The AIF Project

Thomas Alfred ANDERSON

Regimental number131
Date of birth24 May 1898
Place of birthHay, New South Wales
ReligionRoman Catholic
AddressLittle Collins Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation19
Height5' 6.25"
Weight140 lbs
Next of kinMother, Mrs R Anderson, Little Collins Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date28 September 1914
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll28 August 1914
Place of enlistmentRandwick, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name2nd Battalion, B Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/19/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A23 Suffolk on 18 October 1914
Rank from Nominal RollLance Corporal
Unit from Nominal Roll2nd Battalion
FateKilled in Action 24 July 1918
Age at death18
Age at death from cemetery records18
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
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Son of Mrs Catherine Darling ANDERSON, 48 Gerard Street, Alexandria, New South Wales
Other details

War service: Egypt, Gallipoli, Western Front

Embarked Alexandria to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Gallipoli Campaign), 5 April 1915.

Embarked Malta, 2 December 1915; disembarked Alexandria, 6 December 1915, and admitted to Mena House Hospital, Cairo, 7 December 1915 (jaundice); rejoined unit, Tel el Kebir, 29 December 1915.

Appointed Lance Corporal, 15 February 1916.

Embarked Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 22 March 1916; admitted to ship's hospital, at sea, 27 March 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 28 March 1916, and admitted to Lahore Indian Stationary Hospital, 29 March 1916 (injured right leg: sprained ankle while visiting the mess table on HMTS 'Ivernia'; slipped on the gangway; soldier in no way to blame); discharged to duty, 3 April 1916.

Rejoined Bn, Outtersteene, 10 April 1916.

Reverted to Private at own request, 23 May 1916.

Killed in action, 24 July 1916.

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Statement, Red Cross File No 01002036, 4442 Lance Corporal A. POWER, A Company, 2nd Bn (patient, Boscombe Hospital, England), 11 January 1917: 'Informant states that a 24th July 1916 at Pozieres he saw Pte. J.A. Anderson killed by a shell which fell six yds. away. He was blown to pieces, the remains being left in the trench or shell hole. Several others were killed by the same shell.'

Second statement, 4016 Pte L.D. WHYTE, 2nd Bn, 12 January 1917: 'We were at Pozieres. Four men were all buried together in the trenches by the same shell. One of those was T.A. Anderson. The dead bodies were dug out and buried behind the line.'

Third statement, 187 Pte T.E. KEITH, A Company, 2nd Bn, 22 January 1917: 'I was alongside him at Pozieres on 24th July, when he was killed in our trench by H.E. shell. I saw him buried at Pozieres. No cross was put up while I was there.'

Fourth statement, 4442 Lance Corporal A.D. BOWER, 2nd Bn (patient, 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Harefield, England), 30 January 1917: 'I saw them both blown up by the same shell in a trench at Pozieres. 2338 [Pte Robert ANDERSON] was of medium height, dark complexion, 131 was medium thick set and both were very well known popular chaps. I was about 6 yds away and the shell dazed me for a while. They were not buried for obvious reasons.'

Fifth statement, Lt W.L. WATERHOUSE, A Company, 2nd Bn (patient, 2nd Australian General Hospital, Randwick), 19 March 1917: 'At Pozieres we were holding on to a little bit of trench we had dug in front of the Town. He was moving along this trench when a German whizbang hit him direct and killed him instantly. In the stress of battle it was impossible to bury him. It was all we could do to hold on. I believe subsequently the Pioneers went up and buried all the bodies. Anderson was under medium height, nuggety build, and dark.' [Comment by interviewer: 'A most reliable witness.']

Note on file: 'No trace Germany. Cert. by Capt. Mills 10-10-19.'

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

A dispute arose over the disposition of the soldier's medals and other entitlements. Mrs F.A. KESSELL, 99 Falcon Street, North Sydney, wrote to Base Records, 13 September 1915: 'This soldier has been with me from the age of four or five years, and has always looked to me as his Mother, his own Mother never caring or troubled what became of him who I reared, clothed and educated and during this last four months she has been to me about him never thinking of him before. I look to him as my own Son and it was only natural that I should enquire to Melbourne where I knew I would get full particulars ... Yours honestly, F.A. Kessell.'

Base Records noted, 12 January 1916: 'I ... herewith forward a statement from him [ANDERSON] that he desires his allotment to Mrs. A.F. Kessell to remain unaltered and does not wish to make any provision to Mrs Catherine Anderson' [even though she was listed on his Attestation Form as his next of kin].

Mrs Anderson's application for a pension under the War Pensions Act 1914-1916 was rejected, 20 March 1917, on the grounds she was not dependent on the soldier.

Mrs Anderson wrote to Base Records, April 1917: 'Will you kindly inform me of any thing of my sons private belongings have returned ... If so so would you kindly send them to me as I would like to have them very much.'

Letter, Base Records to Mrs Anderson, 10 June 1920, returned 'Not at [this]address'.

