2448 Sergeant Clarence George Lewis MSM
27th Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division
Signal Company, 2nd Division & Australian Army Pay Corps (AAPC)
1st Australian Imperial Force 1914-1919

Introduction

Image, if available

The following information and chronological table are a summary of the entries from the World War One service record of Clarence George Lewis.

Note that some of the service record pages are duplicated - this often occured when the unit and Army records were amalgamated on discharge.

Part of this service record appears to be missing and much is indecipherable or contradictory. Assigned to the 5th Reinforcements to the 27th Battalion, Lewis embarked for the Middle East on 13 Oct 1915 but there are no entries for disembarkation or training there.

He was quickly seconded to the Divisional Signals Company and rapid promotion followed. While transferred into the Pay Corps after the war had ended, his service with the Signals Company was rewarded with a Meritorious Service Medal.

Service numbers were allocated by unit, and are not unique to the individual.

Clarence Lewis was heavily engaged with his community, and was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1956 New Year's Honours List.

This record prepared for Robert 'Bob' Nolan, grandson of Clarence Lewis, by Clive Mitchell-Taylor - 23 Jul 2018.

View Clarence Lewis's Service record at the National Archive of Australia.

View the citation document for his Meritorious Service Medal.

A report from the Adelaide Advertiser dated Friday 3 Nov 1916 is embedded within the chronology below.


Enlistment Details

Service Number

2448

Name

Clarence George Lewis

Born at

Blackwood, South Australia

Age

22 years as at 7 Jul 1915 (Birth dates not recorded, only age on enlistment)

Trade or Calling

Civil Servant

Marital Status

Not Married

Next of Kin

Mother - Elizabeth Lewis
Munduring
West Mitcham, South Australia

Previous Military Service

Yes, Voluntary Cadets, 4 years until disbanded

Attested at

Keswick Barracks, South Australia

Date of Enlistment

7 Jul 1915

Height

5 foot 5¼ inches [166 cm]

Weight

126 pounds [57.3 Kg]

Chest

31 - 33 inches [78.75 cm - 83.8 cm]

Complexion

Medium

Eyes

Brown

Hair

Dark Brown

Distinguishing Marks

Vaccination scar Left

Religious Denomination

Church of England

Units

27th Battalion, 5th Brigade


Chronological Events

Rank

Description

Date

Remarks

Private

Enlisted

7 Jul 1915

Private

'NCO Class'

16 Jul 1915 -
15 Aug 1915

It appears as if his previous training was recognised, and there is no indication of other training prior to his promotion.

Private

Assigned to 5th reinforcements 27th Infantry Battalion

13 Oct 1915

 

Acting Sergeant

Promoted Acting Sergeant, although the entry is later struck out

17 Aug 1915

 

Private

Embarked on HMAT "THEMISTOCLES (A32) for overseas

13 Oct 1915

Private

Taken on strength of 27th Battalion at Tel El Kebir (Egypt)

15 Jan 1916

 

Lance Corporal

Promoted Lance Corporal

15 Jan 1916

 

Lance Corporal

Transferred to 2nd Australian Division Signal Company

9 May 1916

 

Sapper

Taken on Strength of 2nd Division Signal Company

9 May 1916

Reverts to substantive rank on leaving Battalion - note that while his rank with the 27th Battalion was Private, his reversion to Sapper is in keeping with the fact that the Signals Companies were part of the Engineer Corps (see below).

Lance Corporal

Promoted to Lance Corporal

1 Oct 1916

 

lance Corporal


3 Nov 1916

Extract from local paper - incident occured some time before the reporting.

Lance Corporal

Sick to Hospital, France [Nature of illness not noted]

21 Nov 1916

 

Lance Corporal

Rejoined unit

23 Nov 1916

 

Lance Corporal

Leave to England

22 Jul 1917

 

Lance Corporal

Returned from leave

4 Aug 1917

 

Lance Corporal

On leave to Paris

16 Oct 1917

 

Lance Corporal

Returned from leave

21 Oct 1917

 

Corporal

Promoted to Temporary Corporal

20 Dec 1917

Corporal

Promoted to Substantive Corporal

12 Jan 1918

 

Sergeant

Promoted to Sergeant to complete establishment

23 Mar 1918

Sergeant

Awarded Meritorious Service Medal (MSM), promulgated in Commonwealth of Australa Gazette No 67 Dated 3 Jun 1919 and Supplement 31132 to the London Gazette dated 17 Jan 1919.
The citation is as follows:
During the period April/September 1918, this N.C.O. has performed the duties of D.R. Sergeant and Signal Officer Superintendant at Divisional Heaquarters Signal Office in a highly efficient manner.
His work has been consistently of the highest order, showing remarkable devotion to duty.
Particularlarly when in charge of Advanced Divisional Signal Offices in action on the SOMME, at FRANVILLERS, VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, and subsequently during the advance that followed those operations.
His energetic, and capable management of these stations, contributed greatly to the smooth and efficient working of forward communications.
(Signed) CHARLES ROSETHAL, Major-General
Commanding Second Australian Division

8 Jan 1919

Given its prestige, post-nominals and annuity of £10, the award of the MSM is no small matter.

