Vere Cumming STEVENSON (1890-1918)

9th Infantry Brigade AIF

MAIN MENU 34th BATTALION PAGE.


Vere Cummings Stevenson

34th BATTALION A.I.F.

2nd Lieutenant: 2036 Vere Cumming STEVENSON. M.M. "Vic"


Born: 1890. Oberon, New South Wales, Australia. Birth Cert:26643/1890.

Died: 14th July 1918. Killed in Action Villers-Bretonnuex, France.


Father: James Cunningham Stevenson.

Mother: Jane Alice Stevenson. nee: Hogan. (18..-1908)


INFORMATION

Vere Cumming Stevenson enlisted with the AIF on the 10th February 1916 and was marched in to D Company Bathurst Depot. "Vic" was allocated to the 3rd Reinforcements 54th Battalion and embarked for England from Sydney onboard HMAT A37 "Barambah" on the 23rd June 1916.

HMAT A37 Baranbah

HMAT A37 "Baranbah" Steel single screw steamship by Flensburger Schiffsbau Ges, Flensburg for Deutsche-Australische Line, Hamburg. Triple expansion engine making 12.5 knots. In 1914 the ship was seized by Australia at Melbourne renamed Barambah.

Whilst onboard Vic became ill and was admitted to the ships hospital suffering from Influenza on the 15th of July and spent the next 6 days in isolation. He was released from hospital on the 20th of July and a month later disembarked at Plymouth, England on the 25th of August 1916.

Vic was transfered to the 34th Battalion AIF on the 22nd of September and went into training with the 9th Training Battalion at Lark Hill. On the 21st of November troops entrained at Amesbury Station in three trains for Southampton where they embarked for France, 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.

The Sector taken over had been held by the Northumberland Fusiliers whom the 34th Battalion relieved. Specialists of this Regiment remained for a couple of days to arrange and assist in the routine. We were greeted with a display of Verey Lights and, apparently anxious to see the newcomers, the enemy searched our Sector with his searchlights throughout the night, which was misty and dark. Our Artillery and Trench Mortars put over a heavy barrage, either to let Fritz know we had arrived or to cover the change over; this was the signal for increased activity of enemy Machine Gun and Rifle fire to which the Battalion energetically replied.

During the night Patrols were sent out, Listening Posts established and wiring was commenced. Dawn broke with a thick mist hanging over the Sector and our men could get very little idea of the new frontage. Our Artillery and Trench Mortars were busy registering on the enemy positions throughout the day and Fritz retaliated with Machine Gun and Rifle fire. The first day passed with no special incidents. Our first Casualty occured on the following morning at sunrise when Private: 148 William PECK was sniped with an explosive bullet through the forehead. Counter battery work, Machine Gun firing and sniping were fairly active during our first term in the Line. The first Casualty occured on the morning of the 3rd of December at sunrise when Private: 148 William PECK was sniped with an explosive bullet through the forehead. Counter battery work, Machine Gun firing and sniping were fairly active during our first term in the Line.

Considerable damage was done to our Trenches and parapets and one of our Listening Posts was destroyed. Some enemy Patrols were dispered by our snipers. Enemy working parties were fairly active on our front and his patrols were strong. Considerable road and rail transport was noticeable behind the enemy lines. The Battalion livened things up generally in the Sector which of late had been fairly quiet and Fritz did not appreciate the change. Just before being relieved we presented them with an issue of Gas. The Trenches were in a very wet and muddy condition. The water in the bottom of them being frequently frozen, the ice had to be broken to provide sufficient cover for the men, as the parapets were not high enough to allow walking on the ice. Thus the men had to stand in the freezing water and mud, with the result that the constant wet and cold caused many evacuations with trench feet.

The 33rd Battalion was on our left and the New Zealanders were on our flank during this period. After six days in the Line we were relieved and marched to Billets in Armentieres. The Battalion Headquarters were at No: 6 Rue de Strasburg, the Quarter Master's Store at No: 28. Billet routine from the 4th to 10th December 1916 consisted of a general clean up and Bath Parades to Erquinghem.

