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Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 3 years, 10 months ago

Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington, 1914-1918


Farrant O C H  Gunner  22254    Orry Charles Hughes      23 Howitzer Bde    18    Clerk    Single    C of E

Address:    Essendon, Black St, 4 "Ben-by-Chree"

Next of Kin:    Farrant, J R, father, 4 Black St, Essendon    

Enlisted:    15 Jan 1916       

Embarked:     A7 Medic 20 May 1916

Prior service:     58 Inf Regt


Relatives on Active Service:

Farrant E R J Driver 30018 brother

Davis, Alan Pte  564  37 Inf Bn, cousin, KIA

Price, John T, cousin, KIA 11 Apr 1917


Date of death:  09/10/1917

CWGC:  "Son of James Roland Farrant and Elizabeth Ann Farrant, of 4, Black St., Essendon,

Victoria, Australia. Born Flemington, Victoria".



Acting Bombardier Orry Charles Hughes Farrant


Rod Martin


Orry Farrant was eighteen years old when he enlisted on 15 January 1916.   He had spent four years in senior cadets and then six months as a member of 58 Infantry Regiment, a militia unit based in Essendon, so he had considerable military experience under his belt.  He may even have had a commission in the militia unit.  Orry was a small man, 168 centimetres tall, weighing sixty kilos and possessing brown eyes and hair.  He was a clerk by trade and lived with his family at 4 Black Street, Essendon.  On signing up, he was assigned to 23 Howitzer Brigade. It was part of 7 Field Artillery Brigade, attached to the newly-formed 3 Australian Division. Howitzers are designed to fire shells over high trajectories, providing steep angles of descent (Orry’s one was a 4.5 inch model) and usually operate from fixed positions.  Because of their size, they are less mobile than the eighteen-pound field guns that were the mainstay of the Australian artillery.  A typical artillery brigade usually contained four eighteen-pounder batteries, each possessing four guns, and one howitzer one.


Orry did his basic training in Melbourne and then embarked for the Western Front on A7 HMAT Medic on 20 May 1916. 


                             HMAT Medic November 1916     http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/PB0572                          (AWM PB0572)


The convoy sailed via the Cape of Good Hope in order to avoid German submarines in the Mediterranean and arrived at Plymouth on the south coast of England on 18 July. On the recommendation of the Australian commander, Sir William Birdwood, 3 Division had been deliberately formed by the Australian government to be a ‘professional’ division.  1 and 2 Divisions were poorly prepared for combat when they reached the Western Front and suffered many unnecessary casualties as a result in their early battles.  Under the command of Major-General John Monash, 3 Division was to train extensively in England before moving to the Western Front.  The unit remained in England until the following December, training at Lark Hill camp on Salisbury Plain.  Because of its newness, its appearance (Monash made his men wear their slouch hats with brims down – much to their chagrin) and proficiency in exercises, plus the belief that it was the ‘darling’ of  the Australian Department of Defence, the division was often referred to by other units as the ‘Neutrals’, the ‘Lark Hill Lancers’ or, rather derogatorily,  the ‘Eggs-a-Cook’, an Egyptian egg-seller’s call used in reference to their oval-shaped divisional shoulder patches.   During the division’s time at Lark Hill, 23 Howitzer Brigade was abolished and Orry’s unit was attached to 27 Battery, another part of 7 Field Artillery Brigade.  While training with this new formation, Orry contracted rhinitis and was hospitalised in early December.  He was discharged in time to join the others as they sailed for France on New Year’s Eve. 


The men disembarked at Le Havre and moved to Strazeele that same month.  Owing to a shortage of battery commanders, the brigade was reorganised at that location, an extra two eighteen-pounders being added to each battery.  Orry and a few others were transferred from 109 Battery to 107 Battery.


3 Division first went into action at Armentieres in northern France on 17 January.  The area was known as the ‘nursery sector’, a relatively quiet part of the front where new troops could acclimatize themselves to the realities of trench warfare before being employed in major actions.  Orry’s howitzer unit was employed in counter-battery work, using its heavier calibre guns with aeroplane observation reports to assisting it, to bombard the Germans’ mortars and field guns.  This work was not without its dangers.  Because of their high trajectory function, the howitzers were based very close to the front line and the enemy could and did counter-bombard Orry’s position.  As an example, 7 FAB’s war diary entry for 2 February reports that the ‘Enemy’s retaliation to our fire was very heavy.’


Two members of 107 Battery standing next to a 4.5 inch howitzer that

had suffered a direct hit.       (AWM P02527.027)


7 FAB moved north into Belgium in the middle of March 1917 and established itself at Ploegsteert, south of Ypres.  A major offensive was planned for the area, beginning in June with the detonation of twenty huge mines buried beneath the German lines on a ridge at Messines.  The artillery moved to the area first and established itself, and then the infantry of 3 Division moved into the area in May.  The artillery stayed in the area, engaged in regular combat, until the start of May, when it returned to the Armentières area.  By the beginning of June, the men were back at Ploegsteert and joined in a continuous bombardment of the enemy’s trenches that had begun on 27 May.  This was in preparation for the detonation of the mines, planned for 7 June.  The Germans, in return, bombarded the batteries with high explosive, shrapnel and gas shells.


A 4.5 inch howitzer at Ravine Wood, near Ploegsteert   (AWM C04390)


The detonation at Messines took place as planned, nineteen of the twenty mines creating the largest man-made explosion ever seen (and heard!) up to that time.  The batteries then joined in the follow-up bombardment as the infantry successfully took the remains of Messines Ridge.  7 FAB continued in action until 25 June, when it went into reserve to recuperate and refit.  The unit diary tells us that the men fired a total of 84 529 rounds in connection with the Battle of Messines.


