Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser

57th and 58th Battalion, AIF

Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser

Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser. (Based on AWM H05926)

Born: 1887 at Byaduk, Victoria, Australia.

Died: 11th May 1917 at Bullecourt, France.

Buried: No known grave – Remembered with honour on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France.

The central feature of the Australian Memorial Park at Fromelles is the 'Cobbers' Memorial. This depicts a Sergeant carrying a wounded comrade on his back and is based upon the story of Sergeant Simon Frazer of the 57th Battalion following the disastrous fighting that took place there on 19th/20th July 1916. The sculpture is by Peter Corlett from Melbourne, Australia and was commissioned by the Office of Australian War Graves to produce the memorial. Peter Corlett came across Sergeant Fraser's story whilst researching the Battle of Fromelles and decided that this should form the basis of his sculpture.

It is called 'Cobbers' based upon Sergeant Fraser account of the process of bringing in the wounded in the face of the enemy at Fromelles. In the letter Simon Fraser recalled that he heard one man calling who was 14 stone [88 kilos] in weight: " … and I could not lift him on my back; but I managed to get him into an old trench and told him to lie quiet while I got a stretcher. Then another man … sang out 'Don't forget me cobber'. I went in and got four volunteers with stretchers and we got both men in safely."

No 3101, Simon Fraser enlisted on 13th July 1915. He was a 38 year-old farmer from the town of Byaduk, near Hamilton, Victoria, who had previously served as a Sergeant and Acting Colour Sergeant with the Victorian Mounted Rifles. On 20th November 1915 he embarked on A-73 'HMT Commonwealth' for overseas service from Melbourne. On 23rd February 1916 he was taken onto the strength of the 57th Battalion, AIF at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt and promoted to Sergeant on 27th February 1916.

On 17th June 1916 Sergeant Simon Fraser embarked on the 'HMT Kalyan' at Alexandria, Egypt and sailed to join the BEF in northern France disembarking at Marseilles, France on 24th June 1916. On 19th/23rd July 1916 the 57th Battalion and Sergeant Fraser were involved in the battle and post-fighting action at Fromelles. On 12th October 1916 Sergeant Simon Fraser was recommended for an award by Brigadier Harold 'Pompey' Elliot, GOC 15th Infantry Brigade. His recommendation reads:1

"This NCO has done continuous good work in No-Man's-Land during the period 10th July to 20th September 1916, whilst the Battalion has been in trenches near Sailly. He has shown splendid courage and resource on many occasions setting a very fine example of fearlessness to his men. He was responsible for some very gallant work during the period of 19th/23rd July in leading parties into No-Man's-Land and rescuing many wounded. His example has been of greatest value to his Company."

Major General James McCay, GOC 5th Australian Division, ratified the recommendation as a Mention in Despatches. He is mentioned in Genral Haig's Despatch dated 13th November 1916 and this mention was published in the London Gazette on 4th January 1917.

On 26th November 1916 Sergeant Fraser was admitted to hospital sick and was discharged for duty on the 30th. On 2nd December 1916, he was posted to the School of Instruction at Balliol College, Cambridge and subsequently appointed an instructor at Trinity College on 8th December 1916.

On 30th March 1917 Simon Fraser was commissioned with the rank of Second Lieutenant and posted to the Infantry Reinforcements at the AIF depot in Tidworth on Salisbury Plain. On 26th April he left Tidworth and proceeded to France, reporting at the 5th Division Depot in Etaples on the 27th. On 30th April 1917 Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser join the 58th Battalion in France.

During the attack at Bullecourt on the night of 11th/12th May 1917 Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser was killed-in-action. According to a statement in his Service Record he was badly hit by a shell and buried by his unit in the trenches at Bullecourt. Private T J Hewitt B Company 58th Battalion later gave a statement which reads:2

"2nd Lieut. Fraser was blown to pieces on the 11th of May in the evening after dark in the Hindenburg Line just to the right of Bullecourt. I saw one of his arms just afterwards but do not know what happened to the rest of him as a lot of earth had been thrown over the place, nor do I know whether he was afterwards found and buried."

Second Lieutenant Simon Fraser has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, France.

1. Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Mention in despatches.8
2. Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files 1914-18 War, 1DRL/0428, 2nd Lieutenant Simon Fraser, 58th Battalion.8

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Last updated: 16th December 2018