Henry George ” Harry BUSWELL was born in 1883 to Harry BUSWELL Snr. and Bridget BUSWELL ( nee WATERS ). Tragically, Harry Snr. was killed in a horse riding accident in late 1886, when Harry Jnr. was only 3 years of age.
Harry Jnr. was also the Grandson of Joseph BUSWELL , who had arrived in W.A. aboard the ” Stag ” in May 1855, as a convict. Joseph soon proved himself in the Colony as an independent, strong-willed man who built a solid , trustworthy reputation in his New Country. He and his wife Eliza CROSS became successful Business Owners, whilst raising their 10 Children. Although Joseph maintained a lawful existence , he was reported to have been directly involved in the sensational escape from Bunbury of the exiled Irish Fenian Poet and Patriot, John Boyle O’Reilly, who fled to the U.S.A in an American Whaler, off Bunbury in 1869.
Harry Jnr, although lacking the guidance of his own father, was surrounded by hard working and influential family members to oversee his growth and development. Harry was an integral part of the upsurge of the powerful Buswell sporting dynasty, and played in the successful 1904 South Bunbury Premiership winning football Team.
Harry worked as a Lumper on the Bunbury wharf, and the respect he earnt in this role , led to his appointment as President of the Lumpers Union in 1907, at the age of 24 years. He had become prominent in 1906, when he defended the local Timber and allied workers, during an industrial dispute, which caused severe impacts on their lives. Harry also raised the ire of local MLA and Premier, Newton Moore in May 1907 , by introducing a No Confidence Motion in the Premier , due to his absence in the Eastern States , whilst critical negotiations were being undertaken.
Harry responded quickly to the Declaration of War, by undergoing the Army Medical Examination in Bunbury on 15 August 1914. His enlistment was completed at Helena Vale Camp W.A., where he was allocated to the 11th Battalion 3rd Infantry Brigade. Harry was an integral part of the formation of the highly successful ‘ H ” Company, with official Army Records showing his Enlistment Date as 18 August, 1914. He initially worked under Corporal Tom Louch, from Albany, who wrote a compelling document, which precisely described the complete Gallipoli experience.
The soldiers firstly completed an 11 week training regime at Blackboy Hill Camp W.A., where the focus was on squad drill, rifle exercises and Musketry training. Harry then boarded the transport ship ” Ascanius ” at Fremantle on 31 Octber, 1914 and after anchoring in Gage Roads, the ship joined an armada of 38 transports on their way to the Suez Canal. There was scarcely room to move on the ship , and the soldiers experienced very hot weather throughout the voyage. There never seemed enough food available, and the almost 2000 men on board, were always hungry.
On 9 November 1914 one of their escort ships, the HMAS ‘ Sydney ” engaged and sunk the German Cruiser ” Emden “. The convoy was re-supplied at Colombo, Ceylon and 10 days later, whilst over-taking the ” Shropshire ” , the ‘ Ascanius ” collided, suffering a 25 feet by 3 feet hole above the waterline, and subsequently limping into the Port of Aden. The soldiers, until this time , were of the belief that they were being transported to England. However, at this point, Harry and his AIF mates were diverted to Egypt. It appears that the lack of suitable Camps, and bitter weather in England, combined with fears of the Turks attacking the Suez Canal, were the major reasons for the change to Allied tactics.
Harry boarded a train shortly after disembarking in Alexandria, Egypt, and arrived in Cairo at approximately 6.30 p.m. The men were then transferred by tram in a 1 hour journey to a Camp, near the base of the Pyramids. This Camp of about 20,000 men were forced to sleep out in the open , as there had not been any preparation to supply tents. Then their training involved being out in the desert all day, trying to cope with the awful heat and blistering sand. Early in the 1915 New Year, Harry caught the prevailing Influenza, but like a number of his mates, they were not sufficiently ill to be sent to Hospital.
