FREDERICK EDWARD WATERHOUSE

 

 

 

By Christopher Albertson

 

 

Home |About Us | Links | Contact | Submit to the Site | Site Map

 

 

Author’s note: This article originally started off as a senior modern history assignment, The Search for Truth, where students were required to research an Australian soldier of the First World War and present a seminar that would put forward a viable contention as to a certain mystery surrounding their soldier. Whilst there were various choices of mysteries, such as arguing an incorrect date of death on a soldier’s headstone, I chose to try to uncover the circumstances surrounding the death and burial of a missing Australian soldier. I chose to search for a soldier with the surname Waterhouse, as this is a name in my extended family. I had previously done research into soldiers more closely related to me, so I moved onto the Waterhouses. This assignment was not designed to find and prove an argument, only to put forward and defend an argument with historical evidence. Whilst it is a very amateur production, I feel there is validity in my arguments, and as I found my contention becoming more and more plausible as my research continued, I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to see if there was any credible proof to my support my theory, but that’s a story for later. Please read on…

NB: First image modified by the author. Original image (movie poster) designed by bpg, retrieved from Internet Movie Poster Awards (Original text removed, current text added).

 

 

THE STORY OF PRIVATE FREDERICK EDWARD WATERHOUSE AND THE 38TH BATTALION, AIF, IN THE BATTLE OF BROODSEINDE, OCTOBER 4TH 1917

 

 “I died in hell. They called it Passchendaele.” (Second Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon, CBE, MC, 1918).

Passchendaele. It is a word synonymous with mud, pain and suffering. Stark images of an all-consuming sea of mud, bodies and body parts strewn across the barren landscape, gradually being blown up by falling shells and swallowed up by the monster that was the mud.

 

Above: Various images from the Passchendaele campaign. Images M. Goodwin, “Western Front – Lecture Presentation”.

 

The Third Battle of Ypres, as the Passchendaele campaign was then known, saw what was arguably the most horrendous and unforgiving hell hole ever inhabited by members of the human race. It was during this campaign that the great armies of the Allied and Axis powers became bogged down in muddy fields churned up by artillery fire, progress came only at a crawl, however the desperate fighting continued on for months. Well over 200,000 British servicemen, even as many as 260,000 and a similar number of German servicemen, would die in the effort to widen British control of the Ypres salient which ultimately petered out following the capture of the village of Passchendaele.

The Battle of Broodseinde was the third in a series of small attacks with limited objectives that was part of the bigger plan (of the Passchendaele campaign) to slowly push the German army from the ridges to the east of Ypres and allow the British to capture the village of Passchendaele. From there they would capture the Ypres-Roulers Railway and then swing north to target German U-boat facilities on the coast. The Broodseinde offensive was launched on October 4th 1917 on a front that spanned twelve divisions and was ultimately a great success. Official Australian War Correspondent Charles Bean, a reliable source, later wrote: “The day’s success was a very great one - indeed the most complete yet won by the British Army in France..." (Charles Bean quoted in Australians on the Western Front – The Battle of Broodseinde, Department of Veterans Affairs).

 

Above: Maps showing the greater plan for the Passchendaele campaign (left) (arrows inserted) and of the Ypres salient (right). Image left The Long, Long Trail (Baker). Image Right Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

 

By 1.30am on the morning of October 4th 1917, the 38th Australian Infantry Battalion was formed up in position, waiting in the muddy shell holes that peppered the Ypres salient for the signal to attack.

Above: The conditions experienced by the men who fought during the Passchendaele campaign. Image The Daily Mail.

 

One of those men was Private Frederick Edward Waterhouse, or ‘Water’ as he was known to his mates in the army; service number 3179. Frederick was born in Burnside in Adelaide in 1888 to parents Edward George and Kathleen Marion Waterhouse (nee Gerathy). He came from a large family and was the eldest of six children, with younger sisters Kathleen Lucie and Lucy Marian and younger brothers Edward George, John McDouall Stuart and Patrick Anthony. Interestingly his grandfather was the well-known zoologist and explorer Frederick George Waterhouse. Frederick’s brother was presumably named after his grandfather’s long term colleague and fellow explorer John McDouall Stuart.

