Prisoner of War

Towards the end of March 1918  Andy was moved from Courtrai to Dendermonde.

Here there were 280 of us in a room that could not properly accommodate 50. It was a frightful experience and we suffered it for 13 days.

He may have had a threadbare blanket, but no bedding and no place to sleep.

In early April the captured men were marched to the station to entrain for Germany.

Perhaps Andy’s trip into Germany followed a common transport route for POWs: to Brussels, through Liege, Aachen and Dusseldorf, before arriving at Dülmen camp. The journey took several days, the men crammed into cattle cars that bumped and shunted along. Every few hours the train would lurch into a station. At some stations they were able to leave the train and stretch their legs. At others they could only catch a glimpse of the town by pressing their faces to the ventilation grates.

During the journey the men might have received meagre rations of bread or barley water, or they might have attempted to barter parts of their uniform for food. Trading boots and braces could get a man half a loaf of bread.

Arriving at the Dülmen camp, Andy was finally processed as a prisoner of war. He lined up with the men to be counted. Some were asked if they were willing to work on farms or in factories. Andy seems to have refused. Under the Hague Convention officers and non-commissioned officers were not required to work, but with Germany suffering quite severely under the Allies’ naval blockade, and a shortage of working men at home, the country relied on POW labour. NCO prisoners were often ‘encouraged’ to volunteer through beatings and other ill treatment.

Andy Duncan's prisoner registration at Dülmen P.O.W. camp. http://grandeguerre.icrc.org
Andy Duncan’s prisoner registration at Dülmen P.O.W. camp.
http://grandeguerre.icrc.org

Following the head-count Andy was assigned to a NCO bunkhouse. After the suffocating confines at Dendermonde and the crowded train journey, a bunk with a blanket and a straw mattress must have been very welcome. Then Andy would have proceeded to the camp baths, had his hair clipped short and his clothes fumigated. Returning to his bunkhouse he probably took the first opportunity to write to Jane and let her know he was still alive.

The confirmation that Andy was a prisoner of war seems to have come a few weeks later in a postcard from another soldier to Jane. On 28 April his Statement of Service was noted “Now reported prisoner of war in German hands”, but his prison camp was not known. Until Andy’s whereabouts were established he would not receive Red Cross parcels. He would have to survive on camp rations and live in the clothes in which he was captured, probably lice-ridden despite the camp fumigation. He must have been desperately hungry.

No matter where men were, food meant little more than starvation rations. Typically, each man would receive a mug of ersatz coffee made from burnt barley or acorns, and a thin slice of black bread, adulterated with sawdust. At lunch he might have soup of varying quality, but generally it was little more than the water in which guards had boiled their own meals, with odd pieces of vegetable floating around.

from Prisoners of the Kaiser: The last POWs of the Great War by Richard Van Emden

Prisoner's meals, Dülmen P.O.W. camp. The top photograph shows the large containers of food being carried from the kitchens and the lower photograph shows the serving of food to the POWs. Australian War Memorial Collection P03236.274
Prisoners’ meals, Dülmen POW camp. The top photograph shows the large containers of food being carried from the kitchens and the lower photograph shows the serving of food to the POWs.
Australian War Memorial Collection P03236.274

Sources

Mead, A.E. Private Papers of A E Mead Imperial War Museum collection 17232.

‘Minden PoW camp’. 2013. Great War Forum.

NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, A.S. National Archives of Australia.

Van Emden, R. 2009. Prisoners of the Kaiser: The last POWs of the Great War. South Yorkshire, England: Pen & Sword Military.

1914-1918 Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives.

1918 157 Company Sergeant Major Andrew Steward Duncan 10th Battalion. Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing, Enquiry Bureau files, 1914-18 War 1DRL/0428.

Featured image: POWs at Dülmen camp, Germany. Australian War Memorial collection P01981.059

Captured

Hollebeke, Flanders. 1 March 1918. CSM A.S. Duncan missing presumed captured.

The night was very dark; conditions “very favourable to the enemy”.

At 9:49pm D Company came under heavy shelling.  During the barrage a German raiding party of an estimated 133 men advanced through No Man’s Land and crossed the battalion’s front line.

