Lake Macquarie History

The Gallipoli images of George Todd

George Todd landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, one of around 16,000 troops to descend on the shoreline that day. He had taken a box brownie camera with him, and used it to capture a series of unique images depicting daily life on the battlefields.

photo: george herbert todd

George Herbert Todd was born in 1889 at Rylstone, NSW. He spent his younger years at Rylstone, Mudgee and Cessnock. He married Leila Smith in 1919, and they had three children. George died in September 1991, aged 102 years.

Like so many other young men of his day, he enlisted to fight in the first world war very early- on 24th August, 1914 - 20 days after war was declared, and 14 days after the First AIF was formed. He was one of 52,561 enlistments that year. He was 25 years old at the time.

He was awarded the Military Medal in October 1916, and a bar was added in November 1917. The Military Medal was a decoration awarded to non-commissioned personnel of the British Army and other services for bravery in battle on land. Throughout his life George steadfastly refused to talk about his medal or the brave actions leading to the award, saying only "I was only doing my duty, it's what I got paid for."

George did give some insight into the horrors endured during his war service in a 1987 newspaper interview.

"It couldn't have been any worse, We would be on the front line for four to six days at a time. Three day rations consisted of a tin of bully beef and a packet of biscuits. The biscuits were so hard we had to break them with a rock - we called them dog biscuits. We were allowed one pint of water a day and we would use some of it to make pies with the biscuits. In the November we experienced severe snow blizzards, gales and rain and our water ration was reduced to half a pint a day. We had no water to wash in, so we would swim until we were spotted by enemy soldiers and would scatter as the gunfire started."

photo: winter 2016 gallipoli

George said fear of death was not considered, "We followed orders and did what we had to do. I was one of the lucky ones. I was in a. trench with two other men when we came under fire and the men either side of me were killed, but I was only slightly injured. There was also a lot of sickness on Gallipoli, but there were no reinforcements. Conditions in France were no better than on Gallipoli. The winter of 1916/17 was shocking - it rained non-stop. The trenches were full of water and mud and it was very cold. We only had one ground sheet, one blanket and our great coats - which were always soaked. We would often sleep under the gun for a bit of shelter."

While in France George was the sergeant in charge of a gunnery crew of five. The gun came under shell fire and of the five, George was the only one left standing. "Three were killed, two wounded, while I received shell fragments in my arm and leg."

Service in World War I

photo: mena camp, egypt

He embarked at Sydney, for service overseas with the 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade, and sailed on the ship 'Argyllshire' on 18th October, 1914. Arriving in Egypt in the middle of December 1914, he was stationed at "Mena" camp, at the foot of the Pyramids, until early April 1915.

He landed at Anzac Cove on April 25th 1915, and evacuated Anzac Cove on December 17th 1915, two days before the final evacuation, returning to Egypt.

George served overseas at the Gallipoli Peninsula, Middle East, France and Belgium with the following units:

  • 1st Australian Field Artillery Brigade (Gallipoli Peninsula, Middle East, France, Beligum).
  • 1st Australian Divisional Ammunition Column (France).
  • 1st Australian Divisional Medium Trench Mortar Battery (France).

  • photo: gun placement

    He was promoted to the rank of sergeant on 22 April 1916, and attained the rank of 2nd lieutenant on 22 May 1918, and finally the rank of lieutenant on 22 August 1918.

    George returned to Australia on 23 December 1918, and his appointment in the 1st Australian Imperial Force was terminated in New South Wales on 22 February 1919.

    George saw service for the entire period of the war, arriving in France in April 1916, and leaving the country on 1914/15 leave eight days before the Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918.

    Service in World War II

    photo: dugout, gallipolit

    Like many survivors of the 1914-1918 conflict, George also signed up for duty in the second world war, though his age restricted him to service on Australian soil.

    He was appointed lieutenant in the Australian Citizen Military Forces (Full-time duty) on 18 December 1941 and allotted army number N106264. He was seconded to the 2nd Australian imperial Force on 22 February 1943 and allotted army number NX147718.

    He served in Australia with the following units:

  • 8th Australian Garrison Battalion.
  • 19th Australian Labour Company.
  • 21st Australian Employment Company (Redesignated 21st Australian Works Company).
  • Placed on the retired list on 19 November 1944.

    Honours and Awards:

    World War I

  • Military Medal and Bar
  • 1914/15 Star
  • British War Medal; Victory Medal
  • Anzac Commemorative Medallion

  • World War II

  • War Medal
  • Australia Service Medal

  • Commendation for his Military Medal

    Below is the wording of the recommendation for the Military Medal George was awarded in 1916:

    2nd Battery, 191, Sergeant George Herbert TODD

    As NCO in charge of battery headquarters in action at Cape Helles by maintaining communication between infantry and artillery during the advance of 42nd Lowland Division. Valuable information was sent back as the attack developed and progressed. Sergeant Todd carried the wires forward with Captain Callaghan who was awarded the DSO as the result of his action.

    C.R.A. Military Medal - 1st Australian Division

    Signed by Brigadier-General Harold Walker; temporary commander1st Division AIF