Tuesday, 9 April 2013

April A to Z Challenge - A Houston Hero

My second great grand uncle, George Houston, was born in 1896 to John Houston and his second wife Mary Britton. I am descended from John Houston and his first wife Margaret Marshall’s son James Houston.

George Houston enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces, after serving four years in the Army Medical Corp Cadets, in September or October 1916. He left Australia as a Corporal aboard the "Beltana" with the 33rd Battalion's 6th Reinforcements on 25 November 1916, arriving in Devenport on 29 January 1917. From there he went in to training at Lark Hill in Wiltshire, where he was demoted to Private on 3 March 1917, before proceeding to France on 2 May 1917.

He was taken on strength in the field, joining the 33rd Battalion on 22 May 1917. On 16 July 1917 he was sent to the hospital in Rouen sick with influenza, returning to his battalion on 28 August 1917. 

Private George Houston was killed in action on 12 October 1917. He is commemorated on panel 122 at the Australian War Memorial, on his parents’ headstone in Stockton General Cemetery, and he is buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, which I have been lucky enough to visit.

Inscription for George Houston. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian Cemetery Index: http://austcemindex.com/inscription.php?id=6454296
Headstone of Private George Houston. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Roll of Honour Circular - George Houston. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian War Memorial: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm131/awm131-24-0777.pdf
The 33rd Battalion were awarded battle honours for their participation in the operations mounted against German positions on Passchendaele Ridge on 12 October 1917, the battle in which George Houston died.

In the Australian War Memorial’s history of the 33rd Battalion, it states that: The battalion’s next major battle was around Passchendaele on 12 October. The battlefield, though, had been deluged with rain, and thick mud tugged at the advancing troops and fouled their weapons. The battle ended in a disastrous defeat.

And in the Australian War Memorial’s history of the First Battle for Passchendaele, it states that: As a part of the continuing Third Battle of Ypres on the Western Front, Australian, New Zealand and British troops were involved in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Passchendaele Ridge from the defending Germans on 12 October 1917. The vicious fighting took place in the most appalling of waterlogged conditions, which helped render the name Passchendaele a synonym for slaughter. The 3rd Australian Division's attempts to struggle forward to their objective with little artillery protection represented the last major Australian participation in the Third Battle of Ypres.

The 33rd Battalion’s Unit Diary for 12 October 1917 does not do emotional justice to the horror of that day, but is quite a matter-of-fact account and really helps us to understand the realities of war.



Australian War Memorial. (n.d.). AWM4, First World War Diaries; 23/50/12, 33rd Infantry Battalion - October 1917. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian War Memorial: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm4/23/50/awm4-23-50-12.pdf
The Appendix at the end of the finalised War Diary for October includes the names of the casualties, and it is here that we find George Houston’s name recorded three days after his death on 15 October 1917.

Australian War Memorial. (n.d.). AWM4, First World War Diaries; 23/50/12, 33rd Infantry Battalion - October 1917. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian War Memorial: http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awm4/23/50/awm4-23-50-12.pdf

George’s next of kin, and sole beneficiary of his will, was his mother. He had also signed over a portion of his pay to her for the duration of the war.


National Archives of Australia. (n.d.). Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; HOUSTON G 2930. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NameSearch/Interface/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=5485515

The two men who witnessed George’s will, George Edmund Monthey Davis and Hugh Lyle Flanagan, both survived the war. Davis returned to Narrabri and married Catherine Jeffery in 1918. He had been born in 1892, the son of Albert Davis and his wife Mary Ann Olive Curry. He died in Queensland in 1942. Flanagan returned to Moonbi, near Tamworth, and married Edith Henry in 1919. He had been born in 1895, the son of Hugh Flanagan and his wife Rebecca Matilda Wilson. He died on 2 October 1953 and is buried in the Roman Catholic section of the Kootingal-Mooni General Cemetery.

Inscription for Hugh Lyle Flanagan. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian Cemetery Index: http://austcemindex.com/inscription.php?id=6848057
George's mother Mary was granted a war pension and remained living in 'Bonny Doon', her house on Mitchell Street, Stockton, until her death on 4 November 1935, when she was buried with her husband and a son, Joseph, who died at the age of 5 the year after George was born.


This is a post for the April A-Z Challenge. This Challenge will cover each letter of the alphabet, one per day (except Sundays) for the month of April. I didn't register my blog with the organisers, but I'm going to follow along anyway. You can too! See www.a-zchallenge.com for more information.


Works Cited 
>   33rd Battalion. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian War Memorial: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/unit_11220.asp
>   First Battle for Passchendaele. (n.d.). Retrieved April 8, 2013, from Australian War Memorial: http://www.awm.gov.au/units/event_83.asp
>   National Archives of Australia. (n.d.). Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920; HOUSTON G 2930. Retrieved April 8, 2013, from http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/NameSearch/Interface/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=5485515