Freddy STEPHENSON
Rank: Private
Number: 7086
Unit: 6th Battalion Australian Imperial Force
Date of Death: 23 August 1918
Age: 32
Cemetery: Assevillers New British Cemetery, Somme, France

Nothing is known about Freddy's early life except that he had been born in Lockwood, Yorkshire. It's not known when he moved to the Stockport area, but was living at 15 Haddon Grove, Reddish in 1910. On 21 May that year, he married Elizabeth Hales at St Elizabeth's church.

 and, in the spring of 1910, he married Elizabeth Hales. When war was declared in August 1914, Freddy had emigrated to Australia, leaving Elizabeth at home (8 Haddon Grove, Reddish). He found work as a barman and was living at 84 Errol Street, Thornbury, Victoria.

Freddy tried to enlist in the army quite early in the war but was rejected because of his height. He was only 5' 2". Regulations were later relaxed and, on 6 October 1916, Freddy managed to enlist. He was aged 30 years and 6 months. His enlistment papers, available on-line at the Australian National Archives, allow the reader to form some impression of the man. Although short, he weighed 174 pounds and had a 39" chest, which he could expand by a further two inches. He had fair hair and blue eyes. The examining doctor noted he had scars on his left knee and over his right eye. He had slight varicose veins. Freddy gave his brother, G E Stephenson, as his next of kin. The brother lived at 2 Edwards Buildings, Bradford Road, Huddersfield. Freddy later made Elizabeth his official next of kin.

After initial training, Freddy left Melbourne as part of a large group of replacement troops, on 23 November 1916, aboard the Australian transport ship "A20 Hororata". Just before Christmas, on 20 December, Freddy found himself in trouble for gambling with his mates. He received a formally admonished. The Hororata arrived in Plymouth on 29 January 1917. On 25 April, Freddy embarked at Folkestone to go on active service to France and was officially taken onto the strength of the 6th Battalion on 12 May. Presumably he will have travelled to Stockport to visit Elizabeth. The next time he will have seen here will have been in early February 1918, when he was on leave from 29 January until 15 February.

On 22 August 1918, Australian and British troops prepared for an attack on German positions near the village of Herleville, some 10 kilometres south of the River Somme. By mid-evening the men were in their assembly positions and a hot meal was served to them at 10pm. At 2.45, the next morning, they moved forward to the attack line. At 4am, the German artillery shelled these positions and there were many casualties, particularly in "A" Company, where only one officer was left at duty.

45 minutes later, Allied artillery opened a barrage on the German positions and the infantry advanced towards their specific objective - Herleville Wood, near Foucaucourt. They met stiff resistance from the German defenders who were only overcome when a tank came to the assistance of the Australians. By 6.25, Battalion HQ received reports that Herleville Wood had been cleared on the enemy. However, the Germans were still in a very strong position and were shelling the whole area between Herleville Wood and the nearby St Dennis Wood. German machine gun fire from Foucaucourt was also sweeping the area.

The Battalion War Diary records that, at 9am, the Germans were back in Herleville Wood. "He made an attempt to come down communication trenches and though he had a large number of men there, our machine gun fire kept them from getting out." Two hours later, the Germans still in the Wood surrendered.

The Battalion's Official History concludes "By 4.25pm reorganisation and consolidation had been completed. Members of B Company were disseminated to the other companies due to heavy casualties and the loss of all officers and NCOs. The 6th Battalion went into the Herleville battle with 16 officers and 417 men. The left flank was advanced 3000 yards and the right 2500 yards. The Battalion captured 900 prisoners, 4 field guns, 60 machine guns and 20 minenwerfers. They came out of the battle with 6 officers and 141 men. It was the Battalion's last battle of the war".

In September 1920, Freddy's brother wrote to the military authorities stating that he was now next of kin as Elizabeth had died.

   
           
   
     
© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
 
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
 
Close Search Window