This photograph of Albert Nye appeared on a special war service certificate presented to him by the Pakenham Upper community in 1919. Courtesy of Robert Anderson and the Narre Warren & District Family History Group. 

Lance Corporal Albert Francis Nye

Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour

Born: 1 December 1889 -  Baddaginnie, near Benalla Victoria        

Enlisted: 24 March 1916 aged 26

Unit:  24th Battalion 16th Reinforcement (SERN: 5887)                 

Served: Western Front

Died: 21 May 1961 - Heidelberg, Victoria

 

Albert was the son of James Nye and Mary Ann Thomas, who later settled on 139 acres at “Gembrook South” (now Pakenham Upper). His brother Edward Pilgrim Nye also owned a property in “Close’s subdivision” off Army Rd (1). Albert also became a farmer (2), presumably working on the family’s properties. He played football for “Gembrook South” with a number of other men who would later enlist for WWI, including Ted Appleton, John Doyle and Charles Warner. When he enlisted on 24 March 1916, Albert was 26 years old. He was assigned to the 24th Battalion 16th Reinforcement at Royal Park, and later transferred to “B Company”, 24th Battalion (3). The Pakenham Upper community farewelled Albert, together with John Doyle and Robert Black at a special function held at the Pakenham Upper Mechanics’ Institute on Easter Monday, 1916. During the social event, the three soldiers were wished “God speed and a safe return” by Frank Wisewould, a prominent local  identity and presented with wrist watches as mementos (4). Albert left Melbourne on the HMAT Nestor, bound for England and what Albert described as his “new life” (5). His mother and sister saw him off, giving him some cake and lemons before he went aboard the ship (6). 

Albert had been appointed Acting Sergeant for the voyage, during which time he kept a diary detailing the routine at sea. This included games, sports (such as boxing), stops in exotic locations such as Cape Town and the Cape Verde Islands and bouts of sea sickness! (7). Albert’s love of nature is evident from his diary entries. Early into the voyage, he described seeing a whale for the first time, together with porpoises and sharks (8). In another entry, Albert wrote: "I think I saw as lovely a sunset as I ever saw in my life tonight, the most beautiful combination of colours in the sky. The moon rose. I cannot explain how well it looked, for some time there appeared to be a big log fire as it was on the sea, then the moon gradually appeared to rise out of the sea. The reflection was the most beautiful” (9). Similarly, Albert described the experience of sailing into Cape Town Harbour: “When we came up from dinner we had Cape Town directly in front of us and what a lovely sight, I never saw anything so beautiful. The sun was out, beautifully warm, and at the back of the city is Table Top Mountain with its sides as straight as a house and the top appears to be as level as a board and a huge mountain on either side. One is the ‘Devil’s Head’ and the other is the ‘Lion’s Head’ (10). 

Part of Albert’s duties as acting Sergeant involved being in charge of a group of guards. Albert found this a little more challenging once the boat had docked at Cape Town. On one occasion, Albert recorded what happened after a sports day ashore: “During the afternoon the lads had it all planned out, when the band started to play ‘Goodbye Girlie’ they were to all clear out and enjoy themselves for the evening and come back to the boat sometime during the evening ... Someone must have got wind of ‘Goodbye Girlie’ for half of us were sent on without the band and when we got on the way they started to sing it. Away they went. Of course the NCOs had to follow them and got our men together ... Half an hour after the soldiers cleared out every pub in Cape Town was closed, they are frightened of us, don’t know why!” (11). The men tried the same thing the following day, their last day in Cape Town. This time though, Albert and the NCOs concluded there was “no stopping” them, so went along for the tram ride, dinner in town and a trip to the Lion’s Head! (12).

 

After arriving in England, Albert was assigned as an acting Corporal with the 6th Training Battalion at Fovant, then to Lark Hill. While in England, Albert went with a mate to visit London, but recorded “all the lights are turned down [due to the “Black Out”] and the place is fearfully dark. I was much disappointed in the great city. I am sure I would not care if I did not see the place again” (13). He was equally unimpressed by what he regarded as some of the “silliness” of military practices and routines in camp, particularly given the cold English winter: “When we go out to the Battalion parade ground in the morning, just imagine a good heavy frost or about a foot of stickly mud well we have to stand there while the heads go through a lot of red tape business. I will just tell you what fools they are. First the roll has to be called then the bugler blows the orderly SGT {sergeant} call, they run up with the ... particulars as to how many are on parade, how many are sick etc in their respective companies. The RSM [Regimental Sergeant Major] take it from them and instead of taking it straight to the Majors he takes it to the orderlie [sic] officer who hands it to the adjutant, who hands it to the Major, and a lot of silly things like that, and us chaps are standing shivering all the time” [sic] (14). 

