Kenneth Laird

Honour roll location: Pillar 6C

Feature story location: Pillar 6A

When Kenneth Laird enlisted he was 26 and newly married to Mary Laird. Prior to enlisting, he was a farmer at Calivil who was well-known as a talented footballer for the Calivil Football Club and a long distance runner. He was the fourth son of Donald and Isabell. His late father, Donald Craig Laird had been an East Loddon Shire councillor.

Gunner Ken Laird

Ken enlisted on the 13th of July, 1915. In just under a year he was killed. He was sent to Gallipoli in late October as part of the 22nd Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements and was one of the last to evacuate from the trenches.

He was transferred to the 6th Trench Mortar Battery in France in May 1916.

On the night of the 2nd of July, while Ken was on guard, a shell exploded and severely injured him. His abdomen was damaged and his bowels were protruding from his body. His right leg was shattered and his left arm wounded. He was treated at the 6th Field Ambulance but died at the Canadian Casualty Clearing Station. He is buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, France.

Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension in Nord, France. It is not far from the Belgian border.

Mary received a letter from Lieutenant J. A. Gray explaining how Ken died:

Your husband was on guard over ammunition, well in rear of the lines, on the night 1st/2nd July. He was on duty from 12 till 2, and about 1.30 a.m. a large shell burst beside him, inflicting terrible injuries. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.

Poor Ken was our first casualty. He has done magnificent work. He has been in the thick of all the activity that has marked our front during the last six weeks, faithfully doing his work under violent bombardments, and after being preserved through all this he was caught by an isolated shell on a comparatively quiet night.

I cannot adequately express my feelings at losing him. He was universally loved by the men of the battery. He always exercised a restraining influence on his younger comrades, who naturally looked to him for advice. He showed great coolness and devotion to duty under fire, and has contributed largely to our recent success against the Huns.

In these circumstances, I can say no more. May you have the consolation of Him Who said Love is the fulfilment of the Law and ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’

‘Gunner Ken. Laird’, Bendigonian, 14th of September 1916, p. 24



Arthur Humbert

Honour roll location: Pillar 6A

Feature story location: Pillar 7B

Private Arthur Humbert fought and tragically died in action only weeks before his brother George was set to leave for the battlefront himself.

Arthur enlisted on the 7th of July, 1915 in Bendigo. Born in Bendigo, his family had moved to the town of Prairie and he worked there as a farm labourer. At 25 years of age, he was a well-regarded young man who stood at 178cm (5 feet, 10 inches) with a dark complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair.

Arthur riding his bike. Image courtesy of East Loddon Historical Society.

He was part of the 9th reinforcements to the 21st Battalion of the AIF, embarking from Melbourne aboard the brightly painted HMAT Warilda on the 8th of February, 1916. He travelled to Alexandria, Egypt and Marseilles, France on his way to the battlefront. During this time, Arthur wrote a letter to a Mr. R. Hawkins which was published in the Bendigo Independent newspaper. In this letter, he shares that he was enjoying his trip so far, reflecting on his situation:

“I suppose we have Kaiser Bill to thank for it all, but no doubt, we will have to pay for it very soon now.”

As a farmer, he couldn’t help but describe the farming practices in Egypt as “real irrigation country” and detailing the size of the crops. He later mentions the orchards in France and compares tending sheep in Australia and France.

HMAT Warilda in 1917. Though it had previously been brightly painted, it had to be camouflaged in 1917 after the German’s threatened that all vessels moving through the English Channel would be attacked. The Warilda was mostly used as a hospital ship.

Arthur was killed in action in Pozieres, France on the 27th of July, 1916. It would take until September for his family to learn his fate. An article from the Bendigonian newspaper described Arthur as a “fine stamp of young Australian manhood” and stated that he was “very popular throughout the district”. Another article noted that a “wide circle of friends” would regretfully mourn his passing.

Painting of Arthur Humbert. Courtesy of East Loddon Historical Society- Humbert Family Collection

George, Arthur’s older brother had enlisted in April 1916. He was at the Bendigo camp when the family learned of Arthur’s passing and the Inglewood Advertiser reported that he was to “sail within a few days”. Indeed, George embarked from Melbourne scarcely two weeks after finding out his brother was killed in the same war he was about to enter.

The Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau file indicates that there were several witnesses to Arthur’s death. Reports from Corporal Reginald Bond, Private Charles Wright and Private J Hudson confirmed that Arthur had been hit in the head by shrapnel at a place called Shrapnel Gully between Pozieres and Contalmaison. He had been carrying bombs with the other men when he was struck and died within minutes of arriving at a dressing station.

