World War I, Family Hero – Sidney Vincent Vidler

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 then were unfairly targeted. Although, I do not know for sure, I believe we had such an 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 1890’s. 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 the 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 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 dishonourably 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.

World War I,Family Hero- Edward Herbert Vidler

I continue to blog to honour our family members, and their story as ‘volunteers’ in the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I.

Today I am writing about another of my paternal grandmother’s brothers, Edward Herbert Vidler.

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Edward Herbert Vidler, born 1883, was the second son and the third child of Thomas Nathaniel and Margaret Jane Vidler (nee Goodwin). In the family he was known as ‘Bert’.

He had grown up in the Shoalhaven area and migrated with the family when they moved north to settle on the north arm of the Tweed River. The family took up land at Chillingham.

He enlisted in Brisbane on 27 October 1916, along with his younger brother Sydney Vincent, and went into Ennogera Camp. Their cousin Frederick Cecil Vidler, known as ‘Fred’, and also of Chillingham enlisted the following month.

An article in the local newspaper, the Tweed Daily, stated

“SEEING IT THROUGH

The following names are those, of local and district- boys, who, preferring the “wents” to the “sents,” have after ‘attestation; voluntarily enlisted’ for active service abroad” …E. H. Vidler, S. V. Vidler,  F. C. Vidler… are now in the A.I.F.”

From his enlistment much of his story can be found in his personel file at the Australian Archives website at http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/.

After several weeks of training Bert Vidler was attached to the 47 Battalion and embarked on the troopship Ayrshire on 14 January 1917, for England. His cousin , Frederick Cecil Vidler was also on board. When they arrived on 12 April they were sent to Codfield, on the Wiltshire plain for further training. They were transferred to France on 16 July..

We can follow the day to day action in the military diary for their unit in the 47th Battalion through the Australian War Memorial website at https://www.awm.gov.au/

Soon after landing in France the 47th was sent to Belguim and were engaged in the trenches in the lower ground west of the Passchendaele Ridge. Three months of constant shelling had made this flat landscape a crater filled no-mansland, but still it was under heavy bombardment from the German trenches.

The allied attack on the Passchendaele Ridge was an attempt to break through to the Flanders coast so the German submarine ‘pens’ could be destroyed.

On July 18th 1917, a heavy artillery barrage was launched at the German line. This lasted for ten days.The wet weather was a problem, but the allied infantry forces inched forward with artillery cover. Fortunately a change in the weather brought better conditions and on 20 September the ‘Battle of Menin Road’, was a small victory for the allied forces, amid great loss of life..

The Australians were slowly moving forward towards the remnants of Polygon Wood, not far from Zonnebeke.

The 4th and 5th Australian divisions were brought in on 26 September.This was the ‘baptism of fire’ for both the young Vidler cousins.The fighting was bloody as the German concrete pillboxes were in the path of the Australians and many thousands of men fell under the heavy shelling and machine gun fire.

Bert Vidler was severely wounded in the left hand on 30 September and was sent to a field hospital. On the night of 4th October it began to rain which made the whole area a quagmire, and movement of men and equipment nearly impossible, although the German defences continued to shell constantly. The movement of casualties was also very difficult in the mud and wet weather, but Bert Vidler finally embarked on the Peter de Conick for England on 6 October, leaving his cousin ‘Fred’ behind. Sadly, ‘Fred’ was killed a few days later, although the family were not to know his fate for many months.

The story of Frederick Cecil Vidler was told in a former blog posted on 25 April 2015.

On his arrival in England Herbert Edward Vidler was admitted to Edmonton Military Hospital in London.This was one of several hospitals in England given over to the care of wounded soldiers during the First World War. It was a special surgical hospital for orthopaedic cases.

Although there are no military diaries to follow the story of a soldier for his surgery and recovery, we can gain much information from his personel file. Further information and photographs from various websites, give us some idea of his experience.

Edmonton Military Hospital was in Silver Street, Edmonton and had two large red crosses on the front gates. Today it is the North Middlesex Hospital. It’s wartime history can be found on the following website.

http://www.1900s.org.uk/1914-18-ww1-edm-military-hosp.htm

After he recovered from surgery Bert was sent firstly to Weymouth Convalence Camp No 2 – (http://weymouthanzacs.moonfruit.com/the-camps/4575540279 ) before being sent to Sutton Veny No 1 Australian Command, where there was a hutted military hospital of more than 1200 beds. (http://www.suttonveny.co.uk/1st-world-war.html )

Appaling wet weather set in and Bert hadn’t been there long, when he became ill with a sore throat and cold, which turned into bronical pneumonia. He spent several months in hospital there, but could not recover his health in the cold damp English weather.  It was decided he needed to return to Australia, to a warm dry climate.

Bert Vidler embarked on the Suevic on 25 April 1918. On arrival in Australia he was discharged as medically unfit for any further service.

