Feature Articles - Alfred Shout - Australia's Most Decorated Hero at Gallipoli
V.C. CITATION: For most conspicuous bravery at Lone Pine Trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula. On the morning of 9th August, 1915, with a small party, Captain Shout charged down trenches strongly occupied by the enemy and personally threw four bombs among them, killing eight and routing the remainder. In the afternoon of the same day, from the position gained in the morning, he captured a further length of trench under similar conditions and continued personally to bomb the enemy at close range, under very heavy fire, until he was severely wounded, losing his right hand and left eye.
This most gallant officer has since succumbed to his injuries.
(London Gazette: 15th October 1915.)
Captain Alfred John Shout, VC., MC., MiD was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 7 August 1881 the eldest child and only son of John Richard and Agnes Mary Shout (nee Kelly).
He was educated privately in New Zealand and it was from there he went to South Africa as a Sergeant with the Border Horse 1900-1902. (New Zealand Contingent).
While serving with the Border Horse he was twice wounded, once in the chest. He was Mentioned in Despatches (Army Orders 23 February 1901.) and made Queen's sergeant; his service medals at that time amounted to The Queen's South Africa Medal, and The Kings South Africa Medal.
He served as a Sergeant with the Cape Field Artillery until 1907. Subsequently married to Rose Alice they had one child, a daughter Florence Agnes Maud Shout who was born at Capetown, South Africa, 11 June, 1905.
When he moved to Australia and joined the Citizen Forces from 1907-1914 Shout served with the 29th Infantry Regiment (Australian Rifles) while working as a carpenter and joiner, living at 116 Darlington Road, Darlington, a Sydney suburb.
He obtained his commission as a 2nd-lieutenant on June 16, 1914 and was appointed to the AIF on 27th August as 2nd-lieutenant; he served with F Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Division, Australian Imperial Forces.
The 1st Battalion was formed at Randwick Racecourse, Sydney, Australia, on 15 August, and just 2 months later on 18 October - following delays due to the presence of German cruisers in the Pacific - it marched to Woolloomooloo through very heavy rain, where they boarded A.19. HMAT Afric, a 12,000 ton vessel that had been requisitioned by the Commonwealth government for the purpose of transporting the AIF overseas. Bound, they thought, for England.
The ship sailed without escort to Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, Western Australia, arriving on 25 October to find 15 other ships already in the Harbour. On 31 October they had a fire onboard Afric before sailing the next day in a convoy of 36 transports which was to transport two New Zealand brigades, and the Australians who together made up the 1st Contingent of ANZAC troops. They were escorted by the Australian light cruisers H.M.A.S. Sydney and H.M.A.S. Melbourne, and the H.M.S. Orvieto and the Japanese cruiser Ibuki.
This convoy, which was made up of passenger and converted cargo ships, carried 20,758 members of the First A.I.F. and 7,479 Horses. On the first day out from Albany they learnt that England had declared war on Turkey.
Five days out they passed the mail steamer Osterley that had itself had a narrow escape from the German raider, Emden.
On 9 November the Contingent watched as H.M.A.S Sydney detached from the convoy and sailed off at full steam to intercept the German cruiser Emden that was attacking a wireless station at Cocos Island.
The H.M.A.S. Sydney was commanded by Captain John C. T, Glossop in what was the first action of the war by the Royal Australian Navy outmanoeuvring the German light cruiser SMS Emden during a 90 minute battle, disabling it before running it aground onto North Keeling island reef.
Their first port of call after crossing the equator on 13 November was Colombo, where they arrived 8am on 15th and were granted leave. Alfred Shout returned to Afric on the 19th before it sailed at 7.30pm, with escort duty taken over by H..M.A.S. Hampshire.
On 21 November the Afric bumped into another ship in the convoy resulting in the death of two soldiers who were lost overboard from the Afric. During this first part of the voyage 329 men throughout the convoy had been treated by the ships' hospitals; of these 62 had measles and 55 influenza.
