Sunday, April 19, 2015

43.1.k Anzac Centenary - Rev Francis Henry Durnford Awarded Military Cross

Rev Francis Henry Durnford

Francis Henry Durnford was born in England 7th January 1882.  He was the son of Edward Durnford and Florence Frances Edwards.  He also was the grand nephew of Bishop Richard Durnford, grandson of Rev Frances Durnford, who was the brother of Bishop Richard.

He attended King's School at Canterbury, and went to Cambridge University.  He became a clergyman in the Church of England, and in February, 1914 left England to serve at Burra in South Australia.

Burra is a country town in South Australia located 160km north of Adelaide, with a population of approximately 1,200 people. Founded in 1845, it was from then until 1877 the site of one of the world’s major copper mines, the income from which did much to save the young colony from financial disaster.

 By the time the mine closed in 1877 it was already also serving as a transport centre for the north-east of the colony and parts of western NSW and SW Qld.  In the following decade it served the growing wheat farming areas to the west and for a while the untimely doomed expansion in the drier areas to the east.  In the late 19th century and early 20th century it was South Australia’s main centre for sale of sheep and became renowned as the main town in an area famed for stud merino sheep breeding.

How would this Englishman have adapted to life in the outback of South Australia?

The Anglican Church was St Mary's.  From all accounts he was a very likable and popular member of the congregation.

The men of the towns and district also sprang to answer the call and a Light Horse Contingent consisting of 17 men and officers was organised, and these, with three infantrymen, were farewelled on September 4, just one month after the declaration of war.

In a little more than a year, according to the Mayor's report, the Burra had sent 220 men, two chaplains, five nurses, and two doctors to the front, and had subscribed £13,968.

Burra and District War facts according to the aforementioned publication:-

    600 men were sent to the front (including those who joined the Light Horse Contingent), along with;

    17 nurses;

    four chaplains;

    three doctors;

    Amount subscribed to the various war funds was £60,000;
    Amount subscribed to War and Peace Loans was £156,000;
    Burra also presented to the Military Department four ambulance motors costing approximately £2,000.
    Thousands of gifts were sent to the men at the front and given to the men on their return
The above generosity was viewed as a record for a district with the population of Burra.

Rev Francis Henry Durnford

He enlisted with the Australian Army on 5th July 1915, as a Chaplain 4th Class, in the Chaplain's Corp.  They sailed from Melbourne on16th July 1915 on the HMAT A64 Demosthenes.
He was promoted to Captain on 5th July, 1915.

 His service was with the 21st General Hospital Alexandria on 4th February 1916.  He then embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force 19h March 1916 and disembarked at Marseilles, France 2th March 1916.

He was admitted to 7th Australian Field Ambulance 1st April 1917 and then transferred to the 14th Casualty Clearing Station, 11th April 1917, discharged to duty 15th April 1917.

He was awarded the Military Cross 3rd June 1917.

He was recommended twice - as follows - 3rd March 1917 "For consistently meritorious work as Chaplain and for his untiring efforts in the front line at duty with the Regimental Aid Post.  His fine example of determined and plucky endurance under heavy fire has not failed to meet the response it deserves".

and 11th May 1917 "For conspicuous bravery and most honourable devotion to duty during the action near Bullecourt on 3rd May 1917.  He continued his ministrations among the wounded throughout the 48 hours that the Brigade was engaged under very heavy Machine Gun and Artillery fire.  By his fearless conduct and his cheerful bearing he helped to maintain the spirit of the Troops in a most valuable manner".

From the A.I.F. in France

but it is what he did......extract from Raws who wrote....."The shelling at Pozieres did not merely probe character and nerve it laid them stark naked as no other experience of the A/I.F. ever did.  in a single tour of this battle divisions were subjected to greater stress than in the whole Gallipoli campaign.  The shell-fire was infinitely worse than that subsequently experienced in the Third Battle of Ypres, but with one mitigating circumstance: it was only the infantry and their associated front-line units who suffered severely.

The bombardment was almost confined to the forward area.  despite several sharp visitations upon troops in Sausage Gully and Tara Hill (east of Albert), the successive rows of field artillery had actually to be protected against fire from the rear more securely than against that from the front - the defective shells from those of the old 4.7 inch battery in Sausage Gully, being more dangerous to the guns' crews than the fire of the enemy.  But the area in which the infantry lived was shelled till there remained "nothing but a churned mass of debris with bricks, stones and girders and bodies pounded to nothing.  And forests. There are not even tree trunks left, not a leaf or a twig.

