The AIF Project

Harry Edward DEBENHAM

Regimental number3080
Place of birthGreymouth, New Zealand
SchoolGrey District High School, New Zealand
ReligionChurch of England
Address129 Pitt Street, Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation25
Height5' 8.5"
Weight126 lbs
Next of kinFather, F Debenham, Pukethi Street, Greymouth, New Zealand
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date1 August 1915
Place of enlistmentHolsworthy, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name19th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/36/2
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A29 Suevic on 20 December 1915
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll4th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 16 August 1916
Age at death from cemetery records27
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
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Commemorated on the gates to St Paul's Anglican Church, Cooma, New South Wales: 'Erected by the Old Boys of the Manaro Grammar School to the Memory of their Comrades who fell in the Great War 1914-1918.' Parents: Fredrick William and Jessie DEBENHAM, 14 Paketalie Street, Greymouth, New Zealand
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Taken on strength, 4th Bn, Tel el Kebir, 14 February 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 23 March 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 30 March 1916.

Killed in action, 16 August 1916.

Handwritten note on Form B103: 'Buried between Pozieres & Mouquet Farm probably in Cemetery (Sh 57D SE.) Certified by Capt. Mills.'

Note, Red Cross File No 0901007H: 'No trace Germany. Cert. by Capt. Mills 10.10.19.'

Statement, 3005 Pte T.P. O'BRIEN, 4th Bn HQ (patient, Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich, England), 8 February 1917: 'Harry E. Debenham was killed by my side by a shell on the 16th Aug. 1916.'

Second statement, 2339 Pte N.W. BROWN, A Company, 4th Bn, 27 February 1917: 'Witness saw soldier buried in a shell hole alongside our own trenches at Pozieres, on Aug. 16th., '16. Soldier's name and number were written on his looking glass, and placed on his bayonet over the place where he was buried. A heavy bombardment was proceeding at the time, and prevented a burial service being held.'

Third statement, 2455 Lance Corporal W.G. THOMPSON, 4th Bn, 22 December 1916: 'A shell came on to parapet at Mouquet Farm, wounding him so badly that he died very shortly after. He was buried at the back of the trench in a shell hole at our first line.'

Fourth statement, 2359 Sergeant Major F.J. DOHERTY, A Company, 4th Bn (patient, Ford Hospital, Devonport, England), 5 February 1917: 'I was passing to and fro, and know that Debenham died about 20 minutes after he was hit by a shell, near Mouquet Farm.'

Fifth statement, 1453 Pte R. BAIKIE, 4th Bn (patient, Willesden VAD Hospital, St Mary's Road, England), 15 January 1917: 'Informant states that on 16th August 1916 at Pozieres, the battalion was in the front line trench, a shrapnel shell burst over the trench, wounding Debenham in the head and body. He was dressed at once by A.M.C. Men [sic] but died three hours later. He was buried by his friends in the trench.'

Grave subsequently lost.

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, DEBENHAM Harry Edward
Red Cross File No 0901007H

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