Field training was intensified to include frontal attacks on an imaginary enemy, methods being based on lessons learnt from the Boer War. On 28 February 1915, Harry gathered his belongings and marched into barracks in Cairo with the 11th Battalion. They embarked on the ” Suffolk ” on 2 March 1915 for Mudros, Lemnos, where they were to spend the following 8 weeks. The men mostly waited on the ship during this period, delayed by trhe need for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces to be assembled, for the upcoming War on land. The weather during this period was cold, bleak and windy. Towards the end of April, Allied Commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, visted Harry and his mates on Mudros and stated that ” we would very shortly be landing on the Peninsula “.
On the late afternoon of the 24 April 1915, the 11th Battalion , on board the ” Suffolk ” were slowly moved down Lemnos Harbour through the mass of shipping, and anchored near Imbros. Harry and his mates were part of the first Anzac Dawn landing party, who were to try and clear the way for the additional troops to follow. Harry transferred to the destroyer ” Chelmer “, which then steamed towards the landing place, before climbing into a lifeboat secured alongside. A string of lifeboats were then taken in tow by a Naval picket boat, where 4 Naval ratings were to row the last few yards, after being cast off from the tow.
Harry and the 11th Battalion were not spotted by the Turks until the final 200 – 300 yards, when Machine Gun fire opened up on them from Plugge’s Plateau. Harry leapt out of the boat, waded ashore in waist deep water near Ari Burnu, being under constant fire. A number of men were killed and wounded around him, before he shed his pack and laid down on the rocky shore, as instructed, to await further orders. Due to their being no cover, and the lack of any further orders, Harry and many of his mates carried their boxes of ammunition over the beach to seek protective cover below the hill in front of them. At this time, the Turkish Artillery had began firing their first shells.
An Officer had eventually directed the men to occupy a ridge on the other side of Shrapnel Valley, before beginning the difficult climb up the ridge to Wire Gully. Harry was soaking wet and very uncomfortable during this period, when trying to seek cover and avoid the enfiladed fire from the left. That night was quiet, without any shots being fired, however on the following morning, enemy attacks were being launched from both sides. Harry and his men were also under constant threat from Turkish snipers who had dug in above them, at Johnston’s Jolly.
During the first 4 days of battle, the men had received little water, other than what they had carried ashore in their water bottles. Harry had to negotiate his way down along the Beach to join the balance of the 11th Battalion, now congregated at Shell Green. They had suffered many casualties in the first few days, before they were able to settle in to some serious trench digging and performing sentry duties. Their rations consisted mainly of tinned stuff – bully beef, biscuits, jam and sometimes cheese. Water continued to be in very short supply.
Harry and the 11th Battalion spent all of May and June in a sector of the line just South of Lone Pine. Most of their time was spent tunnelling forward and establishing an elaborate underground trench system, which effectively formed the New Front Line. The Turkish Trench was approximately 200 yards away. During this time, near Brown’s Dip, Ray Clarke, Tom Rose and Harry had constructed a secret, well- hidden snipers post.
Whilst on Active Service, Harry had turned his capacity for speech-making in Bunbury, into an aptitude for writing. He started to send some graphic extracts from his Diary home to Bunbury, where they were subsequently published in the local newspaper. Harry wrote about exploits involving fellow Bunbury soldiers at Gallipoli, and he was often mentioned in letters from the Front, by other soldiers. Harry also wrote a comprehensive letter to his friend, Jack Vick, licensee of the Ocean Beach Hotel Bunbury, which was published in the Bunbury Herald on 7 December 1915. Some interesting quotes from this letter include :-
” One’s mind wanders back to a few short months ago, when we were going through the various courses of training to fit us for the strenuous times to follow, and often think of the boyish antics some of those fellows got up to, and there were times when I had some doubts about Australians taking anything seriously, not even War; but I, like a lot more, was soon to be disillusioned , for if ever a body of men in the world ever set about anything seriously, it was those same happy-go-lucky dare devils who landed in Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April “.
” I can tell you it makes us fellows feel contented when we see the New Divisions arriving, for then we know that they have not forgotten us at home, and that we are not fighting in vain “.