On the 11th December 1916 the 34th Battalion went into the Line again. "B" Company occupying the Subsidiary line instead of "D" Company, as in the first period. The weather was still cold and misty. The usual counter battery work was carried out by the Artillery and Trench Mortars. Some shells from our own "Heavies" dropped short and fell into our front Line. Sniping on both sides was again active. Extra Patrols were sent out to engage the strong fighting enemy Patrols in No Man's Land. The enemy was busy with his Working Parties and good work was also done by the wiring parties. Two extra Lewis Guns were added to the Front Line for the purpose of sweeping the enemy parapets and wire, in retaliation for enemy sniping which had become most active and causing trouble.

This was the beginning of continuous sweeping of parapets on both sides during the whole period of holding this Sector of the Line. The 34th Battalion Patrols were contesting No Man's Land, which up to this time Fritz considered belonged to him. Heavy bombardments were carried out which caused considerable damage to the Trenches and Supports on both sides. quite a number of Men were being evacuated with trench feet through standing in the cold and wet, notwithstanding that dry socks were issued every day to the troops. during this period there were a number of casualties, including 6 K.I.A.and Lieutenant: Stephen Matthew HARRIS was the first the Officer wounded. Captain: Walter Hedland Valentine BAKER. and Lieutenant: Frederick Llewllyn EAST. and a number of men were also evacuated sick.

The 34th Battalion was relieved on the 18th of December 1916 and marched to billets in Armentieres. Captain: Edmund BEAVER injured by shell fire, and several other ranks sick, were evacuated from here. On the 23rd December 1916 the 34th Battalion moved to Reserve Billets at La Blanc Masion, where the buildings of hutments and stables for muleswas carried out. The roads were flooded two or three feet deep and Carrying Parties of men erecting the hutments had to wade through this, in many cases waist deep. While here the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. left for Army School. Christmas Day, the first and what proved to be the worst in France, was spent in Billets, only in the course of erection. The rations for Christmas Dinner were plentiful, but the cooking facilities were poor and the troops were somewhat "fed up" with the environment and bad weather.

Each man had 1lb of Pudding and a quart of Beer if he wished. The Pudding was supplied by the Comforts Fund and the Beer from the Regimental Funds. Working Parties had to be provided both on Christmas and New Year's Day. On the 31st of December 1916 Lieutenant Colonel. Malcolm St John LAMB. returned to the 34th Battalion and on the 4th January 1917 Headquarters and "A" Company moved to Jesus Farm and joined the remainded of the 34th Battalion in hutments, which were now finished. The following day Major: Walter Arnold LeRoy FRY. left for the Training Battalion at Larkhill. A few men were evacuated sick and one, Private: A LEACH of the Australian Medical Corps Staff, died.

On the 24th January 1917 the Specialists went into the Line in the Houplines Sector. The following day the 34th Battalion took over from the 36th Battalion, whos Commanding Officer:Lieutenant Colonel: James William Albert SIMPSON. had been killed the previous day. On the 29th January 1917 Major: Ernest Edward MARTIN. temporarily transfered to command the 36th Battalion until the 20th February when Lieutenant Colonel: John Alexander MILNE. became Commanding Officer. The Front Line here was very similar to last Sector. During this period a good deal of shelling was carried out on both sides enemy sending over "Pineaples" freely. Aerial activity increased and many fights took place. The Patrols were now gaining mastery of No Man's Land and Fritz was getting the "Wind up". Verey Light displays, constant use of his Searchlights and bombing of his own wire were common occurences during the night time.

On the 26th of January 1917 2nd Lieutenant: Gordon Thomas WOOD was the first Officer Killed in Action who was killed by shell fire. Also during this period the first Non Commissioned Officer killed in Action was Sergeant: 165 William James "Bully" RICHMOND. The 34th Battalion was relieved on the 31st of January 1917 and moved to Billets in Armentieres. Whilst here a number of the men were evacuated suffering from trench feet and trench fever, caused by the appaulling conditions in the Trenches, No Man's Land and a Listining Post. Working Parties were supplied, a general cleaning up carried out and Bath Parades held.

On the 6th February the 34th Battalion relieved the 36th Battalion in the Houplines Sector. Patrols only occupied Listening Posts as the nights were very bright and moonlit. The Battalion's Trench Mortors put over a large quantity of shells, to which Fritz replied vigorously with "Minnies" and "Pineapples" but very little damage was done. Enemy planes were active over our Lines, but the Australian Aircraft drove him back. Air fights were frequent now. Also there was quite a lot of Anti-Aircraft firing, but no planes were brought down. Enemy Planes dropped bombs on our Sector and Working Parties, while his Working Parties were dispersed by the Brigades 18 Pounders. "Minnies an "Pineapples" caused damage to our Trenches and Brigades Artillery did likewise to the enemy placements.