Base Records wrote to Mrs Kessell, 22 September 1920: 'I shall be glad to learn whether you would care to have the war medals, etc. of the late No. 131 Private T. Anderson, 2nd Battalion, as mementos of his supreme sacrifice. I have endeavoured to trace his mother, without success.'

Special Enquiry Officer, Sydney, reported to Base Records, 12 July 1920: 'I interviewed Mrs. A.F. KESSEL [sic], at her residence Milson Street, North Sydney. She stated that the late, abovementioned soldier, was an illegitmate child, the father being one, Frederick Cole, with whom Mrs. Anderson cohabited in her younger days. That Mrs. Kessel & her husband had reared the late soldier from infancy & had received separation allowance from his military pay. I made diligent search for the mother, Mrs. Catherine Anderson & traced her to several boarding houses but so far I have failed to obtain a personal intereview with her.'

Base Records wrote to Mrs Anderson, 15 November 1920, now living in Alexandria: 'I have to advise you that the war medals of the late No. 131 Private T.A. Anderson, 2nd Battalion, have been approved to go to his foster-mother.'

Mrs Anderson wrote to Base Records, 24 November 1920: 'I respectfully beg that you will detain the issue of these medals to any other person than myself. I am next of kin by every right as well as being next of kin on his Attestation Paper. So I cannot understand on what authority this person is called Foster Mother & made entitled to the issue of these medals. I thought I had sufficiently established my identity when I proved that i was the lad's mother and received his deferred pay and leave money and the Mother's badge and Memorial Badge. This lad was never adopted by anyone. I fully intend having this case interrogated (?) to the fullest extent. I think that an explanation to me is necessary re this matter, as apart from givnig two sons if I am to be treated this was it is indeed hard and disheartening.'

Assistant Adjutant General 2nd Military District, Sydney, 14 December 1920: 'Referred to for favor of further investigations now that Mrs. Anderson has come to light, particularly in respect to her denial of there having been a foster-mother to the late soldier.'

AAG Sydney wrote to Base Records, 17 January 1921: 'I have now to advise that the above [1914-15] Star has now been returned by Mrs. F.A. Kessell ... should the Star now be presented to Mrs. C. Anderson?'

Base Records wrote to Assistant Adjutant General 2nd Military District, Sydney, 2 February 1921: It is suggested that Mrs. Anderson be confronted with Mrs Kessell's statement ... which appears to have been confirmed by District Finance Officer. Full facts should be ascertained for the information of the Minister, in order that he may be enabled to give an equitable decision of the matter.'

Report, Chief Inquiry Officer, 2nd Military District, 16 February 1921: 'I interviewed Mrs. New the landlady of 48 Gerard Street, Alexandria and she stated that Mrs. Anderson has been residing with her for the past four years and that she can vouch for her good character and sobriety ... I made inquiries from persons in that locality [Milson street, North Sydney] who were personally acquainted with the deceased soldier and they stated that they knew him under the name of Kessell and that he always spoke of Mr. and Mrs. Kessell as his father and mother. Mrs. Kessell is regarded as a respectable woman in the locality but was somewhat adicted [sic] to drink a few years ago.'

Minute, Base Records to Secretary, Department of Defence, 12 March 1921: 'The late No. 131 Private T.A. Anderson, 2nd Battalion, upon enlistment nominated as next of kin, Mrs K. Anderson (mother) ... but it has transpired, in the course of investigations with a view to ascertaining whether deceased's father was living, that the soldier was the illegitmate son of Mrs. Anderson. The report on the subject reads: "She stated that she married James Anderson at Hay, New South Wales, about 30 years ago and four children were born the issue of the marriage. She left her husband when the youngest child was fifteen months old and went to live on a domestic basis with a man named Frederick Cole and two children were born the issue of her intimacy with Cole, one of whom was the deceased soldier referred to." Mrs. Anderson left Cole when the deceased soldier was 4 years of age, and about that time the child was taken over by Mrs. F.A. Kressell ... being, in the words of the soldier's mother, "taken care of and kept until he was about 10 years of age, free of charge." After this the soldier lived with his mother for about 3 years, then returned again to Mrs. Kessell with who he was residing at the time of his enlistment. Mrs. Kessell produced letters written by the deceased soldier to her and her husband, in which they are addressed as "dear father and mother" and the letters were written in terms of endearment; the Kessells were very much attached to the lad and desire to obtain his war medals, etc. The mother similarly pleads for these mementos, and I would recommend that they be divided as is usual in cases of this description, viz. (a) 1914-1915 Star, Victory Medal, Memorial Plaque, and brochure "Where the Australians Rest" to Mrs. Kessell, deceased's foster-mother. (b) British War Medal with Clasps and Memorial Scroll to deceased's mother.'
SourcesNAA: B2455, ANDERSON Thomas Alfred
Red Cross File No 01002036

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