6427 Lance Sergeant Robert Percival Roy BOLGER MM
Robert was born on 12 December 1891 at Encounter Bay, the first of three children to Edward Robert Bolger and Eva Emily Bolger (nee Maidment). He had been working as a shunter with the South Australian Railways when he enlisted in the AIF on 19 August 1915, aged 23.
Following training at Mitcham, he was posted to 12th Reinforcements for 4th Field Ambulance which sailed from Adelaide aboard the RMS Malwa on 2 December 1915.
Soon after arrival in Egypt he was transferred to 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital, then to 8th Field Ambulance in March 1916. He sailed with that unit to Britain on 28 May but once in Britain, was held at the Australian Army Medical Corps Depot, Parkhouse. He arrived in France on 16 August 1916, eventually joining the 12th Field Ambulance on 28 August 1916.
His new unit, raised in Egypt in February 1916, was one of three Field Ambulances attached to the 4th Division. Field ambulances were the medical units located nearest to the front line and provided basic emergency treatment for the sick and wounded. Frequently ambulance personnel had to carry patients on stretchers from just behind the fighting, to a forward dressing station, then onwards to a collection point for transfer to wheeled ambulances. Many ambulance men were killed and wounded performing their humane tasks.
Robert assisted many casualties during the 4th Division’s three years of fighting which included the Battles of Bullecourt, Messines, Polygon Wood, Passchendaele, Ypres, Hamel, Villers-Bretonneux, Amiens and the Hindenburg Line.
But it was on 5 April 1918 that Robert’s dedication was recognised during the Battle for Dernancourt, when three German divisions attacked two much smaller brigades of the 4th Division. During that single day, the Australians suffered 358 killed, 837 wounded and 180 soldiers taken prisoner. Robert was awarded the Military Medal for his efforts. His citation read:
“On 5/4/18 South-East of Millencourt L/Cpl. Bolger showed exceptional courage and devotion to duty under very heavy shell fire whilst carrying wounded from the R.A.P. about three quarters of a mile South-East of Millencourt to the Field Ambulance Post at Millencourt, west of Albert. Shortly after the commencement of the enemy attack about 7a.m. he continued to carry for many hours and when other members of his squad were too fatigued to carry on he continued his work under heavy shellfire with fresh helpers. His disregard of personal danger and his cheery optimism under the most trying of conditions inspired his fellow bearers to greater efforts, and he was at all times a source of comfort to the wounded.”
Robert was promoted to Lance corporal on 29 March 1917, to Corporal on 2 November and on 8 April 1919, to Lance Sergeant. He was granted three months leave with pay from July to October 1919 for attachment to the General Manager’s Office of London Bridge & South Coast Railway to improve his knowledge of railway operations. This was done under the AIF’s vocational education program, instituted at war’s end to help soldiers learn skills and resettle back into civilian life. He married Elsie Beatrice Pearl Harvey on 8 November 1919 at Newington, London.
The newly married couple journeyed to Australia on the SS Ormonde, arriving on 6 May 1920. Discharge from the AIF followed on 7 July 1920. Later they had a son and a daughter. Robert Percival Roy Bolger died on 15 August 1992 and was buried at Dudley Park Cemetery.
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, December 2011.