The Sheepfold of the Little Rock - Stan Grady at Gallipoli

Contributed by Michael Hall, February 2015

Stan O'Grady 

The men of the 18th Battalion marched along the shores of Gallipoli and rested beneath the feature known as the Sphinx. It was August 1915 and to the soldiers who had spent months fighting on Anzac these new troops, “great big cheery fellows” with their “well-rounded cheeks and strong limbs”, came “like a fresh breeze from the Australian bush”.1 Among the men of the 18th Battalion was Stan O’Grady.

Standish Lockhardt Mathieson Grady came from a family deeply rooted in Canberra’s pioneering past. Samuel Shumack, a chronicler of early Canberra, relates how three sisters arrived in Sydney from England in the 1840s and were soon married. One of them, Jane, married James Grady, a policeman in the Queanbeyan district, in 1846 and they had a family of two sons and two daughters. One of the other sisters married a man named Clarke and, according to Shumack, “became the mother of the bushrangers John and Thomas Clarke” who terrorised the Monaro during the 1860s. That though is more likely one of Shumack’s ‘tales’.2

James Grady died in 1859 and Jane married George Pearce a few years later and she had three more children. Her two eldest daughters both married and settled in the vicinity of Round Hill (now Mount Painter). Bridget married William Young who selected land that is now known as Glenloch (on the northern boundary of the National Arboretum). Young was bankrupted by Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla in the 1880s so the family moved to the old smithy shop near Blundells Cottage.3 Their eldest son, William Frederick Young, served in the Boer War but died of enteric fever in 1900; the first recorded death of a soldier from the Canberra district on the ACT Memorial. Bridget was widowed in the 1890s and took in boarders to help make ends meet. One of her boarders, who arrived in 1914, was Richard Boyer who would, like her nephew Stan O’Grady, serve on Gallipoli. 

Jane Grady’s eldest daughter married William Mathieson. In February 1869 Mathieson was driving his mother-in-law in a cart to Queanbeyan when they came to the ford across the Molonglo River between Yarralumla homestead and what is now Scrivener Dam. The river was running fast and the horse jibbed as they crossed, turning the cart over and drowning Jane Grady. Mathieson survived and he and his wife looked after several of Jane’s children including her fourteen year old son Stephen Grady.4

Jane’s youngest child, Ann Pearce, was taken in and raised by Mathieson’s sister, Mary, who lived with her husband Peter Shumack at Hawthorn Cottage (near the Yowani Golf Course). Mary had no children of her own, but would outlive two husbands and foster numerous children including Ann Pearce’s son Michael Scannell (who was Stan O’Grady’s cousin and also served on Gallipoli) and George Potter.5 

Steve Grady left the district in the 1870s and, following in his father’s footsteps, became a policeman. According to Shumack he was dismissed a year later and was “killed by a fall from his horse, leaving behind a widow and two sons both under the age of seven.” Grady married an English nurse, Ada Gale, in Charleville, Queensland in 1893. Their second son, Stan, was born on 2 January 1896 at New Angledool, literally the back o’ Bourke near the Queensland border, where his father was then working as a sheep overseer. 

Stan’s middle names of Lockhardt and Mathieson testify to the Canberra connection. Although an Anglican, Steve Grady was raised in the strict Presbyterian Mathieson household and during the 1870s the Presbyterian clergyman was George Lockhart Nairn. Locals of the Presbyterian faith liked honouring their ministers by naming their children after them including George Lockhart Nairn McInnes from Kowen. Steve Grady died in 1902 when he was thrown from a horse near Narranderra in the Riverina. 

What happened to the family next is unclear. His mother later stated that Stan went to school at Parramatta Marist Brothers, a Catholic school, but it is possible he spent some time at the nearby St. Vincent’s Boys Home.6 Soon after though, Stan and his older brother Billy arrived in Canberra and both appear on the roll of the school at St. John’s with the surname of Grady. Perhaps the boys were living with their aunt Bridget Young as her home was close to the school. It seems sometime after this that Ada and her sons began using the name O’Grady.

