No. 87 Private Lindley Verity
Lindley Verity was born at Altofts in Yorkshire, England on 27 June 1895. In the 1911 United Kingdom Census, Lindley and his family were living at nearby Normanton. His father, Harry Verity, was 43 and worked as an underground roadman at the local colliery. His mother, Maria, was 37. Lindley was 15 and apprenticed as an engineering fitter. Younger brother Reginald, aged 14, worked as an office boy, while Oswald, the youngest at age 11, was still in school.
The family home was shared by Harry Verity’s aunt, Ann Potter Gibson, who was a widow and in her early 60s.
In early 1912, the family set sail from London aboard the SS Indrapura, arriving in Melbourne in November 1912.
The family settled at Werribee and on the 1914 electoral roll Lindley’s parents, Harry and Maria, were living at Duncan's Road, Werribee, with Harry described as a farmer.
Sadly, Harry died just two years later, on 14 January 1916, aged 48.
Lindley Verity was a few months shy of his 20th birthday when he volunteered for the AIF on 28 April 1915. Because he was under the age of 21, his mother had to approve his enlistment.
Lindley describes himself as a farmer on his attestation papers, although the paperwork also notes that he had commenced an apprenticeship in England as an engineering fitter.
Private Lindley Verity was assigned to 24th Australian Infantry Battalion. Ten days later, he was one of the recruits who boarded HMAT Euripides in Melbourne, bound for Alexandria in Egypt.
The 24th Infantry Battalion was a new unit. It was formed during the first week of May 1915 – only a few days after the landings at Gallipoli – and was made up largely from a surfeit of new recruits based at the Broadmeadows Camp north of Melbourne.
Following training in Egypt, the 24th Battalion sailed for Mudros on the Greek island of Lemnos on 30 August 1915. Mudros served as the main staging point for the Allied campaign in the Dardanelles. On their arrival on 2 September, news surfaced that another troop carrier, HMAT Southland, had been torpedoed by a German U-boat. Of the 1,400 on board, 40 servicemen lost their lives, although the ship itself was beached and then repaired.
Ironically, in the 24th Battalion’s war diary on 30 August, it was noted that the men of the 24th were issued with ‘special instructions to protect vessel against submarine attack’.
The war diary states that the battalion landed at ANZAC at 9.30pm on 6 September 1915 (the Australian War Memorial site says they landed on September 4).
For much of its service on Gallipoli until it was evacuated in December, the battalion found itself sharing duty with the 23rd Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, at Lone Pine. It was so taxing and dangerous – given the close proximity of the enemy positions – that the two battalions rotated out of the frontline virtually every day. One battalion was always in the front line, the other resting at White Valley, waiting for its turn to go to the front.
There is no record of Private Lindley Verity’s personal experiences at Gallipoli.
Australian author Ion Idriess (1889-1979), in his book The Desert Column (1932), wrote of Gallipoli: “Of all the bastards of places this is the greatest bastard in the world.”
Soldiers on both sides would fry in summer and freeze in winter. In fact, a number of men from the 24th Battalion suffered from frostbite just prior to evacuation. Other soldiers actually froze to death during the early winter storms of November 1915.
All combatants faced a shortage of food and water during the gruelling campaign, which lasted 10 months, three weeks and two days. The unsanitary conditions also spawned diseases that immobilised and killed otherwise healthy young men.
While the casualty figures are still disputed, more than a hundred years after the event, it has been suggested the allied casualties numbered 56,707 killed, 123,598 wounded, 110,000 evacuated sick, and 3,778 who died of disease. For the Ottoman forces, 56,643 were killed, 97,007 wounded, 11,178 missing or taken prisoner, 64,400 evacuated sick, and 21,000 who died of wounds.*
Before Christmas 1915, most of the Allied forces had been evacuated from the Dardanelles. For the 24th Infantry Battalion, it was a return to Egypt for rest, recuperation, re-equipping and more training.
By March 1916, the battalion was in France. It was deployed at the costly battles of Pozieres and Mouquet Farm during the early days of the Somme campaign that began on 1 July 1916.
At Pozieres, the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions suffered more than 12,000 casualties between 23 July and 7 August 1916, and a further 11,000 casualties at Mouquet Farm between 8 August and 3 September 1916.
During the winter of 1916–1917, the battalion spent much of its time in the Somme region, alternating time in the frontline trenches and working on a variety of labouring tasks.
In May 1917, the 24th Battalion was in action at the second battle of Bullecourt. The Allies had first attacked the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt in April 1917. The attack failed, and 3,000 Australian soldiers were killed or wounded.
The second attack on 3 May 1917 was deemed successful, but the 24th Battalion suffered 80 per cent casualties. The war diary notes that four officers were killed or missing, nine officers wounded, 35 other ranks killed, 221 wounded and 116 missing.
It may well be that Private Lindley Verity’s luck was ‘in’, in early 1917. He received a gunshot wound to his right leg on 17 April at Favreuil, 22 kilometres to the east of Albert in the Somme – barely a few weeks prior to the costly assault on Bullecourt.
Private Verity was evacuated for treatment and recuperation in England, and did not return to his unit until July 1917.
The following month he was promoted to Lance-Corporal and served with his battalion in Belgium and France. Despite being seriously depleted, the 24th Battalion helped repel the German Spring Offensive in 1918, and played a major role in the capture of Mont Saint-Quentin on 1 September 1918 as the Germans were forced back.
The 24th Battalion was withdrawn from the front on 6 October 1918. By the end of the war, 909 members of the battalion had been killed, and 2,494 wounded.
Lance-Corporal Verity left Europe in mid-January 1919, arriving back in Melbourne in April 1919.
On his return, Lindley Verity applied for a parcel of land under the soldier resettlement scheme. He leased 31 acres at Werribee with the intent of growing lucerne and raising dairy cattle.
He married in 1921 and he and his wife, Norah, had eight children – three boys and five girls. The eldest boy, Gordon, died in a tragic accident on the family farm in 1926, when he was almost three years old.
One of the quirks of Verity’s life was that in successive electoral rolls from the early 1920s through to the 1940s, he described himself as a soldier, not a farmer. That said, he certainly enlisted and served in the Citizens’ Military Force during World War II.
Life was tough as a soldier settler in the 1920s. The Werribee area had 95 soldier settlers, most of whom were engaged in lucerne and dairy farming.
In the Weekly Times, 28 March 1925, p.17, Lindley Verity said that while his block would support 20 cows, he couldn’t afford the extra labour costs given that milk and other commodity prices were so depressed, and the block was far too small to increase the size of his herd to make it economically viable.
It was a story that was repeated across Australia, as soldier settlers had to fight bureaucracy, falling prices, landholdings that were too small, and unfair competition (often from government-funded organisations), not to mention the vagaries of climate and a lack of available capital.
Just as telling was the lack of skills and experience our returning soldiers had in running a farm.
Lindley’s wife, Norah, died in Werribee on 17 April 1951, aged 56. Lindley was to survive his wife by more than 20 years. He died in Werribee, aged 77, in 1972.
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914/15 Star Medal
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Lest we forget
* Gallipoli Campaign (Wikipedia entry).
NAA: B2455 VERITY LINDLEY
29th Infantry Battalion history and war diary
Australian War Memorial
Soldier resettlement scheme: ‘Battle to Farm’ Public Records Office of Victoria.
Newspaper quote: 1925 'SOLDIER SETTLERS', Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic: 1869 - 1954), 28 March, p. 17. , viewed 26 Nov 2017, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article223160857