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    Army Museum of NSW - Frederick Veness - A gallant soldier of Australian Artillery

Objects of special interest – Medals awarded to Frederick Maxwell Veness MM

Frederick Veness Medals

These medals were awarded to Frederick Maxwell Veness of Bathurst New South Wales and today form part of the collection of objects at the Australian Army Museum of New South Wales, Victoria Barracks, Sydney.

Introduction

Frederick VenessMax Veness was born in 1896, the third child of Daniel Frederick William Veness (Town Clerk of the City of Bathurst) and his wife Amy Leticia Veness (née Cumberland). Max was educated at All Saints' College in Bathurst then at Sydney University and became a clerk in a Sydney accountant's office.

Max already had six years of part-time military service when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 July 1915. He enlisted at Liverpool NSW and was allocated to the 10th Reinforcements for the 1st Australian Light Horse Regiment as a trooper with service number 1342 (later 1342A).

After initial training, Max boarded HMAT Pera at Sydney on 12 October 1915 bound for the war zone.

Operations in the Middle East (November 1915 - May 1916)

Five and a half weeks later, Max was taken on strength of the Composite Australian Light Horse Regiment as a trooper at Heliopolis, about 10 km north-east of Cairo, Egypt. The same day, the regiment moved by train to Alexandria on the north coast then deployed to the northern part of the Western Desert for operations against pro-Turkish Arabs known as the Senussi.

Notable actions against the Senussi were on 13 December 1915 at Um Rakhum, on 25 December 1915 at Gebel Medwa in the Libyan Desert and on 23 January 1916 at Halazin, also in the Libyan Desert.

Trooper Veness was transferred on 9 February 1916 to the 1st Australian Light Horse Reserve Regiment then on 21 April 1916 to the 4th Australian Division Artillery, the latter at Tel-el Kebir[1] for defensive operations to the east of the Suez Canal. The next day, he was taken on strength of the 10th Australian Field Artillery Brigade (10 FAB) and mustered as a driver (of horsed transport). He was again transferred as a driver on 18 May 1916 to the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column (4 DAC)[2].

To the Western Front (June - October 1916)

4 DAC boarded HMT Oriana on 6 June 1916. Seven days later, the column disembarked at the city of Marseille in south-eastern France then moved by troop train to the north-western coastal city of Le Havre. 4 DAC commenced moving again by train on 20 June 1916 to La Rouge Croix, a locality near the village of Caëstre in the Nord department, northern France. While at Rouge Croix, 4 DAC conducted general soldier training and training particularly relevant to the work of a divisional ammunition column.

In July 1916, 4 DAC supported the 5th Australian Division in operations in the Fleurbaix - Fromelles area of the Nord department and from late August 1916 supported 4th Australian Division in operations in the Ypres area, West Flanders province, Belgium.

4 DAC was still in the Ypres area on 13 October 1916 when Max Veness transferred back to FAB as a gunner. His sub-unit was the 110th Howitzer Battery (110 HOW Battery) located about 2 km south-west of Wytschaete[3]. The battery was one of four in the brigade.

Three of the batteries were each equipped with six British 18-pounder field guns and one battery was equipped with four British 4.5 inch field howitzers, increasing to six in early 1917[3].

QF Howitzer Mk II

North of Flers (November 1916 - February 1917)

10 FAB was relieved in the Ypres area on 13 November 1916 and by 25 November 1916 had moved to the Somme department, northern France to support 4th Australian Division operations north of Flers. The gun positions for Max Veness' battery were at Delville Wood, about 1.5 km south-west of Flers.

10 FAB remained in the Flers area providing fire support where required until late February 1917 when it was withdrawn for resting.

Map 1Map 1. The blue arrow points to the location of 110 HOW Battery from late November 1916 to late November 1917. (Map extract by courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. Please click here for the complete map)

Bullecourt (April - May 1917)

Max Veness' next major action was on 7 April 1917 when his unit provided fire support for operations in the Bullecourt area of the Pas-de-Calais department, northern France. The operations continued until 14 May 1917 when all 4th Australian Division artillery units were withdrawn to an area near the town of Albert in the Somme department.

Map 2
Map 2. The blue arrow points to the location of 110 HOW Battery April/May 1917. (Map extract by courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. Please
click here for the complete map)

Messines - Warneton (May - August 1917)

10 FAB was next in action nine days later on the Messines - Warneton front in western Belgium. At the time, Max was on leave in the United Kingdom and re-joined his unit on 28 May 1917.

Operations on the Messines - Warneton front continued until 16 June 1917 when all 4th Australian Division artillery units were relieved and moved to rest camps in the De Seule area, about 8 km south-west of Messines. Fourteen days later, Max's unit was back in action on the Messines - Warneton front again, with his battery being firstly located in Ploegsteert Wood and later near the village of Wytchaete[5].

