When Meredith Atilemile was a little girl, she would visit the Australian War Memorial with her father and listen to stories about her grandfather who served on Gallipoli and the Western Front during the First World War.
Decades later, she became a voluntary guide at the Memorial and learnt that her great uncle had also served, becoming the signals officer for Brigadier General H.E. “Pompey” Elliott.
“I’ve always loved the War Memorial, ever since I was a little kid,” Meredith said.
“I grew up in Canberra, and there wasn’t much to do on rainy afternoons in the mid-60s in winter. My mother was pregnant with my younger brother, so my dad would bring my older brother and I to the War Memorial, and we had our favourite exhibits, and he would tell us a bit about Pa and his service, so I knew the names of the places very early on.”
Her grandfather, Warrant Officer Class I Charles George Schroder, was born in 1893 on the Bellinger River in New South Wales, and enlisted in June 1915 at the age of 22.
He was sent to Gallipoli as part of reinforcements for the 3rd Battalion and was soon transferred to ANZAC Corps headquarters, having been a bookkeeper with the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board before the war.
He went on to serve on the Western Front with the II ANZAC Corps headquarters and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in January 1917. After the formation of the Australian Corps, he transferred to the British XXII Corps headquarters and was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s despatch of 7 April 1918.
“He was one of very few Australians who fought in the Second Battle of the Marne with the French [5th Army] and the Americans in the middle of 1918, and for that he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre,” she said. “But he never spoke about the war. He refused to go to Anzac Day Parades [and] didn’t want to have anything to do with remembering the war.”
Researching her grandfather’s service, she discovered it was a love of cricket that brought his war to an end, and perhaps saved his life. In attempting to bowl a fast ball during a match with XXII Corps HQ personnel, he twisted his right knee and fractured his right tibia. He was admitted to the Central Military Hospital at Eastbourne in England and was sent home to Australia in November 1918.