Friday, 9 December 2016

Charles Edgar Finchett's war

Charles Finchett on leave in Paris in December 1918. Image courtesy David Finchett.

Charles Finchett was the fourth of five children born to William Finchett and his second wife Elizabeth. His Manchester-born father, a fruiterer by trade, arrived in  Melbourne in the 1880s, married Elizabeth Wearmouth in 1885 and settled in the Little River area where he had a dairy farm. In the late 1890s, the family moved to a farm at Boorolite near Mansfield where the Finchett children attended school. 
In 1909 they moved to Brunswick, and as Charles Finchett is listed on the Moreland State School Honour Board, he must have attended the Moreland school first then moved on to do the higher grades at Coburg before attending Coburg High School (then a Higher Elementary School) in its first intake in 1912.
Charles Finchett and his oldest brother Edward enlisted together and were allocated consecutive numbers. They both served with the 3rd Australian Motor Ammunition Column, sailed together on the Afric and survived the war.
Theirs was a supporting role, carrying supplies to the forward lines, supplying guns and ammunition and evacuating the wounded. Neverthless the cost was high. A letter Charles wrote a few years before his death highlights how difficult those times were:
To live was one thing. To live from day to day under great strain and fear of the unknown was another… I was under mustard and other gas at Messines, where I was blown up by H.E. bombs… In Ypres we worked in a morass of mud… The whole salient was a place of constant barrages and drum fire. The ground really shook with explosions… I came under much enemy bombardment and gas. I was subjected to much nervous stress and came up against many dangerous and frightening situations…

After the war, Charles worked as a clerk in the Victorian Railways, living firstly in the family home in Brunswick then in Caton Avenue, Coburg. He and his wife Alice lived in Prahran then in Malvern East. The effects of his war service were long-reaching: all his adult life he suffered from problems with the nerves in his legs, arms and stomach. He died in 1972 aged 75. His wife died in 1993 aged 84.

I've been trying to discover what an H.E. bomb was, but without success. Does anyone out there know?

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