With few wireless assets and lines subject to destruction by explosives and projectiles, "D.R. Sergeant" can only be interpreted as
"Despatch Rider Sergeant", and as super- intendant of the Divisional Headquarters Signal Office this would be one of his responsibilities. It was critical for the commander to have accurate and timely knowledge of where his troops were, how they fared in relation to the plan of attack, and know how and when they could be redeployed in order to achieve the objective(s).

Sergeant

Detached from 2 Division Signal Company for duty with Australian Army Pay Corps

10 Jun 1919

 

Sergeant

Discharged at the completion of his service

10 Feb 1920


Medals and Dress Embellishments

Meritorious Service Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-1920, Victory Medal, no Wound Stripe, five Long Service Stripes and five Overseas Service Chevrons. Use the hyperlinks or scroll down to see further information on the badges.


Other Accoutrements

World War One medal set


L to R - 1914-15 Star, War Medal 1914-1920, Victory Medal

Unit Shoulder Patch
27th Infantry Battalion



Rising Sun Badge
1st and 2nd AIF



[Not entitled to wear]
ANZAC 'A' on Shoulder Patch
ANZAC A

2nd Division Signal Company

Meritorious Service Medal (MSM)


Some Government Issued Badges

Nearest Female
Relative Badge

War Widows
Guild Brooch

Silver War Badge
 

Discharged Returned
Soldier Badge

Government issued badge in enamel
and sterling silver issued to the wife,
mother or nearest female relative of
a serving soldier. Additional bars
were suspended below for further
individuals.

Membership badge of a Kookaburra
in sterling silver, issued by the
Government to the widows of men
who lost their lives due to their
service. Numbered on the reverse.

Awarded to service personnel who
sustained a wound, or contracted
sickness of disability in the course
of the war as a result of which
they were invalided out, or to
soldiers who had retired during
the course of the war.

First issued in 1916. Slight variations are indicative of a number of makers. 267,300 were issued. Numbered on the reverse but the numbers have no link with length of service or Service Number.

[Badge information collated from Australian War Memorial, "Australians Awarded" by Clive Johnson and en.wikipedia.com]


Background - Infantry Battalions

[Based on information at www.aif.adfa.edu.au]

The 1914 infantry battalion was a large unit, composed of eight rifle companies each of 3 officers and 116 other ranks armed with Short Magazine Lee-Enfield .303 rifles, a   small headquarters with 4 officers and 21 other ranks and a machine gun section with two .303 Maxim machine guns, one officer and 17 other ranks, a total of 32 officers and 991 other ranks. In December 1914, battalions were reorganised into four companies each of four platoons, but strength was unchanged. By mid 1918, the number of officers had increased to 38 but the number of other ranks had declined to 900. At the same time, the firepower of the battalion was greatly augmented with hand and rifle grenades and Lewis Guns, of which there was 34 per battalion.


27th Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Divison

[Information from https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au]

The 27th Battalion AIF was raised in March 1915. Lieutenant Colonel Walter Dollman VD (who had formerly served in the forerunner volunteer militia unit, the 74th Infantry) was appointed Commanding Officer. The Battalion marched into the newly established Mitcham Camp south of the city of Adelaide, on 16 April 1915.

The 27th Battalion AIF was known as "Unley's Own", as many of the men who first enlisted in World War 1 were from the district. Lt Col Dollman had served as Mayor of Unley, and it was down Unley Road that the troops marched to be greeted and celebrated at the Town Hall prior to their embarkation for Egypt, Gallipoli and then ultimately to the Western Front.

After weeks of intensive training, route marches, farewell parades in front of enthusiastic crowds, and rousing speeches by the Governor of the day and other dignitaries, the Battalion embarked on the HMAT Geelong on 31 May 1915, bound for Egypt where further training was undergone.

