Courtesy of Faithe Jones / RSL Virtual Memorial
Private Norcliffe Esca Gabbett +
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1896 - Hastings, Victoria
Enlisted: 15 March 1915 aged 18
Unit: 23rd Battalion, B Company (SERN: 1167)
Served: Egypt & Gallipoli
Died of wounds: 5 November 1915 - Gallipoli
Known as “Esca”, Norcliffe was the youngest son of Captain John Norcliffe and Marion (Marian) Gabbett. The family lived for a number of years around Drouin and Warragul, before moving to the Mornington Peninsula, where Esca was born in 1896. The family later farmed at Toora in South Gippsland. Esca was not even 10 years old when his father disappeared and was presumed drowned in a boating accident at Port Welshpool in 1904 (1). After John’s death, Marion and her children returned to Drouin where Esca finished his education at Drouin State School (2). Later, Esca and his mother moved to Pakenham where he was a carter / driver, possibly for Harold Hogan, a local stock and land agent (3). He was also a member of the 1914 premiership winning Pakenham football team. Even fifty years later, Bill “Nobby” Stone who played in that team, remembered Esca being one of Pakenham’s “champion wingers” (3a). Esca was not yet 19 years old when he enlisted for the AIF in March 1915. He was initially assigned to B Company, 23rd battalion, and sent to Egypt. There, he developed pleurisy, (pneumonia) and was hospitalised at Heliopolis. According to his medical notes, he was placed on a diet of eggs, milk and rice pudding while in hospital! (4). Esca was sent to Gallipoli in October 1915, where he served with the 23rd Battalion. On 4 November 1915 Esca was shot in the head at Lone Pine and died the next day at the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station (5). He was buried at Point Cemetery, Ari Burnu half a mile north of Anzac Cove. Esca was not yet 21 years old. The flag at his former school in Drouin was flown at half mast out of respect for Esca (6).
In addition to the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial, Esca’s sacrifice was remembered on the Drouin War Memorial, Drouin State School Honour Board, the Drouin and Longwarry Roll of Honour (7) and at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. A tree was also planted in Esca’s memory in the “Anzac Grove” established at the Drouin State school to “keep green” the memory of the “old boys who made the supreme sacrifice” (8).
The assistance of Faithe Jones of the RSL Virtual Memorial is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Argus 17/8/1904, p. 16 & The Age 24/9/1904, p. 12
(2) & (3) AWM Roll of Honour Record for Esca Gabbett
(3a) Pakenham Gazette 3/9/1965 p. 3
(4) NAA B2455 GABBETT N E
(5) PG 27/4/2016, p. 21.
(6) West Gippsland Gazette 7/12/1915, p. 8
(7) R. Blair (2000) pp. 5-6
(8) Gippsland Independent 20/7/1917, p. 2