The AIF Project

Albert Percy HELSON

Regimental number1673
Place of birthPort Augusta, South Australia
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationLabourer
AddressLeeton, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation24
Height5' 8"
Weight150 lbs
Next of kinBrother, Thomas Helson, Burnett's Terrace, Westport, New Zealand
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date7 January 1916
Place of enlistmentCootamundra, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name56th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/73/3
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A40 Ceramic on 14 April 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll56th Battalion
Other details from Roll of Honour CircularWorked as a miner before the start of the War. Bother listed his place of birth as Broken Hill, New South Wales.
FateKilled in Action 22 October 1916
Age at death27
Age at death from cemetery records26
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
162
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: Charles and Harriott HELSON
Other details

War service: Egypt, Western Front

Disembarked Port Said, 16 May 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 21 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 29 June 1916.

Taken on strength, 56th Bn, in the field, 26 July 1916.

Reported missing in action, 22 October 1916.

Court of Enquiry, held in the field, 9 October 1917, pronounced fate as 'Killed in Action, 22 October 1916'.

Evidence tendered to the Court: 3560 Pte R.D. McINTYRE, B Company, 56th Bn: 'No. 1673 Pte Helson A.P. was in the same platoon as I was on about 22.10.16. While the Bn was in the front line at FLERS, I was on a ration party together with Pte Helson on or about 22.10.16 carrying from Pommiers Redoubt to Bn H.Qrs. Pte Helson was close behind me in single file. Before reaching our destination three "Duds" fell close to the party. The party became broken up to take cover and when we arrived at Bn H.Q. he was missing. The rest of the party arrived. I have not seem him since or heard of him. The three shells which failed to explode were the only shells which fell near us during the trip.'

Second witness statement, 1742 Company Sergeant Major R. STEWART, B Company, 56th Bn: I was acting Coy Q.M.S. of "B" Coy in October last when the Bn was in the FLERS sector, and I recollect that Pte Helson was on a ration carrying party and was subsequently reported missing. Under instructions from my Company commander I have made thorough inquiries among the present members of the Coy and with the exception of Pte McIntyre ... have been unable to find anyone who was on the ration party with him or who knows anything concerning his fate.'

Lt Colonel A.J.C. SIMPSON, Temporary CO, 56th Bn, noted: 'Though the available evidence is somewhat conflicting, in [my] opinion it is sufficient to warrant the finding of the Court.'

Note, Red Cross File No 1990403: 'No trace Germany. Cert by Capt. Mills. 10.10.19.'

Statement, Red Cross File No 1310610, Captain Godfrey Charles CHRISTEANSEN, 56th Bn (patient, 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, England), 20 August 1917: 'Helson was sitting in a trench at Flers with two comrades when a shell burst between the three of them killing the other two. Nothing was seen of Helson. We were relieved the next morning at day-light by 54th Batt: and I heard that Helson's body was found about 15 yards outside the trench. I cannot vouch for this.' Eye witness: no - 'One of my men told me, who got it from a man in the 54th.'

Second statement, 1646 Pte H.F. DAY, 56th Bn (patient, Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich, England), 1 June 1917: 'Informant states that in October, at Flers, Pte. Helson was either carrying a message or was on ration fatigue, and entered the German trench in mistake for his own.' Eye witness: no. 'Heard from men in Helson's Platoon.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, HELSON Albert Percy
Red Cross File No 1990403
Red Cross File No 1310610

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