Albert Ashton Denmead

by Christine Young – grand niece

Albert Ashton Denmead was born on 21 May 1887 in Colac. He was the 4th son of Alfred Denmead and Susan Merrin and their sixth of twelve children. He was my maternal great uncle and he never got married.

He enlisted, as a private, on the 7th August,1914, aged 27 years, and was killed in action during World War I in France, 1916.

I found newspaper articles on the Trove website from both the Colac Reformer and Colac Herald for 1915, 1916 and 1918 that relate to Albert. This timeline of events comes from the National Australian Archives website:

Troop transport HMAT Benalla (A24), crowded with troops, departing from the wharf.
Troop transport HMAT Benalla (A24), crowded with troops, departing from the wharf 19th October 1914

Albert enlisted on 7th August, 1914; embarked from Melbourne aboard the HMAT Benalla (pictured above) on 19th October 1914 and was sent to Alexandria, Egypt and then on to Gallipoli on 5th April 1914. 

He received a gunshot wound to the leg on 25th April 1914 and was sent to the hospital in Alexandria to recover. He was discharged from hospital and sent to the Dardanelles on 16th May 1915.

He became sick around 23rd August 1915 and was sent to the State Hospital in Mudros, Greece.  He had contracted Impetigo which is a highly contagious skin infection that causes red sores on the face – it spreads via handshakes or hugs. On the 29th August 1915 he was transported via HS.Saturnia to the Military Hospital in Endell Street, London, England.

There is an article on page 2 of the Colac Reformer on Tuesday 16th November 1915 regarding Albert:

Lance Corporal Albert Denmead has written to his parents, Mr and Mrs A. H. Denmead, Manifold Street telling them he is in the Joan of Arc Hospital, London, which is run entirely by women. Blood poisoning developed (after he had returned to the front line) in the leg where he was previously wounded, and his health broke down completely. After four days at Lemnos, and 18 days on board a hospital ship, he was landed in London. He is getting well looked after, with the best of food and attention, and is now able to walk a little.The Australians, he says, are treated exceptionally in England, in fact, the people there can’t do enough for the Australian soldiers.

He rejoined the M.E.F. [Marine Expeditionary Force] on 22nd February 1916; then re-joined his battalion on 11th March 1916. 

In the Colac Herald, page 2, of Friday 25th August 1916 there is an article written by Captain-Chaplain W Carter about Albert who was killed in action in the trenches on Saturday, 24th June that year.Albert was a Lance-Corporal at the time of his death.

He, with three others, were in the trench dug-out when a shell pierced the roof and exploded, killing three men, of whom Lance-Corporal Denmead was one. The bodies of the three men were buried in Rosenberg Military Cemetery.  A plain wooden cross was erected with their names and units inscribed.

Rosenberg Military Cemetery is a burial ground in Belgium for the dead of the First World War, located in the village of Ploegsteert in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front [Belguim]. This cemetery was used between Nov 1914 and Aug 1916. 

Albert’s military record indicates that his remains were exhumed in 1930 [along with other soldiers’ remains] and all were moved to the Berks Cemetery Extension also located in the village of Ploegsteert in the Ypres Salient.

Medals and Awards

When a soldier died a Memorial Plaque was issued to the next of kin.It is known as a Dead Man’s Penny.  It is a heavy bronze circular disc approx. 6inches [15cms] in diameter and is always accompanied by a scroll. Australians who served were awarded the Victory Medal between 1914 and 1919. Australians who served could also be awarded the British War Medal between 1914 and 1918.  My great uncle Albert was awarded both of these. 

Another family casualty

Great Uncle Albert’s brother in law was killed in the battle at Gallipoli on 25/th August 1915 – Clarence Roy Sharp – he was 22 years old and had been a soldier for only seven months and had been married for five months when he died.

There is a memorial at the Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial to the missing, in Turkey, and is the main Australian memorial on Gallipoli, commemorating the 3,268 Australians and 456 New Zealanders who died in the campaign and have no known grave.  Clarence is one of these servicemen.