Herbert John Claydon
known as Bert Claydon
Serial Number and Rank: 4463, L/CPL
Birth: Milton 1887/34642
Parents: James Claydon and Mary Ann Spurgin
Enlisted: Brisbane 17 December 1915
Next of Kin: M. Mary Ann Claydon
Service: 9th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement and 3rd LRF Coy
RTA 11 May 1919
Death: 26 Feb 1964
Honour Rolls: RSL Honour Roll
Milton Town Memorial
Milton Methodist Flag
Yatte Yattah Community
August 1917 in Hospital in Leeds England
Herbert John Claydon who was known as Bert was born in 1887 at Milton, son of James Claydon and his wife Mary Ann nee Spurgin. He was working as a motor mechanic when enlisted for war service in December 1915 at Brisbane, at the age of nearly 26 years old with his next of kin noted as his mother Mary Claydon of Milton South Coast NSW.
He was assigned to a Reinforcement unit of the 9th Battalion, leaving for overseas service in January 1916 from Brisbane aboard HMAT Wandilla A62 which travelled to Alexander in Egypt. By June 1916 Herbert travelled to Étaples in France to join the fighting. In August 1916 Private Bert Claydon wrote a letter home to his mother:
“I have been through a lot during the last month. I am at present in hospital (Leeds), but am almost well again. Not wounded but sick. I have been buried up a time or two in the trenches, and knocked about a bit, and I think a little too much gas: my throat and lungs wore very sore for a few days; this together with no sleep for a week, hard work, nothing to eat for a day or so, and bad water to drink knocked me out.
I hope I will soon be well enough to get back to the trenches and do a bit more towards putting down the enemy that would trample us in the dust if they could. I was fighting at Pozieres (or a better name Hell). I don’t think Hell can be worse. We were sent to take a German stronghold to the right of Pozieres. The Tommies had three tries, but failed. I don’t know why they failed, as they are good fighters. The Germans thought it was impregnable.
We went with the determination to take it or die in the attempt. We crept up to within 150 yards of their first line on the 23rd July, at about 12 o’clock at night, when suddenly something startled them, and up went the flare lights, and immediately they opened fire with rifles, machine guns, trench mortars, bombs, and also artillery, firing shells by the thousand, consisting of shrapnel, high explosive, gas, and tear shells; in fact everything they possibly could fire at us.
We advanced in the face of it all and took the position with the bayonet. It was awful; and the sight that met our gaze in the trench was one never to be forgotten. The Germans had dug-outs in the stronghold 30 feet below the surface of the ground, with two flights of steps down to them. Artillery cannot reach them in these places; but we find one good plan, and that is the bayonet. We secured a lot of material. As soon as they found out that we were too good for them they threw up their hands and cried mercy comrades. In such positions as these strongholds that cry is not always effective. The Germans dread the bayonet. I have not yet seen one stand his ground and fight at close quarters, if he can get away. He is alright when he can stand of and throw bombs at you. Later on in the early hours of the morning they made an awful effort to drive us out again, but to their sorrow. They stormed at us, but with our machine guns, rifles and bombs we mowed them down like oats. In many places the dead lay around several deep.
Still they came on until sunrise next morning, when they gave the job up. Their losses were most awful. We had a similar experience next night and took more trenches and prisoners as well. They are getting badly beat. Through all this I could hardly believe my eyes, the sights I saw. I never realised how dreadful it all was until I came out of the trenches. The whole place at times like this is oh the move, the earth is all of a shake from the heavy shells bursting, the noise is terrible, bullets whistling everywhere, and streaks of fire like lightning. I can assure you no one is more thankful than I to come through it all alive; not even wounded, but many narrow escapes. Men have been killed at my side, yet I not even scratched.
My faith is still strong there is no mistake, God has watched over me and protected me from harm. I must not forget a word about the stretcher bearers in the trenches, and the Red Cross people, also the Hospital nurses. The stretcher-bearers I Consider should be given a V.C. for the way they care for the wounded. I have seen them going day and night without a stop, under heavy shell fire, and all sorts of difficulties. Often out in ‘No man’s land’ after wounded, and the German machine guns on them all the time, and shrapnel bursting’ around them.
It is impossible to speak too highly of the good work they are doing; they risk their lives every day even more than those do who are fighting. I have seen enough of them to remain in my memory for the rest of my life. The work of the Red Cross people is wonderful, too; the tender care one receives right from the stretcher-bearers to the ambulance, and then on to the hospital. Such treatment one could not forget. From a surgical and medical point, of view the bounded receive the best possible attention. Both services have accomplished wonderful things; instances that have come under my own notice”.
Herbert was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1917 and continued fighting in France with the 9th Battalion, until he was transferred to the 3rd LR Coy to complete the established of the Light Railway Operating Company in March 1918. Herbert returned to Australia with 3rd LR Coy in May 1919, he received the British War medal and the Victory medal.