The experience of the Fuljames family in the Great War is a remarkable one. It is partly the story of two brothers, who enlisted together, trained together, sailed together and almost fought together on the Western Front. One of the brothers did not return. Other members of the family were also fully involved in the struggle; theirs is a separate story, as indicated below.
Frederick Clarence Fuljames and his older brother Reginald Emile both enlisted in Brisbane on 19 October 1915. They were posted to the 15th Battalion as reinforcements (16th Rfts); the battalion, at that moment, was serving on Gallipoli. They were issued consecutive service numbers – 5271 and 5272. They both gave their sister Mrs Florence C. H. Pointer, of Prospect Street, Toowoomba, as their NOK. Their parents are noted by the CWGC as Godfrey and Ada Fuljames, who had died in 1908 and 1905 respectively. Reg stated his age accurately as 21, but Fred put his up from 16 to 18. Fred was 5’10” tall and weighed 154 pounds. He stated he was a labourer and had a dark complexion, light brown eyes and brown hair. He had attended the Toowoomba Grammar School. The brothers were both of the Church of England religion.
The young men’s careers in the army were tied closely. After training at Enoggera they embarked in the A16 Star of Victoria at Sydney on 31 March 1916 headed for Egypt. Following a brief stay at Tel el Kebir they moved on to England, where they were posted to the 4th Division Cycling Company. While still with this unit both brothers were involved in some minor indiscretions. Many of the depot troops in England in mid-1916 knew what awaited them when their turn came to go to the front. There were many men among them who had recovered from wounds as well as others enjoying some leave. Their stories made for grim reflections in those about to go. This produced, quite understandably, a desire to see something of life in the mother-country before the inevitable came and the lottery of battle determined their fates. On one occasion the brothers were AWL together for two days, and forfeited seven days’ pay for their escapade.
In September 1916 Reg and Fred were finally split up, and began separate journeys to the front. First to go was Reg, who transferred to the 31st Battalion and left England on 24 October 1916. Less than a fortnight later he was wounded in action with a bullet wound to the right hand. He was evacuated to England from Havre on 6 November.
Fred left England a few weeks after his brother had been wounded. His thoughts must have been a jumble of excitement and anxiety. This was what he had signed up for – the test of battle. He was to join the 9th Battalion, the Queensland battalion of the 1st Division, that had a record stretching back to the Landing at ANZAC Cove. He “proceeded overseas, France” on 19 December 1916. Fred’s battlefield experience lasted two months. On 25 February 1917 he received multiple shrapnel wounds in fighting east of Amiens. He was evacuated to a CCS (Casualty Clearing Station), where he died on 27 February. He was buried in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension (grave VI.A.40).
Reg Fuljames was in a military hospital in England when Fred died. From their enlistment date to this heavy loss Reg had shared most of the experience with his younger brother. Reg did not return to the front. He was assessed as needing more than six months to recover and consequently sent home to Australia on a hospital ship in July 1917. He was discharged in 1918 before the Armistice. After the war Reg received the symbols of sacrifice awarded to Fred. Interestingly, Reg also supplied information to the AWM for the post-war Roll of Honour in which he stated that Fred had been 17 years and 5 months old when he died, the age engraved on his headstone. It is well known that many recruits “put their age up” to go. Since the boys’ parents were deceased, the permission forms to serve overseas were signed by Florence. It would have been hard for her to refuse. Florence’s husband Frank Pointer also enlisted, to die at Ypres. See Pointer F.M. on the Mothers’ Memorial.
Toowoomba Grammar School Archive Records state that he started at the school on 5th October 1910 and left on 12th December 1913. The school magazine of November 1917 states that he was at the school from 1910 to 1914. He was on the land when he enlisted in 1915. Died of wounds received in France in February 1917. Age, 19 years.
National Archives of Australia Military Records
AWM AIF unit war diaries 23/9/4 9th Infantry Brigade Feb 1917