GUNNER HARRY TWYFORD TRUMAN
AUSTRALIAN FIELD ARTILLERY
19TH APRIL 1918 AGE 20
BURIED: FRENCHENCOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY , FRANCE
War Diary 5th Australian Field Artillery Brigade
19 April 1918
"Snow fell during the day. Hail and snow showers at intervals and very cold wind."
At mid-day, Gunner Truman and eight other members of his battery were gathered round a fire in an old house in the village of Lavieville waiting for their dinner when a German shell crashed through the roof killing one gunner and wounding the other eight. Truman was hit by pieces of shell all over his body and head and died soon afterwards. Truman was "a bright, high spirited chap", with a "fresh complexion, shortish, always lively".
All this information was given by various witnesses to the Australian Red Cross who conveyed it to his parents in South Africa. Truman was born in Sydney and was working there as a draughtsman when he enlisted in January 1916. His parents were by this time in Pretoria, South Africa.
His father chose his inscription. It comes from a poem, which I found published on 26 September 1918 in the Southern Reporter, a Scottish newspaper, and again in the book, 'Victory Over Blindness: how it was won by the men of St Dunstan's and how others may win it' (1919) by Sir Arthur Pearson. It's introduced in this book with the comment that it was by a 'St Dunstaner'.
I'll reproduce it in full.
The Gunner smiled as his breachblock closed,
His arm was steady, his grip was tight;
The Gunner smiled, and his face beamed bright
In the twilight flush of an autumn night.
Silent columns of moving men
Moved to a point in a neighbouring glen,
And the Gunner smiled.
The Gunner smiled as his gun spoke loud,
With deafening crash and darkening cloud;
The Gunner smiled as the darkness fell,
Smiled at the wreck of shot and shell.
The Gunner smiled with firm fixed eye
On the field of death, where brave men die.
Then he sank down slowly beside his gun,
And smiled, though his course was nearly run;
Though his heart beat faint in his wounded breast.
The Gunner smiled as he went out west.