The AIF Project

Thomas John FLETCHER

Regimental number413
Place of birthSydney, New South Wales
SchoolPublic School
Other trainingNil
ReligionChurch of England
AddressBarracks Creek, Bingara, New South Wales
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation22
Height5' 9.5"
Weight133 lbs
Next of kinFather, J Fletcher, Barracks Creek, Bingara, New South Wales
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date28 January 1916
Place of enlistmentBingara, New South Wales
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name33rd Battalion, B Company
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/50/1
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, on board HMAT A74 Marathon on 4 May 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll33rd Battalion
FateKilled in Action 8 June 1917
Place of death or woundingPloegsteert Wood, Messines, Belgium
Age at death22.9
Age at death from cemetery records22
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsThe Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (Panel 23), Belgium

The Menin Gate Memorial (so named because the road led to the town of Menin) was constructed on the site of a gateway in the eastern walls of the old Flemish town of Ypres, Belgium, where hundreds of thousands of allied troops passed on their way to the front, the Ypres salient, the site from April 1915 to the end of the war of some of the fiercest fighting of the war.

The Memorial was conceived as a monument to the 350,000 men of the British Empire who fought in the campaign. Inside the arch, on tablets of Portland stone, are inscribed the names of 56,000 men, including 6,178 Australians, who served in the Ypres campaign and who have no known grave.

The opening of the Menin Gate Memorial on 24 July 1927 so moved the Australian artist Will Longstaff that he painted 'The Menin Gate at Midnight', which portrays a ghostly army of the dead marching past the Menin Gate. The painting now hangs in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, at the entrance of which are two medieval stone lions presented to the Memorial by the City of Ypres in 1936.

Since the 1930s, with the brief interval of the German occupation in the Second World War, the City of Ypres has conducted a ceremony at the Memorial at dusk each evening to commemorate those who died in the Ypres campaign.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: John Thomas and Annie Rebecca FLETCHER, Dinogo, Barraba, New South Wales. Native of Bingara, New South Wales
Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Sydney, 4 May 1916; disembarked Devonport, England, 9 July 1916.

Admitted to Parkhouse Military Hospital, 24 November 1916; discharged to duty, 11 December 1916; total period of treatment for venereal disease: 18 days.

Proceeded overseas to France, 31 December 1916; taken on strength, 33rd Bn, 3 January 1917.

Admitted to 10th Field Ambulance, 1 March 1917 (pleurodynia); discharged to 11th Field Ambulance, 1 March 1917; transferred to Divisional Rest Station, 4 March 1917; to Reinforcements Camp, 10 March 1917; rejoined Bn, in the field, 13 March 1917.

Killed in action, 8 June 1917.

Handwritten note on file (p. 11, 'Statement of Service'): 'Buried at Ploegsteert Wood'.

Statement, Red Cross File No 1071101, 490 Pte E.J. McMANUS, 33rd Bn (patient, 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Harefield, England), 1 September 1917: 'I saw Fletcher killed on 7th June at Messines[.] He was hit on the head by shrapnel and killed instantly. He was not buried when I left.'

Second statement, 1921 Pte V. STIBBARD, B Company, 33rd Bn, 8 September 1917: 'I saw him killed in the hop over at Messines. He was killed instantly by a piece of shrapnel. He was hit in the head. I do not think he was buried. I saw him lying in No-Man's land (sic) six days after.'

Third statement, 396 Sergeant L.J. CLIFTON, 33rd Bn, 16 October 1917: 'I saw him lying dead on June 7th about 4 a.m. at Pleogsteert just over our consolidation line apparently killed by a shell, [I] know nothing as to burial except that he was not buried when our Battn was there and we were relieved by the 35th Battn on the 12th. I feel sure his grave will be at pleogsteert.'

Fourth statement, 4301 Pte D.H. HALL, C Company, 33rd Bn (patient, No 1 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples), 26 October 1917: 'Pte Bob Glover of C.X still up line told me he was with Fletcher about June 9th at Messines when he got killed in our front line by shrapnel right in [the] chest. He was not killed instantly but sat up and looked about him then fell over dead. Never heard more.'

Fifth statement, 469 Pte W. KIRWIN, B Company, 33rd Bn, 12 November 1917: 'I saw him killed on the right of Messines during the attack on the 7th June by a shell. He was hit in the back. He did not speak and died in a minute. He was killed just as we got to the objective. We held this ground but were relieved by the 35th battalion (sic). They may have buried him.'

Sixth statement, Lt I.C. DIGHT, 33rd Bn (patient, 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth, England), 15 November 1917: 'Pte. Fletcher was killed at Ploegsteert Wood on June 8/17, in the attack on Messines, by shrapnel in the head, at 4 A.M.' Handwritten added notation: 'Buried where fell.'

Seventh statement, 505 Pte A.H. MORRIS, B Company, 33rd Bn, 22 November 1917: 'I saw him killed by a shell. This happened in front of Ploegsteert Wood[,] Messines. I could not say if he was buried, but I think that it is almost certain that he would.'

Eighth statement, 374 Corporal G.H. BETTS, B Company, 33rd Bn, 28 November 1917: 'He was runner to Lt Clarence of B Co. (now with battn.) and was killed by one of our own shells which fell short near the new line where they consolidated at Messines on June 7th.'

Ninth statement, Lt E.F. CLARENCE, 33rd Bn, 25 November 1917: 'He was mt runner and was killed by a piece of shell just as we reached the final objective ... He was buried in a soldier's grave 200 [yards?] right of a house called Long Ruin and a cross was erected by our pioneers. I cannot say for certain if his grave is registered but I believe it was.'

Tenth statement, 2332 Pte A.H. HAYNES, B Company, 33rd Bn (patient, No 4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick), 7 January 1918: 'Fletcher was in B. Co. with me and on the 7th June we went over and reached our objective. Our barrage was then about 100 yards forward. Fletcher was very excited and running too far ahead was killed instantly by our own barrage. We had to go on but I am sure that all the men then killed were buried.'

Eleventh statement, 490 Pte R.J. McMANUS, 33rd Bn (patient, No 4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick), 9 January 1918: 'Fletcher and I were in B. Co. On the 7th June, the morning, we took Messines, a piece of shrapnel shell struck him in the head and killed him instantly. The shell wounded four others. They were all within four yards of me.'

Twelfth statement, Lt I.C. DIGHT, 33rd Bn (patient, No 4 Australian General Hospital, Randwick), 11 February 1918: 'He was alongside me as my runner on 7/6/17, in the morning about 4.30 a.m. we got too close to our own barrage, and a shrapnel shell burst overhead, and a fragment struck Fletcher in the head and killed him instantly. I saw it happen, he was within 5 yards of me at the time, about 500 yards behind the German Front line, as we had captured it and their suport line. He was buried on 11/6/17, where he fell, and I was present at the burial, and the usual cross was erected.'

Thirteenth statement, 1822 Pte R.M. ECKFORD, B Company, 33rd Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), undated, but report submitted 4 March 1918: 'I saw him killed at Ploeg Steert Wood, he was caught through the head, during our advance, by a shrapnel bullet, death being instantaneous. I knew him very well ... We held the ground, but I do not know place of burial ... '

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, FLETCHER Thomas John
Red Cross File No 1071101

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