Photo Gallery



Wesley Frank WHITFIELD

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Capt 16 Mar 1879 36y2m 5 May 1915 25 Sep 1918 KA 2

WESLEY FRANK WHITFIELD  (1879 - 1918)          


Family background

Wesley Frank Whitfield was born on 16 March, 1879 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. In 1911, at the time of the Census of England and Wales, Wesley was 32 years of age and living in North Birmingham with his father, Frank, and sister, Ethel. His occupation was listed as a Buyer and Storekeeper in the Telephone Engineering Industry.

Wesley Whitfield applied for a Commission in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the 31st March, 1915. He had previously served in the 5th Regiment of the Imperial Yeomanry for almost two years followed by two years in the 1st Warwickshire Volunteer Garrison Artillery in the UK. At the time of his application for a commission, his postal address was in Brisbane, c/- Mr J. S. Badger, Northam, Simpson’s Road, Paddington.

On the 22 April 1915, Lieutenant Whitfield married Mabel May Love of Armidale, New South Wales at the Brisbane residence of J. S. Badger Esq, Paddington. Rev. John Robb a Minister at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church conducted the ceremony.

Commission in the AIF

On the 26 July 1915, he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant and posted to the 11th Light Horse Regiment. In the Australian Imperial Force Nominal Roll he is listed as 2nd Lieutenant in “A” Squadron, 4th Light Horse Brigade, 11th Light Horse Regiment. He was 36 years of age and his occupation was listed as an Electrical Engineer. His Squadron embarked at Brisbane on HMAT A7 Medic on 2 June, 1915.

The Honour Board on which Lieutenant W. F. Whitfield’s name appears was unveiled on Sunday, 10 October, 1915 at the 11am Service at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ann Street, Lieutenant Whitfield was transferred to the 2nd Light Horse Regiment on 31 August 1915. On 5 December 1915 he was admitted to hospital with jaundice, then transferred to the Royal Naval Hospital in Malta, then to Villa Dragonera and later from Malta to Alexandria.    He rejoined the squadron at Heliopolis on 22 February, 1916 and later served at Cairo, Serapeum and Tel el Fare.

In April, 1916 he was transferred to Tel el Kebir, Egypt where the 1st Australian Imperial Force had a training centre for reinforcements and later marched into Moascar. He transferred to the 3rd Light Horse Regiment at Ferdan and was seconded to the training squadron in August 1916 as an instructor until November 1917 when he marched in the Australian Mounted Division of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF).    He was commissioned as Captain in August 1918.

The Battle of Semakh

Captain Whitfield was part of the famous 24-25 September 1918 “Battle of Semakh”.  Semakh*, a little village standing on the southern edge of the Sea of Galilee was held by German and Turkish troops and a critical point in controlling further enemy movements in Palestine.  Commander of the Desert Mounted Corps, Lieut.-General Sir Harry Chauvel sent the 4th Light Horse Brigade under Brig. General William Grant to seize Samakh.

Marching by moonlight with one regiment and part of another, Grant and his leading troops were heavily fired upon with rifles and machine-guns at short range. Grant of the 4th Light Horse Brigade then gave the order to Major Costello (one of the 11th Regiment squadron commanders) to “Form line and charge the guns!”.

The men drew their swords as they moved into line and a second squadron under Major Loynes was galloping hard in the darkness for the German machine-guns.   These were speedily overrun, but firing had also opened from the railway buildings about a mile away. Riding hard, the Australians closed swiftly on the position but further machine-gun fire became effective, dividing the forces.

Heavy fighting continued throughout the night and the men were forced to dismount.    An ensuing fire fight developed at revolver range for more than an hour but Australian machine-gunners made it impossible for the enemy to fire. At dawn, two squadrons rushed the enemy concealed in the building. The garrison out-numbered the Australians by two to one and, in addition to their position, had machine guns and an ample store of hand-grenades.

In the early morning of 25 September, 1918 Captain Whitfield and his men rushed from their cover, battered in the doors of the main station building and entered one by one with fixed bayonets.

Sadly, in the skirmish Captain Whitfield, Captain H. J. Gee and Lieutenant F. G. Farlow were killed. Eleven other men of the 11th Light Horse Regiment were also killed that day and the fighting around the railway station and other buildings lasted for an hour. By 5:30am Semakh had been taken. In total, the Australians suffered 78 casualties (including those above) and nearly half their horses had been hit.

On the 26 September Captain Wesley Frank Whitfield , aged 39, was buried at Semakh Military Cemetery overlooking the Sea of Galilee (see photo in gallery) and his memorial is at the Haifa War Cemetery, Haifa, Israel.

Captain Whitfield was survived by his wife, Mabel and a son, Alan.

In 2012, a re-enactment of the Battle at Semakh was held at Emu Gully and was recorded and published by Chad Munro on 5 March 2013 - view.     It was described as "A typical Western Front type battle was re-enacted at the Emu Gully Air and Land Show in 2012. This video is focussed mainly on the Light Horse involvement in this display."

*Also spelt Samakh though reported in the AIF records as Semakh.

Select Bibliography
• Australian War Memorial AIF archived records (Captain Wesley Frank Whitfield) and photographs - P01474.002,
• The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre
• Ayres, Jonathan. Flikr.  
• NLA, Trove Digitised newspapers 
• Munro, Chad - - The Western Front Emu Gully Air and Land 2012.
• State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library

Researched and written by Miriam King, April 2014 ©



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