|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||20 April 2019|
Second World War, 1939-1945
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copying Provisions||Copy provided for personal non-commercial use|
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX31822) Corporal Noel Eric Bolton-Wood, I Corps Ammunition Park, Second World War.
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Dennis Stockman, the story for this day was on (NX31822) Corporal Noel Eric Bolton-Wood, I Corps Ammunition Park, Second World War.
NX31822 Corporal Noel Eric Bolton-Wood, I Corps Ammunition Park
KIA 20 April 1941
Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Noel Bolton-Wood.
Known by his middle name, “Eric”, Noel Bolton-Wood was born around the turn of the century in Dapto, New South Wales, to Alexander and Caroline Bolton-Wood. He had two older brothers, Raymond and Alexander.
When Eric’s father died at the age of 41, his mother took her three young sons to live with her brother, who owned a dairy farm near Penrith in New South Wales. Eric attended Penrith Superior Public School and was a member of the school cadets. He earned his marksmanship badge at a young age, and joined the Militia in 1913.
He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1914 at Liverpool, armed with a counterfeit letter of consent supposedly written by his mother and giving his age as 19. It is difficult to tell just how old he was at this time. A short biography that he contributed to gives his age as 15, family legend has it that he was 17, and a later newspaper report says 16. Regardless, the young Private Bolton-Wood was posted to the 5th reinforcements to the 13th Battalion, and trained in Egypt before embarking for Gallipolli in August. He was not on the peninsula for long, however, being evacuated in September and admitted to hospital in Malta.
In March 1916 Bolton-Wood joined the Imperial Camel Corps, which had been formed in order to deal with the revolt of pro-Turkish Senussi tribesmen in Egypt’s Western Desert. Here he was promoted to corporal in August, and then sergeant in November.
In early February, he was reported as being dangerously ill. But he was out of danger a few days later. By late March 1917 he had recovered well enough to return to his company.
Towards the end of 1917, the intensity of operations grew, and during October and November the Camel Corps participated in the victories at Beersheba, Gaza, and Mughar Ridge.
In November, the commissioner of the General Savings Bank of New South Wales wrote to the Minister of Defence on behalf of his sister-in-law, Caroline Bolton-Wood, who had lost two of her three sons to the war – Alex and Ray had both been killed in action in France. The letter asked that Eric be brought home or shifted somewhere safe.
After additional pressure from the New South Wales Attorney General, a response was received: while Eric could not be released from duty, he would not be sent to the firing line. About a month later he was at Port Said rest camp, where he would remain until returning to Australia in October 1918.
Back at home, Eric met Marjorie Linthorne in Perth, and the two were married in 1921. The couple would go on to have five children together.
Eric found work as a commercial traveller selling electrical appliances. His wife and family often joined him on these trips, and his third child, Lex, was born in a hotel room in Young as a consequence.
On 12 June 1940, Eric Bolton-Wood again enlisted, this time giving his age as 39, just under the age limit of 40. He was allotted to First Corps Ammunition Park, given the rank of corporal, and in September 1940 left Sydney, again bound for overseas service.
After travelling through Haifa, Colombo, and Alexandria, Bolton-Wood arrived in Greece in early April 1941.
On 20 April, Corporal Bolton-Wood was transporting ammunition to the 6th Division, which had joined an Allied force sent to bolster the depleted Greek army against the German invasion. The account given in Darryl Kelly’s book Just soldiers is worth recounting:
… there was a sense of urgency as Eric tied down the tarpaulin on the last of the boxes being loaded onto the truck. The Luftwaffe had command of the skies and the main supply route was under constant observation. To get through, the convoy would have to take their chances and run the gauntlet of enemy bombardment. The trucks hurried along the main road, spread out to avoid presenting a massed target to air or artillery attack. Suddenly they saw them—in the distance, mere black dots against the cloudless sky. As they came closer the diggers could identify the bent, gull-like wings of Stukas, the deadly enemy dive-bombers. The drivers pressed the accelerators flat to the floor in a vain attempt to outrun the aircraft and reach the safety of the mountain passes. Some made it, but others were caught in the open. The drivers did their best to take evasive action to dodge the bombs, but it was useless. As Eric’s truck careered at breakneck speed along the roadway, a bomb detonated directly in front of it. The vehicle ended up overturned in a ditch beside the road. Soldiers sheltering nearby struggled to free the driver and passenger from the wreck, but as they pulled the corporal from the cabin they realised that their efforts were in vain.
Eric Bolton-Wood was buried by his comrades on the side of the road. His remains were later exhumed and reburied at Phaleron War Cemetary in Athens, where they lie today underneath the epitaph chosen by his family:
A beloved husband and father
With his comrades sleeps
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Noel Eric Bolton-Wood, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Editor, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX31822) Corporal Noel Eric Bolton-Wood, I Corps Ammunition Park, Second World War. (video)