2250 Sapper Horace Reginald COOTE
Horace Reginald COOTE was born on the 9th August 1889, the ninth child of farming parents, Samuel COOTE and Isabella COOTE (nee CROSSMAN) of Inman Valley, South Australia. He was most likely educated at the Inman Valley Public School.
Horace was farming in the Ceduna area when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) on 13 April 1916. Previously he had served six years in the Murat Bay Militia. He commenced his initial training at the Mitcham Army Camp with “B” Company, 2nd Depot Battalion on the 25 April 1916. After ten weeks training, Horace was posted to the 3rd Reinforcements, 5th Pioneer Battalion and sailed from Adelaide on 13 July 1916 aboard the HMAT Seang Bee.
The men arrived in Devonport, England on 9 September 1916. Following further training at the Australian Army Camp on Salisbury Plain, the reinforcements sailed from Folkestone on 2 November 1916, aboard the SS Onward, and on arrival in France proceeded to the Australian Base Depot at Etaples. They were taken on strength with 5th Pioneer Battalion and moved out to join the Battalion in active service on 16 November 1916.
During November 1916 the Battalion was located near Longueval, Guillemont and Montauban in the Somme sector, constructing culverts and drainage channels to allow supplies to be delivered on adequately drained roads with minimal risk. Once completed, C & D company’s were detached to construct trenches to the front line as none existed in this sector while the remaining A & B company’s were deployed to construct narrow gauge trench tramways. The digging of the trenches and construction of the tramway involved a three-mile march to and from work over a field of mud, which constituted the battlefield but became easier as the duckboard tracks extended.
In January 1917, the Battalion went back to the front line and the work access situation was eased with billets for 150 men available in deep dug outs recently constructed nearer their work. Advantage was also taken of the severe frost in late January and early February, with the ground being frozen solid for about one foot deep, to get large quantities of material forward to the front line.
During September 1917, whilst the Ypres offensive was in progress, the Battalion was located near Dikkebusch in Flanders, providing valuable support to the Australian Infantry Divisions during the battles for Menin Road and Passchendale. The Battalion continued its supporting work of building and maintaining roads, tramways, trenches and other light engineering tasks.
Horace’s service records show that following twelve-month’s service at the front line he was granted two weeks leave from 23 October to 3 November 1917, which he spent in the UK. He was granted a further two weeks leave from 22 October to 8 November 1918, which he also spent in the UK, and returned to duty only three days before the announcement of the Armistice.
On 26 December 1918, Horace was admitted to 20th Casualty Clearing Station with a displaced cartilage in the right knee. The following day he was transferred by ambulance train to Wimereux (France) and admitted to hospital. On 22 January 1919, Horace was sent to Lewisham Military Hospital in London and a week later transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, Kent. On 14 February 1919, he was discharged from Hospital and granted leave to report to No 1 Convalescent Depot in Weymouth, Dorset.
On 28 February 1919, Horace was given leave to travel to London. He was recorded as being absent without leave on the 1 March 1919, and again on 8 March 1919 and was subsequently awarded a severe admonishment by Major C H Howard on both occasions. His penalty was forfeiture of two days pay. He remained at No 1 Convalescent Depot in Weymouth until 13 March 1919, and having been declared an invalid by the medical authorities, returned to Australia on 1 April 1919 aboard the Shropshire. Horace was demobilised on 28 June 1919.
On 29 November 1919, Horace married Vera, the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs I. F. Sedunary of Victor Harbor at St Augustine’s Church. They had two daughters, Edith Noreen (born 1921), & Marie Isabel (born 1924). Vera later died of illness; Horace re- married to a Miss Mona Tiller and they had a daughter and two sons. Marie served in the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force from 15 November 1943 to 23 January 1946.
Horace died on 5 March 1952 at age 62 and is buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
Australian War Memorial data base ( www.awm.gov.au ).
Service file of 2250 Horace Reginald COOTE, downloaded from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au).
Lt. Col. Herbert Gordon CARTER, D.S.O. A condensed history of the 5th Australian Pioneer Battalion, A.I.F., 3 March 1916 to 15 May 1919.
Trove Newspapers website: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/title/832
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, March 2010.