Chailey would escape relatively lightly during the Battle of Loos. Although John Oliver had been killed on the opening day - 25th September - there would only be one other fatality and then, not until mid October. In later years however, September 26th would be mourned by two families. On this day in 1917, Frederick Heasman and Charles Willey would both be killed in action in different theatres. This is their story.
Digital copies of Frederick Heasman’s World War One service papers can be viewed on-line at The National Archives of Australia. The undated photograph on the left shows Frederick before he enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force. A summary of his service history follows.
According to his attestation papers, Frederick Heasman was born around April 1892 in East Chiltington, Sussex. This can’t be correct however as he appears on the 1891 census as a seven month old infant. His birth was also registered in the September 1890 quarter at Lewes.
He was the second son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman (nee Message) whose marriage was registered at Uckfield, Sussex in the December quarter of 1887. On the 1891 census he is living with his parents and two year old brother Albert Heasman at White House, East Chiltington, Sussex. Edric, 26 years old and working as an agricultural labourer, was born at Mayfield. His 25 year old wife Annie was born in London. Albert was born at Bodle Street, Sussex.
Ten years later, the 1901 census notes that the family is still living at the same address (reported as Whitehouse number one) with Edric’s trade now noted as “stockman on farm”. There are also three more children: Gilbert Arthur Heasman (aged seven), Daisy May Heasman (aged five) and Grace Hilda Heasman (aged two). A two year old boarder, John A Irquhart (possibly), born in Liverpool, is also living at the address, as is a 59 year old widower from Wivelsfield, George Mitchell. Two further children would also be born: Beatrice Heasman in 1907 and Percival Heasman in 1910.
Frederick emigrated to Western Australia in early 1913 following Albert (who had emigrated in early 1911) and Gilbert (who had emigrated in 1912). Prior to enlisting in the AIF, Albert and Gilbert worked as fettlers, helping to lay the railway line from Geraldton to Mt Magnet, a gold mining town. It would appear from information on Frederick’s attestation papers, where his trade is noted as “plate layer”, that he also joined his brothers on the railways.
Frederick enlisted at Perth, Western Australia on 1st March 1915 joining the 28th Battalion, AIF. He gave his age as 22 years and 11 months (although he was probably 24). He was given the service number 291 and two days later joined No 9 Depot Company at Blackboy Hill.
On 29th June 1915 he embarked for the Mediterranean with the 28th Infantry Battalion, leaving Fremantle aboard HMAT Ascanius. His address on the embarkation roll is given as Maryvale, Wounerup, Western Australia and his next of kin noted as his brother Gilbert (of Mount Magnet, Western Australia). He was in Egypt until September 4th at which point the battalion embarked (aboard HT Ivernia) for Gallipoli.
He went sick on 19th October with enteric and after being admitted first to the 7th Field Ambulance (with diarrhoea) and then to the 16th Casualty Clearing Station (with enteritis), he was shipped out to Malta. He then spent the next seven weeks at St Andrews Hospital Malta.
On 14th December he was transferred to Egypt, disembarking at Alexandria four days later. He then spent the next month and a half at a succession of hospitals and convalescent camps at Heliopolis, Abbassia and Port Said before being shipped back to Australia on the 21st. (A Medical Board held at the Enteric Fever Convalescent Camp at Port Said on the 12th January noted his total incapacity for three months and recommended the transfer to Australia).
In Australia on 22nd February a further Medical Board noted: “Con[dition] Enteric. Some looseness of bowels and cramping pains left leg… Further treatment. Re [presumably “repeat” or “return”] board in two months.” On 18th May, a Medical Board held at Number 8 Australian General Hospital, Fremantle reported: “Enteric. Now well. General condition good. Large ancillary abscess opened one month ago and still stiff. Requires further treatment. Re board in one month.” On 15th June the Board duly reported, “Convalescent Enteric – now quite [unclear] alien in axilla now healed – tongue clear, bowels regular. Heart normal. Recommended return to duty.”
Frederick returned to duty on 4th July, embarking at Fremantle on 18th July aboard HMAT A48 Seang Bee and by 9th September he was in France as part of the 3rd Reinforcements to the 4th Australian Machine Gun Company. Chailey Parish Magazine first notes him in November 1916, listing him simply as Heasman, Pte F, Aust I Forces, France.
On 9th April Frederick was in England where he transferred to the 7th Machine Gun Company. He left Folkestone on the 24th and three days later was in the line with his new unit. He then appears to have moved again; first back to the 4th MGC and then, on 6th May 1917, whilst at the Machine Gun Base Depot at Camiers, to the 13th Australian MGC. He joined this unit in the Field, three days later.
On 13th September, Frederick wrote his last will and testament, leaving all his personal estate ro his mother, Mrs Annie Heasman of Markstakes Farm, South Common, Chailey. Thirteen days later he was killed in action at Passchendaele at what would subsequently become known as The Battle of The Menin Road.
Writing about that day nine months later, 3840 W S Harrison, also of the 13th MGC wrote:
I saw Corporal Dyer (Sigr) and Pte Heasman killed by [the] same shell and helped to bury them where they fell at the old German front line[,] then our position just in front of Zonnebeke. They were buried in the same grave which was marked by a rifle. Dyer came from South Aust and Heasman from West Aust.
Informant: W S Harrison 3840, 13th MG Coy, Hut 10, Westham [16th May 1918]
On 9th January 1918, Annie Heasman wrote to The Australian Imperial Force Kit Store in Fulham acknowledging receipt of her son’s few personal effects. Nearly five years later, a memorial plaque, memorial scroll and pamphlet entitled “Where The Australians Rest” was sent to Edric Heasman in England.
Frederick Heasman has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres as well as Chailey's village memorial. Charles Bristow, also originally from Chailey and also serving with the AIF was killed in the same battle the following day. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission adds the additional information that Frederick was the “son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman of Markstakes Farm, Chailey, Sussex, England. Native of Sussex.” His brothers Albert and Gilbert Heasman and his brother-in-law Henry Downing, also served their King and Country during the First World War. All three survived.
My thanks to Jim Type for the portrait of Frederick.
The information I have about Charles Jarrett Willey is scant to say the least. He does not appear in Chailey’s parish magazine but Soldiers Died in The Great War notes that he was born in Chailey, and enlisted at Brighton. He is recorded as 27334 Private Charles Jarrett Willey of the 12th Suffolk Regiment (formerly G/16131 of the Middlesex Regiment). He was killed in action in France and Flanders on 26th September 1917 aged 19 and is commemorated on pier and face 1C or 2A of the Thiepval Memorial, France.