Private Edgar Adams: Australians at Gallipoli

Running time
3 min 35 sec
Place made
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

CC BY 4.0 Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Two brothers from Mildura, Victoria, enlisted in the 8th Australian Infantry Battalion in 1914. When they landed on the beach at Gallipoli on 25 April, Private Frederick James Adams was shot on the beach. Private Edgar Robert Colbeck Adams was taken prisoner by the Turks, but did not survive. However, he managed to send a message in a bottle before he died.


Frederick Adams was a fruit grower in Mildura, Victoria, when he enlisted in the 8th Battalion in August 1914, aged 24. The following month, his younger brother Edgar also enlisted in the 8th Battalion. Edgar was just 18 and listed his occupation as a surveyor and engineer. Frederick embarked for overseas service aboard HMAT Benalla in October 1914. In December, only a few days before Christmas, Edgar followed, embarking at Melbourne on HMAT Themistocles. Both men were ultimately bound for Gallipoli. Both landed on 25 April. During the landings at Gallipoli, Frederick was shot through the head. He was buried in Artillery Road Cemetery, and his parents received his death certificate 6 months later. The fate of his younger brother, however, was unclear. Private Edgar Adams, 8th Battalion, was reported missing in action on the day of the Gallipoli landings. Months later, on 1 November 1915, a bottle washed up on a beach near Alexandria in Egypt with a message inside hastily written on a scrap of paper. ‘Am prisoner about 2 miles from where we landed ... E R C Adams 8AIF.’ The paper was at first kept by the Records Office in Cairo, but then eventually sent home to Edgar's father, James Adams, who confirmed that the message was in his son's handwriting. The message offered hope that he may be among the Australians held in Turkey as prisoners of war. His parents began to send letters via the International Red Cross in the hope they would reach him, but the lack of response caused further anxiety. ‘My son, 1127 E.R.C. Adams, is now known to be a prisoner in Turkey, and frequent mention has been made in reference to letters being allowed to be written by prisoners. Can you give any reason why we have never yet received one? Each time a list of prisoners is issued, our boy's name is always included. Do you know if the majority write, or is it very rare for a letter to be received from prisoners? It seems a mystery to us why we should never receive one word. We write to him constantly.’ In May 1917, their letters were returned with a note that no trace of the addressee could be found. In July 1918, a court of inquiry recorded the verdict that Edgar died on or about 25 April 1915 whilst a prisoner of war in Turkish hands, and the War Office stated, ‘If they were prisoners of war at all, it was only for a very short time. It has been found from experience that attempts to ascertain from the Turkish government the fate of men who are supposed to have been captured, but who apparently did not reach any permanent hospital or internment camp, are fruitless.’ Edgar's name is listed among the missing on the Lone Pine Memorial. The scrap of paper with Edgar's handwriting was the last trace his parents would ever receive of their son.

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