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Bunning R A Lance Cpl  45

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 10 years, 1 month ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Driver R A Bunning (right) enjoys 7th Inf Bn Christmas

Dinner 25 Dec 1914 at Mena Camp.  The photographer

was Harry Barker. Australian War Memorial collection.



Bunning R A Lance Cpl   45    Robert Allan     7 Inf Bn    23    Electrician    Single    C of E        

Address:    Moonee Ponds, Darling St, 68    

Next of Kin:    Bunning, Mrs, 512 Mt Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds    

                                                 165 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds                 by 27 Jun 1917

                                                  73 Darling St, Moonee Ponds                        by 4 Jan 1918

Enlisted:    19 Aug 1914        

Embarked:     A20 Hororata 19 Oct 1914

Prior service:  17 months Goschen Rifle Club;   12 months Australian Field Artillery.  Unable to continue because of work.


Mentioned in correspondence:

Presentation to Nurse Jacobson


Date of Death:  25/07/1916

CWGC: "Son of William Henry and Phoebe Bunning, of 73, Darling St., Moonee Ponds, Victoria.

Born at Kensington, Victoria".







Mr Bunning, parcels clerk at the railway station, furnishes us with the following interesting letter from his brother, who was wounded on two distinct occasions and has returned to the front for the third time.


Pembroke, Malta

June 19, 1915


This is the first time I have had to write you a long letter since we landed on the peninsular (sic). I am better of my wounds and am enjoying a short spell at Pembroke. I have had a tour round [the] whole of Malta; it is 60 miles round the Island. It is lovely to see the different places. One of the best is built of marble, and has murals on the walls which are 2,000 years old. Another place we saw was armoury which has all the different sorts of armor the soldiers used years ago. We saw the Chapel .... - the bones of some of the ...., which were found after the  .... with the Maltese in 1632. It is very nice to see the women work Maltese lace.



The morning of April 25 broke clear and bright with scarcely a cloud to see in the beautiful blue sky. (I [suppose] an artistic writer would call it azure blue or something else just as poetical.) Everybody on the ... transports, steaming quietly in the waters on the western side of Gallipoli Peninsular was up ....in anticipation of the great  ....dated event that was to take place on the Sabbath day. We all ....the magnitude of the task which  .... us, and knew also what ... would mean, and knew that the ... the whole world were fixed...  watching all our movements. .... had it instilled into our minds ....available opportunity that we .... the fair fame of Australia in ... and it was with a grim de.....  that the whole force .... that success would be the....  in this great undertaking. I think I can safely say, never .... any one of our minds. Away to the south there hung a thick, smoky ..... the battleships were only discernible, like dark shadows ..... Slowly we made our way....  the anchorage, and between .... and 3 a.m. the lowering of the  boats was commenccd. Very .... afterwards the men began to ... into these boats, mine sweepers .... steamed alongside the .... and the row boats, with human freight, were towed away to the shore. As they left their....  ships, the whole fleet of....  in harbor opened up a .... and incessant bombardment of....  and the shells struck and ex.... great massive rocks, trees and....  were thrown into the air. At this the enemy shells and shrapnel .... to hail upon us. and oh! what....  they caused! What devastation!.....  the boom, boom, of our big .... our ships, and, looking [towards] the shore, one could see great  .... being torn in the earth, and .... of the enemy on the run—panic[stricken].


The row boats were made [fast] to the mine-sweepers, at the .... to the pinnaces—one behind ....  -generally six of them. They....  towed as near the shore as the....  boats could go without running ... and then let go, and had to [be rowed] until they were beached, these operations were going on, .... was falling all around the.....  and many brave fellows fell— .... dead or wounded—long before....  got near the shore, and many .... reckless daring were done by [valian]t "tars" on the sweepers and ..... One most pathetic incident occurred when one boat was nearing shore and looked like getting there, .... a shell dropped right into their [boat] and what a gruesome spectacle! [The] boat and the occupants were .... blown to pieces. This was [the] most horrifying scene of any I [witnessed] throughout the whole opera[tion].


