016 – Private Ernest Henry Reed

Private Ernest Henry Reed Died of wounds
23 April 1918

Ernest Reed came from a large farming family. Having turned 18 and now with winter set in he was able to volunteer for enlistment. At 5 feet 10 ½ inches he was taller than many enlisting at a time. From Claremont, he travelled to Melbourne where he embarked for overseas on HMAT Botanist departing on 24 August 1916 and arriving at Devonport, England on 19 October. It was not until 18 March 1917 that he made it to the Front being taken on strength with the 12th Battalion who were then encamped.

During the battle for Menin Road, Private Reed sustained a gunshot wound to his left hand and whilst serious enough for him to require treatment, it wasn’t considered serious enough to be evacuated to England. Stealth raiding had reached its high point in April 1918. On 22 April orders were received from 3rd Brigade Headquarters that they were to capture Meteren near Hazebrouck in two phases over consecutive nights. The idea was to ‘squeeze’ the enemy out and them mop up the town itself. According to one account the first phase succeeded, but when the second phase began the German defenders were expecting it and fought bitterly. The outskirts of the town were ‘bristling with machine guns’ and the encircling battalions were dragged into a two hour street battle with no artillery support as the village burned fiercely.

Despite having several eye witness accounts of the last moments of Private Ernest Reed’s short life, it is not clear in which phase of the battle he was mortally wounded. What is clear is that the platoon he was in, was attacking a German outpost and were forced to retire. It was during this retirement that he was hit and died in the arms of Private William Alexander about daybreak on 23 April 1918. Alexander had to leave Reed’s body to be brought out by the 9th Battalion. He was later laid to rest in the military cemetery at Meteren, Belgium. His few personal possessions were later returned to his mother.