Trooper George Pritchard
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: c.1868 Tottington, near St Arnaud Victoria Enlisted: 11 September 1915 aged 47 years
Unit: 1st Remount Unit, 2nd Squadron (SERN: 433) Served: Egypt & Salonika (Greece).
Died: Not known
The Pakenham & District War Memorial lists a “Pte C. Pritchard” who cannot be positively identified. Given other “typos” on the memorial, it is possible that the Digger so honoured was actually Private George Pritchard, who was living in the Koo Wee Rup district when he enlisted on 11 September 1915. Although a positive connection between George and Pakenham has not yet been established, others associated with Koo Wee Rup were also honoured on the Pakenham & District Soldiers’ Memorial.
George was the son of John Pritchard and his wife Sarah Kilcroivire. For many years, George’s father was manager of Tottington sheep station near St Arnaud (1). As for George himself, he settled on a 10 acre block of land in the Wimmera, which he sold prior to enlisting for the Boer War (2). He then served 4th Contingent, Imperial Bushmen (3). George was farming at Lang Lang when he married Janet Catherine Thornton in 1903 (4). Later, the couple settled at Yannathan near Koo Wee Rup, with George working as a farm labourer in Gippsland (5). Given this, it is entirely possible that George was working on a farm in Pakenham when he enlisted in September 1915. George was 47 years old at the time. He was assigned to the 1st Remount Unit. The Remounts were formed to take charge of the horses from Light Horse units which were then being used as infantry at Gallipoli. Remount units consisted of experienced horsemen and related trades, such as blacksmiths. Since these were non-combat roles, the maximum recruitment age was set at 50 not 45, which was the maximum for the AIF. For this reason, the remount units contained a number of men with prior military service, including Boer War veterans (6). Regarded as a “well known and respected resident” of Yannathan, George was given a public farewell there and presented with a set of “suitably inscribed” pipes. Toasts were made, not just to George, but also to Janet and his children. It was noted at the time that his duties would not take him further than Egypt, where he was to employed in the “congenial work of looking after the horses”. He was said to have an intimate knowledge of horse management (7). Before leaving for overseas, George had a poem of his published in the Lang Lang Guardian. Entitled “Remount Unit”. it begins on a patriotic note and reflects George’s desire to contribute to the War effort, despite his age. However, it also reflects a degree of resentment towards those who had also not enlisted (8). Given George’s poetic efforts, it is interesting to note that one of the officers’ of the 2nd Remounts was the famous bush poet, Andrew “Banjo” Paterson.
Unfortunately for George, by the time the Remounts got to Egypt, the Anzacs were being evacuated from Gallipoli. This meant that the Remount units were no longer required. George never fulfilled his desire to fight at the Front, although in September 1916, he made a week long voyage to Salonika in Greece, presumably to accompany horses being deployed with British forces on the Macedonian Front (9).The following month, George was sent back to Australia to be demobilised. He was welcomed home at Yannathan in late November 1916 (10) and discharged on 5 December 1916, following the disbanding of his unit. Afterwards, George did “home duty” serving as a guard at the Domain Army Camp (11).
After the War, George applied for dairying land under the soldier settler scheme. He was granted a block at “Hogan’s Selection” at Neerim Junction in Gippsland (12). George and Janet are both buried in the Neerim Cemetery (13).
The assistance of Chris McKenna of Berwick RSL; and Kelvin Parker is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Horsham Times 10/7/1908, p. 3
(2) & (5) PROV 5357/P0 Unit 4315 File 3801/86.6
(3) NAA B2455 PRITCHARD GEORGE
(4) Ancestry.com.au - Victoria, Australia, St Peter’s Eastern Hill, Marriages, 1848-1955 (online data-base)
(6) AWM 4 28/1/1 Part 1 Unit War Diary Australian Remount Depot - September 1915 - October 1917 p. 1
(7) Lang Lang Guardian 22/9/1915, p. 2
(8) Lang Land Guardian 17/11/1915, p. 3
(9) & (11) NAA B2455 PRITCHARD GEORGE
(12) Lang Lang Guardian 29/11/1916, p. 2
(13) Information provided by Kelvin Parker