Courtesy of Paul Loveday

Private Cyril William Loveday

Pakenham & District War Memorial 

Born: 29 April 1896 - Batesford, Victoria

Enlisted: 30 July 1917 aged 21

Unit: 8th Battalion, 25th Reinforcement (SERN: 7532)

Served: Western Front

Died: 1 September 1966 - Essendon, Victoria

 

Cyril was born at Batesford near Geelong, the second of William and Elizabeth Loveday’s eleven children. The family settled on a property at Pakenham South called “Beryl Bark” around 1910. The property was next to the Ellett’s farm (1). Before the War, Cyril, his father and brothers cut chaff around Geelong and surrounding areas. They used a chaff cutter with a steam engine, which Cyril operated as he obtained his steam engine driver’s licence when he was just 12 years old! (2). The Lovedays travelled by horse and jinker and would be away for long periods of time. However, Cyril acquired a J.A.P. motorcycle with a sidecar to get around the countryside (3). Engines and mechanics would become a life long passion for Cyril and his brothers. Sadly, one of Cyril’s brothers, Lyle drowned in the September 1916 floods which broke through the levies on the McDonald’s, McGregor’s and Seven Mile drains, flooding a wide area of Pakenham South and Dalmore (4). After this, the family moved to Rossiter Rd Koo Wee Rup in 1917 (5). They apparently went into partnership with a member of the Bould family cutting hay locally, including for Mr Lecky of Officer (6). 

 

Cyril was a 21 year old engine driver when he enlisted for service on 3 July 1917 (7). Interestingly, Cyril’s army service file is stamped “Sports 1,000”, which signifies that he enlisted as part of the special “Sportsmen’s Thousand” recruitment drive. The objective was to effectively raise a battalion of young, fit Australian sportsmen to reinforce the seriously depleted AIF on the Western Front. By virtue of their athleticism, skills, outlook and spirit, sportsmen were seen as making the ideal soldiers. The idea was that the thousand would join together, train together, go to England together and (if the “exigencies of war permitted”) fight together (8). One of Australia’s most famous war heroes, Albert Jacka VC featured in the promotional posters. That he had been a boxer before the War was thought to have helped make Jacka such a good soldier (9). Ultimately, the sportsmen’s thousand did not serve together. From Cyril’s war service records, he certainly appears to have been athletic, standing five feet eleven inches (1.8m) tall, weighing 171 pounds (77.5kgs) and with a chest measuring 95 cms (10). Cyril played football and was even into motor cycle racing (11). 

Cyril was initially assigned to the 8th Battalion 25th Reinforcement in November 1917 and embarked for England via Egypt and Italy. After he arrived in January 1918, Cyril underwent training at Sutton Veny, including in the use of the Lewis machine gun (11), but contracted first influenza, then measles. He was taken on strength with the 8th Battalion in France in May 1918 (12). This was during the Germans’ “Spring Offensive” on the Western front, and just after Australian forces had halted the rapid German advance on Amiens at Villers-Bretonneux. Over the coming months, the Allies gradually gained the upper hand in the fighting. Although Cyril never spoke much about his wartime experiences, he did recount that on one occasion, a bullet hit him, but fortunately bounced off the cigarette case in the top left hand pocket of his tunic. Cyril later gave the damaged case to a WWII soldier, hoping it would bring him good luck too (13).  

 

In early August 1918, the Allies launched their own offensive near Amiens, which spectacularly broke through the German positions in places. In late August, the 8th Battalion was engaged in severe fighting at Herleville Wood, Plateau Wood, St Denis Wood and Foucaucourt. The Germans put up stiff resistance with machine guns, trench mortars and bombs. They also resorted to extensive chemical warfare, firing thousands of “yellow cross” (mustard gas) shells into the shattered woods and valleys. According to the 8th Battalion War Diary, the condition of the men going into action on the 25 August “was good. They were cheerful and confident. [However] The long fight, heat and excitement entailed a great strain upon them, and when seen on the Green Line [the Battalion’s objective], on the afternoon of the 25th, they were exhausted to a degree, all more or less suffering from gas affects, and could not possibly hope to beat off any determined enemy attack. Want of sleep was the most prevalent factor and they were rapidly becoming nervy under the continuous storms of enemy shell fire” (14). The toll from the gas was severe, with many men’s eyes were affected while others received burns. The soldiers’ clothes were soaked in gas, and men dozing with their respirators on fell ill. Some 90 men had to be evacuated (15) Amongst them was Cyril. He was evacuated to a casualty clearing station suffering from pain in the chest, blindness and aphonia (inability to produce voiced sound). For Cyril, the War was effectively over. He was invalided back to the UK and hospitalised at Birmingham. Cyril was subsequently troubled with eye problems on and off over the years (16). He was discharged to the No 2 Command Depot at Dartford in early November and subsequently granted leave prior to repatriation to Australia. Cyril used to recount one story from his time in England. While on leave in London, he and some mates decided to visit Buckingham Palace hoping to see the royal guard on parade. Another soldier came up to them and asked what they were waiting for. The soldier then helped them to see what they had come for: he took off his great coat and walked up to one of the sentries, who immediately called the officer of the guard, who then had the palace guards turn out on parade. It transpired that the soldier in question was wearing his campaign ribbons, one of which was for the Victoria Cross! (17). Cyril left England on New Year’s Eve 1918 and arrived in Melbourne on 1 February 1919. He was discharged from the Army later that month (18).  

