by S Lowe manager5THEFM newsonline wattlerangenow
John Alan Redford photo on display at the Service
His photos hangs in Mt McIntyre Hall
Wattle Range Mayor Peter Gandolfi continued the tradition of honouring one of the fallen in today’s (April 25th) Anzac Day Service at the Cross of Sacrifice Millicent, in a comprehensive account of John Alan Redford’s life and sacrifice. Each year the Mayor researches a ‘name’ from the Memorial at the Cross of Sacrifice and in doing so, commemorates a life that was cut short through war.
This year he paid tribute to John Alan Redford who became the first local young man to lose his life in WWI.
Alan, as he preferred to be called, was represented at the Anzac Day service by two great nephews and a great great nephew, who travelled from Adelaide, to honour him and his sacrifice.
Great great nephew Ridho Redford, great nephew Angus Redford
and Mayor Peter Gandolfi
view Alan’s photo.
Angus Redford said, “Today is a proud day for the family; because Alan lost his life in war, it changed the course of an entire family, our family. My grandfather always said, Alan was the ‘hope’ of the family, the clever one, the athletic one. He was a champion cyclist in Sydney. The family had high hopes for him but then war came. Allan’s father was not happy he enlisted, he was very anti-war.”
“The letters Allan wrote home, really gave the family an insight into him as a man, his qualities as a human being.”
“Today is also a special day for my son Ridho, because he learns about Australia’s history and that’s important too.”
Great nephew Peter Hood also attended the service in honour of his uncle.
The following is the Mayor’s tribute in his own words:-
“Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War 1 is a milestone to recognise the awful loss of life that has occurred in war.
We remember those who lost their lives serving our country and,on a local level, people who were part of our community.
Indeed the story of the soldier I am about to tell you about can in no way be seen as one of glory – instead one of terrible fear, gore and loss, and subsequent grief by his family – a family that still has strong ties to this area – some of whom are present this morning.
It was at Gallipoli that Millicent lost a son – John Alan Redford. He was one of the original ANZACS and the first locally born man to die on the battlefields of World War 1.
John was the son of a Scottish born father,also named John, who came to Millicent to work on the drains. He met and married Mary Lyon, the daughter of the local blacksmith. The couple later settled at Mount McIntyre where they farmed, bred horses, and raised six sons.
John junior, who was better known by his middle name, Alan, grew up on the farm, young and active – winning many trophies for cycling, running, swimming, cricket and football. He also loved to read and write –which was evident through some letters he wrote home and were published in the SE Times during his time at war. The letters were detailed, interesting, witty and beautifully written.
At the time that the War began Alan was living in Sydney with his younger brother Reeswhere they both worked as tram conductors.In Sydney, Alan was also a member of the NSW Ambulance Corps, and a member of the Royal Life Saving Society.
On the 4th of August, 1914, Britaindeclared war on Germany and Australia soon joined the effort to support Britain.
Alan wasted no time and he enlisted in Sydney on the 17thof August to become a member of the 1st battalion in the 1st infantry brigade of the 1st Australian Division. His service number was 99 and while he was enlisted as a private, he was later made a Lance Corporal.
He trained for six weeks before embarking on the troopship “Afric” in October 1914 which was joined in Western Australia by37 other troopships carrying almost 30,000 men from Australia and New Zealand.
During the voyage, the men were made only too aware of the reality of their adventure whenone of the ships protecting the convoy, the “HMAS Sydney”, chased down, shelled and captured the crew of the German ship “Emden” which had caused havoc to Allied ships in the first months of the war.
In Egypt, theAustralian soldiers camped at Mena, outside of Cairo, for three months of training.
With the camp being near the Great Pyramids, the soldiers explored the sights and Alan wrote home– obviously enthralled by his surroundings. He wrote and I quote: “Our camp of 20,000 men is a fine sight. Here Kitchener camped when he fought the Soudan War. Napoleon also fought here. The guides tell us that it was he who blew the nose off the Sphinx. It must have been a mighty sneeze.”
He also wrote home about a new friend, a fellow Australian soldierfrom country New South Wales, English born Fred Binks whom Alan playfully nicknamed ‘Abdullah’. They became great mates and the two explored this far away land together at every opportunity they got. Together they planned to undertake an African Safari and take photographs and write articles about the trip after the War.
