WW1 ANZACs: brothers George and Jack Waddell & the 2nd Light Horse Regiment

Its close to ANZAC Day – April 25th – when Australians and New Zealanders honour all military personnel who have served our country. There are many ANZACs in everyones family tree, but particularly from the WW1 and WW2 when very large numbers of young men volunteered or were called up to go to war.

One of the most famous stories in the Waddell family is about George Malcolm Waddell b1894, and his brother Maurice John (Jack) Waddell b1896. Both were born in Charters Towers whilst their father George Waddell was working at the BlackJack gold mine [1] but later moved to Two Mile, near Gympie where their father George Waddell ran the Two Mile Hotel. Both were in the cadets from an early age and were pictured in their cadet uniforms and medals, with their dad George “Ginger” Waddell and their youngest brother Jim Waddell on his Dad’s knee. Given age of Jim Waddell (~4?) this photo must be from about 1908.

My cousin Vikki has put together a wonderful photo book on George Waddell [4], who was killed in action in 1916. Its a great collection of photos and introduction to the lighthorse in WW1- my Dad called it a “treasure”. So in this post I am going to focus this post on the two brothers – Jack who made it home, and George who didnt.

George “Ginger” Waddell and his 3 sons in cadet uniforms and cadet medals – George Malcolm (oldest b1894) and Maurice Jack (left b 1896) and Jim Waddell (youngest b1904). Photo from about 1908?

George Malcolm Waddell enlisted on 21st Aug 1914 when he was 20 [2]. He was 5 foot 11 with grey eyes and fair hair. His slightly younger brother Jack enlisted almost a year later, on 3rd Sept 1915, when he was 19 years old [3]. He had blue eyes and amber (red?) hair. His daughter Lennie Wallace (nee Waddell) has published a photo of Jack at enlistment, wearing fancy boots [1]. They were both part of the 2nd Lighthorse Regiment, and would have brought their own horses from home to the war with them. Family legend says George had a white horse [4] although so far I dont think anyone has spotted a white horse in any 2nd Lighthorse photos, despite everyone looking.

I have tried to put together a rough timeline of George and Jack’s World War 1 service from their service records. I am not an expert at interpretting these, but as far as I can understand key events on the timeline are:

21 Aug 1914        George enlisted 2nd Lighthorse Regiment (part of 1st Lighthorse Brigade)

23 Sept 1914       George left Brisbane on “Star of England”

2 Dec 1914          George arrives in Alexandria, Egypt.

12 May 1915       George landed at Gallipoli (without horses), serves at Quinns Post.

30 Aug 1915        George receives shrapnel wound to left side, sent to hospital a week later and convalescence camp about 3 weeks after that.

03 Sept 1915       Jack enlists in 2nd Lighthorse Regiment

15 Sept 1915       Family informed via telegram that George was Wounded in Action

9 Oct 1915           George returns to active duty, Helouan, Egypt.

27 Dec 1915        George Reunited with regiment in Egypt after they had evacuated from Gallipoli. Served at Romani, Egypt.

1 March 1916     Jack arrives at Heliopolis

19 May 1916       Jack admitted to hospital with malaria

4 July 1916          Jack returns to unit in Romani

22 July 1916        George now ill in Romani – malaria –Hospital and convalescence unit. Family informed of “mild illness”

18 Oct 1916         George promoted to Lance Corporal.

28 Oct 1916         George rejoins 1st Lighthorse Brigade at Kantara, Egypt

20 Dec 1916        Lighthorse to El Arish, Egypt and battle of Maghdaba begins

23 Dec 1916        Jack and George take part in Battle of Maghdaba, Egypt. George is killed in action by a sniper bullet through the heart after the charge was complete.

24 Dec 1916        George is buried by Chaplain at Red Crescent Hospital.

9 Jan 1917           George is reinterred at El Arish Cemetery, aka Kantara Cemetery, Suez Canal, Egypt.

14 Jan 1917         Jack is disciplined for firing his rifle in the line at El Arish, Egypt.

14 July 1917        Jack in hospital, El Gamli, for a week, and hospitalised on and off with malaria for the rest of the war.

