Friday, April 25, 2014

2014 Anzac Day Challenge: Reginald Roy Annesley

Reginald Roy Annesley (the first cousin of my great-grandmother, Merab Annesley) was born in 1893 in Katoomba, NSW, the second son of David Joseph Annesley and Mary Brady, who lived in Warriga St, Katoomba. He was known as Roy, or "Paddy" (because of his temper).

He was a crack shot and a member of the Katoomba Rifle Reserves.  His love of guns had got him into trouble with the law in 1909, when as a 16 year old, he and another lad "borrowed" a gun and stole some ammunition from a William Lynch.  Roy was fined 5 shillings and 4 shillings 3 pence in costs.

He was also well known as a boxer in the Mountains, Maitland and Newcastle districts, having won the lightweight championship in the Blue Mountains and several professional contests in the Newcastle district. A Stadium try-out was being arranged when war broke out.

On the 29th August, 1914 (less than four weeks after Britain had declared war on Germany), Roy left Newcastle, where he was working as a labourer, and travelled to Sydney. There he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion. He was 5 foot 6 inches tall, 9 stone 10lbs.
Sydney Morning Herald, 23 June 1915
On the 20th October the blue eyed young man with brown hair boarded HMAT Euripides and sailed off to war. They stopped first in Albany in Western Australia, then landed in Egypt on 2nd December. From there he wrote to his mother in January 1915:
"The Britishers took over Egypt on Saturday last, our battalion (3rd) and the 7th being chosen for the pulling down of the Turkish flag and the hoisting of the good old Union Jack. All things considered, they took it well. It was something new for us all, and we will never forgot the historic incident. We have been considerably harassed here by religious desert fanatics. They want rifles and bayonets, and will steal anything. Last night our watch fell foul of a couple. With a comrade, I was doing patrol duty near a big date farm, when two bewhiskered fanatics made straight for us. We gave them the "halt," but you might as well have reeled off a bar of "Tipperary" for all they know. We then fired, and both fell wounded. It was a bit exciting at the time, but soon blew over. It is rumoured here that we are to be shipped to Marseilles on the 6th of February. We have been busily engaged entrenching for the past ten days, about twenty miles of the desert being entrenched all around. I have received a very pretty gold sovereign case as a present from one of the German prisoners off the Emden. I shaved four of them the other morning. Poor, harmless devils, they appear very anxious to make friends, and indicate that great pressure is being used to goad them on to war. We are gathering lots of little knick-knacks here, which will be interesting when we get home again."
Of course, history records that they did not go to Marseilles, but were amongst those who landed on Gallipoli on April 25th. The 3rd Battalion formed the second and third waves.
Before the landing at Gallipoli, Roy took part in boxing matches with the forces in Egypt, winning several prizes and medals.
On the 19th May 1915 Private 1296 Reginald Roy Annesley was shot and killed at Lone Pine. He was the first person from Katoomba to die in the war.  He was just 22 years old.
The Battalion diary for 19 May states:
"A fierce attack was made by the enemy who advanced in considerable force at a few minutes after midnight. Another demonstration was made by them at 1:45 am. The main attack on our position developed at 2.45 am. We were specially warned by DIV HDQRS to expect an attack in force during the night & were "standing to arms" at 2.45 am when the main attack began. The attack extended along the whole front of the army CORPs. The TURKS attacked in successive lines, which were close together and came on with great determination. They pushed right forward to our firing line & in the part formed by the new sap & a few far right on the parapet. As they got closer the light was improving & as soon as we were able to distinguish them clearly our fire became very deadly, so much so that the TURKS were compelled to retreat with very heavy loss. As soon as the enemy commenced to retreat our men exposed themselves along the parapet and it was from this time that our losses were heaviest as the enemy's retreat was covered by fire from their trenches & hill in rear. During the evening we were subjected to very heavy bombardment by enemy artillery.
Casualties 1 officer killed 2 wounded. Other ranks 41 killed 49 wounded."
Even after his parents had been notified of his death, they continued to receive letters from him, including a letter probably written less than a week before he died:
“Just a line, during a recess, hoping you all are as well as this leaves us.  We are having an off day, and Eric Bell, Jack ?, George Kay and myself are here hale and hearty.  We have now put in over three weeks right in the front of the firing line.  We have beaten the Turks back all along the line, and I fancy we will be due to a spell soon.  We do not think the war will last long here – at least, out portion of it.  I see Bill Burns every day, and he is all right and very fit.  (Burns is married to Annesley’s sister.)  Don’t worry about our fellows.  We will be all right, and pull through.  Love to all Mountain friends.” 
Reginald Roy ("Paddy") Annesley is buried in the 4th Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery in the Gallipoli Peninsula. He is summed up in an obituary in the Blue Mountains Echo, 25 Jun 1915:
"The deceased hero was a typical Australian, rough and ready; as much at home in a rough-and-tumble as at a good dinner; yet, withal, with a heart, as big as a house, as was evidenced by many actions, not the least of which were his letters and cable to his mother not to worry. He was a promising pugilist, and won several tournaments and semi-professional bouts prior to enlisting. He also won two competitions whilst under the colours. General regret was expressed locally, especially in sporting circles, at the sad ending of such a promising young man, and genuine sympathy was freely extended to his sorrowing parents."
Roy's name on the wall at the Australian War Memorial


  1. Reginald Roy was my great uncle, my grandfather's brother. So nice to see him immortalised this way. Thank you.
    Cheryl Jeans (nee Annesley)

  2. My daughter and I are writing an illustrated story based on Reginald Roy Annesley. I live in Warriga Street, Katoomba, and would love to know which house the Annesley's lived in. We will have the first installment of our story at the new Artisan's Market at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre next Saturday, the 7th February. There were several young men within a two blocks of the Annersley's who were killed in action in WWI. An important year to remember these young men and their families. Wendy

    1. Hi Wendy,
      I would be very interested in your findings and your story. I couldn't attend the Atrisan's Market as I was giving a talk elsewhere today. I'd love to keep in touch - if you click the "About me" on the right on this blog you will be taken to a page with a link to my email addres.

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