Australian troops parading at the Somme trenches 1916.
Australian troops cheering the king.
For Australia, as for many nations, the First World War remains the most costly conflict ever in terms of deaths and casualties. From a population of fewer than five million, 300,000 men enlisted, of which over 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed or taken prisoner.
The outbreak of war was greeted in Australia, as in many other places, with great public enthusiasm. In response to the overwhelming number of volunteers, the authorities set exacting physical standards for recruits. Yet most of the men accepted into the army in August 1914 were sent first to Egypt, not Europe, to meet the threat which the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), posed to British interests in the Middle East and the Suez Canal.
After Gallipoli the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was reorganised and expanded from two to five infantry divisions, all of which were progressively transferred to France, beginning in March 1916. The AIF mounted division that had served as additional infantry during the campaign remained in the Middle East. When the other AIF divisions arrived in France, the war on the Western Front had long been settled in a stalemate, with the opposing armies facing each other from trench systems that extended across Belgium and north-east France from the English Channel to the Swiss border. The development of machine-guns and artillery favoured defence over attack and compounded the impasse, which lasted until the final months of the war.
While the overall hostile stasis continued throughout 1916 and 1917, the Australians and other allied armies repeatedly attempted attacks preceded by massive artillery bombardments intended to cut barbed wire and destroy enemy defences. After these bombardments, waves of attacking infantry emerged from the trenches into no man's land and advanced towards the enemy's positions. The surviving Germans, protected by deep and heavily reinforced bunkers, were usually able to repel the attackers with machine-gun fire and artillery support from the rear. These attacks often resulted in only limited territorial gains which were followed in turn by German counter-attacks; although this style of warfare favoured the defence, both sides sustained heavy losses.
Australian infantry were introduced to this type of combat at Fromelles on the Somme, in July 1916, where they suffered 5,533 casualties in 24 hours. By the end of the year 42,270 Australians had been killed or wounded on the Western Front. In 1917 a further 76,836 Australians became casualties in battles such as those at Bullecourt, Messines and the four-month long campaign around Ypres, known as the battle of Passchendaele.
Frederick William Allan Earthy was born in Reading, England in May 1888, he was the 4th child of Charles James and Elizabeth Earthy
He married Lilian Agnes (nee Brown) and is believed to have settled in Prahran/Melbourne and is recorded of having the trade of Lead Glazier.
He took the Oath and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in East Prahran/Melbourne on the 31st of July 1915 and joined as a Private the 6th Battalion, 13th Reinforcement troop and was given the Regimental no 4178.
He and his troop proceeded to join the British Expeditionary Force at Alexandria on the 25th of March 1916, and in his service record he is recorded as having disembarked at Marseilles on the 30th of March 1916.
He is recorded as being killed in action in France on Friday the 8th of December 1916, and is buried at the cemetery 26 Villers Bretonneux-France.
The enlistment paper for the Australian Imperial Force, and the Army Record showing that Frederick William Alan Earthy received the 'Star' 'Victory' and 'British War' medals.
The Star, Victory and British War medals popularly known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred after characters in a Daily Mail cartoon of the period.
The 1914 Star.
This medal was awarded to all officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers, and all men of the British and Indian Forces, including civilian medical practitioners, nursing sisters, nurses and others employed with military hospitals; as well as men of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Naval Reserve and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve who served with on the establishment of their unit in France and Belgium between August 5th 1914, and midnight of November 22/23rd, 1914.
The 1914-15 Star.
A Star similar to the 1914 Star was issued to all personnel mentioned above, with certain exceptions, who served in a theatre of war before December 31st 1915 and who did not qualify for the earlier star.
The British War Medal, 1914-16.
It is impossible to set out all the details of qualification for this medal, but briefly, the requirement was that a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.
The Victory Medal, 1914-1918.
This medal was awarded to all those who entered a theatre of war (and presumably took part in the fighting, logistics or medical services). It follows that every recipient of the Victory Medal also qualified for the British War Medal, but not the other way round. 300,000 fewer Victory Medals were required than British War Medals. All three services were eligible. It is not generally known that Victory Medals continued to be awarded after the Armistice, for the British forces who saw action in North Russia (up to October 12th, 1919) and Trans-Caspia (up to April 17th, 1919) also qualified.
William Earthy Langan Was born on the 1st of June 1896 in Tarnagulla, Victoria.
At his place of enlistment in Caulfield, Victoria he was given the service number V148112 his next of kin was listed as Hazel Langan - alas (Jan 2005) this is all we know of William at this present time.
Source for some of the photographs/medal & general information Imperial War Museum Australian War Memorial The British Army in the Great War British Military Campaign Medals The National Archives of Australia.
& Research by Mary Marshall, December 2000, Mark Earthy January 2002, Rikk Earthy January 2005.