Francis Joseph Healey
Service number 6135

Wounded in action, Private Francis Healey was among the 6500 Australian casualties during the capture of Broodseinde Ridge, a vital victory in 1917.

This massive operation was the third in the larger overall offensive of Third Ypres that became known as the Battle of Passchendaele, for the ruined Belgian village that had been its final objective.

The Battle of Passchendaele was a series of battles, including Broodseinde Ridge, fought from July to November in appalling conditions with the Australians suffering crippling losses in rain-soaked fields that became a morass of mud.

Francis Healey was one of many men from the Canungra district who shared the bond of Broodseinde – not surprisingly because the battle involved 16 battalions as well as artillery.

Among those 16 Australian battalions was the 25th, in which Francis Healey enlisted on October 4, 1916.

Less than a month after joining up, he was headed overseas, boarding the Marathon in Brisbane on October 27.

Brisbane-born Francis was 28 years old and a farmer who named his friend, Richard Walsh, of Lamington, Beaudesert, as his next of kin.

He arrived at Plymouth on January 9, 1917, and began further training in England. However, by February 22, Francis, like so many other soldiers of the Great War, had contracted mumps and was admitted to Parkhouse hospital.

Francis returned to the Australian training battalion at Rollestone on March 14, for further preparation before embarking for the Western Front from Southampton, on June 25.

After joining his battalion in the field in France on July 15, Francis would have been among the troops in the second division’s first wave in the successful attack at Menin Road in Belgium on September 20.

The next entry in his service record shows Francis being wounded in action on October 4, when the 25th Battalion helped capture Broodseinde Ridge.

Rough planning map for the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge from the War Diaries of the General Staff, Headquarters, 1st ANZAC Corps, October 1917.

“One of many men from the Canungra district who shared the bond of Broodseinde.”

Suffered a gunshot wound to the armpit.

Coincidentally, the Australians had attacked the same morning that the German Army had launched an attack of its own, but the Australians forged on through the enemy assault to achieve all their objectives along the ridge.

Victory had come at the cost of some 6500 casualties, with Private Francis Healey suffering a gunshot wound to the armpit.

Broodseinde Ridge was the last major action of 1917 for the 25th Battalion and Francis, recovering from his wounds, did not return to the lines until December 11.

As 1918 began, it marked the start of a demanding year for the 25th battalion and in late March, Francis was sick in hospital.

He rejoined his unit on May 5, in the final month of the German Spring Offensive, and was with the 25th Battalion as it fought at Morlancourt, Hamel, Amiens and through the Somme Valley, helping to push the German Army towards defeat.

Weakened by casualties and a lack of reinforcements as recruitment in Australia had slowed, the 25th Battalion was ordered to disband in September so its men could be used to reinforce other battalions.

A ‘mutiny’ by the men who saw disbanding as an attack on their identity won the battalion a temporary reprieve and it fought its last action at Beaurevoir on October 3, 1918, succeeding in breaking through the German defences.

Nine days later, the 25th Battalion was disbanded and an entry in red ink in Francis’ service record on October 12 shows him being transferred to the 26th, which had also fought its last action of the war on October 3.

In the months following the Armistice, Francis was attached to Australian base depot headquarters.  He returned to Sutton Veny in England on June 25, 1919, where he spent the following weeks waiting to return to Australia.

Francis boarded the Argyllshire on August 2 and arrived in Melbourne on September 22. He was discharged from the Army in Brisbane on November 8, almost a year after the war had ended.


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