 All is buried and churned up again and buried again.  The sad part is that one can see no end of this.  If we live tonight, we may have to go through tomorrow night, and next week and net month.  Poor wounded devils you meet on the stretchers are laughing with glee.  One cannot blame them they are getting out of this.....We are lousy, stinking, ragged, unshaven, sleepless....I have one puttee, a dead man's helmet, another dead man's gas protector, a dead man's bayonet.  My tunic is rotten with other men's blood and partly spattered with a comrade's brains......"

To cover up the corpses, which lay thickly about Dead Man's Road and other approaches, a party of the 6th Brigade was organised under Sergeant Lang of the 24th, who, with the assistance of Chaplains Durnford, Clune and others buried several hundreds, their work being afterwards taken u by a standing fatigue party of 100 men.  Only the devotion of one or two junior leaders had made possible the work done by the 6th Brigade on the night of July 31st.  It is obvious that, if troops were to be asked to perform under these conditions fatigue duties that only indirectly concerned themselves, extraordinary qualities of leadership were necessary.

Both Rev Durnford and Rev F Clune MSC of Sydney both employed those dreadful days in stretcher-bearing water-carrying and such tasks of mercy in the dangerous area.

Rev Francis Clune was the Roman Catholic Chaplain, and he also was awarded the Military Cross.

'Funeral of a nursing sister killed during the bombing of a hospital at Etaples, 3 June 1918




This battle was part of the larger Battle of the Somme. This commenced on 1st July 1916 and involved both the British and French armies. In spite of a disastrous first day when 60,000 men were lost for almost no gain, the battle continued until November 1916. As each division was exhausted (too many men lost through death, wounding, sickness and tiredness) it was withdrawn and another division fed in.

The Australian 1st Division attacked the crucial position of Pozieres on 23rd July 1916. After three days and 5000 men lost, they were replaced by the 2nd Division. This Division was replaced by the 4th Division on 7th August after losing 6848 men.The Divisions were rotated in and out of battle in this way until 5th September 1916. There were more Australians killed and wounded here than on any other battlefield of World War One.

He was appointed Chaplain 3r Class temporary 3rd July 1917.
Wounded in action on 4th October 1917 admitted to 20th General Hospital Camiers 5th OCtober 1917; discharged to Base Depot Etaples, 8th October 1917; to 66th Australian Divisional Rest Station, 16th November 1917, ; discharged to duty, 16th November 1917.

Attached for duty to 1st Australian General Hospital 22nd March 1918.  Transferred to AIF Administrative Headquarters London 15 April 1918; to Headquarters 1st Training Wing, Australian Flying Corps, 8th May 1918.   Proceeded overseas to France 14th august 1918; attached to 13th Bn, 25th August 1918.

Commenced his return to Ausralia on board HT "Raranga" 8th September 1919; discharged 26th December 1919.

The 6th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 5th, 7th and 8th Battalions, it was recruited from Victoria and, together with these battalions, formed the 2nd Brigade.

The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. It later took part in the ANZAC landing on 25 April 1915, as part of the second wave. Ten days after the landing, the 2nd Brigade was transferred from ANZAC to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions returned to ANZAC to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine. The battalion served at ANZAC until the evacuation in December.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In March 1916, it sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army. The battalion's first major action in France was at Pozieres in the Somme valley in July 1916.


 He returned to England, but left on the Orviet in October 1921.
On this return to Australia he returned to Burra, and in 1921, was elected the President of the RSA, (Services League) In 1922 he left Burra and went to Egypt.  He later returned to England where he married Lucy Carless in 1929.  She had been a school mistress who travelled to India perhaps to work He wrote some books in 1942. and died in 1969.  He was living then at Cottingham.

He was a kind and generous man, with civic pride and responsibility, as can be seen from the following newspaper articles.   Those same traits appear in a lot of Durnford family members.


But an amazing story to add, I was able to contact Catherine Durnford in England.  She is his daughter.  Catherine has kindly supplied me with updates about her father.  

She thought he was attached to the British Armed Forces, which he was for a time, as per his records, but as he enlisted in Australia, he is also regarded as a member of the AIF.

Here is Catherine's story of her father.

