This story began over 225 years ago when the first fleet arrived in Port Jackson on the 26 January 1788. On board the “Alexander" was convict Thomas Kidner. Thomas was to become the great grandfather of David Bidelph.
David Bidelph married Mary Ann Driscoll on the 10 June 1879 and they were to have eight children.
Their sixth child, Henry Thomas Bidelph, was born in Park Street Hobart Tasmania on the 3rd October 1893.
On the 12 July 1912, at the age of 18 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy in Melbourne Victoria under the name Thomas Henry Biddulph for a 5year stint.
In 1909 the English Admiralty proposed the creation of a Pacific fleet consisting of three fleet units to be operated by imperial forces in the pacific region. Each fleet unit would be built around a battle-cruiser, supported by several light cruisers. One of these fleets would comprise the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). With the Australian Government agreeing to this concept, work commenced on the ships.
The destroyers, HMA Ship’s Yarra and Parramatta reached Australian waters in November 1910 and on the 10th July 1911 His Majesty King George V granted the title Royal Australian Navy to the Commonwealth Naval Forces.
In June 1912 a third destroyer, HMAS Warrego was commissioned at Sydney and in 1913 the battle cruiser HMAS Australia and the light cruisers HMAS Melbourne and Sydney arrived in Australian waters.
He was onboard HMAS Sydney on the 4 October 1913 when the Australian Fleet entered Sydney Harbour for the first time.
Navy Service Record
Service Number: 1915
Date of Birth: 3 October 1893
Place of Birth: Hobart Tasmania
Date of Enlistment: 12 July 1912
Place of Enlistment: Melbourne
Next of Kin: Mary Bidelph (Mother)
Date of Discharge: 17 July 1915
His service record shows that on the 2/10/1913 he was now an able bodied seaman and retained that rank until he left the RAN.
His service record shows that on the 31/12/1913 his character was deemed “very good” and his ability was “satisfactory”. His service record further shows that on the 31/12/1914 his character was still deemed “very good” and his ability was “superior”. His service record also shows that on the18/04/2015 his service record was still deemed “very good” and his ability was still “superior”.
Ships served in:
HMAS Cerberus from 12-07-1912 to 05-08-1912
HMAS Encounter from 06-08-1912 to 31-12-1912
London Depot from 01-01-1913 to 30-06-1913
HMAS Sydney from 01-07-1913 to 30-11-1913
HMAS Cerberus from 01-12-1913 to 04-03-1914
HMAS Sydney from 05-03-1914 to 20-07-1914
HMAS Penguin from 21-07-1914 to 02-08-1914
HMAS Gayundah from 03-08-1914 to 31-01-1915
HMAS Penguin from 01-02-1915 to 18-04-1915
During his RAN service over the next three years he served on five ships, as well as in the London Depot in Great Brittan.
While in the London Depot he underwent training and returned to Australia as a crew member of HMAS Sydney.
He took part in two events that are part of Australia’s naval history.
Firstly, he was on board HMAS Sydney when it and the other six ships of the RAN entered Sydney Harbour for the first time on the 4th October 1913. This was the birth of the Royal Australian Navy. A 100 year celebration occurred on the 4th October 2013 when 7 ships sailed into Sydney Harbour to commorate the first entry. (His grandson Stephen and his wife Judy were guests of Vice Admiral Ray Griggs at the celebrations on Garden Island).
Secondly he was on HMAS Sydney when she escorted two submarines from Singapore to Garden Island.
At 7.30am on 2nd March 1914 Australia’s first submarines, HMA AE1 and HMA AE2 left Portsmouth U.K. for Sydney with the escort ship HMS Eclipse. The Eclipse escorted both submarines to Colombo, arriving on the 9th April 1914. AE1 & AE2 left Colombo with HMS Yarmouth at 6pm on the 14th April 1914 for the voyage to Singapore, arriving on the 21st April 1914. AE1 & AE2 left Singapore on the 25th April 1914 with their escort HMAS Sydney, arriving in Garden Island on the 24 May 1914.
At the end of three years navy service he went AWOL on the 17th of July 1915 and travelled to Brisbane where he joined the Australian Army on the 19th of July 1915, enlisting under the name Thomas Henry Driscoll. (Driscoll was his mother’s maiden name).
