“Gallipoli Sniper. Posthumously awarded a Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry in action near Pozieres, France, some time between 22 and 25 July, 1916. A straight, honest man and a fearless fighter “.
Harry BUSWELL was born in 1883, son of Harry BUSWELL Snr. and Bridget ( nee WATERS ).
Tragically, Harry Snr. was killed in a horse riding accident in late 1886, when Harry Jnr. was only three ( 3 )years of age.
Harry Jnr. was the Grandson of Joseph BUSWELL, who had arrived in Western Australia as a Convict, aboard the Vessel “ Stag “, in May, 1855. Joseph set out to prove his worth in the Colony as being an independent and strong-willed man. He quickly succeeded to build a trustworthy reputation and formed a successful business relationship with his wife Eliza ( nee CROSS ), whilst also raising ten ( 10 ) children.
Joseph continued to maintain a lawful existence, however he was reported to have been directly involved in the sensational escape from Bunbury in 1869, of the exiled Irish Fenian Poet, John Boyle O’REILLY. The Poet was transported from shore by small boat, to a point off Belvedere, where he rendezvoused with an American whaling ship, to flee to the U.S.A.
Harry grew up without the direct influence of a father, however he was surrounded by hard working and influential family members, who oversaw his growth and development. He played an integral role in the upsurge of a powerful BUSWELL sporting dynasty in Bunbury and districts. ( Harry was later to become a prominent member of the 1904 South Bunbury Australian Rules Football Premiership winning Team ).
After leaving School, Harry started work as a Lumper at the Bunbury wharf, whilst also completing training with the Bunbury Rifle Volunteers. He answered the call for volunteers to enlist to serve in action at the Boer War, joining the 6th W.A. Mounted Infantry in March, 1901. After a short training program at Karrakatta, W.A. Harry embarked from Fremantle on 10 April, 1901. He spent twelve ( 12 ) months in action in the field in South Africa, returning to Australia on 17 May, 1902.
Harry became prominent within the Lumpers Union in 1906, when he powerfully defended the local Timber and Allied workers in an industrial dispute which had caused severe impacts on their families lives. The respect he earnt led to his appointment as President of the Lumpers Union in 1907, at the age of twenty four ( 24 ) years. During May, 1907, Harry raised the ire of local MLA and W.A. Premier, Newton MOORE, by introducing a No Confidence Motion in the Premier. BUSWELL was angry that the Premier was absent in the Eastern States when critical negotiations during the industrial dispute were taking place locally.
In 1914, Harry BUSWELL responded swiftly to the Declaration of War, undergoing a medical examination in Bunbury on 15th August. He completed enlistment at Helena Vale Camp, W.A. on 18 August, 1914,where he was allocated to the 11th Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. Private Harry BUSWELL joined the formation of the highly successful “ H “ Company, initially working with Corporal Tom LOUCH from Albany, W.A. LOUCH is credited with writing one of the most compelling documents which precisely describes the Gallipoli landing and the roles of our snipers.
The 11th Battalion firstly underwent a rigorous eleven ( 11 ) weeks training program at the Blackboy Hill Camp, W.A. where the focus was on squad drill, rifle exercises and musketry training. The Battalion then boarded the transport ship “ Ascanius “ at Fremantle on 31 October, 1914. After anchoring in Gage Roads for two ( 2 ) days, the “ Ascanius “ joined an armada of thirty-eight ( 38 ) transport ships on their voyage to the Suez Canal. There was scarcely enough room to move on the ship and the soldiers experienced very hot weather throughout the voyage. There never seemed to be enough food available for the almost two thousand ( 2000 ) men on board who seemed perpetually hungry.
Whilst at sea , on 9 November, 1914, one of their escort ships, HMAS Sydney, engaged and sunk the German Cruiser “ Emden “. The convoy was re-supplied at Colombo, Ceylon, and ten days later, whilst overtaking the “ Shropshire “, both ships collided, the “ Ascanius “ suffering a twenty-five ( 25 ) feet by three ( 3 ) feet hole above the waterline. Fortuitously, the vessel was able to safely limp into the Port of Aden, without any further issues.
