Lance Corporal Hubert Harry Styles Street MM, 57th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force, killed in action 05 March 1918, age 31.
Hubert Harry Styles Street, known as Harry, was born in 1887. Harry’s father was Charles Edward Street, who was born in Wilton, near Salisbury, in about 1855. His mother, Laura Judith, nee Trow, was Charles’ second wife, after he was widowed in 1883.
The 1891 census shows the family living in Coxstalls, with a domestic servant, Jane Ealey. Harry’s father was a grocer’s assistant. The 1901 census shows that Harry’s parents and two younger sisters had moved into the vicinity of Weston’s grocers on the High Street (now the Ganges). Harry’s father is listed as a grocer’s clerk. Curiously Harry was recorded as a visitor staying a couple of doors away from them, with William Ray, a grocer’s assistant. Harry was 13 and was working as a plumber’s boy. Harry’s older half brother Tom is absent from the 1901 census. In 1905 Tom was living in Brighton. That year he married Miriam Sterry. By 1911 they had emigrated to Okato, New Plymouth, New Zealand, where Tom worked as a saddler. Tom is listed in 1917 on the 2nd Division Reserve Rolls. Tom and Miriam remained in New Zealand for the rest of their lives.
By 1911 Harry’s family were living at 155 High Street, now a tile shop. The house was owned by Henry Weston from 156 High Street (now Touchdown House) next door, confirming the family’s link with Weston’s grocers. Harry, now 24, was listed as a house decorator, and was evidently self employed and doing quite well, as he was recorded as an employer. Three of Harry’s four sisters were also working: his half sister Florence Louise was a dressmaker, Judith Ellen was a telephone operator, and Clarice Emma was a milliner’s apprentice. The youngest, Vera Alice, was still at school. Harry’s widowed grandmother Emma Matilda Trow, was living with them, and they had a boarder, Stanislaus Sutton, a brewer’s clerk from St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex.
Both the Herald in April 1918, and the 1918 electoral register, give 155 High Street as the address for the Street family. Charles, Laura, and Harry’s sister Vera, were living at 58 New Road in 1939. [Kelly’s Directory of 1915 (which is notoriously unreliable) lists Charles Edward Street, a commercial traveller, at Nore Marsh. It is not certain whether this is Harry’s father, but I have only found one Charles Edward Street in Wootton Bassett.]
In about 1912 Harry emigrated to Victoria, Australia. He was working as a painter in 1914, in the 1915, 1916, and 1917 electoral rolls he was listed as a house decorator, living at Claremont, Laburnum Street, Brighton, Victoria. Harry attested in Melbourne on June 28th 1916, at the age of 29 years. In his attestation records he initially stated that he had no fixed address but this was later corrected to give a lodging address, care of E Silversmith, 13 Longmore, St Kilda, a suburb of Melbourne. This was probably Edgar William Silversmith. He was a decorator, so likely to have been a colleague of Harry’s. He was 5 feet 8 and a half inches tall, of pale complexion with blue eyes and black hair. He was a Presbyterian. He had a scar on his nose and a distinctive mole on the back of his neck. He also suffered from hayfever.
Harry joined the 57th Battalion of the Australian Infantry Force Service (2736). Half the Battalion were Gallipoli veterans from the 5th Battalion, and the other half, fresh recruits from Australia like Harry. They embarked from Melbourne on the Nestor on 2nd October 1916 and during the voyage Harry was appointed V O Corporal (V O probably stands for Volunteer Operations). He arrived in Plymouth and marched in to Hurdcott on the 16th of November. As part of the 15th Training Battalion he immediately reverted to the rank of Private but on that same day he was promoted to Acting Corporal. The copy of Harry’s medical report at Hurdcott list some ailments which he reported, but these are undated. On one occasion he complained of weakness. On another he stated that he had trench fever. Finally he complained of slight deafness, although apparently he seemed quite well. In December 1916 he was absent without leave for a whole week and as a result he was demoted back to the ranks and lost eight days’ pay.
