No.3039 Sapper George Stevens Horsfall
George Stevens Horsfall was born on 8 July 1893 in Booroolite, near Mansfield, on the edge of the Victorian Southern Alps. He was the son of James and Martha Horsfall.
George was working as an assistant civil engineer when he enlisted in Korumburra, Victoria on 3 July 1915, just days before his 22nd birthday. He was assigned to the 5th Field Company Engineers. In his enlistment papers he is described as 5 feet 6 inches tall with dark blue eyes and brown hair. He was a single man at the time and gave his father James as next of kin, whose address was State School, Werribee.
George enlisted as a Sapper (an Engineer). Sappers were essential to the war effort. Their responsibilities included the construction of lines of defence and gun positions, trench excavation, the preparation of water supply and signalling and the building of roads, tunnels and bridges.
On 23 November 1915, George embarked with his unit on the HMAT Ceramic in Melbourne, bound for Egypt. The soldiers arrived in Port Said in December and travelled on to Ferry Post camp then Pinch Gut Valley, where the sappers worked on trench building.
In March 1916, George's unit left Alexandria for Marseilles, France and from there travelled on by train to the Western Front. There, George was reassigned as a Driver. The unit worked on new and existing trenches close to enemy lines. This was dangerous work and the Company came under very heavy shelling and machine gun fire. In July, the unit was involved in the Battle of Pozieres, sustaining many casualties.
On 10 April 1917, George travelled to England for leave. However, once there his health deteriorated and on 19 April he was admitted to the 1st Northern General Hospital. In early May he was transferred to the 2nd Auxiliary Hospital in Southall, London, suffering from influenza and bronchitis. He was discharged on 19 May to Weymouth, where he was granted leave on medical grounds. However, his health failed to significantly improve, and he was pronounced medically unfit to continue service.
On 3 August 1917, George left England on HMAT Euripides to return to Australia. He disembarked on 18 September. On 22 October he was discharged as medically unfit and granted a pension of 60 shillings a fortnight.
In December 1918, George was appointed as an engineer at the Tambo Shire in East Gippsland. He had previously been employed as an assistant engineer in the Poowong & Jeetho Shire in South Gippsland and the Phillip Island & Woolamai Shire.
Every Week, 19 December 1918, p.1.
The following year, 1919, George married Dorothy Robson and they set up home in Bruthen, alongside the Tambo river. They went on to raise three daughters.
By 1924, George was employed as Shire Engineer in Hopetoun, Wimmera.
In 1926, he began a new engineering post at Winchelsea Shire Council.
The Age, 5 March 1926, p.14.
In late 1927, George secured a position as shire engineer on the Berrigan Shire Council.
The Argus, 14 October 1927, p.10.
At this point he moved with his family to Tocumwal in the New South Wales Riverina region, where they were still recorded as living in 1937.
In early 1939, George gained employment as a city engineer with Parramatta Council in Sydney, and the family moved with him to Parramatta.
Katoomba Daily, 2 February 1939, p.2.
At some point George was appointed as the building inspector of Stroud Shire Council.
The Northern Champion, 2 December 1950, p.8.
The Gloucester Advocate, 8 December 1950, p.4.
By 1954 they were living in West Ryde, Sydney, and were still living there in 1963.
In January 1976, George's wife Dorothy passed away. The following year, on 16 August 1977, George himself died, aged 83, at the Audrey Hopkins Hospital in Leichardt, Sydney. He and Dorothy are buried together in the Field of Mars Cemetery, East Ryde, Sydney.
In 2008, George's service medals, the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, were found in a tobacco tin in a Gold Coast landfill site by a council employee who was operating a bulldozer. They were returned to members of his family.
Medal & Entitlements:
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Role of Engineers in the First World War
Australian Engineers in the First World War. 21 Jan 2009. Alessandro Antonello
Unit Information: 5th Field Company Engineers
Diary of Sapper E Goldsmith, 5th Engineers Company