Man of hon­our in life

Let­ters, post­cards and mem­o­ra­bilia are all Eidsvold man has of un­cle who died in the FirstWorldWar

Central and North Burnett Times - - REAL ESTATE -

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?”

PHOTO: NOEL THOMP­SON

MOV­ING WORDS: Cards and post­cards sent be­tween Alf Roth and his fam­ily dur­ing 1917.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

52ND BAT­TAL­ION AIF: Alf Roth, a proud Aus­tralian who lost his life in a trench bombed in the First World War.

PHOTO: NOEL THOMP­SON

The dec­o­ra­tions of war and the medal pre­sented to sol­diers’ fam­i­lies whose lives were lost in the First World War.

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