3325 Private Frank Stanley HENDERSON
Frank Stanley HENDERSON was born on 28 February 1897, the eldest son of George Henderson and Martha HENDERSON (nee PEARCE) of ‘Riverside’, Victor Harbor. He was educated at the local public school and during his senior years he joined the Victor Harbor cadet unit.
In 1914 at age 17, he enlisted in the militia forces and was posted to the 22nd Light Horse Regiment. Trooper HENDERSON was initially stationed at Torrens Island where a detachment of the unit was detailed to guard the German civilian internees.
Trooper HENDERSON was eager to serve overseas and on 23 November 1917, age 20 years 9 months he enlisted in the AIF. Frank overstated his age by one year, as soldiers under the age of 21 require written parental consent to serve overseas. After his basic training he was posted to 8th Reinforcements, 43rd Battalion. PTE HENDERSON and 150 other soldiers of the reinforcement unit embarked from Port Melbourne on 6 March 1918 on the RMS Ormonde. His pay was five shillings a day of which four shillings was remitted home. A further shilling a day was paid for each day served overseas, this being deferred until his return to Australia.
The Ormonde moored at Port Suez on 4 April following an outbreak of measles onboard ship. All crew and troops were evacuated to the Segregation Camp at Suez and placed in isolation. PTE HENDERSON and his fellow soldiers were later discharged to a transit unit until 30 April 1918 and embarked from Port Tewfik on the ship T15.
The T15 arrived at Southampton, England on 15 May 1918 and the troops entrained to the sprawling Australian base near Fovant, on the Salisbury Plains for further training. Three weeks later PTE HENDERSON and his fellow soldiers were transferred to the 50th Battalion. He would remain in England until 15 August when the reinforcements sailed for Havre, France. Held in transit for five days, the soldiers then entrained to Amiens and marched to the 50th Battalion’s lines near Lihons, a commune twenty miles east of Amiens. The 50th Battalion, part of the 13th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division, was at the time held in reserve. His first few days were marked with heavy enemy shelling of the Battalion area, it was his first experience at the front.
In early September, the Battalion made several moves; to near Biaches on the Somme River; to Cartigny and then to Beaumetz. During the night enemy aircraft bombed the camp but no damage was reported. On 10 September, the Battalion took over the front line between Vendelles and Soyecourt to relieve the 29th Battalion on the outskirts of Flechin. On 13 September, the Battalion drove the enemy back 500-700 yards on a front of about one mile wide and captured eight machine guns and 40 prisoners.
The Battalion’s last major operation of the war was an attack on the Hindenburg “outpost line” in the Peronne area on 18 September. The casualties suffered for September 1918 were 10 soldiers killed, 71 wounded, one missing and four wounded who were captured by the enemy.
PTE HENDERSON returned to Australia on the HT Exeter, embarking on 12 July 1919, disembarking on 21 August; he was demobilised on 14 September 1919. Frank was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He married Eva May MARTIN in 1921 and there were eight children of the marriage.
Frank worked for the Post Master General’s Department (later to become Australia Post and Telstra) and retired in 1957. Frank HENDERSON died on 15 June 1989, aged 92. He is buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
Service file of 3325 Frank Stanley HENDERSON downloaded from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
War Diary of the 50th Infantry Battalion, from the Australian War Memorial ( www.awm.gov.au ).
Compiled by the RSL Victor Harbor Sub-branch History Research Team, June 2009.