Hero Andrew Anderson died 100 years ago
Aged just 23, days before the battle now commemorated as Polygon Wood Andrew, this hero has left us a legacy of fond memories
ANDREW Anderson packed some adventure into his short life
Born in Bundaberg on April 9, 1895 to Scottish immigrants Andrew and Christina, he attended Barolin State School. The Andersons were ambitious for their children.
One of their daughters, Helen, travelled to Melbourne by ship to train in secretarial work, while another son was a midshipman in the second entry class at the nascent RAN naval college at North Geelong.
Andrew followed a more conventional path, training as an engine fitter at Bundaberg Foundry where a contemporary, Bert Hinkler, became a decorated World War I fighter pilot and aviation pioneer. Hinkler travelled to the UK to pursue an aviation career.
Andrew Anderson went to Moonie in far western Queensland exploring for oil almost 50 years before it was eventually discovered.
He sent his older sister Helen postcards from this remote region, a tradition he continued as his life took a dramatic turn.
With his parents’ consent, Andrew Anderson enlisted in Bundaberg on January 30, 1915.
He was sent to the 25th Bn at Enoggera, joining its machine gun company.
On March 30, he was appointed lance corporal.
On June 29, 1915 he sailed from Brisbane on HMAT Aeneas, arriving in Egypt before embarking again for Gallipoli on September 4 where he served as a machine gunner.
His leadership potential identified early, he was promoted corporal on September 20, then temporary sergeant on December 12, replacing Sgt Harry Murray DCM, later lieutenant colonel VC, DSO and Bar, described as the most highly decorated Commonwealth infantry officer of the war.
T/Sgt Anderson was among the last to leave Gallipoli on December 20 and, after returning to Egypt on January 9, 1916, relinquished his temporary rank on January 20 on Sgt Murray’s return.
\Cpl Anderson was transferred to the 7th Machine Gun Company in March, departing for France on March 14, arriving in Marseilles on March 21.
When he could he sent postcards to Helen, some embroidered, or with flowers or small gifts, such as a souvenir handkerchief.
By April 10 he was sergeant again.
On August 28 he was mentioned in 2nd Division routine orders for “good and gallant conduct in relation to the recent hard fighting round Pozieres”.
He also fought at Mouquet Farm and Bullecourt.
On October 5, 2016 he was appointed acting company sergeant major before joining the Machine Gun Officers Cadet Bn at Bisley, England on November 25.
Appointed 2nd Lieutenant on March 24, 1917 he had a formal portrait taken for Helen wearing his new officer’s uniform.
He rejoined the 7th MG Coy on June 2 in time for the battle of Messines, preparing a new will which was witnessed by fellow 25th Bn Lt Edgar Towner, later VC MC.
On September 20 1917, two years after being promoted corporal, the now Lieutenant Anderson was involved in hand-to-hand fighting near four pill boxes 850m east of Westhoek in Belgium.
He told his comrades he’d been struck in the head before collapsing.
Lt J Biggs reported, “I buried him alongside a road 20 yards from the pill boxes the next morning, about 6 days later put a cross over him with all details.”
Andrew Anderson died 100 years ago yesterday aged 23, days before the battle now commemorated as Polygon Wood.
He was my maternal grandmother Helen Marles’ younger brother, and she grieved his loss all her life.
After she died I inherited from her his remaining possessions, including his binoculars which were returned to his widowed mother according to his will, plus his postcards and photos.
Andrew Anderson’s grave was lost, but his name is recorded on the walls of the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres, Belgium, at the AWM and several Bundaberg memorials.