On 26 November 1917 my great grand uncle, Philip Champion de Crespigny, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He was aged 38 years 5 months, married with four children. His brother and the two half-brothers who were eligible were already serving.
- Constantine Trent enlisted 20 May 1915
- Vivian (Hugh Vivian) enlisted 30 August 1914, transferred to British air force shortly after
- Frank (Francis George Travers) enlisted 10 November 1917
|Photograph of Philip from his son John|
At the time of enlistment Philip was 6 feet 2 inches, weighed 11 1/2 stone (72 kg), had blue eyes, dark hair, a scar on his forehead and 4 vaccination marks on his left arm.
|page 3 of dossier|
On 2 March 1918 he embarked from Sydney on the “Ormonde” with the 30/5th Light Horse.
|The “Ormonde” was built by Orient Lines in 1917 as a troopship|
While on board he edited Souvenir “Billjim”, comrades all : a memento of the ever-changing life on board a modern transport journeying from the Southern Cross with troops for the help of the motherland.
|The journal has been digitised and can be viewed at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-6388777|
Billjim was a name given to Australian soldiers in World War I, especially the Light Horse. At the time it was possibly a more recognised term than “digger” according to http://australiansofarabia.wordpress.com/billjim/ .
Philip disembarked at Moscar on 6 April. After training he was transferred on 6 July to the 1st Light Horse as a trooper. On 12th July he transferred to the 2nd Light Horse and he was killed in action on 14th July at Mussallabah near Jericho.
|Casualty form, page 37 of dossier|
The second Light Horse repulsed an attack on Musallabah – a pivotal position for the entire force in the Valley. The diary of Howard Chambers who served with the second Light Horse records:
“To Musallabah. Came out last night about midnight. Slight shelling by the enemy onto our position this morning. Visit by Generals Chauvel and Howard Vyse. Enemy putting up a great show with artillery. Enemy attack with German and Turkish troops. King and seven of troop killed. All quiet again. Gave us great dust up with artillery. Saw General Chauvel again. Capt Handy, Sgt Chambers (no relation) and Gisart killed. We are being relieved tonight by the 8th. Got away from Mussalabah at about midnight.” retrieved from http://www.lighthorse.org.au/personal-histories/personal-histories-boer-war-ww1-1/personal-histories-howard-chambers
On 15 June 1918 General Allenby had written
The Turks opposing me are now in greater strength than hitherto – excepting just before the battle of Beersheba–Gaza. His morale, fed on reports of European victories, has risen. The harvest is now reaped, and food is plentiful. My staff estimate that 68,000 rifles and sabres can be kept and fed on this front, during summer. As for redistributing my forces; all my goods are in the shop window. My front, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, is 60 miles. It is on the whole, a strong line; and I have made, and am making, roads and communications behind it. Still, it is wide – for the size of my force. It is the best line I can hold. Any retirement would weaken it. My right flank is covered by the Jordan; my left by the Mediterranean Sea. The Jordan Valley must be held by me; it is vital. If the Turks regained control of the Jordan, I should lose control of the Dead Sea. This would cut me off from the Arabs on the Hedjaz railway; with the result that, shortly, the Turks would regain their power in the Hedjaz. The Arabs would make terms with them, and our prestige would be gone. My right flank would be turned, and my position in Palestine would be untenable. I might hold Rafa or El Arish; but you can imagine what effect such a withdrawal would have on the population of Egypt, and on the watching tribes of the Western Desert. You see, therefore, that I cannot modify my present dispositions. I must give up nothing of what I now hold. Anyhow, I must hold the Jordan Valley. (from Occupation of the Jordan Valley. (2013, April 9). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 22:10, April 24, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Occupation_of_the_Jordan_Valley&oldid=549530281 which in turn cited
Hughes, Matthew, ed. (2004). Allenby in Palestine: The Middle East Correspondence of Field Marshal Viscount Allenby June 1917 – October 1919. Army Records Society 22. Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7509-3841-9. page 163
Philip was buried at Jerusalem and a photograph was taken of his grave.
|The grave of Trooper Philip Champion de Crespigny of the 2nd Australian Light Horse Brigade of Bendigo VIC, who was killed in action on 14 July 1918. This is the original grave which has been incorporated into Jerusalem War Cemetery. Photographed about 1918 by Coulson, Oswald Hillam (Ossie). Retrieved from the Australian War Memorial, item id B03314 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B03314|
Ossie Coulson also took a photograph of the area where the fighting occurred.
|The unusual landscape at Mussalabeh. photographed by Coulson, Oswald Hillam (Ossie) about 1917. In the Australian War Memorial Collection id B03139 http://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B03139|
His wife placed a notice in The Argus and papers around the country published obituaries noting he was a talented journalist who had a great deal of experience.
|The gravestone of Annie Frances Champion Crespigny née Chauncy at Queenscliff that also records her two sons Philip and Constantine Trent.