Trevor to Win, Fromelles 19.7.16 Cptn Trevor Francis MC 8/6/1890-14/3/17

On this day, July 19, 1916, 100 years ago at the Battles of Fromelles on the Western Front in Belgium, my Great Uncle Trevor (53rd battalion) won a Military Cross at the Battle of Fromelles “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. Though severely wounded when leading his platoon in the attack, he continued for four hours to command the party protecting the exposed flank of the main body against a heavy attack.”

Trevor was my grandmother (Ruby) Win Francis’ second of four beloved brothers. Shot in the leg and arm he was taken from the Battle two days later. He was evacuated to England and during this period of convalescence, Trevor had a brooch made and sent to his sister Win – a replica of his Military Cross – with the engraving: TREVOR TO WIN, FROMELLES 19/7/1916

Trevor rejoined his battalion on 27/10/1916 and was made Captain on 11/11/1916. He was killed-in-action in France on 14/3/1917.  He was 28. Ironically he was probably shot by a sniper when on adjunct duties, as he and his Seargeant were originally buried 1 mile east of Henin sur Cojeul, five and a half miles south east of Arras which is behind the lines and not a battleground. He was later reburied in Guards Cemetery (Les Bouefs, France FR.374) where I visited his grave with my son Ned Reilly in 2008. His Seargeant was buried beside him. Trevor Francis’ name is included on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

A gifted sportsman with a high intelligence, Trevor Francis grew up in Southern Qld, attended Ipswich Grammar School and studied Civil Engineering at the University of Queensland.

Trevor was the first of his brothers to sign up on 24/8/1915. He received his commission as Second Lieutenant on 16/3/1915.  Trevor’s older brother Vincent and younger brother Eric were also both officers in WW1 – their stories will follow as anniversaries of the battles in which they fought arrive. His youngest brother Stan drew the ‘short straw’ literally and was forced to stay home, against his will, to help his father on the family property. I was fortunate to meet both my great uncles Stan and Eric Francis at their respective homes in Qld in 1974 when they were old men.

RIP Trevor … I would love to have met you as an old man too, many many years later … It’s a bugger you had to go to war … but today is your day and somehow I reckon there’s a bit of you in all of us.

Article from The Guardian re Fromelles asks the question … sacrifice or butchers shop?

Far Away and Long Ago

Transcript of a memoir by our Grandfather Hugh McCubbin, about his memory of the Anzac Landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915:


‘In my bookcase in the breakfast room is a well thumbed volume, “Far Away and Long Ago” by W.H.Hudson. It once held a front rank position in the sitting room bookcase because the children were interested in natural history but to me it was just a book about bird life in the Argentine, and because of the lack of living contacts the Pampas has always been so inaccessible and remote that I have never felt the urge to read it. But it’s title expresses for me the attitude of an Anzac towards ANZAC.

The landing, and all the subsequent operations have been to an extent smothered by other wars and the tumult of events and because we, the Anzacs of the original landing, are now such select few it is difficult to get a quorum of old-timers together to keep the memory alive. The Reunions only serve to remind us that we belong to a lost generation. It is seldom now that you come across one of your old tent mates, there were no Diggers or Cobbers in those days.

In spite of all these things each of us probably has a very vivid recollection of that day. Like a muted sunbeam capturing a glimpse of stored apples in a dark hayloft, to me the events of April 25th, 1915, appear in vivid, colourful outline. The silent convoy of the night before – each troopship following the faint glimmer of a guiding light from the stern of the ship ahead – the suppressed excitement – the checking of equipment. The coastline revealed in the cold dawn light with the ever so faint crackling of rifle fire where the covering brigades had already landed. The creneling of every vantage point to watch the bombarding by the war ahead and the answering salvos from the Turks’ shore batteries. The long rows of life boats. The shock of seeing the first wounded coming back. The high excitement of embarking in the boats ourselves. The long tow into the shore with the 13 year old midshipman at the rudderlines. He had been in and out under the curtain of shrapnel three or four times already and spoke of it with premature maturity. The Navy is a hard mother to her baby sons.

The casting off and drifting in to the beach, jumping out into the water with our impossibly heavy kit, rifle held high. Forming up on the beach. The shell from Gaba Tepe that burst over our heads and brought shrapnel and death to the platoon behind us. The first souvenir hunters jumping into the shallow Turkish trench to retrieve empty cartridge cases.

