15433 Sapper Ralph Reynolds ROSE
Ralph Reynolds ROSE was born in Geelong in 1893, the second of four boys of George ROSE and Lizette ROSE (nee MARTIN of Newport, Victoria. After leaving school he decided to try his hand at farming at Inman Valley, South Australia. Ralph attempted to enlist in the AIF in early 1916 but was rejected by the district medical officer, Dr Frank DOUGLAS, because of a previous sporting injury. Ralph travelled to Melbourne and enlisted there on 5 February 1916.
Ralph undertook his basic training in Melbourne and was posted as a sapper to the Reinforcement Unit, 10th Field Company Engineers. The reinforcements, including his brother Harold (15435 Sapper Harold Norton Innes ROSE), embarked on HMAT A40 Ceramic from Sydney on 7 October 1916, berthing at Plymouth, England on 21 November. The reinforcements then travelled to the sprawling Australian base on the Salisbury Plains and undertook further engineering training.
Both Ralph and Harold were posted to the 14th Field Company Engineers, 14th Brigade, 5th Australian Division. On 21 March 1917, the reinforcements embarked from Folkestone and arrived at Etaples, France. They undertook further training until their departure on 7 April for the front near Avesnes-les-Bapaume. The Company was employed in a variety of tasks from repairing roads to the construction of trench systems, deep dugouts and drainage systems as well as salvage work. On 30 April, voting was conducted for the Australian federal election.
In May 1917, the 5th Division fought in the Second Battle of Bullecourt. At dawn on 15 May, the 14th Australian Brigade, after nearly three hours of intense bombardment, attacked in front and flank. The Germans thrust 200 yards into its trenches but were quickly driven out. The Second Battle of Bullecourt cost the AIF 7,000 casualties. The Company later moved to Noreuil where they constructed barbed wire entanglements, including the urgent task of erecting a barbed wire barrier after the enemy launched an attack through a breach on the night of 15-16 May. Work was carried out in close contact with the enemy and sappers often became casualties. Repairs and construction of front-line barbed wire barriers were undertaken at night, however on the night of 22-23 May, no work was completed as the work party had to be withdrawn due to heavy enemy shelling. On 16 June 1917, the Company moved to Millencourt and trained in the construction of pontoon bridging in preparation for the erection of bridging over Canal du Nord. The Company’s tasks were not always military orientated; in August they built a hut for the French Red Cross to accommodate refugee children displaced by the war. Gas drills were undertaken at the end of the month.
On 16 September 1917, the Company moved to Steenvorde, Belgium, in preparation for the Third Battle of Ypres. Work commenced on constructing dugouts and trenches for artillery batteries and preparations were under way for the coming battle. The offensive was carried out during the wettest weather on record for 70 years. Casualties were mostly from enemy artillery and on 12 October, a 14th Field Company officer was killed at Zonnebeke.
On 18 October 1917, the enemy shelled the front and rear areas using mustard gas. Ralph was evacuated suffering from gas poisoning and was later moved to England. After prolonged treatment, he rejoined his unit on 27 July 1918 in time for the Division’s attack on the German defences near Morlancourt. He remained with his unit for the rest of the war.
Sapper Ralph ROSE embarked on the HT Durham for Australia on 22 May 1919 and was demobilised on 10 October 1919. He returned to Victor Harbor and married Ruth WELCH and there were three children of the marriage. Ralph later farmed the Welch family property “Corrumbene” at Hindmarsh Valley. During World War Two he enlisted in the militia on 15 January 1942 and served with the 4th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps. Ralph died on Christmas Day 1948, following an emergency operation for a perforated ulcer. He is buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
Service file of 15433 Ralph Reynolds ROSE, downloaded from the National Archives of Australia ( www.naa.gov.au ).
Australian War Memorial database ( www.awm.gov.au ).
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, January 2011.