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A commemoration service – exactly 100 years to the day when three Drysdale soldiers lost their lives in battle – was held in Drysdale.
Frederick William Gray, Raymond Alfred Benham and Henry Stanley Davis were killed on 11 April, 1917, at Bullecourt, France, on the Hindenburg Line during WWI.
All three men were from Drysdale and relatives and descendants attended St James Anglican Church for a commemorative service to honour their service on Tuesday 11 April.
Frederick William Gray
Frederick William Gray was born in 1898 in Geelong to Francis Gray and Annie Maria (Armstrong). Following the death of his father and with his mother needing to move away, Frederick went to live with his Uncle John Armstrong and Aunty Lillian (Jackson). John and Lillian already had five children, but then they also raised Frederick. Frederick is listed as being a farmer and living in Drysdale when he enlisted in Geelong on 3 April, 1916. The family farm being near the Drysdale water tower. Frederick embarked on the 16th August, 1916, as a private with the 46th Battalion. It was not even a year later that Frederick was killed on 11 April, 1917. It was the first Battle of Bullecourt and the day the 46th Battalion broke into the Hindenberg line. After many hours of fighting the 46th Battalion was forced out of their position, some soldiers were captured, some wounded and like Frederick many were killed. Frederick’s body was never found. While Frederick’s name is not on the church honour board, he was a member of the St James congregation. His Uncle and Aunty, John and Lillian Armstrong are the grandparents of Pat Whitford a current member of St James.
Raymond Alfred Benham
Raymond Alfred Benham was born in 1897 on the Bellarine to James Benham and Mary Ann Jackson. He was one of 10 children. Raymond attended Drysdale State School and the then Drysdale Methodist Church (now the Uniting Church). Raymond worked in the area as a farmer prior to enlisting in Drysdale on 11 May, 1916. He embarked for service overseas on 7 September, 1916, as a private with the 46th Infantry Battalion. Raymond was killed in action at Bullecourt on 11 April, 1917, and his burial place is unknown. Raymond’s mother and a Miss Deakin wrote many letters desperately trying to find out whether he had been taken as a prisoner of war. It was all to no avail. The Benhams had four brothers go off to war. As well as Raymond losing his life, his brother Frederick lost his life a year later in April, 1918, in France.
Henry Stanley Davis
Henry Stanley Davis was born in 1889 in Drysdale to John Davis and Carol Christie Judd. Carol’s family were also members of the Methodist Church. Henry attended Drysdale State School, St James Church of England and enlisted in Drysdale in September, 1915. Henry was working as a civil engineer and was a member of the local 69th Infantry Military Force when he joined. This man of many talents was also playing football in 1914 for the Drysdale Football Club. The club has a photo of him wearing a jumper more recognisable as the old South Melbourne jumper rather than the one we know today. Henry embarked for war on 16 October, 1915, as a lieutenant with the 14th Battalion and later he was transferred to the 46th Battalion and promoted to captain. Henry was killed at Bullecourt by machine gun fire close to the barbed wire bordering the Hindenburg line, on 11 April, 1917. His body was never found. A year later in 1918 his family held a service in this church. Henry was also recommended for a French Croix de Guerre for his gallantry. For various reasons the award was never received and the Drysdale RSL are still pursuing the medal through the French Government.

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