Robert Gill 1883-1916
"THE ROLL OF HONOR: VICTORIANS KILLED AND WOUNDED" Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954) 23 September 1916: 29. Web. 4 Aug 2022 <

Robert GILL

Regimental Number
Known As
War Service
Egypt, Western Front
Prior Military Service
04 Sep 1915 at Melbourne, VIC
18 Feb 1916 from Melbourne, VIC, on the RMS Morea
Next of Kin
Brother, Patrick Gill, Collins Street, Geelong, Victoria
Date & Place of Birth
1880, Mount Moriac, Buckley, VIC
Richard Gill and Mary Anne Donahue
Marital Status
Brother: 326 Pte Thomas James GILL, 14th Bn, returned to Australia, 24 January 1919. One of 13 siblings.
Physical Description
5 feet 10 inches, 149 pounds (177.8cm, 67.6kg)
Eyes Grey, Hair Brown, Complexion Fair
Distinguishing Features
small scar above right elbow
Roman Catholic
Wounded in Action
Died of Wounds,, 20 Jul 1916, Battle of Fromelles
Place of Burial
Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension (Plot II, Row F, Grave No. 37), France
Positively Identified
Yes, 1916

Robert Gill - An Australian Soldier, A Hero and a man

Robert “Bob” Gill was born in 1880 at Mount Moriac, near Colac in Victoria. He was the 4th Son and 10th child of 13 children of Richard Gill and his wife Mary Ann Donohue. Richard was a hotel publican who licensed a hotel known as Irrewarra or Ondit Crossing Hotel. He died in 1889 when Bob was just 9 years old. His mother sold the hotel and moved to Colac. Bob ended up in Geelong with a number of his family members including his brothers Patrick and James.

988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image1png
The Gill Family had a Hotel at Ondit Crossing, Ondit (near Colac)

Off to War

Bob enlisted on the 4th September 1915 at the recruiting depot in Melbourne. His next of kin was his older brother Patrick, as both parents were deceased. His younger brother James had enlisted the year before and was part of the 14th Battalion. He was twice wounded throughout the war, before returning home in 1919.

Early in 1916, the 29th Battalion was assigned to the 8th Brigade of the 5th Division, after a reorganization that saw the AIF expand from two infantry divisions to five. On 14th June, they embarked on the troop ship HMT Tunisian in Alexandria, bound for France arriving at Marseilles nine days later. The soldiers were taken from the southernmost part of France to the north by train to Hazebrouck. They went on to Steenbeque and by the 26th were encamped in Morbeque, about 30 km from Fleurbaix.

On July 9th they then moved to Erquingham, just outside of Fleurbaix and on the 10th they got their first experience in the front-line trenches. They were back at their billets in Fleurbaix on the 14th. A gas alarm was sounded on the 15th, but there was no effect on the troops in Fleurbaix.

On 19 July, Bob was with the 29th in the trenches, ready for the attack. The 8th Brigade’s position was on the left side of the 5th Division, in the Cellar Farm area.

By 8pm the soldiers were ready with A company and Bob’s D company in the front trenches. In their initial charges, many of the men broke through the forward lines of German trenches, looking for what they had been told was a second line. Instead, all they found were a series of shallow drainage ditches.

At 10.00pm, the 30th Battalion was asking for support and D and C companies began carrying supplies over No Man’s Land. Unfortunately, they found that a number of the grenades in these supplies had no fuses.

At 2am the German counterattack began, but, as noted in the War Diaries [AWM], “After a struggle, Germans content to stop at their own trench.”

The attack resumed on their right, but they became exposed in a salient jutting into the German lines and were quickly enfolded by German machine guns. In the end, they basically had to fight their way back to their own lines, 'run for it', or be killed wounded or captured. [VWMA]

988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image4png
Private Ernest Hansen Noll, 1197, 29th Battalion, D Company, taken prisoner at Fromelles gave this account of the night.

The nature of this battle was summed up by one soldier from the 29th: "The novelty of being a soldier wore off in about five seconds, it was like a bloody butcher's shop." [AWM]

When bombardment ceased on the morning of the 20th, the 29th Battalion reorganized and were busy holding their front line, Bob was injured with a Gun Shot Wound to the chest and transferred to the Clearing Station on the 20th July 1916. Bob's fate was unknown for another month or so, when he was first listed as killed in action. This was changed to died of wounds once his family had been notified.

