Tuesday 4 March 2014 by Yi Jiang. No comments
Education at the Memorial, News

Thank you to everyone who had a go at last week's Collection Detection. As promised, here is the answer:

It is a German side drum, which was souvenired from Rabaul by Private Valentine Flemming of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF). Being a military drum, it most likely belonged to a soldier of the German garrison at Rabaul, which was overcome when the Australians attacked at nightfall on the 12 September 1914.

Most of the AN&MEF, including Flemming, was transported to Rabaul on the HMAT Berrima.

The AN&MEF’s aim in these opening engagements of the war had been to seize the wireless stations in the German colonies north of Australia: an immediate priority since they were being used by the elusive Graf von Spee and his cruiser squadron to attack merchant shipping in the region.

Valentine’s interest in the drum perhaps stemmed from his own musical talents: he became a bugler in the 1st Battalion of the AN&MEF after enlisting on 12 August 1914. After returning to Australia and being discharged in March 1915, only nine days later he re-enlisted for the AIF, and was again assigned as a bugler.

On 16 June, he embarked for Egypt aboard HMAT Karoola as a member of the 6th reinforcements for 4 Battalion. He would not have known that his younger brother, Geoffrey Lionel Flemming, had died that same day at Gallipoli while serving with 2 Battalion. He was 16 years old.

Australians in the captured Turkish trenches at Lone Pine, 6 August.

As Valentine arrived in Egypt, he too was sent to Gallipoli - almost immediately. His battalion was readying itself for a major effort to break the stalemate on the peninsula, and within days of arrival Flemming was thrown into battle at Lone Pine on 6 August. This attack succeeded in capturing a system of heavily defended Turkish trenches, at the cost of 2000 Australian lives. During the fighting, according to witnesses’ reports, Flemming had reached the second line of Turkish trenches when he was killed outright by a single shot. His body was not recovered, and Flemming has no known grave. He is, however, commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, and on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial.

A third Flemming brother also served at Gallipoli: Richard Alfred Flemming was wounded in the back at McLaurin's Hill on 13 May while serving with 4 Battalion. He eventually recovered and was repatriated to Australia in October 1915. He saw no further active service but later served as a sea transport officer.