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Shawnee County Casualties in WWI
Stories of Valor and Tragedy on the Battlefield

D Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Australian Infantry Brigade
(attached to the) 1st Australian Division
Died from Wounds 4 October 1917

Panel 29, Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
Harry Swendson

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SWENDSON, Harry Augustus (serving as Harry DAVENPORT) Lt Australian Army born 31 Mar 1880 Hawthorne, Atchison Co., KS. Son of Sarah Alice (HAUSER) and Severt A. SWENDSON (both deceased) of Hawthorne, Atchison Co., Kansas and brother of Samuel A. SWENDSON of Topeka, KS.

Harry joined the famous New South Wales "Co-ee" Recruitment March (a grand plan to establish three great route marches, from the north, west and south rural areas of New South Wales to converge on Sydney with hundreds of fresh WWI volunteer enlistments) in his adopted town of Wongarbon and enlisted in the Australian Army at Orange, New South Wales on Oct 24, 1915.

Swendson registered for service under an assumed name, Harry DAVENPORT and, after extensive military training, sailed from Sydney in November 1916 on the SS "Port Nicholson" en route to England where his group of 22nd Reinforcements received further training. Harry was assigned as a 2nd Lt. to 'D' Company of the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, Australian Forces in France, in June 1917.

After participating in the Battalion's various pre-operation training assignments in Belgium during the months of July - Sept 1917 and receiving his promotion to a full Lieutenant in July, Harry was a key member of the "Fighting 4th" and 'D' Co. as it went into the action to capture the Broodseinde Ridge on Oct 4, one of the most successful offensive actions of the ill-conceived 3rd Ypres/Passchendaele Campaign of 1917.

The ANZAC forces, as part of the British Army, reached their objectives early in the morning along the Broodseinde Ridge after a 0600 hr start behind a massive creeping barrage. Incredibly the enemy had planned to make a massive assault at precisely the same time on the same day and German Forces were caught in No Man's Land between the two lines of trenches when they were struck by the opening salvo from the British Artillery. The carnage was horrific.

'D' Company had just reached their objective and were digging in along the enemy's 2nd and 3rd trench lines when SWENDSON was mortally wounded, in the right chest or neck, by a sniper, or by shellfire shrapnel, at about 8:30 am on 4 October, 1917. He was dressed temporarily in the field and the stretcher bearers started for the dressing station but he died before they reached it. He was buried along the Broodseinde Ridge but, in the intensive enemy shelling over the next several months, his grave marker was lost and the body never identified.

Graves around Broodseinde Ridge, Belgium
Battlefield graves, Broodseinde Ridge, 6 November 1917. [AWM E01163]

In the immediate area around Broodseinde Ridge there are 2 major Commonwealth cemeteries where there are a large number of "unknowns" buried. The first is the Buttes New British Cemetery in Polygon Wood where there are 2,108 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated, 1,677 of these unidentified. This cemetery is about 1.5 miles (2.3 Km's) from the Ridge.

The second and largest British WWI cemetery in Europe is Tyne Cot where there are now 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated, 8,369 of these unidentified, plus a wall in the cemetery with the names of another 34,927 soldiers. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site for this cemetery:

'Tyne Cot' or 'Tyne Cottage' was the name given by the Northumberland Fusiliers to a barn which stood near the level crossing on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde road. The barn, which had become the centre of five or six German blockhouses, or pill-boxes, was captured by the 3rd Australian Division on 4 October 1917, in the advance on Passchendaele. One of these pill-boxes was unusually large and was used as an advanced dressing station after its capture...... Tyne Cot Cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds..."

Tyne Cot Cemetery is only about 2 miles (3 km's) from Broodseinde Ridge.

It is entirely possible that SWENDSON's body rests, unidentified, in one of these two CWGC cemeteries, near the battlefields of Passchendaele.

Muddy conditions at Broodseinde Ridge
Scarcely anything was left at Remus Wood, except mud and shattered tree stumps, after the battle for Broodseinde Ridge. The German pillbox in the central background, alongside a well, withstood the shells. To the left of the photograph is a sunken hedge full of German dead; whilst the duckboard track shown in the bottom left hand corner, leads to the crater in Broodseinde Ridge. Photograph taken 4 October 1917. [AWM E01049]

Harry SWENDSON is included in the Shawnee County Casualties study as his brother, who was working in the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Hospital Association, Medical Dept. in Topeka, had to prove the identity of his brother, who served in the Australian Army under the assumed name Harry DAVENPORT, was one and the same Harry SWENDSON from Hawthorne, Kansas..
The decision of the Judge of the Probate Court in Atchison was handed down on May 29, 1918.

Harry Swendson's name is located in the Commemorative Area on Panel 42 at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and on the Soldiers' Memorial at Wongarbon Primary School, New South Wales, Australia. His name is also engraved on Panel 29 of the Menin Gate at Ypres , Belgium and on the Atchison County WWI Memorial Honor Roll, Atchison, Kansas.

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