No.23 Air Mechanic William Henry Lord
William Henry Lord was born at Fitzroy North in 1894 to William John Lord and Delia Bree. They had married in 1889 at Prahran. His siblings were:
- Willian John Allan Lord - born 1890 at Brunswick East
- Delia 'May' Lord - born 1892 at Fitzroy North (later Mrs Smith)
- Hector Fred Lord (twin brother) - born 1894 at Fitzroy North
Between the years 1912 and 1913, the Lord family were living at Batman Street, Footscray, and his father was working as a painter.
In 1915, the family moved to the Central Flying School at Werribee, where his father, Bill Lord, was employed as a caretaker. His parents remained there for the duration of the war, and then they moved to Northcote.
In response to a directive from Senator Millen, military flying operations would commence at Point Cook before the end of February 1915. As a consequence, Bill Lord was one of the advance party of four men who arrived at Point Cook on 16 February 1914, to set up the camp. A permanent hanger and workshop were set up on the southern end of the aerodrome, close to the beach on Port Philip Bay. The first flight took place on 1 March 1914, when Eric Harrison did a circuit of the field in a Boxkite. (2, page 23)
Bill and Delia lord lived at the camp in a large hospital tent until their cottage was completed in early 1915. They had previously lived in Footscray where Bill had been a baker and a storeman, and was considered as a jack-of-all-trades. His wife Delia had previously worked as a cook in the Missions to Seamen in Melbourne, and was now employed as the cook and manager of the Officers Mess tent. (2, page 35)
Both boys had previous military experience with the 66th Infantry Militia Unit, and the fact that they were on hand when vacancies were advertised to enlist in the Australian Flying Corps, would have been an enormous help in their being accepted for service.
Early in 1915 the unit known as the Mesopotamian Half-Flight (MHF) had been formed at Point Cook, in response to a request from India for support in their campaign to capture the city of Baghdad, (part of the campaign to defend the Suez Canal and the oil pipeline at the head of the Gulf). Britain was unable to help, and the Australian Government decided to commit a small contingent of four pilots and fifty ground crew. Eighteen of these were mechanics, and many had never seen an aeroplane prior to enlisting. There is a photo of these volunteers (including at least one of the Lord brothers) on page 16 of the Pictorial History of the RAAF. (2)
Lieutenant Petre was appointed as commander of the Mesopotamia Half Flight, and Tommy White was adjutant. George Merz was the third pilot, and William Treloar was the fourth. White was tasked with selecting the ground crew out of 300 volunteers. Two of these he previously knew, and they were the twin sons of the camp caretaker, Bill Lord. Both boys were well known at the camp and were highly regarded. Hector and Will Lord had previously served with the 66th Infantry Regiment at Footscray when Universal Training had begun in 1911, so their inclusion was virtually automatic. (8, page 46)
Along with his twin brother, William was accepted into the Australian Imperial Force Flying Corps, at the Central Flying School in Point Cook on 30 March 1915, as an Air Mechanic.
Just prior to embarking, William Henry Lord married Annie Moya Hogan in Melbourne (No.1915/3584). She gave birth to their son Brian Philip Lord at Footscray, on 24 June 1915 (No.1915/12760).
Their wedding is mentioned in the History of Military Aviation at Point Cook 1914-2015. Shortly before the embarkation date, Miss Annie Hogan from Footscray claimed that Will Lord was the father of her expected child. Annie and her mother visited the Lord family at Point Cook and claimed redress, but Will denied that he was the father. At his parent's insistence, 'Will' did the honourable thing and married Annie, and allotted part of his pay to her. (8, page 46) Sadly, he would never see his son.
Less than three weeks after enlisting, both boys had embarked at Melbourne per SS Morea on 20 April 1915 with a 'Half Flight' lead by Captain Petre. They sailed for Mesopotamia (now Iraq) via Bombay, and arrived at Bassurah (now Basra) at the top of the Persian Gulf, on 26 May 1915.
After arriving, the Half Flight were equipped with two 'modern aircraft' which had been purchased by the Rajah of Gwalior. These were primitive Maurice Farman MF.11 (1) machines with a doubtful history. The heat and dusty conditions made the engines very unreliable, and when the desert wind known as the shamal blew from the north, their aeroplanes could only advance backwards.
In June 1915, the Indian Army captured the town of Amarah, and the Australian Half Flight moved there. On 4 July 1915, they received two Caudron G.3 aircraft, which were more reliable than the original planes.
The Australian Half Flight then participated in a successful British advance against Kurna (at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers). During this action, on 30 July 1915, two Australian Airmen (Lieutenants G H Merz and Burn) became the first Airforce casualties in the Great War. (Lieutenant Merz now has a street named after him in Point Cook. (2)) Their Caudron aircraft was forced down with mechanical problems, and both men were killed by local Arabs, after a running battle over many miles.
On 24 August 1915, the Half Flight's aircraft and personnel were incorporated into "B" Flight of No.30 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. They then lost several crews by being shot down on operations and being taken prisoner.
The Australian Half Flight were involved in the Siege of Kut Al Amara. Between December 1915 and April 1916 the British-Indian garrison at the town of Kut was besieged by the Ottoman Army. There were several unsuccessful attempts made to relieve the garrison. Number 30 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps carried out the first supply drops in history, over the garrison in April.
Aircraft and personnel of the Australia Half Flight were supporting General Townshend’s forces on the ground. On 25 October 1915, they were confronted by overwhelming numbers of fresh Turkish troops, and withdrew to the town of Kut, where they were laid siege. After costly efforts to break out, the garrison finally surrendered on 29 April 1916.