Andy was at D Company Headquarters when the barrage began. In 1919 he recalled

Our position was a succession of improved shell holes. This was the Company front. Coy Headquarters was in an old pill-box which was practically in front of what constituted our front line. We had all our posts out. It was practically while we were in the process of taking over from the 13th, that the enemy raided us in force. I was at Coy. Hdqrs., where also were a Captain of the 13th Battalion my O.C., Major Henwood, and one signaller. The enemy put up a heavy barrage on the Company front with ‘pineapples’ and minenwerfers. A runner came in and told us that the enemy were making an attack. My O.C. gave instructions for the S.O.S. to be fired. I fired it at about 10.30 or 11pm. Just as our own artillery barrage opened up, the Germans reached Coy. Hdqrs. A man appeared at the door of Coy Hdqrs and called on us to surrender. Major Henwood shot him. This man it ultimately appeared was the officer in charge of the raiders. Immediately a number of bombs landed in the pill-box. They put the lights out and wounded one man. The enemy immediately after the throwing of bombs, appeared in force around the pill-box. We were compelled to come out. Our officers agreed that as things were we had no chance.

Captured were Major H.N. Henwood, Sergeant Major A.S. Duncan, Private P.M. Berthelsen, Private W.B. Crispe, Private S.T. Noble, Private W.S. Bell, Private Thomas and Private R. Daley. Major Henwood was killed during the raid, although accounts of what happened differed widely. Andy recalled that, after the Australians came out of the pill-box

Our barrage was still on and Major Henwood was just outside the pill-box and while I was talking to him, was killed. That is, he was killed as far as I could tell.

The Germans moved us away from the neighbourhood of the pill-box into a shell hole. There were 7 of us, 4 of whom were wounded, one very badly. In the shell hole a German orderly dressed the wounded men, using our own first field dressings. The Germans were apparently waiting for our barrage to lift.

Eventually the Germans and their prisoners moved to No Man’s Land, heading back to the German lines. Suddenly flares lit up the area and a shell exploded in their midst. CSM Duncan, Private Crispe and Private Thomas received minor shrapnel wounds. In the confusion, Private Daley, Private Thomas and Private Bell managed to escape.

Andy was taken back to the German lines and separated from the other men.

I was kept for about an hour in the enemy trenches, the others being sent away. I was subjected to a vigorous cross-examination concerning our lines and dispositions. Straightway from the line I was marched to Ingelmunster. There I saw the three unwounded men who had been captured with me. At Ingelmunster I was again interrogated before being removed to Courtrai [Kortrijk]. I was here for about 17 days, kept in a cell, being daily interrogated.

Perhaps it was at Ingelmunster that Andy shared a cell with a German spy. The spy claimed to be a fellow Australian, but Andy saw through him: “I fed him a lot of bullshit”.

Ingelmunster was a collecting and interrogation station for recently captured prisoners, but for some reason the Germans did not process him as a prisoner of war. Andy became concerned about his captors’ motives for moving him to Courtrai.

Family stories that have been handed down probably relate to the Courtrai interrogations:

The Germans took Andy to a deserted farm house where he was held alone and interrogated for some time. During interrogation he was made to stand barefoot. A German soldier held a rifle by the barrel, the rifle stock hovering a distance above Andy’s toes. Andy would be asked a question. If his response was unsatisfactory, the rifle stock would be dropped and smash his toes. The interrogation left Andy with crushed, mangled toes and no toenails for the rest of his life.

Andy believed that his captors had no intention of taking him to a P.O.W. camp; rather they were planning to kill him once the interrogation was finished. This would be a simple matter for the Germans, as Andy was not yet officially registered as a Prisoner of War and no-one knew where he was.

Andy looked for some way to improve his situation. He knew that a railway line ran by the farm house and that trains passed regularly. He asked his guards to let him exercise in the farmyard once a day. He hoped that if he could get himself noticed by passengers on a passing train, someone might question why a solitary Australian soldier was walking around a Belgian farm behind the lines and not in a P.O.W. camp.

He was permitted to exercise outside and as luck would have it a Red Cross worker travelling by train did notice him and made enquiries. Soon after Andy was sent to a P.O.W. camp.

Writing of Australian soldiers captured on the Somme, a German officer observed

a few prisoners who had already fought on Gallipoli were of good military bearing, although the majority, who had arrived as reinforcements, left a rather lamentable impression.

from Pozieres: The Anzac Story by Scott Bennett

It seems that Andy maintained his military bearing and presence of mind during the interrogations.

