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Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 3 years, 6 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


All Australia Memorial: Victoria.  Victoria's Fighting

Families, p 14


Keam H M    Pte    481    Herbert Millest  22    7 Inf Bn  Driver    Single    C of E        

Address: Elsternwick, Allison Rd, 10  

Next of Kin:  Keam, Violet, mother, 10 Allison Rd, Elsternwick    

Enlisted: 17 Aug 1914   Essendon    

Embarked: A20 Hororata 19 Oct 1914  

Prior service:  Junior Cadets                                                                                                          


KEAM, H. M., Pte., "B" Coy., 7th Batt.; s. of Mrs. Mumme, 10 Allison Rd., Elsternwick; b. Ballarat, Oct. 5, 1892; educ. St. Kilda SS.; driver; enl. Essendon, Aug. 16, 1914. War service: Egypt: Gallipoli. Pte. Keam fell at Walker's Ridge, April 25-30,1915; was buried as unknown with 62 others by Chaplain McKenzie, May 24, 1915, during the armistice.  

All Australia Memorial: Victoria.  Victoria's Fighting Families, p 14


Date of death: between 25/04/1915 and 30/04/1915



Private Herbert Millest Keam

Rod Martin

A solidly-built man standing just under 181 centimetres tall, twenty-one year old Herbert Keam of Elsternwick enlisted at Essendon on 17 August 1914 and was assigned to Lieutenant-Colonel Harold ‘Pompey’ Elliott’s 7 Infantry Battalion. Herbert was a driver by trade and had received some basic military training in the senior cadets while at school. Just why he travelled to Essendon to enlist is unknown.


Recruits of  6 or 7 Battalion, Broadmeadows, August 1914         (AWM H18389)


Along with many other young and fit recruits (nicknamed ‘Dinkum Aussies’), Herbert trained at Broadmeadows and then boarded A20 HMAT Hororata at Port Melbourne on 19 October 1914, destined for Egypt and then the Western Front in France and Belgium.


Troops marching towards HMAT Hororata, Port Melbourne, 19 October 1914    (AWM C02491)



Hororata travelled to Albany in Western Australia, there to join a convoy composed of ships from Australia and New Zealand. They finally sailed towards the Indian Ocean on 1 November.


Where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, Cape Leeuwin, Western Australia.  The first
convoy sailed past this point on 1 November 1914.    (Rod Martin)  


The convoy sailed north-west towards the Middle East. During the voyage, the cruiser HMAS Sydney, providing an armed escort, suddenly detached itself and headed towards the Cocos Islands. It had received a report that the German commerce raider SMS Emden had arrived there. Sydney caught up with the Emden, outgunned that ship and forced the commander to beach it on North Cocos Island.

When they were close to the Red Sea, the Australian commanders were informed by despatch that their troops would be landing in Egypt instead of going on to France.  The British War Cabinet had decided to stage an attack on German ally Turkey in an attempt to knock it out of the war and thus provide a safe route through the Black Sea to supply materials and possibly men to Tsarist Russia. The troops from the Antipodes would be used in this attack, along with British and French ones. The target of the assault would be the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The convoy arrived at Port Said in early December and Herbert and the other 1020 members of 7 Battalion were established in a camp at Mena, close to the Pyramids.


7 Battalion tents at Mena       (AWM C04423)


Their first fatality occurred on 28 January 1915 when a private named Lufke died of unspecified causes.

On 2 February, the battalion entrained for Ismalia, a port on the Suez Canal.  The waterway was an important transport route, and there was a fear that the Turks, located as close as the Sinai Peninsula, may attempt to attack and seize it. News had come through that the Turks had done exactly that. 7 Battalion had been sent along with another battalion to provide defensive support. Pompey Elliott and his men were to be disappointed, however. When they got to Ismalia, the Turks were in retreat, having made a small-scale attempt to transport some troops across the canal in small boats. The attempt was quickly repelled and the boats captured or abandoned.  As Ross McMullin tells it, the men of 7 Battalion had eight days of suspense:

. . . the men heard guns firing and saw distant shellfire through telescopes, but  they did not fire a single shot themselves, and the closest they came to the Turks was having to escort some prisoners. It was all a great anti-climax


7 Battalion stayed on the canal until 10 February, when it returned to Mena. No war diary is available for the remainder of February and the whole of March. From general reports, however, we can assume that the battalion was involved in a variety of activities during that time, such as route marches in the hot desert and training in the various methods of attack in scrubby country.  Pompey Elliott noted that, by late March, all the men were sick and tired of the sand and dust of the place. In addition, the lack of action had led to disaffection among the ranks, an attitude revealing itself in various forms of misbehaviour in Cairo. The worst event occurred on 2 April, two days before the battalion left for Alexandria. In the so-called "Battle of the Wazzer", about 2 500 Australians and New Zealanders descended upon a street famous for its brothels and drinking establishments. The colonials, many of them drunk, were angry about aspects such as recent price increases, poor quality drinks and the incidence of venereal disease. In response, they proceeded to wreck the area, causing several hundred pounds’ worth of damage.


