Frederick James Darke (MM)
Serial No. 2580
Frederick James Darke (MM) - Information
Frederick James was born in Campbelltown in 1897 to James and Pauline Darke. When war broke out, Fred was working as a driller and living with his family in Granville. When Fred was just 18 years old, he enlisted in Liverpool on the 8th of June 1915. He was posted as a Private to the 13th Battalion, and left for war, departing Sydney on the 9th of August 1915 aboard the HMAT Runic.
Fred arrived in Egypt and joined his Battalion at Gallipoli in September. However, on the 27th of October, Fred was taken to hospital with tonsillitis. He rejoined his unit in December on the Island of Lemnos, before returning to Egypt when the campaign was called off. In June 1916, his unit left Alexandria for the trenches on the Western Front. Fred proved himself to be a capable and effective soldier. Fighting at Pozières during the Somme Offensive, he was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 19th of August. He was then promoted Temporary Corporal on the 3rd of September, Corporal on the 16th November and by February 1917 was Temporary Sergeant. At the time, the 13th Battalion had suffered through a most bitter winter and were fighting on snow covered ground at Guedecourt. Following the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, the 13th Battalion were ordered to chase them, facing unyielding barbed wire, concrete blockhouses and enfilading gunfire at Bullecourt. In June 1917, Fred's unit was fighting in Belgium during the Battle of Messines. Then on the 8th of August during the Third Battle of Ypres, he was cut down receiving multiple gun shot wounds. Fred was evacuated to hospital in England, as he was hit in the right thigh, side, buttock and foot, and in the left thigh and foot. Fred was treated for his many wounds at Southern General Hospital in Birmingham and recuperated at Sutton Veny. On the 23rd of January 1918, he left Southampton to return to his Battalion in France. When he reached his unit, he resumed the duties of Temporary Sergeant, and was placed on the Military Super List for officer training. Fred was then recommended for an award twice by the Commander of the 4th Australian Division. The first recommendation was for his actions in Vaire Wood, east of Corbie on the 4th of July 1918. Fred was attached to a platoon of raw American soldiers who were working with his company. They were taking part in an attack against the German lines when the American officer was wounded shortly after leaving the jump-off point. Fred then took command of the American platoon. These soldiers were scared and inexperienced, but were successfully led by Fred to their final objective. He kept them together, ensuring they did not overrun their cover barrage enabling successful attacks on enemy posts. Fred was a very effective leader, and this quality led to a second recommendation for his actions a few months later on the 18th of September 1918. At the time, Fred was taking part in another advance against the Germans at Le Verguier. His unit attacked through thick haze and were confronted by formidable barricades of barbed wire. This caused grave confusion and many troops lost their direction, becoming scattered and entangled in the barbed wire. Fred saw how disorganised the men were becoming, and went about grouping them back into formation. He even found men whom were lost from other units, and began organising them into a platoon. He then led this group to their objective bringing them in line with the other units that were ahead of them.
High Command heard about these events and Fred's superb leadership skills. As a result, he was detached to the 4th Army Infantry School at the beginning of October 1918. He was then selected to go to England and attend an Infantry Cadet Course. On his way to England, Fred was awarded the Military Medal on the 30th of October 1918 for actions performed under fire. After the war ended, Fred continued his training and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on the 6th of January 1919. Later that month, he proceeded back to France to take command of remaining troops. On the 6th of April 1919, he was promoted to Lieutenant. After a very eventful tour of duty, Fred left Devonport for Australia on the 2nd of June 1919 aboard the Beltana.