Courtesy of AWM (P05413.015)
Lance Corporal Gerald Calcutt +
Pakenham & District War Memorial, Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour & Pakenham Upper State School Honour Book
Born: 1890 - Williamstown, Victoria
Enlisted: 15 August 1914 aged 24
Unit: 7th Battalion D Company (SERN: 474)
Served: Egypt & Gallipoli
Killed in action: 25 April 1915, Gallipoli
Gerald was a son of Joseph Richard Calcutt and his wife Lucinda Matilda Wilkinson. The family was originally from Williamstown, but in the early 1890s, Joseph acquired a property at Gembrook South (now Pakenham Upper) According to the Berwick Shire rate books, the family was living there from circa 1894 to 1896 (1). Gerald attended the Pakenham Upper State School for at least part of this period, before the family moved back to Melbourne, where he studied at Williamstown Grammar, then Melbourne University. In 1907, Gerald obtained a position as a clerk with the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac) in Melbourne (2). Gerald enlisted for service at Moonee Ponds on 15 August 1914, just days after Britain had declared war on Germany. On his attestation papers, he listed as previous service three years with the senior cadets. While at the Broadmeadows Army camp, Gerald was assigned to “D Company” 7th Battalion. He embarked from Australia in October 1914 (3). Gerald’s brothers Brendan, Charles and Clare would also serve in WWI (4).
After arriving in Egypt, Gerald was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. He then embarked from Alexandria with the “Mediterranean Expeditionary Force” (MEF) for the Allied attack against the Ottoman Turks at the Dardanelles. According to his service record, he was reported as wounded and missing on 25 April 1915, the day the Anzac forces first landed at Gallipoli. Gerald’s father was informed by telegram that Gerald was “wounded not reported seriously. No other particulars available”. In the confusion of war though, details of what had actually happened to Gerald were sketchy and the family retained hope that he had been taken prisoner of war. Indeed, they had also heard that he had been evacuated to hospital in Egypt (5). Subsequent enquiries made by the military authorities ruled this out, but produced a series of contradictory accounts of Gerald’s fate. One report indicated that on the afternoon of 25 April, Gerald went on patrol from Shrapnel Valley and was not seen again. Another report indicated that during the same afternoon, he was wounded beyond McKay’s Ridge, and presumably killed. Someone else thought they had seen Gerald in a charge at Cape Hellas on 8 May (6). An official Army Court of Enquiry eventually ruled that Gerald had indeed been killed in action. Curiously, it recorded his date of death as being 24 May 1915, the date when the Turkish and Anzac forces called a temporary ceasefire to bury the many dead bodies lying on the battlefield.
After being informed of Gerald’s death, the Calcutt family requested that the details be sent to them as “it would be a comfort to us his sorrowing family to know any details you can kindly obtain” (7). Given some of the inconsistencies in the reports, Gerald’s family continued to retain hope that he may have been taken prisoner by the Turks. In 1916, Joseph Calcutt wrote to the Red Cross Wounded & Missing Enquiries Bureau stating that he had been talking to members of Gerald’s battalion who had returned to Australia. While some thought Gerald had been shot, many were apparently under the impression that he was a Turkish Prisoner of War. Mr Calcutt also stated that “there is a general impression that there are many more Australian prisoners in the hands of the Turks than the 53 shown in the official return of prisoners, but that the Turks decline to give their names” (7). These hopes may have been raised by the fact that one of Gerald’s brothers, Brendan, had also been reported missing at Gallipoli, but had in fact been taken prisoner (8). Another brother, Clare, also claimed that he had been influenced to say that Gerald had been shot by some other soldiers who gave that as their opinion, but had no reliable information to confirm it. On this basis, the Red Cross was requested to seek further information from the Turks via the neutral American or Swiss consulates in Constantinople (9). In 1921, the military wrote to Joseph informing him that the War Graves Unit had not been able to find any trace of Gerald’s body on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He responded by saying that the only way the mystery would ever be solved was if Gerald’s identification discs were found (10). Over 60% of the 8,709 Australians killed at Gallipoli have no known grave (11).
In addition to the Pakenham & District War Memorial, Gerald‘s service and sacrifice is also recorded on the Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour and in the Pakenham Upper State School Honour Book. Gerald is also remembered in the Lone Pine Memorial Register at Gallipoli, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and on the Bank of New South Wales Honour Roll. A more personal tribute was paid in 1916 when Gerald’s older brother Robert named his baby son Gerald. In 1922, Robert named another son in honour of Brendan, another brother who never returned from the War either: although he was indeed taken prisoner at Gallipoli, Brendan subsequently died in a Turkish POW camp (12).
The assistance of Joy Carberry of the Pakenham Upper Community Church Hall is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Berwick Shire Rate Books for 1894 to 1896
(2) Bank of New South Wales (1921) p. 64
(3) (5) (7) & (10) NAA B2455 CALCUTT G
(4) AWM - Roll of Honour circular for G Calcutt
(6) (7) & (9) AWM - Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files - 474 Lance Corporal Gerald Calcutt 7th Battalion
(8) AWM - Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files - 2124 Private Brendan Calcutt 14th Battalion
(11) Sagona et al (2016) p.93
(12) Information sourced via Ancestry.com.au