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Aitken C R  Pte 1113

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 9 years, 9 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Aitken C R  Pte  1113  Colin Robert    31 Inf Bn    22    Labourer    Single    C of E        

Address: Kensington, Wolseley Pde, 11    

Next of Kin: Aitken, D, father, 11 Wolseley Pde, Kensington    

Enlisted: 9 Nov 1915        

Embarked: A62 Wandilla 9 Nov 1915


Date of death: 21/07/1916

CWGC "Son of David and Jane Aitken, of 40, Footscray Rd., Kensington, Victoria, Australia".



Relatives on Active Service

Aitken A C V Sgt 423  brother 

Aitken G F Pte 535 brother





Private Colin Robert Aitken


by Sheila Byard


This person is certain to have been on the Holy Trinity Kensington WW1 Honour Roll since family, including his mother and sister Doris, were members of the Holy Trinity congregation and choir:


Private Colin Robert Aitken 31st Battalion was 21 years and 10 months of age, 5 foot 9 1/2 inches in height on enlistment, August 2nd 1915. A labourer, blue eyed and brown haired, he described himself a member of the Church of England. He was the youngest of six children of the Aitken family of Kensington. It is possible that he had been part of the Kensington State School cadet unit.


He was assigned to C Company of the 31st Battalion. Sadly he was to die of a stomach wound less than a month after reaching France on July 21st 1916. C Company of the 31st Battalion had been involved in the battle south of Armentieres on July 19th and 20th at Fleurbaix, now referred to as Fromelles. The record shows C Company supplied platoons that went out in the first and second wave when the advance began after an artillery barrage, at 6pm on July 19th.


31st Battalion suffered appallingly in this engagement with a total of 575 officers and men killed and wounded. C Company alone suffered 137 casualties.


Wikipedia has the following entry:

The Battle of Fromelles, sometimes known as the Action at Fromelles or the Battle of Fleurbaix (though the correct title bestowed by the Battlefields Nomenclature Committee in 1922 is the Attack at Fromelles), occurred in France on July 19-20, 1916, during World War I. The action was intended partly as a diversion from the Battle of the Somme that was taking place about 80 kilometres (50 ml) to the south. The operation, carried out midway between the British-occupied village of Fleurbaix and that of Fromelles behind the German lines, sought to retake a salient just north of the latter, situated at about 16 kilometres (9.9 mi) from the city of Lille.

Fromelles was a combined operation between British troops and the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). It would be the first occasion that the AIF saw action on the Western Front.

After a night and a day of fighting, 1,500 British and 5,533 Australian soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The Australian War Memorial describes the battle as "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history."

It was a decisive victory for Germany, and the Australian and British losses were sustained without the Allies gaining any ground.



There is no record of whether Private Aitken’s wound occurred during the advance or during the subsequent German counter attack. His death was reported to his family as having occurred at the 8th Casualty Clearing Station. He was buried at the Bailleul Cemetery, Plot 2 Row F Grave 23, the Revd A.F.Fenn Chaplain in attendance.


Mr. and Mrs. David Aitken, of Wolsely parade, Kensington,
have received news that their youngest son, Private Colin
Aitken, has died of wounds received on the French front
on July 21, and that his brother, Corporal George Aitken, has
been severely wounded.
The Argus 12 August 1916 


The official record shows he left Melbourne on the Bakara on November 8th 1915 and arrived Suez on on the Wandilla on December 7th 1915 and in June 1916 travelled per Manitou from Alexandria to Marseilles to join the British Expaditionary Force.


Seven years of correspondence: Official recognition of Private Aitken's service and sacrifice: paperwork and medals:


  • Mrs Jane Aitken was granted a war pension of 20 shillings a fortnight from October 1916
  • An official death certificate was supplied on December 6th 1916
  • A package of personal effects belonging to Colin Aitken was received by his mother on February 12, 1917. These included a prayer book and testament, letter, cards and a diary.
  • Receipt of Colin's 1914-1915 Star on May 5th 1916 was acknowledged by his father David, his signature being witnessed by Alex. Robert Milburn 
  • Memorial Scroll and King's Message - receipt acknowledged by David Aitken on October 22, 1921
  • Colin's War Medal on Dec 16 1921, was acknowledged by father David with Colin's sister Doris as witness
  • On 5/10/22 the receipt of the Plaque for Private C.R.Aitken #1113 signed by A.E Sheldrick and was acknowledged in a letter to Victoria Barracks on October 8th from Mrs Jane Aitken pointing out that her husband had died.
  • The Victory medal was received by Mrs Aitken on January 31, 1923


By this time the Aitken family had moved to 40 Footscray Road, now known as Kensington Road. Apart from notifications of their son's death and delivery of possessions and the medals shown above, photographs were sent of Private Aitken's grave, and there were letter back and forth asking whether the photograph supplied was of Colin's grave or perhaps that of another C. R. Aitken.