The men were back in action in early July, 107 Howitzer Battery supporting the field batteries.  One of its specific tasks was to cut the Germans’ barbed wire with its shells.  Their higher trajectory, heavier weight and higher explosive content were more suited to this than were the eighteen-pounders.  It was important to cut the wire to facilitate access to the German trenches during general attacks and night raids. 


The Battle of Messines was the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, designed to capture the German-held section of the Belgian coast and open the way to the North German Plain.  The first major attack took place on 31 July, the eventual target being the village of Passchendaele (hence the tendency to refer to the battle erroneously by that name).  Third Ypres is remembered most of all for the incessant rain and gluey mud which literally bogged much of the action down.  The unit diary for August refers to the ‘unfavourable weather conditions’.  However, it also says that conflict went on.  On the ninth, 107 Battery was bombarded by fifteen centimetre howitzers and high velocity guns.  The same thing happened on the twentieth and one howitzer was put out of action. 


7 FAB was relieved at the end of the month and then moved into the area near Ypres for the major Australian attack at Menin Road on 20 September.  The guns provided support from the nineteenth and, although the gains were modest in the whole scale of things, the battle was regarded as a great success. General Sir Herbert Plumer, commander of the British Second Army, sent the following message to the unit’s commanding officer:


. . . [My] most sincere thanks for the excellent work your artillery have done in the past week and today which resulted in all objectives being taken with a minimum of casualties.  Lieut. General Sir William BIRDWOOD also says “Please thank the artillery for the most gallant and important part they have played in a good day’s work.”


At the end of the month, the brigade was relieved and moved to another position slightly further south, near Wytschaete.  This coincided with Orry’s promotion to acting bombardier. 


 A 107 Battery howitzer at Ravine Wood, near Wyteschaete,

October 1917      (AWM P02527.006)  


On 4 October, the third stage of the battle – an Anzac attack on Broodseinde Ridge - began, the Germans retaliating fiercely.  7 FAB was heavily involved in another successful assault, the ridge being taken at a cost of 6 500 Australian casualties.

Rain set in again on the sixth, bogging the situation down once more.  The shelling continued, however.  On 9 October, an unsuccessful assault took place near the brigade’s position, and the Germans repelled it forcefully.  7 FAB was asked to provide support to the struggling infantry.  At some time during the day, Orry was killed.  A perusal of the somewhat inconsistent Red Cross reports suggests that his gun was destroyed by a direct hit and he was hit in the heart, head or both.  He died instantly, and was buried in a soldiers’ cemetery near Vlameringhe.  A temporary wooden cross was erected over his grave.


Orry now rests in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery near Vlameringhe, Belgium.


(Commonwealth War Graves Commission)



Australian War Memorial

Commonwealth War Graves Commission


Martin, Rod: Percy Charles Richards MM, Melbourne, unpublished, 2008

National Archives of Australia

Pedersen, Peter: The Anzacs: Gallipoli to the Western Front, Melbourne, Penguin, 2007

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

                            ABC Books, 2008



FARRANT.-Killed in action in France, on 9th October, Gunner Orry Charles Hughes Farrant, beloved younger son of Mr. and Mrs. J R. Farrant, "Ben My Chree," Black street, Essendon, and loved brother of Eddie. R. J. (A.F.A.. on active service), and the late Florrie and Violet,: aged 20 years and 3 days. Deeply mourned.


Though but a boy the has done his best, and that right nobly.


Family Notices. (1917, November 1). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 2 Edition: Morning. Retrieved May 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74604169


Gunner Orry C. H. Farrant was an Essendon State school boy. In his progress in the senior Cadets, he worked his way up to a commission as second lieutenant, which he threw up on the outbreak of war, and joined the Citizen Forces until he was 18 years, when he obtained permission to enlist, leaving the employment of Messrs McArthur and Macleod to do so. He was secretary of the C. of ... from C.C. Sunday school, and tennis club.


ROLL OF HONOUR. (1917, November 1). The Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter (Moonee Ponds, Vic. : 1914 - 1918), p. 3 Edition: Morning. Retrieved May 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74604144


War Service Commemorated

Essendon Town Hall A-F

Association of Stock and Station Agents

Christ Church Roll of Honour*

Essendon State School

Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour With the Colours


In Memoriam


FARRANT.-In proud and loving memory of our
beloved son and brother, Bombardier Orry C. H.
Farrant, who was killed in action on 9th October,
1917, at Passchendaele, Belgium (buried in Brand-
hoek, New, Military Cemetery, Vlamertinghe, west
of Ypres).

Far away from all who loved him.
Comrades gently laid our loved one to rest;
In a hero's grave he is sleeping,
One of God's brightest and best.
We loved him well, but Jesus loved him best.
-(Inserted by father, mother, and brother.  
Driver Eddie R. J. Farrant, on active service.)

FARRANT.-A tribute to the memory of my dear
comrade; Bombardier O. C. H. (Orry) Farrant,
killed in action, October 9, 1917. (Inserted by
Austin Johnson, on active service.)

FARRANT - DAVIS. -In loving memory of my dear
friend, Orry Farrant, killed in action, October 9, 1917;
also our dear cousin, Alan Davis*, killed in action,
October 12, 1917,
Memory clings for ever.
-(Inserted by M.I.C., Hawthorn.)

The Argus 9 October 1918



* Son of Walter Rudge Davies and Anne Elizabeth Davis, of "The Hollies," Mitcheldean, Glos., England. Native of Awre, Newnham, Glos.

Davis enlisted as a 20 year old farmer residing at Darnum, Victoria.


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