Damage caused in Cairo, probably during the ‘’Battle of the Wazzer’’, April 1915.   (AWM PS1378)


Whether Herbert and his compatriots were involved in this fracas we do not know.  However, this and other antics caused Pompey and his fellow officers to breathe sighs of relief as they departed. As Pompey put it,


We have seen the last of Mena Camp, thank heaven for that,  and before dawn we will have seen the last of Cairo, and three  times thank heaven for that.


7 Battalion was transported from Alexandria to the Greek island of Lemnos, there to undertake training in landing boats and securing a beachhead. On Saturday 24 April, Pompey and his men left Lemnos in the SS Galeka, headed for the Gallipoli Peninsula. The plan was to land the men in the hours before dawn on the beach at a spot called Gaba Tepe. They would then proceed east and inland, up fairly gentle slopes and capture the heights that looked over the eastern edge of the peninsula towards the Dardanelles Straits and Constantinople (now Istanbul). The Galeka anchored off Gaba Tepe at 4.00 am on 25 April. Pompey was ordered to send his men ashore in the second wave, timed for 5.30 am. At that hour, the open rowboats were lowered and filled, and then towed by steamboats towards the dark shore before being released a short distance from the beach. The men then rowed them towards land. However, the boats carrying the different units bunched together and the landing was made on a narrow beach in a small bay about one mile to the north of the designated spot. The bay later became known as Anzac Cove. Peter Dennis and others, in The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, believe that the best explanation for this mistake seems to be:

that the naval ratings guiding the row boats lost direction in the dark and veered to the left. The result was that the whole force was landed on a narrow front with units bunched and intermixed from the start. The troops were also confronted by steeply rising ground instead of the more open country to the south.


Boats, believed to be those of 7 Battalion, being towed towards shore, 25 April. Note the raised oars
In the row boats.          (AWM H03546)


The men in the boats came under heavy fire from the Turks on the cliffs. They were fortunate that the defences at this spot were lightly manned, or the carnage of the beach would have been even greater. As it was, the situation the men found on the shore was a chaotic one. McMullin tells us that they were anxious to get out of the boats as soon as possible and seek shelter behind a sandy bank on the far side of the beach. They were weighed down by waterlogged clothing and equipment, slippery stones gave them an awkward footing in the water, and the dead bodies and already red-tinged water disconcerted them. Under sustained fire, and separated from many of their comrades, the troops followed hastily shouted orders, dropped their heavy packs and rushed to the bank and then up the slopes as fast as they could. What they saw ahead of them in the half-light of the dawn must have been discouraging to say the least. Instead of the gently rising slope they were told to expect, they saw rugged ridges and ravines, covered by waist-high, prickly undergrowth that slowed movement and often forced the men to divert. A very steep hill (now known as The Sphinx) towered one hundred metres above them. The great irony of that landing was that the men gained further ground that day as they headed for the heights than at any other time during the eight-month occupation. Soon after some of them reached the top and dislodged their Turkish opponents from their positions, the Turkish commander, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, moved reinforcements into the area and the conflict settled down into a stalemate.

And what happened to Herbert during the landing? A comrade reported that, as he made his way up the slope, he saw Herbert laying wounded, almost dead, in the scrub on the second ridge (later called Walker’s Ridge). Another comrade said that Herbert and he had charged towards Walker’s Ridge on 26 April, but that Herbert then disappeared and he never saw him again. Only fifty men of Herbert’s B Company (approximately 250 in size) made it to that height and survived.


A group of light horsemen at the foot of Walker’s Ridge (AWM C04613)


The scene in front of Johnston’s Jolly and along Second Ridge on 24 May 1915. Herbert’s body may well

have been among the many buried there.     (AWM H12818)


Just what happened to Herbert’s body after that is open to conjecture. The man who saw him on the ridge stated his belief that Herbert was buried somewhere up there with his identity discs on. However, no report of such a burial is available. It is more likely, perhaps, that his body lay half-buried by bombardment for the next month and was disinterred and properly buried, unidentified, during a cease-fire arranged between the Anzacs and the Turks in late May.  On the nineteenth of that month, the Turks staged what was to be their last offensive at Gallipoli.  3000 of them were killed and 10 000 wounded as the Anzacs held doggedly to their positions. By the following week, in the steadily increasing heat, the stench from the dead bodies and the resultant swarms of flies led to the cease-fire so that the bodies could be buried. Anzacs and Turks worked together at a very grisly task.  Sixty-two Anzac bodies and parts thereof were reported as buried on 24 May.

