Herbert Swallow
Service number 1422

Englishman Herbert Swallow will be remembered by history as the quintessential Australian – part of the ANZAC legend which was born out of the bloodshed on the Gallipoli peninsula.

With family, including his mother, Jane Swallow, still living at Romford in Essex, Herbert was among the immigrant and itinerant workers from the Canungra district who fought and died as Australians during the Great War.

Herbert was 28 years old when he enlisted at Rockhampton on January 1, 1915, joining the 2nd reinforcements of the 15th Battalion.

Six weeks later, he boarded the HMAT Seang Bee, which sailed from Brisbane on February 13.

After arriving in the Middle East, Herbert became part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force assembled on April 12 in preparation for the Gallipoli landings.

As part of the 4th Brigade, the 15th Battalion landed at ANZAC Cove late on the afternoon of April 25 and in the weeks that followed its key role was establishing and defending the front line of the beachhead.

Suffering a badly crushed finger on May 6, Herbert was treated at a New Zealand field ambulance and then transferred to the hospital ship Lutzow which carried him back to Egypt.

Herbert was admitted to hospital in Alexandria on May 13 and recovered from his injury to be released to the overseas base at Mustapha on May 30.

He embarked on the Itonus at Alexandria on June 2, headed back to Gallipoli and his battalion.

Luckier than many Australian soldiers, Herbert survived not one but two landings on the remote Turkish peninsula, rejoining the 15th Battalion on June 12.

However, his luck did not last and two months later Herbert became a casualty of the disastrous attempt to break the stalemate which had existed since April, the attack on hill 971.

The highest point of the Sari Bar Ridge, hill 971 was known to the Turks as Koja Chemen Tepe. The allied plan had been to seize the high ground from the Turkish forces and push across the peninsula to capture the forts guarding the Dardanelles Straits.

However, on August 8, as the 15th and two other battalions moved over an exposed slope, they were raked by Turkish machine gun fire. The hill was taken at a terrible cost but could not be held after the arrival of Turkish reinforcements.

Reporting the loss of another comrade from the 15th Battalion, one soldier described how the men were cut down by furious fire:

“It was terrible. The men were falling like rabbits. Many were calling for mothers and sisters.” 

Like his ex-patriate Canungra comrade, Scotsman John Derrick, Herbert Swallow, reported wounded and missing on August 8, was among those who simply vanished in the chaos and carnage that day.

“Luckier than many, Herbert survived not one but two landings at Gallipoli.”

The hill was taken at terrible cost but could not be held.

It was not until April 1916 – four months after the evacuation of the peninsula – that a court of inquiry convened at 4th Australian Infantry Brigade headquarters at Serapeum in Egypt determined that Private Herbert Swallow had indeed been killed in action at Gallipoli.

More than 100 years after his death, Herbert Swallow’s name lives on, engraved on Panel 49 of the memorial in Gallipoli’s Lone Pine Cemetery.

A 14-metre limestone pylon, the memorial stands as a sentinel over the Turkish trenches and tunnels which were the scene of heavy fighting during the August offensive.

Herbert Swallow is among the 3268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who died at Gallipoli and have no known grave. The memorial also commemorates the 960 Australians and 252 New Zealanders who were buried at sea after dying of wounds or disease after the evacuation of Gallipoli in December, 1915.

Herbert Swallow’s name on the memorial in Gallipoli’s Lone Pine Cemetery.


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