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.
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.