 

When Cyril returned to Koo Wee Rup, his parents arranged a special welcome home celebration for him at home. Elizabeth had even decorated the living room in red and white flowers: the 8th Battalion was widely known as the “Blood and Bandages” as their colour patch was red and white (19). Cyril was officially and “enthusiastically welcomed home” at Koo Wee Rup in early April 1919, together with other soldiers including his former neighbours,  Jack and Alf Ellett . They were presented with rings bearing their units’ colours (20). he was also welcomed home to Pakenham South in November 1919, when local Diggers were presented with special gold medallions from their “Pakenham S. Friends” (21). He later travelled to Batesford to receive a gold medallion from that community too (22). Cyril’s was amongst the  Pakenham South names inscribed on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial in 1921 (23). 

After the War, Cyril worked as a labourer at Koo Wee Rup, including a period with State Rivers & Water Supply Commission. In 1925, he married Elvine Mary (“Queenie”) Mortensen and subsequently had two children. By the early 1940s, the family had moved to Caulfield West, where Cyril was working as an engineer. The family later lived in St Kilda East and Moonee Ponds (24). In the 1940s, Cyril was working variously as an engine driver, excavator operator, and as a boiler attendant at Royal Melbourne Hospital (25). During WWII, he and his brother Ivan both served with the Civil Construction Corps. This was established to provide labour to build military related infrastructure including roads and airfields. Both were power shovel operators. However, a weak chest (attributed to his gassing back in 1918) meant Cyril was only fit for light duties in the metropolitan area. He was discharged after 14 months service because his condition meant it was difficult to place him (26). Two of Cyril’s younger brothers, Cuthbert and Reginald served in the Army during WWII. Reg, who was born at Cardinia in 1914, had joined the permanent army in 1938. He was posted to the Darwin Garrison and was serving there when the Japanese bombed the town in 1942. 

                                                                                                             

Reg was apparently in a machine gun post near the General Post Office (GPO) when it was hit, with the blast throwing him to the ground. Tragically, Reg drowned near Darwin in 1949 (27). The death of a second son / brother by drowning must have been a terrible shock to the family, particularly Elizabeth Loveday, who by this stage was an elderly widow.  Cyril himself died of lung cancer and heart problems in 1966 aged 70 (2).

 

The assistance of Cyril’s grandsons Paul and Stephen Loveday is gratefully acknowledged. 

 

Sources: 

(1) (2) (3) (5) (11) (13) (17) &  (19) Information provided by Paul Loveday

(4) DA 26/9/1916 p. 2

(6) PG 10/8/1917, p. 2

(7) (10) (12) & (18) NAA B2455 LOVEDAY CYRIL WILLIAM 

(8) The Argus 8/3/1917

(9) AWM ARTV00026 - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ARTV00026/ 

(14) AWM 23/25/44 - 8th Infantry Battalion War Diary August 1918 p. 36

(15) Ibid pp. 37-38

(28) The Argus 16/2/1949 p. 2

(16) & (28) NAA B73 M456555

(20) SBMJ 10/4/1919 p. 2 

(21) PG 29/11/1919 p. 3 

(22) Geelong Advertiser 27/10/1919 p. 5

(23) PG 29/10/1920 p. 3

(24) NWFHG 2016, p. 61

(25) Information sourced from Ancestry.com.au

(26) NAA B4218 CV25006

(27) Centralian Advocate 18/2/1949 p. 13

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