Private George Rankin was recovering in hospital in England when his family at Beechmont was notified of his death.
A penetrating gunshot wound to the chest in the last months of the war left George with only one lung but despite being reported dead in 1918, he lived for another 45 years, eventually passing away at 75.
Named after his father, George was the fourth son of Beechmont pioneers George and Maria Rankin, who settled on the plateau in 1903, carving their farm, Bonnie Brae, out of the thick scrub alongside Back Creek.
George was a dairyman and farmer, 27 years old, when he enlisted on August 13, 1915, with his cousin, Jim Sharp and his mate, John Veivers, the brother of his sweetheart, Muriel.
Among the 12th reinforcements of the 9th Battalion, the trio sailed from Brisbane on the HMAT Itonus on December 30, 1915, bound for the Middle East.
At Alexandria on March 27, 1916, George boarded the Saxonia for Marseilles as part of the British Expeditionary Force for the Western Front.
The 9th Battalion’s first major action of the war was the Battle of Pozieres, beginning on July 23, when the tiny French village in the Somme became the epicentre of a bitter and costly struggle which included three Australian divisions. The fortnight of fierce fighting cost 7000 young Diggers their lives.
After Pozieres, the battalion moved into the Ypres sector in Belgium before returning to the Somme where its men spent the horrendous winter of 1916-17 in the trenches, often knee deep in mud.
George spent five days in hospital being treated for a septic foot, rejoining his unit on November 19, but was back in hospital 11 days later and was out of action until the end of December.
On February, 4, 1917, George was struck down with influenza. He was so ill that it was March 31 before he finally rejoined his unit.
By then, the battalion had moved back to Belgium and had been involved in the pursuit of the German Army as it made a strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, destroying everything in its path.
When the German Army launched its massive Spring Offensive in March the following year, the 9th, then operating near Ypres, was one of 55 Australian battalions which faced the onslaught of all-out attacks in the Germans’ last desperate bid to win the war.
After helping to halt the German offensive, the 9th was part of the allied counter offensive, fighting near Amiens on August 8. For German General Ludendorf, the Battle of Amiens was the “black day of the German Army in this war”, with the advance by the allied troops the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front.
The allied advance continued with Australians in the lead, but the going got tougher during the following days, with heavier losses for relatively fewer gains in ground.
Wounded in action on August 10, George was among the casualties in the days after the Battle of Amiens, surviving a severe gunshot wound to the left side of his chest.
He was evacuated to England on the Grantully Castle on August 29 and admitted to the City of London Military Hospital.
Days later, George’s mother at Beechmont received a telegram, dated August 31, to say he had been admitted to the 55th Casualty Clearing Station, dangerously ill, on August 14. At the 2015 ANZAC Day service, George’s great nephew, Phil Rankin, told the story of how a mix-up had resulted in her receiving a letter to say George had died.
George was released from hospital on October 10, 1918. The Armistice was still a month away, but George’s war was already over.
Classed as an invalid, George left England on the Gaika on November 8, arriving in Melbourne on December 29. He was discharged from the AIF in Brisbane on March 9, 1919, after almost three years of front line service.
George returned to Beechmont and married his sweetheart Muriel Veivers, with whom he had corresponded throughout the war. His letters had told of the horrendous conditions on the battlefield and the numerous “close calls” George had experienced before being wounded in action.
George and Muriel raised three children, George, Bob and Jean, on their farm, Edgecliff, on Binna Burra Road. Their son, George, lived on the property for almost 90 years.
George senior’s name is listed on the Canungra memorial alongside that of his brother, Bill Rankin, who also served as an infantryman on the Western Front and was twice wounded in action.