Army Service Record
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service Number: 100
Date of Birth: 3 October 1893
Place of Birth: Hobart Tasmania
Date of Enlistment: 19 July 1915
Place of Enlistment: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Next of Kin: Mrs Maude Worsley (Sister)
Date of Discharge: 10 October 1920
1914 – 15 Star
British War Medal 1914 – 20
He left Brisbane on the third of October 1915 (his 22nd birthday) for Melbourne to join the 8th Brigade, 31st Battalion, 8th Machine Gun Company, arriving in Melbourne on the sixth of October 1915.
While on leave in Sydney on the 4th of November 1915 he married Eliza Jane Australia Colliss in Waterloo NSW.
Five days later on the 9th of November 1915 he boarded HMAT Wandilla (Ship number A62) in Melbourne and set sail to Egypt. The ship arrived in Egypt on the twenty seventh of December 1915. On the 16/01/1916 he was promoted to lance Corporal.
The 8th Brigade joined the newly raised 5th Australian Division in Egypt & proceeded to France on the 3 May 1916, arriving on the 19 May 1916. The 31st Battalion was destined for the Western Front in June 1916. Over the next year his time was spent training for the upcoming offensive in Europe.
The 31st Infantry Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front line trenches 3 days previously. The attack was a disastrous introduction to battle for the 31st Battalion - it suffered 572 fatal casualties, over half of its strength on this one night.
Advancing with his company he was wounded on the German first line. (Shot in right leg & arm). Two eyewitness’ account state:
"I knew him personally - he was wounded in the shoulder and ankle - he was lying on the parapet of the German 1st line. The next morning the Germans dragged him over and took him prisoner"
Reference: J.D. Gray, Service Number 101, 8th Machine Gun Company, London 14-12-1916
"At Fleurbaix (Fromelles) over in the German Trenches 2nd lines. I saw him wounded in three places. Bullet in shoulder Hip hurt with H. Exp. And arm injured. We had to retire and could not bring him back. We saw the Germans take him away. I knew him well. I have written to his wife at Botany N.S.W."
Reference: Furlong, Service Number 95, London 6-10-1916
Taken prisoner of war on the 20th July 1916, he was taken to St Clotilda Hospital, Douai in Germany during August 1916.
He was transferred to Reserve Lazarett 111, Johannisthal, Stettin, Deutchland arriving on the twenty forth of December 1916. This was a special hospital for arm cases.
During the next year he was moved between prisoner of war camps and due to his injuries he was unable to work.
He was repatriated to Switzerland on thetwenty seventh of December 1917 where he remained a Prisoner of War before being repatriated to England on thefourteenth ofJune 1918.
His service records reveals:
Tenth July 1918 at 3rd Austn Aux Hospital Dartford – his R arm had been fractured and was still painful at the elbow. ?? nerve (damage?); his R lower leg fracture was in a ‘bad position’. His general health was only ‘fair’ and the medicos said he had a 100% disability.
He returned to Australia on the 24 August 1918 and was at the 4th AGH Randwick where he had an operation on his elbow in January 1919. He suffered a ¾ inch shortening of his leg due to his war injury. He remained here until discharge from the army on the 10 October 1920. At this point he was only 27 years old and had spent 8 years of his life in service to his country.
In five & a quarter years he had experienced the best and worst that mankind had to offer and had witnessed the most horrible and horrific scenes.
However, he was not finished and during WW2 he enlisted again.
World War Two Service
Service Number: N388650
Date of Birth: 3 October 1893
Place of Birth: Hobart Tasmania
Date of Enlistment: 15 January 1942
Locality of Enlistment: Campbelltown NSW
Place of Enlistment: Paddington NSW
Next of Kin: Eliza Driscoll
Date of Discharge: 10 June 1942
Posting at Discharge: Volunteer Defence Corps
Three of his brothers also served in the First World War namely Benjamin William who was awarded the Gallipoli Medal, David Tasman and Frederick George
His only son, Thomas David William Driscoll served in the Second World War as did two of his son in laws, Albert Edward Norton who saw service at Tobruk in North Africa & George Henry Norton, my father who saw service on the Kokoda Track and spent 965 days in New Guinea.
Who was he?
Thomas Henry Driscoll (Henry Thomas Bidelph aka Henry Thomas Biddulph), my grandfather.
Battle of Fromelles.
