Monday, 6 August 2018

100 years on - remembering Guthrie Reilly

100 years ago today (8th August 1918), my great-uncle Guthrie Wilberforce Reilly was killed in action at Villers-Brettoneux on the Somme battlefield in eastern France.

He was my grandmother Ruby's brother, known to the family as Goo or Joe, and had been a farmer at Goolmangar near Lismore in northern NSW before enlisting, aged 31, at the end of January 1916 in the 26th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement.

Guthrie was born in Sydney, son of Robert Reilly and Sarah (Wheeler), educated at Glebe State Public School and later at Hawkesbury Agricultural College. His father Robert Reilly, a former Irish policeman, was head carter at the Farmers Ltd department store in the city.

He travelled to France with his unit on the HMAT A50 Itonus which left Brisbane on 8th August 1916. When he was killed, he held the rank of Corporal. Although it's not in his records, the family story was that he was killed by a German prisoner on the first day of the Great Push.

The decisive Battle of Amiens, which pushed the German army back and led to the end of the war, started on 8th August 1918 and was led by Australian and Canadian forces.

I visited his grave at Villers-Brettoneux, which is the main Australian WW1 military cemetery, several years ago and, as with all CWGC sites, it was beautifully and respectfully tended.

He was the second of my great-uncles from Australia who was killed on the Somme. In November 1916, 19-year-old Private Thomas Watson of the 20th Battalion, AIF, was killed near Longueval. He is buried in the Caterpillar Valley cemetery, close to Longueval.

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