Ernest Clive BUCK enlisted in the army on 22 August 1914 when he was 19 years and 5 months old. He was indentured as a carpenter’s apprentice at G & T Hastings, Kogarah after he finished his schooling at age 14. Ern had served in the regional cadets for 2 years and at the time of enlistment had served 1 year with the 34th Infantry reserves.
Private E C BUCK (Service No. 571) was posted to the 1st Battalion, 1st Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF). The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war on 4 August 1914. The troops were bivouaced for basic training at Randwick Racecourse, Kensington, Sydney. The soldiers marched from Kensington to Circular Quay just two months later and embarked on “HMAT Afric”. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Cairo, Egypt, arriving on 2 December where they undertook further training and served in a static defence role around the Suez Canal.
Ern Buck took part in the Allies landing at Gallipoli, coming ashore with the second and third waves on 25 April 1915. In the days and weeks after the landing men fought a hundred fights – attack and counter attack followed in wearying succession, trench to trench, the fighting was hand to hand, bayonet and bomb and man to man.
Ern was wounded in the head by a bullet receiving a slight scalp wound in 21 May 1915. He was shot in the abdomen and bayoneted in the chest by the enemy and left for dead during trench fighting about 5 June 1915. Thankfully he was found and evacuated from ANZAC Cove to the military hospital on the island of Malta, then by ship to the base hospital in Manchester UK.
Much later, when Ern spoke to his son Mick of his brush with death, he said he felt no
ill-feeling for the Turks. He remembered the Turkish soldier who shot him was as young as himself and he clearly saw the fear and shock in the man’s eyes during the attack.
After the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt. Ern rejoined his unit at Tel el Kabir, Egypt at the beginning of February 1916. Tel el Kebir was a training centre for the 1st AIF reinforcements, the site of No 2 Australian Stationary Hospital and also of a large POW camp. Around 40,000 Australians camped in a small tent city at Tel el Kebir. A military railway was constructed to take troops from the camp at Tel el Kebir to Battalion HQ at Serapeum, Alexandria, and the Suez Canal for embarkation to other theatres of war.
Ern was admitted to hospital in Tel el Kebir at the end of February 1916. His chest wound became badly infected and he was evacuated by train to Cairo and later to hospital in Mudros on the small Greek port on the Mediterranean island of Lemnos.
In March 1916, his battalion sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion took part in operations against the German Army, principally in the Somme Valley in France and around Ypres in Belgium. 1st Battalion casualties are recorded as 1165 killed, 2363 wounded (including gassed).
Private E C BUCK returned to Australia on the hospital ship “HMAS Kanowna” which left Suez 11 May 1916, he suffered from an irritable heart due to wounds received.
At 11am on 11 November, 1918, the guns fell silent. The November armistice was followed by the peace treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919. The “war to end all wars” was over.
Private Ernest Clive BUCK received the 1914/5 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.