Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lieutenant Albert Heasman MM,16th Australian Imperial Force

Digital copies of Albert Heasman’s World War One service papers can be viewed at The National Archives of Australia. The photograph, right, was taken after his commission as second lieutenant in January 1918.  A summary of Albert’s service history follows.

According to his attestation papers, Albert was born on 14th October 1888 in Hailsham, Sussex.  He was the oldest son of Edric Owen Heasman and Annie Heasman (nee Message) whose marriage was registered at Uckfield, Sussex in the December quarter of 1887.

Albert, born on the 14th October 1888, appears on the 1891 census as a two year old living with his parents and seven month old brother Frederick Heasman at White House, East Chiltington, Sussex.  His place of birth is noted as Bodle Street, Sussex.  Edric, 26 years old and working as an agricultural labourer, was born at Mayfield.  His 25 year old wife Annie was born in LondonFrederick was born at East Chiltington.

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.

Albert emigrated to Western Australia in early 1911 followed by Gilbert in 1912 and Frederick in 1913.  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.  In 1914, war having been declared on Germany, Albert joined the Australian Imperial Force.

Albert’s records show that he attested on the 21st September 1914 with the 16th Battalion AIF.  He was given the number 595.  The 16th Infantry Battalion (Western Australia and South Australia) formed part of the 4th Infantry Brigade.  Albert gave his age as 25 years and 11 months, his trade or calling as labourer and his next of kin as W Heasman, Tutts Farm, South Common, Chailey.  He was five feet, eight and a half inches tall, weighed 142lbs, had a fair complexion and brown eyes and hair.

On 12th October he was appointed to C Company and the following day swore an oath of allegiance at Helena Vale, Western Australia.  He embarked at Melbourne aboard RMAT A40 “Ceramic” on 22nd December bound for Egypt.  After four months there he landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and was promoted lance-corporal the following month (13th).  Eleven days later, he was promoted to full corporal.

On 3rd October 1915 he was admitted to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital with influenza and then transferred to the 3rd General Hospital.   On the 18th he was transferred to the British Base, “Aquitania”.

On 22nd March 1916, whilst in Egypt, he was promoted sergeant and on 23rd October 1916 was awarded the Military Medal.

On 7th April 1917 he was Taken on Strength with the 70th Battalion and on the 29th April proceeded overseas to France via Folkestone as part of a draft to re-enforce the 16th Battalion.  The same day, Base Records Office AIF sent a letter to Mr Heasman at Tutts Farm stating, “I have much pleasure in forwarding hereunder copy of extract from Supplement No 29854 to The London Gazette of 8th December 1916 relating to the conspicuous services rendered by No 595 Sergeant A Heasman, 16th Bn… Promulgated in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No 62 of 19th April 1917.”

Sergeant Heasman re-joined his battalion on 3rd May 1917, but the following month (26th June), joined the 4th Training Battalion.  On 2nd July 1917 he arrived at Codford for duty with the permanent cadre.  Between 31st August 1917 and 15th September 1917 he attended a course of instruction in the Lewis Gun and qualified 1st class (Sgt).

On 1st October 1917 he was discharged from the permanent cadre of the 4th Training Battalion on proceeding overseas (the following day).  He re-joined his battalion on the 6th October, attended a week-long infantry training course at Aveluy on the 18th November and then attended a further course at an Officer’s Training College on the 27th December.

On 4th January 1918 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant at No 6 Officers’ Cadet Battalion, Oxford.  A confidential report on 23rd May that year reported that he had “shown good sound common sense, worked well and made good sound satisfactory progress.”

On 19th August 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Heasman again proceeded overseas, joining his new unit (unclear on his surviving papers) eight days later. He remained in France until 16th June 1919 when he returned to Australia aboard “Ormonde”.

Although no longer a native of Chailey, the Parish Magazine had also mentioned him during the First World War.  Under “Distinctions’ it recorded his name for the first time in November 1916 stating simply, Sergt A Heasman, MM, Australian Imp Forces, France.  This information was repeated up to and including the final published roll in July 1919.

After the war, for a short time, Albert and Gilbert ran a greengrocer’ shop in West Perth.  When Gilbert returned to England in 1920, Albert spent some time, in the words of one of his ancestors, “roaming around the north of Western Australia on horseback”.  He married Minnie Olive Griffiths in 1923 and in 1932 was granted a conditional purchase block of 1,000 acres of land at Moorine Rock.  He then began a career as a sheep farmer, buying up neighbouring land as the years progressed.  Albert and Minnie had three children: Edric John Frederick Heasman (born January 1925), Albert Charles Heasman (born May 1926) and Ronald Keith Heasman (born April 1928).  A fourth son, Robert, died shortly after birth in 1931.

In October 1968, still living at Moorine Rock, Albert wrote to the officer in charge at the Central Army Base Records requesting a Gallipoli Medallion.  It was acknowledged that he was eligible and he was duly sent it (to complement his Military Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal). 

Albert Heasman died in 1974 after a long and eventful life.  His medals are held at The Fremantle War Museum in Australia.

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