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Private Frederick William LYDIATE 1887-1916
AWM, P09291.168

Frederick William LYDIATE

Regimental Number
985
Rank
Private
Known As
Fred
War Service
Egypt, Western Front
Prior Military Service
Nil
Enlistment
14 Jul 1915 at Blackboy Hill, WA
Embarkation
18 Nov 1915 from Adelaide, SA, on the HMAT A2 Geelong
Next of Kin
Father - William Lydiate, 86 Crawford Road, Maylands, WA
Date & Place of Birth
26 Oct 1887, Guildford, West Australia
Parents
Sarah Ann, nee SCRIVENER (deceased), and William LYDIATE
Marital Status
Single
Siblings
One of nine – 3 girls and 6 boys, 4 of whom served in WW1
Occupation
Machinery Expert
Physical Description
5 feet 6 inches, 142 pounds (167.6cm, 64.4kg)
Eyes blue, Hair brown, Complexion fair
Religion
Anglican
Fate
Killed in Action, 19 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France – aged 28
Place of Burial
No known grave
Commemorated
V.C. Corner, (Panel 5), Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified
No

The Lydiate Family

This story was largely written from material posted on the FaceBook page, In Search of Charles Albert Stokes DCM, 21 November 2021. We thank Bill Lydiate and Geoff Tilley for their contribution.

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Frederick William LYDIATE (1887-1916)
source Bill Lydiate

Frederick William Lydiate, known as Fred, was born in 1887 in Guildford, WA, the third child of William and Sarah Ann (nee Scrivener). William, a horse driver and teamster (probably in the timber industry), and Sarah married in 1884 and had nine children over the ensuing eighteen years – Hubert, George, Fred, Amy, Ethel, Albert, Eunice, Sydney and William.

Fred was well liked and best man at a number of family weddings. Prior to the war, he shared a house with his sister Ethel in Maylands, near Fremantle and worked as a foreman machinist with Massey-Harris in Perth.

Before the Great War, tragedy had already struck the Lydiate family with the death of two family members. In 1900, at the age of just 15, Fred’s oldest brother, Hubert 1885-1900, was killed by a falling log. In 1912, Fred’s mother Sarah passed away at the age of 47. The war would claim two more family members.

A family at war

As Fred’s father noted on the Roll of Honour circulars completed after the war, Fred ‘was one of four brothers on active service’. The fifth surviving son, William 1903-85, was too young to enlist. A brief outline of each of his four sons’ service is set out below.

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Pte 985 Frederick William LYDIATE 1887-1916 – 32nd Battalion
source AWM, P09291.168

Fred, aged 28, was the first of the four Lydiate brothers to enlist on 14 July 1915. He joined the 32nd Battalion serving in Egypt and France before being killed in action on 19 July 1916 in the Battle of Fromelles. He has no known grave and is commemorated at V.C. Corner at the Australian Cemetery and Memorial (panel 5).

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Staff Sgt 442 Sydney Horace LYDIATE 1900-69 – 44th Battalion and Aust. Army Veterinary Hospital. Sid’s name is spelt in various records as Sidney or Sydney and on other occasions he is known as Horace.

Just weeks after his sixteenth birthday, Sydney Lydiate lied about his age to enlist in February 1916 with the 44th Battalion while his brother Fred was still serving in Egypt. Sydney served in the trenches in France but was shifted to a non-combat role when he was discovered to be underage. His civilian experience as a teamster resulted in him serving with the Australian Army Veterinary Hospital, initially as a farrier and later as staff sergeant. He returned to Australia in August 1919.

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Pte 3171 Albert LYDIATE 1892-1918 – 46th Battalion

Next to enlist was Albert in October 1916, probably already aware that his older brother Fred had been killed in action. Albert sailed from Australia in December 1916. A woodcutter in civilian life, he underwent training in England before falling seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia in April 1917. He took some months to recover before sailing to France where he was taken on strength with the 46th Battalion in September 1917. He took part in a number of battles on the Western Front before being killed in action by shellfire on the night of August 18, 1918 near Lihons in France. He was 26 years of age and is buried in the Fouquescourt British Cemetery (plot 1 row B grave 6) in France.

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Sapper 20510 George Arthur LYDIATE 1886-1965 – 4th Divisional Signal Company

George, the eldest of the surviving brothers, was a railway employee before enlisting in May 1917, aged 31. He sailed with the 4th Division Signal Company in November 1917 serving briefly in Egypt before going to England where he spent some months in training camp. In October 1918, he embarked for France but only served a few weeks before becoming seriously ill with bronchial pneumonia and was evacuated back to England for treatment. On recovering, George took leave to undertake motor engineering training and eventually returned to Australia in September 1919.

Frederick and the Battle of Fromelles

Fred embarked from Adelaide, South Australia in November 1915 attached to C Company, 32nd Battalion. He disembarked at Suez in December 1915 joining the British Expeditionary Force in Alexandria, Egypt. Whilst there he conducted further training with his Battalion before embarking for France in June 1916. On arrival in France, the Battalion was sent to Morbecque near Hazebrouck.

