The First Australian to fall in the First World War

The first Australian soldier to lose his life in the First World War may well have been 22-year-old Lieutenant William Malcolm Chisholm, who was killed at the Battle of Le Cateau in August 1914.

Delphine Bartier, press and media manager for France’s Nord Region, who has looked into the events surrounding the officer’s death, said: ‘We are pretty sure he was the first Australian to die in World War I, certainly the first to die in the campaign here in France.’

Moved to England

Chisholm had been born in Sydney and educated at Sydney Grammer School, but he moved to the UK when the father got a job at a London hospital. He entered the military academy at Sandhurst in 1911 and joined the East Lancashire Regiment a year later.

On 26 August 26, 1914 the British Expeditionary Force was pulling back from Mons and made a stand near Cateau Cambresis. Lieutenant Chisholm and his men arrived at Le Cateau on the afternoon of the 25th and went into action at 4am. Around 3pm on the 26th Chisholm was hit by a bullet. He died of his wounds the following day.

Lieutenant Chisholm is one of 19 identified soldiers to be buried at the cemetery at Ligny en Cambresis.

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Surviving Gallipoli ship to be restored and put on display


The last surviving ship that took part in the Gallipoli campaign of 1915 is to be restored and opened to the public with the help of a £1.75m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

HMS M33 was a monitor – essentially a 53m-long, floating gun platform – that bombarded the Turkish positions while British and Commonwealth troops attempted to break through.

The ship currently sits close to Admiral Nelson’s HMS Victory in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard.

Gallipoli veteran

Project director Matthew Sheldon said: ‘HMS M33 is a small ship, but has a big history. Finally, we’ll be able to share the story of her part in the Gallipoli Campaign, and reveal what it was like for the 72 crew who were crammed on board.’

The ship was able to come closer to shore than most of its counterparts because of its shallow hull. It was then able to bombard targets on land.

Russian Civil War

Following the Gallipoli campaign, M33 took part in the Russian Civil War, where it was involved in the withdrawal of troops during the North Russia Intervention, which took place between 1918 and 1919.

It spent the remainder of its active service in Portsmouth, where it remains to this day.

Museum director Professor Dominic Tweddle said: ‘We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has made this grant to the National Museum of the Royal Navy to conserve and restore the ship – she will be a permanent commemoration and a reminder that the First World War took place at sea just as much as on land.’

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WW1 vintage champagne sells for £5,600


A bottle of Pol Roger 1914 – Winston Churchill’s favourite vintage of his favourite wine – which has lain undisturbed in the cellars of the champagne house for 100 years, was sold at auction house Bonhams’ Fine Wine Sale in London on 24 October for £5,640.

The proceeds will be donated to the Imperial War Museum to support the refurbishment of its First World War Galleries.

Fine vintage

Pol Roger 1914 is regarded as one of the finest vintages of the 20th century, but the grape harvest that year nearly didn’t take place. The German offensive at the beginning of the war came through Épernay where the Pol Roger vineyards are sited.

On the evening of 4 September the commander of the French forces, General Joseph Joffre, issued the order: ‘The hour has come to advance whatever the cost and to die where we stand rather than retreat.’

The subsequent battle of the Marne established the front line about 10 miles north of Épernay. The adversaries dug in for the years of trench warfare and the grape harvest was saved.

Saving the harvest

All able bodied men in France under the age of 45 had been called up so the harvesting of the grapes was done by women, children and men who were too old or unfit to fight. There was no guarantee the Germans would not return and the harvesting was accompanied by the sound of constant gunfire in the distance.

In the words of Pol Roger’s head winemaker at the time, the wine was, ‘harvested to the sound of gunfire but [would] be drunk to the sound of trumpets.’

‘Special wine’

Some of the grapes were picked earlier than usual because the champagne house feared the Germans would renew their offensive. This made the wine acid to the taste when young, but as it matured the flavour blossomed and the initial acidity contributed to its unusual longevity.

Bonhams’ Head of Wine, Richard Harvey MW said: ‘I’m delighted that this very special wine made such a good price and that the proceeds are going to benefit such a worthwhile cause.’

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Queen and Duke of Edinburgh visit WW1 artwork at Tower


HM The Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh have visited an art installation that marks the Centenary of the First World War.

