Surviving a bullet wound to the head, Private Alfred Cave developed epilepsy, suffering as many as 20 seizures in six days.
Alfred served on the Western Front for less than eight weeks in 1916 before he received the devastating wound that would prompt a Government Medical Officer to callously describe him in a letter to Army Records as a possible “epileptic lunatic”.
A waiter, Alfred was one of many English immigrants working in Canungra before the war.
He had been born in the London suburb of Hammersmith and named his mother, Emily Cave, who still lived there, as his next of kin when he enlisted on August 13, 1915.
Only 20, Alfred was accepted by the AIF without having the consent of his parents as they were living in England.
Alfred left Brisbane less than two months after enlisting, sailing from Brisbane on October 5 on the HMAT Warilda with the 5th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion.
After arriving in Egypt, the new recruits were joined by the veterans of the Gallipoli campaign who had left the peninsula on December 18. The 25th Battalion continued to train in the Middle East before heading to the battlefields of the Western Front.
On February 28, 1916, Alfred was transferred to the 9th Battalion and a month later left Alexandria with the British Expeditionary Force for France, arriving in Marseilles on April 3.
The next entry in Alfred’’s service record indicates he suffered a bullet wound to the thigh in France on May 24.
Alfred was transferred from the 13th General Hospital at Camiers to Boulogne on June 9. Suffering what was described as “dementia”, Alfred was finally evacuated to England from Havre on the Asturias on June 25.
Two days later, he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley as sick, described in his service record as “(mental)”.
Alfred was released from hospital in early August but two weeks later, while in camp at Durrington, was again admitted to hospital.
On September 9, he boarded the steamer Kanowna at Southampton to return to Australia to be discharged from the Army.
Having left Australia on October 5, 1915, Alfred arrived back a year later on October 8, 1916.
Classified as medically unfit due to his epilepsy, Alfred was discharged from the Army on December 6.
Alfred had returned to Canungra after serving overseas, as a note in his service record shows that a pension he had been receiving after leaving the Army had been cancelled in 1917.
In 1919, a letter from Base Records to the Government Medical Officer, Dr T Sydney Davis, said that Alfred had been treated in hospital in Brisbane after arriving back in Australia.
“His medical history shows that the disability originated on 23/5/16 in France, as the result of a bullet wound received on top of head, since when he has had 20 fits in six days,” it read.
“The soldier stated he has never before been subject to such fits.”
Alfred Cave was among 2422 men wounded while serving with the 9th Battalion during the Great War.
The battalion, one of the first raised for the AIF and the first to be recruited from Queensland, also lost 1094 men killed.