Headlong into War: A Stowaway Soldier

On the eve of Australia’s military engagement at Gallipoli during World War One a stowaway soldier was found on board a troopship bound for the war front at the Turkish-controlled Dardanelles.

Eustace William Rose (1885 - 1967) #68, 2nd LIghthorse Regiment, Machine Gun Section. Stowed Away for Gallipoli aboard HMAT SEANG CHOON 13 April 1915. Picture source: newpaper titled 'The Queensland', 31 Oct.1014, p.23. (Trove, NLA). Copy also in Queensland State Library
Eustace William Rose (1885 – 1967) #68, 2nd Lighthorse Regiment, Machine Gun Section. Stowed Away for Gallipoli aboard HMAT SEANG CHOON 13 April 1915. Picture source: newpaper titled ‘The Queenslander’, 31 Oct.1914, p.23, (Trove, NLA). Copy also in Queensland State Library

In the grey dawn of 13th April 1915 as the 5,807 ton twin-screw HMAT SEANG CHOON  (HMAT A49) steamed away from Alexandria on Egypt’s coast,  ‘Private Rose’ of the 2nd Light Horse was discovered  stowed aboard the 26 year-old British built former passenger ship.

The Seang Choon was conveying Australia’s 14th Battalion, A.I.F to Lemnos Island off the Dardanelles’ shoreline, where all units of the Australia and New Zealand Armed Corp were assembling following orders received two weeks earlier.

The previous day 32 officers and 956 ‘other ranks’ of the 14th Battalion had gone aboard the Seang Choon alongside their baggage, 312 rounds of ammunition, 9 wagons, travelling kitchens, a cook’s wagon and water carts. 7 days worth of landing-rations were also put aboard along with 30 days of ship’s rations per each man.(Source: https://www.awm.gov.au/images/collection/bundled/RCDIG1003780.pdf).

 

14th Battalion AIF, Unit Diary extract showing discovery of stowaway Private Rose. (picture source: Australia War Memorial. AWM4 Item 23/31/7, April 1915, 14th Battalion )
14th Battalion AIF, Unit Diary extract showing discovery of stowaway Private Rose. (picture source: Australia War Memorial. AWM4 Item 23/31/7, April 1915, 14th Battalion )

A further 35 men and 1 officer of the 14th were put aboard the HMAT California with the 14th’s detachment of  horses, and the vessels sailed for Lemnos where seven days later more than 200 ships of the allied Mediterranean Expedition Force (M.E.F) assembled at Mudros harbour ready for the British and French invasion of Turkey .

 

On the 13th of April the 14th Battalion’s   unit diary records  the Seang Choon leaving Alexandria at 7.45 am for a  ‘destiny unknown’,  and shortly after ‘Stowaway (Pte. Rose) from 2 L.H  (was) found on board’.

Rose’ regiment however, the 2nd Australian Lighthorse  was still back in Egypt, and didn’t arrive at Gallipoli until the 12th of May 1915.

HMAT A49 'Seang Choon', (Picture source: http://www.flotilla-australia.com/hmat2.htm#A49).
HMAT A49 ‘Seang Choon’, (Picture source: http://www.flotilla-australia.com/hmat2.htm#A49).

The 2nd Australian Lighthorse was raised at Enoggera in Queensland on the 18th August 1914 and aside from recruits from the northern rivers districts of New South Wales the majority of the men were ‘Queenslanders’.

However the only ‘Private Rose’ in the regiment was English born and probably only in Australia for half a dozen years at most.

There are at least 250 Australian soldiers with the surname Rose who joined up Australia’s war effort between 1914 – 1918  but the only candidate of that surname in the 2nd Lighthorse was 32 year-old labourer Eustace William Rose, born in England about 1885 and living at Kin Kin at Cooran (Qld) at the time he enlisted in 1914.(source: https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/search?type=search&name=rose&regNum=&place=).

 

Eustace William ROSE

Regimental number 68
Religion Church of England
Occupation Labourer
Address c/o Shepparson, Kin Kin, Cooran, Queensland
Marital status Single
Age at embarkation 32
Next of kin Mother, Mrs. F. W. Rose, 29 Oakdale Road, Mossley Hill, Liverpool, England
Enlistment date 22 August 1914
Rank on enlistment Private
Unit name 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Machine Gun Section
AWM Embarkation Roll number 10/7/1
Embarkation details Unit embarked from Brisbane, Queensland, on board TRANSPORT A15 Star Of England on 24 September 1914
Rank from Nominal Roll Private
Unit from Nominal Roll 2nd Light Horse Regiment
Fate Returned to Australia 5 July 1915

(Source: https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=260909).

 

Eustace W. Rose’s digitised war-service record available online at the National Archives Australia (BT2455/11977662) shows Rose signed up on the 22nd August 1914 at Gympie some three months shy of his 32nd birthday. Rose said he was born in Manchester (England) and his mother Mrs F.A Rose was living at 29 Oakdale Road in Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Rose also stated  he had served  8 years and 5 months in the R.N Lancashire Regiment (South Africa?) prior to joining the A.I.F. .

Physical Description of Eustace W Rose (1885-1967) from his war-service record held at the National Archives Australia.
Physical Description of Eustace W Rose (1885-1967) from his war-service record held at the National Archives Australia.

 

Shipping records for vessels departing England (1890-1960,online at FindMyPast.com) show Eustace W Rose departed Liverpool in 1908 bound for New Zealand.

Rose left the U.K aboard the Federal-Houlden shire liner  Morayshire, McLoughlin master on the 10th October, but unlike the other passengers his record does not show a destination port in New Zealand.

