Herbert (Bert) Cumming

From Our Contribution

Cumming Herbert.jpg
Western Mail 15 Dec 1916 page 23.
Cumming Herbert 2.jpg
King's Park memorial walk, May drive
Personal Information
Date of Birth not known
Place of Birth Fremantle, Western Australia
Death 5 Aug 1916 (see Notes)
Place of Death Pozieres, France
Age at Enlistment 25 years, 11 months
Occupation labourer
Religion Presbyterian
Address Mundijong, Western Australia
Next of Kin Mother Mrs Sarah Cumming
Military Information
Reg Number 4589
Date of Enlistment 16 Nov 1915
Rank Private
Unit/Formation 16th Battalion, 14th Reinforcement transferred to 48th Battalion 7 Platoon, B Company / 12th Brigade, 4th Division
Date of Embarkation 12 Feb 1916 - 11 Mar 1916
Ship Embarked On HMAT A28 Miltiades
Fate Killed in Action 5 Aug 1916 Poziéres
Monument Mundijong School Roll of Honour
Mundijong Honour Roll
Jarrahdale War Memorial
Jarrahdale Honour Roll
ANZAC Memorial Park (Byford)
Villers-Bretonneux Memorial
Australian War Memorial
Medals British War Medal
Victory Medal

Pre War

Bert was born in December 1889 at Fremantle. He was one of five sons and four daughters of Sarah and George Cumming. Bert attended the Mundijong state school and after leaving school was employed as a labourer. viz 1916 Electoral Roll entry - a labourer living in Mundijong.

War Service

He enlisted on 16 November 1915 and was initially allocated to 16 Battalion (7 to 17 Reinforcement group). Following initial training at Blackboy Hill Military Camp he embarked on HMAT A28 Miltiades on 12 February 1916 at Fremantle, bound for overseas service. On arrival in Egypt, Bert was transferred from the 16th Battalion reinforcement draft to the 48th Battalion as part of the doubling in size of the Australian force before it joined the British Expeditionary Force in France.

The 48th Battalion trained at Serapeum until advised to proceed to Alexandria where it boarded the HMT Caledonia. The Caledonia sailed on 2 Jun 1916 for Marseilles, arriving 9 Jun 1916. The battalion left Marseilles for Hazebrouck in the early evening by train, with 30 men to each cattle truck.

Bert's battalion went into action on the Somme and at a place called ‘the Windmill,’ on the northern outskirts of Pozieres. It was reported that eight men were sheltering in a shell hole when it was hit directly by enemy artillery fire. Following a formal court of enquiry in May 1917, Bert was declared killed in action.

Red Cross files:[1].

"My mate Pte Fraser VII Pl, B Coy, who was wounded on 8th August at Pozieres, told me he saw Cumming blown to pieces while they were together in the same shell hole. Cumming lived at Mundijong, WA." Gray E. Pte 4278
"Cumming was killed at Pozieres on Sunday, 6th August in the p.m. Eight men were in the same shell hole when a shell came and killed four of them. There was no chance of burying him." Neate A.J. Pte 2378.
"I knew him as Bert Cumming. He belonged to VII Pl. B Coy. I was in the same shell hole with him on the night, Sat Aug 5th at Pozieres. A shell came over and killed three men and wounded another. Described by another as tall, then dark. LCp Burt , VII Pl B Coy was the man wounded. He said to me "poor old Bert's gone." I did not see the body myself. Two of us managed to escape. Burt died of wounds. Fraser F. Pte 2332
"I have been in the same section in the same platoon No 7 with Bert Cumming since the formation of the Battalion in Egypt. On the first Saturday of August at dusk our battalion was sent up to hold two lines of trenches taken by the 2nd Division on Friday night. Our platoon was ordered to advance across No Man's land to the further trench. In the dark a small party of about 10 took cover in a small part of the trench destroyed by shell fire. About midnight a high explosive shell fell in one part of the shell holes killing 4 of our men outright, two others were wounded. While bandaging up some of them namely (LCpl Birt) remarked to me " Poor old Bert Cumming has gone, he has been blown to pieces". In the dark we could not identify anything and before daylight we moved across to some of the other men to try and obtain stretcher bearers. I am sorry to say old LCpl Birt died about half an hour later after being hit. I myself was wounded the next night, Sunday and of the remaining men unwounded on Saturday night I can supply only the information that one of then Signaller A. Elphick is at present in hospital in England, I think. It was hard to be certain in the dark, but Bert Cumming was with us going into the line and LCpl Birt was sitting in the same shell hole for a good hour alongside whom he stated was Bert Cumming. As regarding appearance Bert Cumming was of dark complexion and medium build, his height was about 5 ft 11 inches and he had a habit of bending his knees when standing for which the officer often chipped him."Pte F Fraser.
"I cannot say if he was killed instantly or not, as we had such a smashing that it was, and is impossible to remember anything very clearly. I lost one of the best and truest little mates ever a cov had on that occasion. I might say that Pte Cumming was very popular with all of us, a straight going, good natured chap & willing to lend a hand where necessary..."LCpl A.W. Elphick
  • Villers_Bretonneux Memorial
  • Part of 48th Battalion panel at Villers-Bretonneux
  • Notes

    While the official date of his death is 8 August, it would appear from the witness statements obtained by the Red Cross matched against the battalion's War Diary entries, that the actual date was the evening of Saturday 5 Aug 1916.

    1. "Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files - Herbert Cumming". Australian War Memorial. 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2018. 

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