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Robert David Rowse Moffatt

Robert David Rowse Moffatt

Male 1894 - 1914  (20 years)

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  • Name Robert David Rowse Moffatt  [1
    Gender Male 
    Born 1 May 1894  Pill Farm, Lostwithiel, Cornwall, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Military An article published on 9 September 2014 in conjunction with the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War One described Able Seaman Robert Moffatt’s death as one of the first Australians to die in World War One. For full article see this article by journalist Nick Grimm. Robert Moffatt was Nick’s great great uncle.  [2
    Died 11 September 1914  Buried at sea off New Britain, New Guinea Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    • Died of wounds in action, New Britain
    Person ID I67510  Clan Moffat Genealogy
    Last Modified 8 September 2014 

    Father Thomas Egbert Moffatt,   b. 2 February 1838, St. Columb Minor, Cornwall, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 July 1903, Sydney Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 65 years) 
    Mother Eva Ophelia Keam,   b. 10 September 1856, St Blazey, Cornwall, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 April 1918, Little Coogee, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 61 years) 
    Family ID F47210  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
    Robert Moffatt was just 20 when he was shot twice in the side while advancing through the jungle.
    Robert Moffatt was just 20 when he was shot twice in the side while advancing through the jungle.
    Image from credited as being from Australian War Memorial.

  • Notes 
    • Before the force was sent to the battlefields of Europe there was other work to be done closer to home. The British Government, in an effort to make it harder for German cruisers to operate, asked the Australian government to destroy the German wireless stations on Yap in the Caroline Islands, on Nauru Island and in New Guinea. A second force was therefore raised and was known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. This force of 1500 men consisted of 1000 men from the army and 500 men from the navy. Colonel William Holmes, a veteran of the Boer War, commanded it.

      This force engaged in the first land battle of the war involving Australian forces. At Bitapaka on September 11 1914 Australian forces detected a wireless station and in a short battle six Australian men were lost. The Germans themselves destroyed the wireless station.


      On the 18th August 1914 an expeditionary force of 1500 men left for New Guinea under the command of Rear Admiral George Patey, on HMAS Australia, HMAS Sydney, HMAS Warrego and HMAS Yarra landed troops at Kabakaul and surprised the Germans by outflanking them in the jungle. Going up the road could have led to disaster, as it was heavily mined. The Germans lost one non-commissioned officer and 30 native soldiers killed, and there were 11 wounded.

      The troops landed in German New Guinea on 11th September, Rabaul was occupied on 13 Sept and on 17 Sept the Germans capitulated. Robert was part of this force and died of wounds while in action in New Britain 11 September 1914 and was buried at sea four days later.

      The natives were told to hide in the palm trees by the Germans and to shoot at anybody who came - Robert came ashore at Rabaul and while trying to signal the boat was shot, the doctor who came to his aid also died, others were killed. Robert died while in sick bay and was buried at sea. The Rector at St Mary's Waverley, where Uncle John was curator, coincidentally was on the ship and had to bury Robert at sea on the 12/9/1914 off New Britain, at sea from HMAS Sydney.

      Uncle John remembers talking to the Rector at Newtown and he said that he delivered the telegram to Grandma Moffatt telling of Robert's death. This was the first telegram he had delivered in the war. This was very upsetting for Grandma (Eva Ophelia Keam) Moffatt and she never recovered and died in 1918 at Randwick.

      Moffatt, Robert David
      Number: 121
      Rank: Able Seaman [AB]
      Unit: NEF RAN HMAS Australia
      Service: Royal Australian Navy
      Conflict: 1914-1918
      Date of Death: 11/09/1914
      Place of Death:
      Cause of Death:
      Memorial Panel: 1
      Cemetery or Memorial Details: 2 Plymouth Naval Memorial
      Next Of Kin: Father - Mr Thomas Moffatt
      Place Of Enlistment: Kensington, NSW
      Native Place:
      Notes: Moffatt, AB. Robert David, 121. NEF, R Aust N. HMAS "Australia." 11th Sept, 1914. Age 20. Son of the late Thomas Moffatt, of Cornwall. 4.

      Source: AWM144 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Royal Australian Navy [1]

  • Sources 
    1. [S897] GEDCOM file from “Thomas Egbert Moffatt's Family3.FTW”, from Kathy Jackson.

    2. [S2640] Article titled “World War I: Able Seaman Robert Moffatt's first act of war in Rabaul was also his last”, written by Nick Grimm and published on website of ABC News.

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