 

Sources

AWM4 23/27/29 – March 1918. Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War. Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Bennett, S. 2011. Pozieres: The Anzac Story. Melbourne: Scribe Publications.

1918 1st Australian Division 1 February to 7 March 1918. Statements made by prisoners of war [10th Battalion, No 157 CSM A S Duncan, No 2287 Private P M Berthelsen, No 2622 Private W B Crispe, No 5846 Private J Munday, No 5420 Private S T Noble, No 2958 Private J M Searle] AWM30 B5.37. Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

1918 2622 Private Walter Bagnold Crispe 10th Battalion. Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing, Enquiry Bureau files, 1914-18 War 1DRL/0428.

1918 157 Company Sergeant Major Andrew Steward Duncan 10th Battalion. Australian Red Cross Society Wounded and Missing, Enquiry Bureau files, 1914-18 War 1DRL/0428.

WO/161/96/136, 1128-1134. Statement by Lieutenant F.J. Ortweiler. The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey, England.

Featured image: Hollebeke, 1918

 

Return to Flanders

Andy disembarked in Le Havre on 13 October 1917. He would have had a slow, stop-start trip to rejoin his battalion in Flanders. Constant rain and artillery bombardment had created a quagmire that made transport almost impossible. The few roads that were passable were targets for the enemy’s shrapnel and high explosive shells.

Blocks in the traffic were inevitable and constant. At times as far as the eye could see the main arteries of communication would be blocked … Whole teams of wagons were killed, to be dragged out of the way and the vehicle pushed into the mud, to allow the living to pass.

History of the 10th Battalion A.I.F.

Idiot Corner, Ypres, 5 November 1917. Men and pack mules rounding Idiot Corner, on Westhoek Ridge, in Belgium, moving up to the front line. To follow the duckboard and corduroy track was to be seen silhouetted against the skyline, both from the Australian position and that of the enemy - before he was driven from Broodseinde Ridge. But passage over any part other than the top of the ridge was impossible owing to mud. At this point many transports and guns were wrecked by the constant shellfire, and others were lost in the morass. One vehicle actually sank out of sight in the ooze a little to the right of the picture. Australian War Memorial collection E01480
Idiot Corner, Ypres, 5 November 1917.
Australian War Memorial collection E01480

Andy reached his unit in the mud and the mire near Passchendaele on 16 October. Many of the faces he had last seen at Pozières were missing; dead or disappeared, perhaps prisoners of war. He arrived at the tail-end of the 3rd Battle of Ypres [Ieper], just missing the actions at Polygon Wood and the disastrous diversionary raid at Celtic Wood.

The entrance to the General Staff Office at the Headquarters of the 3rd Australian Division in the Ramparts, at Ypres, during the Broodseinde and Passchendaele operations. Australian War Memorial Collection E01184
The entrance to the General Staff Office at the Headquarters of the 3rd Australian Division in the Ramparts, at Ypres, during the Broodseinde and Passchendaele operations.
Australian War Memorial collection E01184

The activities of the 10th Battalion for the next few months reflected the nature of the war on the Western Front: small movements of just a few miles back and forth through rain, mud and icy weather; periods of action interspersed with relative quiet.

On 10 November Andy left Ypres with the battalion for the Boulogne area. After a month of training, rest and recovery, the battalion marched East and into the line at Messines [Mesen]. The weather was very cold. Flooded mine craters froze over.

In this area (though not always the same sector) the battalion remained until the beginning of April – sometimes out, but more often in the forward zone – and, though the sector was a quiet one, the fatigues which were long and tiring gave little rest for either officers or men.

History of the 10th Battalion A.I.F.

Andy was in the line until Christmas, when the battalion was relieved and came out to Wulverghem Camp, a few miles away. The men could not celebrate Christmas as they were still in a forward area, but spending Christmas day warm and dry would have been a welcome present.

The battalion remained in the Messines area for all of January, moving a short way north into the trenches at Wytschaete [Wijtschate] on 23 January. Andy spent a very quiet week here before the battalion moved to Aldershot Camp, where they finally celebrated Christmas on 16 February. Despite the relative quiet of the sector, there was the odd ‘stand to’ alarm raised, and the men would have to be ready for battle with 20 minutes’ notice.

