There was no Christmas truce in 1916.
Mortally wounded in action on the Somme on Christmas Eve, Gunner Edward Platt died on Boxing Day and was buried near the French town of Albert.
Weeks later, his widowed mother, Jane Platt, of Brisbane Street, Beaudesert, received a telegram dated January 15, 1917, to say her son had been wounded.
On August 6, having received what should have been her late son’s personal effects, Mrs Platt wrote a letter to Army records, clearly disillusioned by the way her loss had been treated.
“Enclosed you will find receipt for package which I received although I cannot recognise any of the articles as that of my son,” she wrote.
“He had wristlet watch, pocket wallet and other little things that I very much would of liked to have had as a keepsake, but I have not received any of these, and I may also say here that it is seven months since I got word of my son being killed but no other letter from an officer or comrade to give me any details of his end which would be a little consoling. If you could advise me as to where to write to get some information I would be very much obliged.”
The response from Army records, on August 15, concerning the “regrettable loss” of her son stated:
“The final official confirming documents now to hand show that he was wounded in action in the field, France, on 24/12/16, being admitted to the 1st Anzac Dressing Station (15th Field Ambulance) suffering from wounds in his scalp, right leg and dislocated shoulder which resulted in his death on the 25th December, 1916. So far this is all the information that has filtered through officially to Australia, to date, but immediately the burial report is to hand you will be communicated with.”
Eight years later, in June 1925, Mrs Platt received a brief telegram advising that her son had been buried in Dartmoor Cemetery, France. Established as the Becordel-Becourt Military Cemetery in 1915, it was re-named in May 1916 as Dartmoor at the request of Britain’s Devonshire Regiment.
Beaudesert-born Edward Platt had just turned 21 when he enlisted for overseas service on August 13, 1915.
He left Brisbane on the HMAT Seang Bee on October 21, bound for the Middle East, initially part of the 11th reinforcements of the predominantly Queensland 15th Battalion.
In Egypt in March 1916, Edward was transferred to the 47th Battalion. A little over a week later, he was taken on strength with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade, formed to support the newly raised 4th Division, and was posted to the 41st Battery as a Gunner.
He left Alexandria for Marseilles on the Haverford on June 6 and arrived in France on June 10.
During the next six months in France, Edward became part of the industry of death in the slaughterhouse that was the Somme. Artillery was the foremost weapon on the Western Front, causing most of the destruction of the war and the greatest loss of life on both sides.
In the middle of the worst winter in France in more than three decades, Edward sustained what was described as a compression shell wound to the head and face, “cerebral”.
Although his mother had been told in the letter of August 1917 that he had died on December 25, 1916, all of Edward’s Army records indicate that he passed away on December 26 and was buried the same day.