Ernest Selkirk MID

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Ernest Selkirk MID
Selkirk Ernest.jpg
Selkirk Ernest & 51st Bn brothers.jpg
AWM P00088.002 51st Bn Officers 1917. Selkirk front row, 4th from right
Personal Information
Date of Birth not known 1887
Place of Birth Minyip, Victoria
Death 9 Jun 1917
Place of Death Messines, Belgium
Age at Enlistment 28 years, 8 months
Description 5'7¾" (1.72m) tall ; 138 lbs
62.596 kg
; fair complexion ; brown eyes ; light brown hair
Occupation Timber yard foreman
Religion Methodist
Address Jarrahdale, Western Australia
Next of Kin Wife , Mrs Mabel Kate Selkirk
Military Information
Reg Number 2572A
Date of Enlistment 16 Aug 1915
Rank 2nd Lieutenant
Unit/Formation 28th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement transferred to 51st Battalion, 13th Brigade / 4th Division
Date of Embarkation 2 Nov 1915 ‒ 26 Nov 1915
Ship Embarked On HMAT A38 Ulysses
Fate Killed in Action 9 Jun 1917 Messines
Monument Jarrahdale War Memorial
Jarrahdale Honour Roll
Menin Gate Memorial
ANZAC Memorial Park (Byford)
Australian War Memorial
Medals 1914-15 Star
British War Medal
Victory Medal
Mentioned in Despatches




Pre War

On 27 Dec 1911 Ernest married Mabel Kate Hettich.

Electoral Roll entries - 1910 Jarrahdale, mill hand; 1912 - 1915 Marrinup Mill, yard foreman.

War Service

On arrival in Egypt in late 1915, Ernest and his colleagues were sent to the 7th Training Battalion at Zeitoun to prepare for service in Europe. Ernest had been an Acting Corporal with the 6th reinforcement draft of the 28th Battalion. On 3 Mar 1916 he was transferred to the newly formed 51st Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt without ever serving in the 28th Battalion. On transfer his rank reverted to Private, and an A was added to his regimental number.

From 5 -12 Jun 1916 Ernest, along with the rest of the 51st Battalion was aboard HMT Ivernia travelling from Alexandria to Marseilles. On arrival they were carried by train (cattle trucks) to northern France. Promoted to Corporal in France on 17 Aug 1916, and to Temporary Sergeant on 25 Sep 1916.

Promoted to 2nd lieutenant on 8 Feb 1917 [1]. While the 51st Battalion played a 'minor' part in the attack on Messines Ridge, it was during this action that Ernest lost his life. Prior to the attack, the 51st Battalion was the Brigade Reserve. On the morning of 7 June it moved forward and later that evening B and C Companies were detached to reinforce the 52nd Battalion. Several hours later the other two Companies A, and D were detached to assist the 49th Battalion. Assisted by the explosion of a number of mines, the attackers captured the ridge and held the ground despite heavy shelling by both German and British artillery.

Unusually for an officer, Ernest's death is not mentioned in the 51st Battalion's War Diary. Given that there is no known grave for Ernest, it is probable that he was killed during the artillery barrages that occurred after they had achieved their objectives. At the time of the action it would appear that he was buried as there is an entry dated 13 Aug 1917 to that effect in his records, and another dated 26 Aug 1917 that states he was buried south of the Wulverghem - Messines road, just south west of Messines.

The Recommendation for an award sheds further light. [2]
"Continuous good service. This officer always shows special courage and energy under most severe circumstances, during period 26/2/17 to 10//17. He took part in the actions at Noreuil on the 12th April 1917, and Messines on 8th June 1917. In this later action he was responsible for his section of the line hanging on and driving back an enemy counter-attack. He was killed during the relief of the Battalion"

In April 1922 his ex wife asks for 18 copies of a photograph of his grave, thought to be of the cross that was erected to mark the deaths of all of the 51st Battalion members killed in the battle..

  • Menin Gate memorial 2015 phot L. Reynolds
  • 2015 photo L. Reynolds


Award Comment

on 7 Nov 1917 he was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's Despatch for gallant services and devotion to duty in the field during the period 26 Feb 1917 to Midnight 20/21 Sep 1917.(The period relates to the time covered by Haig's despatch, not Ernest's efforts.)[3][4]

Post War

A pension of 70/- per fortnight was granted to Mabel from 18 Aug 1917. Mabel remarried in Jarrahdale during 1920 to Richard Witnish.

Notes

Buried south of Wulveghem - Messines road, just Southwest of Messines. However, the grave could not be located at the end of the war, and thus Ernest is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres.

  1. AIF List 144
  2. https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1068687/document/5513356.PDF accessed 29 mar 2018
  3. Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, No. 57 dated 18th April 1918, page 843, position 192
  4. London Gazette No. 30448 dated 28 Dec 1917, page 13566, position 114.

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