Ralph Austin Brabazon

He deserted to enlist?

Ralph Austin Brabazon was born on 14th August 1879 at Mullingar, Co.Westmeath Ireland. He was the youngest of nine children of Hannah Jane (nee Austin) and John Brabazon a farm labourer. John and his family came to Australia in February 1880, starting in Queensland, but soon making their way to Melbourne where John’s brother Robert farmed at Diamond Creek.

Two of Ralph’s older brothers would die soon after arriving in Queensland.

We don’t know much of Ralph’s early life but we do know that at the age of 25 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Artillery, Victoria on 1st December 1904.

At this time his former employment was stated as a Clerk with the Union Assurance Society Canton in Hong Kong. This enlistment also states that he had two years experience with the Hong Kong Voluntary Artillery.

By July 1906 he had been promoted to Corporal. He did, however have a few issues with returning to his barracks on time and was demoted and re-promoted several times.

In 1909 the Electoral Roll of the time confirms that Ralph is posted in Queenscliff.

On 4th August 1914 when war was declared, Ralph was posted at Queenscliff, but given what happened six months later, it is reasonable to suggest he had spent quite some time at Point Nepean.


Ralph enlisted on December 21st 1914 into the 5th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements.

But there was a slight problem . . . Ralph was still in the Artillery!

Police Gazette Dec 31 1914

Victoria Police Gazette 31 Dec 1914

We don’t know the outcome of this dilemma.

He married a Portsea girl

On 15th February 1915 Ralph married Adelaide Cain, the third daughter of Julia (nee Ford) and John Cain of the Nepean Hotel.

Brabazon wedding notice

from Trove HERE

But no honeymoon . . .

The 5th Battalion, 3rd Reinforcements embarked from Melbourne to Egypt on H.M.A.T. A54 “Runic” on the 19th Feb 1915 (Four days after his wedding).

At this time Ralph was listed on the Embarkation Roll as Regimental Sergeant Major

hmat A54 Runic

HMAT A54 Runic from AWM HERE

5th Infantry Battalion A.I.F.

5th btn patch

5th Btn Patch from AWM HERE

The 5th Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions it was recruited from Victoria and, together with these battalions, formed the 2nd Brigade.

The battalion was raised within a fortnight of the declaration of war in August 1914 and embarked just two months later. After a brief stop in Albany, Western Australia, the battalion proceeded to Egypt, arriving on 2 December. It later took part in the ANZAC landing on 25 April 1915, as part of the second wave. It was led by Lieutenant Colonel D. S. Wanliss, the officer who had raised the battalion. Ten days after the landing the 2nd Brigade was transferred from ANZAC to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. The attack captured little ground but cost the brigade almost a third of its strength. The Victorian battalions forming the 2nd Brigade returned to ANZAC to help defend the beachhead, and in August the 2nd Brigade fought at the battle of Lone Pine. The battalion served at ANZAC until the evacuation in December.

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli, the battalion returned to Egypt and, in March 1916, sailed for France and the Western Front. From then until 1918 the battalion was heavily involved in operations against the German Army. The battalion’s first major action in France was at Pozieres in the Somme valley in July 1916. After Pozieres the battalion fought at Ypres in Flanders then returning to the Somme for winter.

In 1917, the battalion participated in the operations that followed-up the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, and then returned to Belgium to join the great offensive launched to the east of Ypres. In March and April 1918, the battalion helped to stop the German spring offensive.

It subsequently participated in the great Allied offensive launched near Amiens on 8 August 1918. The advance by British and empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “the black day of the German Army in this war”.

The battalion continued operations until late September 1918. At 11 am on 11 November 1918, the guns fell silent. The November armistice was followed by the peace treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919.

Source: AWM Unit Histories. for more go HERE

Ralph’s War

Ralph landed on Gallipoli on 25th Apr 1915 as part of the ‘second wave’. At this time he reverted to the rank of Private having been ‘taken on strength’ to the Battalion. I guess there was an existing structure within the Battalion that didn’t require another RSM.

After the battles at Krithia (More at AWM) and Lone Pine (AWM), by September 1st, Ralph had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. On the 19th he was evacuated to Lemnos after falling ill. He returned to the Battalion on 24th Nov 1915, just in time for the evacuation.

ANZAC Cove c Late 1915

ANZAC Cove c Late 1915 from AWM

After regrouping in Egypt and Greece, the 5th Battalion landed at Marseilles on May 17th 1916.  By the 29th of May, Ralph was again in hospital with an ‘unknown fever’ and after suffering Influenza and Bronchitis finally returned to the Battalion in France on 21st June 1917.

Wounded . . .

This was in time to take part in the Battle of Menin Road on 20th September (more at AWM) where he received a shrapnel wound to the head and was evacuated to Hardelot on the French coast. He recovered from this and returned to the Battalion on 1st November 1917.

5th Battalion in early 1918 . . .

The 5th Batallion would participate in defensive operations in Flanders between Ypres and La Bassee, during the German Spring Offensive on the Western Front in April 1918.

Also in operations around Bethune, Hazebrouck (12th to 15th April) and Meteren during the German “Lys Offensive”.

By early June 1918 the 5th Battalion were positioned just South of Strazeele (about 5km West of Méteren)

5th Btn map

5th Btn Map Early June 1918 from Btn Diary at AWM HERE

The Western Front after April 1918

After Villers-Bretonneux the German forces would continue to attack on a wide front while the Australians held on and engaged in what C.E.W. Bean would describe as “Peaceful Penetration”.

Peaceful Penetration

Australian forces would take every opportunity to mount smaller raids with the principal objective of taking prisoners and obtaining intelligence regarding the German’s next attacks.

“It so happened that in the vital positions held both by the 1st Australian Division in Flanders and the Australian Corps in front of Amiens, it was urgent to gain ground, if possible, in order to allow more room for defence. This furnished a reason for activity in addition to the one then being urged by the staff on the fighting troops in all sectors, that the prime need was for information as to the probable direction of Ludendorff’s next stroke. For such information the most important source was newly captured German prisoners.

– C.E.W. Bean – Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18 (Vol VI Chapter II)

14th June 1918

On the 14th of June, 5th Battalion conducted a number of raids into enemy lines and were receiving some machine gun fire from the enemy . . .

5th Btn Diary 1918 14th June

Part of 5th Btn Diary 14th June 1918 click to enlarge from AWM HERE

. . . and Sgt. Ralph Brabazon

On the 14th Ralph was reported to have received “severe” gunshot wounds to the arm and thigh. He was evacuated to Boulogne and then by 17th June to the Military Hospital at Herne Bay, England. Reports from Herne Bay maintained he was “doing apparently quite well until night of June 22, 18 when temp rose to 105”. Ralph died at 5:45am on June 25th 1918. (Despite this his official death is given as 26th of June.)

He was buried on the 28th of June at Herne Bay Cemetery on the North Coast of Kent.Brabazon Headstone. . . and at home. . . (note the dates)

Argus 5 Jul 1918

Argus 5 Jul 1918 from Trove

Argus 6 Jul 1918

Argus 6 Jul 1918 from Trove

. . . and . . .

Punch 11 Jul 1918

Punch 11 Jul 1918 from Trove

The Late Mrs. W.J.Grantham . . . this was Ralph’s elder sister Amelia Jane, who had two sons in the First A.I.F.

George Grantham, who would serve with the 59th Battalion and Walter Brabazon Grantham who was a Lieutenant in the 5th Battalion with Ralph. Walter enlisted on 17th August 1914 and was injured several times before returning home after the war.

. . . ps

Adelaide never remarried, and died in Melbourne on 26th September 1935