It appeared to be like an adventure – as you can imagine – thousands of young men living and working together – and not without a fair share of shenanigans. Again quoting from one of Alan’s letters: “We tried to get leave one night and it was refused – so we took it…”
A letter from Alan, dated the 6th of April, advised his parents that he was at last on his way to the front. He stated that he was in the best of health and spirits, looking forward to meeting the Turks, and asked his parents not to worry. He wrote, and I quote: “Always remember,the authorities will let you know immediately if anything happens.”
The campaign at Gallipoli was a tragedy from the outset.
Alan went ashore on this day in 1915 at what was to become known as ANZAC cove.
After making it ashore, Alan hastily wrote on a service post card informing his parents that he was OK.
It was the last correspondence his parents received from him.
Within a week, the 1st Australian Division lost half its men – 10,000 men dead or wounded.
Many men were never seen again – and unfortunately Alan was among them.
He was reported missing after a major offensive on the 2nd of May, and his family was informed in June.
What followed was a harrowing attempt by his family to find their son and brother with the belief he may have been wounded and taken to a hospital – or taken prisoner by the Turks.
The family received small snippets of hope at various times from other soldiers writing home who thought they had seen Alan in hospitals in Malta and Egypt.
Desperate to find her son, Alan’s mother wrote to politicians and military authorities, pleading with them to follow all the leads.
The authorities’efforts came up empty handed and his family were informed that there was no trace of Alan.
Not satisfied with this, Alan’s younger brother Rees enlisted in September 1915 with the aim of finding his brother.
Rees was sent to Egypt to train and he wrote to his parents and I quote: “I visited several hospitals, but beyond finding a bugler who knew Alan, I have not found out anything about him. I am satisfied he is not in Egypt. If Alan were here in his right senses we would have heard from him long ago. I think that the only hope left is that he is a prisoner.”
At the same time Rees was looking for his brother, a court of enquiry was being held as to what had become of Alan and many more of his colleagueswho were reported as Missing.
The court of enquiry, held in Egypt in January 1916, declared Alan as Killed in Action on the 2nd of May, 1915. He was 25 years old.
The SE Times reported the following: “His parents feelings have alternated between hope and fear regarding his fate. Stories have reached them from time to time which weakened their hopes that he was a prisoner in the hands of the Turks, but the official confirmation of the reports of his death was a severe blow to them.”
Shortly after receiving word of Alan being declared Killed in Action, at a picture show in Millicent, several photographs of local men who were away at war were shown on the screen. And I quote from the SE Times: “The last of the series of photographs was that of the late Lance Corporal Alan Redford who was killed in action at Gallipoli. When the familiar face appeared, the audience rose spontaneously and stood in silence while the pianist played ‘Nearer my God to Thee’. The incident was impressive and affecting.”
After the war – the authorities tried to recover the bodies for reburial in memorial cemeteries – and as they had still been unable to find Alan’sbody they wrote again to his parents for any other information they may have gained to where he had fallen.
Alan’s father wrote back and I quote: “I regret that I have no information as to where my son fell. We know he landed on the 25th and that he followed Major Dawson up the hills. We received word that he was missing and months later that he was killed on the 2nd of May. I received a letter from a soldier in England saying that he had seen my son lying dead beside a boulder … and that days later when there was an armistice he helped to bury him.”
The Armistice that Alan’s father referred to occurred on the 24th of May when the dead lying between the lines had become so numerous that the fear of disease eventually led to the Allies and the Turks declaring a temporary ceasefire. It was agreed that for that day they would bury the dead.It is presumed that this is when Alan was buried.
Alan’s name is today recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli where his is among 5,000 names of Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have no known grave.
Alan’s friend, Fred Binksor ‘Abdullah’ as Alan called him, was also killed at Gallipoli. Their hopes and dreams dashed by war – like so many others.
I would just like to finish with a piece from a letter Alan wrote home on Christmas Day 1914 while in Mena Camp, Egypt. And I quote: “I wondered for a moment where I was, and then, realising, a pall of sad homesickness fell over me, and I lay awake for a long time, thinking of home and all that it meant to me through the Christmasses I have spent since I was a kiddie. I was wondering, too, what next Christmas had in store for me, and for the 20,000 Australians encamped around me. How many of them were looking back, as I was, to memories of the big gums, the green, open spaces in the trees, the peaceful prospects of a harvest nearly over, and the music in the gums of birds that naturalists say are songless …”
Sadly he did not return to the home he dreamed of.
His photograph has hung ever since in the Mt McIntyre hall.
Today we all pay our respects to Alan and his fellow fallen servicemen.
Photos by: Maricar Wolfenden and S Lowe