Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Garratt, Charles Clement (1892–1918)

by Bill Gammage

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Charles Clement Garratt (1892-1918), soldier and labourer, was born on 21 July 1892 at Islington, London, son of Charles Edward Garratt, book publisher's clerk, and his wife Maggie Constance, née Brown. Clem Garratt was tall, fair, strong-looking, brave, honest and forthright. He was also reserved and secretive, and left for posterity virtually no record of his pre-war days. In 1915 he was educated, single, a labourer with the Co-operative Mineral Waters & Brewing Co., boarding in Church Terrace, Walkerville, Adelaide, and he claimed to have served four years in the British Army. He probably reached Australia in 1913 and possibly some grievance had led him to migrate, for during the war he would not speak of his past and he visited his mother and sister in London only rarely.

Garratt joined the 5th Reinforcements of the 16th Battalion at Oaklands, South Australia, on 11 January 1915, and held the temporary ranks of corporal from 16 January and sergeant from 6 March. He left Australia on 20 April, and joined his unit at Anzac on 13 July, reverting to private on that date. Five days later he was evacuated with a slight wound in the hand, but returned on 13 November, and for the rest of his life remained with 'D' Company, 16th Battalion. He served at Anzac until the evacuation and was promoted corporal on 24 December. On 7 June 1916 his unit reached France where he took part in the fierce fighting before Mouquet Farm in August and on 11 April 1917, as a sergeant, in the 1st battle of Bullecourt. In this murderous trench battle almost 80 per cent of his brigade were casualties; in the German trenches Garratt organized a party which repulsed a counter-attack, then captured and held 300 yards (275 m) of trench, and finally, when ordered to withdraw, made a skilful retreat. He won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the award second to the Victoria Cross for non-officers.

On 8 June Garratt was promoted company quartermaster sergeant and on 26 September, at Polygon Wood, led a charge under heavy fire to destroy a pillbox, capturing its guns and killing their crews. During the consolidation he 'displayed the greatest coolness and disregard of danger under intense fire'. For this he won a Bar to his D.C.M., one of only about thirty Australians so decorated in the war. His comrades especially admired the consistency of his leadership and daring: on at least three other occasions he might easily have won decorations, and become a well-known war hero. He was gazetted second lieutenant on 1 May 1918, served with his battalion throughout the remainder of its front-line service, and on 9 November 1918 died of Spanish influenza. He was buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension in France. His passing went unremarked in Australia: his estate was settled by the Public Trustee, and the Walkerville honour-roll does not include his name. Yet his mates did not forget, and sixty-one years after his death his name brought an old comrade to tears. 'He was a magnificent soldier', he said. He was indeed.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Longmore, The Old Sixteenth (Perth, 1929)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 15 June, 5 Feb 1918
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 7 Dec 1918
  • war diary and records, 16th Battalion, A.I.F. (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Bill Gammage, 'Garratt, Charles Clement (1892–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/garratt-charles-clement-6281/text10829, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 21 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2018

Life Summary [details]

Birth

21 July 1892
London, Middlesex, England

Death

9 November 1918

Cultural Heritage
Occupation