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Thurston, Frederick Arthur (1893–1918)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Frederick Arthur Thurston (1893-1918), clerk and soldier, was born on 24 September 1893 at Summer Hill, Sydney, second child of James Thurston, monumental mason, and his wife Sophia, née Ashworth, both English born. Employed as a clerk, Thurston enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 10 April 1916 and was posted as a reinforcement to the 33rd Battalion. He arrived in England on 11 October and joined his battalion, part of the newly formed 3rd Division. The 33rd reached France on 22 November and entered the line in the quiet sector at Chappelle d'Armentières. For the next few months it took part in raids on German positions and maintained its defences against determined counter-attacks. The trenches in the Armentières area were long established, but winter service was still harsh.

In June 1917 the battalion fought in the battle of Messines, Belgium. Thurston won the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery at Messines Ridge on 19 June during operations which cost his battalion 11 officers and 357 men. Soon after the battle he was appointed temporary corporal and on 4 July this rank was confirmed. On the 28th he was wounded in action near Messines and sent to hospital. He rejoined his unit, then at Campagne Lez Boulonnais, on 8 November and took part in the winter operations on the Somme, France. On 4-5 March 1918 he was a member of a party which raided trenches near Warneton. Thurston had charge of a Lewis-gun covering the deepest point of penetration of the German trench system. The enemy counter-attacked fiercely during the night; with carefully and coolly directed Lewis-gun fire, supported by rifle grenades and rifle fire, Thurston broke up the German attack, thus ensuring the safety of the raiding Australians. He was awarded a Bar to his M.M. for his gallantry during this operation.

A second Bar followed on 30 March during the counter-attack by the 33rd Battalion on the Marcelcave-Aubercourt line. Although badly wounded in the thigh, Thurston led his men forward through heavy machine-gun and rifle fire, refusing to be evacuated until his company had consolidated on recaptured ground. He resumed duty on 16 May and in July-August attended a course at an officer cadet unit. On 30 August 1918 he was killed in operations near Mont St Quentin. He was unmarried.

Thurston was a cheerful and optimistic leader whose steadfast qualities were an inspiration to his mates. In a few months of active campaigning he had been thrice decorated (with a rare combination of medals) and twice wounded. Death intervened to deny him the advancement in rank which his achievements would have warranted.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1917-18, (Syd, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • war diary, 33rd Battalion, AIF (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Thurston, Frederick Arthur (1893–1918)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 April 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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