No.162 Ernest John Anderson
Ernest John Anderson was born in Werribee around 1883 and his mother was living at Geelong Road, West Footscray, Victoria.
Ernest John Anderson was 31 years old when he enlisted in the AIF on 21 August 1914 – barely two weeks after Australia had followed Britain’s lead of declaring war. Prior to hostilities, Ernest had worked as a railway detective – hence his eventual transfer to the AIF’s policing arm, the Australian Provost Corps.
His first taste of military service was with the 6th Battalion, AIF – raised within a few weeks of war being declared in Victoria.
With only a few weeks of basic training under their belts, the 6th Battalion headed for Egypt. More training followed when they landed at the beginning of December 1914 – all in preparation for the allied assault on the Dardanelles that was to begin on 25 April 1915.
The 6th Battalion was part of the second wave on that fateful day. The war diary for 1 May 1915 says that battalion strength was 22 officers and 703 other ranks. A month later on 1 June the battalion was down to little more than 200 officers and men – many of them having become casualties during the assault on Krithia during May. Until the allies withdrew from the Dardanelles in December 1915, the 6th Battalion spent most of its time defending the beachhead at Anzac Beach.
A note also in the war diary entry for 1 May perhaps explains the fate of 162 Private Ernest John Anderson. At 11.30am the battalion moved forward into dugouts that supported the firing line. The war diary describes that: "There were a few casualties from stray bullets." One of those was Ernest, who received a severe gunshot wound to his left arm. He was evacuated to Egypt for treatment and convalescence, but by the end of August was back with his surviving mates of the 6th Battalion on Gallipoli.
His time on Gallipoli clearly took its toll. He had recurring illness for much of his war service, including malaria which first became apparent in January 1916 back in Egypt. At some point in early 1916, he transferred to the Australian Provost Corps…also known as the Anzac Police. He became a Sergeant in early June 1916.
Despite his role as a policeman, Ernest was not above getting into trouble with his superiors. In May 1917, he was in military parlance, 'busted to the ranks' for playing cards with private soldiers in the Sergeants' Mess in Cairo!
He soon regained his rank, and it would appear, remained in Egypt until his return to Australia in January 1919. He was discharged from military service at the end of April 1919.
We know from Electoral rolls that he returned to West Footscray after the war and worked for the railways. A notation on his military service record suggests he died in July 1925, aged just 42.
Medals & Entitlements
- 1914/15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
*Commemoration board says Ernest James Anderson, but enlistment papers clearly state Ernest John.
NAA: B2455, ANDERSON EJ
Australian Provost Corps http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-discipline/mil-police-ww1.htm
6th Battalion history https://www.awm.gov.au/unit/U51446/