The Sharpshooter of Grenfell
Name: E.A. Markham
Unit: 1st Brigade AIF
Location: Zeltoun Camp, Egypt
Lance-Corporal E.A. Markham enlisted with three mates, all members of Grenfell Rifle Club - who called themselves "The Sharpshooters". They served on Gallipoli and later in France.
Only one of the quartet survived the war: George Jacobs and Fred Maynard were killed in action within two days of each other during fighting at the Somme in July 1916. Markham died of wounds in hospital at Rouen on 4 January 1917 while Charlie Harveyson was wounded and captured by the Germans.
Like most of his colleagues, Markham was a prolific letter writer and lived for the mail received from home. A number of his letters to friends in Grenfell were published in the local paper. They make fascinating reading.
To C.S. Howarth written from Zeltoun Camp, Egypt, 20 October 1915
Well, our holiday in Egypt is to a bubble at last. We are marching away to entrain in the morning (21 October) at 6.30. The four of us, (Fred Maynard, George Jacobs, Charlie Harveyson, and self) are going together. There are over 1100 of us going. They have been going every day the last week, so it looks as though there was something doing at the Dardoes, eh! although we do not know where we are going. We are to join the 1st Brigade at Lemnos, so they say, and that is all we know, or will know until we get off the ship. We embark at Alexandria.
To see the chaps getting round here you would think they were going home to Australia. They were singing and cheering when the orders were read out. I don't go much on this sandy desert, although you do well here; I have gained nearly a stone since leaving Australia - it must be the sand.
Saw young Cecil Gullen; he was driver on the first Australian gun that landed there; he was in the 1st Australian Field Artillery. He and Bill Edwards are here in hospital sick (not wounded) - lucky. They say the shells give you a nasty feeling when bursting alongside you. Will soon know now what they are like! I think we are going to "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine" where the big fight was. Hope they don't go silly and give us a rough time as they did the boys before. Saw one of the boys that won the V.C.; he has one arm off, also a leg and both eyes out. He went home smiling yesterday to Australia. He seemed happy! By jove there are a lot of wounded here. We are going into Cairo to-night (the final for some time) to spend our cash before going. Wish you were here. Best wishes to all the boys at home.
Another letter written from Egypt on 8 January 1916
Your papers are arriving OK - thanks very much for the news. They have been giving us heaps of mail the last few days. Saw Bill Still to-day - he is looking well on it; he is in the 19th Transport, and says it is a fine job. He has had none of the rough work that we had when we were at Anzac; he was there for a few days. We were there when they had some two or three inches of snow - by Jove it was cold, too; takes so long to thaw in the hills. We all got away OK from the Peninsula; I stayed until the last night. Fred, Jakes and Charlie (Fred Maynard, George Jacobs and Charlie Harveyson) came away before hand. "Beachey Bill" [Turkish gun] put a few in, but he missed. There are a big lot of troops here in this new camp. We were seven weeks without any mail; now we are getting all our Xmas parcels, and what a time we are having, living on cakes and puddings - its fine after bully beef and biscuits. Saw Major D'Arcy; he came away on the same boat as I did. Had a good trip across; spent Xmas Day at sea, New Year's Eve in the train, and New Year's Day drilling here, so we had no night out this time - sorry I was not there with you and the rest. Ted Nock is here in the 1st Battalion just down from where we are camped. I am going to send home a few things that I got at Anzac, so you can see what they use over here. I have shifted into the machine gun section, so I have an easier job than Jakes, Fred and Charlie. Remember me to all, and kind regards to members of the Rifle Club.
From Egypt the troops were sent to France. At some stage L/Cpl Markham was promoted to Sergeant.
His next letter was from "Somewhere in France", Sunday 16 April 1916.
I had another paper from you to-day. This is the first mail we have received since coming to France. I don't go too much on this place, it is too cold for my liking. You only strike one fine day in about every dozen - so that is the spring here! It is funny to hear our chaps trying to speak French. You will make a start and suddenly find yourself on "jippo", so we get slightly mixed. I think we are going to get it a bit hotter than on the Peninsula by the sound of the guns. You can hear them all day and night here where we are. We saw some of our planes up to-day after a German; they chased him away back to his lines again; there were ten or fifteen of them; looks well to see them diving after they start to come down - all free of charge too.
We had a fine trip over; six days on the boat and dodging "tin fish," but we were lucky - never even sighted one. A boat two hours ahead of us was sunk (the Minneapolis); then a few days after the Simla was sunk going back. Fred Maynard, George Jacobs, and Charlie Harveyson came over on her, and we all went back to Egypt from the Peninsula on her.
This is not a bad place to live in; we camp in barns on the straw; no tents. We had a fine train ride - three days - and saw some lovely country, which was worth seeing. No wonder John Norton called us six-pound-a-day tourists! Fred Maynard and Charlie Harveyson are in the machine gun section, 4th Battalion. I have been shifted from the 4th to No. 1 Machine Gun Coy., A.I.F., so we don't belong to any battalion now. We have a fine time here, drinking champagne - only 4s 2d a big bottle; wine 1d per glass, so we do it in style; drink champagne of a night only for two hours, though some of them come home a bit "screwed." Wish Brownie and Jack were here with me. Well, will finish off now. Remember me to all the boys and members of the Rifle Club. Have just seen an English bi-plane loop-the-loop twice.
George Jacobs died on Saturday, 22 July 1916, and his mate Fred Maynard was killed two days later. Ernest Markham survived till the end of the year but died of wounds on 4 January 1917.