Stratford Historical Society and Museum

News from the Stratford Historical Society and Museum, in Stratford, Gippsland, Victoria. We are open Tuesdays from 10am to 3pm, and the fourth Sunday of the month from 2pm to 4pm. Our postal address is P.O. Box 145, Stratford, 3862.

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Location: Victoria, Australia

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lest We Forget

One hundred years ago today, five of the first eight men to enlist from Stratford left Australia. 

We have only just identified this photograph from the collection, that shows them at Broadmeadows prior to departure.

The men are, standing, Charlie GARDEN, Jim GARDEN and Willie MITCHELL. Seated, Albert STEWART and Herb PETERS.

Charlie GARDEN and Albert STEWART survived the war, and came home at the end a Regimental Sergeant-Major and Lieutenant respectively. Jim GARDEN was injured at Gallipoli, and invalided home in 1916. Willie MITCHELL and Herb PETERS were killed in action on Gallipoli. Willie was the first man from Stratford to die, and the first of three brothers.

Lest We Forget.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Sgt Harold Findley DCM

Sometimes, records of some of our soldiers are harder to find than others. 

Sgt Harold Findley is one such. He appears as a casualty on the Stratford school honour board, but no-where else locally. 

Orphaned early, he grew up with his cousins the Bennetts, mainly just across the border in the East Gippsland Shire. Finding his details were made even more difficult, as he actually enlisted with a cousin in the Canadian army, as that was where he was when war broke out. It also does not help that he is sometimes referred to as a Finlay or a Findlay.

Here is a newspaper report of his death: 


Sergeant Harold Findley, D.C.M. News has been received by Mrs E. Meeking, of "Mena" Hemming street, Dandenong, from the Canadian Records Office, London, that her only brother, Sergeant Harold Findley, D.C.M., 27 years of age. of the Canadian Scottish Battalion, has been posted as missing Sgt. Findley, who is a native of Stratford, left this State some years ago with John Bennett, his cousin, to seek his fortune. Mr Bennett is also a Stratford native. 

The two eventually settled in Canada, where they became fairly prosperous. At the outbreak of the war they responded immediately to the call for volunteers, sacrificed all their prospects in civil life, and were part of the first contingent to leave Canada for France, where they have been fighting ever since. Bennett has been twice wounded, and has now returned to the trenches for the third time. Until October 8 last Sgt. Findley had never received a wound, or been ill for a single day, although he had taken part in 16 battles and many night raids. He won the D.C.M. for a signal act of bravery. He recovered and brought in from No Man's Land the bodies of Col. Lewis (the inventor of the famous Lewis machine-gun), and Capt. Gale, both of the Royal Flying Corps. They were killed, through their machines being brought down by the enemy. 

Pte. Bennett, in a letter to his cousins, Mr Meeking and Mrs Warriner, graphically described the engagement which led to Sgt. Findley being posted missing; He wrote : "No doubt you have already received the official notification that Harry is wounded and missing. He was severely wounded on October 8, just at a time when the remnants of our battalion were forced to retire from a German trench which they had captured. Harry, like several others of our brave lads, was too badly injured to be taken out except by the special means which the stretcher bearers have. In the teeth of the battle these could not be procured. I cannot tell you how much I wish I had been at his side. I should have got him out had it been humanly possible. But I was in England at the time, just having got over the wounds I received on June 13" 

It was a very hard blow to me when I returned yesterday to find Harry was not here. I have spoken to two of the chaps who were with him, and they gave me all the information they could. Our battalion had reached the German trench, though we lost heavily. The attack failed on our right and left, and this enabled the enemy to counter attack on both flanks." The remnants of our brave lads held on for many hours without reinforcements, but superior numbers forced them to leave the trench. It was while leading his men in trying to hold off the Hun that Harry fell. Our little band had to retire across the open, literally scrambling from shell-hole to shell-hole under a withering fire, and it was impossible to take the wounded with them. They assured me that they bound Harry up and did all they could for him before they left the trench, and that, if he had been picked up and tended by the enemy, he had a reasonable chance of recovery. I think it quite reasonable, though prepared for the worst, to still hope for the best. 

If it should prove the worst, it will always be a source of comfort to know that your soldier-brother was one to be proud of. As a comrade he was loved by all, and as a non-commissioned officer he was a favourite, admired and trusted by his men, and liked by everybody. Those who are left are full of praise of his fearlessness and energy in battle. "I feel a warrior's pride in him, and if the God of Battles sees fit to call me I only hope to go out as Harry did, and to give as good an account or myself. Surely our cause is worth falling for, and I feel sure all the numberless heroes who suffer and die for it will yet meet again when Gabriel sounds his last rally." 

Lest We Forget.