One who loved his fellow men

Aubrey Harold Freeman

Lieutenant Aubrey (Harold) Freeman, 6th Australian Field Company Engineers. Killed in Action, Flers, 8 November 1916, age 27.

Known as Harold, his father was very proud of his eldest son who had followed in his footsteps as a civil engineer, with the Queensland Railways. Educated at St Josephs College, Gregory Terrace, Brisbane, he was appointed resident engineer for construction, at Cloncurry in 1913 where under his direction the first section of the Mount Cuthbert Railway was built, to support the local copper industry.

Mount Cuthbert mine and township

Mount Cuthbert town and mine

It was a promising career until he enlisted for active service at the age of 26, when he was assigned to the 26th Infantry Battalion. His younger brother Robert (then 21) followed him two weeks later. They embarked together on HMAT Ascanius on the 24th May for Egypt and Gallipoli.

Harold was promoted to Corporal before embarking for overseas, and after arriving in Egypt was transferred to the 4th & then 5th Field Company Engineers.

Emerging unscathed from the Gallipoli campaign, Harold remained for several months in Egypt before being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and being transferred to an Engineers Training Depot in Wales.

Australian soldiers at Longueval Road, February 1917

Australian soldiers, Longueval Road, 1917

Upon his return to service he joined his company in Ypres, northern France and subsequently Buire, where they were to work on the Longueval-Bazentin Road.

Unit War Diary, 6th Field Company Engineers, November 1916

It was while working on the construction of dugouts and improving communication lines during the Battle of Fleurs, that 2nd Lieutenant A.H. Freeman was killed.

His brother Robert who was also serving in France, had the grim duty of notifying their father of Harold’s sudden death, which was confirmed by the Commanding Officer Major N.C. Harris’ telegram.

Telegram to Base Records, 18 November 1916

Aubrey Freeman (snr) was not advised formally of the death of his son for at least 2 weeks after the event, and a death certificate was not issued until some time after 2 December 1916. The official Field Service, Report of Death was not dated until 22 December 1916.

We now know that the battlefields of France were mush and mud and that many men lost their lives. Thousands were in the field and many on the front line. The paper battle was difficult to say the least.

As an engineer he could have built many bridges and roads in civilian life. The Mount Cuthbert railway officially closed in 1994 after road transport took over, his only legacy.

Corporal Robert Freeman was accidentally injured in the face and hands, and returned to Australia on 26 May 1919. He passed away in 1945 aged just 51.

AIF Burial Ground, Flers

AIF Burial Ground, Flers, France

The Freeman family chose to have inscribed on Harold’s headstone the words “One who loved his fellow men” and placed notices to commemorate his loss in the newspapers for several years after.

The descendants of the Freeman family can be proud that his name, listed on the Roll of Honour, is to be projected onto the exterior of the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Memory this month, 100 years on.

He is not forgotten.

Researched and authored by Joy Laing, guest blogger.

Further Reading:


Marg Powell  |  QANZAC 100 Content Technician  State Library of Queensland