Ernest Lachlan Powter

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Ernest Lachlan Powter. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

POWTER, Ernest Lachlan

Service no: 4919 [1]

Place of birth: Orange, 9 March 1900

Address: 9 Rosedale Street, Petersham

Occupation: Junior clerk

Next of kin: Edith Powter (stepmother), 9 Rosedale Street, Petersham

Date of enlistment: 22 September 1915

Place of enlistment: Holsworthy

Age at enlistment: 18 [sic]

Fate: Attended camp in Liverpool February 1916. Embarked HMAT A15 Star of England, Sydney 8 March 1916. Joined 53rd Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt 20 April 1916. Disembarked Marseilles, France 28 June 1916. Died of wounds, 8th Australian Field Ambulance, France.

Date of death: 1 November 1916

Buried: Unknown

Ernest Lachlan Powter was born in Orange on 9 March 1900, the second son of Jabez Langley Powter and Catherine Laurie Powter. In September 1915 Ernest was 15 years old and working as a junior clerk, when, claiming to be 18, he enlisted. Ernest is the youngest known recruit from Orange to enlist in WWI. Indeed, a fellow soldier described Ernest as “just a slight slip of a boy, with rather a girlish face.”

Private Powter embarked from Sydney with the 15th Reinforcements aboard HMAT Star of England on 8 March 1916. He transferred to the 53rd Battalion in Egypt the following month, where he served as a stretcher bearer. In June Ernest proceeded to France, where he continued his work as a stretcher bearer.

On 1 November 1916 in the field near Flers, Ernest suffered a gunshot wound to the left leg. There are conflicting reports regarding his fate. According to one comrade he was shot behind the left knee, requiring amputation of his leg, and he died following the operation. Another report claimed: “The wound did not appear to be very bad. There was much talk about the Blighty touch.”

It appears that Ernest was admitted to the 8th Australian Field Ambulance Station, but an entry on his casualty form dated 1 January 1917 states: “no further report of the man”. It was not until 21 March 1917 that Ernest was reported as having died of wounds received in action. Ernest’s father and stepmother were not advised of his death until April 1917, and his final resting place is not known.

Ernest’s name appears on the Australian War Memorial’s Boy Soldiers of WWI Honour Roll, and he is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.

The following tribute appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 1917:

In loving memory of our dear son and brother, Private Ernest Powter, died of wounds in France, November 1 1916.

Inserted by his sorrowing father, stepmother, and only brother. Claude.

Ernie, how we pictured your safe returning,
And longed to clasp your loving hand.
The shock was great, the blow severe,
To part with one we loved so dear.
But we'll meet in a better land.

Ernest’s older brother Claude Jabez Powter also served in WWI.

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