008 – Private John William Geale

Private John William Geale Killed in action
15 October 1916

John William Geale and his younger brother Ernest both served in the Australian Imperial Forces. At the outbreak of the war the brothers were farmers at Smithton where the family had moved to some years earlier. With Ernest away serving with the 3rd Light Horse, John gave up his farm, which according to a brief newspaper article, had good prospects and volunteered for enlistment on 11 January 1916. He was allotted to the 16th reinforcements for the 12th Battalion embarking for overseas on board the RMS Orontes on 29 March 1916 and disembarking at Suez on 25 April 1916.

At this stage the 12th Battalion were already in France having left Egypt at the end of March. On 7th June Private John Geale embarked for Marseilles arriving there a week later. From there he travelled to Etaples before being allotted to the 52nd Battalion, being taken on strength on 19 August. By this time the Battalion was about the leave Warloy for La Vicogne north of Amiens. Having survived the battle for Mouquet Farm at the beginning of September when the Battalion sustained heavy losses, Private Geale was then attached to 13th Brigade as a plate layer on 19th September. But by 10th October he re-joined the 52nd Battalion, which had moved to Spoil Bank in the St. Eloi sector, near Dikkibus, Belgium. The trenches that the battalion were in were old and in poor repair and much work was required along with the digging of communication trenches etc. Here the battalion was subjected to repeated bombardments and sniping targeted at the working parties, making it dangerous work.

On 15 October, the history of the 52nd Battalion records that the Germans were quick to reciprocate an attack and the sector held by the battalion was shelled killing Private John Geale. He was initially buried on the battlefield and in January 1917 was finally laid to rest at Chester Farm Cemetery, near Zillebeke, Belgium.