Courtesy of Lisa Cooper

Lance Corporal Harry Ede

Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour

Born: 8 October 1878 -  Horsham, Victoria 

Enlisted: 18 August 1914 & 20 November 1914 aged 42 

Unit: 8th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcement (SERN:1155 & 1634)

Served: Egypt & Gallipoli 

Died: 13 October 1918 -  Mildura, Victoria

Updated 21 April 2019 

Harry Jean (or Joshua) Ede was the son of William Henry Ede and Emma Ford. According to his birth certificate, Harry was born on 8 October 1878 (1) although at different times during his life, he gave 1872, 1876, 1878 and 1879 as the year of his birth. Harry’ father died at a young age and his mother remarried Mr John Langlands, a prominent Horsham businessman (1a). As a young man, Harry was a soldier in the Boer War, serving for three years with various units including the 4th Victorian Bushmen and the 2nd Australian Commonwealth Horse (2). In South Africa, he saw a “considerable amount of .... fighting of a more or less exciting character” (2a). Like a number of other Australians, he stayed on in South Africa for a while after the War. He worked with a Johannesburg Bank (3) and married Emma Bertha Koenig before returning to Australia. In 1908, Harry was listed on the electoral roll as an accountant living in Albert Park (4). Tragically, two of the couple’s young children died in infancy, and Emma herself died young in 1910 (5). It is hard to imagine the impact this had on Harry, with so many dreams and hopes for the future seemingly shattered. Following Emma's death, he sent his surviving two daughters, Dorothy and Ruby, to Perth to be raised by an uncle (5a). By 1913, Harry was living and working as a clerk in Pakenham Upper (6). He enlisted on 18 August 1914, only days after Britain declared war on Germany. On his enlistment papers, he stated he was 35 years old and listed a friend, Elsie Fairbairn (wife of Patrick Fairbairn of Pakenham Upper) as his next of kin. He was assigned as a corporal (SERN 1155) to the 6th Field Artillery, but was discharged in October 1914. He enlisted again in November (this time stating he was 41 years old) and was assigned to the 8th Battalion 3rd Reinforcement at Broadmeadows (SERN 1634). Probably because of his prior military service, Harry was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal (7). Although Harry was a seasoned soldier, the Great War would be unlike anything he had experienced in South Africa back at the turn of the century. 

After a short time in Egypt, Harry was sent to join the Anzac forces fighting the Ottoman Turks at Gallipoli. There he joined the “D Company” of the 8th Battalion on 5 May 1915, less than two weeks after the first Anzacs had landed. The conditions at Gallipoli were particularly harrowing, as the Australian War Historian C.E.W. Bean noted: “the heavy work, monotonous diet, and widespread infection - of which the main carriers, the swarms of flies - were insufficiently recognised, were straining the troops .... troops were nowhere away from shellfire and had practically no chance to rest in peaceful conditions. In the gullies where most of them lived, immediately behind the front line, they were plagued, part of the time, by Turkish rocket bombs ...The nights were pestilential with fleas, and, in the trenches, lice, for which no delousing apparatus existed at Anzac ... By the end of July, of the 25,000 men at Anzac, 200 were being sent away sick each day” (8). It was in these conditions that Harry broke down physically and emotionally and was sent back to Egypt to convalesce. He was described by Army doctors as being “very tremulous and completely run down”. His tongue and hands trembled; he lacked energy and “looked completely worn out”. Harry had also lost four stone (25 kgs) in weight. Other conditions he was suffering from included enlargement of the heart, rheumatism and “aspects of depression”. Harry had also taken to excessive drinking and had several scrapes with military authority while at Anzac and nearby Lemnos, where he had been sent for relief from the trenches. He was diagnosed as suffering neurasthenia caused by “prolonged trench work”. Being assessed as temporarily unfit for active service, it was recommended that Harry be given some months “change” back in Australia (9). Harry was listed in the casualty list published on 22 February 1916 (9a) and invalided home the following month. He ended up spending several months in Caulfield Military Hospital. He was ultimately discharged as medically unfit in September 1916. Harry was admitted to hospital again in early 1917 though, suffering from “shell shock”. His nerves were still unsteady and he was diagnosed with a weak heart (10).

 

Harry nonetheless attempted to settle back into civilian life as best as he could. He moved to Mildura, where he obtained a job as an accountant at the Irymple Packing Company. There he was regarded as a “capable and efficient official” (11). In December 1917, Harry married Margaret (Isabel) Allen at St Margaret’s Church, but the effects of his war service continued to haunt him: Harry broke down at his wedding and could not face the gathered congregation. This was attributed to Harry having overtaxed his strength through evenings spent after work preparing a home for his bride. Harry was also suffering from insomnia. It was hoped that a honeymoon steamer cruise down the Murray would help to “bring recuperation and a complete restoration of self-confidence and good health” (12). 

Tragically, Harry died suddenly on 13 October 1918 of heart failure after fainting at home. He was aged just 46. It was reported that Harry had “never fully recovered from his strenuous experiences when on active service, and latterly, his health had been very precarious” (13). His mother Emma Langlands had died unexpectedly the week before, and perhaps the shock of this had contributed to Harry’s sudden death. Harry was given a military funeral in Mildura’s Nicholl’s Point Cemetery, with twenty returned soldiers paying their “last respects to a comrade”. Harry’s coffin was draped with the flag and covered in floral tributes. Three farewell volleys were fired, and the “Last Post” played (14). The cross on Harry’s grave was inscribed: “Duty Nobly Done”. At the time of Harry’s death, Margaret was in the last stages of her pregnancy with the couple’s first child. She gave birth to a son she named David Harry Allen Ede in late November, but sadly the baby died just seven days later and was buried with his father (15).

Harry’s war service was commemorated on the Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour, which was unveiled in September 1917 (16). His name was also included in the Pakenham Upper list of names inscribed on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’  Memorial (17).

The assistance of Harry's great-grandson Michael Oakes and Lisa Cooper is gratefully acknowledged. 

Sources: 

(1) & (5a) Information provided by Michael Oakes, great-grandson of Harry Ede; 

(1a) & (5) Wimmera Mail - Times 23/5/2008

(2) The Australian Boer War Memorial (http://www.bwm.org.au/soldiers/Harry_Ede.php

(2a) Horsham Times, 8/1/1901, p.2.                                        

(3) Horsham Times 17/3/1903, p. 3                                       

(4) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Fawkner - Albert Park 1908 p. 26                                                                             

(6) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Pakenham 1912 p. 6                                                                   

(7) (9) & (10) NAA B2455 EDE Harry 

(8) Bean 2014 pp. 133-134

(9a) The Argus, 22/2/1916 p. 5

(11) Mildura Telegraph 15/8/1918, p.2 

(12) Mildura Cultivator 15/12/1917, p.10

(13) Horsham Times 22/10/1918, p. 4

(14) Mildura Telegraph 18/10/1918,  p.2

(15) Mildura Cultivator 7/12/1918 p. 10

(16) Pakenham Gazette 28/9/1917 p. 2

(17) Pakenham Gazette 29/10/1920 p. 3

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