George Ernest Weir – Rosalie (alto)
Service number 3939
Private 3rd Battalion 1st AIF 12th reinforcements
Enlisted at Holsworthy 6 August 1915
Embarked 30 December 1915 HMAT Medic
Arrived in France (Marseilles) 4 April 1916
Wounded at Pozieres 22-27 July 1916
Admitted by 21 Transport Ambulance Train 25 July 1916 to 3rd Casualty Clearing Station A36
Admitted, shrapnel wound face, Boulogne 13th Stationary Hospital W3034
Discharged to base (Etaples) 31 July 1916
1st Australian Division Base Depot 2 August – 16 September Etaples
Rejoined unit in Belgium
Killed in action at Flers 6 November 1916
Born 21 November 1894
Pre-war lived at Wesley Park Kiama NSW
Occupation Dairy farmer
Appearance Height 5’6”, hazel eyes, auburn hair
Age at enlistment 20 years and 9 months
Commemorated at Villers-Bretonneux Memorial; Kiama Memorial Arch; Christ Church Soldier’s Memorial Tower, Kiama.
Born 21 November 1894 in Kiama, NSW, George Ernest Weir grew up at Wesley Park (in what is now known as Kiama Heights), ‘between the hills and the sea’. The farm was very close to ‘Bush Bank’, the childhood home of his mother, and a short ride from ‘Buena Vista’ in Gerringong, the home of his father.
George enlisted in August 1915. A popular young man, an active church-goer (at Christ Church Kiama) and Sunday School teacher, it seems there were numerous farewells and presentations before George embarked on 30 December 1915, along with this best mate (George Boniface).
He arrived in France in April 1916 (having travelled via Egypt and trained at Alexandria), and joined his company on the Western Front.
We steamed into Marseilles last Tuesday [date erased] and after disembarking marched to the railway station where we were soon aboard a train and off, having a splendid journey through France…We were delighted with the scenery, the beauty of which it would be difficult to surpass, with its beautiful green fields, orchards and many vineyards…The women are the principle workers in the fields, all the eligible men being away at the war. In some cases old men and boys may be seen working in the fields, but even they are in the minority.
The cordiality between the French and ourselves was very much in evidence. The women living near the line all have a cheery smile and a wave for us, but it was like a shadow on our sunshine when we noticed only too often how the women would start crying. But they soon dashed the tears away again. (Pte GE Weir, letter to his family on his arrival in France in May 1916, as published in the Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser 22 July 1916)
To his distress, at this point he was separated from George Boniface—he tried very hard to be transferred to his ‘brother’s’ company but it is not clear if this happened.
George’s first serious engagement in the horror that was trench warfare was at Pozières, which took place 22-28 July 1916. Wounded in the jaw, he wrote home to his family saying (with apparent cheerfulness) ‘If my jaw had been a bit worse I would have got a trip to England with it!’ He qualified this by expressing, more soberly, his concerns about his mates (particularly his ‘brother’ George) and saying ‘I knew such a lot of real good fellows who have gone under…To tell you the truth I was glad to get out of it for a while’.
George was deemed sufficiently recovered to rejoin his unit in mid September 1916. The 3rdBattalion continued to move in and out of the front line, and on 6 November 1916, during fighting in the vicinity of Flers—in freezing rain and gale force winds, according to the unit diary—George was killed in action. Such a long, long way from home, from the sea, from the heat of an Australian November, from the coral trees and jacaranda that would have been flowering around the farm.
George has no known grave – his service records note he was buried ‘in the vicinity of Flers (his service record has the notation ‘57°SE’) but he is commemorated on the wall of the memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. He was just a few weeks short of his 22nd birthday.
George’s mother (Isabella) and her husband (David Ernest Weir) were visiting family in Clunes (near Lismore) in early December 1916 when the telegram arrived advising that George had been killed. The news caused enormous grief to all in the family, and to the wider community. Isabella never quite recovered – her obituary (in 1923) described her heartbreak at the loss of her boy, and letters between George’s father and the War Office (seeking further information and also return of George’s personal effects) also stressed their continuing sorrow.
There was a terrible twist in this tale. An error was made in the date of George’s death – the telegram indicated he had died on 6 October 1916, rather than the actual date of 6 November. George’s family continued to received letters and cards from him, post-dating the apparent date of his death. This caused them to hope…and their hopes were raised even further when they read in the casualty lists that a George Ernest Weir was being evacuated home on medical grounds.
However, this turned out to be a terrible coincidence – the boy returning home was George Ernest Weir from Tenterfield. There were a number of rather incredible parallels between the two Georges – they were of similar age, enlisted within a month or two of each other, and were in action in France at the same time. George Weir from Tenterfield, however, became gravely ill, and returned to Australia in November 1916 where he was discharged as medically unfit.
George’s father wrote to the Defence Department, who subsequently confirmed the sad truth.