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Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 5 years, 4 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


'Bloomfield, Pascoe Vale' pictured

in The Leader, 8 February 1902,

prior to embarkation for South Africa.


Bloomfield W J   Pte   1075    Walter James       8 LHR    33    Station manager    Single    C of E        

Address:    Kensington, Bellair St, 186    

Next of Kin:    Bloomfield, Thomas R, father, 186 Bellair St, Kensington    

Enlisted:    22 Dec 1914        

Embarked:     A57 Malakuta 23 Sep 1915                                                          

Prior Service: South African War   


Date of death: 09/08/1916  Sgt 8 LHR, aged 34

CWGC: "Son of John Thomas Rothwell Bloomfield and Catherine Julian Bloomfield, of 59, Loch St,

Coburg, Victoria, Australia. Native of Essendon, Victoria". 



Relatives on Active Service:

Bloomfield-C-M-Pte-3686  brother (KIA)


Sergeant Walter James Bloomfield


by Rod Martin



We do not really know where thirty-three year-old Walter Bloomfield worked when he joined up at Broadmeadows on 22 December 1914.  He listed his occupation as ‘station manager’, so we can assume that he was located somewhere in rural Victoria. As a result, we can also assume that he was used to handling horses.  Indeed, he fought in the Boer War (1899-1902) as a member of 2 Commonwealth Contingent, which was formed after Federation in 1901.  The Australian War Memorial records that Australians who went to South Africa served mostly in mounted units.  Walter was attached to 2 Battalion Australian Commonwealth Horse and was in South Africa in 1902.


(AWM 17313.001)


Given this background, it is no surprise that Walter enlisted in the Light Horse in December 1914.  He was assigned to 7 Reinforcements of 8 Light Horse (LH) Regiment and completed much of his training at the new army base at Seymour.  Indeed, he was at Broadmeadows and then Seymour for nine months before leaving Australia.  It is difficult to discover the full reasons why there was such a delay in sending Walter and the other reinforcements to Egypt.  We do know that, as a result of the initial enlistments in 1914, there was a surplus of young men joining the Light Horse. In fact, such were the numbers that 2 LH Brigade was formed as early as 3 September, and 3 LH Brigade (of which 8 LHR was part) shortly afterwards.  By mid-1915, men from all three brigades (a total of 8 000 personnel) were at Gallipoli, fighting as ground troops because the terrain was too rugged for mounted operations.  Therefore, it may be the case that some groups of reinforcements were kept in Australia at less cost until attrition required more men at the front.  In early August 1915, 8 LHR was involved in the disastrous attack at the Nek and lost 234 casualties, 154 of them fatal – including their commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander White of Brighton.    7 Reinforcements sailed on the twenty-third of the following month on A57 HMAT Malakuta.





By 20 November, Walter was in Heliopolis, north-east of Cairo in Egypt.  Given that the LH brigades were still at Gallipoli at that time, he and his comrades were assigned to a composite LH regiment.  On the twenty-seventh, probably because of his age and experience, Walter was appointed a temporary sergeant.  Once the survivors returned from Gallipoli, he became a member of the reconstituted 8 LHR on 18 January 1916 and was promoted to corporal.  The situation in Egypt was fluid at this time.  Now that the Gallipoli campaign was over, the Turkish forces there were free to join their compatriots in the Sinai Desert and march on the Suez Canal.  In early 1915, soon after entering the war on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Turkey had ordered its forces in Palestine (the area had been occupied by Turkey since 1299) to advance into the Sinai Peninsula and move on the important transport route.  They reached as far as the east bank of the waterway in February 1915 and attempted to cross it.  Three boatloads of Turkish troops did actually reach the other side, but were quickly repulsed.   The cost to the Turks was high: 2 000 killed or wounded and 700 captured.  The British forces lost twenty-nine killed and 130 wounded.


After the failure at Gallipoli, a plan was formed by the Allies: strike east of the canal, moving through Sinai and north into Palestine, mopping up the Turkish forces and seizing their headquarters in Damascus.  ‘By doing this,’ comments Barry Stone, ‘the whole wretched [Turkish] empire, instead of being smashed in the head, might just be cut off at its ankles.’


