A total of 170 men from the College are known to have enlisted in World War One. Nearly three-quarters joined the AIF, a couple went into the Royal Australian Navy and one man, Robert Waley, into the Australian Flying Corps. By far the most popular unit for Paul’s men was the Australian Army Medical Corps. Men of all ages (a total of 41, apparently) enlisted in the AAMC, most but not all being medical graduates. Men from the land gravitated towards the various brigades of the Light Horse, and numerous Paulines, especially engineering graduates, also enlisted in the Artillery.
Some enlisted overseas – as far as we know, one in New Zealand, two in Canada and between 40 and 50 in the British Army. A small number of the latter seem to have been drawn partly by the glamour of old British regiments – George Vivers joined the Royal Horse Guards and a couple of other men took commissions in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. But reasons for enlisting in Britain were usually more practical. Brian Simpson and Richard Waddy happened to be abroad at the crucial moment (Waddy was an ophthalmologist in Egypt) and both joined King Edward’s Horse, a new regiment otherwise known as the King’s Overseas Dominions Regiment.
Others were drawn to the more up-to-date British units, especially the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Royal Field Artillery. The RFA enrolled about a dozen Paul’s men, who, like those in the Australian Field Artillery, obviously registered the fact that World War One was “an artillery war”. The military historian John Terraine says, “artillery was the battle-winner, artillery was what caused the greatest loss of life, the most dreadful wounds, and the deepest fear”. Even more up-to-date, Edward Simpson and Kerrod Voss joined Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and Charles Rich the Royal Naval Air Service, the two predecessors of the RAF.
Of the 89 men who lived in College during the five years before the outbreak of war (1910-14), 78 enlisted (a couple were to wait until World War Two) and of those nine died. Including older men, there were twenty war deaths altogether. For an account of all twenty, see here.
In World War One, only one Pauline rose above the rank of lieutenant-colonel. This was Reginald Jeffrey Millard, CMG, OBE, a colonel in Australian Army Medical Corps. Nine were awarded the DSO (for bravery under fire, usually given to officers above the rank of captain), and there were sixteen Military Crosses and one Military Medal (the criterion for which was “exemplary gallantry”). Apart from Millard the most highly decorated men were Harold Fletcher White, DSO, CMG, lieutenant-colonel 35th Battalion AIF, and James Leslie Williams, CMG, MBE. Williams was a public servant – said to have been the only head of an Australian government department to have enlisted under commissioned rank. He ended as a captain in Australian Field Artillery.
The war service of some Paul’s men has received particular notice elsewhere: Jack Massie, for instance, in Hermes, the University magazine, May 1917, pp. 35-6, with a full-length photograph; Bernard French, likewise, June 1918, pp. 46-7; and Norman Rowland, likewise, October 1919, pp. 141-2 .
The University’s World War One Centenary website, Beyond 1914, puts the stories of College men within the wider context of the University’s contribution to the war.
From The Pauline
I have tried to write a sonnet to my lady’s old sun bonnet,
Or to sing in joyous madrigal the merry month of May,
But across my mind comes flitting, causing language unbefitting,
And image of the Kaiser and his myrmidon’s array.
As I wrote: “Your auburn tresses, which the sportive breeze caresses,
Are to me a glorious halo, meet for one I love so well” –
I could hear the newsboys shouting, all my tender phrases routing:
“Another famous victory, not far from Neuve-Chapelle!”
Thus my idle fancies wander to that country over yonder
Whose Navy lies in hiding, whilst their sailors toast The Day,
And my tortured brain is reeling, as with deep and bitter feeling
I cry curses on the Kaiser and his myrmidons’ array.