Harold Henry Ewart (1892-1957)

World War I

Harold enlisted just after his 24th birthday, was posted to the 40th Battalion and sent to fight on the Western Front in the vicious Northern winter of 1916.

Click here to find a short story on Harold that was compiled by Jim Rouse as part of his 40th Battalion research.

Regimental number:    369
Religion:    Roman Catholic
Occupation:    Labourer
Address:    Tasmania
Marital status:    Single
Age at embarkation:    24
Next of kin:    Mr John Ewart, Buckland, Tasmania
Enlistment date:    26 January 1916
Rank on enlistment:    Private
Unit name:    40th Battalion, B Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number:    23/32/1
Embarkation details:    Unit embarked from Hobart, on board HMAT Berrima on 1st July 1916
Rank from Nominal Roll:    Private
Unit from Nominal Roll:    40th Infantry Battalion
Fate:    Left England on Runic 20th Dec 1919

See photo in Military Gallery

On the 26th January 1916, Harold Henry Ewart (no 369) joined the 40th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. His physical description on enlistment gave the following details.

Height    5 ft. 9 in.
Chest measurement    33-36 in
Weight     158 lbs
Complexion     Dark
Eyes     Greyish
Religion     R.C.
Hair    Black
Marital status     Single

Click here to read an article published in the Mercury in Jan 1916 about the send off Harold received from his hometown of Buckland.

Active Service on the Western Front

Harold left Hobart on 1st July 1916 to sail on the HMAT Berrima to Devonport, England. He disembarked on 22 August 1916 and from there sailed on to France on the 23rd November of the same year to join the soldiers on the Western Front.

The Battalion disembarked at Le Harve and spent a few days in Bailleul with billets before marching to the allied occupied city of Armentieres. Early in December the troops occupied the front line trenches south of the Lys, the weather was extremely cold and wet and the trenches were in a very bad state. Harold was promoted from Private to Lt. Corporal during this time. The Battalion was relieved of its duties for a few days but were back in the trenches for Christmas Day 1916.

An excerpt from Browinski's -"Tasmanian War Record 1914-1918"
"On the 9th January the Battalion again went into support in Houplines, and while here a party of four officers and sixty other ranks attempted to raid the enemy trenches at a point about 600 yards south of the River Lys. The raid was unsucessful, as the enemy, warned of the raid by our wire-cutting programme with trench mortars, had filled his front line trench with wire, and our party were unable to enter. They returned having sustained 10 casualties".

It was during this raid that Harold was wounded in action and suffered shell shock. During January he was on the casualty lists four times. Again during October he was wounded, this time suffering gun shot wounds to the left hand, right thigh and legs during the third battle of Ypres.

An account of this particular action is given by Browinski as follows -    "Along the top of the Broodseinde Ridge was a line of concrete forts known as "pill boxes", with a strong trench system, heavily wired, and from this position heavy machine-gun fire was coming. Our casualties from this were very heavy, and probably the stiffest fight the Battalion ever had, resulted. From shell hole to shell hole the Battalion crept forward under a tornado of machine gun fire, men falling every yard, and when about 200 yards from the ridge, the position looked critical, in view of our casualties and the enemy's strong resistance. But the "left company" saved the situation, by taking advantage of some "dead" ground they worked forward and captured the position, taking 300 prisoners and 17 guns".

Harold was transferred to England and admitted to Coombe Lodge, Great Warley, Colchester, Essex for rehabilitation. It is interesting to note that when he lived at Prossers Forest later in life he called their home "Coombe Lodge". In January of 1918 he left Southampton for action in France again, this time at Rouelles. The Battalion were engaged on Hill 63 untill March 21st when the German offensive was opened and they were moved in the direction of Flanders, being diverted to the Somme en route.

More from Browinski     "On the 20th March our position was shelled constantly during the day. That night the copse was captured, and our right flank was advanced about 600 yards. Next morning about 11.30 am, the enemy attack developed on a fairly large scale. Dense waves of the enemy advanced diagonally across our front towards the 11th Brigade line, but our artillery, machine-guns, and Lewis guns smashed the attack in a decisive manner, and the enemy waves melted away before reaching the Australian line. Casualties for March 28-30th were - Killed 2 Officers and 44 others - Wounded 10 Officers and 169 others".

During April and May Harold received promotions again, firstly to Corporal and then to Sergeant. During June the Battalion was placed in support positions in and around the town of Villers-Bretonneux which at the time was being heavily shelled by the enemy every night. Harold's record of service during 1918 show him to be in and out of hospital quite a lot, sometimes for up to a fortnight at a time.

"The last operation against the enemy in which the 40th Battalion took part was on the St Quentin Canal Tunnel at which 15 men were killed and 80 wounded. We moved back to reserve in preparation for a further advance, but with the breaking of the Hindenburg Line the enemy's military position became almost impossible and the last hope of the German High Command of staving off complete disaster was broken. On the 4th October Germany requested the President of the United States to take in hand the restoration of peace on the basis of his "Fourteen Points", and before the 3rd Division was again called upon to take the offensive, the Armistice was signed".

Return to Australia

Harold returned to Australia on the "Runic" which departed England on the 20th December 1919 and he was discharged on the 30th May 1921. My brother Peter has two of his pay books and a collection of medals and badges that belonged to him. An average pay for 31 days during overseas service was 8 pounds and 10 shillings.

Information concerning Australian servicemen and women is available at both The Australian War Memorial and the National Achives . Digital copies of attestation papers, embarkation rolls, pay books and other miscellaneous items can be found online. The following letters were found amongst the records for Harold.

Coombe Lodge
C/- PO Launceston

Dear Sir,
Some time ago I had the misfortune to lose my silver badge and I thought I would ask if I would be able to get another one. I was issued with Silver Badge date 9.6.1921 no 79404 by NWR. Hoping I will be able to get another.
         I remain yours truly     HH Ewart

The badge Harold was referring to was the Medically Unfit Badge. He was asked to send a statutory declaration and money in order to receive a replacement.

A letter from Canberra dated 16th January 1945 states " I am in receipt of your application for a duplicate GRI badge and remittance of six shillings. The price of a new badge is six shillings and 4 pence. On receipt of a further 4 pence a badge will be forwarded to you. I am enclosing another statutory declaration as the one received from you was not fully filled in. The declaration must be signed by a Justice of the Peace or Commisioner for Declarations.
       Yours faithfully A Officer Base Records.

In his statutory declaration 13th March 1945 Harold said that the badge had fallen out of his pocket and that he had advertised on radio for its return, to no avail. I assume he sent the remaining 4 pence as the badge was re issued and sent to him at Coombe Lodge. He also received the Victory medal at the same time.

Later years

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