Frederick attended public school and later Adelaide University. He married, and lived with his wife Minnie at No. 90 Fitzgibbon Street in Parkville, South Australia. However Frederick was working as a bank accountant (clerk) at the Union Back of Australia Rupanyup, near Bendigo in Victoria when he enlisted into the Australian Imperial force in Horsham, Victoria on March 8th 1916. Interestingly, Frederick's younger brother Edward George, also a bank clerk and sister Kathleen Lucie both served abroad in the 5th Divisional Signal Company and the Australian Army Nursing Service respectively. However it would seem that something went wrong with Fred's enlistment and it appears he enlisted again in January 1917. He was then posted the the 38th Battalion and was later appointed temporary Sergeant. He embarked for England from Melbourne on February 19th 1917 aboard the troopship HMAT Ballarat, arriving in Devonport, England on April 25th 1917, where it was procedure that he immediately reverted back to Private. He joined the 10th Training Battalion where he was later promoted Acting Lance Corporal, but again reverted back to Private upon proceeding overseas. He was promoted to Corporal whilst in France, however he reverted back to Private prior to joining his unit, the 38th Infantry Battalion where he was taken on strength in the field on August 6th 1917.

 

Above: The front page of Frederick’s service record, available online at the National Archives of Australia website. File National Archives of Australia.

 

Fast forward just less than two months and Water would be one of many blokes sitting in one of many muddy shell holes, awaiting the Allied artillery bombardment set for 6 am that would signal the start of the attack.

That bombardment would occur precisely at 6am, at which men of the British Second and Fifth Armies would rise and advance across a front which spanned twelve divisions, with  the objective of extending British control of the ridges to the east of Ypres.

The 2nd ANZAC Corps, of which Private Waterhouse belonged, was towards the centre of the attack. The corps attacked on a two division front, with the New Zealand Division on the left and Water's 3rd Australian Division on the right. Each division in turn attacked on a two brigade front, with the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade attacking on the left of the 3rd Division's front and the 11th Brigade attacking on the right with the 9th Brigade in reserve.

 

BATTLE OF BROODSEINDE ATTACK FORMATION – OCTOBER 4th 1917

Army

Corps

Division

Role

5th Army

XIV Corps

29th Division

Would provide supporting cover for the left flank of the battle line

4th Division

Were, by advancing simultaneously, to secure Poelcapelle

XVIII Corps

11th Division

48th Division

2nd Army

II Anzac Corps

New Zealand Division

Were to occupy the Gravenstafel and Zonnebeke spurs

3rd Australian Division

I Anzac Corps

2nd Australian Division

Were to seize Broodseinde Ridge

1st Australian Division

X Corps

7th Division

Was to assault across the Gheluvelt Plateau side-by-side with the Australians

21st Division

Were to advance, with tank support, across the oozing Polygonbeek and Reutelbeek brooks towards Polderhoek Chateau

5th Division

IX Corps

37th Division

Provided right flank protection for 2nd Army; were to move on Gheluvelt Wood and the by now infamous Tower Hamlets spur

Note: The dispositions of the 12 attacking divisions are listed as they were formed up along the front during the battle. The 29th Division was the northern most division with the 37th Division the southernmost division.

Information in the ‘Role’ column taken from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, “The Ypres Salient – Broodseinde” website. http://www.cwgc.org/ypres/content.asp?id=207&menu=subsub

 Above: Table showing the disposition of the twelve attacking divisions along the front during the Battle of Broodseinde. Top to bottom in the table = north to south along the front. Table Author.

 

Above: Map showing I and II Anzac Corps’ position in the line during the Battle of Broodseinde. Image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial.

 

Above: Map showing the land over which II Anzac Corps would fight during the Battle of Broodseinde. Original image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial.

