Thursday 21 August 2008 by Ann Penhallow. No comments
Personal Stories, Family history, First World War, Official records

What does a twenty-three year old wag of a soldier say in his defence, when facing yet another court martial for going AWOL during the First World War? 

If you're Private Albert Stipek, the words come easily: "I met some friends and went away with them. I had no idea the Battalion was going to the Line. I thought it was going out for a spell".  Nevertheless, he had absented himself from the 51st Battalion for nearly two months.

We can only imagine his tongue was firmly in his cheek.  By the date of this hearing, 2 July 1918, Stipek had survived the first landing at Gallipoli with the 12th Battalion, and the battles at Mouquet Farm, Dernancourt and Villers-Bretonneux with the 52nd Battalion.

He had also been fined for being drunk on 2pm parade, gone missing in action for five days following the battle at Mouquet Farm, was admitted to hospital on three different occasions, court martialled for going AWOL and missing his return to the front line in France, and arrested for escaping confinement. 

Following this latest court martial, Private Stipek once again escaped confinement and went AWOL for eight months.  A series of charges, detentions and confinements followed, until he was returned to Australia in March 1920 to serve the rest of his final sentence.  Although his sister was notified of his return, his extended family, in due course, came to believe he died in the War. 

Private Stipek's incredible service record has been digitised and is available for viewing on the National Archives of Australia RecordSearch database.   Four court martial records are also on RecordSearch, but have yet to be digitised.

There is no doubt Private Stipek was a colourful character, but perhaps it was the trauma of fighting for his life in several major battles which expressed itself as the desperate need to escape military service.

Further information:

First World War Australian Army War Diaries

First World War Official Histories

With thanks to Annette Gaykema for her research and interest in Private Stipek.