"My father was born in 1882 to Rev Edward Durnford -  had older brother Charles and sister Rachel.
Sadly when Dad was four his father died of typhoid having picked it up visiting in the parish. His widow took the three children to Windsor where an uncle had property. Charles went to Eton and Dad to Kings School Canterbury then on to Cambridge university Corpus Christi College and to Westcott House for Theological training 

When he was only 17 his mother died and soon afterwards his brother was killed in India in a railway accident. Rachel was unmarried but looked after by uncles and aunts. After curacies in UK Dad volunteered to go to Adelaide to work as a Missionary priest and was posted to Burra. When WW1 broke out there was a request for Chaplains and as he had no family and was free he volunteered and went back to UK by ship with  22nd Battalion and was with them all through their time in France.

He would say very little about what happened but in the 1950's many Australians came back for a visit to UK and would look up their old padre. He was  10-12 years older than most of the former soldiers. 

I think I have a few letters from that time ...  After the war they asked Dad to go back with them as they said they had forgotten how to be human beings and they had to face all the mums and Dad's whose lads were NOT going home. So back he sailed - the worst journey ever he told me as so many wanted to jump over the side. 

The returning soldiers were given lump sums to start orange groves - known as the Soldier Settlements. During those years Dad helped them build churches when he was centred at Berri.

   In 1988 I travelled to Australia and visited both Burra and Berri. I was  a Deacon in C of E by then and read the Gospel at Burra where Dad had been before the war. I spent a day in Berri area and visited the churches - new ones replacing the wooden ones built in 1920's but one wooden one remained used as a church hall. Barmera gave dad a miniature marble font when he left  - I still have it! To crown it all I met Ray Foreman then 93 years old  whose wedding to Grace Bottrill Dad had taken in Berri on Dec 18th 1918!!

       In 1922 Dad had a letter from Bishop Gwynne of Egypt and Sudan who had been the Chaplain General in Europe asking Dad to join him at the Clergy House in Khartoum with five other unmarried clergy! His wife to be Lucy Victoria Carless had two brothers working out there in the Colonial Office and they were churchwardens at the Cathedral and that is how Mum and Dad met!  

They were married on Sept 21st 1929 in Richmond Surrey - and went back to work at Heliopolis Cairo. Mother was 36 and Dad 47 when they were married - brother John was on the way soon and the doctors would not allow Mum to have her first child in the heat  so they both came back to UK and Dad became Vicar of Longhoughton Howick and Boulmer in Northumberland from 1930-59!John was born in London and came up at six weeks - brother Peter arrived in 1934 and yours truly in 1936!"

Catherine has two brothers, John who also was ordained and went to work in Rhodesia from 1962 - 76 and Peter who began a farming property, still run today at Redroofs.

Catherine was a geography teacher, and worked in UK and in Rhodesia where her brother and his wife were.  She returned in 1976 and trained to work in the church.  She was a Deaconess in 1980, Deacon in 1987 and a priest in 1994.  She was made Canon of York Minster in 2001, and retired in 2003. She still retains that title.

What an amazing lady, to be among the first women to be elected as a priest in the Church of England, and to be the Canon of York Minster.  

Canon Durnford was appointed vicar of St Cuthbert's along with St Thomas's in New Marske in 1997, having been among the first women to be ordained as a priest in 1994. In 2001 she was appointed an honorary Canon of York Minster. 

It is one of the most amazing buildings in a beautiful part of England.  This photo from the Telegraph newspaper!

This article outlines his service while with the British Forces.

"On the momentous march from Moaskar to Hogsback in Sinai, a route march of eight miles which took eight hours to accomplish, the Padre refused to use the horse allotted to him, but turned that animal into a packhorse to transport the packs of those unable to carry on the march."

Another brave Durnford, who put the needs of his fellow men before his own.  Those words speak volumes about the person.

The Sinai and Palestine Campaign of the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I was fought between the British Empire and the Ottoman Empire supported by the German Empire. It started with an Ottoman attempt at raiding the Suez Canal in 1915, and ended with the Armistice of Mudros in 1918, leading to the cession of Ottoman Syria and Palestine.

Fighting began in January 1915, when a German-led Ottoman force invaded the Sinai Peninsula, then part of the British Protectorate of Egypt, to unsuccessfully raid the Suez Canal. After the Gallipoli Campaign, veterans from each side formed the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) and the Fourth Army in Palestine, to fight for the Sinai Peninsula in 1916. During this campaign the Anzac Mounted Division and the 52nd (Lowland) Division succeeded in pushing German-led Ottoman Army units out of the area, beginning with the Battle of Romani and pursuit in August, the Battle of Magdhaba in December, and in January 1917 the newly formed Desert Column completed the recapture of the Sinai at the Battle of Rafa. These three victories, resulting in the recapture of substantial Egyptian territory, were followed in March and April, by two EEF defeats on Ottoman Empire territory, at the First and Second Battles of Gaza in southern Palestine.