 

Fred was a member of the 38th Battalion which was part of the 10th Brigade. Their objective was described in the Official History of the 38th Battalion as “‘CS’ and was a line running from north-west to south-east in front of Bordeaux and Springfield Farms.” This was part of the ‘Red line’, a line which represented the intermediate objective across the entire front. The final objective was known as the ‘Blue line’ and was the fourth objective to be taken. The 38th Battalions objective, the red line, was the second objective as the 3rd Australian Division's commander, then Lieutenant General John Monash had given his Division two extra intermediate objectives which allowed the attacking 19th and 11th Brigades to employ what was known as the leap frog method. The 10th Brigade's order of attack went 37th, 38th, 39th and 40th Battalions. i.e. the 37th Battalion lead and captures the first objective, at which point they immediately commenced consolidation of the position. The 38th Battalion then moved through them and took the lead for the capture of the next objective and so on until the 40th Battalion finally took the blue line, at a distance of about 2,000 yards (about 1, 800 metres)

 

Above: The area over which the 3rd Australian Division would fight during the Battle of Broodseinde. The battalions are shown formed up at the start line prior to the launch of the offensive. Original image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial, (lines and text inserted).

 

Above: Diagram showing the 10th Brigade’s order of attack, using the leapfrog method. The first image shows the 37th Battalion leading to the first object, the second shows the 38th taking the lead to the second objective (the 'Red Line') having leapfrogged the 37th Bn. and so on. Original images First War Diaries, Australian War Memorial, (lines and text inserted).

 

Above: Planning map for the 3rd Australian Division with objectives shown. Image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial.

 

Above: Overlay showing how the objectives on the planning map appeared on the trench map. Note the presence of Springfield and Bordeaux Farms in the area between the objectives of the 37th and 38th Battalions. Original images First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial, (lines, text and overlay manipulated).

 

At 5.20 am, an artillery barrage rained down on the assembled troops, and it was immediately feared that the Germans had noticed the massed troops vulnerable without protection in shell holes. The men were forced to wait out the barrage, the Official History of the 38th Battalion describing it in the following way. " An enemy barrage was put down, however there was nothing for us but to sit fast and pray for the hands of the clock to move faster towards zero hour". The 38th Battalion managed to escape this without any casualties as the barrage landed further behind them and to the right, however the men of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions (of I Anzac Corps) were not so lucky, and in the worst affected parts of the 1st Division, one in seven men became casualties before the attack had even begun. This was the result of forty minutes of intense shelling.

To the huge relief of the men, zero hour, 6 am, came and the men rose and commenced the attack. The Official History of the 38th Battalion also documents this, stating “At last it came! A sigh of relief escaped from every mouth as each man got up to follow the leading waves.” To the surprise of all involved, a line of German troops had also risen at that moment, in places along the front just thirty metres in front of the Australians. As it turned out the Germans had not perceived the British attack, instead they were in the process of advancing behind the safety of their own barrage with the aim of recapturing some of the ground lost in previous battles, namely the Battle of Polygon Wood on September 26th. The German troops hesitated as they found themselves confronted by what was a much larger attack, which by utter coincidence was planned for the same morning. The Australians opened fire and the German troops broke, pursued by their attackers. In the confusion caused by their unexpected meeting, the roar of bursting shells and machine gun fire, some of the bloodiest close quarters fighting followed. The British Official Historian, wrote of the nature of the fighting, “…numerous sharp and merciless encounters took place with any survivors who offered resistance. The area was soon littered with German dead, and the large number who had bayonet wounds was evidence of the bitterness of the encounter.” The ‘Narrative of Operations’ following the battle from the 37th Battalion, who were then the leading Battalion of the 10th Brigade, also told of the nature of this fighting. "Opposition... was successfully engaged with the bayonet, in which the men placed all their confidence.

The 37th Battalion, leading the 10th Brigade to the first objective encountered strong opposition from a pillbox at Judah House, and in a fashion typical of the Passchendaele campaign, the position was eventually overcome by it being rushed and the machine gun crew captured. The use of heavily fortified pillboxes, usually containing machine guns, was the typical defence employed by the Germans at Passchendaele. Henry Williamson’s “The Wet Flanders Plain” evocatively describes the German use of pillboxes in the Passchendaele campaign. “German artillery observes with telephones sat inside what they called mebus, and we called pillboxes – massive forts of steel and concrete with names like Vampir, Green House, Wolf Farm, Kronprinz, Bellevue, Tyne Cot, all smelling after capture of rotten eggs (phosgene), stale cigars, sweat and the putredinous scatter of blood and brains and hair on bomb-pocked floors and walls.”