The family wrote to the authorities at several other times often round the anniversary of Privat Aitken’s death, including in response to the Army's request in July 1920 for completion of the form supplied when information had been supplied about the grave; David Aitken being an invalid at this time, it took Jane Aitken until September to reply, and the reply was typewritten possibly by another family member.


In  June 1922 around the time of the death of David Aitken, Mrs Aitken wrote to the Army asking about the delivery of the Bronze Plaque awarded 'the father of Private Colin Robert Aitken No 1113 31st Battalion', and about the issue of the Victory Medal. As to the medal the reply came that it was not yet available (26th June 1922) and Plaque arrived five months after the old man's death.


Apart from the three medals the records show that the family had also been sent a circular and booklet about graves, and a pamphlet "Where the Australians Rest".


31st Battalion

The 31st Battalion was raised as part of the 8th Brigade at Enogerra, on the outskirts of Brisbane, in August 1915. Some of the battalion’s companies, however, were also raised at Broadmeadows Camp in Victoria. In early October, these two elements were united at Broadmeadows, and the battalion sailed from Melbourne the following month.


The 8th Brigade joined the newly raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt, and proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front, in June 1916. The 31st Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front-line trenches 3 days previously. The attack was a disastrous introduction to battle for the 31st – it suffered 572 casualties, over half of its strength. Although it still spent periods in the front line, the 31st played no major offensive role for the rest of the year.


In early 1917, the German Army withdrew to the Hindenburg Line allowing the British front to be advanced and the 31st Battalion participated in the follow-up operations. The battalion subsequently missed the heavy fighting to breach the Hindenburg Line during the second battle of Bullecourt as the 8th Brigade was deployed to protect the division’s flank. The only large battle in 1917 in which the 31st Battalion played a major role was Polygon Wood, fought in the Ypres sector in Belgium on 26 September.


Unlike some AIF battalions, the 31st had a relatively quiet time during the German Spring Offensive of 1918 as the 5th Division was largely kept in reserve. The Allies launched their own offensive with the battle of Ameins on 8 August, in which the 31st Battalion participated. It was subsequently involved in the operations that continued to press the retreating Germans through August and into September. The 31st fought its last major action of the war in September 1918 when the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, and two American divisions attacked the Hindenburg Line across the top of the 6-kilometre-long St Quentin Canal tunnel; the canal was a major obstacle in the German defensive scheme. The 31st was resting and retraining out of the line when the war ended on 11 November 1918. It disbanded in France on 21 March 1919.




Australian War Memorial, Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diaries 1914-18, http://www.awm.gov.au/cms_images/AWM4/23/AWM4-23-48-12.pdf

Australian War Memorial, Unit History 31st 5th Division First AIF, http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11218.asp

Lindsay, Patrick.  Fromelles, Prahran, Hardie Grant Books, 2007

National Archives of Australia, Correspondence relating to Private Colin Robert Aitken #1113

Notes on the Aitken Family in Kensington by Mrs Doris Hoy nee Aitken.

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Fromelles


Mr. and Mrs. David Aitken, of Wolsely parade, Kensington, have received news that their youngest son, Private Colin Aitken, has died of wounds received on the French front on July 21, and that his brother, Corporal George Aitken, has been severely wounded.


CALL FOR MEN. (1916, August 12). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 20. Retrieved July 5, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1593355


War Service Commemorated

Kensington Methodist Church*    

Kensington State School                                                                                                        

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour killed                

Regimental Register

Holy Trinity Church of England Kensington         

Ascot Vale Congregational Church  *



In Memoriam


AITKEN.-ln loving memory of dear Colin. 31st
Battalion. 8th Brigade, died of wounds received
in France on 21st July, 1916, loved youngest son  
of D and J. Aitken, Kensington, and loved  
brother of Edward (Essendon), Corp George
(A.I.F., France), Mrs. Milburn (Newmarket),
Sergt Charles (AIF., France), and Doris.
-(Inserted by his loving brothers and sisters.)

AITKEN -A tribute to the memory of my best 
friend, Colin R Aitken, who give his life for King
and Country in France on July 21. (In-  
serted by Ruby Roach, Moreland )

The Argus 21 July 1917



AITKEN.- In loving memory of our dear son,

Colin Robert, 31st Battalion, died of wounds re-

ceived at Fleurbaix 21st July, 1916, youngest son

of David and Jane Aitken, Kensington, loved

brother of Edward, George (A.I.F.), Mrs. A.

Milburn, Charles (A.I.F.), and Doris.-(Jane

Aitken, 40 Footscray road, Kensington.)

The Argus 21 July 1919



No further notices in The Argus up to 1922.


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