Their bodies are buried in peace; but their names liveth for evermore.
Their Duty Done
A tribute to the men and women of the East Gippsland Region who Died as a result of their participation in World War One : 1914 -1919
2581 Sergeant Edward James Bird - Bairnsdale Killed in Action 6 November 1916
Edward James “Jim” Bird is another of East Gippsland’s men who gave his life in trying to save the life of another. Born and raised in Bairnsdale he was schooled at Bairnsdale 754 before the family moved to Sale. Jim was the only child as his little sister Vera died when three months old before he was born. Jim, a carpenter by trade, was a member of the municipal band at Sale and Maffra. After four years as a cadet he enlisted with the 22 nd  Infantry on 15 July 1915 when he was 22 years old. He sailed from Melbourne on 27 October 1915 on the Ulysses and was appointed Lance-Sergeant the following April when he arrived in France from Egypt. Jim was afflicted with rheumatism which saw him hospitalised on several occasions, but he used this time well. He was a prolific letter writer and eager to share his experiences. In January, while still in Egypt, he wrote we heard a row like bagpipes coming, and when we got to the gate we found it was an Arabic wedding. So I said, "Let us follow," to my friend. It was a procession. It is hard to explain on paper, but I will do my best. Well, in front rode a chap on a white donkey, it was either the minister or the bride-groom's father. Then came the band. It was composed of two side-drums made out of calf skin, and two men playing some sort of instruments like tin whistles. One could get a better tune out of a whistle. You never heard such a row in your life. Then came a camel with a hut on its back, covered with cloth, red, with blue, green, yellow and all coloured spots. In this was the bridegroom. Then came another camel with a lot of women on its back, and kids following it. There must have been a hundred if there was one. Well, we followed it until it came into an Arabic Village, where it stopped, and the bridegroom got out and went inside, and then the wedding took place. We watched it through a window. … . Again yesterday we went for a route march from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon across the desert, and I can tell you I was very tired last night. This morning we went down to the miniature rifle range shooting, and I got a possible 325 out of 325; and this afternoon I went into Cairo. I do not think it will be very much longer before the war is over, or I hope not, anyway, and I am back in sunny Australia. This was followed up with another letter written while still in Egypt: I am writing this on guard. I am sergeant over the main guard at Zeitoun, and I go off at 5.30 tonight. I was only thinking this morning, when getting up at an early hour, how I would like tobe back in Sale for the opening of duck season, instead of waiting here in Egypt for the Turkey season to open, and for a few German suasages to come along. There is talk of us going to France, but do not know how much truth is in it. I would very much like to go to France, as I am sure the Australian would make a name for themselves there if they get a chance. Once he arrived in France he was in the thick of the conflict. Am in the trenches; and I can tell you it is no joke. I was walking along through the trench, and the Germans were shelling just outside our parapet, and a shell lobbed in front of me, about two yards away, but did not go off. It is just as well for me that it didn’t, or I would be going yet. Some of the lads reckon I ought to take a ticket in a big sweep. I got that much of a fright that it took me all my time to speak for a while. It is a “fair cow” of a place for rats here. They are as big as cats; and one cannot keep any bread or bisvuit unless he puts it in a tin with a lid on. Will drop a line home as often as possible. After another stay in hospital with trench foot again in August, Jim wrote, back with my company in the trenches - again … I had a fine thing when I came out of the hospital. I set sail straight back to where my company was before I went into hospital; that was 9 o’clock in the morning, and when I got to where it was I found that they had shifted, where I did not know; so I went to Divisional Headquarters and they told me, and I found I had  another ten miles to do that is after I had already done about five and I had to carry my coat, rifle, pack and equipment, and I can tell you it was not light. But, at any rate, off I went, and after getting a little way along the road, sat down and had dinner: bully beff, biscuits and water. I arrived at my company - at 5 o’clock that evening, … I had a drink of tea and went straight to bed. Hotels cannot be too good; everybody seems to be going “bung.” I had a great laugh the other day. I met young Boyle, and he told me he heard I got stopped - that is wounded or killed: but, thank God, I have missed them so far, and hope to continue so, and that your next trip to Melbourne - will be to meet me coming home. I do not think it will be long before the war is all over now. I do not think it will see the winter myself. … A chap that was with me in the C.22, and now here with me, got a letter the other day from Melbourne, and it took seven months to get to him. In almost every letter home, Bird expressed his longing tobe back home and for the war to be over and it was by his own doing that his war came to a sudden end in November. After returning to his unit in August he was promoted to Sergeant on 8 October and on the evening of 6 November he was in the trenches near Guendicourt and about to be relieved when he showed the officer of the incoming party the way out to the advanced post. He did this safely but when he returned an hour later he learned that there was an injured comrade who was dying at the outpost. There was a full moon that night and everything and movement in the landscape could be easily seen from both sides. He was resolved to retrieve the injured man and started back to the outpost. The moonlight gave him away and a sharpshooter sniped him, the bullet entering the right shoulder blade and coming out through his right chest. According to those present he died quietly, quickly and in very little pain but this may have been more for the comfort of his family than what actually happened. His fellow comrades reported that had they known what he intended to do he would not have been allowed to go. He was buried that night and his comrades placed a small wooden cross to mark his resting place. In the fighting that ensued, his grave was lost and he is remembered on the memorial at Villers Bretonneux. The following year, his Temperance Hall brothers at Sale unvielled a large framed photograph of him and placed his name on their honour roll. His file simply records his death as “killed in action” with no further details of the events of that night.    
….. he was resolved to retrieve the injured man