No grave site for war fallen hero from Tewantin
THIS is the third account by local Brian Roper of Noosa's World War I fallen whose names are inscribed on the Tewantin cenotaph.
Robert Henry Finney. Sern 5588. Private 26th. Battalion. 7th. Brigade. 2nd. Division AIF.
Robert enlisted on March 23, 1916 aged 19 years and 11 months. Robert was born in Noosa and his parents lived at "Green Ridges”, Tewantin. He was a drover. Robert sailed from Brisbane on the Clan MacGillivray on September 7, 1916. The ship arrived in Plymouth in the UK on November 21.
He went into training at Rollestone on the 23rd. He developed mumps and was admitted to hospital from December 3 until January 13.
He boarded the Princess Clemintina for France where he joined the 26th Battalion, 7th Brigade, which was part of the 2nd. Division.
Robert was "Taken on Strength” (added to the armed forces) on March 13, 1917. The 2nd. Division, along with the British, attacked up a slight rise towards the Hindenburg Line and the outpost villages at Bullecourt on May 3. This battle was called Second Bullecourt. The Diggers knew they were taking on the crack German troops, The Wurttemberges.
They formed up along an old railway embankment before moving out onto the battlefield at 3.45am with each soldier carrying packs of about 45kg. The 5th. Brigade came under deadly machine gun fire from the village of Queant, which halted its advance.
The artillery had failed to silence these guns and also failed to cut the wire protecting the German trenches. The 7th. Brigade moved up to take their place under Lieutenant-Colonel Read. The 6th Brigade managed to get into the German trenches under heavy fire and held on. The heroic efforts of the 6th. Brigade were outstanding.
The Germans gave up these blood-soaked fields after more than a week. This was classed as a great achievement to advance the line one kilometre.
The Australians had 7000 casualties in this battle. Robert fell during this battle. He was unable to be identified and is possibly buried in Queant Road Cemetery. There are 954 Diggers buried there, with 699 who were not able to be identified. The 26th. Battalion was a Queensland battalion. He is remembered along with 11000 Diggers who have no known grave in France with their names listed on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
Robert was killed in action on May 3, 1917. The Diggers suffered under a terrible artillery barrage and murderous machine gun fire from three sides. The were held up in the open by the uncut wire which still held the bodies of diggers from the previous Bullecourt Battle. So fierce was this battle that it is often compared to the Battle for Monquet farm for the amount of Australian blood spilt. The AIF was so depleted after Bullecourt they never reached a full complement again, which prompted Prime Minister Hughes to try for a second failed vote on conscription.
This part of France has changed little in 100 years, with the sunken roads and rail embankment still surrounded by farmland.