The greater number of our .... now got ashore—or, rather, [lande]d - and the men without wait.... orders, jumped into the water .... waded ashore. Dozens were shot .... or wounded as they were in the .... Those who were wounded ....[were] in a great many cases, drowned, ....[in] that great rush for victory, .... had time to look to others, but, bayonets fixed, and, with yells ....one think all the mad-.... in the world had been thrown .... curses, we made one wild .... Nobody, unless they have .... Gallipoli Peninsula, can, by the stretch of imagination, con.... what lay before us Australians— .... you try to picture yourself on a [shore] and running inland from it [about] 30 yards on a sandy beach, suddenly rising from the sands,....  rugged, precipitous cliffs, like places so steep as to be al[most] vertical, and, to look at, one [would] think it  impossible to ascend ..... Again, picture these cliffs, with....  growing abundantly upon them, .... behind these either a machine-gun....  [several] rifles defending their .... hold. At one point in particu[lar there] was a high position, just up .... the water's edge, behind which....  machine-gun, and it is awful to [take] one's memory back to the ... the man behind that [machine]-gun was responsible for.  ....fiendish delight he must have .... seeing dozens upon dozens of fellows fall before his deadly.... . Still, nothing daunted, forward [we went] led on by the unquestionable ... of our officers and  non-coms., , .... came an easy prey to the ....sharpshooting, and several ... were soon left without an...  to lead them. But still the .... was carried on, and with such .... as that, before the Turks were ....to realise what sort of an .... had struck them, our .... was finding its way through .... a Turk's body. Screams of .... Allah!" could be heard in .... direction, and on their bended .... many begged for mercy, and in .... cases it was shown them, and .... were taken prisoners. Germans [and Turks] alike were now flying in all .... panic-stricken, and al....  I have read a lot at times of....  fighting Turks, I won't have ....  To me, he seems to be all right [if he] is hidden away, and has you .... at his mercy; but bring him [face to ] face, and in a hand-to-hand [fight] with a fair field and no favor, .... veritable "cocktail," and im[mediately] cries for "Mercy!."


Onward [valiant] lads went, and in about 15....  we had taken the first ridge .... hills. Our casualty list was heavy but we got there, and, not [satisfied] with that, and being some-[what] intoxicated with our successes, [further] forward we rushed, until, [we] went too far, and a great num[ber of] the left flank were entrapped by [the enemy's] right, and a deadly en[filade] from their machine-guns .... mowed our boys down like a ... going through a crop. No.... company or battalion can .....  out as having done more .... another - all had one object in .... victory!" And in half an hour [from the] time we placed foot on shore, [we had] accomplished what would [by many] be considered an impossi[bility] We had landed, stormed and [taken a] difficult portion, of the impregnable "Gallipolli Peninsula".


Settling down now to rifle fighting, our fellows began to improve and take cover in the crude enemy trenches we had captured, which only afforded them very slight cover for rifle fire. The enemy had the range of these from ridges picked off to a nicety, and their shrapnel was sent in with deadly precision ; and, being absolutely unprotected from it, our casualties still continued to be enormous. Regarding their rifle fire, we had no fear of it whatever, and treated it as a huge joke, excepting their "snipers," and they were "hot." In fact, I verily believe that, if you just poked your nose out of cover, you would have the point of it knocked off. By 11 a.m. the 1st and 3rd Field Companies of Australian Engineers had worked with such untiring energy that they had constructed a winding road from the beach to the summit of the highest ridge (about 300 feet high), covering a distance of one mile. This enabled our Indian Mountain Battery to bring their guns—packed on mules—right up to our forward lines, and by 11.30 we had the satisfaction of seeing and hearing these wonderful little guns belch forth their missiles of death. Needless to say we felt more, evenly matched when these "little demons" got into action—the fighting went on continuously all day and night; several counter attacks during the night were stubbornly opposed, and after hard and desperate fighting, were all repulsed, with heavy losses to the enemy. The artillery fire ceased as darkness came on, but was resumed again, if anything with greater vigor, at daylight next morning. All Monday and until Wednesday night this inferno was continued. On the Wednesday we received some reinforcements, consisting of Royal Marine Light Infantry. They were sent straight into the trenches, and that night we made another attack on the enemy's position. I think, if I remember rightly, it was at 8 p.m. The R.M.L.I. was assigned to the trenches on - - Hill, on our left flank, and when the charge was made, and we had taken the position, we settled down awaiting a counter-attack, which eventually took place, and resulted in the decisive defeat of the enemy. When daylight came next morning a most unique position presented itself. Here were we on one ridge, and the enemy on another, with only a small valley between the two positions, perhaps 50 or 60 yards apart. The ridges of both sides of this valley were literally strewn with dead. The poor marines, after a display of great gallantry, lost a great number of their men in this fight. The New Zealand troops showed extraordinary dash and courage during the whole of this night's operations.


