No.2739 Sergeant Albert Victor Hyde
My father, Albert Victor Hyde, was born at Williamstown on 3 December, 1892. He was a very proud and amiable man and I loved him dearly. He often said he would hate to be a burden on anyone as he grew older but would like to live three score and ten years, which he did, dying on 19 December 1962.
When I think of Dad's life it was tough, but he always considered he had a wonderful life. He was the fourth born child of thirteen children and to assist his family he commenced work as a carpenter with Bowen and Pomeroy in North Melbourne at the age of 14. Five of his siblings died as children which made him the eldest male in the family. Louisa was his elder sister, with whom he was very close, and often spoke of her. She later died whilst Dad was at war in 1915.
At the commencement of the First World War, Dad enlisted with his mate George Handcock, and after their initial training at Broadmeadows and then Egypt they landed at Gallipoli with the 14th Battalion. Although as a child I regularly asked Dad about war, he would only relate yarns about his mates and the happier moments. He continually said to me that he hopes I never experience war.
As I got older I joined the Army Cadets at my school, Williamstown High School, and I know Dad was proud to see me in Army 'uniform'. On occasions after our parades, we were permitted to bring home our .303 rifles, which were the same weapons Dad used in the First World War. We had great times together presenting arms and general rifle drills with my rifle, usually in the lounge room much to my mother's disgust.
It was around this time that Dad used to relate more stories to me about his war experiences. He was wounded in France at Fleurs on 14 February 1917, and later evacuated to Woking Military Hospital, England. He stated that it was freezing cold and had been snowing. The ground was a mud bath. Usually you could hear artillery shells coming towards you, and you would dive into a shell hole, or at least dive to the ground. Because of the muddy conditions, he just stood still and the shell exploded in front of him, almost between his legs. His right leg was fractured in several places and his body was riddled with shrapnel. When he was eventuality taken to hospital, the doctor was about to amputate his leg but fortunately Dad was conscious and begged the doctor not to amputate.
Because of the numerous and horrific injuries to soldiers it was often more prudent for doctors to amputate limbs. A great amount of shrapnel was removed from Dad’s body but several pieces were left in his body. We used to feel pieces of shrapnel in Dad’s arms, back, above his right eye, and hand which were there until the day he died. On enlisting and going overseas, his fiancée Irene, handed him a locket which contained a photo of herself which he wore this around his neck on a chain. A large piece of shrapnel struck this locket, destroying it but probably saving his life. My sister Wynne has his locket today. Dad was unable to walk without lifting his right foot and the Repatriation Hospital regularly supplied him with shoes which had a fitting in the right heel to insert a spring strapped to his leg enabling him to lift his foot.
Television eventually arrived in Melbourne and we bought a black and white television set. Dad and I used to regularly watch cowboy shows on the screen and I remember one we particularly liked was 'The Texan'. Dad told me that the sound of bullets zinging overhead during the war was the exact same as the ricochet of bullets on the television. Dad always spoke of the 'mateship' encountered, which was brilliant, but the worst thing was getting too close because too many good mates were killed. He mentioned the fact that British Officers were not particularly liked and he preferred Australian Officers. He often mentioned Captain Simonson in his Battalion whom all the men respected.
The British soldier was different. He was a good soldier and you could rely on them to hold positions if their officers would allow them. He stated an instance where he saw three ranks of British guards ordered to advance in ranks towards the enemy and they were mowed down with machine gun fire, falling together in their three ranks. He described it as 'bloody murder' by their officers but 'bloody disciplined soldiers’. Another incident he told me of was when charging an enemy trench, a soldier in front of him had his head completely blown off his shoulders by a shell, but the soldier continued running forward for several yards before failing.
He had a great respect for the Turkish soldier, referred to as Johnny Turk. On occasions the fighting was so ferocious and fierce that many men lay dead in No Man's Land. After several days an Armistice was agreed upon and Australian soldiers and Turkish soldiers would meet between the opposing trenches to bury their dead. During these times they would greet each other and exchange cigarettes.
