Sadness compounded

Another three servicemen of the Holy Trinity Anglican 101 killed in World War One will be honoured as part of a plaque dedication ceremony at Hobart's Soldiers Memorial Avenue next Sunday morning (February 15), the first such service for this year.

And there is an added poignancy to the plaque recognition for the three - a sadness that was compounded for the families they left behind. It was that none of the personal effects the trio left when they died arrived home. These were all on the Barunga, which was sunk by a German U-boat torpedo when the ship was en route to Australia.

The Barunga (by a touch of irony it was a seized enemy ship previously called the Sumatra) was carrying more than 5,000 packages when it went down in the North Atlantic near the Isles of Scilly on July 15, 1918. In the Holy Trinity servicemen's files in the Australian National Archives it's recorded this was the only instance when such a consignment was entirely lost due to enemy action.

There was no insurance on such effects, and as a letter to one grieving relative said: "No hope can be entertained of the recovery of the articles so lost."

It was a double sense of loss for the families - not only losing a loved one in the bloody horror of war but also then not having mementoes to cherish. This sad outcome again underlines why the particularly appropriate stained-glass War Memorial Windows to the 101 should continue to be preserved and honoured in Holy Trinity now that the church is under new religious ownership after being abandoned by the Anglican church leadership.

The ill-fated Barunga had sailed on June 20, and the Holy Trinity three had all died in April on the Western Front.

Second Lieutenant Alfred Charles Thurstans, of the 40th Battalion, AIF, was killed in action that April 5, by shellfire near Morlancourt, in France's Picardie region, and is buried in the 207 Mericourt L'Abbe Communal Extension. Born in Wolverhampton, England, he was an accountant, and 45 when he died, having enlisted in Hobart in May, 1916, and being sent among reinforcements a year later.

He left a wife, Annie, and she had written several letters to the army saying how glad she would be to have any news of the whereabouts of her husband's personal effects.

Lieutenant George William Best, of the 3rd Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, was killed in action on April 12, and buried in 71 Vignacourt British Cemetery. He appears to have been the only airman among the Holy Trinity 101. He had been a draper (Best and Company, drapers and clothiers, of Elizabeth Street, Hobart) when he joined up in October, 1916, aged 20 years and eight months.

He was killed in a flying accident at Poulainville Aerodrome - there was engine failure when he took off and he crashed; the plane was engulfed in flames and he died instantly. His unit, Australia's most illustrious fighter squadron, was the first into France for the AFC.

Lieutenant Best had sailed to war from Melbourne in mid-January, 1917, on the troop ship Omrah - itself to be a victim of a U-boat. It was sunk in the Mediterranean on May 12, 1918.

Gunner Ahlbere Hurst Howell, of the 36th Australian Heavy Artillery Group, died of wounds on April 24. He was on his gun near Westoutre, Belgium, when an enemy shell burst nearby, fatally wounding him. The records mention a wreath was bought from battery canteen funds and placed on his grave. He is commemorated in Belgium's Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, one of the largest of British graveyards (more than 1,100 Australians lie there).

He had been a draper's assistant in Hobart, aged 21 years and four months, when he enlisted late December, 1916. He left behind a fiancee, a Brisbane girl who wrote to the military authority in Melbourne: "I may tell you I was his promised wife and am in great distress." He left all his property and effects to her in his will.

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