20 Jun 1918         Jack reprimanded for insubordinate language, Abu Tellul.

1918/1919           Jack is discharged (paperwork confusion re dates)

Kantara War Cemetery, El Arish., Photo taken ~1917-1918. Wooden cross grave markers were later replaced with formal marble headstones as seen today. [6]

I had always known that Jack and George served together in the Light Horse in WW1, and knew that they were both on the same charge through the desert, when George was killed by a sniper bullet. Until putting together this post, I hadnt realised Jack had been forced to wait to join, and that actually their overlapping time was fairly short – Jack eventually arrives but gets malaria after a couple of months, and is returned to service when George gets malaria. They must have been together for the last 3 months of 1916, leading up to when George was killed. But then poor Jack had to continue on, serving in his unit, for another 2 years.

Their sister Dorrie Seddon nee Waddell said, in her oral history recording, that

When war came, things changed for us.  George and Major Nash our school teacher were two of the first to leave Gympie. They took their horses. They were Light Horse. And they got no leave – they were very quickly sent overseas. George was wounded on Gallipoli and Major Nash was killed and cast a gloom over the whole of Gympie. George was later killed at Maghdaba after the Battle of Romani. Yes. And that was on the 23rd of December and it spoilt Christmas for us for years to come. Jack wouldn’t rest until Mum signed his papers so that he could go to the war too. And he survived the war, although he fell a victim to malaria. And when the troops came back, Mum and Mags went to Brisbane to meet his ship, only to see him carried off in a stretcher and in hospital for weeks. So they came home without him.

Dorrie Waddell, oral history, 1982. See previous post

The stories of George being wounded and reported initially missing, then killed in action, were reported in the local Gympie newspapers. We also have Jack’s first hand account of the Battle of Maghdaba, which he wrote in a letter home to his parents written from El Arish on Christmas Day 1916. This letter – either in part or in its entirety – was published in the Gympie and Mary River Mining Gazette in 1917 [5]. Jack said:

‘The enemy’s position was very strong, and the defence stubborn. Victory was only secured by a sweeping charge on horseback by our squadron. Through a tornado of bullets we swept forward in single line. George was leading when we reach a steep gully overlooking the Turkish headquarters. I saw him then, his face beaming with joyous exaltation as who wouldn’t be on taking part in such a gallant charge. It was glorious. Surrounded by Turks on all sides we had our work cut out for a while. On the arrival of our supports the remaining Turks surrendered. I saw George stagger just as he was about to negotiate the bank, so I made a diligent search for him until it was too dark to see. I wandered all over the position, but with no success. I was somewhat relieved thinking he might have lost his way only. The men of the different squadrons were all mixed up, but no one I asked had seen him since the charge. We returned to camp that night, and next morning I heard George had been shot through the heart, and that the Chaplain, Captain Gordon had stayed behind to bury him. He told me about it later and said he had put a cross on the grave. He told me the wound was a clean shot through the heart, and that he looked quite peaceful and happy in death. The whole regiment mourns him sincerely. He was very popular alike with the officers and men. Though his death is hard, it is infinitely better than staying at home and being a coward. I cannot describe that charge, but it was the maddest, bravest, and most exhilarating, spectacle I have ever witnessed. You have reason to be proud of your eldest son who has thus lost his life.’

Jack Waddell, Letter home to his parents on Christmas Day, 1916 – 2 days after George was killed in the Battle of Maghdaba at El Arish in Egypt [5]

There are a couple of other family accounts of the death of George Waddell in El Arish in 1916 and of Jack’s experience for the rest of the war. When I went to visit Jack and Georges sister, Dorrie Waddell, in 1995, I had enough foresight and training from my mother to know to write down what she told me about George and Jack, and to rewrite it neatly for posterity. (but I missed writing the exact date!) Great Aunt Dorrie said:

Jack Waddell came back from the war sick with malaria. He rode into Damascus or Jeruselum for the surrender. He was in the same unit as George – 2nd lighthorse. He was stipendary magistrate at Kingaroy and Cooktown. George’s horse was called Polka* and was shot in the tongue the charge before. He was given a fresh horse and charged, but was caught by a sniper in Egypt. Quiet man.

