Percy Smedley Draper

Percy Smedley Draper was born on 11 December 1881 at Clifton to Frederick William Draper and Mary Jane Hincks (nee). He was the oldest surviving son of ten children. The family had moved to Clifton in early December just before Percy was born; his grandfather, Frederick William Draper Snr was also a resident at Clifton. His grandmother, Elizabeth Draper (nee Smedley) had died in 1868 at Maitland, NSW.

Percy had a number of occupations prior to the war. He married Ellen Laydon (December 1910) and on the certificate he was listed as a labourer whereas his enlistment records state that he was a butcher by that time. He has been linked to a number of other occupations such as: lay preacher, lieutenant in charge of the Commonwealth Cadets in Clifton, the secretary of the School of Arts Committee in Clifton and a carter.

Percy enlisted in the AIF 4th Battalion on 27 April 1915 at Liverpool and he embarked from Sydney on HMAS A63 ‘Karoola on 16 June, 1915. He was 33 years of age and had three children by that stage.

Percy Smedley Draper seated with Private Royal Mackey. Photo taken,  June 1915.

Percy Smedley Draper seated with Private Royal Mackey. Photo taken, June 1915.

He sent a postcard to his family from the British camp at Heliopolis.

To Dear Aunt and all

Just a line to let you know I am alright and hope you are the same. This is a nice town and very nice buildings. I was told the place is only 8 years old. It is very warm here but not too bad at night, especially in the early morning. Have met one or two that I know from other parts. We arrived on Sunday night July 29 about 12pm. Had a fine trip over after leaving Fremantle a couple of days. We disembarked at Suez Canal and came up here by train about 7.15, 8hr trip.

Love to all
P.S Draper [1]

Percy arrived in Gallipoli on 4 August 1915. The 4th battalion were involved in the battle of Lone Pine which resulted in over 2000 men killed. Percy was killed in action on August 6. His battalion lost 15 out of 20 officers and 459 out of 722 men of other ranks in the battle.

Sydney Morning Herald: 11/09/1915.

Sydney Morning Herald: 11/09/1915.

He was initially reported as missing but on 16 April 1916 he was acknowledged as, “previously reported missing, now pronounced killed in action.” Percy is commemorated at the Lone Pine Cemetery at Gallipoli, No. 6 Memorial as well as the Coalcliff-Scarborough-Clifton Honour roll located at Scarborough Public School.

A letter dated 30 April 1936 was sent from Percy’s brother, Lawrence “Lock” Draper to his sister Emmeline Thorn (nee Draper).

Dear Em

Just a line to say I am well, and I hope and trust you are all well at Clifton… The reason I am writing is to say I’ve just returned from Gallipoli after visiting the battle-grounds of the Anzac’s and their graveyards. We took Colonel Hughes the President of War graves Commission with us and on the way over I got him to look up the records of the graves. I’ve located our Brothers and it’s in No. 1 Lone Pine and I’ve marked it on photograph. There are still 3861 unknown graves on Lone Pine Em. I never got such a shock in all my life as I got where I saw Anzac Cove and Quinns Posts and other places which I’ll try to explain further on in my letter. Firstly, no artist can paint, no photo can show, nor no book that is written or ever will be written can describe Gallipoli…

Arrow showing Percy's grave.

Arrow showing Percy’s grave.

Thanks to the relatives of Percy Smedley Draper who shared his story and remaining memorabilia with Illawarra Remembers.

 


[1] R. Austin, The Fighting Fourth: A History of Sydney’s 4th Battalion 1914-19, Slouch Hat Publications, McCrae Australia, 2007, p. 65.

William Sydney Duchesne

William Sydney Duchesne was born on May 25 1894 to Edwin James and Edith Rachael Duchesne in Waverly, Sydney. He spent his early years at 55 Smith St, Summer Hill and was educated at Fort Street Model School. He joined the permanent army when he completed his studies and underwent training with the 39 Militia Battalion (Wavery Cadets) where he served as 2nd Lieutenant. Syd also played breakaway for the Manly Juniors Rugby Union team.

"School Cadet"

“School Cadet”

When war broke out in August 1914, he was living with his family on Crown St, Wollongong and studying military science. With a strong history in military education and training, Syd immediately applied for a commission with the AIF and was appointed as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion (1 Brigade, 1 Division) on September 3, 1914. There was a short training period in Sydney’s west until mid-October. Duchesne’s unit then sailed in a convoy (HMAT Afric: A19), from Sydney to Egypt.

William Sydney Duchesne

William Sydney Duchesne

1st Battalion at Mena Camp (Cairo, Egypt) on 01-01-1915.

Mena Camp (Cairo, Egypt) 01-01-1915.
D Coy 1st Battalion

Daily training was carried out from 7.30am to 4.30pm in Egypt. During this time, Syd wrote letters to his family.

Letter addressed to the Duchesne family. Sent from Mena camp, Cairo, Egypt

Letter addressed to the Duchesne family. Sent from Mena camp, Cairo, Egypt

The Anzac contingent was transported to Lemnos Island after leaving Egypt in early April. There they joined other elements of the assembled Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (army and naval) in final preparations for the assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The evening before the landing was spent in happy and confident relaxation. General Birdwood addressed the unit reminding them that, “the world is watching to see what you can do…” He gave his assurance of their success in the coming campaign. Three days rations and three-hundred rounds of ammunition were distributed to each soldier and they went to bed at 10pm.

AWM- William Sydney Duchesne

Lieutenant Roy Kershaw, Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne (centre), Lieutenant Alfred John Shout Photo taken in Cairo, Egypt

On April 25, at early dawn, the attack commenced. The 1st Battalion were in the third wave, landing at Hell Spit without a loss at 07.40am. The battalion waited on the beach and received orders to reinforce Colonel MacLagen and the 3rd Brigade at 09.30am. They engaged in a desperate struggle for the strategically vital high ground (Baby 700).

C01993

Major William Davidson (left) and William Sydney Duchesne (right)
Photo taken in Egypt

Starting at 11.00am, Duchense with the Australian troops attacked the heights. Five times the hill was taken and five times the Australians were pushed back. It was during this battle that Duchense fell. The hill which he fought for and died to win, remained with the Turks for the rest of the campaign. Captain Bigwither, a New Zealand officer (NZEF)had recovered Duchesne’s identity disc and sometime after the withdrawal in December, handed it to the Australian headquarters in Cairo. In many cases where the discs had been removed, identification was impossible. The disc was returned to Syd’s father in 1920.

After the end of the war, the unburied bodies on the battlefields behind Turkish lines were recovered and buried. Duchesne was killed at the age of twenty, one month before his twenty-first birthday on 25 April, 1915. There is a memorial commemorating him which is located at panel 28 of the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial. The inscription at Baby 700 Cemetery, Gallipoli, Turkey reads:

“Duchense. Lt William Sydney 1st Bn Australian Inf. Killed in action 25th April 1915. Son of Edwin James and Edith Rachael Duchense of Crown St, Wollongong, New South Wales. Native of Sydney.”

AWM-W.S DUCHESNE

His Memorial Scroll was sent to his family in 1921 and the Memorial Plaque the following year. Syd was awarded the 1914-15 Star (2353), the British War Medal (1163) and the Victory Medal (1165). In 1968 his brother Edwin as the oldest surviving sibling, applied for and received the newly struck Gallipoli Medallion on his brother’s behalf.

Syd’s name remains on the Honour Board at St Michael’s Church in Wollongong.

He is also mentioned on: The Spirits of Gallipoli.