1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Harry Oswald Amos

Private 1056 Harry Oswald Amos, 11th Battalion (B Company) 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force. Died of wounds 26/04/1915 (though this officially, and incorrectly, recorded as 29/04/1915). Harry has no known grave (he was buried at sea) and he is commemorated on Panel 33, Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey. He is not commemorated in the Abergele district., but is commemorated on the Rhyl War Memorial.

Harry Amos was born in Rhyl, the son of Samuel John & Ann Amos of 7, Bath Street, Rhyl (7, Belle Vue Terrace, Rhyl, after the war) and he attended Abergele County School. He was living in Western Australia at the outbreak of war and he was possibly one of a number of local men who, together, set out to create a new life in Western Australia.

About four years ago a large party of Welsh Patagonians, natives of the Abergele district, were entertained by an Abergele resident, and accorded a public reception in that town on their visit thereto, en route for Western Australia, where they intended to found a new Welsh colony in the Moora District. This move from continent to continent was in the nature of an experiment. For forty years and over the Cymry have peopled the extensive territories of the Gaiman, and have become sick of the oppressive rule of the Argentinian authorities. It was, therefore, decided to seek a new home under British rule, and Western Australia was chosen for experimental purposes.

[Welsh Coast Pioneer, 29 October 1914. One of the leaders of the group was Tom Owen of Abergele. One of his sons joined the Australian Army and he was in Abergele in October 1916, on leave following a wounding. In total nine men from Abergele and the district served in Australian forces having settled there prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, and four of them would give their lives: Harry Oswald Amos died of wounds (26/04/1915), Edward (Ted) Davies, David Saxon Evans, Herbert Wynne Walton Evans (killed in action 16/07/1918), Albert Alex Gilchrist (died 08/05/1916), Edward Evans Parry, Richard William Rowlands, Ernest George Hewlett Stacey (died, 15/05/1916)]

Harry enlisted into the Australian Army on 14 September 1914 at Blackboy Hill, Western Australia, a military training camp used to train and house large numbers of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) troops. He was 24 years old, 5′ 8″ tall, weighing 9 and a 1/2 stones, with dark hair and blue eyes, a Methodist, unmarried and a Draper. He listed his mother, Anne, of Rhyl, as his next of kin.

By late 1914 the war on the Western Front had become a stalemate. Some Allied politicians and commanders were hopeful that the Russians on the Eastern Front could do more, thus attracting German soldiers from the Western Front and providing an opportunity for a breakthrough. However Russian efforts to date had been largely disastrous and its army was clearly under equipped. If Russia were to mount a successful series of offensives it would need supplies from their western allies, Britain and France. However overland trade routes were blocked leaving supply by sea as the only viable option. Numerous sea routes existed, but by far the best was the entrance to the Black Sea through the Dardanelles. This was controlled by the Ottoman Empire which the Allies had declared war against in November 1914. Therefore the straits had been closed and in November the Turks began to mine the waterway. It was then that Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, proposed a naval attack on the Dardanelles. Unwilling to redirect modern warships and the much feted ‘Dreadnoughts’ from the North Sea area, Churchill opted to use a large number of the more obsolete battleships that would be a match for anything the Turks could muster against them. The proposal was strengthened on 2 January 1915 when Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia appealed to Britain for assistance against the Ottomans, who were conducting an offensive in the Caucasus. In mid-February 1915 naval attacks on the Dardanelles began when a strong Anglo-French task force began bombarding Ottoman gun positions along the coast. By 25 February the outer forts had been destroyed and the entrance to the straits cleared of mines. However, the Turks had many mobile gun batteries which easily evaded the Allied bombardments and threatened the minesweepers sent in to clear the straits. On 18 March 1915, the main attack to force the straits was launched with a fleet of 18 battleships with numerous cruisers and destroyers. The French battleship Bouvet was sunk by a mine and two more French battleships were damaged. HMS Irresistible and HMS Inflexible were critically damaged by mines. HMS Ocean, sent to rescue the Irresistible, was also damaged, and both ships eventually sank. The attack had run into a recently laid belt of mines and failed. It was now accepted that a naval campaign alone could not force the straits. The land either side would need to be taken to clear it of enemy artillery and allow the minesweepers in. Thus, planning for a land campaign began.

