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The following article was first published in the 14 September 2014 issue of southburnett.com.au.
One Hundred Years Ago Mick Mangan Enlisted For
War by Liz Caffery
Michael Mangan was born at Tanneymorel near Warwick in 1881where he lived with his sister Bridget on the family dairy farm. When almost 30, Mick left Warwick together with Percy Bradford and Mick Roach. He selected a small 80 acre farm at Grindstone 9 km north of Nanango. In 1912, he established a timber mill in partnership with Harry Heiner and the Pearey Brothers near the Girra waterhole at Grindstone. The mill processed hardwoods which grew in the locality, including timber from the properties of the partners. The mill cut the timber for Tara’s Hall in Nanango, built in 1912, and the exposed beams for the Palace Hotel.
After enlistment, Private Mangan, Service No. 314, joined the 15th Battalion. Three-quarters of the battalion were recruited as volunteers from Queensland, and the rest from Tasmania. With the 13th, 14th and 16th Battalions it formed the 4th Brigade, commanded by Colonel John Monash. Mick’s initial training occurred in Victoria before embarkation on the HMAT Ceramic on December 22, 1914 to sail for Egypt. After their arrival in Egypt in early February 1915, the 4th became part of the New Zealand and Australian Division.
During this time, Mick had met William Lehfeldt from Rockhampton who was to become his best ‘cobber’. As a man in his 30s, Mick was much older than most of the other soldiers in his battalion, and young men in their late teens and early 20s often called him “Dad”. William was only 23. There were many close bonds of mateship forged between diggers in those harrowing years of trench warfare and they endured intense anger and grief when a mate was lost.
On his return from the Western Front, Mick carried with him some vivid and horrific memories of his four years at war. While he spoke infrequently about these experiences, there were times when he did relate several graphic episodes to his children. His son, James (Jim) Mangan posed the question: “I’ve often wondered why he did tell us some of those gruesome stories. He never observed Anzac Day commemorations.” Some of the stories Jim remembers most explicitly relate to his father’s time in Gallipoli.
At dawn on Sunday, April 25th 1915, 36 boats carrying the first wave of Australian soldiers, rowed towards the shore of a beach, later known as Anzac Cove. It was a place called Gallipoli and it marked the beginning of the invasion of Ottoman Turkey by the allied forces. 101 of these ‘first wave’ soldiers were killed that day and another 650 perished before the day was over. Some were hit while still in the boats or as they tried to cross the beach and scramble up the treacherous terrain that lay in front of them.
For most of that day, Michael Mangan and soldiers of the 15th waited offshore in a battleship, ready to take their place in the small boats to be towed closer to the landing area before rowing the final distance. They landed late in the afternoon of April 25th and immediately attempted to climb the steep ridge above a valley (later known as Monash Valley). Within a few days, three Nanango men from the 15th had died – Corporal Norman Rushforth (26) was killed on April 26 and lies in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery; Hider (Stanley) Broome (22) died of wounds aboard the hospital ship HMAS Mashobra on April 30 and was buried at sea; Lance Corporal Richard Dunsdon (36) was killed in action on April 30 and buried near Quinn’s Post. The names of Stanley Broome and Richard Dunsdon appear on the Lone Pine Memorial.
Many an Anzac was introduced to war as he moved up these valleys from the beach to the ridges. For virtually the whole of the campaign, but especially in the early weeks, Turkish snipers killed or wounded hundreds of men in Monash and Shrapnel valleys. The Turks held the high ground and were never driven from it. Stretcher-bearers, and soldiers bringing up supplies, rations and water, were in constant danger as they made their way along the valley bottom. The 15th Battalion suffered severe losses during these weeks but was also lauded for achieving some of the finest feats of the Gallipoli campaign.
From May to August, the battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the Anzac beachhead. In August, as part of an assault known as The August Offensive, the 4th Brigade attacked Hill 971, the highest vantage point of the Sari Bair Range. In the early hours of 8 August, three battalions of the 4th Brigade – the 14th, 15th and 16th – set out. Dawn found them nowhere near the approach to Hill 971. As the Australian battalions advanced over an exposed slope, Turkish machine guns opened up.
On August 8th, 1915, Mick lost his best mate, ‘Cobber’ William Lehfeldt. Jim recalls the story: “My father told me he and ‘Cobber’ were running across open ground with fixed bayonets towards enemy territory when ‘Cobber’ called out ‘I’ve been hit’ and he went down. He was hit in the groin which severed an artery, a dangerous place to be hit. The blood pumped out and he died without firing a shot.” An account of that day from a Red Cross file [AWM IDRL 428] also describes the scene: “The men fell under furious fire. It was terrible; the men were falling like rabbits... They fell a good way, in many cases, from the Turkish line.” Sydney Porter and Robert Renfrew of the 15th from Nanango died the day after. As had happened at Anzac Cove during the landing of April 25th, the sheer numbers of wounded overwhelmed the medical services. The three Australian battalions that had made the assault suffered 765 casualties - the 15th Battalion was reduced to about 30 per cent of its normal strength.
It is likely that Mick never recovered from the brutality of war he witnessed and experienced at Gallipoli, especially the suffering and death of his cobbers from the 15th, many of whom died unattended in the shocking August heat. Within a fortnight of the August Offensive he was hospitalised with influenza (as were hundreds of men at different times) before he was declared fit to resume duty at Gallipoli in November. After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt. In June 1916 they sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918, the battalion took part in bloody trench warfare in the Somme and Belgium. Michael Mangan was on his way home to Australia when the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918.
Mick married Hermione Lonergan in 1919 and took up a Soldier Settlement block at South Nanango in 1922. Ahead of him were struggles and hardships of a different kind…
Gully Officially Named After Gallipoli