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

This file last updated 8 August, 2023 13:26


RT Gibson
(L) Robert Thomas Gibson
(R) Unidentified soldier
[Most likely to be brother William Charles Gibson]
[Photograph courtesy of Robert Clifford Gibson]

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.

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, WW1 Embarkation Roll entry, or WW1 Nominal Roll entry.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Abbreviations or acronyms which have a dotted underline can be expanded by moving the cursor over the term - e.g. WIA. The cursor will be replaced by ? and the expanded abbreviation will be displayed. This is gradually being incorporated into the site, replacing the the current expansion of abbreviations. There may be a discernable delay of about a second before the expansion is first provided.

There is also a separate list of abbreviations which is available through the menu at the top of this page or the hyperlink here.  Abbreviations are inconsistent, even within a single occurence where a term is abbreviated.

There are a number of sources for tracing abbreviations used in Australian and New Zealand service records. Those used when operating with the British or US forces can generally be found, especially in World War 1. Abbreviations used solely within Australia in WW2 are most difficult to trace, particularly when they are regional. Sometimes a 'best guess' is the only answer.

Duplicated Pages

Some of the service information may appear to be duplicated although individual occurrences are not in the same order and different abbreviations used. This occurs when the unit and Army records are amalgamated upon discharge or death in Service.

Service Numbers

Service numbers in WW1 were unique to the unit (e.g. Battalion) or Corps (e.g. Artillery). In WW2 Service Numbers were unique to the State in which they were allotted. For further information about identity numbers for Service personnel, see Regimental and Service Numbers

Dates of Occurrence and Reporting

The date of reporting an incident may be hours, days or months after the date on which incident actually occurred.

The original service record is amended only when the incident is reported which means that events are not necessarily recorded in in strict chronological sequence. This is the date shown on the left of the page of the original record, and also on the left in my transcription but readers should note that at times there may be no date of reporting at all, particularly when service personel are repatriated for discharge at the end of hostilities.

To assist the reader, when transcribing the military record I have done my best to record events in their chronological sequence. This is date is on the right of the page of the original record and also on the right in my transcription.

For clarity I have transcribed all dates into the format d MMM yyyy.

Memorial Plaques

Memorial Plaque - Thomas James Shepherd
Image courtesy of Mark Franzi, grand nephew of Thomas

Memorial Plaques were issued after the First World War to the next-of-kin of all British Empire service personnel who were killed as a result of war.

The plaques are 120mm in diameter, were cast in bronze and came to be know as the "Dead Man's Penny" because of the similarity in appearance to the much smaller penny coin.

1,355,00 plaques were issued, which used a total of 450 tons of bronze. 1,500 plaques were issued to commemorate women.

Carter Preston's winning design includes an image of Brittania holding a trident and standing with a lion. The designer's initials, E.CR,P,, appear above the front paw. In her outstretched left hand Britannia holds an olive wreath above the ansate [handled] tablet bearing the deceased's name cast in raised letters. The name does not include rank since there was to be no distiction between sacrifices made by different individuals.

Below the name table, to the right of the lion is an oak spray with acorns. Two dolphins swim around Britannia, symbolizing Britain's sea power, and at the bottom is a second lion tearing apart the German eagle.

The reverse is blank and the plaques were issued in a pack with a commemorative scroll from King George V, although sometimes the letter and scroll arrived first.

Enlistment Details

Service Number



Robert Thomas Gibson

Born at

Dubbo, NSW


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




British Subject

Natural born

Marital Status


Next of Kin

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

Previous Military Service


Discharged with Ignominy


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 Warren 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.


