Victor Robert INGRAM
Eyes blue, Hair fair, Complexion fair
Two Sons Lost – The Ingram Family of Western Australia
Can you help us identify Victor Ingram?
Victor was killed in Action at Fromelles. As part of the 32nd Battalion he was positioned near where the Germans collected soldiers who were later buried at Pheasant Wood. There is a chance he might be identified, but we need help. We are still searching for suitable family DNA donors.
In 2008 a mass grave was found at Fromelles, a grave the Germans dug for 250 (Australian) bodies they recovered after the battle.
If you know anything of contacts or his relatives from Western Australia, please contact the Fromelles Association.
See the DNA box at the end of the story for what we do know about his family.
With thanks to Geoff Tilley, In Search of Charles Albert Stokes DCM, for his contribution to the preparation of this story.
The Ingram Family
Victor Robert Ingram was born in Perth, Western Australia in October 1888. His parents were Edward George and Elizabeth (nee Henderson) Ingram, who were married in August 1885 in Perth.
Victor was the second of five siblings:
- Edward George (George) 1886–1915 – Killed in Action at Gallipoli
- Victor Robert 1888–1916 - Killed in Action at Fromelles
- Ernest (Ernie) John 1891–1969 - Wounded in Action and leg amputated
- Etta Elizabeth May 1893–1965
- Constance Mary 1895–1985
Victor’s father Edward was employed by the West Australian Government Railways. In 1891 he purchased the licence of the York Hotel, leased the local brickyard in York and had been elected to the local council, so the family moved to York, about 100 km east of Perth. In 1892, Victor’s older brother George made the York papers by almost drowning in a local river.
Around this time there was a major economic depression which peaked in 1893 and affected the family’s fortunes. Edward tried his hand in the Coolgardie gold rush and in early 1894 it was reported in the York papers, but unconfirmed, that Edward and his party found 150 oz of gold worth £600 (nearly £100k today).
Source: BREVITIES. (1894, March 17). Eastern Districts Chronicle (York, WA 1877 - 1927), p. 6. http//nla.gov.au/nla.news-article148380148
Good fortune from the gold or not, over a period of nine years Victor’s family had moved to various towns, with their father purchasing the leases of local hotels and standing for election in the local councils. After York, they went to Bunbury where Edward had purchased the lease to the Prince of Wales Hotel. Next, they headed to Fremantle and finally they moved to East Perth. Victor attended the St. Patrick’s Boys School on Irwin Street Perth.
1899 was a trying year for the family. Victor’s father was declared bankrupt after an attempt to take over the lease of the Cremorne Gardens and Hotel on Murray Street Perth. It was also about this time when Victor’s parents separated. The five siblings lived with their mother Elizabeth on Aberdeen Street in Perth.
The brothers’ vagabond life continued after they left home. By 1914 Victor’s elder brother George had left Western Australia to work as a miner in New South Wales and his younger brother Ernie was employed as a plumber’s assistant in Narrogin, WA, 200 km from Perth.
Victor did remain and worked as a labourer in Perth. The family would still be fractured further - by the end of 1916, the War would claim two brothers and leave another severely wounded.
Brothers Off to War
Victor’s elder brother George enlisted in September 1914 and was attached to 13th Battalion, a New South Wales battalion. He left for the War from Melbourne in December 1914 and fought in the Gallipoli campaign but was killed in action on 9th September 1915. He has no known grave.
Victor’s younger brother Ernie also enlisted in September 1914, but in Perth. He was assigned to the 11th Battalion and sailed from Fremantle in November 1914. His battalion left Alexandria, Egypt for the Gallipoli landings in April 1915. Ernie was wounded in the landings, shot in the left arm, and he was evacuated to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Heliopolis, Egypt. He re-joined the battalion six weeks later.
At the end of July he was wounded in action again and evacuated for treatment. He returned in early November and remained until the Australians pulled out of Gallipoli in late December.
After having gone through Gallipoli and being wounded twice, Ernie was then headed for the Western Front in France in early April 1916. In the battle of Pozieres at the end of July 1916 he was wounded yet again, much more seriously this time, a gunshot wound to his thigh which fractured his femur. He was evacuated to England for treatment. However, this wound did not heal, and in December 1916 his leg had to be amputated.
Ernie returned to Australia in August 1917. He was discharged from the AIF in October 1917.
You can read more about Ernie here https//11btn.wags.org.au/index.php/stories/65-ingram-ernest-john
Victor Joins the Fight
With two brothers already in the war, Victor enlisted in August 1915 and was attached to the 28th Battalion, 7th reinforcements. His basic training was at the Blackboy Hill training camp.
He embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia in January 1916 on board HMAT A7 Medic , arriving in Alexandria, Egypt in February 1916. With all the new recruits coming in, major reorganizations were going on. Victor initially continued his training with the 28th battalion, but in April, while at Duntroon Plateau, he was transferred to the 32nd battalion. Victor was hospitalised for minor illnesses during May. In mid-June, the 32nd left from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.
After disembarking at Marseilles at the end of June, they headed north by train for a two-day trip to Steenbecque and finally to their camp at Morbecque, about 30 kilometres from Fleurbaix. They moved to the front on 14 July and were into the trenches for the first time on 16 July, only three weeks after arriving in France. On the 17th they were reconnoitering the trenches and cutting passages through the wires, preparing for an attack, but it was delayed due to the weather.
The Australian 8th Brigade, which included the 32nd and 31st Battalions, were to cross about 100 metres of No-Man’s-Land and assault the German trenches on the left flank of the Allied attack. Being on the extreme left flank made their job made even more difficult, as, not only did they have to protect themselves from the front, but they also had to block off the Germans on their left while advancing on the German lines to stop the Germans from coming around behind them. The assault was due to commence at 6.00 PM on the 19th.
The 32nd and 31st Battalions went off as scheduled and, while suffering heavy casualties including essentially all of their commanders, they were able to capture the German frontline trenches opposite them. Pushing on, the support trenches they were supposed to find turned out to be ditches or abandoned trenches overgrown with grass and half full of water.
Casualties mounted from continued German counterattacks during the night and the German infantry were able to penetrate the gaps in the Australian lines. The Australians maintained their positions until about 3.45 AM, but as feared, the Germans had broken through on their flanks and were able to get behind the Australians.
It was at this time the Australians decided to withdraw from the trenches, but they still had to fight their way back to their lines:
“The enemy swarmed in and the retirement across No Mans’ Land resembled shambles, the enemy artillery and machine guns doing deadly damage.”
What was left of the 32nd had finally withdrawn by 7.30 AM on the 20th. The initial head count was devastating – 71 killed, 375 wounded and 219 were missing, including Victor.
The final impact was that 227 soldiers of the 32nd Battalion were killed or died from wounds sustained at the battle and, of this, 176 were unidentified. Lieutenant Sam Mills survived the battle. In his letters home, he recalls the bravery of the men:
“They came over the parapet like racehorses……… However, a man could ask nothing better, if he had to go, than to go in a charge like that, and they certainly did their job like heroes."
Victor at Fromelles
There were no witness accounts to know what happened to Victor that night. Losses were very heavy in the charge across No-Man’s-Land, in the fighting through the night and also in the retreat through the Germans who had gotten behind them. In an official ‘enquiry in the field’ held the day after the battle.
Victor was confirmed as Killed in Action on 19 July 1916, but he had no known grave. With the Fromelles battleground littered with Australian dead, it is impossible to determine Victor’s exact resting place, as evident two and half years later when Charles Bean, Australia’s official war historian attended the battlefield observing the large amount of bones, torn uniforms and Australian kit still on the battlefield.
Victor was 29 years of age. He and his brother and cousins killed in the War were clearly missed by their family.
His mother Elizabeth also placed a memorial in the papers in 1919 to both her sons:
INGRAM — Sacred to the memory of my dear son, Private E. G. Ingram, 13th Battalion, killed at Gallipoli September 9, 1915, also V. R. Ingram, 32nd Battalion, killed in France July 19, 1916. R.I.P.
Inserted by his loving mother, E. Ingram, Bronte-street, East Perth and sisters Ettie and Connie, and brother Ernie.
Victor was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, a Memorial Scroll and a Memorial Plaque.
Victor is commemorated at:
- VC Corner Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France (Panel 5).
- Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour (Panel 120), Canberra
- York War Memorial, York WA
Victor may still be able to be found
As of 2023, 41 of the 176 unidentified soldiers from the 32nd have been found to be in the German mass grave at Pheasant Wood that was discovered in 2008. Identification has been able to be done by DNA matching from family members.
Victor may be one of the 77 remaining soldiers in the grave who are not yet identified. We need to find family members to contribute DNA samples to find out.
DNA samples are being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||Victor Robert Ingram (1888-1916)|
|Parents||Edward George Ingram (1846-1921) and Elizabeth Henderson (1858-1934)|
|Siblings||Edward George Ingram (1886–1915 ) – Killed in Action at Gallipoli|
|Ernest John Ingram (1891–1969) Wounded in Action and leg amputated|
|Etta Elizabeth May Ingram (1893–1965) married Edward Albert Ware, 1 child|
|Constance Mary Ingram (1895–1985)|
|Paternal||Edward Ingram and Unknown|
|Maternal||George Henderson and Katherine Ryan|
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