Friday 16 November 2007 by Craig Tibbitts. 18 comments
To Flanders Fields, 1917, Battles, Frontline troops, Passchendaele (Ypres)

I found this article last night in an old Reveille journal from June 1930.  Apart from the photos which I've added, the text remains as published.  The author was Joe Maxwell, the very same who won a DCM as a warrant officer near Westhoek, just a few days after the action described below.  The following year he would win the Military Cross twice, and just before the end of the war, the Victoria Cross at the Hindenburg Line. 

'Anzac House' was a large German Pillbox captured by Maxwell's battalion (18th) during the Battle of Menin Road (on 20 Sept).  It lay on Anzac Ridge between Zonnebeke and Polygon Wood, but much nearer the latter.

The Flag: Anzac House by Joe Maxwell

The Reveille, June 1930, p 11.'A few minutes after we had captured our objective on September 20, 1917, Corps Headquarters was informed: “Objective reached.  Australian flag flying on Anzac House.”

The Australian papers featured this episode, and months later we received glowing accounts of a Digger rushing forward holding aloft an outsize in Australian flags.  Illustrated papers devoted a full page to feature the deed in colour – a deed which stirred the imagination of every patriotic Australian.  The French and English papers also elaborated on the initiative and bravery of this lone Australian soldier.

It may interest readers of “Reveille” to know the facts: Anzac House was the objective of B. Coy (18th Battalion), of which I at the time was company sergeant-major.  It was an exceptionally strong pill box, and our O.C. (Captain Jack O’Donnell) decided it would make an ideal company headquarters.  It contained a goodly supply of German schnapps, whisky and field dressings.

When a man was wounded he was promptly carried to Anzac House for attention.  I particularly remember one fellow, whose arm was blown to a pulp by a whiz-bang [shell from a German 77 mm artillery piece].  He was carried in on a stretcher, and, in addition to the wound, was suffering terribly from shock.  Between groans he prayed to be allowed to die.  We dressed his wound and poured about a pint of schnapps down his throat.  A few minutes later he jumped off the stretcher, helped himself to another “spot,” and remarked, “This’ll do me for a Blighty,” and headed it in that direction.

Everyone in “B” Coy. will remember little Teddie Bell (“Ding-Dong,” as he was affectionately called), who was 17 years of age.  His people had sent him a parcel in which was an Australian flag about 4 inches by 3 inches.

Teddie was a company runner, and during a break in his message carrying, stuck the flag in a tin of bully beef and placed it on the corner of Anzac House, from where it fluttered until blown to pieces by a shell later in the day.

In April, 1918, I stood by a stretcher, in the Fifth Field Dressing Station, on which little “Ding-Dong” lay.  My mind travelled back to the incident at Anzac House.  But “Ding-Dong’s” shattered arm did not auger Blighty for him.  As the evening shadows lengthened he died.  In the distance the rhythmic rumble of artillery seemed to sound a requiem to the spirit of one of the bravest little soldiers ever.’

Comments

ms dale brookes (nee robinson)

I think my grandfather, Joseph Robinson went to Anzac House in WW1. He was wounded in France and sent home. He lived in Guildford NSW. He was in the infantry and was originally sent to Africa I think. Editor's comment: Thanks for your comment. I did a bit of checking and I hope I'm right in identifying your grandfather as Joseph William Robinson, son of Mr George Edward Robinson of Guildford NSW. Everything I've found seems to add up, so I figure I'm right. At the time of enlistment, this man recorded that he was born in Waverley NSW and that his current address was Binalong, NSW. Joseph William Robinson, was a Private soldier (No 4255) who joined the AIF on 15 November 1915, aged 20, and allocated to the 10th draft of reinforcements for the 20th Infantry Battalion. He was first sent to Egypt where they were reorganising the AIF after the conclusion of the Gallipoli Campaign. He subsequently joined the 20th Battalion in France in mid 1916. I'm sure he would have been to the pillbox nicknamed 'Anzac House', as his battalion was attacking in that exact sector of the front (with 18th Battalion) on 20 September 1917. It was in this area that he was wounded on 22 September. It appears that the gun shot wounds to his leg/foot and arm were serious enough to prevent him from ever returning to front line duty. He returned to Australia in mid 1918 and was discharged. Embarkation roll details available online here. Personal service dossier available online here. Cheers, Craig

Doug Wilson

My great uncle 2nd Lt Cecil Cleary served in the 18th Battalion and was killed on the morning of 20 September 1917 at Third Ypes. I have a document from his war service record that states he was buried near Anzac House. Your article has helped clarify this reference for me - thanks! I will be travelling to Flanders in April and I am hoping to locate the area near Westhoek Ridge where the 18th Battalion was engaged that day. I would appreciate any assistance in locating a detailed map of operations relating to this attack. Best wishes Doug Wilson Editor's response: Hi Doug, glad you found this blog useful. You can find detailed maps of the battlefields in the unit war diaries which are available online. Check the diaries of the various levels of command (i.e. 18th Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Division, I Anzac Corps). You tend to find more maps in the higher-level commands and less in the lower-levels. They're usually towards the end of each month's diary. The diaries are arranged by month, so obviously go for September 1917. Use the following links: Corps and Division level: /diaries/ww1/diary.asp?diary=58 Brigade and Battalion level: /diaries/ww1/diary.asp?diary=82 Good luck & Cheers, Craig Tibbitts Curator Official Records Research Centre Australian War Memorial.