A dugout in the ruins of Wytschaete in January 1918.
A dugout in the ruins of Wytschaete in January 1918.
Australian War Memorial collection E01593

On 23 February 1918 Non-commissioned officers of the 10th Battalion posed for a group photograph at Neuve Eglise [Nieuwkerke].

Group portrait of NCOs of the 10th Battalion, 23 February 1918. Australian War Memorial collection E01781
Group portrait of NCOs of the 10th Battalion, 23 February 1918.
Australian War Memorial collection E01781
Enlargement. CSM A.S. Duncan, centre.  Seated in front of Andy on the left of frame is  Corporal Reginald Roy Inwood, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Polygon Wood in September 1917. Andy and Reg were both 'original' 1914 Anzacs from Broken  Hill.
Enlargement. CSM A.S. Duncan, centre.
Seated in front of Andy on the left of frame is Corporal Reginald Roy Inwood, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Polygon Wood in September 1917. Andy and Roy were both original 1914 Anzacs from Broken Hill.

Less than a week after this photo was taken Andy would be back in the trenches, where he would experience something for which he had never trained or prepared. His war was about to take a very different turn.

Sources

NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, AS. National Archives of Australia.

First World War Embarkation Rolls. Australian War Memorial collection.

Limb, A, 1919. History of the 10th Battalion A.I.F.. 1st ed. London; Melbourne: Cassell and Co.

Lock, C.B.L., 1936. The Fighting 10th: a South Australian centenary souvenir of the 10th Battalion, A.I.F., 1914-1919. Webb & Son, Adelaide. Reprinted in 2000 by The Naval & Military Press in association with The Imperial War Museum

Featured image: A view, in silhouette, of Australian artillery limbers loaded with ammunition proceeding along the Ypres Road. Australian War Memorial collection E00829

Interlude

Pop, you died long before I was born. Although I never knew you, I will remember you.

You were wounded in the Gallipoli landing. The hot shrapnel that sliced into your back nearly killed you, but you survived. Other soldiers were repatriated to Australia for lesser wounds, but you were sent back to Gallipoli. Was it then that you learned your brother Hugh had been killed at Cape Helles? With lost and delayed mail you may not have known for some time.

You fought at Gallipoli until the evacuation. Then you were sent to France. The industrialised warfare and the scale of destruction were like nothing you had ever seen.

You took part in the capture of Pozières on 23 July 1916. The next evening the Germans started a massive artillery bombardment and you were injured for a second time. You don’t remember what happened. Perhaps you were buried by that exploding shell. Your leg wound was nothing compared to the shell shock that gripped you.

You were shipped to England to recover, but you couldn’t shake feelings of dread, the churning stomach, the lack of appetite, the bad dreams. You hoped to be sent home to Australia, to the wife you had married just four months before the war. After all, most shell shock cases were given a military discharge, weren’t they?

But you weren’t sent home. You were moved from one hospital to another, then to convalescent accommodation. Your hopes of a trip back to Australia lessened with each new day you spent in England.

On 23 March 1917 you returned to active duty. You surely knew that it was exactly eight months since your battalion had stormed Pozières.

You were posted to the A.I.F. training units on Salisbury Plains. It must have been a relief not to be sent back to the Somme. You had the job of training reinforcements just arrived from Australia, of preparing them for the horrors of the Western Front. Were you one of those tough-as-nails Regimental Sergeant Majors? Did you push your men harder because you knew what they were about to face?

Then, on 19 September 1917, you received orders to rejoin your original unit in France. For over a year you had been in England, hearing accounts of the battles of the Western Front, seeing injured men come through the training camps to be rehabilitated and sent back to the front. Now it was your turn. Did you fight a feeling of returning dread as you read your orders, or were you fatalistic about what was to come?

Anzacs at Windsor

Did Andy Duncan have tea with King George V? In my previous post I suggested this family story may have come from the Anzac tea party held in Windsor Great Park in October 1916.

The Adelaide Advertiser reported the tea party in detail

ANZACS AT WINDSOR. (1916, 29 November) The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA.) p. 10. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
ANZACS AT WINDSOR. (1916, 29 November) The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA.) p. 10. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.

