My great-uncle,  Anzac veteran Arthur Singleton, was admitted to a Tasmanian mental asylum in 1926.  He constantly spoke of being tormented by the voices of his dead mates on Gallipoli.  After enlisting in the 12th Battalion at the outbreak of WWI Arthur fought   at Lone Pine and in France. However, it was memories of the carnage  following  the dawn landing  at  Anzac Cove  that quite literally  drove him mad. It is a cliche, but oh so true that  he and his friends experienced a  ‘baptism of fire’ on The Peninsula.  No other action Arthur was involved in  had quite the same, terrible impact. His medical notes written  by asylum staff  two years after his first admittance are revealing;

14.2.28  At times noisy and restless. He lies in bed is very sullen & one can get little out of him. Hears voices.  Said; “I am being worried by the chaps on Gallipoli.”

And several weeks later;

21.3.28  Is at times restless and hears voices of soldiers.

Even when he was calmer and allowed outdoors he constantly marched imaginary troops around the ‘airing yard’.

For the relatives of men reported missing or wounded at Gallipoli  there was the anguish of waiting for further news. This was the case for the family of one of Arthur Singleton’s friends, John Quamby.  The men  had trained together at Pontville in southern Tasmania before boarding  the troopship  Geelong on October 20 1914.

John Quamby had not had an easy life before he enlisted. He was from a broken family and had spent time in a young offenders’ institution.  Fortunately  he  settled down after finding   employment  as  a miner when he was sixteen.

Private John Quamby

In  June 1915  Private Quamby’s name  appeared on a casualty list published in Australia. It was the only  news his family received.  For months they waited and worried.  Just before Christmas 1915 his mother wrote a touching letter to  army records office;

The letter from Private Quamby's mother which prompted the Red Cross to investigate his death.


Her letter prompted a  concerted effort by the Red Cross to find out what had happened to Private Quamby.  The Australian  branch of the organization had set up a Wounded and Missing Bureau, based in London.  It was staffed primarily by volunteers.

Red Cross Poster

In May 1916  a Miss  Deakin contacted the 12th Battalion’s  Lance-Corporal Keen on behalf of the Red Cross seeking information about John Quamby.  He responded;

‘My chum, Private Singleton, of the 12th Battalion , now’ with the 3rd Battalion, in training at Etaples, told me two days ago that Quamby had been killed at Anzac during the landing there about 25th April, 1015.  Private Singleton can give you full particulars…..

Arthur was duly contacted and had a tragic story for Miss Deakin;

Response to the Red Cross volunteer trying to determine the fate of John Quamby.

I have often thought  how painful it must been someone like Arthur to revisit that terrible day of carnage,  just as the  12th battalion  was about to participate in another dreadful  battle  at Pozieres.

The confusion of the dawn landing  at Anzac Cove was illustrated by the varying reports the Red Cross received during their investigation.  Stretcher bearer   Private Betts said he was a personal friend   of  Private Quamby and  saw him  shot  below the knee.  He said he carried him to safety, but subsequently  heard he had  died on a hospital ship.  Another  friend  reported that Quamby had been shot in the hand and evacuated to Egypt.  However, the tragic  account provided by Arthur Singleton and his mates was accepted as the correct version.

Finally, a death notice could be placed in the local paper, though  there was still some doubt surrounding the exact day he died.   Later  it was confirmed that John had not responded to the first muster on morning of the landing, and that he had  indeed died on April 25.

SingletonQuamby 004


His body was never located, but his name is recorded on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.  RIP  Private John Quamby.

Lone Pine Memorial where John Quamby's name is recorded.

Whenever the Red Cross  was successful in determining the fate of a missing soldier it provided at least some comfort and closure for loved ones at home. The enquiries relating to John Quamby’s fate at Anzac Cove must have been so painful for his mates, but necessary. I’m sure they were only too happy to help.

This article was posted on the Facebook group Tasmania – The Great War 1914 – 1918. One comment was from Private Quamby’s  great-niece. She said that he has a memorial tree in Soldier’s Walk, Hobart, and that his two brothers also served. Her understanding was that her great-uncle had been shot through the cheek.

UPDATE – Recently I discovered that the medals awarded to John in recognition of his service have been lost; a final, cruel twist. Let’s hope they can be recovered.



  1. Thank you for the article. What happened to Arthur Singleton?

  2. So very sad, Pauline. I know from my great-uncle’s diary that the 25th April – and the days following – were chaotic, with so many landing but being killed on the beach. As for the actions following, well… No wonder no one knew what had happened. Rather like Pozieres 1916 – and the Battle of the Menin Road a year later. Tragic for the men who died – and worse for their relatives, not knowing…

    • Pauline

      Yes Ann, I was still amazed that even Private Quamby’s closest mates got it so wrong. Since first posting the piece I have been contacted by his great-niece. Was so pleased that he has a memorial in Hobart.

  3. Another tragic story, no doubt one of many thousands like it. I am so glad you are recording their stories so they won’t be forgotten. Perhaps they could be formed into a book with a chapter for each person>

    • Pauline

      Well Christine, my great-uncle’s sad life led to my interest in these men. However, I already have two books in progress, so I think I might be in my grave before I can write another one.

      • Oh well, perhaps another of their descendants might take up the challenge.

        • Pauline

          I hope so. If I can spark some interest I will be satisfied.

  4. War is hell and it stays with you forever, the hell of WW1 would have been a nightmare and their tormented minds helped me deal with my demons as minuscule.

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