I cannot proceed any further without commenting upon the noble work done by the Royal Army Medical Corps. It is utterly impossible to express in words the work done by this gallant body of men. Unremitting in their deeds of heroism, self sacrificing to what appeared almost like madness, every ready and anxious to rush forward to the aid of a fellow comrade, there they would kneel, under a withering fire, and tend some poor suffering soul, and carry him to a place of safety. Such acts as these were common amongst them, and many a D.S.M. was won by them that will never be known of. Many of them were shot down in the execution of their noble work.


One case in particular is deserving of mention. A young follow named Simpson (Simmy) a member of the R.A.M.C., commandeered a small donkey, which he christened "Barney," and all hours of the day or night, whenever there was any fighting going on, "Simmy," with his little whip in his hand, and "Barney" were to be found right in the thick of it. Simmy would lift the wounded man on to "Barney's" back, and if he couldn't sit there he would tie him on, and with a "Gee, Barney," away they would go to the nearest dressing station. This went on day after day and night after night, and where we could see others running for their lives across dangerous spots. "Simmy" and "Barney" would walk calmly on as if they were going along some city thoroughfare in times of peace, instead of travelling through a tornado of shot and shell. For 23 days this wonderful hero and his donkey performed many acts of self-sacrifice and gallantry, until on the 18th or 19th May poor "Simmy" came to his end by a bullet from one of the enemy's snipers. The death of "Simmy" was much mourned for by us. He was a hero.


The enemy's shrapnel seemed to slacken off as far as our lines were concerned, and he seemed to be concentrating his efforts upon our battle ships and transports out at sea, and hundreds of shells fell harmlessly into the water, every one of them very wide of the mark, and despite the fact, that our ships were lying somewhat close together, they failed to get one shell within hurting distance. Shouts of derisive laughter used to rend the air as the shots fell harmlessly into the water, and caused a splash in the middle of the sea. For several days now the fighting (in fact it was not fighting at all) became somewhat monotonous, until one Sunday night (nearly all the big events happened on a Sunday) we made an attack on the enemy's position on the left flank. This was one of the hardest fights we had in this long battle. Our boys, assisted again by the marines, charged their trenches, and after a very stubborn resistance on their part, took the position.  Hand grenades became the order of the hour, and so quickly did the Turks throw them that the position to us be came untenable, and we were forced to retire. The enemy then came with a counter-attack, but were repulsed with considerable losses. Our boys again came to the attack, and with such vigor did we rush forward that the enemy were positively panic stricken, and fled in a state of disorder; again they rallied to a counter-attack, but we had got ourselves well into their trenches, and this time all their efforts failed to shift us one inch. At daylight we found ourselves in a most extraordinary position, inasmuch as   both the enemy and ourselves occupied the fire trenches, and they had fallen back on their support trenches, and in places we were only separated by about 16 yards. So close we were indeed that we used to receive messages from them; written in excellent English, calling us all sorts of disgusting names, and using all sorts of disgusting phrases towards us, also giving us a certain time to surrender, failing which it was their intention to drive us into the sea. They have been led to believe that we, coming from Australia, are "cannibals," and that we kill and eat all prisoners, and they therefore designated us the "White Gurkhas."


Matters continued the same day after day, and night after night, until one afternoon one of our cruisers opened fire on Gaba Tepe Fort, and continued to bombard it for some time. No reply came from the enemy, and it seemed as though the fort had been abandoned, so next morning a Party was sent along the beach at 3 a.m. to cut away the barb wire entanglements (at this point they were a perfect network) to prepare the way for a landing party which was to go along at daybreak. The beach party got their work done without being discovered, and at dawn one of the trawlers steamed up accompanied by a cruiser, with about 139 men on board. Stealthily she crept up right under the fort, and the small boats being lowered and manned by a party, they were towed in by the pinnace. Everything was quiet and still at the fort, and it appeared as if it was only a matter of pulling ashore and landing, when just when we were in the act of doing so, some hundreds of rifles opened fire on us, with machine guns also. It looked a "sheep station to a Bathurst burr" that not a man of us would come out of it alive.


