beloved wife of
WILLIAM HERBERT PADFIELD
who fell asleep 3rd August 1914
aged 24 years
Her sun went down while it was yet day
and EDNA FLORENCE
darling daughter of the above
who died 11th Sept. 1914, aged 7 weeks
“Safe in the arms of Jesus,”
WILLIAM HERBERT PADFIELD
Killed in action at Zonnebeke, Belgium
4th Oct. 1917, aged 33 years.
At his request this stone was erected
to the memory of his wife.
They are not dead, but only sleeping
On the sweet refuge of their Master’s breast,
And far away from sorrow, toil & weeping,
They are not dead – but only taking rest.
The monument is a tall marble slab and is surrounded by an iron (?) fence that stands to about knee height. Some of the fence has come loose and has been placed on the grave. The monument is much larger and more elaborate than the other throughout Wonthaggi cemetery and as such immediately drew my attention.
The story of the Padfield family has been pieced together using records available on the Ancestry website and the war record of William Padfield, which provides a touching insight into the erection of the grave marker.
William Herbert Padfield married Florence Louisa Sparrow in 1910 at Saint James, Trowbridge, England. The grave says that Florence was 24 when she died in 1914 so she must have been approximately 20 when she married Herb*. When Herb joins the AIF in 1914 he states he is 30, so he would have been approximately 26 when they married. An entry on the Ancestry site records Herb and Florence emigrating to Australia in December, 1913 although I have been unable to verify this but what is known is that sometime between their marriage in 1910 and Florence’s death in 1914 the couple moved to Wonthaggi in Victoria, Australia.
Their daughter, Edna Florence, was born in late July, 1914. Florence died of septicemia on August 3rd and Edna died from umbilicus cellulitis on September 11.
In December, 1914 Herb voluntarily enlisted with the AIF to fight in the First World War. He was in the first wave of enlistments and embarked for the war on 2 February, 1915 onboard the HMAT Clan McGillivray, part of the reinforcements for the 6th Battalion. The 6th Battalion was part of the second wave of the Gallipoli landing on April 25 and also was involved in the battle of Lone Pine. On the long list of names and marital status on the Embarkation Rolls for his ship Herb is the only man with a ‘W’ (for widower) amongst all of the S (for single) and M (for married).
In July he fell ill and spent some time on hospital ships, but rejoined his battalion at ANZAC in August. By September, Herb was ill with dysentery and then enteric fever. He spent time in army hospitals in Egypt before he was shipped back to Australia to rest and recover June, 1916. Returning to Australia for a few months of rest and recuperation was a relatively common treatment for diseases such as enteric fever during the First World War. This practice relieved the strain on the overloaded army hospitals and also helped to fill up the troop ships that typically returned to Australia virtually empty.
Most men never returned to the front but after recovering his health in Australia William Padfield headed back to the fighting in July, 1916. By this time the fighting had moved to the hell of the Western Front in France and Belgium. Herb transferred to the 14th Battalion (but later transferred back to the 6th) and in October was admitted to hospital with a “self-inflicted wound” to his ankle. Despite the dramatic wording on his war service record the “wound” was “self-inflicted” was a sprained ankle from playing football, which would trouble him for the remainder of his war service. Two further hospital admissions for a sprained ankle note that “he was in no way to blame”.
Sadly, William Herbert Padfield died in battle on October 4th, 1917 in Zonnebeke, which saw intense fighting during the First World War. His war service records, which are viewable online at the National Archives of Australia reveal a few details about his death, and also let us know that his sister called him ‘Herb’ and his soldier mates called him ‘Pad’. A couple of witnesses recall seeing him injured to the head during the fighting. Private Wilson, a stretcher bearer, states that he bandaged Herb’s head and put him in a shell hole, but when he returned two hours later he couldn’t find Herb. Private D Gray states that he was behind Herb as they headed to the front line “when a high explosive shell exploded near him, a piece entering his head and mortally wounding him.” William Herbert Padfield’s body was never found so his name appears on the Menin Gate in Ypres, along side the other 54388 Allied soldiers whose remains were never recovered.
Herb’s war service records reveal one other interesting fact that is alluded to on the grave marker at Wonthaggi cemetery. His sister, Rosina, was listed on his attestation papers as his next-of-kin but, sadly, she was put through the wringer by the powers that be to gain access to Herb’s army pay despite being named on his Will. In an effort to prove her entitlement Rosina provided the army with the following extract of a letter that Herb wrote:
My Dear Sister,
…..If I should not come back to Australia you must draw all my Pay. Then spend one half of it as you think best in the Cemetery, and divide the rest equally between you and Pam or in the event of anything happening to her you it yourself….
Your Loving Brother,
RIP Florence, Edna and Herb
* William Herbert calls himself Herb in his war records.