This was where the Australian Light Horse came in.  While it was decided that some of the units would be sent to the Western Front in France and Belgium (and many of the Light Horsemen volunteered for this move), others became the Anzac Mounted Division, comprising three LH brigades and the New Zealand Brigade, under the command of Major-General ‘Harry’ Chauvel.  They joined the British in the so-called Mediterranean (or Egyptian) Expeditionary Force, commanded by British Lieutenant-General Sir Archibald Murray.  The British orders to Murray were to hold the defensive line east of the canal.  However, according to the official war history, written by Henry Gullett, the orders were imprecise and Murray


. . . was convinced that . . . the only plan which could make the [Nile] Delta absolutely safe was to advance a force across Sinai to the plains of southern Palestine . . . [W]ithin a few weeks of his arrival [he] had resolved to advance beyond his entrenched line and deny the Peninsula to the enemy.


Taking advantage of a desperate order from British minister of war Lord Kitchener in April after the disastrous defeat of an 8 000-strong British-Indian force by the Turks at Kut (in modern-day Iraq) saying that  ‘ . . . any success you can achieve during the next few days will be most valuable’,  Murray seized the opportunity and ordered his forces forward into Sinai. 


But that did not happen until April 1916.  What was Walter doing in the meantime?   8 LHR remained in Heliopolis through December and January.  Many of the men took the opportunity to visit the Pyramids, and Walter was probably no exception.


Members of 8 LHR on the top of a pyramid, December 1915. (AWM H03071)


The regiment was still in Heliopolis in February, but groups of men had been designated to move to Serapeum, on the Suez Canal, to take up defensive positions there.  Walter was among these groups, and he was listed as being at Serapeum by the twenty-sixth of the month.


Troops being ferried across the Suez Canal at Serapeum (AWM J02663)


Walter’s younger brother Charles, a member of 6 Infantry Battalion, was also at Serapeum during February, so it may well be the case that the two met up there at that time.  If so, it would be the last time that they would see each other.  Shortly thereafter, Walter would be dead.  Charles would follow him only three months later, after surviving the Battle of Pozières in France.


This was the beginning of a prolonged stay in the desert for the Light Horse.  Peter Stanley comments that no other Australians saw such unremitting service, in this or any other war.  By 21 March, some of the troops were being sent out on patrol towards the east, and others moved to outpost duties at the front, east of the canal.  On 4 April, the regiment moved to a short distance to the railhead at Ferry Post, near Ismailia.  The men stayed at that location until the end of July, the various squadrons rotating to and from the defensive positions at the front line.  On the last two days of that month, the troopers were finally ordered forward and moved to the area near Aras and Simara, in the northern part of the Sinai.  The dryness and lack of resources in the region are evidenced by the fact that B squadron had to go out into the desert and dig wells after they had arrived.  As Paul Daley puts it, ‘Water was the key to success in the Sinai.’


Things had been happening in the Sinai and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) while Walter and his comrades were at Ferry Post.  In late April, the Turks had claimed Kut  after a siege lasting almost five months. Roland Perry tells us that, after that victory,


. . . the Turks then began their push towards the Suez Canal via the northern route over Sinai closest to the Mediterranean.  They . . . defeated the under-prepared and under-resourced British 5th Mounted (Yeomanry) Brigade at the posts of Katia and Oghratina 40 kilometres east of the canal into the Sinai, where they were massacred.


After being captured, 250 of the British survivors were slain by Bedouin Arabs, who had been left to guard them overnight. When 2 LH Brigade arrived to provide support, they discovered many bodies.  As Perry puts it, ‘Corpses in their hundreds were left where they had been slain by the Arabs . . .’


(Bean: Official history)


The slaughter at Katia/Oghratina had a profound effect on the Australians.  As Perry comments:


The Australian Light Horse, who came across the results of the butchery were sickened and sobered by what they saw.  No matter how long this war in the desert continued they would never trust the Bedouins again, regardless of directives from the British command about how to deal with local Arabs . . . all Arabs would be treated with suspicion.


8 LHR moved on to the main town in the area, Romani.  However, the Turks and the Bedouins had withdrawn further east, and the settlement was taken without opposition.  Nevertheless, the Turks would be back.  Romani was important as the centre of an extensive system of oases.


On 4 August, 8 LHR, along with the rest of 3 LH Brigade, moved east to the oasis of Dueidar, about twenty-one kilometres south-west of Katia.  It was flanking the other LH units that had gone before it, assisting in holding watering holes captured from the enemy.


