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NEEDHAM, Alfred Benjamin (1876-1916) +

NEEDHAM, Alfred Benjamin (1876-1916)

Alfred Benjamin Needham was born on 15 October, 1876 in Melbourne, the son of Frederick William Needham and Margaret Leishman nee McFarlane, of Larnooi, Ethel St, Malvern. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School until 1888, and then Geelong College. He saw active service in the South African War as a Bombardier in the 10th Mountain Battery, where, in the engagement at Nicholson’s Nek, he was shot through the shoulder and taken prisoner.

After that war he went to England, then to the United States and Canada, where he settled down. He joined the Garrison Artillery at Victoria, British Columbia, and was in the 98th Canadian Siege Brigade (92987) which went to France early in the Great War. Corporal Needham was killed by a shell in the trenches, aged 40, at Longueval, France on 27 October 1916, while asleep in his dug-out at 1 am, after a spell in the firing line, and buried at Longueval Road Cemetery - Grave G. 7.

His younger brother, John Valentine Needham, 24 Battalion, served on Gallipoli and in France. Captain John Valentine Needham was Mentioned in Despatches ‘for consistently good work at Pozieres from 27 July to 7 August 1916, and 20-28 August, on several occasions he controlled working parties (twice in No Man’s Land) under very heavy shelling and machine gun fire’ . He had enlisted as a private in the Fifth Victorian (Mounted Rifles) Contingent for the war in South Africa, and saw service in the Transvaal, Orange Free State and Cape Colony, he may have been present in the action at Wilmansrust on 12 June when a number of men were killed or wounded. After returning from South Africa in 1902, J V Needham joined the Victorian Scottish Regiment, before enlisting in the AIF in November 1914. Due to his previous military experience, he was granted a commission, and having attended officers’ training school, sailed as one of the original lieutenants of C Company, 24 Battalion, in May 1915. After service at Gallipoli, Needham transferred to 2 Pioneer Battalion in France, and in April 1916 he was promoted to captain. In August of the same year, he was wounded and recommended for the Military Cross for his gallantry at Pozieres, but this award was later awarded as a Mention in Despatches. His health broke down during the following winter, and it was July 1917 before he rejoined his unit from the Pioneer Training Battalion in England. In October, he was again wounded, but remained on duty. J V Needham returned to Australia in April 1919, but never recovered his health, and died in Melbourne in 1922. Since his death was considered to have been directly caused by his war service, his widow, Mrs Annie Cecilia Needham, received the memorial plaque issued to the next of kin of those who gave their lives during the war.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. p79 (citing J Beacham Kiddle OBE, War Services Old Melburnians 1914-1918 (1923); Australian War Memorial; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Photo War Services Old Melburnians 1914-1918.) Last updated 11 September, 2014.

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