No.236 Private Ernest Porter
Ernest Porter was born around 1890 at Hamilton, Victoria, almost 300kms due west of Melbourne. He enlisted very early after war was declared on 20 August 1914. His occupation is listed as a blacksmith and he was living in Synnott Street, Werribee with a cousin, Mrs J. Hallinan.
He had also served for three years with a militia unit, presumably in his home town of Hamilton, and had been discharged when he left the district to move to Werribee.
Private Ernest Porter became part of B Company, 6th Infantry Battalion. In fact, he would have been one of its foundation members given that the 6th was one of the first battalions formed in Australia just a week or so after the outbreak of the war.
Two months later, Private Porter and his colleagues found themselves aboard a transport ship, HMAT Hororata, heading west via the Australian Bight. They docked briefly in Albany, Western Australia before sailing as a single convoy to Egypt – much to the consternation of many who thought their destination would have been the mother country, and then on to the war on the Western Front.
There followed a period of intensive training before the men of the 6th Battalion found themselves as part of the second wave at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The battalion suffered heavily in the Dardanelles, losing almost a third of its strength during the assault on Krithia in May and then again taking a battering at Lone Pine in August.
After evacuation, the battalion returned to Egypt, where it was brought back up to strength and re-equipped; it landed in France in March 1916. By July, the battalion was in the thick of the action as the allies had launched its Somme offensive on 1 July.
At Pozieres, the 6th Battalion lost 102 men killed, but the cost to Australia overall was massive. The 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions suffered almost 16,000 casualties in barely three weeks of fighting.
Following Pozieres, the 6th Battalion spent much of 1916 in Belgium before returning to the Somme during the bitterly cold winter of 1916-17. In 1917, they fought at the Second Battle of Bullecourt in France in May and then the Battle of Menin Road in Belgium in September. During 1918, the battalion helped to hold the German advance in March and April and participated in the Allies' 100-day offensive from their base near Villers-Bretonneux that began in August.
By the end of the war, the 6th Infantry Battalion had suffered more than 3,000 casualties – 1,066 were killed or died of their wounds, 2017 were wounded.
Private Ernest Porter's war had taken a different term. He had landed at Gallipoli before being evacuated to Malta with defective vision in July 1915. By September, he was in England receiving treatment first at Lewisham and then at Dartford. He returned to his unit in Alexandria in January 1916. By September, he was back in England and back in hospital at Weymouth with pleurisy.
He sailed back to Australia in February 1917 and received a medical discharge in May of that year.
Although it would appear that Ernest Porter was living in Werribee in Synnott Street on his return to Melbourne in 1917, we have been unable to uncover the course of his life after this period.
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Lest we forget
NAA:2455 PORTER ERNEST
6th Infantry Battalion history
Australian War Memorial