Most of the congregation know that the Rev. R. B. Bates served with the A.I.F. at Gallipoli and in France during the Great War. It has been the privilege of a few to hear a little of his bravery and, as the story of those years helps towards a deeper understanding of his fine character, it has been decided that that story has a very real place in this history even though it has not actually to do with All Saints'.
Lieut-Sergeant Robert R. Bates enlisted in the A.I.F. at Melbourne 19/8/1914. Embarked for active service 21/10/1914. Returned to Australia 1/8/1920. Discharged from the A.I.F. at Melbourne 9/10/1920.
Copy of an extract from the London Gazette of 27th. October, 1916, relating to the conspicuous services rendered by No. 375 Corporal R. B. Bates, 7th Battalion, A.I.F., and of an extract from the London Gazette of 8th December, 1916, both promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 19th April, 1917.
Awarded the Military Medal
His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the undermentioned non-commissioned officer:
No. 375 Corporal ROBERT BARTLETT BATES.
For his gallantry and devotion to duty at Lone Pine, Anzac, on 8/9th August, 1915. Corporal (then Private) Bates was on the left of the 7th Battalion position at Lone Pine with B. Coy., 7th Battalion. The enemy was heavily bombing the position all night. The stretcher-bearers were kept busy evacuating the wounded and Private Bates had. in consequence to do practically all the work of bringing the wounded under cover from the firing line and rendering first aid.
He carried out this work repeatedly and fearlessly under very heavy bombing.
During the enemy's counter attack on the morning of the 9th August, 1915, Private Bates continued the same work while the attack lasted.
His first aid work was also of very high order. Private Bates was previously recommended for the D.C.M. for his work at Lone Pine but no award has been made.
On many other occasions his conduct in the performance of his duty under fire has been conspicuous.
Awarded Bar to Military Medal
The under mentioned non-commissioned officer has been awarded a bar to his Military Medal:
No. 375 Corporal ROBERT BARTLETT BATES.
At Pozieres, France, on 21st August, 1916, Corporal Bates of the A.M.C. attached to the 7th Battalion showed conspicuous bravery during the fighting around Pozieres. By his calmness and coolness under very heavy fire he encouraged his Stretcher-bearers and others. He has shown excellent work with the Battalion from the time of its formation and has never missed a day from it. During the day of the 21st of August, he, under very heavy fire, went out into No Man's Land and read the burial service over a fallen comrade.
In the book of the 7th Battalion (Arthur Dean and Erie W. Gutteridge) it says: "With the Doe was a small staff of the 2nd Field Ambulance, who assisted him in ministering to the sick on sick parade and treating the wounded in line. "Bobbie" Bates, who was wounded while with us, was a splendid sample of the men they were. They were fiendishly fond of chlorinating our water supply--a process which the said was necessary from a health point of view, "but imparted a beastly flavour."
Dr. E. W. Gutteridge himself writes: "He was in my medical detail in the 7th Battalion, I understand that he was the unofficial doctor to the battalion and treated all their minor ills. He was a great worker and a very fine man and my most useful assistant."
The following is Dr. Lyttle's description of his bravery at Pozieres.
From the "Coo-ee Contingent" By Galilee.
(This story is true to the last letter, as the R.M.O. told it to me, and I believe that Bates did get his Cross; but he lost his leg when the Doe had his arm put out of action. They were standing together at the door of their dressing station, when a shell blew them, and it, up).
I've pretty well given up belief in miracles, but this war has revived a lot of ghosts, and among them the ghost of a belief that perhaps miracles are amongst the things that happen, even in an artillery duel.
When we went into action, I was securely placed behind a ruined farm house, but some Germans must have seen the Red Cross flag, for a shell sent the ruins in five thousand different directions, and I found myself dressing wounded in a moving sea of sand-that's all I could call it.
Down on the Somme the artillery is like nothing else ton earth. Imagine a terrific burst of thunder multiplied by a thousand, continued indefinitely, and you will still not get the slightest idea of the noise that makes a human being feel like a dried leaf caught in a gale. All the stretcher bearers worked well; they mostly do; there is a certain percentage of cowards in every army, and they nearly all get to the Regimental Medical Officer during an engagement, so I know what I'm talking about when I get on the subject of courage. I have treated sobbing officers for shell-shock, I have dragged cowed men out of shell-craters, and I have dug out the man who is trying to bury himself in the nearest dug-out; and those boys of mine don't belong to any of those crowds. All the same, they didn't go prancing over No Man's Land when the Boches were blazing like hell in their terror of a new attack.
We had fought at Pozieres for twenty-four hours, and 'the boys from every part of Australia had formed up, marched out, doubled and gone to death like the men they were; and now it was the cold, grey dawn of a new day, and from every crater and hole came the groans of the dying, and all between were huddled masses of khaki that never moved, and over it all the sun began to rise.
Little Bates had worked with a will. A queer little fellow and a Quaker who would not fight, but he carried in man after man, and tended to them, and there were a few chaps who said he prayed over them; I don't know, I hadn't time to straighten my back to see. All I know is, that as Christ walked the Sea of Galilee, so Bates walked No Man's Land in the light of that early sun over the hell made by man.
In one hand he held a bundle of wooden crosses and in the other a flask. Over each wounded or dying man he bent and put the flask to his lips; on the breasts of the dead he put a cross, and when he could he made a hollow in the sand and covered the corpse and in every case--not much less than a hundred all told--he said a prayer and committed to its God the soul that was taking its flight.
Through all that hellish artillery fire, those screaming shells and bursting shrapnel, he moved, a silent Christ. The chaplain came and stood by me, and his fingers shook as he pointed to him.
"I would give all that I care for in this world to have, the courage of that man. I have served my God for forty years with all my heart and mind, and a boy comes out of a Quaker home and shames my faith."
I don't know whether Bobbie Bates got the V.C., I reported fully about him, but somehow it does not seem too matter very much for such a man. He can afford to wait for the judgement of the King of kings.