 

In April 1917, Albert proceeded overseas to France, where he was taken on strength with the 24th Battalion in early May, and appointed as Lance Corporal just before the Second Battle of Bullecourt. After that battle, Albert was appointed as an acting Corporal, but reverted to the rank of private on being evacuated to hospital sick with influenza (14). Albert rejoined his battalion on 1 October 1917 only to be wounded in action a few days later during the Third Battle of Ypres, being gassed on on 22 March 1918. Albert may have been part of an “evacuation and salvage unit” which according to the Unit’s War Diary was operating that day in a gassed area while the Battalion was at “the Catacombs” near Messines (15). The gassing left Albert with a terrible cough for the rest of his life (16). While in England recovering, Albert received training with a machine gun company. He was assigned to the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion when he returned to France in September 1918. In late September / early October 1918, the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion participated in the Allied attack on the Hindenburg Line at the St Quentin Canal and Beaurevoir. Albert was wounded for a third time on 3 October, being wounded in the leg. He was again invalided back to England and hospitalised in Birmingham. Listed in the same casualty list as Albert was his former football team mate Ted Appleton. By the time this list was published back home, the Armistice had already been declared (17). 

Albert returned to Australia in early 1919 and was given a “hearty welcome” home by his family and friends at Pakenham Upper (17a). In October 1919, he and other returned soldiers were presented with special certificates by the grateful Pakenham Upper community. Albert’s certificate included a photo of himself in uniform, together with the words “For God, Empire and Home. From the residents of Pakenham Upper, in grateful recognition and high appreciation of services rendered in the Great War .... He answered his country’s call” (18). In 1920, Albert married Alice Maude Beadle and they later raised a family. By 1924, Albert and Alice had moved to Bentleigh, where they lived for many years. Albert worked as a carpenter (19). During WWIII Albert enlisted again, this time serving as a Lance Sergeant (V357850) in the Volunteer Defence Corps (20). Albert’s eldest son also served in WWII and spent three and a half years as a POW of the Japanese on the island of Ambon in the Dutch East Indies (21). Remembered by his family as a wonderful husband, father and grandfather (22), Albert died at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital in May 1961 aged 71.

 

In 2015, Albert’s story, as told by his granddaughter Carol Kelly, was selected as one of 150 WWI stories published on the Victorian Government’s Anzac Centenary website (23). Albert’s photograph also featured on a specially decorated Melbourne Tram honouring Victoria’s  Anzacs.

       

The assistance of Albert’s granddaughter, Carol Kelly; relative Robert Anderson; and the Narre Warren Family History Group is gratefully acknowledged.

 

Sources:

(1) Berwick Shire Rates Books - 1914 p. 18   

(2) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Flinders - Pakenham 1912 p. 14 

(3) & (14) NAA B2455 NYE, ALBERT FRANCIS 

(4) Dandenong Advertiser 4/5/1916, p. 2  

(5) Albert Nye’s War Diary entry for 16/10/1916 

(6) Albert Nye’s War Diary entry 4/10/1916       

(7) (16) (21) (22) & (23) “WWI Stories - Albert Nye” - https://anzaccentenary.vic.gov.au/wwi-stories-albert-nye/

(8) Albert Nye’s War Diary entry for 12/10/1915        

(9) Albert Nye’s War Diary entry for 12/10/1916

(11) & (12) Albert Nye's War diary entries for 24/10/1916 & 25/10/1916

(13) Albert Nye’s War Diary entry 8/1/1917

(14) Letter from Albert dated 20/1/1917

(15)  AWM4 23/41/30 24th Btn War Diary Mar 1918 p. 11 

(17) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 19/12/1918, p. 2

(17a) Pakenham Gazette 14/2/1919 p. 2

(18) Pakenham Gazette 10/10/1919 p. 3

(19) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Henty - Bentleigh 1924 p.24 

(20) www.ww2roll.gov.au 

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