These pillboxes were arranged strategically, so that where possible the arc of fire of each crossed with one diagonally behind, so as to create a situation where even by outflanking a pillbox, the attacking troops could still be hit from fire from a strategically placed nearby pillbox. A classic example of this would be experienced by the 40th Battalion later that day as they fought to capture the old Tyne Cottage pillboxes, around which Tyne Cot Cemetery would later be built.

 

Above: The Tyne Cot pillboxes, around which Tyne Cot Cemetery is now built, highlights the strategic arrangement of German pillboxes used in the Passchendaele campaign. Image M. Goodwin, “Western Front – Lecture Presentation”.

 

The leading companies of the 37th Battalion were also held up for a few minutes by machine gun fire from the direction of Abraham Heights. However the attack was going to plan and by 6.17 am the 37th Battalion had reached their objective, twelve minutes ahead of schedule. At this point the 37th Battalion immediately began consolidation and following the pre-arranged pause in the supporting barrage, the 38th Battalion continued their advance at 6.41 am.

The 3rd Australian Division’s ‘Narrative of Operations’ stated that “the enemy appeared to be holding a series of strong points (mainly ‘pillboxes’ containing machine guns) with a shell-hole crater defence between. The strongest of these seemed to be Windmill Cabaret, Jacobs Cottages, (map reading) 21.a. central, Alma, Springfield, Bordeaux Farm, Beecham, Hamburg and Dab Trench.” Several of these, and other smaller defences, were located in the area fought over by Frederick’s 10th Brigade. With the resumption of the supporting barrage, the 38th Battalion continued the attack and was met with strong opposition, the strongest of this coming from heavily fortified pillboxes in the vicinity of Springfield and Bordeaux Farms. The 38th Battalion’s ‘Narrative of Operations’, a detailed and reliable primary source, states that these positions were rushed in typical style, and in most cases the garrison surrendered. However this did not always happen and the report mentions that one man fought to the last with bombs and was shot. The Official History of the 38th Battalion, another credible source of information, briefly summaries the capture of German pillboxes during the battle. “The concrete pillboxes about Judah House and Springfield Farm caused a little anxiety and delay. The capture of these strong posts yielded several machine guns and about 150 prisoners. In almost every case the opposition was overcome by working around to the rear of the obstacle and throwing in a ‘P’ bomb or Mills grenade as an inducement to the occupants to come up and “Kamarade”.”

The 38th Battalion reached its objective on barrage time, around 7:15 am, and immediately began consolidation. All reports stated that the Allied artillery was excellent, and that generally the troops were able to stick close enough to the barrage so as that they were upon the enemy before he could recover from its effects. For the majority of the 38th Battalion men who were killed during the battle, the majority would most likely have been killed during the fighting around the pillboxes in the area when the 38th Battalion took the lead. Other men would no doubt have been wounded or killed by shell fire during the advance. It is known that there were two casualties suffered on the approach march, however the majority of casualties, and deaths in particular, would most likely have occurred during the advance and thus occurred between 6:41 and 7:15 am on the morning of October 4th. A considerable number of men would have been killed during consolidation, when the enemy artillery, despite being described in the 37th Battalion’s ‘Narrative of Operations’ as becoming weaker and more erratic as the day progressed, focused much of their shelling on the positions being consolidated. The source, both reliable and primary in nature, estimated that about 120 casualties were suffered by the 37th Battalion during the advance, and that the remaining 80 or so occurred during consolidation work. The 38th Battalion’s figures would probably have been quite similar, and it seems probable that almost all the casualties, in particular deaths, suffered by the 38th Battalion occurred during the advance and in consolidation.

 

Above: Private Wright’s account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

 

However the circumstances surrounding Private Waterhouse’s death are slightly different to many of his Battalion mates who also died that day. Frederick’s Red Cross Wounded and Missing File provides an insight into these circumstances. All informants state that Private Waterhouse was a company runner and was killed by a shell whilst performing the duties of this role. One informant, Private Wright, states that he saw Frederick killed in action on October 4th 1917. “I saw Waterhouse killed by a shell at Passchendaele on the 4th of October 1917 in the afternoon, going over with some stretcher bearers. Two other men were killed at the same time.” The informant adds that he also knew him well, and that they came over together on the same boat from Victoria, which is quite correct, they both sailed aboard the Ballarat. Wright also describes Frederick as being short and dark, and known as ‘Water’. This information is also correct as it matches with the information from his medical examination upon application for enlistment and corroborates with the other reports, adding further credibility to the informant’s statement.