On 24 November the Hampshire left the convoy which then reached Aden at 5pm the next evening. Alfred was given leave overnight arriving back at 6am on the morning of the 26th when the convoy sailed, staying close to the Arabian Coast. On 28 November they received definite orders to disembark in Egypt and undertake their training there.
The Australians had imagined they were on their way to Salisbury Plain in England for training; however due to the shortage of accommodation and training facilities in England it was decided to send them instead to Egypt.
They called at Port Suez and Port Said before arriving at Alexandria on 5 December, and four days later boarded a train for the 20km journey to Mena, a village located in the shadows of the Sphinx and three Pyramids where they set up a training camp.
Meanwhile Alfred Shout was promoted to Lieutenant on 1 February 1915.
On 25 April 1915 the First Division, as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton, made an amphibious landing at Ari Burnu Point (Anzac Cove).
Two days later, 1km South near Kaba Tepe, Lieutenant Shout showed conspicuous courage by continually exposing himself to the enemy while organizing, planning and leading a successful bayonet charge against the Turks.
Following their charge, in the course of which their newly acquired position was secured, Shout and a Corporal left the trench which was being continually swept with machine-gun fire, and advanced further into no-mans land, where they dug in before proceeding to snipe at the Turks.
In the words of Private Charles Huntley Thompson of the 13th Battalion, "That was the bravest thing I ever saw"; for these actions Shout was awarded the Military Cross and Mentioned in Despatches.
The 1st Division suffered 366 casualties between April 25 and 29, including Lieutenant Shout who was wounded when a bullet passed through his arm and entered his chest; he recovered from his wounds aboard HS Gascon before rejoining his unit on 26 May 1915.
On 29th July Shout was promoted to Captain and given a special Mention in Despatches by General Sir Ian Hamilton.
After months of fighting on Gallipoli, it was decided to create a diversion for a planned British landing in Suvla Bay; part of that diversion would be an attack on the Lone Pine trenches by the 1st Infantry Brigade of the 1st Division of the AIF.
The night preceding the charge at Lone Pine, Shout in an effort to relieve the anxiety of members of his platoon had spoken at length of the coming event. He concluded by telling No 721 L/Cpl Alexander Ross McQueen, "we will make a name for Australia and ourselves tomorrow Mac".
At midday on 6 August 1915 Captain Shout MC., issued his men with a white strip of calico to sew on the arms and back of their tunics. This was to indicate to the artillery the position of the Australian infantry during the soon to be launched Battle for Lone Pine.
At 4pm with the troops in position the Artillery commenced bombarding the Turkish trenches; the Turkish artillery quickly met the challenge and returned fire. At 5.40pm the men of the 1st were lined up ready to go over the top. The 1st Infantry Brigade led the charge: reaching the first trench hey found it difficult to attack as it was covered with logs so, while some stayed and infiltrated the first trench, others were ordered on to the second trench.
The Australians took Lone Pine within the hour; the Turks counter attacked and the Defence of Lone Pine was underway, continuing for five days during which casualties were high on both sides with the Australians losing 80 officers and 2,197 other ranks in five days; the Turkish 16th Division lost almost 7,000 men.
Seven members of the Australian contingent were to be awarded the Victoria Cross for their actions at Lone Pine. One was a posthumous Award was to Captain Alfred John Shout MC., He was awarded the Victoria Cross for the actions on August 9 1915 which cost him his life.
The others were: English born L/Cpl Leonard Keysor of the 1st battalion, and Private John Hamilton from Orange, NSW serving with the 3rd Battalion. The other four were all Victorians from the 7th Battalion: Captain Frederick Tubb, Lieut William Symonds, Cpl Alexander Burton and Cpl William Dunstan.
The 1st Battalion had relieved the 7th on the morning of 9 August, at a section known as Sasse's Sap. Captain Cecil Duncan Sasse (later Lieutenant Colonel) DSO & Bar., of the 4th Battalion had captured a section of the enemy's trench, but when the 1st arrived the enemy had reoccupied a large area of the captured trench.
