“A. DEW”, on the first panel for the First World War on the Burra War Memorial, was commemorated at the Last Post Ceremony at the AWM on 19th of August 2019.
Albert “Bert” Dew was born in June 1896, the eldest son of Fred and Adelaide Dew of Burra, South Australia. Born on the family property, “Bluebell Farm”, he was educated at the Burra School. After finishing school he worked the farm with his father and was known as a “splendid horseman” and an enthusiastic member of the 23rd Barossa Light Horse militia unit. Bert was also a keen musician and member of the Burra Orchestra.
Albert Dew enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1916. Despite his experience in the Light Horse at home, he was posted to the 32nd Infantry Battalion, along with some of his friends from Burra. After initial training in Australia he went to England and finally reached the 32nd Battalion on the battlefields of the Western Front in February 1917.
Dew proved an able soldier and was promoted quickly to lance corporal. He wrote many letters home, often reporting on having met many “Burra boys” in France. In September 1917 Dew came though the Battle of Polygon Wood, one of few allied successes of that year, unscathed.
One month later, however, he was wounded in the arm and evacuated to hospital in Le Havre. He wrote home that the wound was “only a slight one … a slight flesh wound above the elbow.” After five days in hospital he was able to return to active duty.
After he was involved in a rail accident in December 1917, when the 32nd Battalion was being moved by train, Albert wrote that he much preferred “shot and shell to an experience of that sort”.
In February 1918, Lance Corporal Dew was demoted to private after overstaying furlough to England. He later contracted tonsillitis and was away from the battalion for nearly a month.
In July 1918 the Battalion successfully captured German positions near the French village of Morlancourt. Throughout the night German artillery tried to disrupt the new Australian front line. A German minenwerfer round scored a direct hit on the position occupied by Dew and a mate, killing both instantly.
Dew’s platoon sergeant later wrote that he was a great loss. Bert’s brother Bob mourned deeply, writing:
Empty is your saddle
Wild your saddle mare;
I miss you from the stable,
I miss you everywhere.
Dew’s grave was lost in subsequent fighting but he is commemorated on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. For many years his family put memorial notices in the newspaper on the anniversary of his death. One such notice read,
We often think of you, dear Bert,
And think of how you died,
The hardest part of all was:
We could not say “Good-bye”.
Albert Dew was 22 years old.
AWM Roll of Honour
AWM Last Post Ceremony 19 August 2019
(Author: Meleah Hampton, Historian, Military History Section)