On the 7th February Vic was admitted to Hospital suffering from Mumps where he remained in isolation for the next month before being released to his unit on the 3rd of March 1917.

From the 13th to the 17th of March 1917 the 34th battalion were again in Billets. Lieutenant: Henry Cecil BENNETT was evacuated here. The 34th Battalion occupied to Line from 17th to 25th March 1917. The enemy persistently bombarded Hobb and Edmonds' Arc with 7.7's, 5.9's and 4.2's and had arial observation throughout. Later quite a number of Gas Shells came over and a powerful enemy searchlight was constantly playing over Japan Road. On the 17th/18th March 1917 we released a quantity of Gas which brought a retaliation of Machine Gun fire.

During the night of 19th March 1917 the enemy set up red lights and the Brigades Artillery up in the vicinity of the S.O.S. Signal. Several craters and also gaps were made in the enemy wire. Patrols saw a large party leave the enemy trenches and advance to shell holes where they left bombs, etc, a number of which were connected by tape. The enemy had apparently been suprised when making a silent raid. On the 20th of March, Frtiz put down a heavy bombardment on our Front Line, doing some damage. On the night of 20th/21st March, the enemy attempted a false S.O.S. by sending up Red Lights, which was the Battalions S.O.S. Signal. The Brigade's Artillery opened up, narrowly missing one of our Patrols which was just about to go into No Man's Land. Having obtained the mastery of No Man's Land with our Fighting Patrols, Fritz apparantly hoped to get the Battalions Artillery to open up on No Man's Land when Patrols were out.

However it did not succeed as a number of enemy dead were found by Scouts, lying in No Man's Land. Owing to the snow-clad ground Scouts were greatly hampered in thier work. Fritz was holding Posts every twenty yards on our Front, which wer strongly manned, and was very active digging communication Trenches.

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 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

Vic was appointed to Lance Corporal on the 30th July 1917 when Corporal: 175 Edgar Clyde SADLER was promoted.

1st October 1917

Good visability the Boshe put in a Heavy Barrage of 5.9s and 4.2's H.E. on our right support company (A Company) from 7:00am to 9:30am. The half made Trenched were badley knocked about in the vicinity of Lieutenant: Stanley Robert CALLAGHAN who was Killed in Action with 53 other Ranks. Areoplanes very active, 2 Huns flew over our Front Line. at 4:0ppm Machine-gunning our Trenches.

Vic was again promoted from Lance Corporal then to Tempory Corporal on the 7th of October and full Corporal on the 12th of October 1917 when Temporary Sergeant: 63 William James ERWIN was struck off strength. Vic was to go into action Passchendaele.

12th October 1917

THE BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE II

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)

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. D.S.O 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 MC 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)

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 MC 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 MC 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 DSO 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

13th October 1917.

Received instructions to take command of the front line. Issued instructions to C.O's 34th and 35th Battalions to re-organize at dawn and to hold as follows; 35th Battalion Right Battalion. 36th Battalion Center Battalion. 34th Battalion Left Battalion. This was done and consilidation proceeded with shelling of our position immediately in rear of it was at times very heavy. 5.9-4.2 and 77mm being used. Our bombardment of enemry points appeared to be very light and our barrages throughout the battle much lighter than ant yet experienced by this battalion.

On the other hand the Boche bombardment was the heaviest I have ever experienced and only the very soft groung smothering the shell bursts very few men would have got through it. This Battalion was relieved by the 44th Battalion 11th Bde A.I.F. Relief commenced about 7:00pm and was complete about 11:00pm. The Battalion moving back along Railway Line to BOSTON FARM. The Battalion to up a shell hole position near JACOB'S HOUSE. All ranks very exhausted.

14th October 1917.

