The AIF Project

Henry Francis BRIGGS

Regimental number63
Place of birthBrighton, England
SchoolFinsbury Road Board School, Brighton, Sussex, England
Age on arrival in Australia21
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationSalesman
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation23
Height5' 8"
Weight136 lbs
Next of kinFather, William Briggs, 21 Brewen Street, Brighton, England
Previous military serviceServed in the Royal Field Artillery, Territorial Force, Sussex, England
Enlistment date17 August 1914
Place of enlistmentSydney, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name3rd Battalion, Machine Gun Section
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A14 Euripides on 20 October 1914
Rank from Nominal Roll2nd Lieutenant
Unit from Nominal Roll55th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 20 July 1916
Place of death or woundingFrance
Age at death26
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
177
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: William James and Florence BRIGGS, 21 Brewer Street, Lewes Road, Brighton, Sussex, England
Other details

War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

Embarked Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli, 5 April 1915.

Promoted Sergeant, 18 May 1916.

Admitted to 3rd Field Ambulance, 14 november 1915 (orchitis), and transferred same day to 1st Casualty Clearing Station; to HS 'Somali', 19 November 1915; disembarked Alexandria, 23 November 1915, and admitted to No 2 General Hospital, Ghezireh; transferred to No 3 Auxiliary Hospital, Heliopolis, 9 December 1915; discharged to Overseas Base, Ghezireh, 11 December 1915; rejoined 3rd Bn, Tel el Kebir, 30 December 1915.

Transferred to 55th Bn, 13 February 1916; to 14th Machine Gun Company, 11 March 1916.

Appointed 2nd Lieutenant, 12 March 1916.

Detached to School of Instruction, 31 March 1916; rejoined unit from School of Instruction, 20 April 1916. Completed course, 31 March-20 April 1916, as 1st Class Instructor, Vickers and Maxim Machine Guns.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 19 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 25 June 1916.

Reported 'missing in action', 20 July 1916.

Court of Enquiry, held in the field, 14 September 1917, determined fate as 'killed in action, 20 July 1916'.

First witness, Lt O.J. ROCKS: 'We were in the 5th Divisional attack at Fromelles on the 19/20th July 1916. We moved from support line to the front line. Lieut. Briggs left the section in which I was a Lance Corporal with instructions to wait his return from reconnaissance. He then went over the parapet, proceeded about 50 yards and lay in a shell hole. He was never seen afterwards by myself or any of the men in the section. We believe that he was killed.'

Second witness, 2922 Pte H. BRADFORD, stated: 'I was in Lieut. Briggs' Section and took part in the 5th Australian Divisional attack on Fromelles with the 14th Aust. Machine Gun Coy. We left the support line and afterwards I left our front line with Lieut. Briggs and one gun team going to the German Trenches. In "no man's land" the team lay down with Lieut. Briggs. I next remember the late Sergt. A. Saunders telling us to advance. I never saw Lieut. Briggs again, and I think from the intense shelling that Lieut. Briggs was killed.'

Statement, Red Cross File No 0530603, 5340 Pte H. BAKER, 14th Machine Gun Company (patient, Southall Hospital, England), 27 April 1917: 'We were in the 5th Division attack at Fromelles on 19th July 16, about midnight. I was carrying ammunition and saw Briggs fall in No Man's Land. I could not stop to see if he was killed, but two men who followed me and whose names I don't remember, told me next day that they carried Lieut Briggs back to our trenches. - they were not sure if he was dead or alive.'

Second statement, 4789 Pte W. DUCKETT (patient, No 9 General Hospital, Rouen),24 May 1917: 'At Fromelles on the 20th July/16 we were in trenches and we went over the top at 5.45 p.m. on that day our objective being the German trenches about 300 yards to our front. Lt. Briggs was leading our Section. We got right on to the German trnech and held on there until morning when we were driven back. I saw Lt. Briggs several times during our advance on the German trenches but never after we got there. He seemed to disappear. Some of the other boys said he had been shot through the head and killed. He told me himself that he would never be taken Prisoner so long as he had a revolver.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, BRIGGS Henry Francis
Red Cross File No 0530603

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