Search for families of local WWI diggers killed in Belgium

Messines Ridge Cemetery, Flanders.
Messines Ridge Cemetery, Flanders.

A FEW years ago the Historical Society was contacted by a gentleman living in Belgium who was interested in Pte Herbert Will Harley who was killed in action on July 3, 1917 and is buried at Messines Ridge Cemetery.

The gentleman was curious as his birthday was on July 3 and he wanted to know more about this man who had come so far to die in his country, Belgium. Over the years contact has been made with members of the Harley family and an annual pilgrimage is made to the graveside by the gentleman and some of his friends.

Recently we were able to give him the names of several other local soldiers who are also buried at Messines Ridge and he is anxious now to contact any interested family members.

In addition to Pte Harley, the soldiers buried there are Pte Frederick William Abbott, killed in action on June 24, 1917; Pte Henry Fredrick Leon Howard Deards, killed in action onAugust 18, 1917; and brothers Pte George Alfred and William Josiah Platt, both killed in action on July 8, 1917.

Already one family, the Platts, has been contacted and it is believed that a meeting will be organised in 2015 at the cemetery.

Frederick Abbott (no. 5132) was aged 22 when he enlisted in 1915. He was a resident of Alstonville, a motor-driver, and an Anglican. He was born in 1893, the eldest child of William and Louisa F. Abbott (nee Robb) of Alstonville.

Originally he was attached to the 41st Infantry Battalion but was later transferred to the 15th Battalion. Frederick had five brothers but they were all born too late to enlist. There were six sisters.

Little is known of Henry Fredrick Leon Howard Deards (no. 4289). He was possibly born at Dungog about 1890 and his parents may have been Henry and Henrietta Deards (nee Edwards).

He had apparently taken up a selection at Uki prior to the First World War. This was an area being opened up at that time and quite a few young men from the Richmond went there and settled. His occupation was given as farmer and he was an Anglican.

Although he is said to be a resident of Brisbane he was married in 1914 and his wife's address is given as Uki. Quite a few of our soldiers are listed as Brisbane residents solely because that was where they enlisted. His wife had been Amy M. McLean and there were two children, a boy born in 1915 and a girl born in 1916 after he left Australia. His wife was later married again to Arthur F. Bates. Like Frederick Abbott, Henry was attached to the 15th Battalion when he was killed. Previously he was with the 31st Battalion.

The Platt brothers, George Alfred (no. 500) and William Josiah (no. 498) were the sons of Alfred J. and Sarah E. Platt of Convent St, Casino. They were single and Anglican.

George was a cab driver while William was a painter. George was 21 when they enlisted and William was 22. Both were attached to the 41st Infantry Battalion. They were killed on the same day and apparently they are buried at Messines Ridge in adjoining graves.

If anyone is related to one of these soldiers, or has any information relating to their families we would be interested in hearing from you.

The information will be passed on to the contact in Belgium. In addition, if there were any other local soldiers known to have been buried at Messines Ridge we would like to hear about them.

* You can contact the Richmond River Historical Society on 02 6621 9993 or at

Topics:  history world war 1

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