6147 Private Theo Leslie Seabrook, 17th Battalion
KIA 20 September 1917
Photograph: H05568 (Theo on left, brothers Keith and George [centre and right])
Story delivered 20 September 2013
Today, we remember and pay tribute to Private Theo Leslie Seabrook.
Theo was one of three sons of Fanny and William Seabrook of Petersham, New South Wales, to enlist in the war in mid-1916. He worked as a fireman in the locomotive works at Eveleigh, stoking the fires of steam engines, and left this job in August 1916 to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force.
After a period of training he left Australia on the troop transport Ascanius with the 17th Reinforcements to the 17th Battalion. He was joined in this contingent by his two brothers, George and Keith, who were also members of the 17th Battalion, although the three had not enlisted together. After a further period of training in England, the brothers went to France, and eventually Belgium, to fight on the Western Front.
On 20 September 1917 the 17th Battalion attacked the German position in front of the town of Westhoek. The attack was recorded as "entirely successful", and the battalion advanced almost a mile. However, this successful battle would prove devastating for the Seabrook family. Keith Seabrook, by now commissioned to the rank of Lieutenant, was hit by a phosphorous bomb that killed or wounded almost a full section of the platoon he was leading. He died the following day.
While Keith was being taken from the battlefield on a stretcher, George and Theo were killed in action. The brothers were hit by the same artillery shell and were killed instantly in the early hours of 20 September. It was the first time any of the brothers had been in the firing line. Keith was buried in a cemetery next to the casualty clearing station in which he died. George and Theo have no known grave, and are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.
Their loss was devastating to their younger brothers and sisters and to their parents back in Australia, who had lost their three eldest sons in just a few hours.
The names of Private Theo Leslie Seabrook and his brothers, Lieutenant William Keith Seabrook and Private George Ross Seabrook, are listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War, and their photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.
This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Theo Leslie Seabrook, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.