The single file of men snaking over the gullies and up the hillside. The “Pass the word along” messages being mutilated within earshot – the system never was any good! The breathless assembly and taking off packs in the dead space at the top of Shrapnel Gully. The forming up for the advance under the cover of the brow of the slope. The high exaltation of the advance in sharp short rushes into the teeth of Mustafa Temel’s counter attack. The crippling weight of a bullet in the right arm. The long lying out in the cover of the stunted shrubs. The complete separation of the mind in those hours of duress. First, the consciousness of the frail body pitifully exposed to the raw torment of rifle and machine gun fire and shrapnel that sent the leaves trickling down from the shrubs on to one’s head. Then the completely detached repression of the all pervading peace of a perfect Spring day, and last, the philosophical attitude of a portion of the mind that remained above the battle as it observed its tortured body with almost cynical appraisal.

The agony of a second wound – in the leg this time. The desperate stumbling back to shelter over the hill. The kindly hands that attended to the wounds. The stiff and broken trek to the beach. The long wait for stretchers and boats. The marvellous camaraderie and tenderness of the naval ratings. The ‘hell ship’ four days to Alex. The haven of a soft bed with white sheet and English nurses.

It is far away and long ago. You can’t take part in the March any more because your leg is crook. You feel sometimes that you have no right to be reasonably fit and well with all the good fellas gone. You wept silently when you saw your old Unit colours on the 2nd A.I.F., and had an eerie sensation that you were witnessing your own youth. You feel sometimes that being an Anzac does not mean much anyway. Maybe at this time some shrill voiced seven year old will pipe up at (sic) “My Grand-daddy was an Anzac!”‘

Original transcript p1
Original transcript p1
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Original transcript p2

From Gallipoli to Alexandria

April 1915 ….with a bullet or two on board

Transcript of a letter my Grandfather Hugh McCubbin (2nd division Australian Anzac Force) wrote to a close friend about his experiences via a hospital troopship, after being shot on April 25, during the first charge at Gaba Tepe, Gallipoli in 1915.

Mon Aug 30, 1916                                                                                           Australian Base Depot

Monte Video Camp,

Weymouth, Dover


My Dear Arc,

Thank you so much for your very interesting letter (dated Melb 3rd July) which I have just received – from the look of the envelope it seems to have had some difficulty in digging me up. I may also mention that I received another very interesting epistle from you just about two days before we landed at Gallipoli owing to certain circumstances I was unable to answer it at the time – I am indeed sorry to hear that my left-handed letter from Alexandria did not come up to expectation but considering the fact that I wrote it lying down and I had an enormous contrivance called a McEntire splint on my left leg and my right arm was fractured  just below the shoulder – not to mention two bullets, which had not been removed at that time – I think I did fairly well – even though it did take me three days to write it. Just before I got your letter I had one from Ginger describing in glowing terms the magnificent success of his carburettor – his description is as follows:

I have recently “evolved” (straight … sp?) a new petrol carburettor which works very satisfactorily, except for one incident here it is – I had attached it to the motor car (less one of its essentials) to give it a good test before “patenting”. I got splendid results (I might say that it’s a stinking car for backfiring). Anyhow it backfired on the second demonstration, and blew up the tank and set the car on fire. “Gee whizz” you should have seen the flames go up to the roof of the old stable. I thought all was over for the moment. Anyway good for the car the (?) a lot of (?) pictures. There happened to be a great big lump of rag and a bag of bran handy (this portion of the narrative is somewhat involved). “We had not a little difficulty in extinguishing it. After all there was not much damage done except that my patent tank had gone with the fire. A really amusing experience!”

You can just imagine how I laughed when I got your version of the above – poor old Ginger (could you give me in confidence an accurate description of the car – in one letter it was described as being a beautiful dove grey. Piggy describes it as being all body and no engine.

(a line missing here)

…last Saturday and yesterday we motored over to Dorchester – my youngest cousin is a sergeant in one of the London Regts and we took two other 5th Battalion boys with us, both of them had Australian uniforms on, so all the “Tommies” we passed thought we were officers, we acknowledged some really perfect salutes. I will tell you all about my doings at Gallipoli when I return to the land of my birth. People pester the life out of you about it and ask all sorts of silly questions – I have gone over the same old tale so often, that the very thought of repeating it again is too much for me – I was asked the other day if I had seen the Turk who shot me, or if it was a German. And when I was up at Manchester a dear old lady asked me if the shell was still in my leg (perhaps she meant one of “Lizzies”).

Since I left Alexandria I have only stayed in one place for more than a fortnight once, so as you say in your letter, I have been wandering around a bit. These are my movements since I first left Egypt the first time.