July 19, 1916
The attack on Fromelles was the brainchild of the British General Sir Richard Haking. Into the battle was thrust the Australian 5th Division under the command of the Australian Major General J. W. McKay along with the British 61st Division. The plan called for the capture of enemy positions that protected Fromelles. In 1915, the British had attempted two similar attacks & been twice defeated heavily.
The Australian 5th Division was committed in a poorly planned and executed attempt to take German trench Lines.
The Germans held the higher ground that overlooked the plain. The key German positions were those of Sugar Loaf, a salient that jutted out from the German lines.
The artillery barrage began at 11am. The Australian 5th Division attacked at 6pm supported by the British 61st Division. The Australian 15th Brigade quickly became pinned in no mans land in front of Sugar Loaf. The Australian 8th and 14th Brigades to the left of the Australian 15th captured 800 metres of the enemy front line trench.
The ineffective penetration of the Australian 15th Brigade towards Sugar Loaf left the right flank of the Australian 14th Brigade exposed to the Germans who still occupied Sugar Loaf.
The British 61st Division, to the right of the Australian 15th Brigade, had also failed to make any positive gains towards Sugar Loaf. The British asked the already heavily strained Australian 15th Brigade to assist in another attack at 9pm as dusk fell. A brave attempt was made by half of the Australian 58th Battalion lead by Major A. J. S. Hutchinson, however the attack by the British 61st Division had been cancelled, but news of this didn’t reach the Australians in time. The attack by the Australians was doomed from the start and many more men, including Major Hutchinson were killed.
General Hacking now decided to withdraw all troops to the old front line trenches and renew the attack next day. However, German forces who had been driven from the line attempted to recapture both flanks of the Australian lines. On the right flank the old German front line trench had been left empty in accordance with orders that once the trenches were cleared the troops were to advance. The Bavarian troops from Sugar Loaf were able to occupy these empty trenches. The German troops now stood between the Australian 8th Brigade and the original Australian Lines. The Australians realised the situation and counter attacked the Germans and managed to stop the enemy from infiltrating further but were unable to drive them out.
It was now night and all troops tried to improve their defences while others tried to reinforce. The inexperience and eagerness of the Australian troops became evident when most of the parties carrying supplies forward stayed to fight with their mates, rather than return for more supplies.
July 20, 1916
At 2am, the forward commander of the Australian 14th Brigade realised that this right flank was exposed to his enemy. Now the Bavarians attacked again and forced their way further behind the Australian 14th Brigade. Australian troops now found themselves being fired from both the front and rear. The Australian troops continued to hold their positions in an ever more doomed situation. By morning, the only option was to charge the German troops holding the old German front lines behind the Australians in an effort to return to their lines.
By 3.45 am the Australians who were left were now fighting their way back through German lines, making a charge back to their original battle starting positions.
By 5.45 am the Australian 8th Brigade was forced out of the German lines.
By 8am the general order to withdraw had been given. However, many parties of troops of Australians remained cut off and unable to break out, they continued fighting until finally silenced about 9.20 am.
The battle was the only battle in which the AIF fought in the Western Front that failed to produce a positive response. Much of the blame for this was placed on poor planning and execution of the British High Command, supposedly “professional” soldiers. The battle put the Australian 5th Division out of offensive actions for many months.
The battle of Fromelles ceased. The Australian 5th Division suffered with 5,333 officers and men either killed or wounded and 400 taken prisoner in a 27-hour period.
- Australian: 5,333 officers & men killed or wounded, 400 were taken prisoner.
- British: 1,547 killed or wounded.
- German: 1,500 killed or wounded.
The Australian VC Corner cemetery is unique among cemeteries of the region because it has no gravestones and contains only Australians. On the wall at the rear are the names of 1,299 Australians who died in the battle and have no known grave.
The unidentified bodies of 410 are buried in the lawns; each marked by a rose bush. The cemetery was situated in no-mans land between the Australian and German lines in 1916.
The inscription on the screen wall reads:
"In honour of the 410 unknown Australian soldiers here buried, who were among the 1,299 Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of the Australian Imperial Force, killed in the Attack on Fromelles, July 19th and 20th 1916.
National Archives of Australia
Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau
The Australian War Memorial
Norton Family History
George Stephen Norton
Copyright G.S. Norton 9 October 2013
Details for DRISCOLL, Thomas