2nd Lt
Ernest William Austin

Information about birth

Date of birth:
Place of birth:
Borriyallock, Skipton, Victoria, Australia

Army information

England, United Kingdom
British Expeditionary Force
Second Lieutenant
 —  20th Divisional Ammunition Column  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
Place of death:
Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom
Cause of death:
Death post-war (unrelated)

Cemetery or memorial

There is no known cemetery or memorial for this soldier.

Distinctions and medals 3

British War Medal
Military Cross
Medal — 18/10/1917
Victory Medal

Points of interest 3

#1 Place of birth
#2 Location of medal-earning event
#3 Place of death (approximate)

My story

Ernest William Austin was born on 5 December 1895 in Borriyallock, Skipton, Victoria, Australia. At the outbreak of WWI, he was too young to serve without his father's permission, so Ernest William Austin travelled to the United Kingdom to enlist. Since June 1915, he served in the Royal Field Artillery, where he became a second lieutenant. Until February 1916, he served with the 2nd Cavalry Division Artillery. After this date he was transferred to the 20th Divisional Ammunition Column, part of the 20th (Light) Division.

On the 22nd of August 1917, the 20th Divisional Ammunition Column created a new dumpsite called “Bletchley Dump” (28.B.18.b.2.6) near Tugela Farm, south of Boezinge. Second Lieutenant Austin was placed in charge of this ammunition dump. The following days ammunition was brought from Pinner, near Elverdinge, to this new dumpsite. However, at 9 p.m. on the 28th of August disaster struck. Heavy enemy shelling set fire to Bletchley Dump, now consisting of about 10.000 rounds of ammunition. All but 2000 shells were destroyed. These were saved by Second Lieutenant Austin, Gunner Tatchell and Gunner Kyle. The war diary states the following: “They showed great gallantry and saved the rounds under very tying difficulties, as the boxes were alight, and ammunition [was] exploding all around them. Disregarding heir personal safety, they threw buckets of water and wet mud in the boxes and carried them to a place of safety. For this act of gallantry, they were recommended by Col. Hayward 38th D.A.C. for an immediate reward.”

Bletchley Dump was destroyed completely, and the following day ammunition was collected and moved to a new position called “Nuneaton Dump” (28.B.17.d.2.3) halfway between Boezinge and Brielen. On 18 October 1917 Second Lieutenant Austin received the Military Cross for his actions on the 28th of August 1917. The statement accompanying the medal reads the following: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. A large dump of ammunition was set on fire by enemy shelling. Several thousand rounds of ammunition were exploded and piles of ammunition close by were set on fire three times. On each occasion he succeeded in extinguishing the fires a t great risk from the exploding ammunition. He set an excellent example of coolness and gallantry.”

After the war, Ernest William Austin returned to Australia, living at Yallambee, Beaufort, Victoria. He married Julia Ellen Cox (1892-1962) on 28 July 1920, and they had four daughters together. Austin was re-mobilised during World War II and reported for duty at Skipton, Victoria, Australia, on 22 August 1942. He served part-time in the 7th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps and was discharged on 24 August 1945 when the unit was disbanded. He died on 12 April 1970 in Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom.

Sources 3

20th Divisional Ammunition Column (The National Archives (TNA), WO 95/2106/3)
Sources used
The London Gazette, Supplement 30340, 5 March 1918, p. 10707.
Sources used
The London Gazette, Supplement 30561, 18 October 1917, p. 2904.
Sources used