Another blog in my series of family heroes.
Just as everyone’s challenges and experiences in life are different, so are the stories of our soldiers. Some died on the battlefield; some drowned in the water-filled trenches and shell- holes; and others survived the terrible carnage, and came back to their families horribly ‘broken’; although few families realized how ‘broken’, as they still had all their limbs. However, they may have been ‘gassed’; or had been prisoners of war and been starved and beaten, or they may have been so traumatized by years of ‘soldiering’ that they could no longer live in the ‘ordinary’ world as their minds would not allow them that peace.
Few ever considered the lives of those young men, who didn’t want to go to war. They were branded as cowards by both friends and family and were often sent ‘white feathers’, most anonymously. They felt coerced or compelled to ‘volunteer’ especially as the war dragged on for yet another year. Some were so desperate they injured themselves, so they would not be accepted into the military.
Then there were others who ‘volunteered’ and genuinely met with an accident whilst training. They were ‘injured’, so they were not accepted into service, and were sent home as medically unfit. Sadly these men were often treated with suspicion and were accused of ‘ducking’ military service, and they were unfairly targeted. Although I do not know for sure, I believe we had such a case in our family.
Sidney Vincent Vidler was born in 1885, the third son, and fourth child, of Thomas Nathaniel and Margaret Jane Vidler (nee Goodwin). He spent his early childhood on the South Coast of New South Wales near Kiama and migrated north with the family to northern New South Wales in the early 1890s. The family settled at Chillingham on the North Arm of the Tweed River.
‘Sid’ as he was known in the family, started assisting on the farm at an early age and didn’t return to school after the family moved north. He continued to work on the family farm, until his father sold and moved to Queensland in 1916.
Sidney Vincent Vidler enlisted on 27 October 1916, along with his brother, Bert, (Edward Herbert Vidler). Their younger brother, Harold Frederick Vidler, had enlisted more than twelve months before, and their first cousin, Ashley Haydon Vidler, who lived nearby, had also enlisted the previous year. Ashley’s younger brother, Frederick Cecil Vidler enlisted in November 1916.
See former blogs World War Family Heroes, Harold Frederick, and Edward Herbert Vidler posted on 11th and 14th November 2015, respectively, and Frederick Cecil Vidler, posted 25 April 2015.
Many war tales had reached Bert and Sid Vidler, by the time they signed on as volunteers in Brisbane, October 1916.
Military training was going well at the Enoggera Army Camp, when there was an accident at the rifle range on the 18th December, and Sidney Vincent Vidler was shot in the foot. He was admitted to hospital, where it was found that a bullet had entered his left foot and lodged in the bone. The wound healed in a couple of weeks, and he returned to Enoggera, where his brother, Bert, and cousin, Fred,(Frederick Cecil Vidler), had nearly completed their basic training and were preparing to leave by troop-ship for England.
However when Sid resumed training it was found he couldn’t march or undertake further training due to pain in the foot, and he was returned to the hospital. It was suggested he undergo surgery for removal of the bullet, but it was explained that it was a very risky procedure at the time, as chloroform could be lethal, and there was no real guarantee that they could extract the bullet anyway. He declined to have the surgery. He was a patient in the hospital for over three months with little progress with his injury, as he still couldn’t walk properly, only limp. By this time his brother, Bert, and cousin Fred Vidler had already sailed for overseas service.
There was a military inquiry in early February 1917, but I have been unable to ascertain any further details of this accident. As he was not dishonorably discharged it certainly was not a self- inflicted wound, and his army records are notated with the comment- “Good Character”, so the mystery remains.
[Ref: Personel File of Sidney Vincent Vidler, Australian Archives, website at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NameSearch/Interface/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=8398220&isAv=N ]
He was discharged from the Australian Army on 24 April 1917, as medically unfit for duty, and returned home.
Sydney Vincent Vidler married Pearl Hayes later that year. They had several children. Their second son, Vincent Noel, enlisted in the Second World War. He died on 14 September 1944 and is memorialized on the Labuan Memorial in Malaysia.
Although, Sidney Vincent Vidler’s military story is a very brief one compared to that of his brothers’ and cousins’, I believe he should be included in the list of World War I family heroes just the same.