In September the Battalion landed at Gallipoli where it remained until the evacuation in December. In addition to enemy action, by this late stage of the campaign, poor hygiene and sanitation had begun to take its toll in the form of quite serious disease such as enteric fever (typhoid) and other maladies resulting in many evacuations, some right back to Australia. Casualties included the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Dollman. As winter approached so plans for an evacuation were put in place and the ANZAC troops were withdrawn in perhaps the most successful phase of the entire campaign in the most difficult phase of war. Effecting a clean break without detection and exploitation by the Turks was achieved masterfully.

During the re-consolidation and "Doubling of the AIF" which took place in Egypt, many 27th Battalion men and reinforcements were posted to a range of Brigade Divisional and other units as the new organisation took shape, and new drafts of reinforcements arrived.

The Second Division embarked for Marseilles in April aboard a range of ships. From Marseilles they entrained for a journey to the very northern extremity of France near the Belgian border around the Armentieres sector, known colloquially as "The Nursery". It was here that troops new to the Front were conditioned to Trench Warfare, albeit in a relatively quiet sector of the Front.

Thereafter the Battalion fought with distinction throughout the Western Front, first entering the battlefield of Somme in April 1916. Along with the 28th Battalion, the 27th were the first Australian troops in the front line on the Somme.

The 27th Battalion was committed to the fighting near Pozieres as part of the Second Division AIF, along with the First and Fourth Divisions. On the 4th August 1916, the 27th Battalion was on the left flank of the 2nd Division attack aimed at capturing the heights above Pozieres. The 27th Battalion's axis of advance took it through the Windmill, or rather the ruins of the 17th Century windmill, which had the dominant view of the surrounding area. They captured it, and held it in the face of unrelenting artillery fire and counter attacks.

The Second Division was relieved in place by the Fourth Division, two nights later. By coincidence, the 27th Battalion was relieved by the 48th, drawn from South Australia and Western Australia. When the 48th took over from the 27th they reported that there was no one left alive in the forward positions. The 48th suffered similarly high casualties and indeed the area around the windmill is said to contain more South Australian DNA than any other piece of ground anywhere in the world save for metropolitan cemeteries in South Australia itself.

The 27th had a short respite for reinforcement and rest and was then committed to combat again in the second phase of the battle near Mouquet Farm.

Until the 9th September the 27th moved from from one camp to another, generally on foot. They finished up in France at Steenvorde (France). The battalion remained at Steenvorde until the 5th October when they entrained with the rest of the Brigade for Ypres where they relieved the 19th Battalion in the Salient and became the right battalion on the Brigade front. Here they remained until relieved by the 25th Battalion on the 12th October, whereupon they moved into barracks at Ypres.

They returned to the Somme from the 16th October when they entrained for St Lawrence Camp. Again they were on the march; occasionally they managed to stay two nights in one place. Eventually, on the 27th October, they arrived at Dernancourt, where they engaged in consolidation and training before heading to the Front near Le Barque, where they relieved the 53rd Battalion.

In early November the 7th Brigade was involved in a major action at Flers, just to the south east of Pozieres. The first Flers attack was launched on 5 November with the 1st Brigade advancing against trenches north of Gueudecourt, and the 7th against a complex of trenches known as "the Maze". Both attacks managed to capture some of their objectives, The first Flers attack was launched on 5 November with the 1st Brigade advancing against trenches north of Gueudecourt, and the 7th against a complex of trenches known as "the Maze". The 27ths role was an attack on the enemy position in Bayonet Trench. While they held on there were no reinforcements available and they lacked secure flanks.

Both attacks managed to capture some of their objectives, but were eventually forced to withdraw. Another attack was launched against the Maze by the 5th and 7th Brigades on the morning of 17 November, it also succeeded in capturing a portion of the German trenches, but a surprise attack two days later returned this to the enemy.

The 27th Battalion lost 5 Officers and 72 Other Ranks killed. A further 5 Officers and 136 Other Ranks were wounded. 75 were listed as missing in action. Many have no known grave.

Mid-November marked the end of Field Marshal Haigh’s Somme offensive, the cost of which was hideous in the extreme.

The Second Division endured winter quarters near Guedecourt, not far from Pozieres. It was a bitterly cold winter, the worst in living memory, and the conditions there took their toll; more than 20,000 casualties across the Australian Divisions. Logistics were a nightmare made worse by the mud, which had come to characterise the battlefield.


