Pte
John Alexander Urquhart

Information about birth

Year of birth:
1896
Place of birth:
Coleraine, Victoria, Australia

General information

Profession:
Labourer

Army information

Country:
Australia
Force:
Australian Imperial Force
Rank:
Private
Service number:
6827
Enlistment date:
07/09/1916
Enlistment place:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Units:
 —  Australian Infantry, 21st Bn. (Victoria)  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
04/10/1917
Place of death:
Passchendaele, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)
Age:
21

Cemetery

Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood
Plot: XVIII
Row: A
Grave: 1

Distinctions and medals 2

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Enlistment place
#3 ‘Place of death’

My story

Private John Alexander Urquhart served in the Australian Infantry 21st Battalion, part of the 6th Australian Brigade, of the 2nd Australian Division.

On the 4th of October 1917 the 2nd Australian Division participated in the Battle of Broodseinde, a phase in the Third Battle of Ypres. The 21st Battalion was part of the 6th Brigade, which attacked on the right of the divisional front. The 22nd Battalion would take the first objective, the red line. Once they had taken this line, the 24th would pass through the 22nd on the right and the 21st would do the same on the left. The Battalion assembled before the attack at the jumping-off positions in front of Tokio, but soon moved closer to the road leading to Tokio on account of German artillery fire on and around Albania. They made use of shell holes and old trench systems to form a line.

At 5.35 a.m. moments before the Battalion would attack, the German artillery, including minenwerfers, started shelling the jump-off line, causing heavy casualties. The Germans were about to attack themselves in the hope of recapturing Zonnebeke. The heavy shell fire was very destructive.

At 6 a.m. the British and Australian artillery opened fire on the German positions and the troops started to advance. The 22nd led off, followed by the 21st and 24th. Zonnebeke Lake was on the jumping-off line on the left. The three battalions had to storm the front over 3oo yards right of the lake. Once they had passed the lake the units on the left had to change direction to cover the ground allotted to them.

The German infantry was utterly surprised by the allied barrage. They were quickly dispersed, killed or taken prisoner by the advancing Australians. Docile Trench and De Knoet Farm fell without much opposition and the 22nd Battalion reached their objective by 6.50 a.m. On the right flank of the 24th Battalion the troops met resistance in Romulus Wood, but the Germans were eventually overpowered. At 7.30 a.m. the 21st and 24th moved up behind the protective barrage, reaching the second objective, the blue line at 8.10 a.m., where the dug in and prepared for eventual counterattacks. The 21st Battalion captured the hamlet of Broodseinde and consolidated a line on the Broodseinde Ridge.

Private John Alexander Urquhart was killed in action on the 4th of October 1917, near Gheluvelt. According to several witnesses in his Red Cross Wounded and Missing File, Private Urquhart went missing while making his way to a bandage station or while in a working party. The fact is that his remains were recovered in a grave near the town of Gheluvelt which was behind German lines. A cross was put on his grave which stated ‘an unknown British soldier’. This is strange, as the 21st Battalion was never located in or near Gheluvelt, but several Australians were found there after the war. We have no clue why his remains were found there. His remains were exhumed after the war and interred in Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood. Private John Alexander Urquhart is remembered at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood.

Files 2

Sources 7

"Passchendaele, the Day-by-Day Account" McCarthy C. Arms and Armour, s.d., page 99
Sources used
AIF project
https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=307760
Sources used
Australian War Memorial
https://www.awm.gov.au/advanced-search?query=urquhart+6827
Sources used
CWGC
https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/480482/urquhart,-john-alexander/
Sources used
Service Records
https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=8397054&isAv=N
Sources used
The Long, Long Trail
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/
Sources used
War Diary
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1342420
Sources used