By 1913 Stan O’Grady was working as an assistant cook at the Kangaroo Café. The café was owned by the Commonwealth and built to provide meals for workmen living in the camps around Acton. Public servants at Acton lived at the Bachelor Quarters and had their own mess arrangements including stewards to look after them. The proprietor or cook at the café leased the building, equipment and even the cutlery and made his living by charging the workmen for meals.

The Kangaroo Café had been established in 1912 by Ted Ausburn and was taken over by Syd Edwards in 1913. When Edwards got the contract to run the Power House café in 1914, Stan went with him. Edwards left the Power House in June 1914 and 18 year old Stan applied for the job as cook, getting it on the recommendation of the secretary of the Power House Mess, George McKissack, who stated that “O’Grady is held in high esteem by his fellow workmen”.

That didn’t last long. Shortly afterwards O’Grady hurt his foot and, according to McKissack, he became “indifferent as to how the members of the café procure their meals, he was asked to just sit and superintend the cooking but refused.” The Mess replaced him with a new cook at the end of July.7 

Stan enlisted in February 1915, left Australia in June 1915 as a Private in C Company of the 18th Battalion and landed on Gallipoli on 19 August 1915. By then the offensive of early August 1915 to seize the heights of Sari Bair, above Anzac Cove, and to advance inland from Suvla Bay, to the north, had failed. The Turks, however, now occupied important positions between the British at Suvla Bay and the Anzacs which they quickly fortified. One of these was Hill 60, a 60 metre high rise at the seaward end of a ridge which ran to the top of the Sari Bair range. Though not very high it still commanded a view over the British lines and enabled the Turks to disrupt movement between Suvla and Anzac. 

On 21 August the British attempted to advance eastwards from Suvla. The 4th Brigade of the AIF together with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Connaught Rangers were given the task of capturing Hill 60. The hill and surrounding gullies were commanded by Turkish machine guns. Ernie Mayo was with the 13th Battalion which reached the slopes of Hill 60, but they and the other troops failed to oust the Turks from their positions atop the hill. The men were exhausted after weeks of fighting and fresh troops were called up to take the hill. The 18th Battalion was to be used to advance the attack.8 

After a sixteen hour march the 18th Battalion approached Hill 60, known by the Turks as the Kaiajik Aghyl (the Sheepfold of the Little Rock).9 In the early hours of the 22nd of August they charged across a clearing and up the hill. The area was swept by Turkish machine-guns and Stan O’Grady was seen to fall, shot in the ankle. Under the hot summer sun of August, men in that clearing, unable to be rescued, died from their wounds or thirst, or if they could move, were soon cut down by the Turks. According to one witness, about seven weeks later they were ‘body snatching’ (attempting to recover bodies) “and found a body much decomposed and not recognisable, but within a few yards of where he had seen O’Grady fall.” They also found part of O’Grady’s pay-book.10

He was recorded as missing until a court of enquiry found that he had been killed in action. Stan O’Grady has no known grave and is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial at Gallipoli.

Sources

1.     Bean, C. E. W. (1934).The official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 (Vol. 2, p. 739). Angus & Robertson.

2.     Shumack, S. (1967).An Autobiography; Or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers. (p. 52). Canberra: Australian National University Press.

3.     Hall, M. (2011). William and Bridget Young. Canberra History News, Oct. 2011.

4.     Shumack, S. (1967).An Autobiography; Or, Tales and Legends of Canberra Pioneers. (p. 53). Canberra: Australian National University Press.

5.     Hall, M. (2010). Ainslie in the Great War: [Ainslie was one of Canberra’s early suburbs, and boasted men’s and women’s cricket teams, and many of the former were active in World War 1.] Canberra Historical Journal, 65, (p. 23-31).

6.     Roll of Honour Circulars. (1939-1945). Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

7.     Appointment of cooks at various messes. (1913-1917). Federal Territory. National Archives of Australia.

8.     Bean, C. E. W. (1934).The official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 (Vol. 2, p. 740-744). Angus & Robertson.

9.     Bean, C. E. W. (1934).The official history of Australia in the war of 1914-1918 (Vol. 2, p. 654). Angus & Robertson.

10. Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files. (1914-18). 1 DRL/0428, Australian War Memorial, Canberra.