62600 Private Alfred Lyall SEDUNARY
Alfred Lyall SEDUNARY was born at Saddleworth on 8 January 1898, the third of five children of Joseph Edward SEDUNARY and Edith Jane SEDUNARY (nee Swain). The family later moved to Victor Harbor, and Lyall, as he was known, was educated at the Victor Harbor public school. After leaving school and became a baker and joined the militia forces serving in the 74th Infantry Regiment and the 27th Infantry Regiment for over two years.
On 9 May 1918, at the age of 20, Lyall enlisted in the AIF and was posted to A Company at the 2nd Training Depot at Mitcham. He had stated his year of birth to be 1897, making him 21 years old. At this age parental consent was not required for enlistees to serve overseas with the AIF. He was obviously keen to get over to France and see some action for the Battle of Villers-Bretonneux had just been fought in late April, and with the Germans being gradually pushed back, many young Australians were anxious to serve before the war ended. The new recruits were trained in drill, musketry and route marching over the next few months until the next designated group of reinforcements were due to leave for overseas. By late September 1918 the Allied forces had succeeded in breaching the German strongly fortified Hindenburg Line.
On 22 October 1918, Pte SEDUNARY and his fellow soldiers of the 6th General Service Reinforcement unit embarked from Port Adelaide on the troopship HMAT A36 Boonah. The ship, carrying over 1,200 soldiers, arrived in Durban, South Africa, just three days after the armistice was signed on 11 November and the ship was ordered to return home. Before her departure however, local stevedores from the Spanish-flu stricken city were used to unload and load supplies for the Boonah, and in doing so, infected soldiers who were quartered in crowded conditions on Boonah.
Another troopship, the Wyreema had departed South Africa ahead of the Boonah and remained in radio contact throughout the eastward return journey across the Indian Ocean. The Wyreema’s troops commanding officer, Lt Col P.M. McFarlane wrote “the troopship Boonah was two days behind us and we picked up her wireless messages nightly, detailing the daily increasing number of men suffering from pneumonia influenza. Nursing volunteers were called for and so many offered that it was necessary to place the names in a hat and draw the twenty required. They knew the enormous risk they were taking yet they were eager to undertake the work and those whose names were not drawn were disappointed.”
By the time the ship had arrived back at Fremantle on 12 December, more than 300 cases had been reported and Commonwealth immigration authorities initially refused to allow the soldiers to disembark, knowing of the global pandemic which was underway but which had until then spared Western Australia. The ship anchored in Gage Roads and after some delay before approval was granted, 300 of the most unwell soldiers were ferried ashore to the Quarantine Station at Woodman Point south of Fremantle. A total of twenty-seven soldiers and four nurses at Woodman Point died of influenza during the crisis.
Pte SEDUNARY was one of the fortunate survivors, he later disembarked in Adelaide on 17 January 1919 and was demobilised on 31 January 1919. Lyall later operated the bakery in Victor Harbor and married Caroline Agnes Cakebread on 17 October 1921; there were two children of the marriage. The eldest son, Alan Joseph Lyall SEDUNARY was killed in a flying battle over Germnay on 24 August 1943. The younger son, Geoff, served in the Royal Australian Navy during World War Two.
During the Second World War, Lyall enlisted in the army and held the rank of sergeant in the local recruiting office, serving from 28 June 1940 until 11 May 1942, thereafter he served as the district National Service Officer.
Alfred Lyall SEDUNARY died on 15 October 1950. He is buried in the Victor Harbor Cemetery.
From Wikipedia, The Boonah Crisis – downloaded 20/07/2009 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boonah_crisis )
Cases of reported influenza on the HMAT Boonah, 1918
Meanwhile, on board ship where most of the men remained, conditions were said to be deplorable. A seven-day incubation period with no new cases was required to prove that the disease had burnt itself out, but new infections and deaths continued, caused by the cramped and close living conditions. Public outrage grew against the refusal of the immigration authorities to allow all of the soldiers ashore with casualties growing each day. “How many cases of sickness and death are required to make the authorities do a commonsense thing?” (The Daily News, 14 December 1918). “Enough of this inhuman incarceration of soldiers in the disease-stricken cubby-hole of a floating hell.” (The Sunday Times editorial, 15 December 1918).
Wrangling between the State Minister for Health, Sir Hal Colebatch and the federal immigration authorities continued and tensions increased to the point that the Returned Servicemen’s Association made threats to storm the ship to return the sick men to shore. After nine days of acrimony, and despite breaking quarantine regulations, the ship was ordered to depart presumably to defuse the situation. Another 17 cases were discovered between Albany and Adelaide and the remaining men were disembarked at Torrens Island Quarantine Station, a similar facility to Woodman Point and just north of Adelaide. No further deaths occurred and after being given the all-clear, the remaining men returned to their homes.
A total of twenty-seven soldiers and four nurses at Woodman Point died of influenza during the crisis.
Service file of 62600 Alfred Joseph Lyall SEDUNARY downloaded from the National Archives of Australia (www.naa.gov.au ).
Ian DARROCH, The Boonah Tragedy, Access Press, Perth (2004).
Compiled by the Victor Harbor RSL History Research Team, May 2009.