The 5576 ton Morayshire was a regular on the Liverpool-New Zealand -Australian ports route, and arrived at Wellington on the 17th December 1908. The Wanganui Chronicle (Papers Past N.Z) reported on the   5 October 1909 that a drunken ‘new chum’ named Eustace Rose was arrested and fined after firing a unloaded gun and pulling a knife on a Hamilton barber and threatening to give a ‘bash on the jaw’ to the sergeant who relieved him of his knife and gun. The newspapers had a field day  terming  Rose “A man from Ironbark’ or  ‘A Mad Customer’ and a ‘Dangerous Ruffian’ in what one called the  ‘Rose Riot’.

 

The 1891 Cencus records for England’s parish of St Mary the Virgin in West Derby confirms  Eustace William Rose was born in Manchester, in 1885. At the time of the census Eustace was 6 years old and boarded in a single room at 22 Chatsworth street, West Derby  with his 9 year old brother Chichester Turner Rose (who was born in San Antonio, U.S) . Their mother is not recorded with them at the time, but as her occupation is given as a nurse two years later she was probably working and so not with her sons  when the census counters visited.

Two years later Chichester Turner Rose was admitted to the training ship Indefatigable at Liverpool, but died of meningitis in 1895 aged just 14 years. The records show their mother was raising the boys single-handedly as their father had ‘deserted’,  and Eustace’s war-service records shows his mother was still living in Liverpool in 1914. (source: National School Admission Registers 1870 – 1914 @ FindMyPast.com).

Admission record of Chichester Turner Rose to training ship Indefatigable 1893 from Nat. School Admission Records 1870-1914. FIndMyPast.com. Chichester was the elder brother of Eustace Wm Rose.
Admission record of Chichester Turner Rose to training ship Indefatigable 1893 from Nat. School Admission Records 1870-1914. FIndMyPast.com. Chichester was the elder brother of Eustace Wm Rose.

The unit diary of the 2nd Lighthorse Regiment from 13th of April 1915 when Rose was discovered aboard the Seang Choon till the 19th of May sheds no light on Rose’s whereabouts, or if returned to his unit or went on shore with the 14th.  But it does show that the 2nd Lighthorse only arrived at Anzac Cove on the 19th May, the same day that Rose was seriously wounded while fighting in Monash Gully.

The 2nd Lighthorse had left Cairo and arrived at Alexandria on the 16th of May, and embarked on the S.S.Lutzow for Cape Helles, where the vessel dropped anchor on the 18th of May. On the 19th the unit landed at Anzac Cove and were allotted bivouac sites in the southern junction near Walkers and Monash roads.

The 2nd ‘dug in’ under  heavy fire but the diary only mentions two wounded men for the day, where as Rose’s war service records shows he was seriously wounded this day in Monash Gully.

In an appended list of 2nd Light Horse men wounded or killed between the 19th till the 31st of May 1915, Eustace Rose’ name does not appear.

So it seems Rose may have already gone ashore earlier at Anzac Cove, possibly with the 14th Battalion,  but it is not known under whose command he served.

The 14th Battalion’s diary shows on the day Rose was wounded there had been heavy shelling all day, and the word was that Turkish reinforcements had been significant so there was high chance of a night attack. At nearby Quinns Post, and Walkers Position the 14th were bombarded for the next 24 hours by a determined attack by the Turkish fighters, accompanied by shellfire, grenades and continuous rifle fire.

Following his injury Eustace Rose was taken to Mudros Harbour at Lemnos and then put on a ship for Heliopolis to receive treatment for his wounds. He was returned to duty on the 13th of June but within four weeks was discharged  to Australia aboard the hospital troopship HMAHS Ballarat, departing Suez on the 17th of July 1915.

News of those recently wounded, missing or killed in action had already made its way back to Australia: the 33rd Casualty list had been released by the Censor and published in the Queensland Times on the 7th of June 1915, showing 270 names of whom were 44 Queenslanders, including Pte E.W. Rose of the 2nd Light Horse.

By war’s end 201 officers and men of the 2nd Lighthouse had been killed and 469 wounded and over 2000 had passed through the regiment (Cairns Post, 22 May 1919, NLA, TROVE).

“Their principal stunts have been at Pope’s Hill and Quinn’s post  at Gallipoli as well as Romani, Bir el-abd, Raffa, Maggdhab, Bersheeba, the Jordan Valley and Musalaleh, Choraniyck, Es Salt and Amman’

The Governor of Queensland officially welcome the survivors home in 1919, , congratulating them on the ‘splendid achievements’ and wishing them ‘good luck’.

Lieutenant Colonel G.H.Bourne, who had enlisted in 1914 with the unit and returned home in its command, said “The lads had been through some extremely hard fights, but they had at all times acquitted themselves in a manner worthy of Australians’ .

Mr Hardacre,a representative of the Queensland Government said he hoped the country would never forgt what the soldiers had done for it.

And then finally the men of the 2nd Lighthorse were free to return to civilian life, whatever that would mean for these traumatized men.

Eustace William Rose had married upon his return, in June 1916 to May Reba Hurman of Brisbane. Eustace was 82 years of age before death finally claimed him, leaving behind three surviving children and fourteen grandchildren to mourn their loss.

The reason Eustace Rose chose to stowaway on the Seang Choon for an early start on war remains unknown: it might be excitement, or even anxiousness to get things underway, but as the rest of his regiment were still at Cairo and a long way from port it seems Eustace William Rose was on mission. Whatever the cause I am betting it was a first for Australia’s military commanders of the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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