Military medal, '1914-15 Star and Ribbon', copper / ribbon, awarded to Frederick E Boddington, maker unknown, Australia / England, 1918
In 1914 the Australian government vowed to fight in defence of Britain 'to the last man and the last shilling'. At first many of the men who volunteered saw it as a great adventure, an opportunity to travel and spend time overseas. The postcards sent back by the Boddington boys are typical, with their images of exotic scenes and foreign cities. However the tragedy of Gallipoli followed by the terrible trench warfare of France soon changed all this. Of the 300,000 Australians who fought overseas, 60,000 were killed and another 120,000 seriously wounded.
The Boddington family collection is a poignant reminder of the personal cost of war. Two of George and Emily Boddington's three sons were killed. Captain Frederick Boddington (46 INF BN) was killed in action on 11 April 1917 at the first battle of Bullecourt, and Private George Boddington (7 FD AMB) died of wounds sustained at the second Battle of Bullecourt on 12 May 1917. Bullecourt was on the Hindenburg Line, a sixteen mile front that stretch north to Arras. The fighting to cross this front was intense with 3,000 Australian casualties in the first battle and 7,000 in the second.
The Australian government officially acknowledged the loss of sons and fathers through the distribution of commemorative plaques, ribbons and badges. Emily Boddington was awarded a mourning brooch with two stars and two bars symbolising each son she had lost. The plaques were proudly mounted on sitting room walls or carefully stored away in the cardboard container.
Humphrey McQueen, 'Social sketches of Australia, 1888-1975', Penguin Books, 1978
Dudley McCarthy, Gallipoli to the Somme:'the story of CEW Bean', John Ferguson, 1983
For detail of Bullecourt see Department of Veterans Affairs: http://www.ww1westernfront.gov.au/bullecourt/index.html
The star was authorized in 1918 and awarded to those who saw service between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915. Those eligible for the 1914 Star were not eligible for the 1914-15 Star. The medals were given to the next of kin, and then by descent through the Boddington family to the Humphries family.
The two brothers, Frederick E Boddington and George K Boddington were both killed at Bullecourt, France. Frederick E Boddington was killed in action on 11 April 1917 at the First Battle of Bullecourt, and George K Boddington died on 10 May 1917 of wounds sustained in the Second Battle of Bullecourt. This item is one of an archive including both brothers' medals, death plaques and photographs, as well as a 'mourning medal', letters, postcards and other items relating the gravity of loss for the family. The symbols of loss are most strongly linked to the mother of the Boddington boys, and intimates most poignantly the social impact of those left grieving at home in Australia.
Out of respect, and to humanise the otherwise depersonalised experience of distant death and burial, official efforts were made to recognise and honour the sacrifice of the soldiers and those they left behind. Medals, scrolls and commemorative plaques didn't return the Boddington sons, but they remain as important symbols of their courage, and premature deaths. They also survive as reminders of the social cost and loss Australia sustained back on the home front.
It is very unusual for such a complete group of objects to survive, since they were often split between successive generations of descendants. This archive is particularly special with its supporting documentation of family photographs, letters, and postcards. Before their deaths at Bullecourt, the Boddington brothers were at Gallipoli, landing at ANZAC Cove on 25 April 1915 as part of the Infantry Battalion, AIF - the famous 3rd Australian Infantry Brigade which was first ashore at ANZAC Cove. A letter from Frederick to his parents describes in vivid detail the occassion of his wounding when accidentally running at night into a Turkish trench, and his subsequent recuperation in an English hospital is recorded in a photograph.
Formation of the Division in which the Boddington brothers fought:
In January 1916, Major General A.J. Godley, then commanding the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, put forward a proposal to use Australian reinforcements, then training in Egypt, to form two new divisions. The Australian government concurred and the Fifth Division began forming in Egypt in February 1916. The new division included some existing units: the 8th Infantry Brigade. 8th Field Company, 8th Field Ambulance and 10th Army Service Corps Company but only the 8th Field Company had fought at Gallipoli. The 14th and 15th Infantry Brigades were formed by taking half the personnel of the 1st and 2nd Infantry Brigades.
Initially, the division was stationed on the Suez Canal. In June 1916 it moved to France, taking over part of the 'nursery' sector near Armentieres. There it became involved in the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July. In October it joined the First, Second and Fourth Divisions on the Somme around Flers.
In March 1917, leading up to the First Battle of Bullecourt on April 11, a flying column of the Fifth Division pursued the Germans to the Hindenburg Line, capturing Bapaume. In May the Division relieved the First Division in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, holding the breach thus gained against furious counterattacks. In September it managed to turn an allied defeat into a major victory at the Battle of Polygon Wood.
In March 1918 the Fifth Division was rushed to the Somme region to help stem the German Offensive. There it guarded the vital Somme River bridges. In April it counterattacked at Villers Bretonneux, recovering the town.
The Fifth Division fought in the Battles of Hamel in July and Amiens in August. In September it forced the Somme River at Peronne and fought on to the Hindenburg Line.
Dateline for Bullecourt, 1917.
11 April. First Battle of Bullecourt begins on the Hindenberg Line on Western Front in which 3000 Australians are killed, including FE Boddington - on the first day, 11 April 1917.
3 May. Second Battle of Bullecourt begins in which there are 7000 Australian casualties, and during which time GK Boddington dies on 12 May of wounds sustained on 10 May.
12 May. Australian and British troops capture Bullecourt and repulse a German counterattack.