Henry Stewartson White (Service No. 22028)
(1896 - 1968)
Henry Stewartson White (Snr) and Ursula Catherine White (nee Tulloch) were both amongst the early residents of the Laverton area. Ursula had moved to Laverton (Thomas and Ursula) in the early 1890s. Henry White had, within the same timeframe, relocated to Laverton and had established a successful wood merchant business.
Henry and Ursula were married in 1895 and continued to live within the Laverton area until about 1900 when the third (Arthur) of their seven children were born. It was then that the couple made the decision to move their young family and business across Melbourne to the suburb of Cheltenham and then to Brighton, on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay.
Henry Stewartson White (Jnr) was the eldest child born to Henry (Snr) and Ursula, in Laverton, in January 1896. As was often the tradition Henry (Jnr), being the first-born son was named after his father and in fact the tradition continued to Henry Jnr’s first-born son.
Henry White’s name does not appear on the Laverton honour board nor does it appear in the Werribee Shire Banner Roll of Honour but our research has revealed that he was born in Laverton and served during World War 1 and so we feel should take his place alongside others from the district. Given Henry Jnr’s age when the family moved from the district, he may not have attended the local school.
Henry (Jnr) was one month shy of his 20th birthday when he enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on 3 January 1916. He had already served two years with the 46th Infantry Battalion as part of the Citizen’s Forces which was also situated within the Brighton and Elsternwick areas. At the time he enlisted Henry was single, was working as a carpenter and was still living with his parents in Brighton. Henry was two years older than his brother Arthur who enlisted 9 months later in October 1916.
Henry commenced his training on 17 January at Royal Park and spent time at Maribyrnong before completing his training on 30 April and being assigned to the 107 Battery 23rd Howitzer Brigade at the rank of gunner. The unit embarked from Melbourne on 20 May 1916 aboard HMAT A7 Medic bound for England. They arrived at Plymouth in England on 18 July where Henry and his unit undertook further training prior to transferring to France in December. Here they experienced their first taste of action and where they also experienced the bleak, cold European winter. The bitter winter temperatures would have been like nothing they would have previously experienced in Melbourne, Australia.
Henry and his unit were involved in the Battle of Messines which was launched on 7 June 1917. The Messines offensive was designed to force the German forces to withdraw from the main battlefront of Vimy-Arras in the north of France. The battle demonstrated tactical success through careful planning and overwhelming firepower. The primary objective was to take the strategically important Wyschaete-Messines Ridge, the high ground south of Ypres Belgium. Winning this ground was essential for the allied forces to launch a larger campaign planned for east of Ypres. During the fighting Henry was wounded suffering burns to his face and hands and was evacuated back to England to the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth to receive treatment. Like so many others, injured during World War 1, within two months he was back with his unit on the front line and in the thick of action.
His transfer back to France saw Henry was assigned to the 8th Field Artillery Brigade just prior to its involvement in its second major action at the Battle of Polygon Wood and then Broodseinde and then followed the third battle of Passchendaele. The action at Polygon Wood took place from 26 September to 3 October 1917 in the area from the Menin Road to Polygon Wood and thence north to the area beyond St Julien. Much of the woodland had been destroyed by the huge quantity of shellfire from both sides since July of that year and the area had changed hands several times. The aim was to push the German forces further back and gain the advantage of higher ground. While the fighting was only over a period of less than three weeks heavy casualties were experienced on both sides.
The 8th was then involved in fighting around Avre and Villers-Bretonneux and was the start of the German ‘Spring Offensive’ in April 1918. Again, Henry and his unit were in the thick of it in an action by the Germans to take back what they had lost the previous year however the British and Australian troops held strong in what was two days of relentless and fierce fighting. It was during this time that Henry took ill with trench fever and was treated at the 3rd General Hospital, Le Treport before spending time recovering at the 7th Convalescent Depot, also at Le Treport. He re-joined his unit in June 1918 in time to see further action at Amiens Mont St Quentin and the Hindenburg Line. Five months later the fighting was over, and Henry and his unit were assigned to clean-up tasks in France before being shipped back to England for a period of leave before their repatriation to Australia and home.
Henry embarked from England, on 8 September 1919, aboard HT Raranga arriving in Melbourne 27 October 1919. Henry returned home to his family, in Brighton, and resumed his trade as a carpenter.
In 1921 Henry married Vera May Dawborn and the couple settled near Henry’s parents in the Brighton area. Their only child, Henry Stewartson Victor White, was born on 17 February 1923. The youngest Henry White was to serve in the Australian Army, during World War 2, assigned to the 2/6 Armoured Regiment.
Henry and Vera moved to Caulfield around 1936 and then settled in Seaford around 1960 where they eventually retired. In 1968 Henry Stewartson White passed away at the age of 73 and was cremated at Springvale Botanical cemetery where his remains were scattered. Vera May White (nee Dawborn) remained in Seaford until her passing on 14 July 1989.