In ‘travels with my forebears’ I came across the deaths of two WINTER brothers, killed in action, in the First World War:
Private Herbert William WINTER (c.1888-1917)
Private Bertram John WINTER (c.1891-1917)
They were the sons of John WINTER (1850-1902) and Margaret FOX (1859-1930) of Lake Rowan, a small town in northern Victoria between Benalla and Yarrawonga.
John WINTER, the boys’ father, was the youngest son of Edward WINTER (1812-1869), my great-great-grandfather of Diggers Rest (see previous posts) and Honoria TANCRED (1818-1856). In an easier to understand relationship, the brothers were first cousins of my maternal grandfather, William Thomas Rupert WINTER (1875-1939).
Herb, the older brother, was the first to enlist. He ‘signed up’ at Benalla on 20 July 1915 at the age of 26. Seven months later on 8 March 1916 Bert enlisted at Wangaratta, Victoria at the age of 25. They were both assigned to ‘Reinforcements’ of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion; Herb to the 7th Reinforcement and Bert to the 13th Reinforcement. Herb eventually becoming part of the 57th battalion.
Herb and Bert were country boys; Herb a ‘farm labourer’ and Bert a ‘labourer’. Both single. Their father John, died when the boys were about 14 and 12 from tuberculosis. The boys may well have been the main breadwinners for the family before enlisting.
Their mother Mrs Margaret WINTER, ‘widow’, is listed as their next of kin on the enlistment forms.
Herb embarked from Melbourne on 26 November 1915, disembarking in Egypt. There he was admonished for playing ‘House‘ (housey-housey perhaps, a form of bingo/lotto) in the Moascar camp in June 1916.
He was transferred from Alexandria to Marseilles, France on 24 June 1916 and was killed in action on the Western Front at Beaumetz, France on 26 March 1917.
Not long after Herb was transferred to France his brother, Bert, embarked from Melbourne on 3 July 1916. He was transferred to France from England on 12 November 1916 but a month later he ended up in hospital in Rouen with mumps on 8 December 1916. He didn’t return to his battalion until 5 February 1917. So, for about 6 weeks (5 Feb 1917 till 26 March 1917 when Herb was killed) the 2 brothers were moving, I presume separately, in an easterly direction towards the Western front.
Bert was killed in action at Bullecourt on 15 April 1917, a couple of months after returning to duty and 3 weeks after his brother was killed.
I wonder if he knew?
The Australian War Memorial website describes the movements of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion after being joined by reinforcements:
In March 1916, the battalion embarked for France and experienced their first service on the Western Front in reserve breastwork trenches near Fleurbaix at the end of the first week of April 1916. The battalion’s first major action was at Pozieres, part of the massive British offensive on the Somme. In September/October they were moved to the Ypres sector then back to the Somme for the winter. The battalion spent most of 1917 bogged in bloody trench warfare from Bullecourt to Broodseinde in Flanders.
The family death notices in the Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, are each published a month after the deaths:
WINTER– Killed in action in France, March 26 1917 Private Herbert William Winter, dearly loved eldest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, loved brother of Maud, Laura, and Bert (on active service); aged 28 years.
Sadly missed. Loved by all.
Duty nobly done.
WINTER-Killed in action, France, 15/4/17, Private Bertram John, beloved youngest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, also loved brother of Maud, Laura, and the late Private H. W. Winter (killed in action), aged 26 years.
Loved by all who knew him.
The brothers are honoured in two different cemeteries in France: Herb in Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extension Plot 1, Row B, Grave No. 4 and Bert in Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission manage the cemeteries. Certificates of commemoration as shown below can be downloaded from the website here
My only sources for this blog post have been the records available through the various Departments. For further information about the brothers’ war experience the Defence service records can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian National Archives and the Red Cross reports of their deaths can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian War Memorial website.