5 foot 7 inches [170 cm]


130 pounds [9 stone 4 pounds or 59 Kg]


33 - 35 inches [83.8 - 89 cm]







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


53th Infantry Battalion (10th Reinforcements)

Chronological Events






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


Trench Mortar Battery [See notes concerning enlistment delays]

5 Jun 17 -
29 Jun 17


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


Transfered to 10th Reinforcements to 53rd Battalion

23 Jul 1917


Embarked at Sydney on HMAT "MILITADES (A28)

2 Aug 1917


Disembarked Glasgow

2 Oct 1917


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

3 Oct 1917


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

6 Oct 1917


Discharged from Group Clearing Hospital (Mumps) to Training Depot

26 Oct 1917


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

26 Oct 1917


Reported Sick to Codford Hospital, Hurdcott, Influenza

20 Nov 1918


Returned from Absence Without Leave

9 Jan 1918



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

2 Feb 1918






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

3 Feb 1918


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.


Transferred overseas to France

26 Mar 1918


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

4 Apr 1918


Taken on strength of 53rd Battalion from 10th Reinforcements

15 May 1918



To duty, 5th Division Nucleus Camp

15 Jun 1918


Rejoined unit ex Nucleus Camp

30 Jul 1918


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.


To 11th Stationary Hospital, GSW chest.

3 Sep 1918


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

16 Sep 1918


Admitted to King George Hospital, Stamford Street, London

17 Sep 1918


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

17 Sep 1918


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


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


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

31 Oct 1918


Discharged to No 2 Convalescent Hospital, Wymouth

3 Nov 1918


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

18 Nov 1918






Transferred from 53rd Battalion to AOC.

27 Nov 1918


Transferred to 53rd Battalion from AOC

7 Dec 1918


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 and Dress Embellishments

British War Medal 1914-1920 and Victory Medal, not entitled to 1914-15 Star.

Not entitled to wear the ANZAC 'A'.

One Wound Stripe for 2 Sep 1918.

two Long Service Stripes and two Overseas Service Chevrons.

Use the hyperlinks or scroll down to see further information on the badges.

Background - Infantry Battalions

[Based on information in Redcoats to Cams, Ian Kuring.]

In December 1914, battalions of about 1000 men were organised into eight companies each divided into half of 60 men and then into two sections of around 30 men. Command was highly centralised with companies commanded by a Captain, half-companies by Lieutentants and sections by a Sergeant.

In early 1915 Australia reduced the number of Companies to four, but doubled their size to more than 220 men. Each rifle company had a headquarters and four platoons. Each platoon had a headquarters and four rifle sections of 10 men commanded by corporals.

From early 1916 light machineguns replaced medium machine guns and were eventually issued to each rifle platoon.

During 1917 rifle platoons were reorganised to have a light machine gun section, a rifle grenade section, a hand grenade/bombing section and a rifle assault section.

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.

Rifle, Short Magazine Lee-Enfield .303in, Mark III
Rifle, Small Magazine Lee-Enfield .303in, Mark III with sword bayonet

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

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


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 xpected 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.

1914-15 Star

[Extract from Ribbons and Medals: Naval, Military, Air Force and Civil, Captain H. Taprell Dorling, DSO RN,
George Philip & Son, 33 Fleet Street, London EC4, 1940]
1914-15 Star

The decoration consists of a four-pointed star in bright bronze as shown, with the date 1914-15 on the central scroll. The reverse is plain, and is stamped with the name and unit of the recipient. The ribbon is red, white and blue, shaded and watered, worn with the red nearest the centre of the breast. It is atached to the medal through a ring.

It is similar in shape and description to the 1914 Star, to which few, if any, Australians were entitled. Those entitled were those who had already served with the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) in the operations to capture German New Guinea in 1914.

The decoration, sanctioned in 1918, was issued "to all officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the British, Dominion, Colonial and Indian Forces, including civilian medical practitioners, nursing sisters, nurses and others eployed with military hospitals, who actually served on the establishment of a unit in a theatre of war as defined in Appendix 'A'. Individuals in possession of the 1914 Star will not be eligible for the award of this decoration."

Appendix 'A' included the Western, Eastern, Egyptian, African, Asiatic and Australasian Theatres of war, with commencement dates individual to countries and campaigns.