 

Above: Private Wright’s account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

In what would appear to be another report from Private Wright, Wright again states he saw Frederick killed in action. In this report the author is recorded as a Private S.G. Wright 3169 with the same service number as the Private T.C. Wright 3169 of the first report. However as no T.C. Wright served in the Battalion whereas Private Stanton George Wright 3169 was in fact a member of the 38th Battalion, there is no doubt the first report simply incorrectly recorded the Private’s initials. His second report stated, “I saw him killed on the ridge at Passchendaele. He was a despatch runner and was blown to pieces by a shell whilst out with a message.” The informant adds that the ground was held, which is correct, but does not know of place of burial. The informant also says that he knew Frederick very well, and that he came from Bendigo in Victoria, which is also correct. This source seems reliable as the informant not only claims to be an eye witness, but he says he knew the casualty very well. This increases the reliability of his version of events as one is more likely to remember what happened to their good mate rather than someone who was more of a familiar face. Perhaps Private Wright remembered further details of Frederick’s death after writing the first statement, prompting him to give a second report. It is also possible that Wright received confirmation of his first report being received by the Red Cross and noticed his initials were incorrectly recorded. Knowing Frederick’s family may try to contact a T.C. Wright for further information, this mistake may have been a further possible factor in why Private Wright gave a second report.

 

Above: A second report by Private Wright from Frederick’s Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

A second witness, Private J.B. McGarvie also recalls Frederick’s death, stating that he knew Frederick who he described as about 5 foot and 6 inches tall, slim built and about 27 years of age. Of the circumstances surrounding his death, McGarvie wrote: “Casualty was a Co. runner near Hill 40 close to Ypres. He was sent by our Captain to tell the stretcher bearers who were coming up a path not to come that way as it was too dangerous as the Germans were shelling that spot particularly heavily. He had just got to where he had to deliver the message when a high explosive shell exploded near him killing him instantly. I was 100 yards away and went over and had a look at his body afterwards. His chief wounds were about the legs and body. He was buried by the R.C. Chaplain of the 38th Battalion just near where he fell. I was an eye witness.” Like Wright, McGarvie also claims to be an eye witness which adds credibility to his statement. His accurate description of Frederick also suggests that he knew him well, further supporting his version of events. Both Wright and McGarvie state that Frederick was a company runner, and the task that McGarvie states he was doing when he was killed fits in with this role.

 

Above: Private McGarvie’s account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

Interestingly, Frederick’s Red Cross file also contains a report certified by the 3rd Australian Divisional Burials Officer that Frederick was buried in the field at map reference D.15.d.0.0., ¾ of a mile north of Zonnebeke Village. When Frederick was buried, which according to Private McGarvie was done by the Chaplain of the 38th Battalion, the members of the burying party would have made a note of names and locations of the men they buried. As this report is certified by the Divisional Burials Officer, it is likely that Frederick was indeed buried by the Chaplain rather than a group of mates, as if he was buried by mates it would be unlikely that the report would have been certified. This would also explain why Frederick would later become ‘missing’, as it was procedure for the burying party to remove a soldier’s personal effects and his two identification discs and send them home to the deceased’s next of kin. A green identity disc was buried with the body, however these were not designed to last a long time underground and deteriorated. If these graves were later disturbed, it would prove difficult to re-identify the bodies.

Above: A report certified by the 3rd Australian Division’s Divisional Burials Officer stating Frederick was buried in the field at map reading D.15.d.0.0., three quarters of a mile north of Zonnebeke Village. File Australian War Memorial.