On 14th July 1916, the 32nd Battalion moved to billets at Fleurbaix in preparation for an assault on the German lines. The British High Command formulated a plan with the intention of attacking the German lines at Fromelles, anticipating that this attack would draw German troops away from the Somme offensive. Part of the plan was directed at a well defended position known as the Sugar Loaf salient. This position encroached into no man’s land putting the German defenders in an advantageous position to cover no man’s land if an assault took place.

The plan was to use the Australian 5th Division (which included 15th, 14th and 8th Brigades) along with the British 61st Division. The 31st and 32nd Battalions, as part of the 8th Brigade, participated in the attack on the extreme left flank of the assault. They had to cover about 100 metres across no man’s land to reach the German trenches. A seven-hour artillery bombardment was to precede the attack which was set to begin at 6pm on 19th July 1916.

Private Frederick Lydiate with men from C Company of 32nd Battalion and 31st Battalion were to form the first and second waves of the attack and were in position in the trenches. Even before the attack commenced, the Australians had already suffered severe casualties from not only the German artillery but also from the inexperienced Australian artillery who lacked the skill to provide cover for the battalions.

With the commencement of the attack, the flank of the 8th Brigade came under further artillery bombardment causing additional casualties and forcing the third and fourth waves of the attack to be combined. This reduced the strength of the Australian attack who, by now, were suffering heavily from the German machine gunners who had recovered from the preliminary artillery bombardment. With continued enfilading German machine gun fire into the Australians, the 32nd and 31st Battalions were able to capture a small section of the German trenches. However, with no follow up support and continued German counter attacks, the Australians were forced to withdraw leaving many of their casualties in the German trenches.

By the morning of 20 July 1916, the attack was over and the Australians had suffered more than 5,000 casualties. For the 32nd Battalion the diary entry for July 1916 [AWM] read, “Officers; killed 4, wounded 8, missing 4. Ordinary ranks; killed 67, wounded 367, missing 214.”

Family at home

It seems that the first news the family received about Fred may have been from William O’Shea who was with Fred when he was killed in action and had written to advise the Lydiate family directly. William had also enlisted at Blackboy Hill and was repatriated back to Australia in December 1916 due to the gunshot wound in his arm that he received at the Battle of Fromelles.

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Left: Pte 1023 William Joseph O’SHEA [1893—1968], 32nd Battalion who was with Fred when he was killed.
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Right: Fred’s family had difficulty finding details about Fred. In this letter dated 30 November 1916, George Lydiate is making Base Records aware of the further evidence provided by William O’Shea in the hope that it would assist in determining more details as to his brother’s fate.
source NAA: B2455, LYDIATE, Frederick William – First AIF Personnel File 1914-1918, page 31

Fred’s Red Cross file gives virtually no information about Fred’s death however the family received confirmation of his death by a letter from the Chaplain Frederick Greenfield Ward, based at the Front.

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Reverend Frederick Greenfield Ward [1876-1963], chaplain of the 32nd Battalion at the time.
source
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Right: Letter dated 25 July 1916 from Chaplain Ward notifying William Lydiate of Fred’s death.
source NAA: B2455, LYDIATE, Frederick William – First AIF Personnel File 1914-1918, page 26

Base Records had no official notification of Frederick’s death at the time and it took some months before official notification was finalised. By December 1916, Frederick was officially listed as killed in action and, in January 1918, Fred’s personal effects were returned to his father – his identity disc, wallet and photos.

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Newspaper notice placed by Fred’s family in September 1916 after they first had news of Fred’s death. At this time, Albert and George had not yet enlisted.

The Aftermath

George and Sydney both returned to Western Australia from the war in 1919.

Bill Lydiate recalled that his dad, George, never really spoke about the war and his medals were still in their packets, never touched. He married later in life and had 4 children, passing away in 1965, aged 79.

A few years ago, a cousin of Bill’s found both Fred and Albert’s medals in his father Sydney’s belongings. Uncle Sid also didn’t talk about the war. It seems this was typical at the time - they just go on with it, returned home and got back to work. Losing two brothers however must have been hard. The family posted a number of memorials in newspapers over the years fondly remembering Fred.

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Fred’s Medals and Dead Man’s Penny (Memorial Plaque) with the penny shown in close up. The Dead Man’s Penny was a commemorative medallion presented to the next of kin of those killed during World War 1; it was accompanied by a scroll from King George V.
source Courtesy of Bill Lydiate

Fred is remembered with honour:

  • V.C. Corner (Panel No 5), Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
  • Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Canberra, ACT
  • Guildford Methodist Church and Sunday School Roll of Honour, Guildford, Swan, WA
  • Kings Park Honour Avenue, Kings Park, Perth, WA
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Pte Fred Lydiate 1887-1916 is remembered at King’s Park Honour Avenue alongside his brother, Albert.
source
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Pte Albert Lydiate 1892-1918 is also remembered at Kings Park Honour Avenue in Perth, WA.
source

DNA donors are still being sought for family connections to

SoldierFrederick William LYDIATE 1887-1916
ParentsWilliam LYDIATE b 1859 Victoria, d 1921 Western Australia
and Sarah Ann SCRIVENER 1864-1912 Western Australia
Grandparents
PaternalWilliam LYDIATE 1811-1868 and Sophie LEAVER 1823-1874
MaternalRichard SCRIVENER b 1825 England d 1908 WA and Elizabeth FINCH b 1828 England d 1866 WA.

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia

Contacts

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).

Donations

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 ).