Among the headstones in the Strand Military Cemetery at Ploegsteert, Belgium is one for Sergeant Frederick Charles Crole, 40th Battalion.
In 1916 when he volunteered for enlistment, Frederick Crole was farming 100 acres of land at Trowutta in the state’s north-west. He had six children to his wife Martha, five were under the age of 16 years. His eldest son Arthur was already serving with the 26th Battalion having enlisted in May 1915.
While Russell Dawson was allotted to the medical corps within the 40th Battalion and given the job of batman to the Regimental Medical Officer it would appear Frederick Crole, despite no previous military experience was destined for the trenches. On 7 November 1916, Frederick Crole was given the first of two promotions – that of Lance Corporal. Two months later he was given his second promotion to the rank of temporary sergeant.
According to the official history of the 40th Battalion, on 6th May the battalion relieved the 39th Battalion in the Ploegsteert-St Ives Sector and were still there two days later. On 7th May their positions were heavily bombed with both artillery and trench mortars. The bombardment caused considerable damage to the trenches and working parties spent some days on repairs. The battalion’s casualties amounted to 16. Was Sergeant Crole one of these? With no reference to his death in the 40th Battalion’s diary for this period or other records it is hard to know exactly what happened. Safe to say that Sergeant Frederick Crole made the ultimate sacrifice, leaving a widow with five children to raise alone.