A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Corporal Robert Livingstone Conning Black
Born: 1893 – Ascot Vale, Killed in action 9 August 1918 – near Herleville (Lihons), France
Enlisted: 9 February 1916 aged 22
Served: Western Front
Thomas Montgomery and Margaret Black and their sons were amongst the pioneers of the orchard industry in Pakenham Upper.
While most of his brothers became orchardists, Robert went to Melbourne University to study civil engineering. He had passed his first year examinations when he enlisted in February 1916, aged 22.
Robert initially served as a scout, the duties of which included reconnaissance missions into no man’s land. He sustained gunshot wounds to the face and arms on 23 May 1918. After being hospitalised in France, Robert rejoined his unit on 31 July, just days before all five Australian Divisions on the Western Front participated in a massive British operation against German positions, which came at a terrible cost: 238 casualties (including 58 dead) out of 805 men. Amongst those killed was Robert, who fell near Herleville.
“His loss was typical of the deadly swathe that swept through the AIF during the Great War, robbing Australia of its very finest and best, and inflicting a terrible social cost on Australian Society,” one historian wrote of his fate. News of Robert’s death reached Pakenham Upper on the day his younger brother Douglas (“Bruce”) was to be farewelled before leaving for the Army.
This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com