Chevrons stir up Digger mystery

The soldier highlighted in this photograph was 22-year-old Leederville man John Salter.

He was born at Farrell's Flat in South Australia in 1892 and at some stage his family moved to Kalgoorlie in the Goldfields and then to Perth. Before joining up, young Salter worked variously as a salesman, a poster artist and a draper.

Previously, this image was interpreted as a group of volunteers marching out of Blackboy Hill camp at Greenmount in 1914 to embark for the war in Europe. However, as the chevrons on Salter's arm show, he was a corporal at the time. But according to his records, he did not get that promotion until June 5, 1916.

Nonetheless, he did enlist at Blackboy Hill as a Private on September 7, 1914 and was posted to D Company of the 11th Battalion, the first AIF unit to be raised in WA.

He underwent training at Blackboy Hill before embarking on HMAT Ascanius for the war on October 31, 1914.

So why does he appear in a photograph back at Blackboy Hill two years later?

After further training in Egypt, Pte Salter left with the 11th Battalion to land on the Gallipoli Peninsula. He went ashore unscathed under fire on April 25. Three days later, he was shot in the face and had serious injuries to his cheek, scalp and one eye.

Salter was evacuated, put on Hospital Ship Delta, and was admitted to hospital in Birmingham. He was not invalided back to Australia until January, 1916. But he wasn't medically discharged and was well enough to undertake various courses, being promoted to corporal in June, which allows this photograph to be dated, approximately. Further promotion to sergeant occurred the following year.

He was admitted to Number 8 Australian General Hospital in early November 1917. By May 1918 he was well enough to be sent back to active service. Promoted to lieutenant and transferred to the 51st Battalion - another all-WA unit - he was sent to the Western Front in France in August where he was awarded the Military Cross.

_The West Australian _is supporting a WA Genealogical Society project to name the 703 men in the famous image of the battalion standing on the Cheops pyramid. WAGS has divided a digital copy of the photo into grids. While not confirmed, Pte Salter is believed to be soldier 161 on the grid.

When World War II broke out on September 1, 1939, Salter, now 47, volunteered yet again, instructing in some tactical exercises with the 13th Infantry Brigade.

Salter's war ended on April 2, 1945, when he was discharged a major. He died in 1976.

The West Australian

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