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Doig C G   Pte  993

Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 9 years, 4 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Doig C G   Pte  993    Charles Gordon                   31 Inf Bn    22    Tinsmith    Single    Pres        

Address:    Ascot Vale, The Parade, 142    

Next of Kin:    Doig, R, father, 142 The Parade, Ascot Vale    

Enlisted:    7 Jul 1915        

Embarked:     A62 Wandilla 8 Nov 1915  


Date of death: 25/09/1917 

CWGC: "Son of Robert J. and Ellen Doig, of 142, The Parade, Ascot Vale, Victoria, Australia".



Relatives on Active Service:

Doig R G Pte 7472 brother (Bert)

Manderson W Pte 5626  cousin DOW

Manderson H Pte 5627 cousin

Harvey A E Pte 2261 cousin KIA

Harvey J D Pte 2160 cousin

Manderson E J A Pte 3826 cousin

Manderson A L G Pte 3360 cousin

Manderson R R B Pte 5376 cousin

Lukey A N Pte 4542 cousin

Wilson F T Pte 5434 cousin


Friend of Bryant A W Pte 182 DOW (see In Memoriam)



Gunner Charles Gordon Doig


Rod Martin


Enthusiasm for the First World War was still high in July 1915.  In fact, that month saw a record 36,575 enlistments in the Australian Imperial Force.  News that the war was going badly, combined with an energetic recruiting campaign and public outrage over the sinking of the British liner Lusitania with the loss of 1,200 lives, caused hundreds of young men to besiege the recruiting offices across the country.  One of them was twenty-one year-old Gordon Doig, a tinsmith from Ascot Vale.  Gordon was a single man, with grey eyes and brown hair, 168 centimetres tall and weighing approximately sixty-five kilos.  He signed up for 31 Battalion on 7 July, trained at Broadmeadows and embarked for the Middle East on A62 HMAT Wandilla on 9 November that year.


The ship arrived at Suez on 7 December, the troops expecting to travel on to Gallipoli.  However, the British Cabinet that very day had decided to cut the Allies’ losses and evacuate the peninsula by the end of the month.  As a result, Gordon and his compatriots remained in Egypt over the winter period, training in preparation for a move to the Western Front some time in 1916.


While in Egypt, Gordon decided in March to transfer to 5 Division Artillery.  He was accordingly assigned to 25 Howitzer Brigade and became a gunner.  Because he would require further training, he remained in Egypt until 19 June, when he sailed for Marseilles on HMT Canada.


An Australian eight-inch howitzer in the Ypres area 1917.      E01229

Australian War Memorial Collection.  http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/E01229



Arriving in Marseilles on 25 June, Gordon travelled north by train to the area of the Somme Valley in the Picardy region of north-western France.  The British High Command had decided to stage a major offensive in this area to provide support for their French allies and to draw German troops away from their siege of the French fort at Verdun, further south.  The first attack was planned for 1 July.  5 Division’s infantry would not be arriving in France until after that date, so it is unlikely that Gordon’s brigade was involved in the initial bombardments leading up to the start of the battle.  However, once 5 Division arrived it was quickly moved into the trenches and prepared for a diversionary attack at Fromelles on 19 July.  Gordon was probably involved in the firing of 15 000 shells from 4.5 inch howitzers during the eleven-hour preliminary bombardment before the troops went over the top.  As with many bombardments during the Somme Campaign, this one did not achieve its purpose of destroying the Germans in the first defence line, and the Australian troops were slaughtered as they jumped out of the trenches and attempted to cross up to 350 metres of no man’s land.  Fromelles resulted in Australia’s largest ever single loss in a twenty-four hour period: 5 533 killed, wounded and captured.


Fromelles devastated 5 Division, and it was not ready to return to combat duties until October 1916.  By that time, the Battle of the Somme was almost over.  Some territory had been gained, but to no real strategic purpose. The Germans were still solidly entrenched and retained the advantage over their foes.  5 Division spent the winter on the Somme, engaged in sporadic fighting with its opponents.  25 Howitzer Brigade provided support in the form of intermittent bombardments.


In January 1917, field artillery batteries were increased from four to six guns to make more economical use of commanders, and the number of brigades supporting each division was reduced to two.  In April, 3 Field Artillery Brigade became an army brigade, not assigned to any particular division, but supporting the Australian Corps in general.  Gordon and his compatriots were transferred to this new organization.  As such, they would have been involved in supporting attacks such as those at Arras in April and Bullecourt in May.


