This photograph of a soldiers grave was sent to Catherine Nairn, who resided in South Brisbane, following the reported death of her son Harold in 1918.
Harold the eldest son of Thomas and Catherine Nairn was an apprentice mechanical engineer, for the Australian Meat Export Co. when he volunteered to serve with the first AIF in May 1916, age 18. His younger brother Walter Edwin Nairn had already enlisted in January 1916, real age 16, as well as their estranged father Thomas in September 1915 and again in October 1916, age 41.
Harold Nairn enlisted in Sydney and trained as a gunner assigned to the 22nd Reinforcements for the 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade. He contracted pleurisy in August 1916, but was deemed fit for active service in November 1916, embarking for England on board the troopship Benalla.
Like many young recruits he contracted mumps during the voyage and was treated in the ships hospital before arriving in Devonport in January 1917. Nairn was transferred to the 11th Field Artillery Brigade in July.
In September 1917 Gunner Nairn was severely wounded in action, and evacuated to England from France with a gun shot wound to the neck, side and back. He recovered from his injuries in the 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham and was deemed once again fit for service and returned to his unit.
In the early morning of 29 September, at Ronssoy, 1918 Gunner Nairn was adjusting a night light in front of a gun pit when he was hit by a high explosive shell. His mate Clifford White was with him and reported that he was conscious and quite bright when he was taken away to the nearest dressing station.
Gunner Harold Carl Nairn died of his wounds the next day at the 55th Casualty Clearing Station.
Private Nairn is in fact buried at the Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension, France, not at Cerisy as indicated on the card. The Records Office endeavoured to investigate the erroneous information supplied with the photograph but were not successful.
This mounted photograph was recently found in an old book, unrelated to the Nairn family and donated to the State Library of Queensland. Although its existence is mysterious, it provides us an opportunity to relate and commemorate the service of a young Queensland soldier who lost his life while serving overseas during the First World War.
Further reading …
- Service record: NAIRN, Harold Carl
- Service record: NAIRN, Walter Edward
- Service record: NAIRN, Thomas
- Embarkation roll: 22nd Reinf. 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade
- Roll of honour
- Roll of honour circular [pdf]
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission
- Personal notice, Brisbane Courier, 26 October 1918 p5
Marg Powell | QANZAC100 Content Technician State Library of Queensland