Up until this point of time, the soldiers were of the belief that they were being ultimately transported to England. It now became clear that the 11th Battalion were being diverted to Egypt. It appears that the combination of a lack of suitable training camps and the current bitter weather in England had brought about a change in plans. Secondly, the Allied Forces were fearful of a Turkish attack on the Suez Canal.
Pte. Harry BUSWELL disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt, on 7 December, 1914, departing by train shortly thereafter, arriving at Cairo at approximately 6.30p.m. The 11th Battalion then undertook a one ( 1 ) hour tram journey to Mena Camp, near the base of the pyramids. The camp comprised approximately twenty thousand ( 20,000 ) men, who were forced to sleep out in the open. The hasty change of plans had precluded sufficient time to order and issue a supply of tents. Training programs were instituted that caused the men to be out in the desert most of the day, attempting to cope with awful heat and blistering sand. In early January, 1915, Harry became afflicted with the prevailing Influenza, and like a number of his mates, was not deemed ill enough to warrant transfer for Hospital treatment.
During the ensuing six ( 6 ) weeks, field training was intensified to include frontal attacks on an imaginary enemy, methods based on lessons learnt from the Boer War. On 28 February, 1915, Harry gathered his belongings and marched into barracks in Egypt with the 11th Battalion. They embarked on the “ Suffolk” on 2 March, 1915, bound for Mudros, on the Greek island of Lemnos, where they subsequently spent the next seven ( 7 ) weeks. The men mostly waited aboard ship during this period. This delay was caused by the need to assemble all Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces troops to successfully undertake the upcoming War on land. The weather during this period was cold, bleak and windy. In the latter part of April, 1915, Allied Commander, Sir Ian HAMILTON visited Harry and the other restless troops gathered at Mudros, stating “ We would be very shortly landing on the Peninsula “.
On the late afternoon of 24 April, 1915 the 11th Battalion, on board the “ Suffolk” , were slowly moved down the Harbour through the mass of shipping, anchoring near Imbros. Pte. Harry BUSWELL and his 11th Battalion mates were issued with instructions to be part of the first Anzac Dawn Landing Party and to clear the way for the additional troops to follow. Harry transferred to the destroyer “ Chelmer “ , which then steamed towards the landing place. He then climbed into a lifeboat which was secured alongside. This boat was then attached to a string of lifeboats , taken in tow by a Naval picket boat. There were four ( 4 ) Naval ratings tasked with rowing the last yards to shore, after they were cast from being under tow.
Pte. BUSWELL and the 11th Battalion were not spotted by the Turks until the final two hundred ( 200 ) to three hundred ( 300 ) yards of their journey to the beach. Machine Gun fire then opened up on them from the direction of Plugge’s Plateau. Harry then leapt out of the boat to wade ashore in waste deep water, near Ari Burnu, being subjected to constant fire. A number of men had been killed and wounded around him, before he shed his pack and laid down on the rocky shore. They had been instructed to await further orders. There was no cover, so when further orders were not received, Harry and his mates carried their boxes of ammunition over the beach, to seek protective cover behind the hill in front of them. At this time, the Turkish artillery had began firing their first shells .
Eventually, an Officer directed the men to occupy a ridge on the other side of Shrapnel Valley, before they were to begin the difficult climb up the ridge to Wire Gully. During this period, Pte. BUSWELL remained soaking wet and felt very uncomfortable. The men were focussed on seeking cover to avoid the enfiladed fire coming from their left. The first night on Gallipoli was quiet, without any shots being fired. On the following morning , enemy attacks were being launched from both sides. The men were also under constant threat from Turkish snipers , who had dug in above them, at Johnston’s Jolly.
During the first four ( 4 ) days of battle , the men had received little water, other than what they had carried ashore in their water bottles. Pte. BUSWELL then had to negotiate his way down along the beach to join the balance of the 11th Battalion, who had now congregated at Shell Green. The Battalion had suffered many casualties in the first few days, before they could settle in to some serious trench digging and performing sentry duties. At this time, their rations consisted of tinned bully beef, biscuits, jam and occasionally, cheese. Water continued to be in very short supply.
The 11th Battalion spent all of May/June in a sector of the line, just South of Lone Pine. Most of their time was spent tunnelling forward, establishing an elaborate underground trench system, effectively forming a new Front Line. At this time the main Turkish trench was approximately two hundred ( 200 ) yards away. During this period, Ray CLARKE, Tom ROSE and Harry had constructed a secret, well hidden snipers post.
