Victor Eli Bartlett, maternal relative: The Battle of Pozieres July 1916

Victor Eli Bartlett was born in Kinson, Dorset, England during October 1892 and he was severely wounded during The Battle of Pozieres, which was part of The Battle of the Somme and later died from his wounds on 24 August 1916.

Victor Eli Bartlett, (known as Vick amongst his mates) was the brother-in-law of the brother-in-law of the sister-in-law of one of my great-uncle'son my Mother's side of the family. The actual lineage is:

  • Victor Eli Bartlett (1892-1916) - brother-in-law of brother-in-law of sister-in-law of great-uncle
  • William Henry Bartlett (1861-1917) - Father of Victor Eli Bartlett
  • Hilda Daisy Bartlett (1888-1979) - Daughter of William Henry Bartlett
  • Alexander Harry Alford (1886-? ) - husband of Hilda Daisy Bartlett
  • Sidney Herbert Alford (1857-1933) - Father of Alexander Harry Alford
  • Frederick (Fred) Alford (1898-1954) - Son of Sidney Herbert Alford
  • Dorothy Victoria Davis (1897-1980) - wife of Frederick (Fred) Alford
  • Robert Davis (1863-1932) - Father of Dorothy Victoria Davis
  • Florence May Davis (1892-1965) - Daughter of Robert Davis
  • Frederick (Fred) Sheward (1890-1956) - husband of Florence May Davis
  • Susannah (Susan) Speake (1847-1927) - Mother of Frederick (Fred) Sheward
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880-1967) - Daughter of Susannah (Susan) Speake
  • Alice May Priday (1917-2009) - Daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward
  • William G Hyde - Me

His Family

st andrews kinson dorsetVictor (Vick) Eli Bartlett's father was William Henry (Harry) Bartlett, born in December 1860 who at first was an Agricultural Labourer & then a Builders Groundswork Labourer.

William Henry (Harry) Bartlett's father was Eli Thomas Bartlett, born during 1836 at Kinson, Poole, Dorset, England and also worled the land as a Farm Labourer throughout his life. Eli Thomas Bartlett married Amelia Nutburn (1824-1881) on 7 Apr 1860 at Kinson, Dorset, England and they went onto have a family of 16 children, of which William Henry (Harry) was the third born.

William Henry (Harry) Bartlett married Rosanna (Rose) Robins (1860-1942) on 7 September 1882 at Kinson, Dorset, England and they went on to set up home in Kinson, Dorset and started to raise a family which eventually grew to 12 children:

  • Beatrice Amelia Hilda Bartlett (1883–1962)
  • William Edward Henry Bartlett (1885-1963)
  • Hilda Daisy Bartlett (1888-1979)
  • Lucy Maud Bartlett (1888-1955)
  • Mary Bartlett (1889–1979)
  • Ethel Rose Bartlett (1890–1958)
  • Victor (Vick) Eli Bartlett (1892–1916)
  • Hubert (Bert) James Bartlett (1894–1961)
  • Eric Tom Bartlett (1895–1896)
  • Percy Bartlett (1898–1899)
  • Lily Winifred (Winnie) Gladys Bartlett (1899–1991)
  • Richard (Dick) Baden Bartlett (1900–1986)

Victor (Vick) Eli Bartlett, by age 18 was working as a Domestic Gardener whilst still living with his parents at Priestly Rd, Wallis Down, nr Bournemouth. Victor Eli did not marry, however he did emigrate to Australia, leasving the Port of London on 31 January 1913 aboard the liner Osterley, operated by the Orient shipping line. The journey time was 45 days and the route (of the ship) was London to Suez Canal, Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane. Victor Eli disembarked at the first Australian port, Melbourne, on 17 March 1913.

ship osterleyThe Osterley, operated by Orient Steam Navigation Co.Ltd, built on the Clyde, Glasgow, Scotland

During 1913-14, the Australian Government needed agriculturial workers, so were offering assisted passage to those with farm work experience wishing to emigrate & become farmers, ultimately with the aim of being able to feed the growing Australian population. Victor Eli took up their offer.

Victor Eli settled in the Somerville area of Frankston in the small town of Flinders (once known as Mendi-Moke, Flinders is a town south of Melbourne, located on the Mornington Peninsula, which had been designated an area for argiculture by the Australian Govt) in the state of Victoria & took a position as a Nurseryman.

