Apr 212021

Ernest enlisted in Brisbane 10 December 1914.

He was a machinist (probably at the Albion sawmill) and he had previously served in the Field Artillery for 2 years and 5 months (from attestation papers). His physical description shows him to be 5’8 3/4″ tall with a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair. The distinguishing marks column is blank. He joined the 5th Light Horse as 2nd reinforcements and his unit embarked from Brisbane aboard the Itria 9 February 1915. 

Per his service record downloaded from the Australian National Archives and also available on Discovering Anzacs website he arrived at Anzac Cove  29 July 1915. The advantage using the Discovering Anzacs website initially is that users (both archival staff and relatives) are able to link further information. This includes the Embarkation Rolls, articles from Trove etc.
Ernest was one of the very many soldiers at Gallipoli affected by disease and was removed to the hospital ship Huntsend 6 September 1915 with dysentery. He was discharged from there to Malta, 14 September and was taken on strength again 26 September, in Egypt.

Interestingly, reading further in his file it states he had lost two fingers, the 4th and 5th digits, in an accident about 1907. Strange as I would have considered that having two fingers missing would have been a distinguishing mark, wouldn’t you? It did say that not having those fingers had no effect on him using his rifle. Well that was until he was unloading camels and apparently had an issue with them which affected the next finger! Ernest is classified as B class November 1915, although is still apparently able to use his rifle enough to remain in the Army.

Ernest stays in the Army and around various areas in Egypt. Further information about what his unit was doing can be obtained from the Unit War Diaries which have been digitised and are available for download from the Australian War Memorial until he returns to Australia 28 June 1919 aboard the Madras. 

Ernest stayed with his father William George Weeks who was the gardener/caretaker at Albert Park. He left at 6.45 to catch the 7pm train to Taringa. He was in uniform including a military overcoat. He never arrived and was reported missing. Intense searches were conducted but sadly his fully clothed body was found floating in the river two weeks later. Cause of death was drowning, date of death unknown but believed to be close to time he went missing. Military supposition was potentially a suicide though his family did not believe this to be the case. Ernest was returning to a job. Was it an accident? Falling into the river fully dressed in military uniform could have made it difficult to get out. Family lore did not mention whether Ernest could swim.

Ernest was buried with full military honours, 1 September 1919 at Toowong Cemetery.

Up until 2021, we remembered Ernest, believing this to the end of his story.

Enter historian Harold Peacock, who realised that Ernest was not discharged from the Australian Army until October 4 1919, two months after he was found deceased.  Ernest died while still serving in the Australian Army but was not listed on the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Mr Peacock sent his evidence for Trooper Weeks to be included on the Memorial, a case was written for his recommendation and presented to the Memorial’s Council.

The Honour Roll Team reviews those not listed to determine those who have who have “fallen through the cracks”. They recommended twenty names in 2020 to be included. The case was successful. Ernest’s name is now listed in the Roll of Honour database and his name will be cast in bronze on Roll of Honour walls in Canberra.

For the first time, his name will be projected onto the exterior of the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial on Saturday the 7th on August 2021 at 1:21am.

Thanks go to Mr Harold Peacock who has a blog post about Ernest here

We need to remember and thank all our men and women who served in the past, the present and the future.