Battle Honours:

Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodeseinde, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Amiens, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line, Beaurevoir, France and Flanders 1916-18, Gallipoli 1915, Egypt 1915-16


2nd Division Signal Company

Little specific information is available about the composition of the Divisional Signal Corps Companies, their role or equipment. There were some wireless communications, but for the most part communications relied on wires, much of which was laid in no-man's land prior to the launch of offensives. Signals at this time was a branch of the Engineers (as were the Works, Mining, Railway and Survey units), hence the purple shoulder patch.


The ANZAC 'A'

The brass letter 'A' to represent service related to Gallipoli (ANZAC) was authorised to be worn 'over unit colour patches on both sleeves of the service dress jacket and greatcoat" by Military Order 354 of 18 Aug 17 and AIF Order 937 of 6 Nov 17, as amended in terms of qualification by Military Order 20 of 19 Jan 18 and by AIF Order 1084 of 25 Jan 18.

The size of the letter 'A', introduced as one inch in height (AIF Order 994 of 30 Nov 17), was reduced to three-quarters of an inch by AIF Order 1012 of 11 Dec 17.

Provision for wearing the brass letter 'A' was also included in General Routine Order 0.815 of 17 Dec 43 and GRO 310 of 7 Dec 45.

ANZAC 'A'


Wound Stripe

Army Order No.204 Headquarters, 1st A.N.Z.A.C., 9th August, 1916. (slightly amended for layout)
DISTINCTIONS FOR OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS WHO HAVE BEEN WOUNDED

The following distinction in dress will be worn on the service dress jacket by all officers and soldiers who have been wounded in any of the campaigns since 4th August 1914 :

  • Stripes of gold Russia braid No.1, two inches [2.5cm] in length sewn perpendicularly on the left forearm sleeve of the jacket to mark each occasion on which wounded.

  • In the case of officers, the lower end of the first strip of gold braid will be immediately above the upper point of the flap on the cuff.

  • Warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men will wear the gold braid on the left forearm sleeve, the lower edge of the braid to be three inches from the bottom of the sleeve.

  • Subsequent occasions on which wounded, will be placed on either side of the original one at half inch interval.

  • Gold braid and sews will be obtained free on indent from the Army Ordnance Department; the sewing on will be carried out regimentally without expense to the public.



Long Service Badges

A.I.F. ORDER No.470, 24 January 1917 (slightly amended for layout)

The question of the issue of a badge to members of the AIF who have completed a certain period of service has received consideration, and approval has been given for the issue of a badge for long service combined with good conduct, subject to the following conditions.

  • The badge will consist of an inverted single chevron of service braid to be worn on the left forearm - the point of the chevron to be 3 inches [7.6cm] above the edge of the cuff.

  • Warrant and non-commissioned officers and men, will be eligible for the badge, which will not carry an increased pay or allowance.

  • One chevron will be worn for each complete year's service in the Australian Imperial Force from the date of embarkation in Australia

  • No badge will be issued to any man who, during the 12 months, has incurred a regimental entry (i.e. an entry involving forfeiture of pay) in his sheet.

  • Time absent from the unit in hospital or elsewhere on account of wounds or sickness, not the result of misconduct, will count as service towards earning the badge.

  • A man in possession of a badge will forfeit same on being convicted of any offence involving a forfeiture of pay , but will be eligible to regain the badge after 6 months good conduct, from the date of forfeiture.

  • The illegal wearing of this badge will be a crime under A.A. Section 40.

Long Service Badges
[Image from hDigger History]


Overseas Service Chevrons

Australian Imperial Force Order No.1053, January 1918 (Slightly amended for layout)

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of chevrons to denote service overseas since the 4th August 1914.

  • Chevrons of two colours have been approved.

    • The first chevron if earned on or before 31st December 1914, will be red.

    • If earned on or after 1st January 1915, it will be blue.

    • All additional chevrons after the first will be blue.

  • The chevrons will be worsted embroidery, 1/4 inch [0.63cm] in width, the arms 4 inches [10.2cm] long. They will be worn inverted on the right forearm:

  • In the case of officers, the apex of the lowest chevron will be 1 inch [2.5cm] above the upper point of the flap on the cuff.

  • In the case of warrant-officers, non-commissioned officers and men, the apex of the lowest chevron will be midway between the seams and four inches [10.2cm] above the bottom edge of the sleeve.

  • The red chevron will be worn below the blue one. They will not be worn on greatcoats.

  • In the case of Australians, the first chevron was earned the date the individual left Australia. Additional chevrons were awarded for each successive aggregate period of 12 months service outside Australia.

[http://au.geocities.com/fortysecondbattalion/level2/reference/01nos-standards.htm]

Overseas Service Chevrons
[Image from Digger History]