L/Cpl Tunkin Robert Hallett

  • Date of birth: 08/02/1896
  • Place of birth: Wentworth, New South Wales, Australia
  • Date of death: 12/10/1917
  • Place of death: Defy Crossing, Belgium
  • Cause of death: Killed in action (K.I.A.)
  • Age: 21
  • Profession: Station Hand
  • Country: Australia
  • Rank: Lance Corporal
  • Service number: 2529
  • Enlistment date: 15/07/1915
  • Enlistment place: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Last known unit: Australian Infantry, 47th Bn.
  • Force: Australian Imperial Force


Additional information

Robert Hallett Tunkin was born in 1896 in Wentworth, New South Wales. Robert worked as a station hand prior to enlisting. He joined up in July 1915 and embarked for Greece in November 1915. He was taken on strength by the 15th Battalion. In march 1916 he was transferred to the 47th Battalion, part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division. A year later Robert was promoted to Lance Corporal. He was also awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Battle for Messines in June 1917.

On the 12th of October 1917 the 12th Brigade, with the 47th and 48th Battalions, advanced from the Broodseinde Ridge, East of Zonnebeke, towards the Keiberg Spur, South of Passchendaele. This in order to flank guard the 3rd Australian Division, which had to capture the village of Passchendaele itself.

At zero hour, 5.20 a.m., the 47th was to advance. Moments before the attack, however, a German barrage came crashing down on the Battalion’s headquarters, causing considerable casualties. Amongst others nearly all signallers and runners had become casualties, thus crippling all further communication.

The heavy rain had made the ground very muddy and the shell holes became slimy and waterlogged death traps. Many wounded soldiers who fell in a shell hole never surfaced again. Despite these difficult conditions, the 47th attacked towards the first objective. Moving out of Decoy Wood, the 47th came under fire from pillboxes at Vienna Cottage and Assyria. Renewed German artillery fire caused more casualties. Despite heavy losses the 47th managed to capture the strongpoint at Assyria, greatly diminishing the threat on the right. But due to the wet, muddy nature of the ground it was difficult to send up supplies and reinforcements.

In the meanwhile the 3rd Division on the left of the 47th and 48th was forced to retreat and left the left flank open. Two German counter-attacks, one at 4 p.m. and one at 5 p.m., were driven off by Lewis gun teams and rapid rifle fire. Due to the withdrawal of the 3rd Division, however, the left flank came under increasing pressure. The Germans gained momentum and were able to recapture Assyria. With Assyria back in German hands, the right flank of the 47th and 48th was in the air and the battalions withdrew alongside the railway bank back to the first objective at Defy Crossing.

Lance Corporal Robert Hallett Tunkin was a signaller in the 47th Battalion. He was killed, before the attack, when a German barrage caught the Battalion headquarters. Robert, 21, was buried in the field (28.D.17a.90.00) along the Ypres-Roulers railroad, just west of Defy Crossing. After the war his remains were interred in the nearby Tyne Cot Cemetery.