It is particularly sad that more than a hundred Australian men and women who had survived the terrible conditions and slaughter on the battlefield were to die at Sutton Veny of sickness, many on their way home.They were buried in the Sutton Veny Australian War Cemetery, which is administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

https://suttonveny.co.uk/war-cemetery.html 

Two photographs from the above website

Sutton Veny Churchyard2Sutton Veny Churchyard

World War I, Family Hero- Harold Frederick Grenville Vidler

Today is Rememberance Day, when we pause and remember not only those who paid the ultimate sacrific and gave their lives in  the service of their country, but all those men and women who served gallantly, lived through the terrible conflict, and finally returned home to their families.

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My paternal grandmother, Olive Pearl Vidler was born in 1890, the seventh child in a family of nine.

She had four older brothers, three of whom enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I, along with four first cousins, the sons of Frederick Ashley and Jane Vidler (nee Haydon), and George and Matilda Vidler (nee Law),who lived on adjoining farms.

Harold Frederick Grenville Vidler, was the first in that family to enlist in Brisbane,on the 16 August 1915.

He was the youngest son, and fifth child of Thomas Nathaniel and Margaret Jane Vidler (nee Goodwin) and had been born on the South Coast of New South Wales in 1887. He was known as ‘Harold’ or ‘Noel’ in the family because of all the ‘Fred ‘ Vidlers, however in the Army he was known as ‘Fred’. He was single and only five feet two inches tall, so was not a big man.

He went into training at Ennogera Camp in Brisbane. After a few weeks he embarked onboard the Seang Bee on 21 October 1915 and disembarked in Egypt for further training. Zeitoun was a training camp for the New Zealand and Australian men near Cairo.When troops disembarked at Alexandria they went by train to the camp.

Unfortunately he contracted mumps and was sent straight to the army hospital at Cario.When he recovered he was transferred to the 3rd Training Brigade, where he proved to be a very good shot with the rifle.

At the end of three months training he was transferred to the 49th Battalion which was sent to Tel el Kebir .

Tel el Kebir, during the early days of World War I, was a training centre for the Light Horse of the Australian Imperial Forces, particularly for the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Some 40,000 Australians camped in a tent city of six miles in length at Tel el Kebir. A military railway was constructed to take troops from the camp to their vessels in Alexandria.

On 5 June ‘Fred’ Vidler’s  unit was transferred to Alexandria to board the troop ship Arcadian. On the 12 June 1916 he disembarked with his unit at Marseille, France.

Fred saw service in several places in the infantry along the Western Front and on 27 September was sent to a casualty station with eye problems, possibly caused by the chlorine gas,the German Army was using, but he soon returned to the trenches.

In October 1917 he was confused in the military records with his cousin “Fred Vidler’ who had been killed at Passchendaele.

By the end of the year he was attached to the 13th Battery Infantry Brigade Headquarters and is believed to have been in charge of the horses used to move the battery guns.

Just after Christmas he was sent to Bonlogne hospital with ‘tonsilitis’ and was later transferred to the 7th Convelescent hospital.

On recovery he was sent to Le Harve and was attached to the Australian Veterinary Hospital Corps there with a BII classification.-ie “Labour Service Abroad- able to walk five miles to and from work and to see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes”. He was later attached to the Veterinary Hospital at Calais.

The war ended on 11 November 1918. By 30 November, H F G Vidler was among those who were despatched to the Australian General Base Depot at Le Harve and boarded the military transport ‘Nance‘. He was sent to the Australian Base Hospital at Weymouth and was medically classified as ‘BI- that is able to march five miles, and to see and shoot with glasses and hear well’. He was later sent to No 2 Convalescent Depot at Weymouth.

On 16 December 1918 he was listed as boarding the troopship ‘Argyleshire‘ for return to Australia..

Many books have been written about the First World War including, ‘Forgotten Men- The Australian Army Veterinary Corps’, by M. Tyquin, which was published in 2011. Within this book is the story of the significant contribution to the Australian Army of the Veterinary Corps is told. While the Veterinary Corps reached their peak during World War I, especially on the Western Front, they continued to support military activities until horsepower finally gave way to mechanization in World War II.

This band of men is one of the army’s smallest and least recognized units, but were very important particularly during the campaigns on the Western Front.

Harold Frederick Grenville Vidler returned home to his family at Chillingham, although the terrible experiences on the Western Front were to remain with him for many years.

On Rememberance Day the red poppy symbolises this memorialization in many countries, but in France it is often the blue cornflower.

The website – http://www.landscapesatwar.eu/2015/04/26/poppy-and-cornflower-flowers-of-remembrance/  gives us an interesting history of the reasons for this.

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Convict Cousins in My Baxter Family

I have already blogged about, my ancestor, Thomas George Baxter, who arrived in Sydney as a convict on board the Roslin Castle in 1834. However, he was not the first in our Baxter family to be transported as a convict. William Shipman Baxter, his first cousin, was transported in 1829.

