Eyes brown, Hair dark, Complexion dark
Bertie - The German Death List
Bertie Greenfield was one of the Australian soldiers whose name appeared on the German Death List dated 4 November 1916. No particulars were afforded except that soldier was deceased.
Originally reported as missing, official enquiries led to the following details as to Bertie’s fate provided by surviving comrades of the 32nd Battalion
From 1216 Sergeant Herbert BOSVILLE:
Greenfield (D Co) was in the attack on the Fromelles front on this date (20 July 1916)and Informant was told by Sgt. (then Cpl.) Bishop of D Co., 1215, that he last saw Greenfield on the German parapet. He was groaning and was seriously wounded. He was seen when retiring but it was impossible to bring him in.
From 1231 Private Archibald W. CAMERON:
I knew B. Greenfield, 1275. He was killed on the 19th of July 1916. I did not see him killed, but it was common talk in the Platoon. I was told by several that he was killed during a charge at Fleurbaix. My Company and others went beyond our objective, and had to retire next morning.
From 1378 Sergeant Wesley H. TAYLOR:
His name appeared in Batt. Orders as a P/W in Germany in November last. He was a mate of mine.
From 1369 Corporal Edgar. H. STANLEY:
I knew him. We were at Fleurbaix and he was killed during the attack on Fleurbaix front. Cpl. Mahan told me four mornings after that he saw him killed. I cant remember whether by a bullet or a shell.
In March 1917, military authorities officially listed him as killed in action on 20 July 1916. His identity disc was returned by German authorities on 12 October 1916.
For the Greenfield family – a sad saga of hope and loss
Given the chaos of war and the limited information available, military and Red Cross authorities tried to keep Bertie’s family informed but sadly it was three years before their hopes that Bertie might be alive were finally dashed.
The confusion arose due to uncertainty about the German Death List and what it meant. With hindsight, historians now know that the list was generally based on the identity discs collected by the Germans as they buried the dead Allied soldiers remaining in their trenches after battle. But the lists also included the names of prisoners of war and information exchanges between the warring countries were conducted indirectly through the various branches of the international Red Cross – in a range of languages. Accordingly, confusion arose and doubts lingered.
For the Greenfield family, Bertie’s father as next of kin would have received notification in August 1916 that Bertie was missing after the Battle of Fromelles and then in March 1917 that the official inquiry had found that he had been killed in action. However, the authorities could provide no clear details about his fate. The evidence recorded by the Red Cross is second hand at best and details are patchy and sometimes contradictory.
There are sad letters from Bertie’s parents as late as December 1918 and April 1919 – nearly three years after his death - where they cling to hope that Bertie might be a prisoner of war and suffering from loss of memory. In 1918, they enclosed the photo below of their son in the hope that it might help identify him – “it’s just like him.”
The Red Cross Secretary replied on 24 April 1919:
We deeply regret to inform you we have received no further information, we have placed his name on our special list which has been sent to Germany and we will at once advise you should any further particulars reach us. We greatly fear the official report that he was killed in action is correct. Assuring you of our sincere sympathy in your anxiety.
It was not until September 1919 that Bertie’s father was finally sent his identification disc. It seems that no other personal effects were found but Bertie’s war service medals were issued to his father after the war.
So, who was Bertie Greenfield?
Bertie, a 26-year-old brickmaker, enlisted in Perth, Western Australia in July 1915. He was English-born but had emigrated to Australia in 1910 when in his early 20s. Apart from shipping and AIF records, there appear to be few records of Bertie in Australia, so his life here remains in the shadows. No electoral roll records for him have been found to date.
On his enlistment papers 208 Railway Parade, West Leederville W.A. is shown and it is presumed this was Bertie’s address at the time of enlistment. From electoral rolls, Edith and William Smart were living there, possibly with other family members. William Smart’s occupation is shown variously as a brickmaker or labourer so perhaps Bertie and William worked together. Bertie also seems to have had connections with Beenup and Bellevue in Western Australia – both are areas that had substantial brickworks in operation at the time.
In the Roll of Honour Circular completed by his father in about 1920, he lists his son as being an electrician even though Bertie describes himself as a brickmaker. Did Bertie have a career change? Or is this merely an error?
That circular also lists another contact for his son as Mrs Smart 318 Railway Parade West Leederville. In the 1916 electoral roll, Alice Smart (daughter of Edith and William, born 1894) is listed at this address so perhaps this supports a theory of a connection between Bertie and Alice. A romantic notion to speculate upon – probably we’ll never know.
The following memorial notice indicates that Bertie had a close relationship with the Smart family of some kind – whatever its form. Does Al in the notice below refer to Alice? The nickname isn’t an obvious fit for any other family members. Or are they initials – A.I.?
Seeking to find Bertie’s family connections
Because Bertie was on the German Death List, we are hopeful that he will be identified but we have been unable to trace family who might carry his Y DNA line, the male line – which will most commonly follow the Greenfield surname.
Bertie was part of a large family – one of sixteen children born to Edwin Greenfield, a road contractor, and Ellen nee Lelliott in Worthing, Sussex. The family and their descendants are known to be spread across England, Canada and Australia.
In 1910, three of the Greenfield brothers travelled to Fremantle in Western Australia. Archie 23, Bertie 22, and John 19 departed from London on 1 April 1910 on board Orient Lines Orphir.
Archie stayed in Western Australia and married Alice Eastwell in 1925, but John went on to Canada. Bertie enlisted and went to war, killed in action in France. He has no known issue:
- Archibald 1887-1931
- Bertie 1888-1916
A range of records including Bertie’s AIF file and various shipping records show that Edwin and Ethel both lived for some time in Toronto, Canada. Ethel had married Harry Butcher in Ontario, Canada in 1912. Edwin is more difficult to trace and research is complicated by the fact that Edwin is a commonly used family name replicated down and across generations, sometimes in the same area.
John left Australia for Canada where he married Amy Halliwell in about 1913 and raised a family. He died in 1975 and is buried in Saskatchewan, Canada:
- Edwin b. 1882
- Ethel b. 1890
- John 1891-1975
Died in infancy: Annie May 1892-1892; Mabel 1895-1895; Sarah 1897-1897; Ernest 1899-1900
Survived to adulthood:
- Arthur 1883-1971
- Lillian Mary 1885-1962
- Sydney 1893-1951
- Horace 1898-1963
- Nellie 1900-1956
- Gordon 1902-1975
- Eva 1904-1995
Six of the seven who survived to adulthood married with only Horace remaining single:
- Arthur married Susan Chapman - 1905
- Lillian Mary married Alfred Wiltshire - 1913
- Sydney married Elsie Higgins – 1923
- Nellie married Amos Kilby - 1944
- Gordon married Irene Walter - 1926
- Eva married Leslie Fowell – 1937
To date, an identification has not been made and we are still seeking suitable DNA donors. Bertie remains in an unmarked grave in France but is commemorated at V. C. Corner at Fromelles, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and also on the Beenup panel of the Armadale War Memorial in Western Australia.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||Bertie GREENFIELD 1888-1916|
|Parents||Edwin GREENFIELD 1857-1943|
|and Ellen Mary LELLIOTT 1862-1937, Worthing, Sussex|
|Paternal||Edwin GREENFIELD 1827-1857, Sussex and Jemima GOLDRING 1830-1911 Hampshire|
|Paternal Grandparents||William GREENFIELD 1794-1877 and Martha WILKINS 1801-1879, Hampshire|
|Maternal||John LELLIOT 1837-1910 and Ann BUTCHER 1836-1924, Sussex.|
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