” If you want a truthful account of how things are going, you cannot do better than read Ashmead Bartlett’s accounts. He is always on the spot, gets right amongst things, and sees first hand for himself, and is as accurate as can be “.
‘ We are slowly but surely winning this War against the Turks. Every battle sees the Turks getting pushed a little further back, and in this place of short distances, that little further back means a lot to the Turks, but my word, what a tussle he is making of it “.
” To read about the Turk is to despise him, but to fight him, is to admire him “.
” The Turk is putting up a fair, honest, manly fight with us, no matter what he may have done in the past. In fact, we do not bear the Turks any unwill “.
” You would be surprised at the total lack of hatred that is exhibited amongst our fellows against the Turk. They look upon him as a far fairer fighter than the German, which no doubt he is “.
Harry also wrote the following diary entry after a major battle on the night of 19 May 1915 :-
” The Turks had lost heavily……. As they came on we poured a hail of lead into them and next morning the ground in front was an awful spectacle, being covered with their dead. A lot of us were shocked at the effect of the fire “.
Despite the horrors of the War, Harry continued to write cheerfully and optimistically, with plenty of the spirit he had displayed in insulting politicians back home, when leading the Bunbury Lumpers Union. Local Bunbury soldier, Corporal Julian North DCM, also serving in the 11th Battalion, wrote a letter dated 9 August 1915, subsequently published in Bunbury in mid-September 1915, which stated :-
” Ray and Dick Clarke, Harry Buswell and Tom Rose are sniping for us and a Turk only has to put his nose outside his hiding place to catch a bullet, they are all crack shots “.
Harry was promoted to the rank of Corporal at Gallipoli on 15 August 1915, following the Battles for Leane’s Trench and Lone Pine. He was further promoted to the rank of Temporary Sergeant at Gallipoli on 13 November 1915. Within a month, he was promoted to Sergeant whilst at Lemnos. He disembarked at Alexandria Egypt on 7 January 1916 after the highly successful, Monash inspired, tactical withdrawal from Gallipoli. Harry undertook a short recuperation, before undergoing a further period of training at the Overseas Training Base in Egypt. He then embarked for Marseilles France with his 11th Battalion mates, who had also survived the treacherous fighting on Gallipoli, arriving in France on 5 April 1916.
Harry continued to write genuine eye-witness accounts during his service on the Western Front in France, which have proven to be enormously valuable to later generations and Historians. He tragically met his death whilst involved in the heavy fighting near Villers – Brettoneux, some time between the 22 and 25 July 1916. He has no known grave, as his body was never located, however his memorial inscription on the Australian Memorial Wall at Villers – Brettoneux reminds us all of his bravery.
Harry Buswell wa posthumously awarded the Military Medal on 7 November 1916, the Citation reading as follows :-
” For conspicuous gallantry. During a hand to hand attack on the enemy’s trenches he took up an exposed position commanding a communication trench from whence, by cutting down the fuses, he used bombs with such deadly effect, that he entirely frustrated the efforts of the enemy to reinforce their ranks by that channel. Although exposed to fire from the enemy, he stood his ground until the position was consolidated “.
Harry’s death in France was recorded in the Bunbury Newspaper , accompanied by the following tribute :-
” A straight, honest man and a fearless fighter”.
At a Memorial Service for Harry, local Labour MP, William Lemen Thomas spoke of his profound regret at the loss of a friend and close associate in Union and Political matters
Captain Walter Belford authored the history of the 11th Battalion, clearly describing trench life at Gallipoli, and devoted close attention to the role of the snipers, stating :-
” Among other famous snipers in the 11th Battalion were Tom Rose, Ray Clarke, Harry Buswell and Dan Cocking. Each of these men accounted for many of the enemy, as they were all wonderful shots and they took up the business in a methodical and efficient manner “.
Harry Buswell is remembered as an authentic hero, fearless and patriotic as a soldier, with a healthy disrespect for the public figures of the time. We are sure that his Grandfather, Joseph Buswell, who is deemed to have possessed similar qualities, would have been very proud of Harry, and more than likely, would have called him ” a chip off the old block “.