Was it ‘lambs to the slaughter’ or ‘baptism by fire’? George Cobden Bradshaw would find out soon enough. George had a deep sense of duty and the promise of adventure in far-off lands had fired him up to enlist.  On the 26 August 1914 at Pontville George enlisted with the rank of Gunner in the 1st Division, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, 9th Battery.  George was a farmer but he had served with the Derwent Infantry for 2 years before transferring to the R.A.G.A. for another 2½ years. He found that the infantry was not for him and it was the thrill of firing the big guns that he enjoyed.  The Great War did not turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime that George first imagined it to be.

On the day George took his attestation oath at Pontville his younger brother Roy enlisted. Roy was a hairdresser and was assigned to the 1st Division, 12th Battalion ‘B’ Company, 3rd Infantry as a private.

The two Bradshaw brothers embarked from Hobart on 20 October 1914 on board the transport SS Geelong for Egypt. Their adventure had began but they would be going their separate ways once they landed.  The 1st Division arrived in Egypt in December and began training at Mena, near Cairo within the sight of the great pyramids.  George was quickly promoted to acting Bombardier and then to Bombardier on 17 January 1915.

At 9.30am on 25 April 1915 George was part of the amphibious assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula at what is now know as Anzac Cove.  In a letter George wrote in 1967 he states that they we detained for 3 weeks at Anzac Cove. George was wounded and admitted to the 3rd Australian General Hospital on 23 August.  The next day in Tasmania his mother Annie Bradshaw died. A letter was sent to his father on 13 September advising him that Gunner G.C. Bradshaw had been admitted to hospital in England.  The 3rd Australian General Hospital was located at Wandsworth London and had been a school for the benefit of orphan daughters of soldiers and sailors since 1859. ‘The Patriotic School’ was transformed into a hospital in 1914.

By 26 November George was placed on the Supernumerary List for N.C.O’s. The 1st Division was involved with the withdrawal from the Gallipoli Peninsula in December 1915.

George was transferred from the hospital in England and disembarked on “SS Ionic II” to Alexandria on the 2 January 1916.  He was admitted to the Ghezireh Hospital Cairo No 2 Australian General (2nd A.G.H) on 20 January for observation.

February 1916 heralded changes for the 3rd F.A.B with Lt. Col C. Rosenthal being transferred to command the 4th Division and Major W.L.H. Burgess assuming command of the 3rd F.A.B. and the reorganisation with the 3rd F.A.B. now comprising of 7th, 8th, 9th and 24th Batteries.

February also had George back in hospital for surgery to his knee and an eye from wounds he received. He was transferred to the British Red Cross. He was discharged from Montazha to O/Seas base Giza, Class ‘B’.

On 5 March George received a promotion to temporary Sergeant and within days he was advised of his transfer to the 21st Field Artillery Battery.  On 11 March George rejoined his unit and then transferred to the 24th Battery at Tel-El-Kebir.  By the end of March the 1st Division had relocated to Marseilles in France at La Fournier Camp. Excitement spread around the Australian camps as HRH Prince of Wales was to inspect the camps and the Australian troops on 22 March 1916.

The war diary of the 21st FAB for April 1916 indicated that they had 149 horses and 8 mules and the weather was unsettled, cold and showery. The town of Hazebrouck had been placed out of bounds for all NCO’s and men.

By May 1916 George was transferred and in his element with the big guns he so loved, the 24th Battery was a Howitzer unit within the 21st Field Artillery Brigade. He was promoted to Sergeant and underwent special 17 days P.T. Tables and Bayonet training.  On 16 May he was taken on strength (T.O.S.) to the 21st F.A.B.

By 23 July 1916 the 1st Division joined the Somme offensive.  The fight for the town of Pozieres was a memory that George would find hard to forget. They were under continuous heavy artillery fire. By the time the Division withdrew 4 days later they had lost 5285 officers and men.  The second fight for Pozieres followed in August and George was not so lucky. He received a severe gunshot wound to the face and right eye on 7 August.  He was admitted to the 13th Stationary Hospital at Boulogne.

By late September George rejoined his unit in the field but within 2 months he was transferred by ambulance train (AT29) to embark on the “SS Asturias” for England and the 2nd Southern General Hospital with a sprained back. George spent time in England on furlough and repatriation until March. George undertook a course of 17 working days in special supplementary P.T. Tables and Bayonet training. Sgt George Cobden Bradshaw was temporary attached for duty with

Administration Headquarters London for election purposes from the A.F.A.  In May he was detached from duty an marched out to Cordford (9th A.F.A.) Administration Headquarters. While back in France, the 1st Division relieved the 2nd Division in the second battle of Bullecourt.

George would not return to the war in Europe.

On 20 December 1917[1] departing from Plymouth, George returned to Australia on the A54 “SS Runic”.  Sgt George Cobden Bradshaw SERN1956 was discharged from the A.I.F. on 18 March 1918 for medical unfitness with mitral disease.  He was an original of the first A.I.F., landed at Gallipoli 25 April, was wounded 4 times, took part in the Somme and the battle of Pozieres on the Western Front.

It is in the words of Graeme E Petterwood that we get a glimpse of what George must have felt in his role as gunner in the artillery.

The ‘rush’ that came with my first live firing is now a memory – a bright flash of sight, sound and smell that will stay with me forever – but then, over the years, after the physical process of being educated as a ‘gunner’ had long been completed, I found that my involvement had become more than just a string of memories, it had become a deep-seated emotion that brought with it an appreciation of just what it constituted to be a member of a corps with a proud history of service to this nation! 

With that appreciation also came the obligation to never let that history be forgotten!

George was the first to admit that The Great War did not turnout to be the adventure, he and his brother Roy, first thought it would be.  At least 117 Tasmanian artillerymen died during the conflict. The war would be a lasting memory and the innocence of youth now gone.

George spent 2 years as a civilian before his deep sense of duty urged him to join the Naval Guard Section in Freemantle WA in 1920[1].   George served in the Navy until 1945 and retired with the rank of Sergeant 2nd Class.  George only returned to Tasmania after his retirement from the Department of Navy.

George was my 1st cousin twice removed.

Written by Ann Williams-Fitzgerald  2016