The Gallipoli land campaign is too great a story to recount here. However, in short, Australian troops en-route to the Western Front were earmarked for the assault along with several British and French Divisions. Amongst the AIF forces was 1st Division and Harry Amos. Harry had left Australia aboard H.M.A.T Ascanius from Freemantle on 2 November 1914. His 1st Division had arrived in Egypt by February 1915 and in March Harry’s 3rd Brigade was stationed in Lemnos. On 1 April 1915 orders to prepare an amphibious assault on Gallipoli were received. Training for the attack began. 3rd Brigade, containing 11th Battalion and Harry Amos, would be in the spearhead.

The ANZAC’s (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) would land near Gaba Tepe on the Aegean coast, from where they could advance across the peninsula, cutting off the Ottoman troops, in what was a secondary attack to back up the main landings at Cape Helles. The small area in and around which they would land has became known as “Anzac Cove”. Following a postponement due to weather, the ANZAC’s came ashore on 25 April 1915.

Two Divisions of the ANZAC Corps landed over 1 kilometre north of their planned objective and in the darkness and confusion of the early morning faced rugged and difficult country. Units mixed up on their arrival rushed inland and became separated from the main force, which came under growing fire from the Turkish defenders. While Turkish reinforcements arrived, the Anzac position became increasingly precarious as the assaulting force failed to secure their initial objectives. Falling back on improvised and shallow entrenchments the Anzacs held on for a crucial first night. By that first evening 16,000 men had been landed; of those over 2,000 Australians had been killed or wounded.

[‘The Landing at Anzac Cove’, Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au ]

Harry was one of the wounded. Immediately he was evacuated to one of the boats acting as floating hospitals, H.M.T.S City of Benares, where he was diagnosed by a Doctor of the 1st Field Ambulance as having “a penetrating wound to the abdomen“. There is some confusion as to exactly when he died. In light of the vicious and somewhat chaotic atmosphere of the landings, and the huge number of casualties, this is perhaps understandable. In his service records held at the Australian archives there are records that state that the date of death was unknown but placed it between 25 April and 1 May. In a later (and erroneous), letter to his mother, the Australian authorities stated 9 April, some two weeks before the ANZAC landings had taken place. A date of 29 April was eventually settled upon for official purposes, this being the day when he was buried at sea from on board H.M.T. Seang Choo. However, the single document to have survived from 1st Field Ambulance on board H.M.T.S City of Benares, states clearly that he died the next day, 26 April, at 1.30 p.m. One can only assume that his body was removed to H.M.T. Seang Choo at some later point, from which he was offered to the Mediterranean on 29 April, the date that became accepted as the date of death.

His personal possessions returned home to his mother in Rhyl in February 1916 amounted to nothing more than a purse containing 3 coins, his identity disc, an ash tray and some letters.

The Gallipoli campaign is deeply embedded in the Australian psyche. Each year commemorations of a nature similar to our Remembrance Day are held on 25 April: ANZAC Day. The campaign, which ultimately failed in its objective of opening the Dardanelles to allied shipping, was closed down in December 1915. By the end it had cost Australia 26,111 casualties, of whom 8,141 died.

Very many of Abergele’s territorial soldiers would also experience the Gallipoli campaign and it would provide the town and district with its darkest day of the war, 10th August 1915, and these events will be described in full in time for the centenary.

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2 thoughts on “1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Harry Oswald Amos

  1. Nigel Hilton:

    Knowing, from personal experience, just how much effort can be involved in tracing a ‘reluctant’ ancestor when doing family history research, I’m in awe of Andrew’s skills of tracing the names of, and then tracking down their individual backgrounds for these commemorative entries. Andrew, I take my hat off to you – and thank you for all these fascinating insights to such brave men. Credit is also due to Gareth for including these entries on Abergele Post’s site, thus sharing them with a wider audience. I’m sure that, like me, a great many readers lost family members during the Great War. Anything which ensures that ‘their name liveth for ever more’ must surely be welcomed. especially during the 2014-2018 centenary years.

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