If Herbert’s body was there, it was missing its identity tags and he was unidentifiable for he was reported as wounded and missing on 25 April and the report remained current until a court of enquiry, held more than a year later, determined that he was  officially dead.

The assault on that first Anzac Day decimated 7 Battalion. McMullin tells us that, by 30 April, the Seventh had suffered more casualties than any other battalion. Even Pompey himself was a casualty after being shot in the ankle on the beach and  evacuated to hospital. He did not return to Gallipoli until 4 June. By that time, more of his men had been lost during the military disasters at Krithia, further south at the tip of the peninsula, in early May. Pompey wrote to his wife that there were hardly any left of the ‘’poor old Seventh Battalion.’’

In May 1916, before the outcome of the court of enquiry, Herbert’s widowed mother wrote to military headquarters, saying that she had received a letter from the Red Cross, reporting an eye witness account of her son’s death. She was asking if there were any monies forthcoming. The Army wrote back, saying that the court had not yet been held, so the death was not official and accounts could not be closed as a result. The officer who wrote the letter also made an interesting comment about the Red Cross Files on the Dead and the Wounded. He said that evidence contained in many Red Cross reports proved


. . . practically valueless, as soldiers have made statements . . . which they have denied when officially confronted with them.


Perhaps that judgement was a little harsh. Many reports from different men support each others’ stories.

On 26 December 1916, Mrs. Keam was awarded a pension of thirty shillings ($3.00) per fortnight, later increased to forty shillings in May 1917.

As he had no known grave, Herbert’s details were inscribed on the memorial built at Lone Pine, Gallipoli, after the war.


(Commonwealth War Graves Commission)



All-Australia Memorial: Victoria
Australian War Memorial
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Dennis, Peter et al: The Oxford Companion to Australia Military History, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1995
McMullin, Ross: Pompey Elliott, Melbourne, Scribe, 2008
National Archives of Australia       


War Service Commemorated

“Send off to the Essendon Boys”

Essendon Town Hall F-L

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour With the Colours            

Patriotic Concert, Essendon Town Hall, 1914  

All Australia Memorial: Victoria.  Victoria's Fighting Families, p 14 



Red Cross Wounded and Missing 



Keam, H Pte 481

7th Btn B CoySearch

Reported Missing


Informant states that this casualty belonged to informant's

section, and informant saw him lying severely wounded on the ground

on the afternoon of the 25th April, on the road towards Achi Baba, on

the second ridge, lying in the scrub.  Casualty gave informant the

impression that he was just barely alive.


Informant begs to refer the Bureau to Pte E Kennedy, No

481 7th Btn for confirmation of this.


Informant further states that many men were buried with their

disks on.  There was no time to take them off during an engagement.

On the retirement, casualty was not on the field, and informant thinks

he was buried in the meantime with his disc on.

Ref: - Cpl J Carlile

No 1004 7th Btn

Private address

Yarra Valley, Yarram, Via Traralgon.

HAB 2/3/16  Australian Red Cross Information Bureau - Melbourne  7 Mar 1916



W & M 25/4/15


Witness knew this man in B Co and says the last he saw of him was at the landing on 25/4/15.  He saw Keam leaving the boat to rush for the beach, but cannot say what become of him subsequently.


Ref: - Cpl Hardner,

B Co, 59 AIF

Tel el Kebir Camp

JLK 12/3/16



W & M 25/4/15

Informant states that he was with casualty on the 26th

April, the day after the landing.  They charged for the 2nd ridge

together for about 200 yards.  Casualty was in his shirt sleeves.

Only 50 of the coy returned.  Informant searched the ground, but

could find no trace of casualty, and has not been able to glean

any information of him.  He is afraid casualty was killed.  They

were great chums.

Ref: Sgt E Kennedy, 480

B Coy, 7th Btn






                                                            Courtesy of Kim Phillips, Spirits of Gallipoli website.


KEAM, H. M., Pte, "B" Coy, 7th Batt; s. of Mrs Mumme, 10 Allison-rd, Elsternwick;  b Ballarat, Oct 5, 1892; educ St Kilda SS; driver;  enl. Essendon, Aug 16, 1914.  War service:  Egypt; Gallipoli.  Pte Keam fell at Walker's Ridge, April 25-30, 1915;  was buried as unknown with 62 others by Chaplain McKenzie, May 24, 1915, during the armistice.



In Memoriam


MUMME-Herbert Keam, 7th Battalion, B Com-

pany, at Gallipoli, 1915, previously reported

wounded and missing, only child of Violet

Mumme, and stepson of John E. Mumme,

"Anerley," Allison road, Elsternwick, aged 22

years and 6 months. (South Australian papers

please copy.)


Family Notices. (1916, November 22). The Argus

 (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1.



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