No.542 Trooper Archibald Hubert Moreton
Archibald Hubert Moreton was born in Wandsworth, London in February 1894. His father, Frederick Moreton, was a medical practitioner. It’s not known when they arrived in Australia, but the family - including Archibald’s eldest brother Frederick Ewart Moreton, the youngest, Cecil Knight Moreton, and their mother Mary - settled in Geelong.
According to De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, the young Archibald Moreton studied at Geelong College and Dookie Agricultural College and was pursuing a career in farming when war broke out in 1914. He was described as keen on sport and was regarded as one of the best shots in the district.
He enlisted on 11 January 1915 at Geelong. He applied and qualified to join the 8th Light Horse Regiment. Archibald and his mates from C Squadron were soon aboard HMAT Star of Victoria bound for Egypt as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. A short period of training followed and then on 16 May 1915, the 8th Light Horse joined ship at Alexandria sailing at 4.00am and heading for Gallipoli. There were 23 officers and 453 'other ranks' – but all their horses had been left behind. Their superiors had decided that the Light Horse would fight as infantry, given that the terrain was totally unsuitable for horses.
The unit war diary says that they landed at Kabe Tepe – known to most as Anzac Cove – at 11.00am on 21 May 1915. After digging in for the night, they were sent forward to bolster the front line. For much of June, the 8th Light Horse was in the trenches at Walker’s Ridge, about 6.5 kilometres from Anzac. Late in the month, the battalion faced a heavy assault from the Turks. The war diary says they were able to repel the attack and inflicted heavy casualties on the Turks – 250 killed and a similar number wounded. In July, the battalion spent time back at Anzac before returning to Walker’s Ridge at the end of the month. Gallipoli had been a virtual stalemate since the landings on April 25.
As August dawned, the decision was taken to make a series of attacks to capture the high ground in the Sari Bair ranges. Further north, the British were in position to land further troops at Suvla Bay. On the morning of 7 August 1915, the 8th Light Horse were shivering in the trenches in a position known as the Nek. As its name would suggest, it was a narrow front that only allowed 150 men to go forward at the one time. An artillery barrage proceeded the assault….but stopped seven minutes short of the scheduled time at 4.23am. By the time the 8th Light Horse went over the top, the Turks were back in their positions and ready for the attack. For some astonishing reason, the soldiers were told to advance with unloaded rifles…not that they had time to fight back. Diarist, journalist and official Australian historian for WWI, Charles Bean, called the Turkish fire as the Light Horse left their trenches and charged the enemy positions as "one continuous roaring tempest". Accounts of the day say that most of the soldiers were killed within a metre of their own trenches and the first line was wiped out in 30 seconds.
The second line, also comprising soldiers of the 8th Light Horse faced a similar fate. A third assault by members of the 10th Light Horse was also repelled. In just two and a half minutes a whole regiment had been destroyed…and with it the young life of 542 Trooper Archibald Hubert Moreton, aged just 21. The 8th Light Horse Regiment suffered 234 casualties from a total of 300…154 were killed. The 10th Light Horse lost 138 men from its total complement of 300…80 were killed. The attack…and the sacrifice…is depicted in Peter Weir’s film 'Gallipoli' released in 1981.
Trooper Moreton is remembered at Ari Burnu Cemetery (row A, Grave 10) near Anzac Cove.
Medals and Entitlements:
[received by his family]
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
- Memorial scroll and Plaque
Lest we forget
Service record citation: NAA: B2455, MORETON, ARCHIBALD HUBERT