Private A. Stubbs also describes Frederick’s death. “I knew casualty. He was a short man, slightly built, dark moustache, about 23 years of age, known as ‘Water’. Casualty was a runner and he was showing four stretcher bearers from the Aid Post to Broodseinde (ridge). A high explosive shell exploded near casualty killing him instantly. I was 200 yards away at the time the shell exploded and I saw his body the next day. He was most severely wounded all over. I do not know if he was ever buried.” Again this statement also appears credible, although it is probably not quite as reliable as the previous eye witnesses’ statements, but it does corroborate with what they’ve said. Private Stubbs is a little less accurate in his description of Frederick, he says he was considerably younger than he was, however he is definitely describing the right man. It is known that the Regimental Aid Post Stubbs was speaking of was established by Captain G.V. Davis, Regimental Medical Officer of the 38th Battalion and his 40th Battalion counterpart at Levi Cottage, map reference D.21.a.7.4. This occurred following the capture of objectives which had occurred by about 9:10am when the 40th Battalion captured the Blue Line and began consolidation. According to Private Wright, Frederick was killed in the afternoon and as Private Stubbs suggests that Frederick was going from the Aid Post to Broodseinde, it follows that Frederick was killed between Levi Cottage and Broodseinde ridge, as the Aid Post at Levi Cottage would have been set up by then. This route would indeed take him past Hill 40, the location where Pte McGarvie states Frederick became a casualty. This adds much credibility to both sources and slowly the possible events of the day begin to appear.

 

Above: Private Stubbs’ account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

 

Above: Map showing Frederick’s suggested route (yellow line) according to the statements gathered in his Red Cross File.  NB: Ignore the ‘Corps Boundary’ and various ‘Approximate British Front Line’ markings on the map as they relate to different battles. Everything else is relevant. Original image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial, (lines and text inserted).

A final informant, Private C.S. Irwin, also gives a credible statement as to Water’s death. Of these circumstances, Irwin wrote: “Casualty was a runner and was out with a stretcher bearer to carry a wounded man at Broodseinde Ridge. A high explosive shell exploded about 50 yards from casualty killing him instantly. I saw his body immediately afterwards. He was buried just where he fell and I saw his grave. A cross was erected with his name, number and unit on it.” This report raises the question as to what happened to Frederick’s grave, it allegedly had his name, number and unit on it. Private Irwin would appear to be a credible witness, he claims to have known Frederick, his description is consistent with what appears in Frederick’s medical examination papers and corroborates with that provided by the other informants. He also states that he had seen the grave himself. It is hence very likely that Irwin’s recollection is indeed accurate, and that something happened to Frederick’s grave after he was buried.

 

Above: Private Irwin’s account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial.

It would seem that the most likely explanation for this is that Frederick’s grave, or at least his cross was later destroyed by shell fire. The possibility of this occurrence is supported by the fact that both Privates McGarvie and Irwin state that Frederick was buried just near where he fell, and according to McGarvie’s report, the reason he was going to that spot was to warn the stretcher bearers that the area they were approaching, the area where Frederick was supposedly hit, was under particularly heavy artillery fire. Since the artillery fire on this point was particularly heavy and that Frederick was buried just near where he was killed, it is a strong possibility that Frederick’s grave or grave marker was destroyed by shell fire. Ultimately however, the location of his grave was lost or destroyed and today he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ieper (Ypres). This however doesn’t explain where he lies now, was his body destroyed or did it remain undisturbed below the ground, and if so was he discovered after the war and reinterred as an unknown soldier or does he still lie in the field today?

Above: Various images of the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial. Images left and centre from the CWGC, image right from the Australian Government, Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

 

Above: Poppies falling from the top of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. Image and caption from the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence.

 

Above: The 38th Battalion’s panel on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper. Photos Freddy Lattré.

 

Above: Private Frederick Waterhouse’s name as it appears on the 38th Battalion’s panel on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper. Photo Freddy Lattré.

The most likely answer to these questions was found not in Frederick’s own papers, but in those of cobber Private George McCulloch, also of the 38th Battalion and also killed October 4th 1917. Like Frederick, McCulloch was supposedly originally buried at map reading D.15.d.0.0., however according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he was reinterred into Tyne Cot Cemetery from a previous burial location (Sheet 28) D.21.a.1.2. As there is a significant variation between the two points, it is quite likely that this is purely an error in the original burial report. In the bleak, featureless and churned up battlefield, with shells landing constantly, it is not unlikely that the map reference where McCulloch was buried was simply incorrectly recorded. Or perhaps a digit was simply misread. Either way it follows that this error was perhaps not only confined to Private McCulloch’s records. Perhaps Frederick was also buried at map reference D.21.a.1.2. This would make sense as the corroborating evidence suggests he was killed by a shell, and it is quite likely that this occurred whilst travelling on the route Private Stubbs states he did. It has already been established that this route would take him past Hill 40 which corroborates with Private McGarvie’s alleged location of death. The validity of this argument is strengthened by the factual evidence that the map reference D.21.a.1.2. is due west of a point between Levi Cottage and Hill 40. As the Red Cross reports strongly suggest that Frederick was in fact killed on this path, it would make sense for Frederick to have been buried to the west, as this was just behind the original Allied line prior to the attack. Point D.21.a.1.2. is indeed behind the previous lines and near to the route Frederick was travelling. This strongly suggests that Frederick was not buried at D.15.d.0.0., but instead at map reference D.21.a.1.2., possibly beside Private McCulloch.

