We shall be holding an Anzac Day service at 10am on Tuesday 25th April. Everyone is welcome, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Author Archives: Helen Roberts
Working Picnics 2023
We will be returning to the Map of Australia in April in advance of Anzac Day to carry out some maintenance. Dates are as follows, meeting at Naishes Farm, A30, Compton Chamberlayne, SP3 5DL:
Wednesday 12th April
Saturday 15th April
Saturday 22nd April
Please email us at email@example.com if you wish to join us.
Having a look back through the wonderful Ben Edgcumbe WW1 Diary & Photographs Western Front 1917-1919 12th FAB AFA recently, I spotted what looked like a regimental service number written on a kit bag, visible on the right hand side of the first photograph. The number appeared to read 28447.
I decided to search for this number via the National Archives Australia website – which is a brilliant research tool and lo and behold, this record popped up, showing that a Ernest Melbourne Schmidt held this service number as part of the Australian Imperial Force. Ernest Melbourne Schmidt enlisted on 25th May 1916, aged 18 years and 11 months. He was 5’6″ tall, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. Ernest was a farm labourer, single and came from Malvern, Melbourne. His terms of service were to be for the duration of the war plus 4 months. He was assigned to be a Gunner with the Australian Field Artillery and later became a Driver.
He left Melbourne on a ship ‘Ulysees’ on 25th October 1916, arriving in Plymouth on 28th December.
He marched into Larkhill, Salisbury Plain on 29th December 1916 and must have spent several months in England training before arriving in France as part of the 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade on 4th October 1917. He seems to have spent a couple of months sick soon after and was returned to Base Depot, Le Havre.
On 7th January 1918, he rejoined his unit.Now this is the very interesting bit and confirms that his regimental number is correct. Records show that as part of the 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade (the same unit as Ben Edgcumbe) he marched into No 4 Command Depot, Hurdcott Camp on 23rd April 1919 as part of ‘Quota 35’ and left England on the same ship as Ben, a confiscated German boat named ‘Swakopmund’, departing England on 15th June 1919 and arriving back in Melbourne on 2nd August.
He was discharged from the Australian Imperial Forces on 9th September 1919. In the Ben Edgcumbe records there is mention of Schmidt as part of the ‘Quota 35’ although the initials and service number do not match, but it must be him.It is fascinating to think that sleeping under that blanket in the photograph is Ernest Melbourne Schmidt. He almost certainly appears in some of the photographs Ben took as Quota 35 would have been kept together from their time in France, right through the re-patriation process and then onto the boat back to Australia.
Tragically, Ernest Schmidt’s records show that he died on 15th December 1923, he would only have been about 26 years of age. The records state ’cause of death unknown’.
Deputy Chief of the Australian Army, Major General Rawlins visits the Map of Australia.
On Wednesday 13th November 2019, we hosted a visit by Major General Rawlins and his staff from the Australian Army. We showed the Major General the Map of Australia and stood in the fields which had once held around 4,000 Australians in what was Hurdcott Camp.
We were able to show the Major General archive photo’s showing the camp fields during the First World War and except for the lack of huts, the layout of all the fields is still the same today as it was over 100 years ago.
Major General Rawlins was also able to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Compton Chamberlayne where 28 Australian soldiers are buried and lay a wreath. We then moved to the village hall which is an old WW1 camp hut where we had morning tea. The Australian Army personnel were able to chat to Map of Australia volunteers and read all about the history of Hurdcott Camp and the Australians in this little corner of Wiltshire.
The Ben Edgcumbe War Diaries and Photographs 1917-1919.
An amazing discovery about Hurdcott Camp has just been found on Facebook: “Grandfather’s diaries & photographs have been in the cupboard & under the bed for just about 100 years. As it is the anniversary of WW1 of his wedding, decided to put them together in a book & now a Facebook page.”
Caroline Spowart, the Granddaughter of Gunner Ben Edgcumbe of the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Field Artillery has published the diary entries and photographs in a book but has also added them to the Facebook page called ‘Ben Edgcumbe WW1 Diary & Photographs Western Front 1917-1919 12th FAB, AFA’. They are a wonderful record with never seen before images of life at Hurdcott Camp in 1919 when it became a large de-mobilisation camp.
Ben also mentions the Map of Australia, on Friday 25th April 1919 (Anzac Day) he wrote:
“Geo and I went up the steep hill overlooking Hurdcott Camp where there is a map of Aussie. We walked around it taking us nearly 4 minutes, the white border is 4ft. The letters are eight foot across the map from east to west is 204ft north to south 168ft. Tasmania measures 21ft.”
The page also contains details of his life as a member of the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Field Artillery on the Western Front.
What is striking about this discovery is the clarity of the photographs. Reading his diaries, he made some income selling his images as cards. He certainly had some skill in the art of photography. On Friday 23rd May 1919, he wrote: “Geo Randal and I were Mess Orderly today. I got up early and all the boys were all asleep I took a snap of them do not know how it will turn out.” The image is below:
Ben Edgcumbe was at Hurdcott for a couple of months & describes a fair amount of violence at the camp, perhaps evidence of the frustration felt by soldiers being unable to get home: ‘We walked into Fovant to get some postcards, but was unlucky. We went & had some tea & cakes and picture before returned home. We set out for home after dark, on arriving at the head of our own lines Will and I were attacked by a crowd a [of thugs]? They knocked us about and kicking us when [we] were down. Got home feeling sore about the head.
Ben left England on 15th June 1919 onboard Swakopmund, a German ship and eventually arrived home on Saturday 2nd August.
We are so grateful to the Granddaughter of Ben Edgcumbe for making this material available, a wonderful tribute to him.