Another occasion the war stopped was when a British and German plane had a dog fight above the trenches. German airmen would fly over the trenches and drop bombs on them. The conditions in the trenches were atrocious. They were surrounded by flyblown corpses. The soldiers bodies covered in lice, and mud and rats were everywhere. Their uniforms were in tatters. Food and water was scarce and the men were always hungry. Dysentery and related illnesses were ever present fears. Many men would huddle in the bottom of the trenches crying on occasions and that included my Dad when he was notified his sister Louisa had died and he realised he would never see her again. He often doubted he would see his mother, father or family again. The thing that kept everyone together was mateship.
Apart from getting too close with mates and seeing them killed, the same applied with brothers. Each time a brother would come across it happened that one of them would be killed. Dad wrote home and asked his father not to let any of his brothers enlist. Dad spent his 23rd birthday on Gallipoli and most of his brothers were too young except Edward (Ted). Ted enlisted as a machine gunner and came to France and shortly after Dad was wounded.
The Aussie soldier was pretty inventive, and with supplies being low they would make their own hand grenades by placing explosives in jam tins filled with nails, barbed wire or whatever pieces of metal they could find. The hand grenades used by the Turks consisted of the explosive on the end of a handle. They were so delayed in exploding that it was possible to pick them up by the handle and throw them back. Aussies also used periscopes to view the enemy above the trenches and also attached them to their rifles.
Dad often spoke of the night raids. A small squad would blacken their faces and arm themselves with batons. They would then creep across No Man’s Land, jump into the opposing trenches, which were sometimes only yards apart, scream and yell and belt as many sleeping enemy as possible and then return to their own trenches. This would create pandemonium with the enemy and prevent them from sleeping. The trenches being so close you could hear the enemy talking, and often they would have conversations and call to each other across No Man’s Land. Snipers were a constant problem and older soldiers were constantly warning new reinforcements to keep their heads down. The periscope became a very handy tool. If a soldier was shot in the trenches, the body was often pushed up on the parapet or the top of the trench as cover. Men became callous through necessity and some went mad.
Bully beef and Anzac biscuits were the staple diet. Apparently the biscuits were so hard they almost broke your teeth, but food was scarce. I remember once throwing a crust from my sandwich into the open fire at home. Dad rarely lost his temper but on this occasion he really went crook at me for wasting food, suggesting if I couldn't eat it at least give it to the birds and not waste it. I've never forgotten that and passed it on to my own children.
Some of the good times Dad mentioned was being relieved from the front line and going for a swim in the sea naked. He also spoke of going to the island of Lemnos, where they were issued with new uniforms and able to sleep in a bed. It must have been heaven away from the filth, stench, rats, lice and flies with the ever present threat of death. As a child I remember asking Dad if he ever killed anyone in the war. He would never answer me, and I never asked him questions like that when I got older. He did tell me once that he and a mate were on forward sentry duty when they saw an elderly Turkish soldier walking along a gully. It appeared he was going on leave so they just watched him until he rounded the gully. Neither of them wanted to shoot him.
The 14th Battalion suffered horrific casualties in the many battles, including Courtney's Post and Hill 60. The Battalion was reduced to about 8 per cent of its original members and as a result it was decided that these now battle experienced soldiers would be split up to strengthen the new supporting battalions. Dad was transferred to the 46th Battalion on 13 March 1916 after the evacuation of Gallipoli.
After Gallipoli, the 14th Battalion returned to Alexandria, Egypt, where Dad joined the 46th Battalion. Whilst in Egypt, Dad visited his future brother-in-law, Jim Newland, who was in the 12th Battalion Light Horse. I have a photo of my father beside Jim Newland’s horse which he sent home to his mother. On returning home to Australia, Dad later married Jim’s sister, Irene Newland. Two brothers, Jim and William Newland had also fought together in the Boer War prior to re-enlisting in the First World War. Their third brother, Lindsay, also joined but was killed in action in Belgium. William was later wounded in France, and Jim won the Victoria Cross in France. Two younger brothers, Redvers and Albert, later joined the Victoria Police Force and remained lifelong friends of Dad.