The Royal pair toured the exhibit, featuring thousands of ceramic poppies, at the Tower of London.

A poppy for a casualty

The Queen laid a wreath at the Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red exhibit, where each poppy commemorates a fallen First World War serviceman.

By 11 November, Armistice Day, there will be 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each British and colonial death.

More than 1,600 men enlisted at the Tower of London and it also served as a military depot and the execution spot for 11 German spies.

Poignant memorial

Artist Paul Cummins, who created the ceramic poppy field, said: ‘I approached the tower as the ideal setting as its strong military links seemed to resonate.

‘The installation is transient, I found this poignant and reflective of human life, like those who lost their lives during the First World War.

‘I wanted to find a fitting way to remember them.’

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French soldier’s bedroom preserved for almost 100 years


A First World War French dragoon officer’s bedroom has been preserved for almost 100 years exactly as he left it in 1918.

Second Lieutenant Hubert Rochereau lived with his parents in the village of Bélâbre in central France. When he was killed in 1918, they kept the room just as it was the day he left them after his last period of leave.

Eerily complete

Rochereau died on 26 April 1918 in Belgium after being wounded in fighting near the village of Loker. He was awarded a posthumous Legion of Honour for bravery and his name is on the war memorial in his home village.

According to a report in La Nouvelle République newspaper, the young man’s room is eerily complete. His blue jacket still sits on a stand. His books rest in piles on the mantelpiece and his bed is still covered by the same lace spread as it was nearly a century ago.

Kept unchanged for 500 years

When the Rochereaus sold their home in 1935, they made the new owners sign a clause stating that the bedroom where their son was born in 1896 could not be changed for 500 years.

On the desk is a vial with a label saying it contains ‘the earth of Flanders in which our dear child fell and which has kept his remains for four years’.

The current owner of the house in the village in central France, Daniel Fabre, said the clause on maintaining the bedroom has no legal value but that he intends to honour it. Mr Fabre, a retired civil servant, and his wife inherited the large family home from her grandparents.

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Lawrence of Arabia map for sale at Sotheby’s


A map drawn by First World War desert commander TE Lawrence will go on sale at Sotheby’s in London on 4 November 2014.

The hand-drawn map shows an area of Saudi Arabia that Lawrence and his men crossed in May 1917 as they approached the Red Sea port of Aqaba.

Recently on show

The map was recently shown in major exhibitions at the Imperial War Museum in London and at the Australian War Memorial Canberra. It is estimated to reach £70,000-100,000 at Sotheby’s London auction of Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History.

On 9 May 1917, Lawrence and the Arab armies set out from the Red Sea port of al Wejh to capture Aqaba. They reached the Hejaz railway on 19 May and continued across the desert towards Wadi Sirhan – the route that’s recorded in this map. The journey was particularly gruelling and Lawrence recorded it in his notebooks, now in the collection of the British Library, and later in his book Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

‘Only drawn copy’

Lawrence was well aware that his travels towards Aqaba had cartographical significance. Having met the explorer and cartographer Douglas Carruthers in the latter stages of the war, Lawrence created this map for him sometime between 1918 and 1922.

Using his notebooks, he plotted the map on a single sheet of tracing paper, signing it and annotating it with the words: ‘This is the only drawn copy so please do not lose it prematurely.’

In 1962, Carruthers donated the map to the Royal Society of Asian Affairs, in whose collection it has remained until now.

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Coldstream Guards VC winner remembered


A soldier who won the Victoria Cross (VC) in the First World War has been remembered at a special service in his native Northumberland.

Guardsman Frederick William Dobson of the Coldstream Guards risked his own life in a bid to rescue two wounded comrades in France in 1914. This involved crossing a large expanse of open ground under fire and then returning with a stretcher and two other soldiers to help him carry it.

He was unable to save private Albert Haldeby, who had died of his wounds, but managed to bring in private Butler who had been wounded in three places.

A memorial stone was unveiled during the service at St Mary’s Church in Mr Dobson’s home village of Ovingham.

The 27-year-old soldier won his VC Chavonne in France on 28 September 1914. He was later promoted to lance-corporal and died in 1935.

His Victoria Cross is on show at the Colstream Guards HQ at Wellingon Barracks in London.

During the First World War, 628 Victoria Crosses were awarded – 454 to UK-born recipients and 173 to servicemen born overseas.

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