His Military

AIF recruitment 1915Just like millions of other young men all over the British Commonwealth, Victor Eli Bartlett saw the losses that were happening on the Western Front in Belgium & France and volunteered "to do his bit". On 2 March 1915, in Melbourne, he enlisted in C Company, 23rd Battalion, Australian Infanty (commanded by Lt. Colonel George Morton) and was given Regimental Number 1065. On his enlistment form his next of kin is shown to be: "W H Bartlett, Priestly Rd, Wallis Down, Bournemouth, England".

C Company, 23rd Battalion, Australian Infanty was raised in 1915, in the Australian state of Victoria, as part of the Australian Imperial Force, specifically for World War 1 service and and formed part of the 6th Brigade, attached to the 2nd Division. The 23rd Battalion may have been like the "Pals" battalions of the British Army, made up of men from a small area who possibly knew each other or may, in some case, have worked in the same place (like a coal mine, steel foundry etc). Victor Eli picked up his nickname "Vick" from his pals in his C Company of the 23rd Battalion during initial training.

Organised into four rifle companies, designated 'A' through to 'D' (each of 250 men), with a machine gun section in support, the Australian infantry battalion of the time had a  strength of 1,00 men. After completing initial training at Broadmeadows (a rural settlement to the west of Melbourne), at the end of April the battalion was moved by train to the rifle range at Williamstown for practice, using live ammunition, for 2 weeks. The men returned to the
Broadmeadows camp where they were vaccinated. And on 24 April they were given 4 days preembarkation leave.

On 8 May special troop trains took them to Station Pier at Port Melbourne where they boarded the troopship HMAT Euripides (ex-Aberdeen Line) bound for Egypt. However, they first sailed down Port Phillip Bay and anchored off the Quarantine Station at Portsea to take on medical and nursing staff. Time was spent having drill, lectures, PT and rifle training, during the 5 week voyage.

HMAT EuripidesHMAT Euripides

The Euripides called into Albany, Western Australia on 13 May then crossed the Indian Ocean in convoy to Colombo, the capital of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). the next stop was at Port Said before finally arriving at Alexandria on 11 June and after being moved by train to Cairo they marched to a camp at Heliopolis where they undertook further training in preparation for deployment to Gallipoli, where the units of the 1st Division had landed on 25 April 1915.

Gallipoli

While the 23rd battalion were training in Egypt, the Allies launched the August Offensive in an attempt to break the deadlock that had developed on the Gallipoli Peninsula following the initial landing. The offensive largely failed and heavy casualties resulted. In order to replace the men that were lost and give the survivors a rest, the decision was made by Allied commanders to move the 2nd Division from Egypt.

After being moved to Lemnos Island, the 23rd Battalion embarked for Gallipoli on 4 September, arriving there at 9:30 pm that evening, landing at ANZAC Cove. A day of familiarisation followed before the battalion took up defensive positions at Lone Pine. On 12 September, the 23rd, along with their sister battalion, the 24th, took over responsibility for the post from the 1st Division battalions that had held it previously. During the stalemate that followed, manning positions that, in some places, were only a few yards from the (Turkish) Ottoman lines, the 23rd Battalion began countermining operations after Turkish mining operations were discovered. For the next three months, due to the intensity of the fighting in the sector, the battalion alternated their position with the 24th Battalion almost every day until the evacuation of Allied troops from the peninsula occurred, embarking with the last troops to leave on the night of 19/20 December 1915.

Victor (Vick) Eli Bartlett survived Gallipoli (unscathed) and with the remainder of his Battalion moved on 18 December 1915, to Lemnos Island (in the Aegian sea), where they remained until January 1916 when they were transferred back to Egypt. On arrival back at camp in Egypt, the 23rd was re-equipped & started training for fighting on the Western Front in Belgium & France.

Western Front

The 23rd Battalion, still part of 2nd Division AIF, arrived in France in March 1916 and were rapidly moved to the Front, occupying the forward positions around Armentières in northern France on 10 April 1916. Armentières is situated close tot he present day border with Belgium and although the town was the site of a major battle in the early days of the war, October 1914, when the German forces shelled the town with mustard gas, by April 1916 fighting had subsided, although frequent skirmishes happened between the opposing forces. the 23rd battalion used their time at Armentières to become familiar with the peculiarities of front line duty.

In mid-July 1916, the battalion was transferred to the area around the town of Thiepval on the Somme (in Northern France), to be readied to take part in The Battle of the Somne.

The much fought over area of northern France around the River Somne, known as Picardy (Picardie), was the site of the Battle of Albert, which took place between 25 and 29 September 1914 during the period known as the Race to The Sea. During the Battle of Albert, the French Tenth Army attacked at Albert and were pushing toward the town of Bapaume, and the German Sixth Army counter-attacked back towards Albert. Eventually, the German Sixth Army occupied Bapaume and the Allies created a front line around the town of Thiepval.

