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JUST WEST OF
MONT ST QUENTIN

Patrick Madden always tried to look out for his younger brother, Christopher; they were mates, not just brothers. In 1916 Christopher enlisted in the 19th Reinforcements of the 19th Battalion of the AIF and went off to serve on the Western Front. Patrick later decided that he should be nearer to his brother so he also enlisted and followed him overseas to Europe.

On the morning of 31st August 1918 the 5th Brigade attacked the hill top village of Mont St Quentin. The 19th Battalion was to protect the right flank by occupying two trenches that ran down the south-eastern slopes. The men had to fight uphill, across open-ground, through enemy held trenches and wire entanglements. All the while they were subject to enfilading machine-gun and artillery fire from the German positions.

After quickly taking and occupying the trenches just below the village the men prepared themselves to face intense efforts by the Germans to retake the slopes. They suffered many casualties, but held on grimly for the rest of that day and night. The next day men of the 6th Brigade came up to the line, pressed home the attack and took Mont St Quentin.
Six months after enlisting Patrick finally caught up with his brother. Sadly it was when he located the shell hole, just west of Mont St Quentin, into which Christopher was buried, long with seven of his mates who had fallen in that hillside battle.

Patrick arrived back home to the family in 1920 with a heavy heart.

The author of the book, Peter Madden, describes below his personal journey in writing the book.

Peter, Delma, Chris, Robert, Brian, Colleen, Marsha, Leonie

THE BOOK LAUNCH

The book was launched at the Mt Erin Convent, Wagga Wagga on 31 August 2008. It was the 90th anniversary of Christopher’s death on the battlefield.

The Mt Erin Convent overlooking Wagga has strong historical links with both Irish Catholics and local Madden families. It was established in 1874 following a request from the local community to the Catholic Church in Ireland to send religious women to educate the “women and girls” of the district. The nuns who came were Presentation Sisters from Cork and some still live there. The children of local Madden families have been boarders and day pupils at the Mt Erin Convent school and later Mt Erin Girls' High School [recently combined with St Michael's Boys' High and renamed Kildare Catholic College] since the 1950s. This is not surprising since Patrick Madden's wife, Kathleen Mahedy, herself boarded at Mt Erin around 1911/1912.

About fifty people crowded excitedly into the meeting rooms under the old chapel. This was a gathering of many far flung cousins some of whom hadn't seen one another for fifty years. But like all good family gatherings, it didn't take long for the place to buzz with delighted conversations as third cousins twice or more removed caught up with each other. Years disappeared as old bonds were quickly re-established and new ones formed.

The youngest generation enthusiastically studied the scroll which detailed the Madden Family Tree and their faces lit up with delight when they found the branch which held their names on it. The feeling of ‘belonging’ to a family is indeed a precious gift.

Everyone was so engrossed that the MC of the day, Ms Elizabeth Madden [the author's sister] had to appeal several times for attention before she could begin the formal presentation.

The sons and daughters of Patrick Madden were of course given pride of place and were invited to offer their own memories and recollections and to commemorate the war service and personal sacrifice of their father and uncle. As a personal tribute, the book's publisher, Mrs Colleen Parker of Parker Pattison Publishing and also a Madden cousin, had arranged for a special mass to be celebrated at St Francis Church in Melbourne on this day. This church was where Patrick and Chris' grandfather, Patrick Denis Madden, was married in 1843 and from where he started a new family in the Australian colonies.

The book is available for purchase for A$25 plus postage (A$2.75 within Australia and A$8-12 overseas). Contact Chris Madden by or by post: 29 Drummond St, Lockhart. N.S.W. 2656. AUSTRALIA or phone: 61-2-69204224.

A PERSONAL JOURNEY

In 2002 I became interested in having a Family Honour Board made up for my grandfather, Patrick Madden, who had served in the Great War of 1914–1918. In order to ascertain the medals he was entitled to I had to obtain, from the National Archives of Australia, his Service Record.

Previously I had only been vaguely aware of Patrick’s World War I service and experience. On the wall of the dining room of Vaucluse, Lockhart, hung a portrait of him, along with my grandmother Kathleen, in an army uniform. It had always impressed me but I never gave it much afterthought, since I had never really known him personally—I was only two years old when he died. Over the years I had gleaned snippets of information, that he had been in the artillery, and that his brother had been killed in action, I remember once seeing the photograph of the gravesite, with Christopher’s name clearly visible upon the marker. He had also been to university somewhere in Britain; I once saw a picture of him in a graduating gown and mortarboard.

As well as Patrick’s Service Record I also obtained Christopher’s. These records contained the soldiers’ Attestation Papers, which lists the volunteer’s details upon enlistment, what is called a Casualty Form—Active Service, which records the movements of each soldier, many other official army records and any correspondence with the soldier, their family or other organisation. These records revealed much about their service but many questions were also raised. On Patrick’s Attestation Paper, for example, under Question 10 (Do you now belong to, or have you ever served in, His Majesty’s Army, the Marines, the Militia, the Militia Reserve, the Territorial Force, Royal Navy, or Colonial Forces? If so, state which, and if not now serving state cause of discharge) he indicates that he is still serving with the RAGA. These initials set me on the path of further research. I then found many avenues of information to follow and began to build up a detailed picture of their service and even their experience. The most enlightening discoveries came from consulting with my aunts who revealed that they had many surviving bits and pieces from that period. This included many photographs, postcards and some letters which it is apparent were lucky to have survived. My father, Christopher, recalls finding his father burning much of his memorabilia from the war.

I began to research and gather as many sources of records as I could. On the Australian War Memorial internet site I soon found that many photographs and other records were being electronically scanned and placed on its site for open use. Visiting the War Memorial itself, in Canberra, revealed that the War Diary of every unit that served in the war, as well as much other information, including individual soldiers’ personal material and papers, is available to the public for research. I began to collect as much information about the units that Patrick and Christopher served in as I could.

After around a year of research I began to write up the information into a narrative, to make it all more easily understandable. It was at this stage that I was invited around to Aunty Kath Stinson’s home to meet a cousin. Colleen Parker (née Madden) was visiting her to research some of the family tree, and to compare notes. Colleen turned out to be a book producer and specialised in family histories.

The narrative I was writing was still at an early stage so it wasn’t until later in the year that I revealed to her that I was doing such a thing. Colleen was very enthusiastic and began immediately to have the material I had so far, edited and shaped into book form for posterity.

Even as the editing and compilation was being carried out, I continued to discover new, and sometimes very enlightening, material. For example, in July of 2006 I was browsing the Australian War memorial website and encountered the records of the Red Cross Society’s Wounded and Missing Persons Bureau files. I presumed that Chris would not appear in this file, as it was known that he was killed in action, however upon searching his name a file did exist. Taken from men of his battalion, it included eyewitness accounts of his manner of death and his burial, the men even gave some insight to Chris’s character and physical description. This information has served to provide a poignant completion to the narrative of Christopher’s AIF story.