No 1- Arthur John Montgomery Bleakley
Arthur John Montgomery (Monty) Bleakley was born on the 24/4/ 1892 at home in Delaney’s Ck and lived his life on the land with his family. He was a horseman, an excellent shot and although a rebel everybody loved him. He joined up on the 29/7/1915 aged 23 years and three months. After training in the Gatton Training centre, he embarked at Brisbane for Egypt aboard the H.A.A.T. ship’ Serang Bee’ on the 21/10/1915.
He was a rebel but typical of the Australian soldier. The rural young men of Australia were much sought after, their reputation quickly grew as they were known for their courage , determination and their expertise with using a rifle. because of that they were used as ‘cannon fodder’ and always sent in first, to take the sting out of the enemy and in doing so, many perished whilst getting the job done. In many places in Europe, from this war and the next theatre of war ‘1939-1945’, Australians are still revered.
Monty loved to party and with his friends, in their free time. would spend much time at the D.Aguliar pub . He was also a favourite with the ladies and had many friends but no close relationship before he left for the war zone.
On the ship going over he tried his boxing skills but only one chap, a butcher, was a match for him.
So, Monty followed where many had gone before and in the short time he had been in the army, made quite a name for himself by being drunk, missing from his billet and talking in the ranks. Not major crimes but still earned him many hours in detention perhaps he resented the restrictions because of the wealthy family he came from, not being used to being kept on a short leash or maybe it helped nullify the horror they were living and fighting every day and anyway, who could be completely trained after just three months but perhaps they were regarded as temporary soldiers with an uncertain future, so just given the basics.
He arrived on the 1st March 1916 in Egypt and proceeded to Zeitou where he earned his first detention (168 hours). he went on to join the 12 Btn. and on the 11th March,his battalion took the town of Serapeum. On the 29th March 1916 he proceeded to join the BEF in Alexandria and boarded the “Corsican’ bound for Marseilles France on the 6th May 1916.
He received another detention before he was wounded in action at Pozieres and died of his wounds on the same day, in the Australian Field ambulance ” In the Field”. One of his shoulders had blown off and realizing he had little chance of living, allowed his wounded comrades to be moved ahead of him to the hospital giving himself no chance of survival, therefore showing what an unselfish and courageous young man he was. How terrible it must have been for him, knowing he was dying and no loving hand to hold so far from the hills of home. He was buried in Warloy-Baillion Military Cemetery, five miles west of Albert, by the Rev. C.H. Sheppard. ‘Monty was as game a soldier as ever left Australia’ so wrote a comrade and chum in France
Written on the family grave in Toowong cemetery, Brisbane ‘also our second son A.J.M. (Monty) Bleakley 26 Batt. in France died in the Ist Field Ambulance, 24th July 1916 of wounds received in action at Pozieres. Buried in Military Cemetery, France aged 24 years.’
His nephew, Peter Belloc went to France to find his grave and on doing that, could not control his tears. After some time an elderly man who had been watching him, went over and said ‘That is the reaction of everyone, male or female, who come here.
The beautiful Somme valley, is part of the Picardie region of France, the word Somme is a Celtic word meaning tranquillity. It is hard to imagine that in this beautiful place, horrendous battles were fought and many died, including thousands of Australians, losing their lives for a cause they barely understood but which the people of northern France, have never forgotten, nor will they ever forget. The Western Front has not had the recognition that Gallipoli has but two battles in 1916 at Fromelles and Pozieres -28,000 Australians died which is about the same number that fell after eight months of conflict on the Turkish peninsula. In total, 295,000 Australians served on the Western Front, between 1916-1918, 48,000 of whom died and 156,000 were wounded. It is hard for us to appreciate the magnitude of courage, gallantry and sacrifice, let alone the enormous great loss that has occurred here on the battle fronts. There is a ridge around Pozieres more sewn with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth.
France is a country of breathtaking beauty but there is something about the hills of the Somme, that reverberate more than most for an Australian because there, in at least one town you will find streets with names such as Rue de Melbourne and Rue de Adelaide with windows displaying kangaroos and koalas clutching their Australian flags but perhaps, it’s because the spirits of nearly a generation of Australians, some of our finest and best live there, forever pining for the land of their forebears and home. It was in this part of France on April 24th and 25th 1918 that Australian soldiers gained legendary status by stopping the German offensive and in doing so turned the tide of the war. Previously the German Army, in less than one week, had managed to regain all the territory that had been previously been won by the British and the Australians in the previous 18 months (Australia’s official historian Charles Bean)
To mention just two operations, two Australian soldiers were able to reach the outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux and take an entire platoon of enemy troops with nothing more than a broken Lewis gun. The other, one man with a light machine gun, took an enemy outpost, killing seven soldiers and capturing two others, prompting the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to declare ‘We knew you would fight a good fight but we did not know from the beginning, you would astonish the whole continent with your valour’. This cry was heard after more than one battle ‘Vivent les Australians. Vous les tendres’. Stay alive Australians. You will stop them’.
It makes you wonder why we do not commemorate on Anzac Day the tide turning triumphs of Villers-Bretonnex where our soldiers were saviours of the French, instead of the heroic but unfortunate campaign at Gallipoli where our soldiers were cannon fodder for the British and a lost cause. The British landed them in the wrong place where many were slaughtered by the Turks on the cliffs,before they reached the beach but had they landed further along the coast it could well have been a different story.
We will never know the conditions that they endured, we can only imagine the deprivation, despair and longing for family that lived with them daily, as well as the horror of orders to go out and kill or be killed so we can only, more than 100 years on, remember and honour them.
Written on the Australian War Memorial in Northern France.
“On this monument” said King George V1 in 1938, barely a year before the outbreak of World War 11 “is an inscription telling us and others who visit this hill in the years to come, that it perpetuates the memory of the Australian Imperial Forces in France and Flanders, and the 11,000 of them who fell in France and have no known grave”.