Victory Medal : Sergeant C C Castleton, 5 Machine Gun Company, AIF
ID numberREL28765.003
Collection typeHeraldry
TitleVictory Medal : Sergeant C C Castleton, 5 Machine Gun Company, AIF
Object typeMedal
Place madeUnited Kingdom
Date madec 1920
Physical descriptionBronze
DescriptionVictory Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.
SummaryVictory Medal awarded posthumously to 1352 Sergeant Claud Charles Castleton. Castleton was born in Suffolk, England on 12 April 1893. In 1912 he migrated to Australia, working his way from Tasmania to Queensland before prospecting for gold in New Guinea. Following the outbreak of the First World War, he made his way to Port Moresby where he joined a local force and was put in command of indigenous troops for coastal defence. He returned to Australia and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Liverpool on 10 March 1915. Posted to 18 Battalion (18Bn) he embarked on HMAT A40 Ceramic on 25 June, arriving in Egypt on 24 July. The battalion moved onto Gallipoli on 20 August and, as part of 5th Brigade, was placed in reserve under the command of General Alexander Godley. The following day the bloody assault on Hill 60 commenced.

At dawn on the 22nd, though inexperienced, 18Bn was led through the dark to Damakjelik Bair for an attack on a vital communication trench on Hill 60. The attack was to be made with bomb (hand grenade) and bayonet only, though there were no bombs to be had. At 5.00 am the battalion charged the 150 yards to the enemy trench, taking it with little resistance but any respite was short lived. Enemy counter-attacks soon eventuated and were resisted by using bombs found abandoned by the Turks in the newly won trench. This, however, gained only enough time to tear sandbags from the parapet to build defensive barricades.

Ultimately the attack on Hill 60 failed though a tenuous corridor had been opened between the troops at Anzac and Suvla Bay. Of the 750 troops of 18Bn that took part in the attack, over 380 became casualties, half of that number killed. Castleton survived the assault but was evacuated off the peninsula suffering from dysentery on 15 September. He was promoted to corporal on 7 December and rejoined his unit on Gallipoli the following day. In January 1916, following the withdrawal of the allied forces from Gallipoli, Claud was again hospitalised, this time for malaria.

On 8 March he transferred to 5 Australian Machine Gun Company (5MGC). He was promoted to sergeant on 16 March, and proceeded to France the following day. On 20 July 5MGC, as part of 5 Brigade (5Bde) were moved up to Warloy-Baillon, around 20 kilometres west of Pozieres, in preparation for an assault on Pozieres Heights by the Australian 2nd Division (2Div). Pozieres, though successfully taken at great cost by the 1st Division on 23 July, was under constant bombardment and observation by the Germans still in control of a commanding position on the ridge overlooking the town. 5Bde moved to the front line, relieving 3Bde on the 25th.

Late on the evening of the the 27th 5Bde moved forward in an ill planned assault on enemy trenches between Bapuame Road and Munster Alley. Preparations for the attack were in view of the Germans who constantly illuminated the area with flares as the units made their way to the jump off tapes. This was accompanied by a heavy artillery bombardment and intense machine gun fire. Even before the planned jump-off time of 12.15am on the morning of the 28th, the fire from the enemy positions kept the allied units pinned down, unable to proceed or withdraw.

It was not until the hour before dawn that the German bombardment reduced sufficiently for the allied troops to withdraw in relative safety. In the shell holes and depressions of no-man's land casualties, unable to move, remained. Seeing this, Claud crawled out from the trench, under intense fire, and retrieved a wounded comrade. After depositing him safely in the Australian trenches, he again ventured out and brought back another casualty. Immediately he returned to the field, however, on this occasion he was shot in the back and killed while returning with a third. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Claud Charles Castleton VC is buried in plot IV. L. 43 of the Pozieres British Cemetery at Ovillers-la-Boiselle.