Private Frederick James Reynolds 1851

35th Battalion

Fred Reynolds was no stranger to military training when he enlisted in the AIF in April 1916. Just 18 years of age, he had already served four years as a senior cadet in the militia and six months in the 28th Light Horse unit based in Moss Vale. Fred was keen to go to war and managed to convince his father to give his consent. His elder brother Bert was already serving in Egypt.

Fred was born in Moss Vale, the son of Albert and Emily Reynolds, and grew up on the family property, Brookdale, on the Berrima Road. He was a good horseman and rode his favourite mare, Bonnie, to and from Moss Vale Public School and later, Bowral High School.

He arrived in England in October 1916 and after two months in camp was sent to the Front in January 1917.  In a letter home to his mother, he told her not to worry about him even though he didn’t know what lay ahead of him.  His correspondence became less enthusiastic as the war dragged on.  Bert’s last letter home was written on 7th October 1917, just as the final phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, the advance on Passchendaele, was about to begin.  This terrible battle, fought in atrocious conditions, was one of the most costly of the war and Fred, along with five other Southern Highland boys, was killed on 12th October 1917. On that day alone, in the mud, rain and cold, 13,000 allied soldiers were killed or wounded, 4,000 of them Australian. As was usual, the local rector received the telegram from the army advising of Fred’s death and was asked to break the news to his family. Those who had loved ones at the front would come to dread the minister approaching, hoping he would not stop at their gate.

Military historian Charles Bean would later write:

I have often thought that many a youngster when he was hit out there on the Passchendaele heights … and he knew that the end had come – must have thought to himself: "well at least they'll remember me in Australia".