PADMAN, Eric George (Army 2857)

Studio portrait of LCPL Eric George PADMAN, the photographer is unknown; From the Glenn BECK collection.

2857 Lance Corporal Eric George PADMAN – killed in action 27 September 1917

Eric George PADMAN was born at Middleton on 9 March 1896, the third son of Samuel Waterhouse PADMAN and Annie Elizabeth Jane PADMAN (nee RAGLESS). The family was prominent in Middleton, owning the general store, with Samuel also a Magistrate at the Port Elliot Court.

Eric was educated at Middleton Public School and Victor Harbor High School where he was awarded a scholarship for Roseworthy Agricultural College. There he completed his Diploma with some Honours. By then the family had moved to Adelaide.

On completion of his studies he immediately enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 26 April 1916. In a short time at Mitcham Camp he demonstrated leadership qualities and was promoted to Sergeant in the 7th Reinforcements for the largely South Australian 50th Infantry Battalion.

On 6 November 1916, the group sailed from Adelaide aboard the HMAT Afric, reaching England on 9 January 1917. At the Australian Codford Training Camp, Eric was retained as an instructor, until he relinquished his sergeant’s rank to go to the Front. There he joined his Battalion on 15 July 1917 in the frontline near Ploegstreert Wood, Belgium. The last week of July was spent rebuilding and training near Steenwerck. By mid-August he had been promoted to lance corporal before the Battalion returned to the front near Ploegstreert Wood.

During September 1916, the Battalion underwent extensive assault training near Lugy. On 25 September, it was in position to attack across a 600-metre front to capture Westhoek Ridge. At 5:50 am on the 26th, the unit attacked and gained its objective. Eric was killed the next day while the unit was consolidating its gains. He was among the 179 men of the 50th Battalion killed during that action.

In 1919 his old brother Vernon, still with the AIF, visited Westhoek Ridge and located the area not far from the Anzac House pillbox where Eric was killed and buried. It was still littered with the debris of war. He placed a Cross in his memory of his brother.

Vernon described his feelings in his diary:

I felt it a privilege even to be at the place where Eric was. I knew I had walked up the road from Ypres along which our boys advanced and had walked along the duckboards that he used to tread and now I stood on the ridge where he was killed.

Later Eric, along with many other casualties from the area, were reinterred at Aeroplane Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium. After the war, Eric’s parents received his British War Medal and Victory Medal, together with a Memorial Plaque and Memorial Scroll.

Two of his brothers also served: 6891 Private Clarence Swann PADMAN was killed in action on 29 November 1916 and 17148 Staff Sergeant Vernon Ragless PADMAN returned to Australia at war’s end.

Eric and his brother Clarence are commemorated on the Middleton War Memorial and the Port Elliot War Memorial and by Norfolk Island Pine trees in the Soldiers Gardens.

Vernon PADMAN kept a wonderful photographic record and diary of his travels around France, Belgium and England at the end of the war. Most of these diaries and albums came into the possession of Mr Glenn BECK of Melbourne, formerly of Adelaide. Glenn purchased them online at e-bay; he has kindly allowed us to scan those records, copies of which are now on display in the RSL’s Clubrooms.

This photograph shows Vernon PADMAN standing next to brother Eric’s grave; from the Glenn BECK collection.
This photograph of Eric’s grave at Aeroplane Cemetery was taken by Victor Harbor RSL members Ian and Janet MILNES on 15 October 2008.
The entrance to the Middleton Soldiers Memorial Gardens 1914-1918; this photograph was taken by Victor Harbor RSL member Ian MILNES on 12 April 2010.
The Memorial Tablet in the Middleton Soldiers Memorial Gardens showing the casualties of World War One; this photograph was taken by Victor Harbor RSL member Ian MILNES on 12 April 2010.
The Honour Roll in the Middleton Community Hall that records the names of the local men who served in World War One; this photograph was taken Port Elliot RSL President Dean WATSON in July 2018.

Service file of 2857 Eric George PADMAN downloaded from the National Archives of Australia

Compiled by the Port Elliot RSL History Research Team, March 2018.