Private JE Marsden
Private JE Marsden

Roy and James part of a heroic battles as Anzac Day looms

NOOSA local Brian Roper in the lead-up to next Wednesday's Anzac Day, continues his tribute pieces to the fallen WWI Diggers whose names are inscribed on the Tewantin cenotaph.

Roy William Finney Sern 3046. Private. 49th Battalion, 13th Brigade. 4th Division AIF.

Roy enlisted on June 22, 1915, aged 19 years and three months. Roy's widowed mother lived in Tewantin and he had a brother who lived in Thomas St Noosaville.

Roy sailed from Brisbane on HMAT Warilda on October 5 for Egypt where he was "Taken on Strength” on January 7, 1916. He transferred to the 49th Battalion on February 25.

Roy came down with dengue fever and spent two weeks in hospital in Egypt. The 49th Boarded the Aracadian in Alexandria on June 5 and sailed for seven days to Marseilles, they were then trained to the north of France. Roy was a good boy and a much-loved son who gave 40c of his daily pay of 50c to his mother.

The Battle of Pozieres was a terrible battle fought under atrocious conditions in the area of the Somme.

The battle involved the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions. Pozieres was a small village which was not even on official maps prior to the outbreak of the war.

The Battle was designed to relieve pressure and divert German troops from the French city of Verdun in the south. There had been six attempts to take the fortified Monquet Farm which is close to Pozieres. All had failed. The Germans had built strong defences of trenches, bunkers and dug-outs in the almost two years since their initial invasion was stopped.

The Diggers attacked Monquet Farm on the September 3, but the Germans were well prepared. In spite of very heavy shelling, the Diggers charged through the mud to take important trenches and the barn. The Germans counter attacked with heavy machine guns and the diggers were forced to withdraw as they became cut off. The 49th, a Queensland Battalion, which was attached to the 13th Brigade under command of Major-General Thomas Glasgow from Tiaro, dug in.

They were subjected to an artillery barrage which came down on their position causing heavy casualties.

1346 diggers were lost in this battle. They were then relieved by the Canadians who took Monquet Farm later in the month. Roy was found killed in "No Man's Land” the next day and was buried in Courcelette. After the war Roy was moved to Serre Road No2 Cemetery, which is one of the largest war cemeteries in France.

Roy rests with 7133 fallen, of which 699 are Australian.

During those six weeks of the Battle for Pozieres, the Australians suffered 23,000 dead, wounded and taken prisoner.

James Ernest Marsden Sern 2471 47th Battalion. 12th Brigade. 4th Division AIF.

James enlisted on April 11, 1916, aged 19 years. He was born in Gympie (that was the main hospital). His parents James and Ellen, lived at Noosa Heads. James was a dairy farmer.

James embarked on the A49 Seang Choon from Brisbane on September 19 and arrived in Plymouth UK on December 9. He was AWOL from January 1-3 for which he was docked three days' pay for overstaying leave. After training he left Folkstone for France on March 3 where he joined the 47th Battalion.

James was part of the 1st Bullecourt on April 10 where the diggers lay out all night in the snow along the old railway embankment waiting to attack.

General Birdwood tried desperately to have the attack called off as the barbed wire was still intact, but he was overruled by the British General Sir Hubert Gough, 12 tanks were supposed to be used for the first time in a battle and their job was to crush the wire.

The slow-moving tanks never arrived so the Diggers went back to the sunken roads for protection before the Germans spotted them.

The attack was planned for the next day. Three tanks finally arrived and promptly got stuck in the mud.

Without support of the tanks and artillery the Diggers of the 4th and 12th Brigades performed heroically to reach the German trenches but had to withdraw because of lack of support (5000 Diggers attacked with 3289 dead and wounded).

The British battle plan, as employed at the 1st Bullecourt, was later used by the British instructors as how not to plan an attack.

James' brigade was withdrawn in reserve for the 2nd Bullecourt. The 4th Division was then moved to Belgium where they were in support for the Battle of Messines, which started with the blowing of 19 great mines under the German trenches. In this battle the 3rd and 4th Divisions encountered German machine gun blockhouses for the first time. The AIF suffered 6800 dead and wounded in this battle.

James was really in the thick of some of the most horrific battles and he was killed in action on August 8, 1917 in the Battlefield of the Ypres Salient. James is buried in Derry House Cemetery along with 37 other Diggers. Ellen Marsden passed away in 1947, having received 70c a week pension for her war loss.

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