On December 30th 1916 he moved out to France, sailing from Folkestone on the SS Clementine and marching into Etaples on the 31st. From there he joined the 57th Battalion in the field. On 29th March 1917 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. Harry was awarded the British Military Medal (Anzac Corps Routine Order) for bravery in the field, in Rouen, on April 12th 1917. A letter written by his father confirms that the medal was for action at Bullecourt, which is about 5 miles from Beaumetz. The award was Gazetted in London on 25th May 1917. The citation in the Australian Commonwealth Gazette No 174 on 11th October 1917 reads:
At BEAUMETZ on the morning 24th March 1917 No 2726 Private H H S STREET showed great coolness and courage in the face of the enemy. He was in charge of a Lewis gun with a Sentry Group and when the enemy attacked he kept the gun firing, inflicting great loss on the enemy. Later, when the enemy brought fire to bear on the post and attempted to surround it by crawling, Private Street again brought his gun into action, and regardless of the heavy fire, frustrated the enemy efforts and kept him back until support fire from the rear was secured. His coolness and good work at this period were of the highest order and without doubt saved the post.
A citation for Brigadier General James Campbell Stewart, nicknamed commander “Whiz Bang”, gives more detail of events:
This officer was in command of the outposts of the 5th Division Advanced Guard from 22nd March 1917 to 26th March 1917. On night 23-24 March the enemy attacked Beaumetz with strong forces under the cover of a heavy bombardment. After a stubborn fight the enemy who were specially selected and trained for the operation was driven out with losses in killed alone more than double the total number of our casualties. The success of the operation was largely due to the organisation of the outpost line by Lieutenant Colonel Stewart and his skilful handling of the supporting companies. During the night of 24-25 March 1917 Lieutenant Colonel Stewart organised an attack by the 57th Battalion a strong point held by the enemy 600 yards from out line north of Beaumetz. The post was captured and held against a subsequent bombing counter-attack. Its possession gives our troops a most valuable post for observing hostile movements.
From May to July 1917 Harry attended the Anzac Corps School which conducted advanced training for the troops in France. After training Harry returned to his Battalion, but he had only been back for a month when he contracted bronchitis. After ten days of coughing, with fever during the last three days, he was taken by ambulance train to Etaples on August 2nd and was transferred to England four days later on board the Kalyan. After a few days in the 1st London General Hospital he was transferred to Mile End Military Hospital on August 10th with nasal catarrh. On August 20th he was transferred again to Harefield 1st Auxiliary Hospital. He was finally released on August 28th 1917 and was given furlough. Perhaps he visited Wootton Bassett during these precious few days of leave.
On 8th September 1917 Harry reported back to Codford training camp. He joined the Overseas Training Brigade on October 1st 1917. On 2nd January 1918, Harry made a new will in which he left everything to his father. He lodged the will with his father and informed the proper authorities. The following day, January 3rd 1918, Harry left for France via Southampton. He arrived in Le Havre on January 4th and marched out to join his unit on the 7th, rejoining his Battalion in Belgium on the 9th January.
Harry went missing in action on 5th March 1918 and it was confirmed on the 15th March that he had died in the field, age 31. He was buried in Plot 3 Row B Grave 8 at La Plus Douve Farm Cemetery near Wulverghem, Hainaut, Belgium, one and a half miles west of Messines. (He is incorrectly listed on the CWGC War Graves Report as 51st Battalion).
Harry was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His estate was administered by the Office of the Curator of Estates of Deceased Persons in Melbourne, but two years later his father was still struggling to obtain his son’s estate from them. In desperation he wrote a letter to Major T Henley, an old Wootton Bassett resident in Australia, who had been similarly bereaved, and who might help him. Charles said that he had received some personal effects from the Kit Store in Fulham, however, all Harry’s military kit had been destroyed by shell fire, including his pay book. Harry’s house, presumably Claremont, had sold for £931, subject to a mortgage of £300, and there were other effects outstanding. Harry’s memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his father in England in 1922.