Private Patrick Gorman was killed in action in the first week of the Spring Offensive, the German Army’s last desperate attempt to win the war on the Western Front.
Aiming to destroy the British forces before the arrival of substantial numbers of American troops, the German Army’s commanders launched all-out attacks during March, April and May of 1918.
For Australia alone, repelling the German onslaught involved the fledgling Australian Flying Corps, artillery, and infantrymen of 55 battalions, including the 9th Battalion in which Patrick Gorman had served since landing at Gallipoli almost three years earlier.
Operation Michael, the first major enemy attack, was unleashed on March 21, 1918, beginning with a massive artillery barrage. Five days later, Patrick Gorman was among the dead.
The 9th Battalion’s war diary tells how, at Hollebeke, outside Ypres early on the morning of March 26, an enemy patrol, about 30 strong, had been in no man’s land “probably in front of Hessian Wood”.
“A counter patrol of one officer (Lieut. H.R Gower) and 20 other ranks with one Lewis Gun was detailed to beat off this hostile patrol. Our patrol left at 5.30am and immediately encountered enemy and opened fire on them – enemy retired followed by our patrol who inflicted casualties on enemy as they retired. Our patrol penetrated enemy wire at about p.l.c 35.50. Enemy had meanwhile withdrawn to pillboxes and opened fire with two machine guns. As enemy emerged from pillboxes, it was found that our Lewis Gun was out of action and could not be fired,” it states.
As a result, five men, including Patrick Gorman, were killed and two were wounded.
A labourer, Patrick, 29, had worked at Lahey’s sawmill, Canungra, before enlisting on January 5, 1915.
Patrick left Brisbane for the Middle East on April 8, 1915, aboard the HMAT Star of England, with the 4th reinforcements of the 9th Battalion.
On June 4 he arrived at Gallipoli, where the 9th Battalion had played a key role in establishing and defending the front line of the ANZAC beachhead since the April 25 landings.
Three months later, Patrick became ill and on September 6 was transferred to Mudros, where he was treated for fever and dysentery before being shipped to Malta.
After two weeks in hospital in Malta, Patrick was put aboard the Regina d’Italia on September 26, bound for England. He was admitted to the 3rd Western General Hospital at Cardiff on October 4.
The next entry on Patrick’s service record shows him returning to Egypt on February 14, 1916. On March 6, he rejoined his comrades of the 9th Battalion who had been evacuated from the Gallipoli peninsula in December.
Patrick embarked on the Saxonia at Alexandria, as part of the British Expeditionary Force bound for the Western Front, on March 27, arriving in Marseilles, France, on April 3.
The first major action of the war for the 9th Battalion on the Western Front was during the fortnight of fierce fighting at Pozieres in the Somme Valley, from July 23 to August 7.
Patrick was appointed Lance Corporal on August 1 and after Pozieres the battalion moved into Flanders in Belgium, where it fought again at Ypres.
The 9th Battalion returned to the Somme towards the end of the year to man the trenches during the winter of 1916-17, the region’s worst in decades, enduring wet and freezing conditions.
In 1917, the battalion was moved back into Belgium and in March Patrick forfeited 168 hours pay for drunkenness. In May, he reverted to the rank of Private at his own request.
Patrick was detached for duty with Australian 1st Division Headquarters for five months, from August 30 to February 2, 1918.
He rejoined his battalion on February 3 and then had leave to England from February 8 to 25.
A month after rejoining his battalion, Patrick was killed in action at Hollebeke. Now part of the city of Ypres, the Flemish village was one of the most contested areas of World War One.
Patrick Gorman’s final resting place is the Oxford Road Cemetery north-east of Ypres, where he is remembered with another 850 other Commonwealth soldiers of the Great War.
Patrick’s personal possessions which were to have been returned to his family were lost with the sinking of the Barunga, torpedoed by a German submarine on July 15, 1918, en route to Australia from England.
Despite some spectacular early gains by the German Army, which had assembled a force of 74 divisions, 6600 guns, 3500 mortars and 326 aircraft, Operation Michael ultimately failed to achieve its objectives.
The German Army tried repeatedly to crush the Allies in a series of large scale attacks that continued into July 1918, but it had paid a high price for the huge losses it had inflicted.
The launch in August of the allied counter-offensive, which became known as the 100 Days Offensive, marked the beginning of the end for the German forces on the Western Front.