William (Bill) John BALDOCK B: 1892 D: 1982
This was written by - not sure of the relation but a family member and received this in the post from my Uncle
He wrote this to honor Bill's life
I knew he had gone to a war and that he had been shot in the neck but I didn't know the full story and now that I know more, I think it's a story that needs to be told.
All the information here is true and is documented in the Australian Nation Archives.
Bill Baldock enlisted in the "Australian Imperial Force" as the army was then called, on the 8th Feb 1916. Six weeks later to the day 21st march 1916he embarked overseas on the "Oriana". Private William John Baldock No 3964 was then 20 years and 2 months.
Five months later Bill Baldock is reported as having been "Killed in Action on the 26th August 1916". Is that were the story ends, no, but its is close to where it begins.
On the 25th September 1916 the Defence Department advised Bill's father and mother that Bill had been killed in action. A further two months went by before his parents received a card from Bill on the 27th November 1916 stating:
Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive though I have been wounded and taken prisoner but no to worry as the wound is too serious. I am being treated very well by the people here so far.
Love to all,
Your loving son Will"
On receiving this Mrs Florence Baldock wrote to the Defence Department the same day to advise them of the news. It is interesting that she advised in the letter that the card she had received was not written in her son's hand writing, Laurence Baldock, Bill's son also recalls begin told the card was written in German and was translated by a local Wodonga doctor but this cannot be verified. We can only imagine what went through her mind.
Was the card really from Bill? Had he been severely wounded he could not write? In fact Bill had been at least partly paralysed when the shot had entered his neck behind his ear, missing the jugular vain and brain, nicking the spine before exiting out the other side of his neck.
A statement of Private William John Baldock was documented by Lieutenant F.S Hubbs of the 4th Canadian Mounted Regiment in April 1917. From the dates it would appear this statement was taken in Switzerland certainly after he was captured and before he returned to England.
"I was capture at Mouquet Farm on the Somme on the 26th August 1916, and wounded in the neck by a bullet which, touching the spine, caused paralysis, I was laid by my comrades in a dug-out with a number of dead comrades, and here I remained for three days when the Germans picked me up and carried me to their dressing station in their line, where I remained three more days. Here I have received very good treatment by both the Germans and attendants, they giving me every attention as regards, food and necessaries, and also cigarettes and tobacco."
<span class=" fbUnderline">Authors Note</span>: My memory of this is having been told in the 1950's that he had been shot in the neck, buried by his mates in a shallow grave, uncovered by artillery fire and then discovered by the Germans. Only latter is true. I don't know if it was the story tellers or my memory that is at fault. Oh how time distorts the truth. I was also told that the wound had been fly-blown and maggots had kept the wound clean. This I understand from Laurence is true.
Back to Bill's Statement
" At the end of about three days I was carried farther back to a church behind their line, where I was searched for my valuables, and my wallet, watch and money were taken from me by an officer, none of which were returned except the wallet with photographs inside, when I had been sometime at Courtrail, my pay book was also taken and not returned."
<span class=" fbUnderline">Authors Note:</span> Courtrail is near the border of Belgium and France.
"After some hours in this church, I was sent in a horse ambulance to Courtrai hospital where I remained for another three weeks. The date of my arrival at Curtrai was 3rd Sept 1916. On my arrival here I was given two postcards to write home, but neither of these cards ever reached their destination, and these were the only cards I was allowed to write during my stay there. All my correspondence was alternately to Australia and England."
<span class=" fbUnderline">Authors Note:</span> Bill did not know in April 1917 that his mother had in fact received one of these cards on the 27th November 1916 and that the family knew he was a prisoner of war.
"On 25th Sept 1916 I was placed in a hospital train making an eighteen hour journey to Darmstadt hospital."
<span class=" fbUnderline">Authors Note:</span> Darmstadt is near Frankfurt and is 500km east of Courtrai.
"This train was a regular Red Cross train, the nurses and doctors doing all they could for us on the journey, and even the guard (military) giving us cigarettes. The Hospital was about four miles from the town of Darmstadt. Hence, to which we were conveyed in large wagons, the journey begin rather unpleasant to the severely wounded.
I do not know the number of the hospital and during my stay there very little opportunity of observation, as I was confined to my bed, but I know there were about 84 British there, and about 1000 French and Russians.
The treatment at Darmstadt was very poor in comparison with Courtrai and the dressing station I had been in. The attitude of the doctors was not cruel but callous, and the same with the nurses, all my dressings begin attended to be a French prisoner patient. The treatment as far as I can learn is the same to all nationalities. Dr Sterne was the medical officer in charge of the part of the hospital and his attitude was as stated above.
I did not have any operations, as my case did not call for any, nor have I since arriving in Switzerland, although I had two months treatment in Berne.
We were supplied with clan hospital clothing, and on my going away to Constance were issued with the usual prison uniform, which was new.
The bed clothing was good and sheets were changed once a week, but the beds were very hard, and I suffered very much from bed sores from the hardness of the mattress.
The notices as to discipline were posted in different places in the hospital, but I was unable to read them on account of always begin in bed until just before coming away. I never noticed any undue severity in any particular case, but as I said before I had on opportunity for very much observation.
During my stay at Darmstadt the representative of the American Ambassador made a visit, but did not come into my ward. Special dinners were given the day he came and also on that day the Swiss Commission came, but there was no change for improvement afterwards, and the food except for those two days was very poor.
I was not long enough in Germany to have my parcels start coming, but I received a letter in answer to one of mine just before I came away, but some of my comrades who wrote cards asking about food and telling that the rations were inadequate, had their cards returned to them a month after they were written.
On the 15th November 1916, we were sent to Constance, where, of cause the food was much better, and begin supplemented with food from men who had received parcels, was very good, but we were sent back to Rastatt for two weeks, and here the food was very bad, but we were the recipients of biscuits from the French civil prisoners, which helped considerably.
<span class=" fbUnderline">Authors Note:</span> Constance is 330km south of Darmstadt and Rastatt 200km north of Constance. Berne Hospital were Bill had two months treatment is in central Switzerland 190km south-west of Constance
At Rastatt, the mixing of all sexes in the lavatories and buildings was a very shocking thing to us, as there seemed to be no dividing of the apartments in this regard for young girls, children, men or women, and the sanitary arrangements were very bad.
On the 14th December 1916, we came on down from Rastatt to Switzerland.
As noted earlier the statement was taken by Lieutenant F.S.Hubbs of the 4th Canadian Mounted Regiment and he concludes with the comment "I believe that the statement of Private Baldock is worthy of begin accepted"
It should be noted the records show Bill was finally sent to Switzerland in December 1916 and was no repatriated to England and in particular King George Hospital until the 3rd December 1917. He then returned to Australia on the 10th March 1918 and his file notes he had been diagnosed with "Pulmonary Tuberculosis". With the end of hostilities on the 11th November 1918 he was discharged from the army on the 14th November 1918. Bill was awarded the "British War medal and Victory Medal".
Rather than begin "Killed in Action" in France in 1916 at the age of 20, he lived a full life marring wife Iris May Herberte and raising eight children before passing away in Wodonga in Victoria on the 28th February 1982 at the age of 86
William John (Bill) Baldock RIP