Shout and Sasse enlisted the aid of eight volunteers and following Sasse's plan of attack that had previously been successful they charged down the trench with Shout bombing and Sasse shooting.
The eight volunteers then built a barricade as each section of trench was secured; all went well and Shout - who was reportedly enjoying the fight - was preparing for the final dash of the day to capture just one more section of the trench.
Lighting three bombs he set off down the trench and had hurled two before the third went off prematurely blowing off his hand and severely injuring his face and body. Shout continued to direct the attack, then murmured "good old First Brigade, well done!" before he lost consciousness through loss of blood, and died from his wounds at sea onboard HMHS Neuralia on 11 August, 1915.
Both Pte Charles Huntley Thompson, from Maitland NSW, and L/Cpl Alexander Ross McQueen from Gloucester, NSW were repatriated back to Australia during the latter part of 1915.
Rose Shout was advised in a cable dated 5 May 1915 that Alfred had been wounded on April 27 1915; her reply to the cable was received 28 May, in which she sought news of her husband and his whereabouts. It was 15 August before the Army sent a further cable telling Rose that Alfred had been wounded a second time.
Then the system completely broke down completely, while records showed he died 11 August. These were then altered on 20 August to "not dead onboard 'Thermistocles' returning to Australia," The Australian press published news of his return adding that he would arrive in Sydney mid September.
This confusion started when Army Records received a cable from Alexandria saying Shout could not be dead as he was on board 'Thermistocles' wounded and on his way to Australia.
At a later inquiry the official explanation stated that Lieutenant A. J. Shirt the wounded man on board Thermistocles had been mistaken for Lieutenant A. J. Shout. A search of records in both Australia and New Zealand failed to confirm the existence of a Lieutenant A. J. Shirt.
Rose Shout was then informed of her Husbands death, unlike his father John Shout who lived in New Zealand who was to learn belatedly of his son's reported death from a newspaper report. He then wrote to the Army on October 4, seeking conformation of his son's death or wounding.
Things did not improve: Rose Shout was awarded a pension of ninety one pound ($182) per year and her daughter Florence, thirteen pound per year as the widow and child of Lieutenant A. J. Shout. Rose had to remind the Army that her husband was a Captain at the time of his death and also that he was the holder of the Victoria Cross.
While conceding that Shout had been promoted to Captain just days before he was mortally wounded, on November 19, 1915 the Officer in charge of base records still had no knowledge that Captain Alfred Shout's Victoria Cross had been gazetted on 15 October 1915.
The pension paid to Rose was then increased by ten pound ($20) per year and Florence had her pension doubled. The RSL with the assistance of the government of New South Wales launched an appeal in August 1916 to buy a home for Rose and Florence Shout.
Captain Alfred Shout VCs and identity disc was sent to Rose Shout in December 1918, A Certificate acknowledging his being Mentioned in Despatches was not received by Rose until July 1921. It was a further eighteen months before Rose Shout received the Memorial Scroll and King's Message.
Shortly after the war the citizens of Darlington, Sydney commemorated the name of Alfred Shout on a memorial plaque unveiled at Darlington. This plaque is now held at the Victoria Barracks Museum, along with other memorabilia donated in 1980 by Florence Agnes Maud Thomas, the daughter of Alfred and Rose Shout.
In 2001 the Redfern, Sydney. R.S.L. Sub Branch placed a framed montage which included Replica Medals and photographs of Captain Alfred Shout VC., MC., MiD. at Gallipoli in the foyer of the Club.
I owe a great deal to Mr Chris Roberts of Tascott, New South Wales and Mr Graham Thomas a Grandson of Captain Alfred Shout VC., MC., MiD. who encouraged and assisted me in the writing of this story.
Article contributed by Harry Willey
The Parados was the side of a trench farthest from the enemy.
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