Englishman Albert Lake’s connection to Canungra is spelled out in a letter from Gallipoli by another expatriate serving as an Australian infantryman, Scotsman John Derrick.
Private Derrick, who had also been working in Canungra before enlisting in the AIF, had spotted a familiar face on a troopship of reinforcements bound for the peninsula in June and weeks later wrote to a friend with news of another “old Canungra boy”, Bert Lake.
The letter was printed in the Beaudesert Times on October 1, 1915, under the heading From the front, after John Derrick had been reported missing on the Gallipoli peninsula.
“One old Canungra boy over here has had rather bad luck. Bert Lake, I don’t think you will remember him. He was with the first landing party, got invalided back to Egypt, and returned to the front when I came over. I met him on the troopship. A couple of weeks ago he got badly wounded in the arm with shrapnel and is now in hospital at Cairo,” he wrote.
Bert had enlisted in Townsville on August 18, just two weeks after the outbreak of war. He had not yet turned 21 and had named his mother, living at Coombehill near Cheltenham in England, as his next of kin.
Next month Private Lake left Brisbane on the HMAT Omrah with the 9th Battalion, the first to be recruited in Queensland, bound for the Middle East.
After further training in Egypt, Bert left with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from Alexandria and was part of the Gallipoli landing on April 25 which is commemorated by ANZAC Day.
Wounded in action on the first day, Bert was sent back to Egypt. He was treated initially at the 1st Australia General Hospital on April 29 and then transferred to a convalescent camp at Zeitoun.
It was in mid-June, while on his way to rejoin the 9th Battalion at Gaba Tepe on the Gallipoli peninsula, that Bert was recognised on the troopship by John Derrick, who was among the reinforcements for the 15th Battalion.
Bert was wounded in action for a second time on July 2 at Gaba Tepe. With a shrapnel wound to the forearm, he was transferred to the ship Neuralia on July 4 and returned to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Egypt.
He did not return to Gallipoli but remained in Egypt where he fell ill in October. Bert was admitted to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Cairo with colitis on October 5 and transferred three weeks later with jaundice to a casualty clearing station at Helouan, where he remained until January 16.
After the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula in December, the 9th Battalion returned to Egypt and Bert rejoined it at Tel el Kabir on January 21.
He left Alexandria on the Saxonia as part of the British Expeditionary Force bound for France and the trenches of the Western Front on March 23, arriving in Marseilles on April 3.
The 9th Battalion’s first major action of the war was the Battle of Pozieres in July, but Bert had already been wounded in action on May 23 by a high explosive shell burst.
Throughout May and June he was treated for shell shock and in late June joined the 1st Australian Divisional Base Depot.
Bert returned to his battalion in France early March, 1917, but by late May was back in hospital suffering nervous shock. By mid-June it was clear that he was never going to be able to return to the field and was sent back to England, arriving at Perham Downs via Southampton on June 20.
On January 30, 1918, Bert boarded the Euripides to return to Australia. He arrived in Melbourne on March 21 and travelled to Brisbane where he was discharged as unfit with the nervous condition, neurasthenia, on April 24.
Almost 50 years later, applying for a Gallipoli Medallion, Bert told the story of more than three-and-a-half-years’ war service in a few brief sentences, in a letter to Army records, dated June 14, 1967.
“I was in the landing at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915,” he wrote.
“I became a casualty the same day & was sent back to Egypt. After a spell in hospital, I volunteered to go again to Gallipoli, from a Convalescent Camp. I was wounded again by shrapnel and back to Egypt again. After the evacuation, I rejoined my unit & so to France where I was nearly buried by a high explosive shell. Eventually classed as C and was returned to Australia and discharged with a pension.”