A witness report for Arthur’s death. Arthur knew his time was up and told his friend, “I am gone, Dope”

There were complications finding the site of Arthur’s grave at Pozieres. A memorial plaque was organised in 1922, but a letter from a Captain of Base Records states that although the entire battlefield had been “searched six times, and some places twenty times since armistice”, it was possible that bodies would “continue to be found for years as the work of re-construction progresses”.

Arthur is listed on the honour roll at Serpentine. The supreme sacrifice from the Humbert family was, and continues to be, remembered. Lance Corporal J. W. Joyce wrote a letter to Arthur’s parents (George and Margaret- nee Woods), explaining how their son was killed. He mused that

“many a good son fell in that awful battle, and many a heart will ache; but we all did our best.”


George Humbert

Honour roll location: Pillar 6A

Feature story location: Pillar 7B

Private George Humbert was eager to serve his country in just as his younger brother, Arthur had.

The son of George (senior) and Margaret Humbert (nee Woods), George junior had been born in Bendigo, Victoria before moving with the family to a farm in Prairie. He was 30 years of age when he enlisted to serve in World War One on the 18th of July, 1916. He was 170cm tall (5 foot, 7 inches) and had a medium complexion, grey eyes and black hair.

George Humbert. Image courtesy of East Loddon Historical Society.

In mid-September, just weeks before he was set to leave for the battlefront, George received the news that his younger brother Arthur had been killed in action in France. He embarked at Melbourne aboard the HMAT A9 Shropshire on the 25th of September, 1916 and during this time contracted measles, spending 12 days on the ship’s hospital.

George proceeded overseas to France on the 30th of December, 1916 aboard the Princess Clementine and was taken on strength to the 60th Battalion, 5th reinforcements in France on the 8th February, 1917.

While at war, he suffered from rheumatism and was hospitalised in April, 1917 at Rouen. The following month, he was admitted with Myalgia at Buchy. He did not return to his unit until December.

After being on leave in the United Kingdom, George rejoined the 60th Battalion on the 4th of April, 1918.

Two days later, on the 6th of April, 1918 George was in his dugout, leaning forward to wash his feet. A shell exploded close to him and a piece of shrapnel went through his helmet, entering his forehead and exiting the back of his head. He was killed instantly. He was buried close by in the wood at Hamelet, just outside of Corbie.

Later, his remains were exhumed and shifted to the Crucifix Corner Cemetery at Villers-Bretonneux. The headstone inscription says, “In memory of the dearly beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. Humbert of Prairie”.

George Humbert’s grave stone at Crucifix Corner Cemetery in France

George was killed little over 24km away from where his brother Arthur died near Pozieres on the 27th of July, 1916.

When the HMAT Barunga was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine in the North Atlantic Ocean on the 15th of July, 1918, George’s personal effects were lost, unable to be recovered. This included his wallet, photos and identity discs.

Letter to George’s mother, Margaret, notifying her of the loss of his personal effects due to the sinking of the Barunga. This letter is dated the 5th June 1919, almost a year after the ship was lost.

A notice placed in the Bendigo Advertiser, The Argus and The Australasian by the Humbert family acknowledged the sad but important sacrifice George made:

“So dearly loved, so sadly missed.
His duty nobly done”

His sister, Emily Ann Edwards (nee Humbert) included the following verse in the Lancefield Mercury newspaper to remember George’s sacrifice:

“Not for the love of battle
Left he his native land;
He heard the call of duty,
And responded like a man.”


Walter Hopper

Honour roll location: Pillar 6A

Feature story location: Pillar 5C

Walter Hopper (a.k.a. Walter Whitfield).
Image taken from Discovering Anzacs

Early to enlist

Walter Hopper was a motor mechanic from Mitiamo. He enlisted very early in the war on the 29th of August. His elder brother Hugh also served in World War One.

Private Hopper served in Gallipoli as part of the 1st Battalion, G Company. He was promoted to Lance Corporal in late 1914 and again to Corporal in 1915.

Shortly after his last promotion, Walter was sadly killed in action on the 19th of May, 1915. He is remembered at the Lone Pine Cemetery in Turkey.

False name

Walter Hopper enlisted under the false name ‘Walter Whitfield’. Later, his brother Hugh wrote a letter to the AIF notifying them that the assumed name had been chosen for ‘family reasons’.

It may seem unusual that someone would use a false identity when choosing to go to war. However, it is predicted that as many as 15, 000 servicemen used an alias (around 3.5%).

Usually, soldiers chose an alias if they were trying to avoid attention. For example, they may have been too young to enlist. Perhaps their family disapproved of their enlistment or they may have even had extramarital relationships they didn’t want to expose.

It is unclear as to why Walter Hopper took on an assumed name. The information provided above is general information but does not attempt to explain why Walter chose a false name.