Also at Pozieres and who was awarded the Military Cross was a Roman Catholic Chaplain, Father Francis Clune.  Francis was born in Euan in County Clare in Ireland.  His brother Patrick became the Bishop of Perth WA

Francis came to Australia in 1892, and joined the Passionists.  He was attached to St Brigids Church in Marrickville.  He joined the AIF in the Chaplains Department 19th Australian Infantry Battalion.  He was mentioned in despatches, and awarded the Military Cross.  
His recommendation from the 5th Brigade reads:   Mentioned in Despatches
For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty ever since the Brigade landed in France, particularly during the period July 25th - August 5th 1916 that the Brigade occupied the trenches at Pozieres.
Captain Clune, although suffering from indifferent health, was always to be found in the front trenches encouraging the men and administering to their spiritual welfare.  He was invariably cheerful and optimistic and his coolness and courage under heavy shell fire as well as his solicitude for their welfare, had a most beneficial effect upon both officers and men during a very trying time.

His recommendation from the 19th Brigade for Military Cross:
On 20th September at Bellewaarde Ridge NE of Hooge Chaplain Captain Francis Clune was at the dressing post.  The post was being heavily shelled and a number of wounded were so cumulating.

 Under heavy fire Captain Clune regardless of personal risk stood by the wounded, giving a hand with the dressing and ministering to their needs in a manner which inspired confidence in all during this trying time.  This work was performed in the open after the Cupola Dressing Post had been destroyed and despite the heavy shelling which continued for over an hour.

Father Clune has always shown magnificent devotion in action and under heavy fire and notably so near Bullincourt in May 1917.

His life works centred around his many different postings to missions and towns in South Australia. He had the respect of the public, as can be read in the different articles.

He died in 1960 aged 91, and was buried in Goulburne Victoria.  Later he was reburied at Rookwood Cemetery in New South Wales.


 Both the brothers were the second cousins of author Frank Clunes who is very well known in Australia, especially for the many books written about our early pioneers.   Two sisters were also nuns in Australia.

His brother was Patrick Joseph Clune, who became the Fourth Bishop of Perth.  Initially he was ordained for the Diocese of Goulbourn in 1886.

He was a well known priest and administrator, and worked with the sick of the parish.
In 1899 he was sent to Australia, and arrived at Freemantle and the worked on missions on the Goldfields.  In 1911, he was consecrated as the fourth Bishop of Perth by Cardinal Moran.

On 23rd August 1916, Dr Clune left Australia on the ship "Orontes" as Chaplain-General to the Catholic members of the AIF with the rank of Colonel.  Initially he stayed at the Anzac training camp at Salisbury in England.  Then he crossed to Europe and stayed with the Australian headquarters at Abeele on the Belgium front.  There he met his brother Fr Francis Clune C.P. during the battle of the Somme.  He was in Ireland during the troubles, and witnessed the Black and Tans.  He tried to act as a negotiator between Michael Collins and Lloyd George.  His actions with the reconciliation process prepared the groundwork which ultimately brought the hostilities to an end.  He died in 1935.

Archbishop Clune is also remembered for starting the construction of St Mary's Cathedral.

The foundation stone was laid in April 1926 but the depression of 1929 halted progress and it was not completed until 2009.

When Archbishop Clune died in 1935, it was his wish to be buried at Karrakatta cemetery alongside his confreres in the Redemptorist order. 

The order recently agreed to allow Archbishop Clune's remains to be moved to St Mary's Cathedral.

Bellewaarde Ridge NE of Hooge  not far from Ypres in Belgium.


This was the site that Father Francis Clune was working.  It is the area around Hill 60, famous for the tunnelers who placed explosives under the German lines.  The two sides could hear each other. The Canadians joined Australians at Hill 60.  The land was bombed to complete wastage.

The explosion was so loud it could be heard in England.  Today, there is a museum and opportunity to walk in the reconstructed trenches.  The lake is the crater.

  Australian troops in the dugouts at the site, probably between August and November 1917 during the 'Third Battle of Ypres.'

1 comment:

  1. Splendid contribution, for which many thanks.

    C. Paul Barreira
    Oakbank, South Australia