Above: The first two pages of Private George McCulloch’s Red Cross Wounded and Missing File. File Australian War Memorial. Note that the first report states he was buried by the Padre, as was also the case with Private Waterhouse (according to the report in Waterhouse’s file). This adds credibility to the possibility that Privates Frederick Waterhouse and George McCulloch may have been buried together.

 

Above: Pte George McCulloch’s Red Cross Wounded and Missing File (left) shown next to Pte Waterhouse’s. File Australian War Memorial. Note that they are identical in every way, including the hand-written markings, except for the name. This strongly suggests that the error in the burial location contained in McCulloch’s file also applies to Frederick’s file.

“With regard to your query,  concerning Private George McCulloch, 2846, Australian Infantry, A.I.F. who is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Plot XLV. Row A. Grave 15: our records indicate his original place of burial as follows: Sheet 28. D.21.a.1.2.” – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

Above: Map showing Frederick’s suggested route (yellow line) according to the statements gathered in his Red Cross File, including the exact location where Pte McCulloch was reinterred from. Again ignore the ‘Corps Boundary’ and various ‘Approximate British Front Line’ markings on the map as they relate to different battles. Original image First World War Diaries, Australian War Memorial, (lines and text inserted).

 

What is even more interesting is that in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Private George McCulloch lies in Plot 45, Row A, Grave 2, besides an unknown soldier. Private Irwin, who has been a very credible informant, states that Frederick was killed whilst “…out with a stretcher bearer to carry a wounded man at Broodseinde Ridge.” The report doesn’t specify whether they were killed going to firstly pick up the wounded man or if they were killed with him. It is stated in a letter from the Regimental Medical Officer of the 38th Battalion, Captain G.V. Davis, to the Commanding Officer of the Battalion, that there was a very severe shortage of stretcher bearers that day. This would explain why Frederick, who was a runner, was supposedly killed out stretcher bearing. This would also explain why Irwin only mentions him being with one stretcher bearer, as two is the minimum needed to carry a stretcher. It is therefore a reasonable argument, that due to the understaffing of stretcher bearers, two men were detailed to bring back a wounded man however they were killed by a shell on route and were buried behind the previous line. A cross was erected to mark the spot however it was later destroyed by shell fire. Although based on circumstantial evidence, it is possible that these two men were Private George McCulloch and Private Frederick Edward Waterhouse, however following the armistice Graves Registration Units found their graves but only McCulloch could be identified and Frederick was reinterred by his side in Tyne Cot Cemetery as an unknown soldier.

 

Above: Private Irwin’s account of Frederick’s death from his Red Cross file. File Australian War Memorial. The highlighted text clearly states that Frederick “was out with a stretcher bearer to carry a wounded man at Broodseinde Ridge”.

 

Above: Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. Plot XLV. Row A. Grave 16 (left) ‘A New Zealand soldier of the Great War’; 15 (centre) Pte George McCulloch; and 14 (right) ‘A soldier of the Great War’ – Pte Frederick Waterhouse? Photo Madeleine Debrouwere.

 

Frederick, who was only 29 years old when he was killed in action on October 4th 1917 during the Battle of Broodseinde, left behind his young wife Minnie and many siblings in South Australia.

“I have often thought that many a youngster when he was hit out there on the Passchendaele heights … and he knew that the end had come – must have thought to himself: well at least they'll remember me in Australia". C.E.W. Bean.

 

 

Lest We Forget

By Chris Comuzzo-Albertson

 

Back to Index