Ernest William Peacock (Service No. 675)
(1896 - 1970)

Ernest William Peacock was born in 1896 to William Peacock and Lottie Peacock nee Tampling in Footscray the second born of five children in the family and the eldest son born to the couple. The family were residing in the Laverton area at that time a young Ernest decided to enlist on 19 February 1915 he was 19 years of age and his enlistment noted that he was employed as a cycle mechanic and was single.

Ernest was assigned to the AIF 22nd Battalion ‘C’ Company with the rank of private. Ernest was later appointed to rank of driver. The 22nd Battalion was formed on 26 March 1915 at Broadmeadows and most of the battalion including Ernest embarked for Egypt on 10 May 1915 from Melbourne on board HMAT A38 Ulysses. He was with his mates aboard the HMAT Ulysses bound for the Mediterranean. Joining him in ‘C’ Company and aboard the Ulysses was William Duncan Cameron and Alfred Lindsay Newland.

In September 1915 the 22nd was despatched to the Gallipoli peninsula as reinforcements and as such the battalion saw their first action relieving elements of the 2nd Brigade and holding positions north of Anzac Cove allowing the 2nd to be withdrawn for rest and regrouping. The 22nd remained at Gallipoli until the final evacuation took place in December 1915 primarily undertaking defensive duties. After being withdrawn back to Egypt the battalion was strengthened by reinforcements from Australia as the AIF’s infantry divisions were reorganised and expanded before being sent to France to take part in the fighting on the Western Front.

Australian Machine Gun Company returning from the front line (Courtesy: awm.gov.au/collection/C46382)

In March 1916 Private Peacock was appointed a driver to the newly formed 6th Machine Gun Company in Egypt and was transferred to France with the company in May of 1916. Within the 6th he joined fellow Laverton enlistee 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Newland who was also an original member of the machine gun company. The 6th formed part of the AIF 2nd Division and moved to France taking over part of the sector around Armentieres. Initially the 6th engaged the enemy around Fleurbaix with night firing on communication points behind the German lines in an attempt to disrupt the enemies advance. They left the front in May and moved back to billets at Erquinghem Northern France where they undertook further training rather than be allowed to relax. In June 1916 Private Peacock and the company were used as relief for the 7th Machine Gun Company fighting at Bois Grenier France spending 24 days on the front.

On 27 July 1916 the company relieved the First Division at Pozières and after heavy fighting they captured the Pozières Heights but at a great cost. Two more tours of the Somme followed in August and November for the company. During this time the 6th, 3rd and 4th Machine Gun Company were being used in rotation in battles within the Somme and Pozières, with short rest/training periods at billets in Albert.

The end of August and the beginning of September saw the company and Driver Peacock move up to the new front at Ypres Salient Belgium where by 5 September 1916 they spent 44 days on the front line until they were relieved on 19 October 1916. As the line moved forward the company followed and by 4 November 1916 they were back on the front line this time in Flers where they spent another 17 days fighting. The next time they saw action was in Le Transloy commencing 22 December 1916 which continued over Christmas until they were relieved on 17 January 1917. Within three weeks they were back in the fight between Le Sars and Eaucourt until the end of February.

Driver Peacock and the company spent March regrouping and training before they moved up to the Front Line in the Battle at Bullecourt which occupied April and May before they were again relieved and returned to Millecourt and then onto Warloy for training and some respite. The company did not see action again until they were called up to the front in late October at Ypres and then followed Warneton over the January February and March of 1918. Shortly after they had moved back to Albert France where they were used in the conflict within this area. This was followed by action at Ville-sur-Ancre May 1918, Villers-Bretonneux June and July and on to Mont St Quentin in late August of 1918.

September saw the company undertake further training and move to a new location. On 4 October 1918 the company and Driver Peacock undertook their final action at Montbrehain. They were at St Ledger undertaking a well-earned rest when the armistice was signed on 11 November 1918. They spent the time from November to early February in the Belgium area. It was around this time that the members of the 6th then joined the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion as they returned to England before embarking to Australia.

Ernest returned to Australia on the HMAT Mahia which embarked on 4 June 1919. He was discharged from service on 15 September of 1919.

After the war Ernest resided initially in the Footscray area until the time he married Jessie Cecelia Lynch in 1924.

There is no indication that he went back to his previous occupation of cycle mechanic, as the electoral roll shows Ernest as being employed as a carrier which he undertook until he retired. The couple remained in Footscray for a few more years before moving to Duke Street Kingsville where they raised their family.

Ernest William Peacock passed away in December 1970 at the Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital and is buried at Altona Memorial Park, he was 74 years old.

References:

  1. https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=236476
  2. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=8007880
  3. ancestry.com.au
  4. https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/370
  5. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51462
  6. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1338668
  7. Carne, W.A., In Good Company: An Account of the 6th Machine Gun Company A.I.F. in search of Peace 1915-19, Melbourne, 1937
  8. Werribee Shire Banner’s Roll of Honor, 29 July 1915, p.3.
  9. Image: Courtesy: awm.gov.au/collection/C46382

Research by: Graeme Reilly (ALHS)