Hilton John Chesham
Serial No. 2342
Hilton John Chesham - Information
The Chesham family originally lived in Richmond where Hilton was born c1890. Hilton’s father, John, then relocated the family to Elizabeth St in Camden. Here, Hilton worked as a labourer and was residing with the family when the war began. His younger brother, Bert, joined the AIF on the 6th of July 1915, Hilton then followed suit signing up on the 18th of July 1915 in Liverpool, aged 24. He was assigned to the 18th Battalion as a Private, and departed Sydney on the HMAT Themistocles on the 5th of October 1915 for war service.
Hilton arrived in Egypt, where he soon joined his 18th Battalion after they returned from Gallipoli. He was taken on strength to A Company at Tel-el-Kebir in early January 1916. In March, his unit was shipped out to the Western Front in France. After being introduced into trench warfare in a quiet section of the lines, known as The Nursery, the 18th Battalion were moved south for operations during the Somme Offensive. As part of the I ANZAC Corps, they took part in attacks towards the village of Pozières in late July. The attempts to break through to the German lines were devastating to the unit causing many casualties. Afterwards, the Battalion needed rest, and were moved back north and before returning to the Somme Valley in October. Unfortunately, at the time, the worst winter of the war set in. The temperature dropped dramatically, and heavy rain and snowfall, turned the trenches into muddy pools. As a result, Hilton began suffering with trench foot, as his feet and legs were consistently immersed in mud logged trenches and fields. He was taken away for treatment by the 5th Field Ambulance. In the new year, Hilton returned to the frontlines and on the 4th of March, was promoted to Lance Corporal to complete the establishment. However, at the time, Hilton was not feeling well and soon reported sick. He was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station on the 22nd of March, diagnosed with trench fever. Two days later, he was admitted to the 5th General Hospital in Rouen. The following month, Hilton was enjoying some convalescence, before rejoining his unit in mid May. The 18th Battalion then participated in operations during the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Once again stuck in the mud, Hilton and his mates scrambled forth towards the Germans at Menin Road and Poelcappelle. In March 1918, the Germans launched their Spring Offensive, in an effort to win the war before the bulk of American troops reached the Western Front. The campaign was successful and the Germans broke through the lines capturing much territory. The Allies frantically tried to hold on, but were forced to withdraw. The 18th helped to halt the advance and started to hit back with counter-attacks. Hilton was then killed in action on the 14th of May 1918 near Corbie. He was buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe in France.
This was horrible news for the Cheshams to hear. It would have been a great shock, especially with another son still serving at the front. The loss of Hilton troubled the family for quite some time. In an issue of the Camden News newspaper on Thursday the 15th of May 1924, the family wrote a tribute to Hilton in memorandum. It included the verse:
If we had clasped his dying hand,
And heard his last farewell,
It would not have been so hard to part
With the one we loved so well.