Brothers in arms

BROTHERS: Henry, Gordon and Alfred Vernon. Photo: supplied.
BROTHERS: Henry, Gordon and Alfred Vernon. Photo: supplied.

This year commemorates 100 years since the signing of Armistice and the conclusion of the First World War.

There were a number of families from the Collie region who provided more than one son to WWI. Records show there were 14 families with three siblings who served overseas during the war, with one family losing all three.

There were 52 families with two siblings who served in WWI, with five families losing both of their sons.

Three Vernon brothers all fought in WWI. At the time of enlisting they were working as coal miners in Collie.

Born in Glamorganshire in the south of Wales their parents Jane and James Vernon moved to Western Australia in 1912. They were Welsh coal miners and came to work in Kalgoorlie, before making their way to Collie.

The family originally had four brothers out of seven that were conscripted to deploy overseas in the war, James, Gordon Lindsay, Henry and Albert Edward.

However, their mother Jane pleaded that the war had taken too many of her children and left her with not enough to help at home. This resulted in James being sent home seven weeks after he left to start training.

The other three youngest brothers stayed and then deployed overseas.

Gordon Lindsay Vernon was 27 years of age when he enlisted for WWI on October 25, 1915.

After three months of training with Depot Battalions Gordon was posted to

the 28th Battalion and appointed to the rank of corporal.

He left from Fremantle on the ship Ulysses on April 1 the following year and arrived at Plymouth, England on May 7.

Gordon went on to Marseilles, France, before being transferred to the base depot and joining his battalion in the field as acting corporal on the western front. There he was a bomber, throwing grenades.

Gordon’s brothers Henry, 26 at the time, and Albert, 22, both enlisted together on April 19, 1916, where they did their training at Blackboy Hill and were both posted to the 51st Battalion.

In September 1916 they were both transferred to the 5th Australian Pioneer Battalion as part of the 6th Reinforcements and embarked the Port Melbourne ship which arrived in Devonport, England.

REMEMBERING: Glenis Vernon holding a photo of her father Gordon and uncles Albert and Henry from WWI. Photo: Breeanna Tirant.

REMEMBERING: Glenis Vernon holding a photo of her father Gordon and uncles Albert and Henry from WWI. Photo: Breeanna Tirant.

In March 1917, Gordon was wounded in action yet remained in duty.

The other two brothers conducted their training at Larkhill where they eventually went into battle in France in May 1917 as stretcher bearers.

Within three weeks Henry started to suffer a bout of trench fever and recovered for seven weeks in Convalescent Depots in France before re-joining his battalion. Albert stayed and completed nine months of interrupted service.

On May 3, 1917, Gordon was wounded again, twice, but this time it was a severe gunshot to the chest.

He was quickly hospitalised in France before being moved to the Southern

General Hospital in Bristol and then on to the Australian Aux Hospital to recover.

Gordon’s daughter Glenis Vernon (Stewart) said he was lucky.

“His pay packet saved him. There was a hole in it where he was shot,” she said.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his devotion to duty.

The recommendation for the medal stated Gordon showed “gallantry and fearless work on May 3, 1917, in the Hindenburg Line east of Bullecourt. When moving to the front line he was wounded in the hand and in the nose. On arrival at O.G.1, he worked at getting bombs forward and when the enemy counterattacked he rushed forward and bombed them and was instrumental in stopping the attack. He was again wounded. He remained on duty and worked with a fresh bombing squad which pushed the enemy back. In this, he was wounded for the third time and had to be carried out. He showed utter disregard of danger and personal safety.”

Following his discharge from hospital, he spent three months at the Command Depot in Perham Downs before two weeks training at Longbridge Deverill.

PART OF THE 10TH REINFORCEMENTS: Cpl Moran and Cpl Vernon sitting with Cpl Chapman, Sgt Preston, Lt Compton, Lt Glover and C.S.M Elfson. Photo: supplied.

PART OF THE 10TH REINFORCEMENTS: Cpl Moran and Cpl Vernon sitting with Cpl Chapman, Sgt Preston, Lt Compton, Lt Glover and C.S.M Elfson. Photo: supplied.

On October 18, 1917, Henry suffered a shell wound to the head which was treated by field ambulance officers for two weeks before joining back with his brother Albert.

In December 1917 Gordon re-joined his battalion in Belgium before being transferred to the 5th Australian Pioneer Battalion two months later with his brothers where he became a stretcher bearer.

In February 1918, Albert was granted two weeks leave and on return to France spent a week in the Casualty Clearing Station with sickness before returning to his brothers.

Gordon was wounded for a third time in action in France on July 17, 1918, but still remained on duty. He was mentioned in the Corps Orders for his acts of bravery.

In the Corps Orders it’s mentioned that “during the operations at Bullecourt on September 29 1918, this NCO showed conspicuous courage and initiative in dealing with difficult situations. On several occasions, his company came under heavy and sudden shell fire, and he moved his men with such skill that many casualties were avoided. He proved himself reliable and he set a splendid example of courage and devotion to duty to the remainder of his company.”

Ms Vernon said all three brothers continued to serve until the war was over.

“When the war ended they couldn’t send all the men home all at once. The three brothers were transferred to Belgium to work on the railways to check the contraband of coal,” she said.

“Then my dad came home first on June 9, 1919, and the other two followed shortly after arriving home together on July 8, 1919.”

They all came home aboard Somali.

The Vernon brothers arrived home to their loved ones and had families of their own.

Ms Vernon said they passed away several decades later, mostly due to being gassed in the war.