LEST WE FORGET... EASTS RUGBY HEROES



Within 5 years of Australia’s 16 – 5 victory over the All Blacks in Christchurch, New Zealand in September 1913, six of those involved in this historic victory would be dead. It was the first win by an Australian side on New Zealand soil. Three of those would be Easts players whose names appear on the Wallabies Honour Board at the club. Of the three, Gallipoli took Fred Thompson and Harold George while Clarence “Dos” Wallach never returned from the Western Front.  Harold George was an Easts mainstay, holding the club record for most first-grade games at the time, as well as being a selector when he appeared in the NSW and Australian teams as a front rower. Described by the newspaper of the time "The Arrow" as always playing "himself out to the last ounce". The highlight of tireless George’s eight test appearances was being part of Australia’s first win over NZ in 1910.  George was an absolute hero on the beaches of Gallipoli, under heavy fire he had carried a fellow soldier back to the trenches but as they were lifting the stretcher into the trench George was shot right through the body, the bullet touching the spine and paralysing his legs and the lower part of the body. He was examined at the dressing station and taken to the hospital ship. He died the following morning. Another newspaper of the day, The Referee, provided graphic first-hand reports of the battlefield. From a fellow soldier it was reported "Harold George earned the Victoria Cross nearly every day. He met his death in a way that any man would feel proud to die. About four hours after they took him away we heard of his death and let me say this. We all knew of his pluck on the rugby field. Well, multiply that one hundred times, and you would not get within cooee of the grit Harold George showed in that dash for safety." The horror did not cease just 19 days later Fred Thompson was also dead. It was reported, "Then came a great rush of the Turks and Fred stood up there, potting them off one after another. We called him to come down, but his only reply was “it is the only way to stop them." "For a time he seemed to bear a charmed life, for the bullets were landing all around him." Thompson was shot through the head, but lived just long enough to say to us all "Goodbye, I am sent for. Good luck to you all."  "It was a touching scene and we were all cut up for he was so brave and strong and knew what he was doing right up to the second he succumbed. As a matter of fact, he shook hands with the soldier next to him as he fell and uttered his last sentence." "Clarrie" Wallach was born in 1889 at Bondi, New South Wales. His parents were Henry and Mary Wallach. Wallach was one of four brothers who served in the First World War. The other serving Wallach brothers were 297 Private Arthur Wallach, 1657 Private Neville Wallach and 435 Private Rupert Wallach. Wallach listed his profession as a clerk on enlistment. He an outstanding player for Easts Rugby, appearing five times for Australia between 1913 and 1914. He enlisted on 7th May 1915 and joined the 19th Infantry Battalion. He departed Melbourne aboard HMAT Ceramic on 25th June of the same year. Wallach fought at Gallipoli and later in France, quickly rising through the ranks, becoming a lieutenant by August 1916. Most significantly, he was awarded the Military Cross for his role in the battle of Pozières, during which he took command of his company after the loss of their commanding officer and successfully held their frontline trench under heavy bombardment. In early April 1918, having become a captain, Wallach was fatally wounded during a German offensive around the Somme. He didn’t die immediately however, his left leg had to be amputated while he was suffering from gas gangrene resulting from a compound fracture. Transported to the American General Hospital in Etretat, his temperature soared to 40 degrees Celsius. In a bid to save his right leg he underwent a blood transfusion. This didn’t help and so his other leg was amputated. Within days, Clarrie was dead and was buried at Etretat Churchyard Extension, France. Following a funeral attended by countless British and Australian officers, hospital patients and many others who knew of Wallach’s heroic deeds. In memory of Clarrie Wallach and his heroism Easts Rugby present the Clarrie Wallach Medal each year to the first grade player who shows the most courage in the match which is played closest to Anzac Day. As a sad postscript the Wallach family agony did not end there. Nine days after Clarrie had died his younger brother Neville, another capable Easts player was killed nearby. A year earlier Neville had also received the Military Cross. Sadly Wallach’s parents never received the effects of either Clarrie or Neville, which included two pieces of Military Cross ribbon, as the ship bringing them back to Australia was torpedoed.

WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM Acknowledgement Excerpts taken from THE WALLABIES AT WAR by Greg Growden

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