988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image6png
Medical orderlies at the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station near Steenwerck moving patients over duckboard walkways (to avoid the muddy ground) using a two-tiered stretcher holder on wheels. The strecher holder could run along railway tracks leading to the train (seen in the background), which pulled up right at the camp. Here the orderlies are changing direction at a turntable. No 2 Casualty Clearing Station (or No 2 Clearing Hospital as it was called when it first got there) arrived at Bailleul on the 18th October 1914 and opened in a seminary about a mile from the railway station. On the 20th July 1916, 2,357 patients had been evacuated through No.2 CCS and by the following day 3,984 had been cleared.
988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image5png
Map of Battle of Fromelles annotated by Robbie Carrucan showing the position of the 8th Brigade. Marked in blue is the Cellar Farm/Mine Avenue trench.

To further confuse things, evidence was given to the Red Cross that Pte Robert Gill was one of nine soldiers killed on the evening of 19-20 July and buried on 22 July as part of a larger group of twenty or thirty in a grave in a sap near Water Farm, Pozieres. This reference to Pozieres was a common mistake of the times relating to French placenames. The sap (a short covered trench / tunnel dug towards an enemy position to provide cover for advancing troops) is probably on the Mine Ave end of the trench (marked in blue in the map above) near where the water hole is marked.

Corporal F. WEBSTER, 356, A Company, 29th Battalion, undated statement:

All the above men [166 L.R. BATEY, 1470 M.L. BRUNN , 80 S. FARLOW, 2033 R. GILL, 2050 J.I. HIGGINS, 320 F. PARRY, 361 H.J. WESTMORLAND, 1314 E.J. WILKIN, 1314, 1262 F.S. WOODCOCK] were in No. 3 Platoon along with himself and his brother ... The nine above named men were killed on the afternoon of July 19th. or in the morning of July 20th, 1916, when the Bn went into action at Fleur Baix (sic). All the above were killed either by Shellfire (sic) or Machine Gun and were buried at the left hand of the sap which runs in to the back of Water Farm (POZIERES). This was a very large grave and contained about twenty or thirty bodies and is marked by one big cross. They were all buried by a fatigue party from D. Company and some of the bandsmen. Informant was at the burial on the 22nd. July and saw the remains of the nine men named above, properly buried. Informant and his brother were the only two men left alive out of the Platoon, his brother was in charge at the time.

AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – Robert Gill

There is also a note on most of their AIF file that they are buried at Fleurbaix giving a map reference, sheet 36. A similar note appears on eight of the nine soldiers listed - with the exception being Private Robert Gill who died at the casualty clearing station.

Despite being identified as being buried in the sap, four of these nine men - Ernest Wilkin, Frederick Parry, Samuel Farlow and Norman Brumm – were identified in 2010 as being buried in the Pheasant Wood Cemetery! Was the original grave disturbed by shelling or otherwise re-opened necessitating re-burial by the Germans?

With four already identified, are the remaining four (Herbert Westmoreland, Francis Woodcock, Lemuel Batey and James Higgins) still amongst those soldiers now buried at the Pheasant Wood cemetery but unidentified?

It would have been chaos in the trenches during the battle and in the immediate aftermath, and it is no wonder records of deaths and burials are often non-existent or contradictory.

Researchers investigated the young men identified as buried in the sap and hope to identify more of the nine by persisting in the search for suitable DNA donors.

Bob is buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension (Plot II, Row F, Grave No. 37). 104 known soldiers of the 29th Battalion were killed in action or died of wounds from the Battle at Fromelles in 1916 and many more were wounded, of those, 17 have been found at Pheasant Wood. Bob is one of three known soldiers from the 29th Battalion buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension.

988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image7png
Record of Robert Gill’s Death
source AWM – Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – Robert Gill, Page 3
988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image11png
GILL.— In loving memory of our dear brother, Private Robert (Bob) Gill, who died of wounds, July 20, 1916.
Gone is the face we loved so dear,
Silent the voice we loved to hear.
A painful shock, a blow severe,
To part with one we loved so dear.
No one knows how much we miss him.
Friends may think the wound Is healed;
But they little know the sorrow
Deep within our hearts concealed.

Robert is commemorated at:

988-Robert Gill - An Australian Sold-image12png
Robert Gills Headstone at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension (Plot II, Row F, Grave No. 37),
source Courtesy of JeSuisCatweazle from www.facebook.com/36525days

The Fromelles Association would love to hear from you

Fromelles Association of Australia


The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).


The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).