harry kline

dear craig, please have a read of... http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A100447b.htm at the end, is it true that joe maxwell _did not_ serve in ww2 ? If such a prestigious publication has it wrong, what a bloody dis-service to an amazing man. Many years ago thought an uncle mentioned a rather ribald story about him during training in england for ww 2, said he was a tru man's man, knowing when to turn that 'switch' on and knowing when to bury it. This was, he said, the janus gene which is in all of us, didn't know what that meant as a kid, suppose a reflection of the two faces necessary to survive. love your work harry k Editor's response: Hi Harry, ADB says Maxwell was initially knocked back for WWII service because of his age (at least 43), but managed to join up later in QLD under a false name. He was apparently discovered and discharged. Wigmore's book on VC winners 'They dared mightily', says much the same thing, except that he was given a position in a training battalion. So it seems he served in some capacity but for how long I don't know. National Archives of Australia should have his personal service dossier if you were really keen to track down the real story. Of course that wouldn't be easy to find if he was using a false identity and fibbing about his age. I reckon those best able to deal with the stress of life on the Western Front would have been the ones who could 'switch on' when they needed to, and switch off, not dwell on things or think too deeply, and enjoy themselves when they were out of the line. Cheers, Craig.

aaron maxwell

if someone has any stuff of his i would like to hear joe was my great great uncle and i am doin a assiment of him thanks..aaron

Pauline Mitchell

My grandmother's cousin was in the 18th Battalion [1-13 Reinforcements, 5th Brigade} I wonder if he knew ANZAC House? His name was Private Sidney Lawrence Moore 3902 and he put his age up to enlist. He returned unscathed to Australia in 1920 and with the advent of WW2, he put his age back to enlist again. He was captured after the fall of Singapore and died on the Burma Railway just days before peace was declared. I found his photo on the AWM website and it was like meeting him after all my research. Such sacrifice.
Pauline

Editor's response: Thanks for your comment Pauline, I'm sure he would have seen Anzac House up close. From Passchendaele to Sandakan. A truly Australian odyssey worthy of remembrance. Craig Tibbitts Australian War Memorial

ROGER HALL

My grandfather Willam Ernest Hall was awarded a military medal for bravery at Anzac Ridge.I was wondering if you could tell me exactly where Anzac ridge is and if there are any pictures of it? thanks Roger

cameron kirkpatrick

My Great Uncle was killed at Zonnebeke i think but i have been told he was buried behind anzac house the exact location is not known...Do you know the exact posion of anzac house cause it would help in my efforts emensly..My Great Uncles Name was Samual KIrkpatrick he was a private and died on the 4th oct 1917. Thanks roger

Wallace Kirkpatrick

To add a little more information on Samuel Kirkpatrick -Regimental Number -7019 He was a stretcher bearer with the 3rd Battalion AIF, and moved off with the troops at 5.30am on 4th October 1917 ,and was sheltering in a shell hole in front of the line when a shell exploded beside him,killing him almost instantly.He was listed as MIA on that day but not officially listed as KIA until 3rd November 1917.Letters to the Missing and Wounded Soldiers Enquiry would indicate that he was buried "behind ANZAC House"-Keep up the good work Cameron -We WILL find him ,even if it takes another 94 years

R.George Martin

The painting has a blue ensign but wouldn't this have been a red ensign, as it was elsewhere?

warwick tier

my great uncle private l.a.childs serial no. 6525 of the 18th battalion was killed in action on the 20.0.17. witnesses state that he and two others were killed by a exploding artillery shell whilst sitting outside "Anzac redoubt" near "Zonnebeke" he was buried somewhere near where he was killed but there are no records of his actual grave site. is it possible that the place he was killed was actually anzac house and does anything remain of the building. i plan to travel to the area mid 2011 and pay my respects.

warwick tier

sorry, i sent the wrong date of death, it should read 20.9.17

Tony Taylor

Warwick You will not be disappointed, but most likely saddened, by a visit to the area round Zonnebeke. You may care to check out Varlet Farm- a B and B there. Charlotte has a strong interest in the Australian WW1 presence. I have no commercial interest, just had a wonderful experience there 2009 attending a Dawn Service. Cheers TonyT

warwick tier

Thanks Tony, I will make sure I visit Varlet Farm. I am sure it would be most interesting to speak to Charlotte.

warwick tier

Tony, Warwick again, I forgot to ask you if there is any remains of "Anzac House" because I would dearly love to visit the area. My great uncle had a brother, George Henry CHILDS who was k.i.a. on the 3.5.17 at the second battle of Bullecourt. He had previously been awarded the D.C.M for bringing in wounded comrades three times under heavy fire and participating in a successful bombing raid against enemy trenches, his body was never located. He had previously survived 4 months at Gallipoli after suffering a gunshot wound to the face. I feel that I must visit the "Anzac House" site so that I may leave a photo of their mother, my Great Grandmother who had lost her two sons. Thanks again for your interest.

Chromatix Web Design Melbourne

Thanks for this great read Craig. The Anzac House is also of great interest to us, as some of us have family who's burial would that link back to it's location. Does anyone know if there are remnants of Anzac House?

Pat Gavan

I too am greatly interested in whether the actual flag would have been red or blue. [unanswered question above]

Sr Mary Noonan

To whom it may concern: I am an 85-year-old nun whose charity is to educate deprived children in Papua New Guinea. I am trying to set up a website to enlist some support, by telling stories of my life. I start with something about my father who was a signalman on the HMS Carnarvon, bringing in reinforcements for the Anzacs. He began in the British Navy, but later transferred to the Australian Navy. His name was Nicholas Noonan. He died in 1960. I would like to use Maxwell's painting: Anzac House. Can you help me to get permission - certainly, I would name the artist. Sister Mary.

Julie Senior

Hi Warwick, just letting you know that I am also researching my relatives Leslie Alfred and George Henry Childs. I'd like to be able to contact you.