The AIF Project

Onnie BACKMAN

Regimental number3035
Place of birthYarkup, Finland
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationFarmer
AddressBunbury, Western Australia
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation25
Height5' 6"
Weight164 lbs
Next of kinFather, Leonard Backman, Yarkup, Finland
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date3 August 1915
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll24 July 1915
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name28th Battalion, 7th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/45/2
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board HMAT A7 Medic on 18 January 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll28th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 29 July 1916
Place of death or woundingPozieres, Somme Sector, France
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
112
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Disembarked Alexandria, 16 February 1916.

Proceeded from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 21 March 1916; disembarked Marseilles, 27 March 1916. Found guilty, 10 April 1916, of conduct prejudicial to goodrder and military discipline (urinating in the lines): awarded 14 days confined to barracks.

Reported missing in action, 29 July 1916; subsequently confirmed killed in action, 29 July 1916.

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Official Secretary, Australia House, London, wrote to Base Records, Melbourne, 20 December 1923: 'The Consul General [for Finland] states that there is no such place as "Yarkup" in Finland, and that it has not been possible to trace Mr Leonard Backman. The District Finance Officer, Perth, intimates the deceased left as his next of kin - Friend - Walter Gardiner, of Burekup, via Bunbury, Western Australia, to whom he also made an allotment of 3/- per day. This allottee is said to be unaware of any living relatives. It is added the military estate is held by the Curator of Intestate Estates in escheat, owing to his inability to trace any rightful claimant.' Medal notation on dossier marked 'Returned by Australia House, 2 July 1925'

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