No.1651, Private, Christopher GAGEN
56th Battalion, Australian Infantry
Christopher Gagen was born in East Bradenham, Norfolk (Swaffham Q4-1890 4B:327), son of John and Rebecca GAGEN (née GREEN).
1891 census...Aged 6 months, he was at Hill Farm House with his father John GAGEN  farm born Terrington St Clements, Norfolk; his mother Rebecca  born Newmarket; brother Ernest  born North Wootton, Norfolk; Harry  born Walpole St Peter; sisters Edith  Mary  Florence  and Ida , all the girls were born in Walpole St Peter.
1901 census...Aged 10, he was at Hadleigh Heath, Hadleigh with his parents; sisters Florence and Ida; brothers Charles E , Frank  born in East Bradenham, Oliver E  and John  born in West Dereham.
1911 census...Aged 20, farm worker, he was in Hundon with his parents; brothers Charles Edward(farm worker); Frank (farm worker), Oliver and John; sisters Florence, Elsie and Phylilis Margaret  born Hadleigh. His mother had borne 14 children but lost one of them.
In 1912 he sailed from London to Sydney, New South Wales on the SS "Wilcanna". It not currently known when his brothers Edward Charles, Ernest and Harry went to Australia. Brother Charles Edward served as No. 5672, 3rd Battalion and won the Military Medal for bravery in the field ( gazetted 17th June 1919) and was discharged in England on 7th July 1919.
Brother Edward Charles' citation for his Military Medal reads:-
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near HARGICOURT on 18th September 1918. During the advance his platoon was temporarily held up by an enemy machine gun. Pte GAGEN worked forward 100 yards and sniped the enemy gun crew, silencing the gun and enabling the advance to continue. Throughout the operation he acted as Company Runner and displayed the most commendable devotion to duty.
He enlisted on 14th March 1916, in Narrabi, New South Wales. He was born Bradham (sic), Norfolk was a farmer aged 25 years 4 months, 5 feet 4 inches (162.6 cm) tall, weighing 126 lbs (57.3 kg),
chest 33" to 35" (83.8 to 88.9 cm)
blue eyes, black hair, Church of England. His next of kin was father John Gagen, (in 1922 at Mortlock's Farm, Hundon). Brothers Ernest at Edegroi, Narrabi and Harry at Preston
PO, Liverpool, New South Wales.
Posted initially to the 36th Battalion, 1st Reinforcements, he left Sydney on the "Beltana" on 13th May 1916, arriving Plymouth 9th July 1916 and was soon sent to the BEF in France on 9th September, and reporting to Depot at Etaples on 11th September. and posted to 56th Battalion, in the field on 26th September
On 18th December he was admitted to 5 FieldAmbuance with multiple boils, and then on to 36 CCS on 19th, ambulance train to 9 General Hospital Rouen and thence via HMHS "Dunluce Castle" on 23rd/24th December to England and to Cambridge Hospital in Aldershot then to Isolation Hospital. Discharged from Connaught Hospital, he was granted leave from 8th January 1917 to 2nd February and then reported to Depot. He was at Perham on 2nd March and then via Folkstone to France on 25th April, returning to duty on 30th April.
On 25th June he attended the Sniping School and returned to his unit on 8th July. He was wounded in the left heel by shrapnel on 26th September 1917 near Ypres, and then via 6 Field Ambulance to 22 General Hospital on 27th, from Camiers to 2 General Hospital Havre 3rd October and to England via "Carisbrooke Castle" on 6th, arrivingEastleigh Hospital 7th and then on 12th to Harefield No 1 Australian Auxiliary Hospital. Released he went to depot at Weymouth 16th October and Hurdcott on 27th, then Sutton Veny on 5th December. He was then absent without leave from 22nd to 29th December (perhaps granted himself a visit home for Christmas) which earned him stoppage of 25 days pay.
tHe then went to the Overseas training Brigade at Longbridge Deverill on 21st January. on 7th February via Southampton he returned to the BEF at Le Havre. He returned to his unit in the field on 21st February and was killed in action on 17th April and buried in Aubigny grave 1:B:19
The 56th Australians were in the Corbie area. Early on the 17th Villers-Bretonneux was shelled with gas, continuing through the day and the whole area was affected by the gas hanging around as there was no wind.Their CO around mid day discussed with HQ the relief that night when they were due to relieve the 55th, but as the 54th battalion had suffered even more from the gas, the 56th battalion were told to relieve the 53rd and the 55th to stay where they were for another four days.
CWGC have 11 of the 56th killed that day.
photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details