Resting

MILITARY MEDAL

Corporal: Vere Cumming STEVENSON 34th Battalion. For conspicuous Gallantry and Devotion to Duty, Battle of YPRES (Phase 5) 12th October 1917. When all officers of his Company became casulties he organised the Company and carried the fight. He was one of the party detailed by an officer Captain: Clarence Smith JEFFRIES. V.C. to capture a strong point which yeilded 4 machine guns and 35 prisioners. In an attack on the second strong point the officer had been killed. He assisted the Sergeant Sergeant: 21 James BRUCE. M.C. D.C.M. to organise the party and capture the post of 2 machine guns and 30 prisoners after the company had dug in on the new line. He organised a ration party and succeeded in getting the rations forward to the front line troops through a heavy barrage.

London Gazette 4th February 1918. Page 1619 Position 149.

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette 27th June 1918. Page 1394 Position 54.

Vic was awarded the Military Medal on the 22nd of November whist still serving in France but was returned to England to take up duties at the No; 2 Officers Cadet Training Battalion at Cambridge, England on the 7th February 1918 where he remaind until the 14th of May when he was appointed Exta Regimental Sergeant and commanded to report the the 9th Training Battalion. He was commanded to then report the the School of Instruction at Tidworth on the 27th of May and appointed 2nd Lieutenant on the 1st of June 1918.

Vic proceeded overseas for France on the 10th of June and was Taken on in Strength in the field on the 16th of June 1918 and was marched to where the 34th had moved to SIILLY-le-Sec.

34th Battalion Diary

14th July 1918.

Weather showery at intervals. Our artillery carried out harrassing fire throughout the night. Our aircraft was fairly active. consistant hostile shelling of SAILLY-le-Sec and Support Areas by enemy. 7;15pm. Parties of 3's and 4's, about 50 ni all of enemy were observed entering TAILLOUX WOOD at P.23a. Artillery were notified and wood was shelled. 3 Enemy Planes flew low over our lines during the day. "B" Teams (Nuculeus of Battalion) cancelled and all men Bandsmen included were brought up the line. Casulties for the day 1 Officer. K.I.A. Lieutenant V.C. Stevenson. M.M and 14 O/R's

Vic is remembered with honour and is commemerated in perpetuity by the Commonweath War Graves Commission at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.

VILLERS-BRETONNEUX MILITARY CEMETERY


Family Information

Vic was a 25 year old Labourer from Black Springs via Oberon, N.S.W upom enlistment. His parents were James and Jane Stevenson were married in 1879 at Bathurst, N.S.W. Marriage Cert:2496/1879 and had 7 children. Louisa May Stevenson born 1881 at Bathurst, N.S.W.Birth Cert:11001/1881. James Garnet Stevenson born 1882 at West Macquarie, N.S.W. Birth Cert:11807/1882 and died 1918 in France, WW1. John Leslie Stevenson born 1884 at West Macquarie, N.S.W. Birth Cert:14153/1884 and died 1963 at Balmain, N.S.W. Death Cert:20185/1963. Edward Lancelot Stevenson born West Macquarie, N.S.W. Birth Cer:15394/1886. Elma Jane Stevenson born 1888 at West Macquarie, N.S.W. Birth Cert:16130/1888. Vere Cumming Stevenson born 1890 at Oberon, N.S.W. Birth Cert:26643/1890 and died 1918 in France, WW1. Elsie A Stevenson born 1893 at Bathurst, N.S.W. Birth Cert:21109/1893.

Private: 2001 John Leslie Stevenson. 25th Battalion AIF. Enlisted 5/6/1915 at Brisbane Queensland Left Australia 16/8/1915 Was wounded twice then at a later date was gassed in France He returned to Australia on the Somerset and was discharged on 10/3/1919 When World War II broke out he reenlisted N105943 as private in the 13th Garrison Battalion and was stationed in Queensland at Morton Bay checking on shipping going to Brisbane for part of the time and was discharged at the end of the war in July 1946. Les and Vere met up only once during the war It was in France the night before Vere was killed in action

Private: 2502 James Garnet Stevenson. 47th Battalion AIF. Enlisted on 24/2/1916 at Toowoomba Queensland Left Australia 19/9/1916 on board the Sean Choon. Was reported Missing in Action on 5/4/1918 This was changed Killed in Action 5/4/1918 near Dernacourt France aged 36 His body was never found His name was placed on the Memorial to the Missing at the Menin Gate Ypres France

A family of four brothers cousins of my Grandfather on my mother's side.

Barry Morgan. Great Uncle 2nd Lt Stevenson.

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