The curious case of Cornelius Townsend

CORNELIUS John Townsend simply disappeared in the middle of a French town one July day in 1916.

He was born in Fremantle in 1891, the second of six children and had a relatively normal upbringing, going to school at CBC Fremantle and serving for 12 months in the senior cadets in Geraldton when he finished school.

He became a carpenter when he returned to Fremantle, but when his father died in 1908 the family moved to Broome � where Cornelius enlisted for World War I on November 9, 1914.

He trained at Blackboy Hill before leaving Fremantle as a private in the 11th Infantry Battalion 3rd reinforcements on February 22, 1915 aboard the HMAT Itonus.

Cornelius arrived in Egypt in mid March but somehow avoided the call up for the Gallipoli landing on April 25.

He saw his first action at the Dardanelles in May before moving to the southern part of the Anzac battlefield boarding Bolton�s Ridge.

He served there for two months until he was wounded when shrapnel struck him in the shoulder and thigh.

He spent two months in a military hospital in Malta recovering from the July 6 injury.

The Turkish landscape changed to French when Cornelius and the 11th Battalion arrived at Marseilles in April 1916 following a number of months of training in Egypt.

They were sent to Bois Greiner near Fleurbaix and experienced trench warfare for the first time.

There, Cornelius would patrol No Man�s Land, improve trenches, repair roads, carry supplies and take watch against German assaults.

On July 23, 1916, Cornelius and the 11th Battalion captured the Pozieres village, an area the Germans considered vital ground.

In a bid to recapture the town, the Germans unleashed an attack that lasted for days.

During this attack, many of the 11th Battalion, including Cornelius, vanished.

He was listed as missing on July 25. His body has never been recovered. He was 24.

He is commemorated at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in Picardie, France.

Visit www.anzacfremantle.com.au for more information on Fremantle�s 849.