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Peter Gallagher


20th Battalion


Peter Gallagher - Information

Peter was born in Menangle on the 4th of January 1887 to John and Bridget Gallagher. When the war commenced, Peter was living with his sister, Mary, at Elleray on Church St in Ashfield. Peter had always been a good student, after his schooling, he completed various public service exams. He studied Railway and Water Board Systems, and underwent State Public Service Clerical (shorthand), and Higher Grade Public Service exams. He ended up finding employment as a shorthand reporter for the Supreme Court. As news of the sacrifice of the boys at Gallipoli spread throughout Australia, Peter decided to serve his country. At the age of 29, he applied for a Commission in the AIF on the 15th of September 1915. It was granted, and he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant on the 11th of December 1915. He was subsequently allotted to the 10th Reinforcements, 20th Battalion, and departed Sydney Harbour on the 11th of March 1916 onboard the HMAT Orsova.

Peter disembarked in mid April in Suez, Egypt for training. On the 1st of June, he was promoted to Lieutenant and was then transported to England to the 5th Training Battalion before proceeding to France. Shortly after he met his Battalion during the Battle of Pozières, Peter was wounded in action. He was caught in an artillery blast on the 5th of August, sending shell fragments into his left hand, arm and left side. He was admitted to hospital in Rouen, and in mid August, was evacuated to England to the 3rd London General Hospital in Wandsworth. At this time, his arm became severely infected developing gas gangrene. Fighting on the Western Front occurred on mostly pastoral land. Consequently, the soil was full of nitrates, bacteria and faeces from farm animals. Unfortunately, wounds therefore became easily infected. Gas gangrene was very horrible, bacteria would erode tissue surrounding the open wound, spreading rapidly and resulting in blood poisoning. Gas gangrene cases got their name from the putrid gas frothing from wounds, as bacteria broke down and eroded tissue. Doctors were perplexed, there was little to nothing they could do to contain or fight the infection. At the time, there was no such thing as antibiotics. Unfortunately, Peter’s left arm became so badly contaminated, it was amputated in England.

Peter underwent a painful and lengthy recovery, following the amputation of his arm. However, his strength and devotion to duty was something to be admired. Remarkably, he wanted to continue his military service. In January 1917, he was placed on light duties, and by March, was attached for duty with AIF Headquarters in London. In September, he was completing duty in the War Records Section, using his many clerical skills. In February 1918, Peter was granted a short visit in France to see his mates. No doubt, he was a most inspiring figure to those still serving at the front. However, the army believed that Peter had sacrificed enough, and he was sent back to Australia on the 12th of May 1918. His appointment in the AIF was terminated in October. Peter reunited with his family, and tried to return to his former life.