Ernest Bazen Beddow
Service Number: 2545
Unit: 35th Batallion
Date of Death: 28 January 1917
Cemetery: Bilston Cemetery, Staffordshire
Private Ernest Beddow became ill in January 1917 less than a month after arriving in England for military training. Antibiotics were not widely available until the 1940s and so Ernie fought pneumonia for nine days in hospital before he died. He became one of the estimated 3,300 Australian servicemen to die from respiratory tract infections in World War I. Ernie was 20 years old when he died at the Fargo Military Hospital from where he was taken by his relatives and buried in Bilston Cemetery, near Wolverhampton.
Ernest (Ernie) born at Wylie Creek on 30 September 1896, was the ninth child of Edward and Ellen Beddow. He had seven brothers and one sister. His parents were both born in England, Edward at Bilston in 1852, and Ellen at Hanley in 1855.
Ernie attended public school at Tenterfield where he undertook basic military training with the cadets. On 23 September 1916, one week before his 20th birthday, Ernie enlisted at Tenterfield. He listed his father, Edward, who was then living at Beverley via Stanthorpe, as his next of kin. Both his parents gave their written consent for Ernie to enlist, given he was under 21.
On 3 October, in Armidale, Ernie joined C Company, 5th Reinforcements of the 35th Battalion. Ernie underwent just a few weeks of training at the Rutherford Army Camp before leaving Sydney on active service aboard HMAT Acanius on 25 October. He disembarked in Devonport, England, on 28 December. The next day he marched into the 9th Training Battalion at Larkhill, on the Salisbury Plain. Little more than a week later, Ernie was found to be Absent Without Leave, between 4 and 5 January 1917 and was sentenced to five days Field Punishment No.2. and forfeited eight days pay.
On 19 January Ernie was admitted to the Fargo Military Hospital, Rollestone, suffering from broncho pneumonia. Private Ernest Beddow died at 5.50am on 28 January and was buried in a private grave in Bilston Cemetery on 3 February.
According to the Australian War Memorial:
Most Australian troops who succumbed to disease during the war died from respiratory tract infections – commonly influenza and pneumonia. Combined, they claimed some 3,300 Australian lives during the war, and many more soldiers were debilitated by the effects long afterwards. By 1930, almost 8,000 were receiving disability pensions for asthma, bronchitis, pleurisy or pneumonia (AWM 2022).
Ernie’s service record includes a copy of a telegram sent to his father on 25 January 1917 reporting that he was seriously ill from bronco pneumonia and that the Army would furnish progress reports when received.
On 31 January, his mother wrote to the Military Department, Melbourne, asking what hospital was Ernie was in, so that she could communicate with him. Ellen wrote “I am very anxious” and “his mother is not to [sic] strong and would like to know”. Ellen did not know that Ernie had died three days earlier.
On 5 February Army Base Records replied to Ellen stating “you will no doubt have heard the regrettable news that Private Ernest Beddow died of broncho pneumonia on 28 January 1917 at the Military Hospital, Fargo. This report having been conveyed to the Military Commandant, Brisbane, on 31 January for transmission to the soldier’s father at Beverley via Stanthorpe”.
The Glen Innes Examiner of 12 February 1917 reported Ernie’s death:
Last week we reported that Mrs. Beddow, of Tenterfield, had been advised that her son, Private Ernie Beddow, was ill in a military hospital in England, and the sad news was subsequently received that he had succumbed to the attack of pneumonia, from which he was suffering. He arrived in England on 4th January last, according to a cable received from him on his arrival. Private Beddow was only 20 years of age.
The Stanthorpe Border Post provided more details on 4 May:
Mr E. Beddow, Beverley, has received the following letter from Lieutenant D.S. Elliott, from France, in regard to the death of his son, Private E. B. Beddow, whose death was recorded in these columns some time ago – It is with much regret that I have to write and inform you of the death of your son, from pneumonia, in Fargo Military Hospital. I may state that from the date of your son’s enlistment he was a member of my company. He was a fine character and very cheerful and willing. His loss is greatly felt by all his comrades and his officers. Lieutenant Lyne attended his funeral with two of his chums, and his body was taken to Bilston, where his uncle, Mr S. Beddow, requested it to be sent, and all that was possible was done. His comrades subscribed and purchased a wreath which is the least we could do for him. All his personal effects have been sent to Mr Sam Beddow, who will forward them to you.
Lieutenant Dudley Elliot, of North Sydney, who wrote to Edward, served with the 35th Battalion and was killed in action at the Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917. This was the same day that Corporal William Stalling, of Amosfield, and Private Alfred Potts, of Stanthorpe, died in the fighting at Passchendaele.
Private Ernest Bazen Beddow is remembered on both the Amosfield-Liston and Tenterfield War Memorials.
The Australian War Memorial collection contains a hand-coloured photograph of the Amosfield-Liston war memorial in its original location in the Amosfield school grounds. According to the AWM, this photograph was displayed in the family home of Private Ernest Beddow.
Australian War Memorial. 2021. Casualties of War. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/wartime/article2. [Accessed 25 February 2023] “Our Neighbours. Tenterfield”, p.6. The Glen Innes Examiner. 12 February 1917.
Australian War Memorial Collection P09851.002. Studio portrait of 2545 Private (Pte) Ernest Bazen Beddow, 35th Battalion.
Bilston Cemetery, Staffordshire.
Australian War Memorial Collection P09851.001. Hand coloured and mounted black and white print of the Liston/Amosfield/Willson’s Downfall War Memorial in its original location in the school grounds at Amosfield.
Memorial plaque for Private Ernest Bagen [sic] Beddow. Courtesy John Stalling.
Tenterfield World War I Memorial.