Hazelwood Cemetery - War Time History in the Cemetery

Trooper Francis David Amiet
Trooper Francis David Amiet

By Leo Billington

On Thursday, June 7, 1917, Trooper Francis David Amiet, eldest son of Mr and Mrs Frank Amiet, of "Ayrshire Bank", Boolarra, was killed in action in France,

His father was well known throughout Gippsland’s dairying community and was one of the best known breeders of Ayrshire cattle in Gippsland.

Widely known as Dave, he was a most popular and highly esteemed young man, who was among the first to volunteer, and had spent nearly three years at the front, including many months at Gallipoli.

Several most interesting and hopeful letters, written by him, have appeared in the "'Tiser," and he was looking forward to a holiday home. One letter received by Dave’s mother was printed in The Gippsland Farmers’ Journal, Tuesday January 11, 1916:

Amiet headstone

“Well after a day of that playing football my legs got quite soft. To all appearances they were right again. But as soon as I got upended and moved about, they were as bad as ever. Saw the doctor again, and he put me on duty. I kidded myself I was alright again until Thursday night, when it rained in torrents, and was as cold as charity. I just thought the old pegs were going to burst, but anyhow everything comes to an end. Next morning the doctor sent me down to the 2nd L.H. A.M.C, with Oedema leg. That's what the A. M.C doctor called it. I should have been sent down a month before.

My complaint is caused through the heart (like myself) being run down, and not being strong enough to circulate the blood through the body, the blood just running to my legs and stopping there. There is only one cure—a complete rest, and I am going to have it. I thought it would leave me with a weak heart, but the doctor says no”.

Nine days later, Dave sent another letter to his parents living at Boolarra. He wrote about his fading health and life in the trenches. In part he wrote:

“The day I left the hospital I was talking to Alex Young and Jack Hall (Morwell). I also saw Fred Grant, who used to work for Mr O'Grady, at Boolarra. He tried to stop a shell, got hold of it, and is now going back to old Australia. All the Morwell boys are doing fine. Arthur Bond is getting quite thin, only weighs about 14 stone. I weigh 10 stone”.

Boardman Grave

In another letter, dated August 14, 1915, to his parents, Dave wrote:

“Things here are pretty busy, I can tell you, and we are really about fed up with war. Seems to me as though it will never end. There is many an old familiar face missing. The date is the number of our old troop gone. A fellow realises what a dreadful thing war is when he sees a few of his mates go up and come down in pieces”.

During the preceding week, Mr. and Mrs. Boardman, of Jeeralang, received a letter from Lieutenant C Thomas, regarding the death of their son, Private Leslie Boardman, who was killed in action on or about Monday April 23, 1917, “somewhere” in the Bapaume area.

Bapaume was a large German-held town almost within sight of the Australians’ trench lines throughout the winter months on the Somme.

Walter Shelley and machine-gun company

An updated report indicated Leslie was killed in action at Lagnicourt, France. Lagnicourt, in northern France, was the scene of fierce fighting in March and April 1917. In the first half of 1917 the heaviest fighting took place mostly in France between Bapaume and Bullecourt, in the region just beyond the recent Somme battlefields, while for the second half the important battles were fought in Flanders, in front of the ruined historic town of Ypres (Department of Veterans Affairs January 2007).

In his letter, Morwell Advertiser, Friday, June 29, 1917 Lieutenant Thomas wrote:

“Leslie was killed instantly and suffered no pain whatever. He is greatly missed by his comrades as he was always of a very cheerful disposition and was always ready and eager for any duty. A wooden cross has been erected over his resting place, suitably inscribed”.

Robert Thompson
Private Robert Thompson

On Friday May 4, 1917, the Morwell Advertiser printed the sad news that Private Bert Thomson was killed in action in France “a few days ago.” Bert, or Robert, was actually killed on April 11, 1917.

Bert was aged 25 and single when he left Australia. His journey to Morwell started in his earlier years from near Tarraville to attend Morwell State School. In Morwell he was employed as a chemist.

He was very popular in town – a member of the Oddfellows Lodge, secretary of the Morwell Fire Brigade, footballer, and more. His mother was living in Sale when the terrible news about her only child came through. The State School recorded Bert “had died a glorious death in being shot down whilst assisting a wounded comrade.”

The first year in which all the Australian states observed some form of public holiday together on Anzac Day was 1927. The National Museum Australia notes “By the mid-1930s all the rituals we now associate with the day – dawn vigils, marches, two minutes’ silence, memorial services, wreath laying ceremonies and reunions – had been firmly established as part of Anzac Day culture.”

ANZAC Plaque

Morwell State School first celebrated ANZAC Day on Friday April 27, 1917. The then Morwell Shire President, Councillor Duncan Dunbar, and other Councillors in attendance, explained what ANZAC stood for and, as reported in the local paper:

“referred to the valiant deeds performed by "our boys," and the duty of all loyal subjects. Some very sound advice was also given to the children. The Union Jack was also saluted followed by the singing of the National Anthem”.

Please note - the picture of Francis David Amiet is from the book byRoslyn Carstairs - 'They gave their today for our tomorrow'.
The picture showing the round plaque is taken at the Hazelwood Cemetery ANZAC memorial garden.