Courtesy of Patricia Wisewould

Private Harold Wisewould +

Pakenham State School Roll of Honour

Born: 27 August 1891 - Tocumwal, NSW

Enlisted: 22 February 1915

Unit: 23rd Battalion, D Company (SERN: 859)

Served: Egypt & Gallipoli

Died on active service: 4 December 1915 - At sea, near Alexandria Egypt 

 

Harold Wisewould was a son of Edward Joseph Wisewould and Elizabeth Goudie. When he was born at Tocumwal on the Murray River in NSW, where his father ran the local Cobb and Co coach service (1). Harold’s mother died in childbirth in 1902, leaving eight young children. Elizabeth’s death coincided with a severe drought, and Harold’s father decided to return to Victoria, driving what stock and possessions he had down to Gippsland (2). For a time, the family lived in Pakenham. Harold’s uncle, Frank Wisewould, who was a leading member of the Victorian legal profession, had a property called “Mona” near the Salvation Army home on Army Road. While living in the Pakenham District, Harold attended Pakenham State School, and later worked for Mr Grant on the famous Toomuc Valley Orchard (TVO) for three years (3). While there, Harold also played cricket for Toomuc Valley (4). Harold’s father eventually settled at Jindivick near Drouin, while Harold worked a share of an orchard owned by Mr J. Ridgway at  Kilcunda, near Wonthaggi (5).

Harold was a 23 year old labourer when he enlisted on 22 February 1915. He was the first of four Wisewould brothers to enlist, while a fifth volunteered but did not pass the medical examination (6). Harold was assigned as a private to 23rd Battalion D Company at Broadmeadows Army Camp north of Melbourne (7). His older brother James (SERN 984), who enlisted three weeks after Harold, was assigned to the same unit. They subsequently left Australia together on HMAT Euripides on 10 May 1915. Harold was sick on the voyage to Egypt, but recovered towards the end of the journey (8). The brothers were then sent to Gallipoli, where they served in the same trench for three months (9). On 24 November 1915, James was wounded in the trenches at Lone Pine when a comrade’s rifle accidentally discharged whilst being cleaned (10). Harold assisted in carrying his wounded brother down to Anzac Cove to be evacuated (11). Harold himself had to be evacuated a few days later suffering from pneumonia (11). Harold was undoubtedly weakened by the privations and unsanitary conditions in the trenches and through exposure to the elements: with winter setting in, there had been heavy snowfalls on the peninsula. Harold’s condition was described as being “pretty bad” (12). He died on 4 December 1915 just as the hospital ship Dongola was entering Alexandria Harbour, and was buried in Chatby Cemetery in Alexandria (13). James, who was on a different hospital ship, died the previous day en-route to Malta and was buried at sea (14). 

Families were notified of their loved ones’ deaths via a dreaded “pink telegram” from the Department of Defence. When Edward Wisewould received the envelope, he read that James had been killed. It was only the next day when he went back to read the telegram again that he noticed that the envelope contained a second telegram, notifying him of  Harold’s death too (14a), Despite the tragedy, it was said that the Wisewoulds were “consoled by the fact that the young men died for their country” (15). The surviving members of D Company were shocked when they heard the news in Egypt after being evacuated from Gallipoli. James and Harold’s commanding officer, Captain A.K. Kennedy subsequently wrote to Edward Wisewould in Jindivick to express D Company’s “deepest sorry at the loss of your sons. Ill can such men be spared at the present time” (16). Reporting their deaths, the Gippsland Independent described Harold and James as “fine manly fellows” (17). Amongst Harold’s personal possessions returned to his family were his identity disc, some letters, a copy of the New Testament and his false teeth (18). After the end of the War, Harold’s sweetheart, Hilda Ridgway wrote to the Army seeking a photograph of his grave (19). 

 

In addition to the Pakenham State School Honour Roll, Harold’s service and sacrifice  was remembered on the Jindivick War Memorial and at Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The family also received the King’s memorial scroll and a bronze plaque honouring Harold’s sacrifice (20).

The assistance of Harold’s relatives, Patricia Wisewould & Beatrice Garner is gratefully acknowledged. 

Sources:

(1) (2) & (6)  B. Garner (2014) p.43, 47.

(3) & (5) The Argus, 16/12/1915, p. 7

(4) SBMJ 21/10/1908, p. 3

(7) (18) (19) & (20) NAA B2455 WISEWOULD HAROLD 

(8) (12) & (13) AWM ARCWMEBF 859 Private Harold Wisewould

(9) (15) & (17) Gippsland Independent 17/12/1915, p. 2

(10) & (14) AWM ARCWMEBF - 984 Wisewould James

(14a) Information provided by Patricia Wisewould

(16) West Gippsland Gazette 21/3/1916, p. 8

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