Peter Laurence MYERS
Eyes blue, Hair brown, Complexion fair
Private Peter Laurence Myers, Regimental Number 4850
Private Peter Laurence Myers’ enlistment records describe him as having a fair complexion with blue eyes and brown hair. It is therefore not surprising that his ancestry includes a mother originally from Ireland, Bridget Mary Miller, and a father originally from Germany also named Peter Laurence Myers.
From the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages records, his parents were married in Balmain on 8 June 1872 and Peter Laurence Myers, junior, was born in the district of Smithfield in 1896. He was the youngest of seven children born to the marriage although the first-born daughter, Louisa, died in infancy.
There was a thirteen-year gap to Peter’s next oldest sibling, William (1883-1962), and his eldest surviving sibling (Thomas 1876-1955) was twenty years his senior. Suffice it to say, it is likely that Peter junior was raised with the assistance of his older siblings, particularly as their mother, Bridget, died in July 1897 around Peter’s first birthday.
Peter senior worked as a labourer and as a tallowman in the local meatworks. The Myers family were well-known and well-respected in the Auburn area, west of Sydney, with Peter junior attending the Auburn North Public School.
Enlistment and embarkation for Egypt
On enlistment records in August 1915, Private Peter Myers shows his address as Parramatta Road, Lidcombe, New South Wales.
After training in the 2nd Battalion 15th Reinforcements, Peter Myers shipped out to Egypt on HMAT A15 Star of England on 8 March 1916. This ship also transported many from the famous Cooee March, the first recruitment march of World War 1. It left Gilgandra, New South Wales on 10 October 1915 and, by the time it reached Sydney one month later, it had collected 263 recruits. These recruits marched a total of 320 miles (510 kilometres) and were welcomed by large crowds along the way.
Upon reaching Egypt Private Myers was stationed at Ferry Post. This is near Ismailia, on the Suez Canal. His records show that he was transferred to the 54th Battalion on 20 April 1916.
On 19 June 1916, the 54th Battalion embarked on the HT Caledonian at Alexandria, Egypt, disembarking at Marseilles, France, on 29 June 1916. Private Myers’ Australian service records then show him, sadly, killed in action in France on 19/20 July 1916 during the battle of Fromelles, not even one month after arriving. Official records give no details about how he met his death – just after his 20th birthday. More than a century later, we hope that locating family members willing to donate DNA may identify his final resting place and give dignity and respect to a young life lost in service to his country
Mourned by a loving family
The news of his death was reported in several Sydney newspapers one month later in August 1916:
Mr. Peter L. Myers, of Sydney-road Auburn, received an official message at the end of last week, informing him that his son, Private Peter Lawrence Myers, was killed in action, in France, on 20th July. Deceased, who was 20 years of age… is a brother of Mr. William H. Myers, also of Sydney-road, Auburn.
Further newspaper reports described Peter as:
“ the youngest son of Mr. Peter Laurance Myers, of Parramatta-road, Lidcombe, and before enlisting was in the dairying industry in the Byron Bay district. He was 20 years old.”
We can see the impact on his family from a notice that his siblings also placed in the newspaper, underlining their sadness and pride in Peter’s service.
Despite being well respected in the community, it seems that, back in 1917, being a native of Hamburg caused Peter senior some trouble in dealing with the estate of Peter junior.
On 3 January 1917 Peter senior had been refused his naturalisation by the Department of Home and Territories. This refusal was conveyed to J. T. Lang, State member for Granville (and later Premier of New South Wales) as it appears that he had applied on behalf of Peter senior as his local State MP.
The Department’s refusal earned a stern letter dated 24 January 1917 to Commonwealth Senator John Grant, from Mr Lang pleading Peter Myers senior’s case. Mr Lang believed that the application for naturalisation was a requirement for Mr Myers to prove his son’s will. In strong terms he stated that the Minister’s naturalisation refusal was an error and requested that the Senator place facts before the Minister.
A newspaper notice referring to the probate of Peter junior’s estate appears shortly after on 9 February 1917 giving the Public Trustee administration of the estate. So, the matter was eventually settled and naturalisation was formally approved on 21 February 1917.
Following this, his father wrote a sad note to the Commonwealth authorities on 18 February 1917 requesting that Peter’s belongings be returned to him.
Records, translated from German, confirm Pte Peter Myers’ death as being in the neighbourhood of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 and that his identity disc was returned to Allied forces. According to notes on file, it was returned to Peter senior as next of kin in late 1917.
One year on, after all the officialdom of dealing with Peter’s death, his family and friends placed moving tributes to him and we discover that he was affectionately known as Larry. The “V.S. Jemmerson (on active service)” mentioned in the third newspaper tribute is most likely Pte Vincent S. Jamieson with Beck and Jack being his siblings, Rebecca and Samuel John Jamieson.
After the close of the war, Peter’s service was recognised at a ceremony at the Auburn Town Hall on 5 April 1919. The hall was full of relatives and supporters to receive certificates of appreciation to be given to both returned soldiers and families of the fallen. Of the 90 certificates presented by the Mayor, Alderman and the Town Clerk that day, only two were for fallen soldiers. Peter was one of those.
TRIBUTES TO THE BRAVE.
…Certificates were then presented in the following order, each recipient receiving a round of applause as he or she came forward: —..…Pte. Peter L. Myers, Pte. Harry J. Bartlett. The two last-named died abroad.
The Mayor extended a welcome to the returned heroes, on behalf of the citizens. In the course of his remarks he expressed gratitude for the noble part they had played in defence of their own land and the British Empire…
At the close of the meeting three hearty cheers were given for the ''fighting boys" at the call of Alderman Webber…”
Indeed, Peter Myers’ link to the Lidcombe / Auburn community is also commemorated at the Auburn War Memorial in Memorial Park, Auburn. The memorial was unveiled by Major-General Sir Charles Rosenthal with great public ceremony on Sunday, 30 April 1922.
Peter is also remembered at VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, Lille, Nord Pas de Calais, France, at panel 159 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia and on the Auburn North Public School Honour Roll.
DNA is still being sought for family connections to
|Soldier||Peter Laurence MYERS 1896–1916|
|Parents||Peter Laurence MYERS (senior) B. 1842 Hamburg, Germany D. 1926 NSW|
|and Bridget MILLER B. 1838 or 1845, Holy Cross, Tipperary, Ireland D. 1897 NSW|
|Paternal||Henry (Hans) Hinrich Christoph MEYER and Anna Magdalena BADEN - married 27 April 1823 in Schneverdingen, Hanover, Germany|
|Maternal||Thomas MILLER and Ann KING (Ireland)|
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