George Frampton was was born on 30 May 1884 in Kewell a small town in Victoria, Australia. He was the second of five children (2 boys and 3 girls). He enlisted in the Australian Army at Ararat, Victoria on 28 March 1916 to fight in the World War. His service record is on the National Archives of Australia website. The attestation paper gives his age as 31 years 10 months and his trade as farmer. He was single and his next of kin was his mother Elizabeth Frampton (his father had died in 1908). His height was 5 foot 11 inches, weight 149 lbs, chest 37 inches, complexion fair, eyes blue grey, hair light brown, religion C of E. A distinguishing feature was that his nose deflected to the right ! He was passed fit for active service and joined the 8th Battalion as a Private. On 27 July 1916 George embarked from Melbourne on the “Thermistocles” and disembarked at Plymouth on 11 September 1916. He was transferred to the 39th Battalion, Australian Infantry and shipped from Southampton to France on 23 November 1916.
The following information on the 39th Battalion comes from the Digger History website
“The 39th Battalion was formed on 21 February 1916 in Victoria and drew most of its recruits from the state’s Western District. It became part of the 10th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division. It crossed to France in late November and moved into the trenches of the Western Front for the first time on 9 December, just in time for the onset of the terrible winter of 1916–17.
The 39th fought in its first major battle at Messines, in Belgium, between 7–9 June 1917. During its march to the start-line for this operation the battalion suffered heavily from a German gas bombardment and less than a third of the troops earmarked to attack actually did so. The battalion, however, captured all of its objectives. The 39th fought in another two major attacks in this sector – the carefully planned and executed battle of Broodseinde on 4 October, and the disastrous battle of Passchendaele on 12 October.
Belgium remained the focus of the 39th Battalion’s activities for the next five months as it was rotated between service in the rear areas and the front line. When the German Army launched its last great offensive in the spring of 1918, the battalion was rushed south to France and played a role in turning the German drive aimed at the vital railway junction of Amiens.
The Allies launched their own offensive on 8 August 1918, but the 10th Brigade was the 3rd Division’s reserve on this day so the 39th did not play an active role. It was involved, however, in an ill-conceived attack that failed to capture the village of Proyart on 10 August. Not daunted by this experience, the battalion continued to play an active role throughout August and early September in the 3rd Division’s advance along the Somme Valley.”
There are no details of George’s service during 1917 given in his army record, but presumably he was in Belgium with his battalion. He was granted 15 days leave in England in January 1918. He spent 5 days in hospital in July 1918 and was killed in action on 31 August 1918 aged 34, only 5 weeks before the end of the war. The officer in charge of George, namely Lieutenant Gerard, was killed the same day. George was buried 2,500 yards NNW of Mont St Quentin, 1,500 yards ESE of Marrieres Wood.
From his date of death and place of burial, it seems very likely that George died in the Battle of Mont St Quentin, which the 39th Battalion took part in. British General Henry Rawlinson described it as the greatest military achievement of the war. During the battle Australian troops stormed, seized and held the key height of Mont St Quentin (overlooking Péronne), a pivotal German defensive position on the line of the Somme.
Australians of the Second Division crossed to the north bank of the Somme River on the evening of 30 August 1918. At 5 am on 31 August, supported by artillery, two Australian battalions charged up Mont St Quentin. The Germans quickly surrendered and the Australians continued to the main German trench-line. In the rear, other Australians crossed the Somme by a bridge which Australian engineers had saved and repaired. The Australians were unable to hold their gains on Mont St Quentin and German reserves regained the crest. However, the Australians held on just below the summit and next day it was recaptured and firmly held. On that day, 1 September 1918, Australian forces broke into Péronne and took most of the town. The next day it completely fell into Australian hands. In three days the Australians lost 3000 casualties but ensured a general German withdrawal eastwards back to the Hindenburg Line.
George’s army record contains a letter dated 26th January 1919 from his mother (then living at 431 Drummond St, Ballarat, Victoria) to the Army Base Records Office. She asks for information as to his personal belongings. The Army replied that they had George’s prayer book, which would be “transmitted in accordance with the terms of his Will.” A copy of the will (made 10 April 1916) is also in his army record. He left the proceeds of his Life Assurance Policy to his sister Amy Frampton and everything else to his brother Harry Frampton (who was also appointed as his executor).
George’s mother wrote to the army on 11 May 1922 thanking them for sending her a Memorial Scroll for her son and King’s Message. She asked for a photo of his place of burial and said “He was buried at Cleary and killed while levelling his gun (a Lewis gun).” They replied on 16 May 1922 “It is regretted that no photographs of the late soldier’s grave have been received at this office. Although Private Frampton’s unit records show that he was buried at a spot between Mont St Quentin and Marriere’s Wood, no burial report has come to hand regarding him, and it is assumed in the absence of such advice that the Graves Unit were not successful in finding his resting place. Failing the recovery and identification of the actual remains it is the intention of the authorities to perpetuate the memory of these fallen by means of collective memorials on which the soldier’s name, regimental particulars and date of death will be inscribed.”
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website says that George’s name is on the Villers-Bretonneux memorial, which is in the area of the Somme battlefields. Villers-Bretonneux is a village 16 kilometres east of Amiens on the main road to St Quentin. The Military Cemetery is about 2 kilometres north of the village on the east side of the road to Fouilloy. It contains the Australian national memorial erected to commemorate all Australian soldiers who fought in France and Belgium during the First World War, especially to those of the dead whose graves are not known. The 10,770 Australian servicemen named on the memorial died in the battlefields of the Somme, Arras, the German advance of 1918 and the subsequent Allied Advance to Victory. The memorial was unveiled by King George VI in July 1938. The memorial stands within Villers-Bretonneux military cemetery, which was made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other burial grounds in the area and from the battlefields. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.