Pte. H.F.C. Winch
FIRST NAMES: Harold Forbes Clarke
UNIT: 3rd Australian Imperial Force
STATUS: Killed in Action
DATE OF DEATH: 7th-12th August 1915
CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: The Lone Pine Memorial, Gallipoli
Harold was born in 1896 and his parents were Revd. George Thomas and Elizabeth Maude Winch of Barnsley, though he was a native of Brompton. His father was the Vicar of Brompton. He attended Durham school, entering in the Christmas term of 1909 and leaving at Christmas 1913.
Harold came from a military background as his father had been a "powder monkey" at the age of 14 on board a Royal Navy ship in the Crimea. His grandmother's father fought in the Indian Mutiny and her brother also fought in The Mutiny and The Afghan War.
He travelled to Australia in April 1914 to study general farming, arriving in June 1914. When the War broke out he was working as a student at an experimental farm near Kensington in New South Wales. Immediately on hearing news of the war he enlisted (on 20th August 1914) into A Company of the 3rd Battalion. 1st Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force. He left Australia, bound for Egypt on 20th October 1914 from Sydney, on board H.M.A.T. A14 "Euripides". After a period of training in Cairo, Egypt, he then sailed to the island of Lemnos on 5th April 1915 in preparation for the landing at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. They were forced to remain on board ship for the best part of three weeks, only being allowed ashore a couple of times during that period.
The 1st Infantry Brigade landed at ANZAC on 25th April in support of the main landing and took part in the subsequent fighting in that area of the peninsula. Harold was serving as a signaller in the 3rd Battalion and he worte a long letter to his father in May 1915 relating his experiences so far:
"... On Sunday April 25th (as you would see in the papers) we forced our landing. We left the ship on destroyers and then got into small boats and went as far in as possible. We had to jump into the water, which was up to our waists, and wade ashore. We then collected together and pushed forward. The tracks we had to follow were terribly steep and I wonder now however we got up. We then took up our position, lying down, as close to the ground as possible, our heads half hidden by a small bank, the other half by scrub. Bullets and shrapnel were flying around and amongst us all the time, and we were unable to move. I tell you, we had a terrible time - it is a marvel any of us came through alive. We lost our platoon commander before we got into position, he was wounded in the arm.
At dusk they ceased their shrapnel fire and we got out our entrenching tools and sunk in for our lives, scratching the earth away as we lay there. The firing never ceased all night, and on Monday and Tuesday was very heavy- especially on Tuesday afternoon....
... We were relieved on Thursday night at dusk (6th May) and came down to some little holes to live in, a short distance away. We go back tonight (Saturday). If only one could get any sleep I wouldn't mind - there is very little room there, and one cannot get a wash. When we came out we warmed some tins of water and then had a good wash in a big biscuit tin, and that morning we used Pear's soap! It was such a luxury to get a wash...
... It is very hot here in the daytime, but very cold at nights. Blankets are unknown. But we get on very well and don't seem any the worse for it, and it is a great experience. I think the enemy are played out here, and it will be our turn very shortly. An English paper with an account of the doings here will be very acceptable."
Harold's "turn" came on the evening of 6th August 1915 at a sector of the ANZAC line known as Lone Pine. This attack was to become one of the most infamous actions in Australian military history.
The Australians attacked at 5.30pm, emerging from tunnels dug out into No-Mans Land to minimise the casualties they would suffer while crossing the open ground. When they reached the Turkish trenches, however, observers were puzzled to see that, instead of jumping down into the trenches, the Australians appeared to be crowding around the top of them, apparently in some confusion. In fact. the Turks had roofed their front-line trenches with wooden beams and in so doing had converted their front line into a complex network of tunnels. Some Australians carried on above ground until they reached the rear, unroofed, trenches into which they jumped and began to fight their way back through the covered trenches. Others managed to find holes in the roofing which had been caused by damage from the previous artillery bombardment and they jumped down through these to attack the Turks.
The result was some of the most vicious and deadly close quarter hand to hand fighting of the War, as individuals and small groups of soldiers fought for control of the dark, stinking maze of tunnels. The Australians quickly learned to hold their rifles vertically as they went round a corner and then to bring it down to fire, in order to prevent their rifle from giving the Turks the split second warning that they were about to appear.
The fighting in The Pine went on for days before the Australians finally gained control of the position. In that time the Australians had lost over 2,000 men and the Turks almost 7,000. Many had died unrecorded deaths in the vicious hand to hand fighting in the tunnels and most of the casualties, like Harold Winch, have no known grave.
A few personal effects were returned to Harold's family, including a watch and chain, a football ticket, some postcards, two testaments and some photographs. It is possible that these were recovered from his body, which was subsequently lost, but it is more likely that he had left these items behind before the attack, for them to be forwarded on to his family if he was killed.
Harold's father received a letter from a Clarence Page, one of Harold's colleagues in the signallers, shortly after he was killed. It read:
"As I have been intimately aquainted with your son Harold since joining the Australian Imperial Force, I feel I must, though not having had the pleasure of your aquaintance, express the deepest sympathy of the Headquarters Signallers' Section in your sad loss. Harold was a general favourite, mainly because of his steadfastness of character, which impressed everyone with whom he came in touch. He has honourably served his country and now enjoys the peace that passeth all understanding, for "underneath are the everlasting arms." I am a student for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church and can honestly say his speech was pure and his thoughts on the higher plane, and his general bearing of the Christian type. We all join in the expression of sympathy to yourself and your family.....
PS. Harold met his death during a brilliant charge on August 6th at 5.00pm."