William Shipman Baxter, the eldest son of John Baxter and Sarah Shipman was born in London in 1806. He was baptised at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, which is the same church his first cousin, Thomas George Baxter was baptised in some nine years later.

St Botolph's, Aldersgate Street2

[St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London, Google Earth, 2014]

Although they were both born and raised in London, and even baptised in the same church some years apart, due to a family quarrel, they are not likely to have met, or had knowledge of each other.

John Baxter, William’s father , inherited half the family business along with his mother,Elizabeth, when his father, James, died in 1802.

John Baxter married Sarah Shipman in 1806 at St Botolph Without Aldersgate, London. They had three sons; William Shipman, 1806; Charles, 1808 and Frederick John, 1810,all of whom were baptised in the above mentioned church.

John Baxter died suddenly in January 1810, a few weeks before his youngest son was born. He was only 29 years of age and died without a Will. His mother, Elizabeth took the family business over herself, including John’s apprentices. It appears she declined to assist John’s young widow and infant family, and is said to have turned them out into the street.

Sarah Baxter with her three young sons moved to the poorer area of Shoreditch, where she worked as a laundress and charwoman.

She stated in a letter to the Home Office in 1828, that she apprenticed her sons to a trade at a young age, but I have not been able to find any apprenticeship nor guild records for these Baxter boys. As she was very poor, perhaps it was a more casual arrangement.

William Shipman Baxter was reported to have been apprenticed to a silk weaver. However, he didn’t finish his apprenticeship as the silk weaving trade fell into rapid decline and there was very little employment. He then found work on the waterfront moving cargo. Work was piecemeal and wages very low and William struggled to make a living. He was also the sole support of his mother and aged maternal grandmother.

William Shipman Baxter, known as William Baxter was tempted, along with many others, to steal goods from his employer and sell them to make ends meet. He was caught and sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to NSW on board the convict transport, Waterloo, under Captain Addison, in 1829. On arrival he was assigned to the McArthur family at Camden. Later he was sent to their properties near Goulburn.

William Baxter married Ann Rankin in 1846 at Goulburn, and they had nine children, before William died from injuries after a fall from a horse in 1868.

Meanwhile his cousin, Thomas George Baxter, was not faring well either. When his father died in 1829, and his mother remarried, he was left to find his own way on the streets of London. Early in 1832 he was arrested and indicted at the Old Bailey for stealing a cap. He was sentenced to one month imprisonment in the nearby Newgate Prison.

The following year, he was again arrested and charged with picking pockets. The sitting Justices of the Peace at the Middlesex Session in September did not treat him so lightly this time, as he was considered a habitual petty thief, and was sentenced to seven years transportation. He was held in Newgate until transferred to the Euryalus prison hulk for boys, which was anchored off Chatham in the Medway River in Kent.

Thomas Baxter was in the Euryalus for eight months, when he was transferred to the Roslin Castle to be transported to New South Wales.

When we were in Kent last year I was able to visit an interesting mock-up of a ‘hulk prison ship’ at Rochester. This gave me some idea what it was like on board these vessels.

When Thomas Baxter arrived in Sydney in 1834, he too was assigned to the Camden area, in the employment of George Brown.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, Thomas Baxter is listed as working for George Brown at Camden.Two years later, Thomas Baxter is recorded as receiving a Ticket of Leave, which allowed him to hire out to work for himself as long as he remained in the Camden area. His residence was shown as ‘Stonequarry,’ which is now ‘Picton’. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom in 1842 having completed his sentence.He married Harriet Mary Mather in 1850, and they had a family of nine before Thomas died in 1889.

In the 1837 Convict Muster, William Baxter is recorded as working on the McArthur property at Goulburn.

Although both cousins were in the Camden area for a time, it is very unlikely that they ever met. Even if they had, they would not have known they were related.

Some years later, these convict cousins, both had sons born within a few months of each other, whom they named “John.” When Thomas George Baxter’s son “John” (born 1860), married Mary Ann Davis at Stonequarry (Picton) in 1885, they moved to Taralga near Goulburn, where they raised their family.

Meanwhile William Baxter’s son ‘John” (born 1859), married Mary Ann McLean at Taralga in 1902.

Believe it or not the old cemetery at Taralga, where many of the Baxter families are buried is referred to as ‘Stonequarry’. Similiarly, the old cemetery (St Mark’s Churchyard) at Picton, formerly known as ‘Stonequarry’ is also the resting place of many of the our Baxter families too. These two cemeteries are about 168 kilometres or over 100 miles apart.

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[Above: St Mark’s Anglican church and churchyard, Picton, Chalmers Family Private Collection, 2014]

There lay the ground work for much confusion between not only these two ‘convict cousins’ Baxter families, but several other Baxter families in and around Goulburn.

What wonderful puzzles there are in our family histories just waiting for us to sort them out.