3625 Private Robert Thomas Gibson WIA
53rd Infantry Battalion, 14th Brigade, 5th Division
1 st Australian Imperial Force 1914-1919

Introduction

RT Gibson
(L) Robert Thomas Gibson
(R) Unidentified soldier

The following information and chronological table are a summary of the entries from the service record of 3625 Private Robert Thomas Gibson. His correct name is Thomas Robert Gibson.

Enlisting under age, Robert Gibson had a troubled start to his military career, but having established himself within the 53rd Battalion was wounded in action (WIA) on 2 Sep 1918, subsequently hospitalised with a severe gunshot wound (GSW) to the chest and discharged from the Service after being repatriated to Australia.

His subsequent death in 1929 was later determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs, at the specific request of Robert Clifford Gibson, was deemed to have occured as a result of his wounds and his grave was marked with the Rising Sun. See the DVA letter which makes this determination.

Note that some of the service record entries may be duplicated, reflecting different reporting streams for various administrative elements. Some pages may also be duplicated, reflecting the amalgamation of unit and hedquarter records on finalisation of his service.

Service Numbers were allocated on a Unit basis and are therefore not unique to an individual.

Prepared for Vietnam veteran, Robert Clifford 'Bomber' Gibson, grandson of Robert Thomas Gibson, by Clive Mitchell-Taylor - 26 June 2018.

View Robert Gibson's Service Record in PDF format.


Enlistment Details

Service Number

3625

Name

Robert Thomas Gibson

Born at

Dubbo, NSW

Age

18 years and 11 months (as at 2 May 1917 - birth dates are not actually recorded, and this one was a fiction anyway)

Trade or Calling

Horsebreaker

Apprentice

No

British Subject

Natural born

Marital Status

Unmarried

Next of Kin

Initially entered as Mother, Mrs Ada Gibson, later amended to Father Mr Dane Douglas Gibson of Morgan Street, Dubbo, NSW.

Previous Military Service

No

Discharged with Ignominy

No

Attested at

Liverpool, Sydney, NSW

Date of Enlistment

20 June 1917 - The enlistment papers were originally prepared by typewriter to reflect that enlistment was at Dubbo on 2 May 1917, but this has been struck out and the amendment written in. This is likely to be as a result of his being under age and requiring a parent's consent.

There is a further Application to Enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, made out by the Recruiting Officer at Warrent and dated 23 april 1917. It is signed by both Ada Gibson and DD Gibson. It is accompanied by a transcription of an urgent telegram from Ada Gibson saying that he is definitely under age. A notation on the transcription dated 14 May then notes that Ada Gibson has changed her mind and consents to Robert Thomas Gibson enlisting.

Height

5 foot 7 inches [170 cm]

Weight

130 pounds [9 stone 4 pounds or 59 Kg]

Chest

33 - 35 inches [83.8 - 89 cm]

Complexion

Fresh

Eyes

Grey

Hair

Brown

Religious Denomination

Church of England

Distinctive Marks

Scar across base of left Hallux [big toe - thanks to Todd Lymbery for the interpretation of the illegible script]
Scar across base of left 1st toe
Depressed scar over right brow

Units

53th Infantry Battalion (10th Reinforcements)


Chronological Events

Rank

Description

Date

Remarks

Recruit

This period presumably recruit training

A telegram from Mrs Ada Gibson to OC Showgrounds on 9 May 1917 states "Under age decidedly no - Ada Gibson".

Another telegram dated 14 May 1917 confirms this "Changed mind do consent to son Robert Thomas enlistment." Ada Gibson

There are further indications below, of permission being given/withdrawn.

4 May 17 -
5 Jun 17

Gunner

Trench Mortar Battery [See notes concerning enlistment delays]

5 Jun 17 -
29 Jun 17

Private

The following may explain why the elistment process was so long delayed, and why there was at least one transfer (on paper only, never effected) before Robert Gibson's enlistment and training were completed.

Letter from Mrs Ada Gibson to the Army:

Dear Sir,

Re your reply to my application for the discharge of my son R.T. Gibson, I also received a note from him, almost begging and praying of me not to take him out. I feel very grieved to think, but never mind I'll say no more on that subject.

That is twice now I have tried to coerce him home but I could not help it for his two Bro's offered their services and I thought that was enough.

So I suppose my Wilful Son [sic] shall have his own way, each sacrifice seems to hurt more. If you are a married gentleman you might know a parents love and anxiety.

I remain yours Respectfully, Mrs Ada Gibson, Morgan Street, North Dubbo

19 Jul 1918

Private

Transfered to 10th Reinforcements to 53rd Battalion

23 Jul 1917

Private

Embarked at Sydney on HMAT "MILITADES (A28)

2 Aug 1917

Private

Disembarked Glasgow

2 Oct 1917

Private

Marched in to 14th Training Battalion, Hurdcott Depot ex Australia

3 Oct 1917

Private

To Hospital, sick with mumps, ex 14th Training Battalion, Hurford

6 Oct 1917

Private

Discharged from Group Clearing Hospital (Mumps) to Training Depot

26 Oct 1917

Private

Marched in to 14th Training Battalion, ex Group Isolation Hospital

26 Oct 1917

Private

Reported Sick to Codford Hospital, Hurdcott, Influenza

20 Nov 1918

Private

Returned from Absence Without Leave

9 Jan 1918

Codford

Private

Absent Without Leave (AWL), declared illegal absentee by Court of Enquiry held at Codford

2 Feb 1918

Private

Absent Without Leave 9 Jan 1918, Declared Illegal Absentee 2 Feb 1918, later report shows returned from illegal absence.