British War Medal 1914-20

[Extract from Ribbons and Medals: Naval, Military, Air Force and Civil, Captain H. Taprell Dorling, DSO RN,
George Philip & Son, 33 Fleet Street, London EC4, 1940]
British War Medal

This medal was approved by King George V in 1919 to record the bringing of the war to a successful conclusion and the arduous services rendered by His Majesty's Forces.

The medal, which is supended from its ribbon by means of a straight clasp, without swivel, bears on the obverse the effigy of His Majesty - exactly similar to that on a half-crown - with the legend 'Georgivus V : Omn : Rex et Ind : Imp'.

The reverse bears a design which represents St George on horseback, trampling underfoot the eagle shield of the central powers and a skull and crossbones, the emblems of death. Overhead is the risen sun of victory. The male figure, rather than a symbolical female one, was chosen because man had borne the brunt of the fighting. The figure was mounted on horseback as symbolical of man's mind controlling force (represented by the horse) of far greater strength than his own. The design is thus also symbolical of the mechanical and scientific appliances which helped so largely to win the war.

The ribbon has a orange watered centre with stripes of white and black at each side and with borders of royal blue. It is stated that the colours have no particular signification.

Victory Medal

[Extract from Ribbons and Medals: Naval, Military, Air Force and Civil, Captain H. Taprell Dorling, DSO RN,
George Philip & Son, 33 Fleet Street, London EC4, 1940]

This medal, of bronze, bears on the obverse a winged figure of Victory, full length in the middle of the medal and full face; the borders and the backgound plain, without either incription or date. On the reverse is an inscription. "The Great War for Civilization." and either the names of the different Allied and Associated Powers, or their coats of arms.

The rim is plain, and the medal hangs from a ring. The ribbon is red in the centre, with green and violet on either side shaded to form the colours of two rainbows.

It has also been approved that any officer or man who has been "mentioned in despatches" shall wear a small bronze oak leaf on the ribbon of this medal. Only one oak leaf is so worn, no matter how many "mentions" the wearer may have received.

The medal is designed to obviate the exchange of Allied Commemorative war medals, and is issued only to those who actually served on the establishment of a unit or ship in a theatre of war. [This is an important distinction, as those Australians who served only in Australia, or only in Australia and England, were not entitled to the award.]

The Rising Sun Badge

This version of the Rising Sun Badge was worn by soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Forces, and the badge has become an integral part of the Digger tradition.

Worn on the the upturned brim of the slouch hat, it is readily identified with the spirit of ANZAC.

There are a number of versions of the genesis of the badge, the most widely accepted being that it derived from a Trophy of Arms - various swords and bayonets mounted on  a semi-circular display in Victoria Barracks, Melbourne.

The original version worn in South Africa was modified in 1904 and worn by Australian soldiers through two World Wars.

Later changes were made to the style of the crown and the wording on the scroll. The "King's Crown" is the one shown to the left, while arches of the "Queen's Crown" rise at the same angle as the base of the crown, curve at their highest point to a level mid-way on the orb below the cross and then down to below the orb.

In 1949 the scroll was changed to read "Australian Military Forces".

In 1969 the badge was modified to incorporate the 7-pointed Federation Star with a central Queen's crown over the Torse Wreath (a twisted roll of fabric) from the original 1902 version, and the scroll wording changed to "Australia".

In the 75th anniversary year of the the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli, there was a drive to return to traditional accoutrements worn by Australian soldiers during the World Wars, which clearly identify the Australian Army. The Queen's crown returned to its central position and the scroll now reads "The Australian Army'.



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.

Wound Stripe

Army Order No.204 Headquarters, 1st A.N.Z.A.C., 9th August, 1916. (slightly amended for layout)

Wound Stripes

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

[Image from http://www.diggerhistory.info]
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.

Overseas Service Chevrons

[Image from http://www.diggerhistory.info]

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.

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 withlength of service or Service Number.

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