* Dorries daughter at this point said Dorrie had told her a different name for the horse another time. Dorrie insisted she was right this time!
Dorrie Waddell, as told to Karen Hapgood, c1995

Jacks daughter, Lennie Wallace (nee Waddell) mentions her fathers Light Horse days in her book “Nanango to Cooktown” [1] and provides more details:

Both he and his older brother, George, had served in the 2nd Light Horse in the Middle East. Sadly George was killed there, just two days before Christmas 1917 in Magdhaba. The allied troops were desperate to gain access to the wells at Magdhaba and the Light Horse, Camel Corps, some New Zealand and British troops got out their bayonets for what has been balled the last great cavalry charge to overcome a Turkish force greatly superior in number. George survived the charge through the Turkish trenches but when, mission accomplished, the horsemen pulled up to loosen their saddle girths and to give their horses a rest, George fell from the saddle. One fatal shot from a snipers bullet was all it took to take his life. He was the 2nd Light Horse’s only casualty that day and they were the first of the victors to enter Magdhaba.

Lennie Wallace, “Nanango to Cooktown”, p3-4. [1]

Jack Waddell married Sarah “Sadie” McNutt and had 3 children. Shown here is Sadie and her eldest daughter Jean c1940 (?) and with her 2nd daughter Lennie about 1932. Photos from [1]

Jack Waddell survived WW1 and went on to get married and have 3 children – Jean, Lenore “Lennie” and Donald. He left the war with two things that would never leave him – memories of his brothers death, and malaria. His daughter Lennie wrote [1] about his later re-occurrence of malaria in the early 1950s.

He contracted it in the Light Horse when serving around Lake Galilee which was, at that time, rather noted for the fever. After spending weeks in Cairo and Damascus hospitals, he was about to be discharged from the army because of his ill health but he recovered sufficiently to go back to his regiment. Here, the war, like the fever, had run its course so he left the Army with the rest of his mates. In the 25 years since then, he’d had no sign of the fever until now. Needless to say we were all acutely worried.

….

After he’d been in hospital for over a week, we rode our bikes up to the hospital to see Dad after school, hoping to hear that he could soon leave hospital. We certainly weren’t prepared for the sight that assailed us on arrival. He was in a room by himself, with his mosquito net tucked firmly in all around the mattress. When we stood at his bedside – with Winkie dog who always visited – he didn’t stir, didn’t seem to know we were there. Sweat was pouring from his face and he was making strange and frightening unintelligible noises. At times he’d wildly throw an arm out in any direction. A nurse came in, sponged his face, tidied him as best she could, tried unsuccessfully to give him some water and told us to go home. It was getting late the the fever would only take its course. There was no point hanging about

Lennie Wallace describing her father Jack Waddell’s relapse with malaria in early 1950s. page 53-54 [1]

UPDATE: See also this wonderful post by a local Kin Kin author on George Waddell, also published on Anzac Day 2021. https://mailchi.mp/6c25890c642d/death-of-a-kin-kin-soldier?e=467a78359a

Sources:

[1] Wallace Lennie, “Nanango to Cooktown” CQU press, 2006. https://boolarongpress.com.au/product/from-nanango-to-cooktown/

[2] George Waddell’s enlistment and military records at National Archives Australia https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8398613

[3] Jack Waddells enlistment and military records at National Archives Australia https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8398699

[4] Vikki Ravaga “George Malcolm Waddell: Our ANZAC”, photo book.

[5] Gympie and Mary River Times, 17 March 1917

[6] Australian War Memorial photo pf https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1260715

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