Apart from routine reliefs, 10 FAB carried out artillery fire tasks in the area until 23 August 1917.

East of Ypres (September - October 1917)

On the night of 9th/10th September 1917 10 FAB commenced to relieve the 113th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery in gun positions east of Ypres. The gun positions for Max's battery were about 3 km east of the town, just to the south of the Ypres - Menin Road. The relief was completed the following night.

Map 3
Map 3. The blue arrow points to the location of 110 HOW Battery from 9 September 1917 to 25 October 1917. (Map extract by courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. Please
click here for the complete map)

All batteries of 10 FAB were constantly shelled by German artillery from 12 September while target registration and harassing fire tasks were being carried out in the lead up to the successful but costly 20th September 1917 attack which became known as the Battle of Menin Road.

The attack was made by three British divisions and the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions. Less than a week later, on 26th September 1917, 10 FAB also supported the 4th Australian Division in the Battle of Polygon Wood, another successful but costly attack in the same area.

During October 1917, 10 FAB continued with harassing and counter-battery fire tasks as well as firing barrages during an attack (Broodseinde Ridge) on 4 October which was also successful but costly and during attacks on 9th (Poelcappelle) and 12th (Passchendaele) which did not succeed.

Hampered by wet weather which caused guns and gun teams to become bogged in mud, the four batteries of 10 FAB commenced withdrawing upon relief on 25 October 1917. By 28 October 1917 10 FAB was in wagon lines about 8 km south-west of Ypres.

On 31 October 1917 Max Veness was recommended for the award of the Military Medal

... For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on October 14th 1917 near ZONNEBEKE, YPRES. This Gunner in spite of heavy shell fire, assisted in maintaining visual signalling between the Observation Station and his Battery during important registration.

His Commanding Officer added ... His work throughout the operations from September 9th to date has been excellent.

The recommendation was approved and the ribbon bar for the Military Medal was presented to Max at Morbecque in the Nord department on 14 November 1917[6] by General Sir William Birdwood, Commander Australian Corps.

South of Ypres (January - March 1918)

On 5 January 1918, 10 FAB took over gun positions from which harassing artillery fire and support for infantry raids were carried out until 3 March 1918. The position for Max Veness' battery was about 4 km south-south-east of Ypres.

Map 4
Map 4. The blue arrow points to the location of 110 HOW Battery from 5 January 1918 to 3 March 1918. (Map extract by courtesy of the National Library of Scotland. Please
click here for the complete map)

A brave soldier is killed in action

Along with many other units, 10 FAB moved to the Somme department in response to the German Spring Offensive which had commenced on 21 March 1918. Six days later, Max Veness's battery was in action from gun positions between Henencourt and Millencourt.

Max died on the morning of 5 April 1918, just over a week after going into action. One witness reported that Max was taking horses to safety in Hènencourt Wood when he was hit in the head by a shell splinter, killing him instantly[7].

Bombardier Frederick Maxwell Veness, MM is buried in Fréchencourt Communal Cemetery about 12 km north-east of the city of Amiens in the Somme department, northern France. He is also commemorated in the Chapel of All Saints' College, Bathurst, at the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre and at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Max was temporarily promoted to the rank of bombardier on 13 February 1918 and was confirmed as a bombardier just over three weeks later.

Map 5
Map 5. The blue arrow points to the location of 110 HOW Battery in March 1918. (Map extract by courtesy of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Please
click here for the complete map).

Memorial Plaque

BDR Fred Veness' Scroll

Memorial Plaque and Scroll presented to Mr D.F.W. Veness, father of Frederick Maxwell Veness, MM. These memorials are displayed with the soldier's medals at Victoria Barracks, Sydney.


Endnotes

[1] Tel-el Kebir - near Ismailia on the Suez Canal, about 75 km south of Port Said.

[2] The role of an ammunition column was to supply and deliver gun ammunition to artillery units. Horse-drawn ammunition wagons were used for delivery.

[3]The map reference was N.30.a.7.7 according to the Headquarters, 4th Divisional Artillery war diary for October 1916, page 37 of 75. To view the map, please click here then zoom in to the bottom-left quarter of the map, courtesy of the National Library of Scotland..

[4]A British 4.5-inch howitzer Mark I had an effective range of 6 kilometres while the Mark II (introduced in 1917) had an effective range of almost 7 kilometres.

[5]The exact locations of 110 HOW Battery have not been determined. However, the map squares concerned are U.20 for Ploegsteert Wood and O.19 for Wytchaete. Please click here then zoom to the bottom left quarter of the map, courtesy of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

[6]Headquarters 4th Australian Division Artillery war diary for November 1917 (Pages 2 of 27 and 11 of 27).

[7]The witness was 33266 Gunner Claude Hamilton Morrow, 110 HOW Battery. To see Gunner Morrow's statement and those of other witnesses, please click here, courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.


Prepared by: K.J. McKay, September 2019

 

 
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