The reader may have the idea that soldiers in the artillery, particularly the heavy gun sections based behind the front lines, lived more charmed lives than their infantry counterparts.  Certainly, they did not have to charge across shell-pocked, barbed wire- covered and machine gun-raked territory.  Their guns were embedded in redoubts some distance from the killing fields, and their aims were directed by observers at the front, in aircraft and in observation balloons.  However, they were frequently subject to bombardment from opposing guns and aircraft, and the gunners suffered substantial casualties throughout the war.


In mid-1917, the focus of the war on the Western Front shifted from France to Belgium, specifically to the area around the town of Ypres.  Two earlier battles had been fought there, one in 1914, the other in the following year.  They had achieved little apart from the heavy guns of both sides destroying the delicate drainage system developed over centuries in that naturally swampy area.  Having failed at the Somme, British supreme commander Sir Douglas Haig decided to concentrate again on the Ypres area, hoping to break through to the Belgian coast, capturing the German submarine pens located there, taking pressure off the beleaguered French army further south, and severely damaging or destroying German morale.  Those were his ostensible reasons anyway.  Whether he really believed that he could be successful in this endeavour when lesser ambitions went unachieved in 1914-15 is another matter. As it turned out, rain – and lots of it – put paid to any hopes the Allies may have had of a significant breakthrough.  The Third Battle of Ypres (often erroneously called ‘Passchendaele’) quickly became bogged down and reverted into a murderous war of attrition like the Somme and others before it.  By the time it ended with the capture of the tiny, blasted village of Passchendaele in mid-November, Third Ypres had claimed 500 000 Allied casualties.  It had gained less than eight kilometres of strategically unimportant territory: a cost of 62 500 casualties per kilometre of thick, gluey mud.


One of the few successes of the 1917 campaign occurred with the Battle of Menin Road.



Third Ypres 1917: the battlefield 

(Source: From Bapaume to Passchendaele, by Philip Gibbs.)


It took place in heavy mud on 20 September, preceded by a bombardment from Gordon’s group and others, firing heavy howitzers.


Australian eight-inch howitzers near the Menin Road 1917.  Note the mud in the foreground.

Australian War Memorial Collection. P05380.007  http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/P05380.007


An advance of about 1 200 metres at Menin Road (but at a cost of 5 000 casualties) was deemed a success, and inspired Haig to move on and try to take the nearby Polygon Wood and Westhoek Ridge, using 5 Division.  The howitzer batteries were based along Menin Road, bombarding the area to their north and east.


Menin Road, near Hooge, looking towards the Birr Cross Roads, 20 September

1917.  Shortly after the photo was taken, a German shell killed most of those

lying on stretchers.   Australian War Memorial Collection E00711. 



On 25 September, the day before the attack on Polygon Wood was to be launched, the wary Germans staged a surprise attack of their own, and shelled a number of the batteries early in the morning, hoping to knock them out of the action.  Gordon was in a gunpit when a shell came in and exploded almost of top of the crew.  He was hit in the leg (one report said that his foot was blown off) and possibly in the head as well.  He was taken to a field dressing station nearby, and probably died there from shock and loss of blood.


Frank Hurley’s photo of eight inch howitzers at Birr Cross Roads (Menin Road)

preparing to support the attack on Polygon Wood on 26 September 1917. The

position had been heavily shelled early in themorning. Gordon was mortally wounded

in this area at this time. http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/E02076 (AWM E02076)


Gordon was buried in the nearby Menin Road South Military Cemetery.  A temporary cross was erected above his grave.  After the war, it was replaced by a permanent headstone.


Menin Road South Military Cemetery (Commonwealth War Graves Commission)


998 Gunner C G Doig, Aust Field Artillery, 25th September

1917, age 23. (Courtesy of Greg Manderson, 2011).


Gordon left a large, extended family to grieve for him.  They had already lost another, his cousin Will Manderson, at Bullecourt the previous May.  He also left a contact in Britain.  Gordon was in France for more than a year, and he had at least one session of leave, in August 1917.  It is a good bet that he visited Great Britain during that break and met or was reunited with a young Scottish lady there by the name of Alice Rogers, from Partick near Glasgow.  Gordon returned from his August leave two days late (and suffered the loss of eight days’ pay as a result), so they obviously got on well and probably communicated after he returned to France.  She heard in October 1917 that he had been wounded and wrote to the Red Cross, enquiring about the condition of her ‘very intimate friend’.  She must have been devastated to receive the news that he had died of his wounds.  So many budding romances would have ended this way during the First World War.





