Man of honour in life
Letters, postcards and memorabilia are all Eidsvold man has of uncle who died in the FirstWorldWar
FirstWorldWar – Alfred Charles Roth 52nd Battalion
Richard Roth, Eidsvold
SITTING quietly in his den, Richard Roth looks through postcards and letters written by his uncle Alf Roth in 1917.
“Private A.C. Roth was my uncle,” he said.
Mr Roth said Alf was taken from this Earth too early in a man’s life. He was 20. “Of course I never knew him but as with many thousands of other families, similar losses will be a sad memory for generations.” Mr Roth said.
“Alf’s saddle still hangs on my shed wall, now dilapidated but still mounted.
“His 11 brothers and sisters learnt to ride in it. “
It remains a keepsake and a testimony of a young life cut short in an engagement somewhere along the Menin Road to Passchendale almost a century ago.
Early in 1916, 19year-old Alf Roth bid his family farewell and enlisted for military service abroad.
His many letters and postcards give an insight to an adventurous, fun-loving lad who never returned to his Eidsvold home. Alf was a noted horse rider and a good tradesman, having qualified as a master carpenter at the age of 16. Two massive armies fought in Flanders in 1917 and displayed the futility and horror of war with a half-million casualties.
This engagement is known as the third Battle of Ypres and included five divisions of Australians who suffered 38,000 ca- sualties.
The 52nd Division AIF was formed in Egypt 1916 and was disbanded due to reinforcement shortage in May 1918.
Personnel received many citations in action and the division is noted for an incredible bayonet charge during the battle of VillersBretonneux.
An extract from Neville Browning’s book 52nd Battalion AIF reads: “The enemy retaliated and fired a barrage over the entire front and killed eight other ranks from the 52nd Battalion and wounded 28 including Lieutenant Denne.
“‘A’ company dugout was collapsed by a direct hit from an
enemy shell and Private A.C. Roth was killed.”
After initial training, Alf was stationed in England where he met and planned to marry local lass Edie.
She corresponded with his mother for many years.
One sad extract from a letter reads: “I really cannot realize that we shall never see him again.
“I am really broken hearted and I expect you are all the same as he was such a good boy and I am sure we have lost one of the best now that dear Alf has gone.”
Alf was hospitalized several times with trench foot and wounds.
His cheery letters home spoke of England and its “fairytale” places.
“I am sending my colours home for a keepsake,” Alf said in one letter.
“Dear Mother, I don’t want to make you sad again but I’m off to the front tomorrow.”
Australia, as a young country, has too often tasted the bitterness of war.
This nation many times has engaged in conflict on battlefields, in the skies and over oceans of the world.
Whether in victory or stalemate, unwanted and tragic as they may be, these military conflicts have been paramount since federation and before in moulding the culture and psyche of the land and its people.
Two of history’s and the world’s foremost soldiers, opposing Field Marshalls Rommel and Montgomery, have both written of their respect for the Australian Diggers they encountered in both world wars on desert sands and in the mud and slime of European trenches
Military engagements of some form or another have been etched in the caves of prehistoric man and have continued to be recorded throughout the many thousands of years of human civilization.
Well may we ask: “Will this carnage ever cease?”
MOVING WORDS: Cards and postcards sent between Alf Roth and his family during 1917.
52ND BATTALION AIF: Alf Roth, a proud Australian who lost his life in a trench bombed in the First World War.
The decorations of war and the medal presented to soldiers’ families whose lives were lost in the First World War.