A tea party in Windsor Park in the middle of October is, it must be confessed, a risky undertaking under any circumstances. When it comes to entertaining 6,000 wounded soldiers in various stages of convalescence and varying degress of helplessness the “founder of the feast” is, it will be readily agreed, “asking for trouble.” Mrs. Dennistoun Fïske, an Australian lady (sister-in-law to the late Major General Sir J. Hoad), who has on sundry occasions entertained wounded soldiers on quite a big scale, decided, however, that she could trust the clerk of the weather to behave decently on Saturday, October 14, and made arrangements to entertain on that particular day 10,000 wounded soldiers at tea somewhere.

The question of a suitable rendezvous was, of course, of prime importance, involving questions of transport, not only of the men themselves, but of the wherewithal to feed and amuse the guests, and the provision of sufficient shelter for all should the clerk of the weather signify his disapproval of the gathering in his usual effective manner. The King came to the rescue of Mrs Fiske (and her myriad of helpers) by granting the use of Windsor Great Park for the rendezvous, and the difficulties of transit, &c., reduced the number of probable guests to 6,000. To entertain even that reduced number was, however, not a small undertaking, even if the clerk of the weather proved – as he happily did – in benevolent mood. Happily Mrs. Fiske enjoyed the cordial and active support of scores of willing helpers, who “delivered the goods” required to make the tea party a success without a hitch.

Hundreds of motor cars, motor omnibuses, taxi cabs, brakes, and carriages had to be requisitioned to bring the big party from London. Honorary services were provided in this direction by the Acton Taxi Drivers’ Association, an organisation of taxi-men possessing their own cars, who week by week, for nearly two years past, have patriotically, at their own expense, undertaken to give drives to wounded soldiers. The taxi-men found 75 taxi-cabs, and carried four or five men each from London and back. Private owners also lent cars. Hundreds of “waitresses” were required. These were organised by Lady Edward Spencer Churchill and the Mayor of Windsor, and included many wives of officers A band was wanted, and the band of the 2nd Life Guards met the requirement.

Then there was the food required – 1,250 lb. of meat, 4 tons of flour, 6 dwt. of sugar, 1,000 lb. each of currant and plain cake, 12 barrels of grapes, 15 boxes of apples, 150 lb. of tea, £25 worth of butter, and 20,000 cigarettes. The committee of the London Chamber of Commerce gave the meat and also a grant of £50 towards the cost of the transport. Messrs. Tate gave the sugar, the London Corn and Flour Association contributed the flour, whilst Selfridge’s supplied the currant cake, and Messrs. J. Lyons & Co. the plain cake, as well lending the crockery ware.

The gathering took place on the Cavalry Exercise Ground, near Queen Anne’s Gate.This had been specially laid out by Crown authorities under the direction of Colonel Claude Willoughby, Deputy Ranger of Windsor Great Park. Water was specially laid on, and about a dozen field ovens installed for the purpose of boiling the water. Two huge marquees were erected, each capable of accommodating one thousand men, tea being served in batches.

The men came by train, by motor cars, buses, and vehicles of every description, and some even came on steam launches up the river, private generosity providing practically all transport, whatever form it took.

To see the endless stream of vehicles arriving and depositing their human freights beneath the giant elms and oaks, and in front of an enormous marquee, rather reminded one of an Ascot race day. But an Ascot of a new character and more wonderful than any seen before, in which all the men wore the blue suits and red ties of honor, while most of the ladies accompanying them were in nurses’ uniform.  There were, of course, some cruelly maimed men, unable to move without assistance, but it really seemed as if these were the jolliest of all.

There was a tremendous tea of all kinds of sandwiches and cakes and tea and coffee. There was not much left of any thing when the “big attack” was over. Before that the Duchess of Albany and Princess Alexander of Teck and Princess May of Teck followed a little later by Princess Christian, made a tour of the tables and spoke kindly words to the guests. After tea there were races, and a pleasant afternoon was concluded by the pleasant drive back to London through the lovely country lanes of the land which we call “Home.”

This seems a likely origin for the family story, but there are other possibilities. On 10 March 1917 the Reading Mercury newspaper reported –

THE KING AND WOUNDED SOLDIERS

A number of wounded soldiers – mostly Colonials – visit Windsor every week, and, by permission of the King, are shown over Windsor Castle. They are afterwards entertained to tea in the servants’ hall.

