The reality of war was a far cry from anything Private Charles Cronk and his brother, James Cronk, could have imagined when they joined up together in 1915.
Although they started out in the same light horse regiment in the Middle East, the brothers were not only reassigned as artillerymen for the Western Front they were also posted to different divisions.
Charles, a bridge carpenter, was 28 years old when he enlisted with his brother on September 27, 1915.
Listed on the Canungra memorial with his brothers James and John Cronk, Charles was one of five sons of Louisa Cronk, of Currumbin, to enlist for service in the Great War.
One younger brother, George Henry Cronk, was killed in France in 1916 and another, Albert Ernest Cronk, who joined up two days after Charles and James, served with the 47th Battalion which fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war on the Western Front.
With his brother James, Charles sailed from Sydney on the HMAT Star of Victoria on March 31, 1916, as part of the 16th reinforcements of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment.
The pair were taken on strength of the 1st Light Horse Training Regiment at Tel el Kebir in Egypt on May 5, but 10 days later Charles was transferred to Artillery Details.
On May 25, Charles left Alexandria with the British Expeditionary Force bound for England. After a brief period of training, he left England for France and the Western Front on June 9 and marched in to the Australian General Base Depot on October 5.
Charles was taken on strength of the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column on December 1 and three weeks later was transferred and taken on strength of the 11th Field Artillery Brigade, as France was in the grip of its worst winter in decades.
Artillery, whose 18-pounder guns with a range of almost six kilometres caused death and destruction on an unprecedented scale, played a defining role on the battlefields of the Western Front.
Inflicting the most casualties – physical and psychological – artillery was one of the most feared weapons of the war.
As part of Australia’s 4th Division, the 11th Field Artillery Brigade was involved in the pursuit of the German Army as it withdrew to the Hindenburg Line from mid-March to early April, 1917.
On April 1, serving in France, Charles was found guilty of showing “willful defiance of authority” by disobeying a “lawful command given personally by a superior” on March 29, for which he forfeited 28 days pay.
Charles was with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade when it provided support to Australia’s infantrymen at battles at Bullecourt in April and at Messines in June, 1917.
In 1918, he was part of the artillery effort in the now legendary Australian triumph over the Germans at Villers-Bretonneux in April, followed by the victory at Hamel in July, Amiens and Albert in August and the Hindenburg Line in September.
Charles spent the first half of October, 1918, on leave in England, rejoining his unit in France for the last month of the war.
On March 4, 1919, he marched out for return to England in preparation for return to Australia.
It was May 1 before Charles boarded the China at Devonport. After arriving in Sydney on June12, he was discharged from the AIF on July 27.