638 Private Albert Herculean Augustus Pearce, 40th Battalion, AIF
Albert Pearce was born on 7 May 1887 in Hobart, one of eight children born to George and Annie Pearce. He received his education at Hobart State School, before moving to New Zealand in search of work. He met Ivy Nelder who he married in 1910. The couple later moved to Tasmania where they settled in Moonah near Hobart and had two children: Albert Edward George and Ivy Annie Louisa. When war broke out in 1914, Albert was working as a builder’s labourer in Hobart.
Albert Pearce enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 March 1915, joining the newly-raised 40th Battalion, which was comprised of Tasmanian volunteers. Assigned the rank of private, Pearce embarked from Hobart on board the troopship Berrima on 1 July 1916. During the voyage, Pearce’s comrade, Signaller Biggs, wrote in a letter home to his family: “The spirit among us all is nothing if not optimistic regarding our future and Tasmania may rest assured that the pride she cherishes in her battalion will not have been misplaced and that as a body we hope to bring undying glory upon the ‘garden of the South’.”
Private Pearce reached England in September, and spent a number of months training with his battalion. In England, Pearce was fined twice: the first time for having an untidy tent, and the second for being absent without leave, for which he forfeited a week’s pay.
In November 1916, Pearce’s battalion reached the Western Front during the coldest winter of a generation. There, they were introduced to life in the trenches around the French village of Armentieres. The 40th Battalion continued serving around this section of the front into early 1917 where their trenches were subject to enemy raids, heavy shelling, machine-gun and rifle fire.
On 7 January 1917, Private Pearce was serving in the front lines when the enemy began to shell the trenches. More than 58 shells fell in a matter of hours, causing multiple casualties for the battalion. Among the dead was Private Albert Pearce, who was hit and killed instantly by enemy shell-fire. He was 29 years old.
His comrades buried him nearby at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, where he lies today. His wife Ivy died in 1992, having never remarried after losing Albert more than 75 years earlier.
KIA 7th January 1917KIA 7th January 1917