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The Australian 12th Field Ambulance in World War I

"The Gift of Years"

1990 marked the 75th Anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli. A small number of then surviving ANZAC veterans travelled to Turkey to participate in a Memorial Service at Anzac Cove. Australian song-writer Eric Bogle was asked to write a song to commemorate the occasion.  The result was 'The Gift of Years'.  Eric's lyrics are a more than fitting tribute to the men who served and fell in World War I,  his lyrics are reproduced here with his permission.

My Grandfather, Clarence Derby (Derby) McKENNA served in World War I as a Driver with the the 12th Field Ambulance.  He embarked overseas in December of 1914  and did not return to Australia until 1918 when his son, whom he'd never met, was four years old.  Derby and his ANZAC comrades were involved in action at Gallipoli, Belgium and later on the Western Front in France.  As members of the Field Ambulance they experienced the horror of war at its worst.  Many of them sacrificed their own lives to save others.  This site is a tribute to my Grand-father Derby and  to his comrades for their 'Gift of Years'.


Nominal Roll


The roll included here is intended as a guide only and has been compiled from various sources, primarily the First World War Nominal Roll Database, on the Australian War Memorial Web-Site. Some names were also extracted from those identified in photographs in the AWM Photographic Database. An asterisk (*) indicates that an individual was identified as belonging to the 12th Field Ambulance in a photograph but was not located on the Nominal Roll.  Others have been added because newspaper articles concerning them state that they were attached to the 12th Field Ambulance on their return to Australia. Additional information (where available) can be accessed by clicking on the name of each member of the Unit. I am gradually researching the families of each of the men included in the roll and adding information on a regular basis.


12th Field Ambulance War Diary - read it on-line at the Australian War Memorial.


This Roll is not exhaustive and I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can clarify or add information or photographs.


Villers Bretonneux

Australian War Memorial, Villers Bretonneux, Picardy, France, 2001  ©




Well old mate, here I am,

I told you I'd be back.

But as usual mate, I'm bloody late,

It's 75 years down the track.

And for the last time here I stand,

In this familiar foreign land,

Back with the mates I left behind,

Fixed forever in their time.


Of all the ghosts of all the boys

Who haunt this lonely place,

Only one of them wears your cheery grin

and your Queensland joker's face.

When I drown in old and bloody dreams

Of helpless young men's dying screams,

I feel your hand give my arm a shake

And your voice say "steady mate".


The country that you died for mate,

You would not know it now.

The future that we dreamed of mate,

Got all twisted up somehow.

The peace that we were fighting for,

The end to stupid, senseless war,

So it couldn't happen to our kids,

Well, old mate - it did.


But thank you for the gift of years

And the flame that brightly burns.

For the time you bought and the lessons taught,

Though often wasted and un-learned.

'Lest We Forget' cry the multitudes,

As if I ever, ever could.

So forgive an old man's tears -

And thank you for the years.


© Larrikin Records Pty Limited, Sydney (reproduced with permission)