The AIF Project

Harry Maitland WHITEOAK

Regimental number7911
Place of birthCollingwood, Victoria
ReligionBaptist
OccupationJoiner
AddressCawley Street, Preston, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation18
Height5' 6"
Weight148 lbs
Next of kinMother, Mrs Agnes Whiteoak, Cawley Street, Preston, Victoria
Previous military serviceServed in Senior Cadets for 2 years (Area 54); 8 months in 28th Light Horse Regiment, Citizen Military Forces; still serving at time of AIF enlistment.
Enlistment date10 June 1915
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll7 June 1915
Place of enlistmentMelbourne, Victoria
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name1st Australian General Hospital, Reinforcements
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on 11 October 1915
Rank from Nominal RollCorporal
Unit from Nominal Roll2nd Field Ambulance
FateKilled in Action 5 May 1917
Miscellaneous details (Nominal Roll)*Second entry both matched
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
184
Family/military connectionsBrother: 16195 Lance Corporal Percy Robert WHITEOAK MM, 6th Field Ambulance, returned to Australia, 21 June 1918.
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Marched in to Divisional Troops Depot, Tel el Kebir, 17 July 1916.

Embarked Alexandria, 2 August 1916; marched in to No 2 Camp, Parkhouse, England, 21 August 1916.

Marched out to 11th Training Bn, 5 September 1916.

Proceeded overseas to France, 6 April 1917; taken on strength, 2nd Field Ambulance, in the field, 1 May 1917.

Killed in action, 5 May 1917.

Statement, Red Cross File No 2930603, 779 Corporal H.C. WILSON, 2nd field Ambulance, 19 November 1917: 'I buried Casualty near Bullecourt, a mile down the sunken road. He was killed by shell fire, and I marked the grave with a cross.'

Second statement, 94 Pte A. EWEN, 2nd Field Ambulance, 28 June 1918: 'I knew Casualty. He was a man about 5 ft. 7 ins. well built, medium complexion, anbout 24 years of age. Casualty was sitting in a dug-out alongside of myself at Bullecourt village waiting for the wounded to come down. Two shells exploded inside the dug-out killing casualty instantly ... and two other men. I helped to carry him out of the dug-out but I had to leave him there as he was quite dead and there were wounded to be attended to. I do not know where they buried him.'

Third statement, 175 Corporal P.O. NILSSON, 2nd Field Ambulance, 2 November 1917: 'Was at Bullecourt on 5th May and saw Whiteoak killed instantly in the railway cutting three by the same shell that killed L/Cpl. Jack[.] He was buried by our Chaplain Mr Bradley just where he fell.' ['Eyewitness: Yes']

Fourth statement, 14310 Pte W. LIGHT, 6th Field Ambulance (patient, 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford, England), 27 October 1917: 'I have seen the grave of Cpl. Whiteoak ... at Noreine Dressing Station. He was killed instantaneously by a shell at Noreine Gully, in May, while going up the line ... The were seven men together in a dugout, when it was blown in by a shell, and they were all killed. They were all buried together.'

Fifth statement, 7798 Corporal H.C. WILSON, 2nd Field Ambulance, 23 September 1917: 'Cpl. Whiteoak joined us (2nd Field) up about 30th April while were waiting out of the line as reserves. We moved up to the front line on the 3rd May and went straight in that morning. It was Cpl. Whiteoak's first time in the firing line and he was doing good work up to the time he was killed on the evening of the 6th May about 4 p.m. We, about 20 bearers, were at Battalion H.Qrs in the railway cutting about ½ mile below Bullecourt and had been having a rough time under heavy shell fire when one shell lobbed right amongst us and killed 4 namely Cpl. Whiteoak, L/Cpl. Alex Jack, Pte. Lupsom and Pte Campbell. Cpl. Whiteoak was killed instantly by severe injuries to the head and skull. I personally buried these 4 men, with the help of a Pte. Bradley (who is now a chaplain in the A.I.F.) ... They were buried in the field about 20 yards from where they were killed and Pte Bradley read the burial service over the 4 men in one grave. I obtained the exact map location of the place and gave it also to Major Nott. I placed a rough cross with the name, number and unit of each over the head of each man.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, WHITEOAK Harry Maitland
Red Cross File No 2930603

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