Every battleship in the vicinity immediately opened fire, and I never saw so much earth shifted in such a sort space of time before. It looked as if no man on that hill could live through it; they did though; 10 of our party landed, but left five dead on the beach. It now became necessary to rescue the party, and four sailors volunteered for the work, and jumping into a boat, they pulled merrily to the shore under a withering fire. Reaching the shore safely, they succeeded in getting the whole party, including the wounded, of whom there were 18 (but the total was 35), into the boat, and rowing towards the pinnaces, and being picked up by it, we were quickly towed to a place of safety. Strange to relate, not one man, rescuers or rescued, was hit on the return Journey, although bullets were flying in hundreds all round us.  Nothing of any note happened from this onward. At night the Turks made repeated attacks to try and regain lost ground, but as often as they came, so just as often were they driven back with heavy losses. So it went on, when an absolute lull, which lasted for two days took place. Scarcely a shot was fired, and we were beginning to think they had withdrawn; but in the afternoon we got a message in the trenches to fill up our water-bottles as they had large reinforcements coming up, and that they intended driving us into the sea. (This was a favorite threat with them, but for the life of us we couldn't see under the circumstances why we wanted our bottles filled). We knew a division of 20,000 had arrived that afternoon, also that an attack was intended, so made the necessary preparations. It started with a bombardment of our trenches about 5 p.m., which lasted until nightfall, when they opened up with their rifles and bombs, and the whole front and flanks became a perfect hell. Grenades were continually thrown into our trenches, and did a vast amount of damage, and the cry, "stretcher bearers," became monotonous. Fortunately most of our casualties were very slight from this revived method of warfare, and we gave them as much as they gave us, having in our midst a couple of "bonzer" cricketers who used to calmly catch their grenades as they came over the parapets and throw them back at them, and they used invariably to land just in time to explode.


This inferno lasted until about 2.30 or 3 a.m., when black stealthly (sic) forms could be observed creeping towards us. At first only a few could be seen, then they became thicker and thicker, crawling, swaddling and creeping along. They presented a most weird sight in the dark. Nearer and yet nearer they came, by this time in thousands right along the whole of our line, and it looked as though we must most assuredly be overcome by numbers. Not a sound came from our lines, but rifles were sighted and cocked, faces bore a grim, determined look, and fingers twitched impatiently on triggers: but never a shot was fired, and not a word spoken. At this the Turks became more daring, and came forward in an upright position, thinking we were asleep, or perhaps that their threat of the previous day had frightened us. On they came, closer and closer, until they looked like a seething black mass within about 15 yards of us. No surrender was our watchword, and no man was to leave the trenches. Still a little closer they came, when, CRACK! and Oh! what it din! Screaming, shouting, cursing, mingled with the groans of the wounded. It was awful in the extreme. Machine guns firing at their hardest, and men dropping in hundreds. It was quite two hells that night; and when dawn broke next morning what a gruesome sight! All along the front of our trenches was strewn with dead Turks, and the groans of our boys made one feel a taste of hell with our boots on. The Turks retreated with heavy losses and applied for an armistice to bury their dead. I remember no more, as I was carried to hospital ship wounded.


The people of Malta are very kind to us, bringing us cigarettes, flowers, etc,


(Signed) R. A. BUNNING


Soldier's Letter. (1915, September 10). The Independent (Benalla) (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3. Retrieved June 14, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article130144212 




For His Country.


Lance-Corporal Robert A. Bunning, son of Mrs. P. and the late W. H. Bunning, of 73 Darling street, Moonee Ponds, was killed in action in France on 25th July. L.-Corp. Bunning enlisted during the first week of the war, went right through the Gallipoli campaign, and was wounded four times before he met his death in an action with the Australians in France.


For His Country. (1916, August 31). 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-article74593995


Roll of Honor.

Private Harry Blanch, a member of the Goschen Rifle Club, has been killed in action on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Amongst the list of wounded appear the names of R A. Bunning and Andy Currie, both late residents of Goschen.


GOSCHEN. (1915, July 26). Swan Hill Guardian and Lake Boga Advocate (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2. Retrieved April 7, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92001286



War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall A-F

“Send off to the Essendon Boys”

Moonee Ponds West State School*                                

Patriotic Concert, Essendon Town Hall, 1914   

St James Church of England, Moonee Ponds  *                        

Anzac Honoured Dead 25 Jul 1916                

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour killed            


In Memoriam

BUNNING.-Killed in action, France, 25th July,
after two years' service, Lance-Corporal Robert  
A. Bunning, beloved son of Mrs. P. and late W. H.
Bunning, of 73 Darling street, Moonee Ponds,
loving brother of Fred, Will, Cecil, and Mrs.
Narracott, Ascotvale. Aged 25 years.
His duty nobly done.

The Argus 16 September 1916


No entries in the Red Cross correspondence, nor in The Argus In Memoriam in 1917 and 1918.

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