On October 4, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Australian divisions and the New Zealand Division advanced on the German stronghold of Broodseinde Ridge. It was the next step in the advance toward the village of Passchendaele. Allan and Percy Marlow went over the top with the 38th. Although the attack was described as “the most complete yet won”, the sacrifice had been great. The three Australian Divisions suffered 6500 casualties. Rain drenched the battlefield over the following week and the shelled ground turned to mud. Despite the conditions, the advance to Passchendaele continued. Allan and Percy clambered from the trenches; the objective of the 3rd Division was to take the village. No ground was captured. The Australians became bogged in the quagmire as the enemy troops fired down from the ridges. The Allied casualties were severe. Sixty-two percent of the men of the 38th Battalion who fought on that day were killed, wounded or missing. (Anzac Sons, 2015)
When my Grandpa, Allan, returned to Australia he built his own home using handmade bricks. He named it Passchendaele, scribed lovingly in stained glass above the front door. It was his own memorial to his three brothers and his mates. May we never forget.
Today, 21 September, marks one hundred years since George Marlow lost his life on the Western Front. He was wounded in the opening hours of the Battle of Menin Road on 20 September. George is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, just south-west of Poperinghe, Belgium, where he was taken the day he was wounded. As the crow flies, he is no further than 15 kilometres from the final resting place of his youngest brother, Albert.
George’s brothers of the 38th Battalion – Charlie, Allan and Percy, did not receive word of their brother’s death until November, well after experiencing and surviving the devastating Battle of Passchendaele. Charlie, who later lost his life on 26 April, 1918, wrote an anguished letter to his family:
8th Nov 1917
My Dear Mother, Father & Jim,
Again, you will have received the awful sad news that our dear Geordie is gone, it breaks my heart beyond words to think that I shall never see him again, I wrote and told you that when we were camped near his unit I went one afternoon on my own to try and find him. I walked miles and miles but would not give up till I found him at last I found his unit and they told me that he was wounded and that it was not serious since then I had not received any word from him so I wrote to England and to his officer and today I received the very sad news from the Captain of his unit that poor Geordie died of wounds at one of the Casualty Clearing Stations … he did not state when Geordie died but it must have been soon after he was wounded, generally speaking in one of those stunts if a wounded man got out to the dressing station he will get on alright but the stomach is a very bad place, his mates dressed his wound and said that he was in good spirits and was not in any pain, his wound was not deep as the equipment saved him, they carried him behind a big concrete dugout and got a stretcher bearer, who brought him out, and the unit received word that he had passed through the Casualty Clearing Station, and they thought he would be alright when I heard that I was confident that he would be alright as he was not a fellow who would go down in spirits. Geordie was reserved for the stunt he and his team but at the last minute one of the other Corporals took ill and Geordie had to go, his mates told me what a fine fellow he was, and that when he was told that he was not to go over he was quite disappointed he wanted to go, he was not a bit frightened. I could see from what he told me when I met him that he was not frightened, I can honestly tell you that I don’t believe there is another Australian living who has done as much for his country than Geordie, he has done many things worthy of a Military Medal and a Distinguished Conduct Medal. I will find out all I can, how he died where he is buried and everything about his last moments, the Captain is writing again to me as he as in the line when he wrote he is going to write and tell me where he is buried, I will write to the Chaplain and nurses of the hospital and find out all I can, I am very glad that we met over here he was just the same as always, he had that same smile on his face and looked splendid, I was out with him two days, I worked a point one day to see him, I broke my teeth and said I wanted them mended so parade for the Dentist at the same time I made arrangements to meet me in a certain town I shouted him a splendid tea, it seemed like home to be with him, I also gave him a £1 note that was poor Albert’s … I do feel it terribly he was an ideal brother nothing was any trouble to him, I was to meet him another day, but we shifted here, little did I think that was the last time that I should ever see him again poor fellow he died doing his bit for his country and whatever he done it was done as a soldier should do it. The Captain said he was one of the best N.C.O. that he ever had… I do not know how you will ever stand it, but I feel broken up to think that we have lost such fine fellows as Albert and Geordie, we are out of the line for how long I do not know, but please God we will be spared to return to you as we have done our share in this war, however I trust that their lives will not have been given in vain, but it is hard to part with them. I am a Corporal now, I will take care of myself for your sake, and trust that the day is not far distant when we will be home again, I will write a line to Pearl and send it with this, I share with you the loss of our dear Geordie and deeply mourn his loss, I know you will feel it I can tell you I feel it very much, I will say goodbye for the present with love and sympathy to you all.
I will write again shortly.
Second Lieutenant William Seabrook of the 17th Battalion who also died of wounds in the Menin Road advance on 21 September. He lies nearby to George. Both William’s brothers had been killed at Menin Road on 20 September. They have no known grave. The appalling cost of war is measured in tragedy on this scale — three sons lost to their family in the space of one day. Major Frederick Tubb of the 7th Battalion, a Gallipoli VC winner, is also buried here, having been killed on 20 September. Like George, he was killed by gunfire, but not before his company had achieved their objectives, overpowering nine pillboxes to reach the southern side of Polygon Wood.
My broken heart is healed. Albert’s WWI medallion, stolen last Wednesday, has been found and will soon be back with the Marlow family. We wish to express our gratitude to everyone involved. I am not aware of the details, but I can say that I am in awe of the amazing work of the police officers from the various units at Coolum, Kawana and Noosa. I am eternally grateful to you all. My heartfelt thanks for your patience, care, determination and skill. I particularly wish to acknowledge the investigative work of Detective Senior Constable Katie Tomlins of the Noosa Heads Child Protection and Investigation Unit – the heroine of this story! The difficult work which our police officers do every day to keep us safe and to protect what belongs to us is not often visible, but it is outstanding. Like our Anzac forebears, they deserve our deepest respect and they most certainly have mine.
