LAIT Frederick Charles Print Version
Diggers Photo LAIT Frederick Charles
Service No. 2160
Other Ranks Private
Other Units 4th Pioneer Battallion
Town Eumundi
Adopted Yes
Date Enlisted 24 February 1916
Victory Medal victory-medal.jpg
British War Medal british-war-medal.jpg
Soldiers History Military

Frederick Charles (Fred) Lait enlisted on 24 February 1916, the same day as his brother Arthur Ernest Lait. On enlistment Fred was 21 years and 11 months; 5’11 ½”;
150 lbs; chest 35”-37”; complexion fair; eyes blue; hair light brown; single; occupation dairyman; next of kin his father, Richard Lait of Eumundi.

Soon after Fred and Arthur enlisted there had been an important new development for the Australian Armed Forces. On 10 March 1916 five Pioneer Battalions were formed, one assigned to each of the existing Divisions, to act as the divisions labour force. Their role was construction work in forward areas such as digging and repairing trenches, building dugouts, repairing and maintaining roads, bridges and railways, and moving munitions and stores. When necessary they put down their picks and shovels, took up their rifles and served as infantry.

So while in training in Australia the Lait brothers were allocated to the 3rd Reinforcements of the 4th Pioneer Battalion. They embarked 1 May 1916 on HMAT Clan Macgillivray from Brisbane. Although the pair’s younger brother, Ray, had enlisted some three months earlier, Fred and Arthur left Australia before him. The 3rd Reinforcements arrived in Suez on 13 June 1916 two days before Ray. Meeting up with his brothers no doubt encouraged Ray to seek a transfer from the Light Horse, and on 11 July 1916 he was transferred to the 3rd Reinforcements 4th Battalion.

On 3 April 1916 all three brothers sailed from Alexandria on the Franconia to Marseilles, and thence on the Monas Queen to Southampton, where they arrived on 21 August 1916.
They were immediately taken on strength of the Pioneer Training Battalion which had been formed two weeks earlier on 8 August at Fovant army camp. There they were to remain for six months during training. During that time Fred was penalised for a small AWL (absent without leave) offence.

On 28 February 1917 all three left the Pioneer Training Battalion from Folkestone for France on the S.S. Golden Eagle. They were taken on strength of the 4th Battalion ex 3rd Reinforcements on 7 March 1917.

In October/November 1917 Fred had two weeks leave from the field, but where he spent his leave isn’t known. In February 1918 Fred spent time in hospital with scabies but rejoined his unit after three weeks or so. In October 1918 Fred had two weeks leave in England. In January 1919 he was hospitalised and transferred to England to 3A General Hospital. He remained in England until it was time to return to Australia.

Fred and his brothers had emigrated from England in 1908, leaving hosts of relatives behind. His father Richard had had nine sisters; his mother Mary (Cloke) had had three brothers and four sisters. So there were likely lots of aunts and uncles and first cousins living in England while the Lait brothers were there. Whether any contact was made is unknown.

On 31 March 1919 Fred left England on the Khyber arriving in Australia on 18 May 1919. He was discharged on 15 July 1919.
He is commemorated locally in the Eumundi District Roll of Honour in the School of Arts in Memorial Avenue.

Medals – British War Medal, Victory Medal.

Personal

The Lait Family Background. Richard Lait and Mary Ann Cloke married in England in 1881 and by 1898 had nine children there - seven sons and two daughters. By 1908 when Richard and Mary emigrated to NSW, the two eldest sons had joined the British Navy where the second son had died. The reduced family lived in NSW for four years before moving in 1912 to Eumundi in Queensland, where Richard became a dairy farmer. Four of the sons settled in Eumundi and either helped on the farm or engaged in scrub felling locally. During the First World War, sons Fred, Arthur and Ray all served overseas in the Army.

Eldest brother William Henry Lait had served in the British Royal Navy before and throughout the First World War. Post-war he immigrated to Queensland and joined his parents and brothers for a time in the Eumundi district. The 1925 electoral roll shows him at Mt Eerwah, Eumundi. He then moved to New South Wales where he married Alice Cloke in 1929. This marriage was short-lived with Alice dying the same year. He later married Adelaide Morris. In the 1930s he was a poultry farmer at Gymea Bay Road in Sutherland and later retired to Parramatta. He returned to Queensland sometime after 1954 and died there in 1957.

Post war Fred and Arthur jointly bought a farm backing onto Eerwah mountain to the west of Eumundi, where they developed a fine dairy farm and also grew bananas. Fred married Mabel Gridley in 1921. Arthur married Ina King in 1930.. Both men had families - Fred had five daughters and two sons and Arthur had three daughters and a son. Both families lived on the property.

The farm became known for its quality cattle and pigs, and the show horses Fred kept as a sideline. The Second World War took Fred away temporarily from the property when he joined the Volunteer Defence Corps where he was engaged in shipping surveillance. Post WW2 the brothers continued farming until 1951 when the farm was sold. Fred and his family then moved into Eumundi township where he worked with a son-in-law, Alf Greer on timber cutting.

Fred died in Eumundi in 1977 and was buried in Eumundi Cemetery.

In 2011 four of Fred’s children still live in Eumundi, They are daughters Daphne (Greer), Iris (Goeldner). Joan (Keehn) and son Wally. Through their mother Mabel, their grandfather Walter Gridley and their great-grandfather Joseph Gridley they provide an unbroken link of more than a century and a quarter to Eumundi’s first beginnings.

Date of Birth 1894
Place of Birth England
Ship Sailed On Clan Macgillivray
Date Ship Sailed 1 May 1916
Date Returned to Australia 18 May 1919
Date of Death 1977
Place of Death Eumundi
Age at Death 83
Where Buried Eumundi Cemetery
Where Commemorated Eumundi & District Roll of Honour Board, Eumundi Memorial School of Arts Hall, Memorial Drive, Eumundi

Maroochy Shire Honor Roll, Shire Chambers, Bury Street, Nambour

Nambour (Maroochy Shire) Roll of Honor Scroll, Private Collection, Nambour (this scroll was available for sale to the public after the war)

Sources BS|BS
Name of Researcher Rod Burrell
Researchers Email mail icon Email
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