunning. Men feeling effects of gas, severe abdominal pains.

7:00pm. Order received from Brigade to move up as Imperial Troops were retiring on our Left Flank. 7:10pm. Message received from 33rd Battalion asking for assistance and "C" Coy were sent along, "A" and "D" Coys moved forward to Forward Support Line and got in touch with "B" Coy. The C.O. went forward to original Jumping Off tape but could not get any information. 9:00pm "B", "C" and "D" Coys arrived at 33rd. Forward Battalion Headquarters then went forward to reconnoitre, got in touch with the Coys who had got in position. 10:30pm Guides went back to Battalion Headquarters and Limbers came up with hot meals. Situation obscure as and retired to first objective. Our Left Flank 500 yards in the air "C" Coy linked up with our Support Coy on Left anf Front Line on Right forming a Front Line.

23rd August 1918.

4:45am Weather fine. Barrage fire on other side of the River. 10:00. Enemy bombarded Road at L.9.a. 11:10am. Artillery fired on our Left Flank many falling short. 12:30am. C.O. wnet to Brigade Headquarters informing Brigade of situation. 4:00pm. Word received that the Brigade would be relieved that night. 6:30pm. Colonel: HAMILTON of 39th Battalion, AIF came for particulars of relief. 7:00pm. Machine Guns very active. 11:30pm. 39th Battalion arrived, guides supplied but no Lewis Guns to hand.

(34th Battalion War Diary)

Informant: Lance Corporal: 1068 James Alfred BIGNELL 2109 Augustus LESTER 34th Bn A.I.F. Killed in Action 23.8.18. Death Caused by a shell, Instantaneous. Left of Quarry on Bray-Corbie Road. Buried by Padre 34th Battalion on left of Bray-Corbie Road and in front of Taille Wood.

Signed for O.C. D Company. 2nd Lieutenant: Frank Furneaux HEBBARD 34th Battalion A.I.F.

Augustus was Killed in Action at Vaire-Sous-CORBIE on the 23rd of August 1918 and is remembered with honour and is commemerated in perpetuity by the Commonweath War Graves Commission at the Villers Bretonneux Memorial France.

Villers-Bretonneux War Memorial, France

Villers-Bretonneux War Memorial, France


Family Information

Augustus was a single 20 year old Labourer from Mount Olive via Singleton, N.S.W. upon enlistment. His parents Edward and Mary Leycester were married in 1880 registered at Patrick Plains. N.S.W. Marriage Cert:4655/1880. Alice Henrietta Leycester born 1880 at Patrick Plains, N.S.W. Birth Cert:22444/1880. Frederick Leycester born 1886 Patrick Plains, N.S.W. Birth Cert:32470/1886.

Nephew; Alister LESTER. 4th Battalion AIF. Killed in Action April 1918.


The Wonnarua people's traditional lands are located in the Hunter Valley area of New South Wales. A dreamtime story from the Wonnarua explains how the hills and rivers in the Hunter Valley were created by a spirit called Baiame. Groups living near the Wonnarua include the Darkinjung and the Wiradjuri peoples. By the 1860s Aboriginal people were being encouraged to settle on government run reserves. The St Clair Mission was established in the Hunter region in 1893. The Wonnarua made up a significant proportion of the population at St Clair. Many of the objects from Singleton-born Alexander Morrison's collection are believed to have been sourced from the St Clair Mission.

St Clair Mission operated until 1918 when it was taken over by the Aborigines Protection Board and renamed Mount Olive Reserve. Many people were asked to leave Mount Olive for failing to obey the strict rules imposed by the Station Manager.

Aboriginal Boundries

St Clair Mission 1911

St Clair Mission Church School. 1911.

(Studio Photo of Augustus Lester 1916; Stephen Bowes, Great Nephew from Popanyinning Western Australia. August 2016)

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Under Construction; 20/08/2016-26/08/2016.

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