3 Feb 1918

Private

District Court Martial, charged with being Absent Without Leave from midnight on 8 Jan 1918 to 9am 3 Feb 1918. Pleaded Guilty. Finding Guilty. Sentence to undergo detention for 30 days.
Sentence commuted by Brigadier to loss of pay for 30 days.

Date of decision not noted.

Private

Transferred overseas to France

26 Mar 1918

Private

Period of absence plus period under detention plus sentence loss of pay calculated as total forfeiture of 68 days pay.

4 Apr 1918

Private

Taken on strength of 53rd Battalion from 10th Reinforcements

15 May 1918

France

Private

To duty, 5th Division Nucleus Camp

15 Jun 1918

Private

Rejoined unit ex Nucleus Camp

30 Jul 1918

Private

To Casualty clearing Station (CCS), Wounded in Action (WIA), gunshot wound (GSW) to chest.

2 Sep 1918

53rd Battalion engaged from 1 Sep 1918 at Anvil Wood in support of the capture of Perrone on the next day.

Private

To 11th Stationary Hospital, GSW chest.

3 Sep 1918

Private

Transferred to England per His Majesty's Hospital Ship (HMHS) Grantully Castle.

16 Sep 1918

Private

Admitted to King George Hospital, Stamford Street, London

17 Sep 1918

Rank

Description

Date

Remarks

Private

Notification to family that Gibson has been wounded, contact address in France provided.

17 Sep 1918

Private

Notification from AIF to the family that Gibson is wounded, providing a contact address.

3 Oct 1918

A misfiled Daily Statement (Military) document concerning a 2nd Lieutenant William Arthur Ditchburn within this file notes the cancellation of a pension to his child Arthur Leslie Ditchburn because the pensioner is no longer incapacitated.

7 Oct 1918

Private

Transferred to 3rd Auxilliary Hospital, Dartford
A notification with the same date from AIF to the family notes that Gibson is now convalescent.

1 Nov 1918

Private

Notification from the AIF to the family noting that Gibson is now progressing favourably.

31 Oct 1918

Private

Discharged to No 2 Convalescent Hospital, Wymouth

3 Nov 1918

Private

Returned to Australia per HMAT "ULYSSES" (A38).

18 Nov 1918

Private

Transferred from 53rd Battalion to AOC.

27 Nov 1918

Private

Transferred to 53rd Battalion from AOC

7 Dec 1918

Private

Discharged, 2 MD (Sydney)

23 May 1919

A notation on the last page of his Army file notes that he died on 28 Jul 1929

28 Jul 1929


Medals awarded

British War Medal 1914-1920
Victory Medal

Dress Embellishments

One Wound Stripes for 2 Sep 1918
One Long Service Stripes
One Overseas Service Chevrons

Rising Sun Badge - 1st and 2nd AIF

World War One medal set


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

Unit Shoulder Patch
53rd Infantry Battalion
53rd Battalion Shoulder Patch

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

Background - Infantry Battalions

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.

53rd Battalion, 14th Infantry Brigade, 5th Division

The 53rd Battalion was raised in Egypt on 14 February 1916 as part of the "doubling" of the AIF. Half of its recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 1st Battalion, and the other half, fresh reinforcements from Australia. Reflecting the composition of the 1st, the 53rd was predominantly composed of men from the suburbs of Sydney. The battalion became part of the 14th Brigade of the 5th Australian Division.

The battalion arrived in France on 27 June 1916, entered the front line for the first time on 10 July, and became embroiled in its first major battle on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on 19 July. The battle of Fromelles was a disaster. The 53rd was part of the initial assault and suffered grievously, incurring 625 casualties, including its commanding officer, amounting to over three-quarters of its attacking strength. Casualty rates among the rest of the 5th Division were similarly high, but despite these losses it continued to man the front in the Fromelles sector for a further two months.

The 53rd spent the freezing winter of 1916-17 rotating in and out of trenches in the Somme Valley. During this period the battalion earned the nickname "the Whale Oil Guards" after the CO, Lieutenant Colonel Oswald Croshaw, ordered the troops to polish their helmets with whale oil (issued to rub into feet as a trench foot preventative) for a smart turn out on parade. In March 1917, the 53rd participated in the advance that followed the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. It was spared the assault but did, however, defend gains made during the second battle of Bullecourt. Later in the year, the AIF's focus of operations switched to the Ypres sector in Belgium. The 53rd's major battle here was at Polygon Wood on 26 September.

With the collapse of Russia in October 1917, a major German offensive on the Western Front was expected in early 1918. This came in late March and the 5th Division moved to defend the sector around Corbie. The 14th Brigade took up positions to the north of Villers-Bretonneux and held these even when the village fell, threatening their flanks.

Once the German offensive had been defeated, the Allies launched their own offensive in August 1918. The 14th Brigade did not play a major role in these operations until late in the month, but its actions, including those of the 53rd Battalion at Anvil Wood, were critical to the capture of Peronne, which fell on 2 September. For a succession of courageous actions during the Peronne fighting, Private William Currey was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The 53rd Battalion entered its last major battle of the war on 29 September 1918. This operation was mounted by the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, in co-operation with American forces, to break through the formidable German defences along the St Quentin Canal. The battalion withdrew to rest on 2 October and was still doing so when the war ended. The progressive return of troops to Australia for discharge resulted in the 53rd merging with the 55th Battalion on 10 March 1919. The combined 53/55th Battalion, in turn, disbanded on 11 April.

Battle Honours

Somme 1916-18, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Ancre 1918, Villers Bretonneux, Amiens, Albert 1918, Mont St Quentin, Hindenburg Line, St Quentin Canal, France and Flaanders, 1916-1918, Egypt, 1916.

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.

Wound Stripes

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

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