We left (… words missing in scan) and on Sunday (25th) We landed at Gaba Tebe at about half past eight in the morning. The name of our transport was The Novian – I was wounded in the arm at about half past 9 o’clock and a machine gun got me a bonza in the leg at about two o’clock in the afternoon. I then retired and after having my wounds dressed at a dressing station, reached the beach at about three o’clock. Then I was again attended to, but there was a shortage of stretchers. I was left on the beach until about 9 o’clock. I was taken off in a cutter and after various adventures more or less exciting was hauled on board a transport called the Siang Thun (Seang Choon ed.) – on board that boat I think I had the worst time of all. We had 600 wounded on board and only about a dozen AMC orderlies and two doctors. There were some terribly serious cases on board in fact we lost 20 on the way across. I had my wounds dressed once or twice but did not see a doctor until I arrived in Alexandria. I was lying on the troop deck with a couple of blankets over me and one (…?) first night on a stretcher. I was so exhausted from loss of blood that I slept soundly – despite the groans of some of the really bad chaps cases.

When I woke up next morning and tried to sit up I found that I had no strength in my back and whenever I moved my arm gave me hell. I did not know that it was fractured at the time. I was feeling very stiff and sore and my clothes which been drenched with blood were beginning to stink horribly. I was lying on the deck besides one of the (…?) tables (which were also used as beds) so I asked one of the orderlies to help me sit up on one of the forms so that my clothes could be taken off. He sat me up after some difficulty, but the effort was too much for me and I fainted. The chap who was lying on the (…?)table just managed to catch me in time; when I came to the stretcher had been taken away and I was lying on the hard deck. They had also removed (…missing in scan) …for over four hours and when they cut my sleeve off at the dressing station it was full of blood. The next day (Tues) I was a bit delirious so I don’t remember much but I know we set sail for Alexandria at midday. On Wednesday a chap died just opposite me after passing a terrible night. Luckily the weather was perfect… if it had been rough we would have had more consignments for the deep I am afraid.

The bullet in my arm was now beginning to give me hell, and I would willingly have consented to have it cut out without an anaesthetic – but luckily as it proved afterwards, the Doctors had more serious cases than mine to engage their attention; there were a good few chaps out of my Company on board and most of them were able to get about – Ashley ( F?) was amongst them (Y.C.L brother in law) he was wounded rather badly in the shoulder. Bitterly disappointed because I was not taken ashore that night.

The next day was spent in unloading the wounded but I was one of the last to be taken off so I did not leave until about 6 o’clock in the evening. Finally however I was lifted on to a stretcher and carried out into the open air again – down a long gangway, and then into a waiting motor ambulance with solid tyres (needless to say it was not an Australian Ambulance) then a ten mile drive, part of the way over cobble stones right through the main streets of Alexandria.

My boots which were lying on the foot of the stretcher fell out on the road; a fat old Greek picked them up and chased after the car, people started yelling out for the driver to stop, but he did not know what the disturbance was about and drove straight on, finally however he was induced to stop and amidst much enthusiasm the kindly Greek arrived …….(full line cut off in scan copy) …. in due course we arrived at the hospital after passing several detachments of French Lonaves, who cheered and got excited generally as we sped past them.

We came to a stand still in front of what seemed to be the entrance of an hotel (afterwards it proved to be such). Some (Judes sp?) orderlies hurried up and unstrapped the stretchers and I was carried inside the building by two turbaned bearers – through a spacious hall and up two flights of marble steps, and into a (…….?) room containing 3 beds. I was gently lifted from the stretcher and placed on a sprung mattress – between snowy white sheets – talk about paradise.

Well this is enough for one letter – next week I will give you an account of happenings on Gallipoli itself.

Trusting that you are all well and with kindest regards to the family

Always and your sincere friend

Hugh McCubbin

Ps. I expect a four page letter in return for this …

banner pic – Alexandria, Egypt. c. 1915-05. Sick and wounded Australian and British troops watching seriously ill stretcher cases being loaded into ambulances lined up on a wharf. Note the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) personnel grouped at left. The casualties had recently been evacuated from Gallipoli.
image below – Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey, 1915. Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) personnel and Royal Navy (RN) sailors transferring a stretcher bearing a wounded Australian soldier from a long boat to a hospital ship. The long boat has evacuated a number of wounded Australian soldiers from Gallipoli.

Link to transcript – Hugh McCubbin’s Gallipoli story

Far Away and Long Ago