It is also possible that the story refers to one of the King’s many visits to troops and hospitalised soldiers during the war. In 1916 the King visited Australian troops on Salisbury Plain in September and December

 

Sources

ANZACS AT WINDSOR – The Adelaide Advertiser, 29 Nov 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING AND WOUNDED SOLDIERS – The Reading Mercury, 10 Mar 1917. Newspaper article found in the British Newspaper Archive

KING REVIEWS ANZACS – Warrnambool Standard, 30 Sep 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING’S PRAISE – Clunes Guardian and Gazette, 29 Dec 1916. Newspaper article found in Trove

THE KING REVIEWS AUSTRALIAN TROOPS – Pathe Gazette newsreel, c.1916. Australian War Memorial collection F00071

A slow recovery and no trip home

Andy’s “Blighty wound” did not end his military service, though it did keep him out of action for almost a year. He was hospitalised in England from 2 August to 18 September 1916, then marched into Command Depot No.2, Weymouth. Command Depots were convalescent homes for men who no longer required hospitalization but were not yet fit to rejoin their unit. Command Depot No.2 housed those men not expected to be fit for duty within six months. Rehabilitation and training at No. 2 Depot was to harden up recovering soldiers and prepare them for a return to active service. According to the Weymouth Anzacs website, “While the general training in the new unit concentrated on toughening-up, the individual training a soldier received was governed by medical inspections under which he was categorized weekly according to fitness.”

Weymouth, England. The remedial gymnasium at the Weymouth No 2 Medical Command Depot with patients undergoing treatment and exercise. Australian War Memorial collection H17159
Weymouth, England. The remedial gymnasium at the Weymouth No 2 Medical Command Depot with patients undergoing treatment and exercise.
Australian War Memorial collection H17159
A family story says that Andy had tea King George V. This may be a reference to the celebrations at Windsor Great Park, held by the King’s permission, on 14 October 1916.

Anzacs Entertained
ANZACS ENTERTAINED. (1916, 16 October) Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas.) p. 5. Newspaper article found in Trove reproduced courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
Andy was finally ready to return to duty in March 1917. On 23 March – exactly 8 months after the taking of Pozieres –  Andy was transferred on strength to the 70th Battalion, to be temporary Regimental Sergeant Major at Wareham. He must have been thankful not to return to the front, but disappointed that he wasn’t on his way home.

On 11 June 1917 Jane Duncan wrote to Victoria Barracks

Dear Sir

I am now writing to you to thank you on my receiving the Warrant Papers of my husband & I am returning you the required slip. Hope same reaches you safely. In my husband’s last letter he said he had been made R.S. Major in charge of the 70th Battalion which they were forming over there in France (somewhere). Of course he has gained his positions well & had some very narrow escapes. Would you mind letting me know if Warrant Officer’s duties are dangerous & also what address do I use, the Warrant Officer address or the Regimental Sergt. Major. When convenient for you to do so &  still continue to send any further particular concerning him direct to me until further notice.

So thanking you once again for your kindness.

I remain

Yours sincerely

Mrs E.J. Duncan

From May to July 1917 Andy was on command at Officer School of Instruction, Chelsea Barracks, then at the No.3 School of Instruction for Infantry Officers, Candahar Barracks, Tidworth, until September 1917. He would have been involved in training Australian troops in musketry and trench warfare.

Tidworth, England, c. 1918.  Instruction in use of the prismatic compass. Non Commissioned Officer School. Australian War Memorial collection P00062.008
Tidworth, England, c. 1918.
Instruction in use of the prismatic compass. Non Commissioned Officer School.
Australian War Memorial collection P00062.008
In mid-September Andy received notice that he would proceed overseas and rejoin his unit in France.

While in England Andy bought himself a silver fob watch and had his initials engraved on it. Probably after receiving his posting to France Andy mailed the watch home to Jane for safekeeping. As he wrapped the watch to post, he must have wondered about his chances of seeing Jane and the watch again.

Andy's watch. Photo courtesy of Bill Wall
Andy’s watch. Photo courtesy of Bill Wall
Sources

NAA: B2455, DUNCAN, AS. National Archives of Australia.

Featured image: View from Worgret Hill looking towards the timber buildings of Wareham Camp. Australian War Memorial collection A03246