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BIRCH, Lewis St Leger (1888-1945)

BIRCH, Lewis St Leger (1888-1945)

Lewis Birch was born in Tarrington on 6 November 1888, the son of Dr Lewis Birch and Mary Ellen nee Cary.

There is no enrolment record held at Geelong College for Lewis Birch nor does he a[ear in any award lists. L Birch is however, noted in the College magazine, Pegasus on several occasions. L Birch is listed in Pegasus (p37) of May 1915 as being one of a group who attended an Old Public School Boys' Dinner at the Grand Continental Hotel in Cairo, Egypt on 25 February, 1915. The name, L Birch later appears (erroneously) in that same Pegasus issue on a list of Old Collegians listed as having 'given all' for their country.

He enlisted 12 September 1914, and embarked as 540 Private Lewis Birch with 4 Light Horse Regiment (October 1914) on HMAT Wiltshire on 19 October 1914 for Egypt and Gallipoli. He was promoted 2nd Lieutenant on 13 October 1917, and Lieutenant on 5 March 1918. He served throughout the war in Palestine, where he was wounded in action three times, the last time with a gunshot wound to the right shoulder at the Es Salt raid on 4 May 1918.

Neil Smith in 'Men of Beersheba' wrote of his work in Palestine on 6 November 1917:
'While the other squadrons remained in their positions on Hill 550, B Squadron carried out a northern reconnaissance in the direction of Abu Hareira on 6 November, 1917. Lt Payte was in command of the screen which was formed under Lieutenants Birch and Stewart from A and B Troops. Immediately on leaving the hill the squadron came under a heavy shell fire and on nearing Wadi Imlieh intense rifle fire which was continued until after the squadron had taken cover in the wadi.'

Smith then wrote of some of the men from the unit:
'To consider some of the ‘chargers’ little mentioned thus far we find Les Amiet, a clerk from Winchelsea, Lewis Birch an original C Squadron member and farmer from Minyip, who was subsequently commissioned, and Ewan Cameron from Toorak, who was also commissioned.'

Birch embarked for Australia four days after the signing of the Armistice, on HMT Port Darwin on 15 November 1918.

Lewis Birch died on 25 June 1945.

His brother, Pte Rupert Oliver Birch served in the Great War, enlisting on 4 May 1915, and embarked with Alick Allardyce (1888-1962) in the 8th Light Horse for Egypt on HMAT A6 Clan McCorquodale on 13 November 1915.

Sources: Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck pp139-40 (citing National Archives Neil Smith, Men of Beersheba: A History of the 4th Light Horse Regiment 1914-1918; National Archives); Pegasus May 1915 p34, p37
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