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Joseph King

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Joseph King was born 25th July 1886 at Bulli NSW Australia.

His father, Edward, was born in Surrey England in 1842 and migrated to Australia with his family during the gold rush to Hill End NSW in 1861.

His mother, Jane, was born in 1852 at Portland Head on the Hawkesbury River in NSW.

His father had a previous marriage

to Rebecca Maris who bore him four children and died having a fifth. Two of those children subsequently died on the goldfields.

He was one of seven born by Jane and was the second youngest.

In 1880 the family moved to Bulli where Edward became a coal miner. He died in 1889 of 'black lung' leaving Jane with nine children, Joseph was 21/2 y.o.

Joseph and his brothers all worked in the mines up until the Great War of 1914-18.

Joseph enlisted at Goulburn NSW on 24th February 1916. He was 271/2 years old, 5ft 6in high and weighed 130lbs. He had fair hair, fair complexion and blue eyes.

He was accepted as part of the 4th Reinforcements 55th Battalion on the 8th March 1916. Originally assigned to 'D' company he was transferred to 'B' company before leaving Australia.

The 55th Battalion was raised in Egypt on 12th February 1916 as part of the 'doubling' of the AIF. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 3rd Battalion, and the other half were fresh reinforcements from Australia.

Most of the men from the 4th Reinforcements came from the Monaro area. For Joseph to walk across the mountains from the coast to Goulburn to enlist at 27 years of age and so late in the war, he must have been motivated by patriotic fervour brought on by reports of the Gallipoli campaign which would have been sweeping Australia by then. (Gallipoli landing was 25th April 1915 and evacuation was 20th December 1915).

After 6 months training in Australia 4/55th Battalion embarked from Sydney 4th September 1916 and disembarked Plymouth England 29th October 1916.

More training in England followed until they embarked from Folkstone England 14th December 1916 and disembarked at Boulogne France 15th December 1916 and were marched into the base depot at Etaples. Here all the drafts - though they had already been passed in England as fully trained - were subjected to further tests laid down by GHQ which involved at least 10 days additional training by English instructional officers.

Joseph was marched out to his unit and taken on strength in the field on Christmas eve 24th December 1916. He was part of 130 reinforcements for the 55th Battalion which was resting at Buire-Sur-L'ancre after the horrors of the autumn fighting on the Somme.

The 55th Battalion was part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division. It had arrived in France on 30th June 1916 and was in the front line trencches by 12th July and fought its first major battle at Fromelles on the Somme a week later.

The battle was a disaster, resulting in heavy casualties across the division. Although in reserve, the 55th was quickly committed to the attack and eventually played a critical role, forming the rearguard for the 14th Brigades withdrawal. Despite its grievous losses the 5th Division continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector for a further two months.

The 55th had been in the front line trenches until as recently as 16th December 1916 and had moved to Buire-Sur-L'ancre billets for rest on 22nd December when Joseph joined them.

The autumn and winter of 1916-17 were the wettest and coldest of the war. The mud pictures that you see of WW1 were from this time. This pre Christmas time had been very muddy and was to freeze over during the winter snowstorms with more mud coming with the thaw.

The rest period included work parties and from boxing day included further training.

On 4th January 1917 they moved back to Franvillers and then further to Flesselles where they were re-equipped and more training intil they moved back to Buire-Sur-L'ancre 14th January 1917.

They then moved forward towards the frontline camp at Montauban via Fricourt working on defences etc as they went arriving at the camp on 19th January 1917.

The system was that four battalions worked in rotation, from rest camp at Montauban, to forward camp at Trones Wood, to intermediate line trenches between Flers and Lesboeufs, to the front line trenches just forward of them, spending four days at each stage. The time at the front wasn't only spent in the trenches. Patrols were sent out to gather intelligence and often resulted in skirmishes when the enemy were encountered. They were also required to make feints and to test the weaknesses in enemy defence lines.

Up until now Joseph had not been involved in any fighting except for the occasional speculative shelling despite having been in France for 45 days but from now until his wounding he was continuously on a trench rotation or in battle readiness as they moved forward with the front.

On 28th January the 55th moved to the advanced camp at Trones Wood, on the 29th they moved into the intermediate line and on the 31st they moved into the front line trenches.

Josephs first taste of action was unpleasant. It was all snow and ice and frozen mud. Shelling from the enemy was more lethal as shrapnel could ping around unrestrained by mud. Shelter in the front line trenches was minimal and the cold severe. Josephs first four days saw the 55th lose 4 dead and 19 wounded while on the line.

They returned to the front line again on the 12th to 15th February, 25th February to 1st March, and 10th March to 14th March 1917.

At 4am on 18th March the 55th moved forward over the front line acrosss the evacuated German lines to Beaulencourt where 'A', 'C' & 'D' companies entrenched in advanceof the village and 'B' cmpany (Josephs) entrenched in the rear.

On 20th March they moved forward again to positions near Haplincourt and Villers-Au-Flos.

On 28th March they took over advanced outpost work. One company to woods outside Villers-Au-Flos with the remainder to Bancourt.

Finally on April fools day, 1st April 1917 after 25 days without a rest break all companies of the 55th joined up at Velu by 1pm in preparation for an attack on the village of Doignes sceduled for early the following morning.

The normal method of assault on an enemy position in WW! was for a prolonged artillery barrage to break up the



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