Prior to the surrender, the Squadron was ordered to leave. The two seaplanes (type Short 827) were sent down the Tigris River on barges; the two land based aircraft (a Maurice Farman Shorthorn (MF.7) and a B.E.2.) flew out of Kut on 7 December 1915; and two damaged MF.7s and one damaged Martinsyde S.1. were abandoned. Several British pilots and observers, along with most of the non-commissioned officers and Air Mechanics were also left behind in Kut, and were captured by the Turks.
This loss of aircraft and men marked the end of the Australian Half Flight. The eight Australian Air Mechanics who were stationed at Basra escaped capture, and were sent to Egypt in early 1916, where they joined the Australian Flying Corps.(4)
After the garrison surrendered on 29 April 1916, its inhabitants were marched to imprisonment in Aleppo (currently in Syria). They covered a distance over 700 miles, which became known as the "Death March to Anatolia". They included nine Australian Ground Staff (one being Air Mechanic William Lord). Only two of the Australians survived in captivity. (5)70% of the British troops and 50% of the Indians captured after the siege subsequently died in captivity. At the end of their march, the men were starved and ill-treated, and were forced to work on the construction of a railway across the Taurus Mountains. (2)
It is not certain where Air Mechanic William Lord actually died. A letter from Captain L W White (dated December 1918) stated that he had died in Adana; in the early stage of the Death March. His body was later exhumed from the Prisoner of War Cemetery, at Tarsus, Asia Minor, and re-located to the North Gate Cemetery in Baghdad. The city of Tarsus is close to Adana. (3)
The Australian War Memorial lists his date of death as 13 July 1916. (7)
Captain L.W. White, of the Australian Flying Corps made a report on 29 December 1918, concerning casualties incurred by the Half Flight:
- Lieutenant G. H. Merz was killed by Arabs after his plane crash landed. He had been returning from a mission in the Battle of Kasiriyeh.
- Corporal T Boley died at Nisibin about 16 June.
- Air Mechanic Williams died in Adana(3) about 6 August.
- Air Mechanic Munro died in hospital at Adana(3)
- Air Mechanic Adams died in Adana(3) about 16 August
- Air Mechanic Rayment died in Adana(3) about 16 August
- Air Mechanic Gurran died in Nisibin(4) about 16 June
- Air Mechanic W H Lord died in Adana.(3)
Private T. Halliday of the British Camel Corps was one of those captured after the Siege of Kut. He reported that there were twelve Australians captured with him. Two died in the Turkish Hospital at Negdi from dysentery. He was held in a camp nearby, at the village of Bore, in Turkey.
[From a note in William Lord’s Service file].
Air Mechanic Francis Adams (No 44) sent an undated Prisoner of War postcard from Bagtche in Turkey, stating that he was well, and that Nos 16 (Thomas Williams), 23 (William H. Lord) and 47 (James Munro) were also there.
[From a note in William Lord’s Service file].
Another letter from Captain T. H. White, dated 14 April 1918, stated that Air Mechanic W. H. Lord had died in Hospital at Adana, Turkey, whilst a Prisoner of War in Turkish Hands, Cause unknown.
After she remarried, Annie Moya Lord lived at 71 Donald Street, Footscray. Between 1921 and 1927 she was at 23 Wordsworth Street, St Kilda, and then moved to 35 Cowper Street, Footscray in 1931.
The 1942 Electoral Roll shows that Annie Moya Lord was living at 96 Droop Street, Footscray North, with her son Brian Phillip Lord, and that he was a soldier (No. VX73720).
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star - Sent to his widow on 29 October 1920
- British War Medal - Sent to his widow on 15 July 1921
- Victory Medal - Sent to his widow on 30 October 1922
- Memorial Plaque - Sent to his widow on 1 November 1922.
- Memorial Scroll and King’s Message. Sent to his widow on 2 August 1921
The names of both brothers appear on the Werribee Shire Oak Board simply as "LORD, " and "LORD, ".
Their names never appeared in the Roll of Honor published throughout the war in the Werribee Shire Banner.
Even though he was killed in action, William Lord's name is not recorded on the Werribee Cenotaph.
No. 18, Hector Fred Lord, Air Mechanic, enlisted at the Central Flying School at Werribee on 30 March 1915. NOK Mrs J W Lord, C.F.S. Werribee.
No. 23, William Henry Lord, Moulder, enlisted at the Central Flying School at Werribee on 30 March 1915. NOK Mrs M Lord, 71 Donald Street, Footscray.
Both boys enlisted on the same day, and embarked at Melbourne per SS Morea on 20 April 1915.
(1) a There is a photo of a Maurice Farman MF.11 Shorthorn at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farman_MF.11
(1) b There is an example of a Maurice Farman Shorthorn CFS-20 in the RAAF Museum at Point Cook. https://www.flickr.com/photos/87791108@N00/10775796704/in/photolist-hqdLWm-hqf6M4-9j3Be3
(2) Pictorial History of the Royal Australian Air Force by George Odgers, ISBN 0 7271 0315 6
(3) Adana is a major city in southern Turkey, about 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean.
(4) Nisibin or Nusaybin. On the present border between Turkey and Syria, and east of Mosul.
(5) The Australian Flying Corps in the Western and Eastern Theatres of War, 1914–1918. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. Volume VIII (11th ed., 1941) by Frederic Morley Cutlack Canberra: Australian War Memorial. OCLC 220900299. pages 25-26
(6) Taurus Mountains: Bozanti wirh associated camps at Bilemedik, Gelebek, Hadji-Kiri, Kouchdjoula. http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Prisoners_of_the_Turks_(First_World_War)
(7) Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour - https://www.awm.gov.au/people/rolls/R1639026/
(8) An interesting point : a history of military aviation at Point Cook 1914-2014 by Steve Campbell-Wright, published by Air Power Development Centre, 358.400994
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