Since being on active service, Pte. BUSWELL had developed a special aptitude for writing, obviously linked to his demonstrated capacity for speech making which was widely known in Bunbury. He initially started to send home graphic extracts from his daily diary at Gallipoli, which were subsequently published in the local newspaper. He wrote of exploits in which he was involved with other Bunbury servicemen and they often mentioned him in their letters from the front.
On 7 December, 1915, the Bunbury Herald published a comprehensive letter from Pte. BUSWELL, addressed to his friend, Jack VICK, Licensee of the Ocean Beach Hotel in Bunbury. Some interesting quotes from this letter include:- “ It is over five ( 5 ) months now since I landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and I am still intact. I have so far escaped those misfortunes which usually befall a man engaged in the game of war, but I am sorry I cannot say the same of a lot of my old mates. Some of them are no more. Some are wounded and some are sick, but some are here still. The most fortunate and the most hardy of us are seeing the game carried on. Sometimes it makes a man a bit melancholy as he brings back to mind the many pleasant hours spent in the company of those young fellows who are in some cases beyond the strife and turmoil of this world, and of others who are crippled for life “.
“ 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 where 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 daredevils who landed at Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April “.
“ I can tell you it makes us fellows 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 “.
Pte. BUSWELL is also quoted from another diary entry, written 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 growing horrors of the War, Pte. BUSWELL continued to write in a cheerful, optimistic manner. He maintained the level of spirit he displayed when insulting Politicians in Western Australia, whilst carrying out his duties as head of the Lumpers Union. Another local Bunbury soldier, Corporal Julian NORTH DCM, was also serving with the 11th Battalion at the time, and wrote a letter to his parents on 9 August, 1915. This letter was published in Bunbury in mid-September, 1915 and included this comment:-
“ 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 “.
Pte. BUSWELL was promoted to the rank of Corporal at Gallipoli on 15 August, 1915. This promotion came shortly after the Battles for Leane’s Trench and Lone Pine. Cpl. BUSWELL was further promoted to the rank of Temporary Sergeant at Gallipoli on 13 November, 1915. Within a month he was further promoted to the rank of Sergeant, when on the island of Lemnos.
Sgt. BUSWELL disembarked at Alexandria, Egypt on 7 January, 1916, following the Monash-inspired tactical withdrawal from action at Gallipoli. He availed himself of a short period of recuperation, prior to undergoing further periods of training at the training base nearby. In time, he embarked with those remaining of the 11th Battalion, bound for Marseilles, France, arriving on 5 April, 1916.
Sgt. Harry BUSWELL regularly wrote genuine eyewitness accounts of the actions during his service on the Western Front, in France. These documents have proven to be enormously valuable to Military Historians and successive generations of the BUSWELL family. He tragically met his death, whilst involved in heavy fighting in the Battles of Pozieres, France , between 22 and 25 July, 1916. There is no known grave, as his body was never recovered. There is absolutely no doubt that Harry BUSWELL was leading from the front and protecting his men at the time of his death.
Sgt. Harry BUSWELL was posthumously awarded a 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 communications 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 BUSWELL’s death in France was published in the Bunbury Newspaper, accompanied by the following tribute:-
“ A straight, honest man and a fearless fighter “.
At a Memorial Service for Harry, local Labor M.P. William Lemen THOMAS spoke of his profound regret at the loss of a friend and a close associate in Union and Political matters.
Captain Walter BELFORD, author of “ Legs Eleven “, the History of the 11th Battalion, clearly described trench life on Gallipoli, and paid special reference 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 will be forever remembered as an Anzac Hero. He was fearless and patriotic as a soldier, with a healthy disrespect for public figures of the time. His Grandfather Joseph BUSWELL, who was known to possess similar qualities, would have been immensely proud of his Grandson, and more than likely would have referred to him as “ a chip off the old block “.
SERVICE MEDALS AWARDED
1914/15 Star = Medal No. 4635
British War Medal – No. 3981
Victory Medal – No. 3976
Memorial Plaque/Scroll – No. 306383
Villers-Brettoneux War Memorial, France
Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT – Panel No. 61
Bunbury War Memorial, Western Australia
Bunbury Lumpers Union Honour Board, RSL Bunbury WA