35194 Sergeant Arthur William PITT
Arthur William PITT was born on 4 April 1883 in Adelaide, South Australia, the first of five children to James PITT and Annie PITT (nee Jeffery). It is not known where he attended primary school but we do know he later attended Adelaide High School.
On March 4th, 1912 Arthur married Ella Amalie Augusta KAYSER in the Unitarian Church, Adelaide. They moved to Victor Harbor where Arthur was employed as a state schoolteacher. On 2 October 1916, at the age of 33 years and four months, he enlisted in the AIF; his service file states he had previously served six years with various school cadet units.
Arthur was posted to E Company, 2nd Depot Battalion AIF at Mitcham for basic training. On 16 December 1917, after completing a six-week non-commissioned officers course, he was classified as a gunner and attached to the Field Artillery Reinforcements. On 6 January 1917, he joined the Field Artillery Reinforcements at Maribyrnong (Vic). After further training he was promoted to bombardier (corporal) on 16 August 1917. His unit embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A15 Port Sydney on 9 November 1917, and disembarked at Suez on 12 December. Six days later they departed from Alexandria on the HMT 38012 for England, via Taranto, Italy, disembarking at Southampton on 4 January 1918.
The following day, Gunner PITT and his fellow reinforcements marched into RBAA Heytesbury on the Salisbury Plain where they were underwent to further artillery training. They remained at Heytesbury until April 1918 when they were attached to the 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade and prepared for overseas service and embarkation from Southampton. On 9 April 1918, they marched into the Australian General Base Depot (AGBD) at Rouelles, France before proceeding to the front lines.
The war diary of the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade for the month of April 1918 shows that reinforcements arrived on the 25 April 1918. At that time the Brigade came under the tactical control of the 6th Army Brigade Australian Field Artillery (3rd Australian Division). The wagon lines of the Brigade remained in Franvillers. General policy included providing harassing fire on all enemy approaches and communications during darkness, observe shoots during the day on enemy movement and new work.
The German spring counteroffensive began on 21 March 1918, when 64 enemy divisions smashed the British line at Cambrai, and thrust between the British 3rd and 5th Armies, heading towards Amiens. At the time of the breakthrough, the 3rd and 4th Australian Divisions were resting out of the line in Flanders and they were ordered south. Both divisions had an infantry brigade detached on urgent other tasks but they deployed in front of Amiens to take the brunt of the next German thrust. The artillery of both divisions followed quickly behind the infantry and provided valuable support in repulsing the German attacks.
The appointment of Lieutenant-General Sir John MONASH to command the Australian Corps on 31 May 1918 was followed by further efforts to place more Australians in senior command and staff appointments. With his artillery, MONASH had a far more potent weapon than in previous years. After almost four years of war, new techniques had been developed and refined. With information gained from improved sound ranging and flash spotting techniques, as well as aerial photography, they could fire on enemy positions without ranging shots, thus obtaining an element of surprise before an attack.
Bombardier PITT was promoted to temporary sergeant on 18 January 1919 and served in various locations at the Western Front with the 3rd Australian Division Artillery from 25 April 1918 until repatriated to England on 13 May 1919 for treatment of catarrh of the throat. This condition had developed into deafness in both ears and is service record notes his military service had aggravated the condition and also shows having been hospitalised twice for similar treatment during 1918. On 23 July 1919, he returned to Australia aboard the ship Main. On 6 October 1919, SGT PITT was given a full medical examination, which stated no further treatment required and medically fit.
Sergeant PITT was discharged from the AIF on 15 November 1919 with his address given as School House, Edwardstown. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. Arthur William PITT died on 20 October 1960 at Cumberland Park (SA).
His younger brother, Harold Edward PITT, had enlisted in the AIF on 9 October 1916 and sailed with the 16th Reinforcements, 43rd Battalion aboard HMAT Berrima from Port Adelaide on 16 December 1916. He was killed in action on 1 September 1918 in the Somme. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.
Service file of 35194 Arthur William PITT, downloaded from the National Archives of Australia
Australian War Memorial database ( www.awm.gov.au ).
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, January 2012.