Australian War Memorial: war service records, Red Cross reports of wounded and missing, war history, photographic collection

Bean, C.E.W: The official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 12 volumes, 1941

Carlyon, Les: The Great War, Sydney, Macmillan, 2006

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Gibbs, Philip: From Bapaume to Passchendaele 1917, London, William Heinemann, 1918 


Lindsay, Patrick: Fromelles, Prahran, Hardie Grant Books, 2008

National Archives of Australia

Travers, Richard: Diggers in France: Australian soldiers on the Western Front, Sydney, ABC Books, 2008




War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall A-F

Ascot Vale Methodists*

Ascot Vale State School* (G)

Moonee Ponds West State School* (C )                                                                                            

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour With the Colours

Regimental Register


In Memoriam


DOIG.-In fond and loving memory of our dear
son, Gunner Charles Gordon (Fess), who died
of wounds in France on September 25, 1917;
also in fond memory of his dear friend, Ruby
Simmons, of Federation street, Ascotvale, who
died November 1, 1917.
Friends united,
Ever remembered.
-(Inserted by his fond parents, Nellie, and Bert,
on active service, France,)

DOIG.-In loving memory of our dear brother,
Charles Gordon Doig, who died of wounds on
the 25th September, 1917, in France.
He sleeps beside his comrades
In a hallowed grave unknown,
But his name is written in letters of gold
In the hearts he left at home.
-(lnserted by his loving brother Bert (on active
service, and sister-in-law, Mary.) 

DOIG.-In loving, memory of our dear friend,
Gunner Charles Gordon, who died of wounds
on 25th September, 1917, after two years' active 
service in Egypt and France.
One of God's bravest and best.
On his long furlough after faithful duty.
-(Inserted by Mrs. Simmons and family.)

DOIG.-In loving memory of my dear mate, Gunner
Charles Gordon, who died of wounds received in
France on 25th September, 1917.
The supreme sacrifice.
A soldier and a man.
Duty nobly done.
-(Inserted by S. H. Simmons, returned.) .

DOIG.-In loving memory of Gordon, who was
killed in action, somewhere in France, on 25th
September, 1917.   
A hero he was, true and brave;
Now sleeps peacefully in a soldier's grave.
-(Inserted by his friend, R H Liston.)

DOIG, MANDERSON.-In fond remembrance of
Gunner Gordon Doig, died of wounds 25th Sep-
tember, 1917; also Private Will Manderson, killed
in action, 5th May, 1917, cousins of Gunner Norm
Lukey (O.A.S.), Floss, and Vic.
They knew that honour was at stake,
And so for King and country's sake,
They sacrificed their lives.    

The Argus 25 September 1918



DOIG In fond and loving memory of our dear son
and brother, Gunner Charles Gordon (Fess), who
died of wounds in France on September 25 1917
after over two years' service; also our dear son
and brother Willie, who died on February 11, 1903.
Brothers united.
Gone, but not forgotten. 
-(Inserted by their loving parents, Bert (returned),
and Nellie.)   

DOIG - In affectionate remembrance of Gnr Gordon
Doig, died of wounds in France, 25th September
1917; dear cousin of Norm Lukey, (returned)
Floss and Vic. Fond memory, like the day, clings.

DOIG-MANDERSON. - In loving memory of dear
Gordon, who died of wounds on 25th September,
1917; also my darling Willie, who was killed in
action on 5th May, 1917.
They were too dearly loved to ever forget,
(Inserted by a loving aunt and broken-hearted  

The Argus 25 September 1919


DOIG - MANDERSON. In fond and loving memory
of our dear son and brother, Gunner Charles Gordon,
who died of wounds in France on the 25th September,
1917, after over two years' ser- vice. Also our dear
son and brother, Willie who died on the 11th February,
1903. Also, their dear cousin. Wilfred Manderson,
killed in action on the 5th May, 1917.
Cousins united.
Gone, but not forgotten.
(Inserted by their fond parents, sister, and brother,
uncle, aunt, and cousins,)

DOIG-MANDERSON. In sad but loving memory
of dear Gordon, who died of wounds on the 25th
September, 1917; also my Wilfred, who was
killed in action on the 6th May, 1917.
If I could have my dearest wish fulfilled,
And asked from Heaven what-e'er it willed.
Or take my choice of all earth's treasures, too,
Dear Wilfred and Gordon. I would ask for you.
(Ever remembered by a loving mother and

The Argus 25 September 1920



DOIG-MANDERSON.-In sad but loving memory

of dear Gordon and Wilfred,

Four sad years.

-(Ever to be remembered by me, their loving

aunt and mother.)

The Argus 24 September 1921



DOIG -In fond and loving memory of our dear   
son and brother, Gunner Charles Gordon (Fess),
who died of wounds in France on September 25,
1917, after over two years' service, also our
dear son and brother Willie, who died on February
11, 1903
Brothers united
Gone, but not forgotten.
-(Inserted by their loving parents, Bert, and 
Nellie, Ascotvale)

The Argus Monday 26 September 1921



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