Many men from West Wallsend answered the call in World War One. Many returned to their loved ones but some lost their lives in battle. The following are just a few of their stories.
The Greenfield Brothers
The Greenfield brothers Stephen and Albert were the children of Samuel Greenfield and Isabella (nee Higgins) of Killingworth. They were 2 of eight children. Both were miners by trade and living at Killingworth. Both were killed in action in World War 1.
Stephen Greenfield (1893–1916) Service Number 3325. Stephen enlisted on 13 July 1915 embarked with the 11th Reinforcements from Sydney on HMAT Themistocles on 5 October 1915. He was killed in action at Pozieres, France on 22 July 1916. He was 23 years of age.
Albert Greenfield (1895-1916) Service Number 774. Albert enlisted on 25 February 1916 embarked with the 34 Infantry Battalion from Sydney on board on HMAT Hororata 2 May 1916. He was killed in action 16 December 1916 at Armentieres France. He was 20 years of age.
Their brother-in-law, Pte Thomas Wood Service Number Service Number 1030, was killed in action on 21 September 1915 at Gallipoli.
The Punton Brothers
The Punton brothers Alfred and William were the children of Robert Punton and Eliza (nee Parsons). Their aunt Annie Punton of Killingworth was listed as next of kin on their service records
Their mother Eliza was the great granddaughter of Maria (1805-1878) a daughter of Yarramundi, chief of the Boorooberongal clan of the Darug nation, who married convict Robert locke in 1864.
The Lock family were among the earliest to suffer the trauma of invasion and defend their land. They did not hesitate to stand up to fight for it again in the 1914-1918 war. In all twenty one members of the Locks and their extended family are known to have volunteered for service in the World War One with most serving overseas.
Alfred Punton Service Number 5811 (1886 - 1951) was 29 years 7 months on enlistment 29 May 1916.
William Punton Service Number 3453 (1882-1934) was 44 years 7 months when he enlisted 13 July 1915
Both suffered from vision problems and retinal haemorrhage and were discharged on medical grounds. Alfred returned to Australia 25 August 1917 after 15 months of service, and William returned 13 April 1917 after 1 year and 10 months of service.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience bilateral vision impairment and blindness 3 times more than non-Indigenous adults.
The Sneddon father and son tunnellers
James Brown Sneddon #282 (1868–1917) enlisted 16 November 1915 with the First Australian Tunnelling Co. James was killed in action 7 April 1917 at Flanders.
Walter Fitzgerald Sneddon #3124 (1896-1955) enlisted 20 July 2015 with the First Australian Tunnelling Co. Walter returned to Australia in 1919
Father and son were both miners working at Killingworth at the time of enlistment and served with 1st Australian Tunnelling Company. They were involved in the Hill 60 campaign.
Their mission was to detonate a massive store of explosives 30 metres underground and plunge the German troops in the trenches above into chaos.
“At 3.10am on June 7, 1917, their work culminated in what was then the largest man-made explosion in history as a series of 19 underground bombs, totalling 450,000 kilograms of high explosive secretly placed in Allied tunnels under German lines along the Messines ridge in the Ypres area of Belgium, were detonated in a mighty eruption that was reportedly felt in London, 200 kilometres away.”
James Brown Sneddon was killed in action 7 April 1917.
“We were working in the “H & I” [Hooks & Eyes System] sap underground under a 13 hours bombardment by the Germans. Corporal Sneddon, 1st Tunnelling Company, was buried in the face of the sap by the explosion of a shell. We were 4 to 6 ft from the surface of the ground and endeavoured to dig him out. He had been buried there for 3 or 4 days. We did not find him.”
Statement by Repatriated Soldier Sapper 3617 E.K.A. Hyland
The Thomson Brothers. Died same day, same battle, same shell
The Thomson brothers James John and William Lilly were the sons of William Waters Minns Thomson and Elizabeth (nee Chalmers). They were two of 7 children of the couple. Both were miners living with their widowed mother in Brown Street West Wallsend at the time of enlistment.
William Lily Thomson (1883-1917) Service Number 207 enlisted with 34th Battalion AIF on 12 January 1916. William was killed in action on 12 October 1917. He was 34 years of age.
James John Thomson (1885-1917) Service Number 206 enlisted with 34th Battalion AIF on 12 January 1916. James was killed in action on 12 October 1917. He was 31 years of age.
The 34th Battalion took part in the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. The Battalion’s jumping off line was what is now Tyne Cot Cemetery, and its final objective lay just beyond Passchendaele village. The 34th Battalion was the first Battalion to advance, followed by the 35th and 36th Battalion.
“At 5.25 a.m., the barrage came down. It was very weak and it was difficult to determine, which was the own barrage and which was German shell fire. According to the Red Cross Wounded and Missing file both brothers were hit by the same shell. William was killed instantly. James was badly wounded at the left arm and side and started to walk back to the dressing station. After that he was never seen again."https://archives.passchendaele.be/en/soldier/4737
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