Also, a huge thank you to Sue Sagar, Channel 7, the Noosa News, Noosa Today, the Sunshine Coast Daily, Sunny Coast Community Board, Peregian Springs Locals, Peregian Springs Locals-Buy, Swap, Sell and Peregian Springs Residents Association for being so readily prepared to raise awareness. To Anzac Live for the heartfelt post yesterday, thank you (you made my cry). To every person who responded on Facebook to alert others and send messages of support, my apologies if I missed replying to you, but my deepest gratitude. I suspect the Marlow brothers will be smiling down upon you all. They can now rest easy X
The medallion my Great Uncle Albert Marlow received as he departed for the Western Front has been stolen from my care. All five of the Marlow brothers were presented with a similar medallion from the people of their home town of Mologa, Victoria. Albert’s was lost from the family for many years. It is a mystery to the family as to how or why. Three years ago, by chance, I found it for sale in a second-hand shop in Brisbane. With the help of my parents, and despite an inflated price, we brought Albert’s medallion home to the family. This year marks the centenary of his death on the Western Front at the age of nineteen. Albert is buried in Belgium along with his brother George. Their big brother Charlie is buried in France. Somewhere, deep in my heart, recovering the medallion felt like bringing Albert home.
Our home in Peregian Springs was broken into while my husband and I were at work. Items of significant and intrinsic value were taken from us. Most are replaceable. Then there are those precious things that no amount of insurance can ever, ever replace. Albert’s medallion is one of those.
If there is any chance of bringing Albert home again, it may rest with goodwill. If there is just one thing that I can have returned it is this, one of the most precious items our family own. To the people who stole it, you know where we live. With all my heart, I ask for you to dig deep and find the courage and way to safely return it to us. It is easy to identify by the picture, it distinctly bears the Australian emblems of an emu and kangaroo in rose gold with the initials AWM on the shield. It is inscribed on the back with words like this – Presented to Albert Marlow from his Mologa Friends. To my Facebook friends, I cannot tell you how much I would appreciate your help by sharing this post. Just maybe it might reach the people responsible. Thank you.
Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council Regional Arts Development Funding, I have had the awesome opportunity to work with mentor, Aleesah Darlison of Greenleaf Press, to hone my latest manuscript. Follow After Me was completed with the support of the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. Aleesah’s care for my work was outstanding and her effort was amazing. Deepest gratitude to the grants team at the Sunshine Coast Council, the MGCLT and to Aleesah.
July 17, 2017 marks 100 years since Albert Marlow lost his life on the Western Front. Nineteen-year-old Albert was positioned in support lines near Messines in Belgium and was killed in a heavy artillery bombardment. He is buried at Kandahar Farm Cemetery. His big brother Charlie (KIA 26.04.18) was with him at the time. Charlie wrote to his family at home:
In the field
July 17th 1917
My Dear Mother, Father & Jim,
I suppose long before this reaches you, you will have received the sad news of Albert being killed we came in to the trenches last Thursday and I believe are to go out on Friday next, and today between 1.45 pm and 2.25 the Germans were shelling us it was not in the front line but what is called supports. Albert was on gas guard near our company office I was about 5 chains away from him at the time in my dugout Albert and two officers and two sergeants were taking shelter behind a big dugout when a shell came over and killed the lot of them instantly, a sergeant came and told me Albert was gone and I went to him as quick as I could but he was dead and they had him on a stretcher. Joe Reed helped to carry him out, he was killed instantly as I said before and knew nothing. I know it will be a hard blow to you as it is to me, Allan went away this morning to a military school at about 8 oclock and will be there for about 12 days. Percy had a lump come up on his jaw like mumps and the doctor sent him to the hospital about 2 days ago, I have just wrote and told them I expect Percy back next week I have wrote to them all in England and wrote to Geordie, poor Albert’s watch was broken he had his coat off at the time there was a letter in it addressed to you and one to Myrtle Stone I am sending them on there is also a card for mother I got all his things and his money … I cannot realise that he is gone but we will feel it, and will miss him very much, it is hard luck to be killed so far back from the front line which is about 2 1/2 miles away from here and only his second time under fire I know it is doubly hard on you so far away and to us here it is a hard blow under the circumstances I do not know where they will be buried but I think it will be near here, up to the present they have not buried them but I think it will be this evening they take great care of every man’s grave and place a nice cross over it with the name and number and battalion etc. it is near where we made the push I cannot tell you the name of the place or country but I think you will know. … I can guess how you will all feel at home and I can tell you we all share in your grief of our sad and sudden loss and I trust the rest of us will be spared to come home once again, you will be comforted to know that he died without pain and had no fear of shells or bullets, he died doing his duty to his country. I will say goodbye for this time there is nothing that I can say I know, that would relieve you of the awful blow, but let us hope that the rest of us will soon be home again, so goodbye with love to you all
I will remain your loving son and brother Charlie E Marlow
My deepest gratitude to the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. Tomorrow I leave Canberra with 36 000 words added to my manuscript – the result of time to research, plan, imagine and write – to be creative! Such a privilege to add my reflections to the fellows’ journal and to read the creative journeys of others. Thank you!