Courtesy of Rod Appleton
Gunner Edward Henry Appleton MM
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Born: 22 September 1893 - East Brunswick, Victoria
Enlisted: 15 February 1915 aged 21
Unit: 5th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement (SERN: 1905)
Served: Egypt, Gallipoli & Western Front.
Died: 24 January 1946 - Caulfield, Victoria
Also known as “Ted”, Edward was the son of Henry Stratford Appleton and Emily Bilston. The Appletons had a 22 acre orchard called “Bayview” off the Pakenham - Gembrook Rd near Mt Shamrock Rd. Ted was a 21 years old and working on “Bayview” when he enlisted on 15 February 1915. A social farewell was held at the Pakenham Upper Mechanics‘ Institute when Ted and Richard Copeland were leaving for the Army. The hall was decorated with ferns and flags, while the program included patriotic songs such as “Land of Hope and Glory”, loyal toasts and speeches. Such events served as opportunities to appeal for other young men to come forward to “keep the British flag flying” (1).
At Broadmeadows Army Camp, Ted was initially allocated to the 5th Battalion 5th Reinforcement. He left Australia in April 1915 bound for Egypt. He served at Gallipoli from June 1915, but was evacuated to hospital in Malta in August due to illness. Ted ended up spending several months in hospital in England with colitis and fever (2). Ted was taken on strength again in June 1916 and transferred to the Australian Army Service Corps (AASC) in France. Ted was promoted to Sergeant in July 1917, but later reverted to the rank of Gunner, perhaps at his own request (2). In October 1918, while serving with the 37th Battery 10th Field Artillery Brigade, Ted earned the prestigious Military Medal (“MM”). This was instituted by King George V in 1916 for acts of bravery in the field by non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and other ranks. Fewer than 1,000 military medals were awarded to Australians in WWI. Ted’s was awarded for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty” during an attack by the 2nd American Corps near St Souplet on 17 October 1918, which was supported by Australian forces. Ted was a signaller on duty at the battery control pit during the firing of a barrage by the 37th Battery. Although his position was under heavy enemy fire and his lines and posts shattered, Ted managed to maintain communication with his headquarters. The citation, which was signed by Commander of the 4th Australian Division Major General E.G. Sinclair- MacLagen, praised Ted for “excellent work” and the “fine example” he set the rest of the Battery (3). Just two days later, on 19 October 1918, Ted was gassed with poisonous mustard gas. This caused Ted vomiting, conjunctivitis, laryngitis and cough but fortunately no burns. He was invalided to hospital in England, where he spent four weeks (4). Ted’s wounding was reported back in Australia at the same time as that of Albert Nye, another Pakenham Digger (5). Ted left England for Australia in January 1919 and was discharged in Melbourne in April 1919. He had served a total of 1401 days in the Army (5a).
Ted returned to Australia as a number of other local Pakenham Diggers were arriving home, including Jack Ellett, Paul Holdensen, Albert Nye and Arthur Paternoster. The South Bourke and Mornington Journal praised these returning soldiers: “These lads have all done good work at the front. We congratulate them on their safe return to their native shores and trust happiness and success will be theirs throughout the coming days” (6). Ted initially returned to “Bayview” (7). In 1920, he was the district champion at the Pakenham Show for “best collection of apples” - “Bayview” was known for “some of the choicest apples in the district” (7a). The same year, Ted married Daisy Doyle, sister of Jack Doyle of “Hillview”, Pakenham Upper. Ted and Daisy eventually had four children (8).
In 1921, Ted applied for a soldier settler block of his own. In support of his application, Ted said he had been farming since school and had both orcharding experience and a mixed farming qualification. Previously Ted had tried to purchase the late Private Justin Fox’s orchard in Pakenham, but this had been declined (8a). Remaining at “Bayview” was not an option either: there was a dispute over the property, with Ted’s elder brother Charles eventually selling it and ploughing all the proceeds into his own business despite the hard work the younger brothers had put into the place. In any event, Ted was now interested in going into wheat farming in the Mallee, where he had managed to get twelve months’ experience on a property. Ted was successful in obtaining a 637 acre block at Carwarp West, near Mildura (8b). Ted, Daisy and their baby son Eddie left Pakenham in March 1922 full of optimism. As Daisy Appleton remembered in later life, they left Pakenham “hoping to make our fortune quickly growing wheat”. Following the 330 mile train journey, Daisy was struck immediately by how different the Mallee was to Gippsland: “well it certainly is very different here and doesn’t look as if it would ever rain”. Daisy thought this would be good for Ted, who was “very nervy after his return from active service [and] was anxious to get away from Gippsland, as the rainfall was so great and it had a very depressing effect upon him”. Daisy also noticed the “dry dusty smell of the air”, the “very stunted and spindly trees” and the Mallee scrub’s “strong smell of eucalyptus”. The first task was to construct a “humpy” on their block, which was constructed of corrugated iron with white-washed hessian walls made from super-phosphate manure bags sewn together by Daisy! (8c). Despite what initially seemed like good prospects, working the property at Carwarp West proved hard going: Daisy would later call them the “weary years” (8d). After a couple of good harvests, lean ones followed as the salt started to come to the surface (8e). With his debts mounting, Ted wrote to the Closer Settlement Board (CSB) in 1928 stating that “all these failures are wearing me down”. He nevertheless remained optimistic that he could turn the situation around if he was granted the neighbouring block (9). However, by the 1930s, Ted increasingly suffered from ill health, which he attributed to the gassing he had received back in 1918. He found himself “winded” and unable to do heavy work such as cutting down mallee scrub. He was also subject to recurring colds. Ted had to employ labour to help him on the farm, which presumably did not help profitability either. Ted asked to be transferred to an orchard, but had to refuse the property offered as he could not walk up and down the hills (10). Ultimately, Ted forfeited the Carwarp West property in 1936 (11). Sadly, while at Carwarp, Ted and Daisy lost their eldest son Eddie, who died of an infection after scratching his leg on a barbed wire fence.
Ted and his family later moved to Langwarrin, where he became a poultry farmer. In 1937, the Appletons suffered the misfortune of having in their modest weatherboard house burn down. Only Daisy was at home and by the time she realised the house was on fire, only some clothes could be saved (12). By 1940, Ted’s health was seriously declining though. He was knocked back by the Army for service during WWII on account of his poor health and he was unable to obtain further employment (13). Ted died on 24 January 1946 aged only 52 years (14).
The assistance of Ted’s grandson, Rod Appleton and great-nephew Wally Nye is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Dandenong Advertiser 25/3/1915, p. 2
(7a) Argus, 1/4/1922 p. 2
(2) 4) (7) (10) & (13) NAA B73 M47525
(8) Argus 8/2/1937
(3) NAA B2455 APPLETON EH
(8c) & (8d) Notes written by Daisy Appleton
(5) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 19/12/1918, p. 2
(8e) S. Wilson (2005) p. 7
(5a) (8a) (8b) (9) & (11) PROV VPS 5357/P0 Unit 2735 01963/198.6
(12) Frankston & Somerville Standard 12/3/1937 p.2
(6) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 20/2/1919 p.2
(14) Argus 25/1/1946, p. 2