Whilst in Egypt, Dad told me that the Aussies didn't treat the Egyptians very well, because they tried to cheat them with inflated prices for fresh fruit. The Aussies retaliated by tipping over their food stalls and generally abusing them and their women. He said he would not like to go back to Egypt as an Aussie but always wanted to return to Gallipoli, France and England. The Y.M.C.A. was very popular with the troops and I have written applications of Dad wrote applying for leave to attend the Y.M.C.A. Dad also spoke well of the Salvation Army who he said were always there in the trenches with the troops supplying gifts and encouragement. Dad would always donate to the Salvation Army and also assisted as an administrator during their annual appeals.
From Egypt, the 46th Battalion was sent to France to fight the Germans. Dad fought at The Somme, Pozieres, and Flanders and was wounded at Fleurs. The battles here were just as bloody, and because his original mates had been killed or been transferred, he decided to take promotion when it was offered. He was promoted to Acting Corporal, then Corporal, Acting Sergeant, then Sergeant and Acting Lieutenant when he was wounded. He used indelible pencil to mark the Lieutenant pips on his shoulders but was wounded before his rank was commissioned.
One of the burdens was the weather, and Dad said it was either freezing cold with snow everywhere and knee deep in mud, or stinking hot with flies and lice infestations. Once again illnesses like dysentery and typhoid were prevalent apart from the shocking human carnage. The German artillery was horrific before an attack and on one occasion artillery completely obliterated a whole forest, leaving only a few scattered tree trunks. He doubted anyone could survive such a barrage, but when it stopped heads popped up out of the ground everywhere.
Once Dad was wounded, he was evacuated to Havre and then by ship HS Warilda to England. (I have the official letters from the Army informing his parents of him being wounded in action suffering multiple gunshot wounds). Dad could not speak highly enough of the English people and hospital staff. They treated him and other Australians like kings.
I have many photos of Dad in Woking Military Hospital, and one person he spoke of fondly was a woman who regularly visited the hospital and would walk each of the men in wheelchairs, including Dad, and assist them when they were on crutches. I found her card in Dads wallet after he died. She was a woman of substance apparently and the card simply says "Mrs M.A. WOOD, 152 South Street, Openshaw, Manchester”.
Dad was finally discharged from hospital and embarked on SS Themistocales from London on 5 November 1917. On arriving in Australia he was then discharged from the Army on 5 February 1918. Dad later married Irene Newland on 28 December 1920 at Wesley Church, Melbourne. My half-sister, Winifred (Wynne) was born on 19 October 1921. Dad's wife died on 5 May 1925. Dad married my mother on 9 September 1933 at St. Andrews Church, Werribee.
Dad worked at the Explosives Reserve in Altona for forty years, before retiring due to a heart attack. He was such a fine example of a man for my sisters, Wynne, Imelda and I to model ourselves upon. On the many occasions we talked together after his retirement, I know he was proud to see me join the Victoria Police Force. He always suffered his leg injury and was often in pain but never complained. He told me that shortly after he returned home from the war, he was walking along a street in Williamstown when workmen started drilling with a jackhammer. He immediately threw himself into the grass beside the road. I don't think the horrors of war ever left him.
Dad turned seventy on 3 December 1962. I turned 22 on 5 December, 1962. Jane and I were expecting our first child and Dad knew it was going to be a boy. His last wish was to hold his grandson before he died. He died on 19 December, 1962 and his first living grandson, Paul, was born on the third of January 1963. After all my father endured through his life, I could never understand why he could not have been granted his last wish.
I have now given Paul my father’s war medals (my proudest possession) because I know Paul will eventually hand them to his son Dwayne, my first grandson, whom I have been fortunate to see grow up.
Glen Albert Hyde, APM.
Medals & Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star Medal - 24 July 1920
- Victory Medal - 15 July 1923
- British War Medal - 23 July 1923