A Light Horseman with his mount   (www.bing.com)  


As the Australian War Memorial notes, these conflicts were part of the encompassing Battle of Romani, fought between 3 and 5 August 1916.  The battle finally put a stop to the Turkish threat to the Suez Canal and marked the beginning of the British forces’ drive out of Egypt and into Palestine.  The memorial’s summary also notes that, after Turkish resistance finally collapsed on 5 August, large numbers of prisoners were taken.  At 6.30 am fresh troops of the 3 Light Brigade were turned loose in pursuit of the retreating Turks [my emphasis].   8 LHR’s involvement in this pursuit came on 7 August, when it pushed forward, taking Hod el Sagia and Hod el Bada.  However, it was then held up for the remainder of the day by deeply entrenched Turks and eventually retreated to a nearby oasis to deny the enemy the use of its water.  9  LHR then took over and consolidated the position. 


When the Turks finally abandoned Katia on 6 August (3 LH Brigade having a big victory south of that settlement on the fifth, when a strongpoint was rushed at 1.00 pm, resulting in the capture of 425 enemy and seven machine guns), the threat to Romani was over.  However, the cost to the Anzac Mounted Division was considerable: 900 (including 202 killed) of the 1 130 allied casualties.  The Turks lost an estimated  9 000: 1 250 dead were buried by the victors.


Lambert, George:  Battle of Romani, 4 August 1916 

(ART09556 Copyright © Australian War Memorial)


‘A’ Squadron 8LHR camped near Romani, August 1916   (AWM H13693)


Kathrine Bell writes that, while the Turks had been pushed back,


  . . . the defeat was not as final as the Australians would have liked.

It dispersed the enemy but left him able to regroup and attack again, which he did at Katia and Bir el Abd.  Because they could not get to the much needed water, the Light Horse were forced to return to Romani under the orders of . . .  Chauvel who was in command.  But the Turks were in retreat and heading towards El Arish, close to the Palestine border.


The Light Horse now set out in pursuit of the Turks.  8 LHR occupied Hamisah on the sixth and discovered one wounded Turk there.  Late in the afternoon it moved on, heading towards Hod el Sagia.  When it arrived there the next day, it discovered that the Turks were deeply dug in and rifle, machine gun and artillery fire ensued.  Late in the evening, the regiment was relieved by 9 LHR.  8 LHR had suffered three dead and six wounded in the exchange.


Despite Bell’s comment above about the Turks retreating towards El Arish, let us not think that they simply abandoned their forward posts and left them to the Allies.  Progress during August was slow and costly because of the opposition put up by the enemy.  At Hod el Bada on the ninth, fierce resistance in the form of rifle and machine gun fire, plus shrapnel shells, was presented and 8 LHR suffered substantial casualties. The Turks even staged a counter-attack late in the day.  However, as the  8 LHR commander reported,


. . . a sharp attack was made by the enemy, advancing in main  against our left centre.  They were apparently short of ammunition and too much exhausted to advance up the steep slope to our position and the attack died away as darkness came.


By the end of the day, eight men had been killed and thirty-six wounded.  Five of the latter group subsequently died of their wounds. 


Sadly, Walter was one of the eight men killed on 9 August.  Along with the other fatalities, he was buried in the sand at Hod Hassamiya and the regiment moved on, heading for El Arish.  From there, the Light Horse would assist in pushing the Turks out of the Sinai into Palestine.  Eventually, they would reach Jerusalem and then the Turkish headquarters in the Middle East, Damascus.


After the war, the Imperial War Graves Commission exhumed the bodies and re-interred them in the Jerusalem War Memorial Cemetery.  In 1917, Walter’s father wrote to the army headquarters in Melbourne, complaining that some items belonging to his son had not been returned to the family.  He listed socks, a watch, a spirit flask, glasses, shaving and smokers’ outfits, a wallet, a diary and money belt.  The commander of 8 LHR eventually responded to a query about this that, because of the speed with which the horsemen were moving forward, they had to leave the dead men’s items behind at Romani and trust that they would be returned to Serapeum.


Perhaps the Bedouins stole them.




