Lieutenant Horace Joseph Rex

Killed in action Passchendaele 7 October 1917

Lt H J Rex


Photographs - Australian 56th Battalion Officers and Other Ranks, Goulburn
  - Menin Gate Memorial plaque
  - Death Medallion (British Commonwealth Memorial Plaque)
Letters - Durban exploits, 1916
  - Larkhill machine gun training, 1917
  - French Village life, 1917
  - Intimate Observations on the Battle of Polygon Wood, 1917
  - Diary of 1st Machine Gun Corps, early October, 1917

Horace Joseph Rex

Following the onset of the Great War, the young New South Welshman, Horrie Rex started training with the 43rd Infantry. His diligence to duty was rewarded in August, 1915 when he attained the rank of lieutenant.

Fearful of receiving the dreaded white feather through the post and itching to do his part, Horrie volunteered at Liverpool, NSW on July 25th 1916 to serve his King and Country. He was immediately appointed 2nd lieutenant. In August 1916, he was attached to the 56th Battalion at its Goulburn Depot Camp. Special duties saw him at Cootamundra and Duntroon. Horrie embarked at Sydney for England with the 17th Reinforcements, 24th Infantry Battalion per HMAT "Argyllshire" on October 31st 1916. He was the ship's adjutant. The troop ships sailed via Dakar and Durban, South Africa.

After disembarking at Devonport on January 10th 1917, Horrie completed further training at Larkhill and on Salisbury Plains. He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in late February 1917. France welcomed him upon her deadly shores on April 19th. He was then assigned to the 1st Machine Gun Company on May 11th 1917. In late May, he was billeted behind the trenches in a small French village where he related the experience in a letter home. Horrie's promotion to lieutenant was confirmed on August 18th 1917. Life expectancy in the machine gun corps at the Front Line in Flanders was around three weeks.

Relief behind the lines was spent at the Chateau Segard south west of Ieper. Horrie would always ride his horse "Worrigal" over to see his brother, Fred who was attached to the Australian 9th Field Ambulance. He became engaged to one of the nurses there. Horrie wrote numerous letters home to his family. His last letter home told of the Battle of Polygon Wood in late September, 1917.

During the shelling of the Molenaarelsthoek front line trenches on October 7th 1917, Horrie tried to rescue his injured sergeant. Being a man of 6'4" in height and weighing about 16 stone, these machine gun post trenches were never high enough. Horrie was shot by a German sniper. Further shellfire was directed onto the post. His body was never recovered.

He is commemorated on Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper (Ypres), Belgium.

After the war, this sergeant visited the Rex family in Braidwood and related the details of Horrie's dreadful death.

Lieutenant Horace Joseph Rex was born on 12 December 1895 at Wattle Grove, Braidwood, New South Wales. He was the third of seven children born to James and Ann (nee Canvin) Rex. After his education at St Bede's Catholic School, Horrie became the local hospital's secretary.

Ironically, Horrie's fighting pedigree was first class on two fronts:

John Mernagh

Horrie Rex was the second great grandson of John Mernagh who had fought the British throughout the Wicklow Hills of Ireland during the 1798 Irish Rebellion and its aftermath. Fearing John's continuing presence and possible mustering of around 25000 pikes, the British Government urgently despatched 30000 troops to Ireland. After two months, John was eventually captured in mid February 1804. John was self-banished to New South Wales for Life rather than face trial for sedition and murder, at the hands of the Irish authorities, arriving in February 1806 on board the "Tellicherry".

Patrick J H Farrell

Horrie's great uncle was Brigadier General Dr. Patrick Joseph Hoshie Farrell. Patrick was born in Braidwood, New South Wales in mid March, 1863. He was the eleventh of thirteen children born to Thomas and Ellen (nee Connell) Farrell. Unfortunately, Braidwood's Bushranging episodes of the 1860s had caused thirteen people to lose their lives. Due to the intimate connection with the bushrangers, his Irish parents chose Patrick to rid the the family of this stigma. Money was raised and Patrick was sent overseas to be educated. He eventually obtained medical degrees from Edinburgh and Vienna.

Patrick saw considerable war service first in Mexico, then in the Boxer War in China. He commanded the first company of US troops that landed in the Philippine Islands on June 30th 1898. He received a citation for meritorious service under fire of the enemy. He was awarded the Silver Star medal and Medal of Valor for gallantry in action. He later became the Surgeon General of the United States Army of the Philippines.

Between 1910-16, he was Professor of Military Medical Hygiene. When the USA entered the Great War, General Farrell went with his Division to France. He was in command of the Meusse-Argonne section of all hospitals and medical work of the American Army. At the end of the war, he was the Commanding Officer of the Advance Sector Hospitals in France.

How unusual for an Australian to be fighting in the American Expedition Force during WW1. His son, Brigadier Great Singer Farrell was on General Macarthur's staff during the Pacific campaigns of WW2. He visited Braidwood, while on leave, during the war.

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