stories, photos, anecdotes….. sharing the past
It would have been unimaginably difficult to have to be a soldier writing to another family and telling them that their son was killed in action. Such was communications back one hundred years ago, families would receive no news and then a letter bearing indescribably bad news. This happened to many families not just in the Parkes shire but all over the country.
Arthur John Hill, a Peak Hill resident, was one of many soldiers who didn’t return home to the Parkes shire. Below are two letters written to his father, Mr James Hill. These letters were published in The Western Champion August 12th 1915 and both give a glimpse on how horrific it would have been to have been a soldier. AJ Hill would be one of many young Australian men to be buried by Chaplain William McKenzie (better known as “Fighting Mac”) who was well known to soldiers and to many Australians back home. AJ Hill sailed on HMAT A8 Argyllshire
Mr James Hill is in receipt of the following letter from Heliopolis Hospital, Cairo, from Private A. J. Ryan (“Tiny”) respecting the death of his son, Arthur Hill. The letter, which is dated June 27th, runs:-
Dear friend, – Just a few lines to let you know that things have not gone too well with us here… I have been wounded in the head and am just recovering. Today I got news through from a chap in our Company to say that Arthur was killed outright. I am very sorry to have to write and tell you the news… He was hit with a shrapnel shell about a week after I left the Dardanelles. It is terrible slaughter over there. I transferred into his Company to go away with from Egypt… I am going back next week myself. I will say goodbye now, and send my sincere condolence in your misfortune, and mine, in losing a friend, and you a son. – Yours ever truly, Tiny Ryan.
Lieut. G. C. Cook, officer commanding D Company also writes:-
I regret to inform you of the death of your son A. J. Hill, who was killed in action on the 7th June. Death was instantaneous from a shell which burst in the trench suddenly from the enemy’s guns, during the early hours of the morning. He did his duty faithfully and was respected, as he is now mourned, by every member of the Company. He died with his hands in his overcoat pocket and was so buried. He could have had no pain or even knowledge of the blow that ended his career. His company was with myself present at the funeral service, conducted by Chaplain McKenzie, and the burial at Anzac. The members of the Company, with myself offer you our deep sympathy in your bereavement and trust that God will soften the blow to you all (Source Western Champion 12th August 1915 as found on http://trove.nla.gov.au/)
Arthur John Hill was buried at Lone Pine Cemetery in Gallipoli. The link below shows where he can be located at the Australian War Memorial’s Roll of Honour in the Commemorative Area. https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1635788/