Light Horse Memorial, Beersheba       (en.wikipedia.org)




Australian War Memorial

Bean, C.E.W: Official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918,

                       volume VII – The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and

                      Palestine 1914-1918, Sydney, Angus and Robertson,

                      eleventh edition,1941 (chapter VII, written by Henry Gullett)

Bell, Kathrine: the Australian Light Horse, Sydney, Murray David Publishing, 2009

Daley, Paul: Beersheba: a journey through Australia’s forgotten war, Melbourne, Melbourne University Press, 2009

Lenore Frost


National Archives of Australia

Perry, Roland: The Australian  Light Horse, Sydney, Hachette Australia,  2009

Stanley, Peter: Bad characters, Sydney, Murdoch Books Australia, 2010

Stone, Barry: The desert Anzacs, Richmond, Hardie Grant, 2014



Great regret was expressed in the Essendon and Kensington district when it be came known that Sergeant Walter J J Bloomfield, eldest son of Mr Thomas R Bloomfield of Bellair street, Kensington, had been killed in action in Egypt on 9th inst. The deceased was very popular in all circles, and was only 24 years of age when he was unfortunately cut off while serving his country and the Empire. He resided for many years with his parents in the Essendon district and his father was at one time a councillor for Essendon municipality. When war broke out he resigned his position on a station and travelled from 550 miles north of Broken Hill to his native place to enlist. He was attached to the 8th Light Horse AIF.


He saw active service in the Boer War, for which he was awarded the Queen's medal and clasp. Left here 12 months ago for the front, and was selected in November last to the Composite Regiment of Light Horse in Egypt to assist in putting down the rising of the Senussi tribe near Marsa Matrush, and took part in the engagement, which lasted all Christmas Day, when the enemy was defeated and dispersed with considerable loss. Since then he has assisted in putting down other risings of the Arabs and Turks. He was an old scholar of the Essendon State School, and also received tuition at Mr Saml Craig's school. He was a grandson of Mrs. J. Lyon, of Glass street, Essendon, who has four other grandsons still at the front.


ROLL OF HONOR. (1916, September 7). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Morning.. Retrieved February 5, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74594049



Mentioned in publication

Essendon and the Boer War : with letters from the Veldt, 1899 - 1902,

by Lenore Frost: Essendon, 2002.


War Service Commemorated

Essendon State School                                                                                                        

Anzac Honoured Dead 9 Aug 1916            

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour killed                

Regimental Register

South African War Memorial, Queen's Park


In Memoriam


BLOOMFIELD -In loving memory of our dear son

and brother, Sergt Walter J Bloomfield, 8th Light

Horse, killed in action at Romani battle on the 9th

August 1916; brother of the late Private C Murray

Bloomfield (Inserted by his loving parents, sisters,

and brothers.)


BLOOMFIELD -To the memory of Sergeant W J 

Bloomfield (9th Light Horse Reg), who was killed

in action at Romani, 9th August 1916.

(Inserted by A F W.)


The Argus Thursday 9 August 1917


Haven't checked 1918


BLOOMFIELD.-In loving memory of our son, Ser-    

geant Walter J. Bloomfield, 8th Light Horse, killed

in action at Romani, on 9th August, 1916.    

-(Inserted by his parents.)      


BLOOMFIELD.-In loving memory of Sergeant   

W. J. Bloomfield, killed in action at Romain, Egypt,

August 9, 1916. 

-(Inserted by brother and sister-in-law, Tom   

and Florrie.)   

Thoughts of you are ever near.


BLOOMFIELD.-To the memory of Sgt. W. J.  

Bloomfield, 8th Light Horse Regt, killed in    

action at Romain, 9th August, 1916.

(Inserted by A.F.W.)


The Argus 9 August 1919


BLOOMFIELD. In loving memory of Sergeant

Walter J. Bloomfield, 8th L.H., killed In action

at Romani on the 9th August, 1918, brother

of the late Private L. Murray Bloomfield,

6th Batt, killed In France on the 23rd November,

1918. (Inserted hy parents, 50 Loch st, Coburg.)


BI.OOMFIELD.-To the memory of Sgt. W. J.

Bloomfield, 8th Light Horse Reg, killed in action

at Romani, 9th August, 1918. (Inserted by A F W)


The Argus 9 August 1920    


BLOOMFIELD.-In loving memory of Sergeant 

Walter J. Bloomfield, 6th Light Horse, killed in   

action at Romani, 9th August 1916, brother of   

Private C. Murray Bloomfield, killed in

France 20/11/1916. (Parents and sisters.)


The Argus 9 August 1921


Haven't check further years. 

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