No.2845 – Private Richard Forrest – 12th Battalion AIF
Richard Forrest was born in Horsham Victoria in 1884 to John and Selina Forrest. He was educated locally and with his brothers later moved to Western Australia taking up residence in Kalgoorlie where he worked as a miner. He married Lyla Forrest and they would go on to have two children, Sylvia and Leslie. Richard joined the Citizen Military Forces in Kalgoorlie and served with them for five years.
The family moved to live in Mason Street North Fremantle prior to Richard’s enlistment in the AIF. On the 20th June 1915 Richard was accepted as fit for service in the AIF, with the medical examiner finding him to be 5 feet 9 inches tall; weight of 154 lbs; chest measurement of 35-37 inches; fair complexion; blue eyes and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. After spending a few days in No.15 Depot, Richard was assigned to the 9th Reinforcements to the 12th Battalion with the regimental no.2845.
He trained with this group in WA until the end of September 1915 when they received their orders to embark. On the 1st October 1915, with Richard and the 9th Reinforcements aboard, the H.M.A.T. "Hororata” pulled out of Fremantle Harbour and embarked for Egypt.
After arriving in Egypt in November, the men would have been expecting to be sent on to Gallipoli, however with plans afoot to evacuate the peninsula; they were instead kept in the AIF Infantry Depot in Egypt.
Richard did not join the 12th Battalion until the 19th January 1916, and he began training with his unit. On the 21st February at Serapeum he was evacuated from the 12th Battalion sick and was admitted to the 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Serapeum where it was found he was suffering from Mumps. Richard was transferred to No.4 Auxiliary Hospital at Abbassia where he remained well into March. Richard was then passed as fit and rejoined the 12th Battalion at Serapeum on the 18th March 1916.
Eleven days later Richard was in Alexandria, boarding a transport ship to France, the 12th Battalion arriving at Marseilles on the 5th April 1916. The Battalion was disembarked and put onto trains and sent to the north of France, taking up positions to the south of Armentieres. They would remain in this area until early July 1916.
On the 29th April 1916 Richard got into trouble by absenting himself from a parade and being drunk while on active service. He was given 48 hours of field punishment no.2 as a result and also fined one day’s pay.
In early July 1916 the 12th Battalion was moved to the Somme where they were to take part in their first large scale battle. On the 23rd July 1916 the 12th Battalion took part in the 1st Division’s assault on Pozieres. The village was successfully captured though the Australians had to endure a devastating German bombardment of the area, with casualties being very high.
Richard survived his first time at Pozieres unscathed, though he was not so fortunate during the 12th Battalion’s second tenure in the line when they were advancing towards Mouquet Farm on the 19th August.
He was wounded, though fortunately it was not too severe and he was back with the 12th Battalion by the 11th September 1916. Richard served with the 12th Battalion through the French Winter of 1916/17 when they were stationed near Flers on the muddy battlefield of the Somme. It was the coldest French winter for decades and many men were evacuated through these conditions. Richard was no exception and though he saw through the colder months, even taking part in an assault on Le Barque in February 1917; he was evacuated to hospital with trench feet on the 23rd March 1917.
Richard was evacuated back to the 14th General Hospital at Boulogne and his condition was serious enough to be sent to England.
On the 8th April 1917, Richard left France for England and was admitted to Spalding Hall Hospital. On the 11th April Richard’s two brothers from Albany, Darcy & Leo would take part in an assault with the 16th Battalion at Bullecourt, and only one would make it back to the Australian lines.
Richard meanwhile was released from hospital on the 27th April and was given a period of furlough, though he reported to Perham Downs Camp on the 2nd May 1917. He stayed at Perham Downs until the 15th May and then reported for service to No.1 Command Depot where he was classed as B1 so he was not yet sent back to France.
Richard remained in Perham Downs Camp in England until the end of September 1917. He got into trouble once during this time for going absent without leave for two days. Fortunately his punishment was only light in that he was fined three days pay.
On the 14th October 1917 Richard arrived at Southampton Harbour and boarded a ship for France. He arrived at Le Havre and spent a week at the 1st Australian Division Base Depot. Richard rejoined the 12th Battalion on the 20th October 1917.
Though he had missed the main Third Battle of Ypres he continued to hold the line with the 12th Battalion initially in the Passchendaele region and then at Warneton/Messines. The 12th Battalion were in the line over the New Year and they saw the dawn of 1918 in the trenches.
Unfortunately Richard would only see three days of the New Year, as on the 2nd January 1918 he was badly wounded by a shell burst with shrapnel hitting him in the buttocks and abdomen. He was evacuated back to the 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Station where he unfortunately died of his wounds on the 3rd January 1918.
Richard Forrest was buried in Trois Arbres Cemetery in Steenwerck France, plot II.C.38, with a burial service conducted by the Reverend P.P. Dwyer. His wife Lyla and children Sylvia and Les would receive a pension after his death and they would later pen a very moving epitaph for his grave; "If we had a dearest wish fulfilled Dearest Daddy we would ask for you.”
Richard’s Brothers Darcy and Leo, No.6016 & 6017 respectively, served in the 16th Battalion AIF. Darcy was killed in action at Bullecourt though his brother Leo who was beside him came through unscathed and returned home to WA. Darcy Forrest is commemorated on the Villers-Bretoneux Memorial.