Well Liked By His Chums
The family name Alchin is well known in the Gunning area and the Gunning War Memorial bears five such names, two of whom paid the ultimate price for service to their nation in war. One of those was Arthur Montague Alchin.
Arthur was born on 21 November 1898, the second of eight children. Arthur attended Gunning Public School where his father was a schoolteacher. After leaving school Arthur gained employment as a mail driver, the “trade or calling” he duly declared on the attestation form he completed when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1916. Although underage, he added a year to his age and declared that he was “18 years 5 months” old. Being under 21 however, he needed parental permission, so almost three months after his enlistment, Arthur’s now-widowed mother signed a letter of consent for him to be enlisted into His Majesty’s Imperial Forces.
Assigned to the 3rd Reinforcements of the 35th Australian Infantry Battalion, Arthur embarked from Sydney aboard HMAT Anchises in August 1916, arriving in Devonport, England, seven weeks later. Shortly after though, he was admitted to hospital for illness, before rejoining his unit in England in mid-November 1916. The battalion transferred to France soon after and arrived on the Western Front for the first time just in time for the onset of the terrible winter of 1916-17.
Moved to the Ypres Sector of Belgium in mid-1917 the 35th’s first major battle was the Battle of Messines, launched on 7 June. In early July Arthur was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel, his wound requiring almost three weeks of hospitalisation. He rejoined the battalion in the field at the end of the month.
The 35th's next major action was the disastrous battle at Passchendaele on 12 October. Heavy rain had deluged the battlefield, and thick mud tugged at the advancing troops and fouled their weapons as they attempt to seize the Passchendaele Ridge from the defending Germans. Arthur Alchin was wounded early in the action and is reported to have been lying on a stretcher when a shell exploded nearby killing him and several other wounded soldiers. Although he was subsequently buried near Zonnebeke Village, Arthur’s grave was later lost in the horrific conditions, and he now has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium, the Gunning War Memorial and in Murrumbateman.
One of the soldiers in his battalion said that Arthurs was “one of the best” and that “the boys thought no end of him”. Another stated simply that he “was well liked by his chums”.
Although his mother later wrote that he was 17 years 11 months old when he died, Arthur Montague Alchin was just 40 days short of his 19th birthday.
Arthur’s uncle, Private Frank Henry Borman, also commemorated on the Murrumbateman War Memorial, had been killed at Polygon Wood less than three weeks earlier.
The view from the trenches: 21Alchins & World War 1. By Garry Norman Smith Private record