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GREGORY, Major Ernest Albert Edward (1882-1915) +

GREGORY, Major Ernest Albert Edward (1882-1915)

Major Gregory, soldier, was killed in action during World War I.

E A E Gregory (Football 1899)

E A E Gregory (Football 1899)

He was the son of Edward John Gregory and Mary Elizabeth nee Tonkin, of Murchison, and was educated as a boarder at Geelong College from 1898 to1899. At school he was an able athlete and in 1899 won First Prize in the Second Class in Gymnastics. He played in the 1st Football Team and was a member, in the bow position, of one of the four senior rowing crews who contested the Trial Fours that year. His two brothers Harold Eugene Gregory (1883-1892) and Clive Gregory (1898-1966) also attended the School. Both Harold and Ernest played in the School Tennis Tournament in 1899.

He joined the Victorian Mounted Rifles (VFR) straight from school and was, in 1901, commissioned as a lieutenant and later, Adjutant to 7th VMR1908-10, and in 1910, commissioned as Captain, and briefly acting as Officer in Charge 7th VMR 1912.

His father supplied a military biography for his Roll of Honour details: ‘In that year (1912) selected by Defence Department for military training in India and left Victoria in September 1912, and by way of Madras and Bombay proceeding to Meerat where he was attached to the 13th Hussars and at various other military camps was attached to the 18th, 19th and 21st Lancers, and also with the Bengal Native Cavalry, and visited Campbellpore, Peshawar, Khyber Pass, Amritzar, Lucknow. On returning to Victoria in 1913 he took up command of 7th VMR Regiment and on the outbreak of war in August 1914 immediately offered for service and was accepted for 4th Regiment Australian Light Horse, but had an accident and was not convalescent soon enough to take it up. In the following month September he offered again and was Senior Officer in charge of recruits for Light Horse at Broadmeadows for a month.’

E A E Gregory (War Service).

E A E Gregory (War Service).

At the outbreak of the Great War he joined the 8th Light Horse as a Captain, and in November 1914 was promoted to Major. He embarked for Egypt on HMAT A16 Star of Victoria on 25 February 1915. On 15 May of that year the Light Horse Regiments embarked for Gallipoli as infantry, and Major Gregory was field officer for embarkation at Alexandria and also for disembarkation at Gallipoli, and was complimented by the Brigade Major (Antill) on his work. After landing he was almost continuously in the trenches for five weeks at Walker's Ridge and was appointed second in command of the Regiment (8th) on 22 June. Gregory died, aged 33, at Russell's Top on Central Anzac on 27 June 1915, and was buried at Ari Burnu Cemetery, Anzac — Grave D.2.

An extract from The Argus newspaper reported the incident in which Gregory was killed: 'Early on the morning of June 27th the enemy opened a bombardment on the position (8th Light Horse on Walker’s Ridge), firing between 400 and 500 shells in less than two hours. The fire was concentrated upon a spot about 100 yards square and the trenches and parapets were pounded to pieces, many casualties resulting. There was a call for a stretcher near Major Gregory's post and he ventured from a comparatively safe position to assist in the work of attending to the wounded. As he was returning to his trench a six-inch shell burst a few yards distant, killing him instantly. That night he was buried by his comrades in the burial ground on the northern point of Anzac Cove and the simple burial service was attended by all the officers and men who could be spared from the trenches.‘

Old Geelong Collegian Light Horsemen, 1915.

Old Geelong Collegian Light Horsemen, 1915.

Ernest Harold Mack (1886-1916), an Old Collegian, and himself, later to be killed in Egypt in 1916, wrote from Gallipoli describing Gregory's funeral: ‘The enclosed letter of Major Gregory's is the last letter he wrote, as he was killed instantly by a piece of shell at five o'clock this morning. His death is a great loss to us all, as besides being a very capable officer, he was a favourite with every one...The stretcher-bearers to the grave were J D Mack, S Mack, D L Kelso, W D Oliver, C H Lyon and myself. Alongside the grave were the following Old Collegians — Dr F Beamish, C Dowling, J Broughton, C Sutherland, L Howsam, G Sandford and H Robertson...What makes the Major's death more keenly felt is the fact that he had lately been promoted to the position of second-in-command of our regiment.’

John Hamilton wrote of the funeral service in Goodbye Cobbers: ‘The Macks felt the death of Major Gregory most keenly. Only the night before the shelling Ernie had been talking to him about news of other Old Geelong Collegians who were serving, to relay in a letter he was writing home. Now Lance Corporal Ernie Mack was sent for, and put in charge of the burial party for Gregory and Crowl. They stood guard over the bodies during the day and passed the word around that there would be a funeral service that night. In the evening they carried the bodies down Walker's Ridge to the point by the sea at Ari Burnu. It was 8.30 pm, a time when the threat of snipers and random shelling was least likely. There was, wrote Ernie, a great muster of troopers who had been to school together at Geelong College and two old Melbourne Grammar School boys joined them as well by the graveside. These were the ties that bind. 'We three with another Collegian acted as coffin bearers', Ernie continued, in a letter to (his sister) Nell, 'very impressive funeral in the dark and the parson read the service with the aid of an electric torch' .

Today, Major Gregory and Captain Crowl still lie side by side, three rows from the sea in Ari Burnu Cemetery, just the way they were laid to rest by torchlight by their old schoolmates ninety years ago.

The iconic image of the Old Collegian members of the Australian Light Horse was taken in Egypt prior to embarkation for Gallipoli and was organised by Major Gregory who is at the centre of the Image. The photo was forwarded to the School shortly after his death. A second image taken the same day of the group dismounted is also held. Of the nineteen Collegians in the image only twelve were to survive the war.

From left to right they are:
Trooper John Dodds Mack; Trooper David Leslie Kelso; Corporal Charles Hugh Lyon KIA; Lance Corporal Ernest Harold Mack KIA; Sergeant Charles Murray Storrer KIA; Lieutenant George James Sandford; Major Horace Clement Hugh Robertson; Trooper Charles Ware Dowling; Lieutenant K enneth Allan McKenzie; Major Ernest Albert Edward Gregory KIA; Captain Francis Teulon Beamish; Trooper John Ware Dowling; Trooper Stanley Mack; Trooper Edward Percival Hendy KIA; Trooper Frank Lindsay Stodart; Trooper Henry William Purnell KIA; Signaller David Ellis; Sergeant Major Andrew Ernest Ralph Barnfather KIA; Corporal Geoffrey Parker Willan.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. pp 45-47 (citing Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Peter Burness, The Nek: The Tragic Charge of the Light Horse at Gallipoli; John Hamilton, Goodbye Cobber, God Bless You: The fatal charge of the Light Horse, Gallipoli, August 7th 1915; Photo Pegasus August 1915.
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