2016 Premier’s ANZAC Spirit School Prize Essay – Frederick William Gum


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the 20th of May 1918, in the district Vaire-sous-Corbie a brave ANZAC by the name, Frederick William Gum, was shelled so far away form home…a few months away from victory. His grieving mother, Annie Gum, received one package containing a diary. It was the tattered remnants of her son’s final months; a young man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country. Frederick William Gum was born on the 23rd of March 1892 at Fair View Farm, Amyton, South Australia, the first of 4 sons to William Gum and Annie Gray. As a young boy he attended Amyton Public School built 1894.

Amyton Public school was subject to ever changing teachers, making it hard for the children to learn. for a while, Mr F. Mullet was Fredercik’s teacher until he was transferred to Golden Grove in 1904 and succeeded by Mr J. Bourke (Flinders Ranges Research, 1996). Despite schooling troubles, Frederick exceeded expectations and became an expert mechanic for the Sunshine Harvesting Company in Victoria. Before the war started he was send on business trip to Argentina as an expert for the company, but returned in March of 1916. Frederick enlisted on May 10th 1916. He was the first of his close and extended family to enlist in the A.I.F, starting to display the courage of a true ANZAC. Frederick’s younger brother, Percy Norman Gum, enlisted on September 11th of the same year. both brothers were placed in teh 5th Pioneer Battalion however Frederick was in the 4th Reinforcement, C Company.

Although Frederick wasn’t a part of Australia’s courageous preliminary forces, soon after arriving home, after being away from his family for almost 2 years, he went straight to enlist and fight for the country he loved so dearly. His family was important to him, but what about his mate’s families?

What about the families of Australia? Frederick knew what he had to fight to protect Australia, even without spending time with those he loved most. I believe that this shows the ANZAC spirit magnificently. Many ask what the spirit of the ANZAC actually is. It is the creation of many as to how Australians represented themselves during the First World War. Historians coined the phrase “ANZAC legend” referring to how Australian’s thought, spoke and wrote about their experiences of war. An ANZAC with true spirit is seen as having endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour and mateship, most qualities that everyone strives to have. However, in Australia, these are seen as the qualities of our patriotism.

Frederick embarked from Outer Harbour on the 14th of August 1916, a two month long journey on A53 HMAT ltria, disembarking at Plymouth on the 30th of October 1916 (Fig. 13,14). Then he proceeded overseas to Estapies, France, per the Princess Victoria. Then, with his regiment Frederick marched out onto the bloodiest and most putrid battlefields in known history. He was taken on strength (officially a part of the 5th Pioneer Battalion) on the 7th of February 1917. On this day he was officially Private Frederick William Gum 2365, 4th reinforcement of the 5th Pioneer Battalion.

He joined C Company in digging new trenches, maintaining old communication trenches and other manual labour as this was why the 5th Pioneer Battalion was created on the 3rd of March 1916 in Egypt (C. Martin 2016, F.H. Stevens 1937)

The wet and disease-filled trenches, guns firing at an almost constant rate were his constant companions. There was rarely any sleep for himself and his fellow comrades, barely gaining any territory into No Man’s Land. Boots were scarce as well as the food. After one horrible year in these conditions, Frederick proceeded on leave to the U.K. for exactly 15 days in February of 1918, returning to his battalion on 22nd of February (Figures 13,14). However Frederick William Gum passed on the 20th of May 1918 along with 2 others in his party, Privates Archie Bowie and Young. They were working on a strong point outside the town of Ptes when out of nowhere, shellfire rained upon them, sadly killing them instantly.

Together these three men now rest in peace int eh Aubigny British Cemtery, France. Frederick lies in lot number D.12 next to his fallen comrades.

Even in today’s society, “ANZAC spirit” still lives on in many Australians. In cases of national disaster such as earthquakes, storms or bush fires, media displays the people who selflessly put their lives at risk to help out however they can. Frederick displays every quality that contributes to the ANZAC Spirit. Frederick endured a long, hard year and a half in the wintery, quagmire ofthe Somme stomaching through it with mates at his side. He left his family to fight for his country; he spent less than a month with them before he travelled a long distance to Adelaide, to enlist. This showed the courage it took to leave his struggling family behind. In the Argentine he had already been using his ingenuity to contribute to an empire in the farming industry, and again he displayed that during his time as an ANZAC, once being a Base engineer before leaving for France. After his death Chronicle wrote “Private Gum was well liked wherever he went, and made many firm friends by reason of his of June 1918, page 39).genuine good-fellowship and happy nature” (Chronicle Saturday 15 June, 1918, page 39).

Frederick showed his mateship in his final hours with a Pvt Young and Bowie. All three men displayed the ANZAC Spirit in whilst working on a strong point. Still reeling from the fact one of their mates was killed by a shell a few days earlier, all three men soldiered on. They endured heavy shell fire, their courage carried them through hell, their ingenuity allowed them to keep working on the strong hold. It’s plausible that Frederick would’ve made a joke to boost the morale of his mates before the shell hit, killing all three.

It is near impossible to imagine the grief and pain felt by Frederick’s mother and father, when the news reached them back in Australia. Not only had Percy been gassed and placed in hospital, but Frederick had lost his life in a distant country far from his family on the other side of the world. I’m not entirely sure but it appears that William and Annie spent some time apart after their son’s passing, with Annie staying in their Fairview farm, whilst William lived in Margaret Street Walkerville. It appears that Annie was told of Frederick’s death but hadn’t discussed it with William.

He wrote a letter on September 26 1918 asking for date and register of death for Frederick. After this debacle, William, Annie and their children lived lengthy lives. Annie applied for Frederick to be issued into the Roll of Honour of Australian in the Memorial War Museum. Now a plaque dedicated to Frederick William gum resides at panel 174 in the Australian War Memorial.

Frederick William Gum is my Great, Great Uncle. His sister Laura Annie Gum had a child by the name Ray Thompson, this man is my aunt’s father and my grandfather by marriage. If I hadn’t written this essay Frederick may ha’.(e been all but forgotten. Life seemed to be so cruel for this young man in an aspiring career, whose existence was cut short at the early age of 26. I find small comfort in this, to think now that he has been remembered for his bravery and ANZAC spirit he smiles upon me in his place in heaven. I feel that I have the utmost honour and privilege to tell this inspiring young Aussie’s astonishing story.

One day I hope that I will perhaps place a poppy on his sacred grave stone wishing that I could’ve met him sometime in my life. I will remember him. We will remember them. Lest we forget.

Read the PDF version of the essay below:

Frederick William Gum – Deklan Soeroes