Prequel to the Battle of Pozières

The village of Pozières, on the Albert–Bapaume road, lies on top of a ridge in the centre of what was the British sector of the Somme battlefield. Nearby is the highest point on the battlefield. Pozières was an important German defensive position - the fortified village was an outpost to the second defensive trench system. This German second line extended from beyond Mouquet Farm in the north, ran behind Pozières to the east, then south towards the Bazentin ridge and the villages of Bazentin le Petit and Longueval.

On 14 July 1916, during the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, this southern section of the German second line was captured by the British Fourth Army under the command of Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The possibility of "rolling up" the German second line by turning north now presented itself if Pozières could be captured.

Although British High Command knew this was an opportuntity not to be missed, they were badly in need of more ammunition, particularly for the heavy artillery. Therefore the plan was that the British Fourth Army would continue their eastward momentum toward Pozières and Thiepval and if sufficient ground was taken, that the German defenses would become untenable and they would either have to surrender or pull back.

The plan was for the British Fourth Army to concentrate on the centre between High Wood and Delville Wood as well as the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy and to steadily move towards Pozières and take it in a "steady-as-you-go, step-by-step approach".

Between 13 - 17 July, the Fourth Army made four small attacks against Pozières with no success and high casualties. In this period the village of Pozières was subjected to a heavy bombardment and reduced to rubble. On two occasions the attacking infantry got into the trench that looped around the south and western edge of the village, known as "Pozières trench" but both times they were driven out by the German defenders.

His Death

The 23rd Battalion and the other elements of the 2nd Division AIF moved into the forward line positions at Thiepval in readiness for The Battle of Pozieres, which took place between 23 July - 3 September 1916.

The Battle of Pozieres was where the 1st Australian, 2nd Australian and 4th Australian Divisions would endure seven weeks of the heaviest fighting experienced so far and suffer over 23,000 casualties. Each of the Divisions would enter into the front line hell hole of Pozieres on two occasions with the most savage fighting taking place at Windmill Hill and Mouquet Farm.

Of the location known as Windmill Hill, one of the key objectives capture by the Australians, Official Historian, Captain Charles Bean wrote:
“The Windmill site (bought later by the Australian War Memorial Board – with the old mound still there) marks a ridge more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”.

By the time the infantry of the Second Division AIF fought their way up to the Windmill in the first days of August 1916, they had suffered more than 6500 casualties (killed, wounded and missing). The division mounted two major attacks from the northern side of the village against German positions on the ridge known as the OG1 and OG2 lines. Their first attack on 29 July failed to make any progress and the German bombardments became even more intense.

The initial failure of the Second Division to take Pozières heights was followed by frenzied preparations for a new assault. Communication trenches and front-line trenches were dug across this devastated corpse-ridden landscape to convey the attacking battalions to jumping off positions east of Pozières village. This was essential work if men were to be able to approach these positions in comparative safety but it was conducted under continuing heavy German shelling of the whole area.

However, all this furious digging allowed the infantry of the Second Division to assemble, virtually undetected by the Germans, at dusk on 4 August 1916. After a three-minute intense bombardment the Australians advanced at 9.15 pm to seize OG 1, and OG 2 was taken soon afterwards. On the morning of 5 August they could look out from the heights of the Windmill on Pozieres ridge over the German rear line and to the rooftops of the village of Courcellette. It was a virtually unshelled landscape of green fields, a great contrast to the devastated terrain behind them.

Victor (Vick) Eli Bartlett was severely wounded during The Battle of Pozieres and later died from his wounds on 24 August 1916.

His Burial

Puchevillers British Cemetery, Somne, FranceIn June 1916, just before the opening of the Battles of the Somme, the 3rd and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations came to Puchevillers and it is probable it was to one of these that Vick Bartlett was evacuated, from the frontline. Plots I to V, and almost the whole of Plot VI were made by those hospitals before the end of March 1917.

Puchevillers is a village on the D11 about 19 kilometres north-east of Amiens.

Lance Corporal Victor Eli Bartlett was buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery, west of the village of Puchevillers and was laid to rest in Plot III, E.5.

His grave is marked with a headstone inscribed: "Second Dearly Loved Son of H. and R. Bartlett of Wallisdown, Dorset".

Puchevillers British Cemetery contains 1,763 First World War burials, of which 383 are from the Australian Imperial Force.

The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.