'A story of the trench' by Cpl. Reg Dargan

Darragh Christie, 3 October 2017 · #

Exactly 100 years ago today Corporal Reginald Dargan had A story of the trench, published in the The Mosman Daily .

The author, The Daily notes, had been wounded 3 times and was at Ontario Hospital, London. His records at the National Archives help fill in further details: he’d been admitted on the 25th of April (ANZAC Day), 1917, and had survived the famous battles of Lone Pine and Pozieres, and a court martial.

The poem was written from 1st hand experience, probably whilst recovering from his 3rd lot of war ending injuries.

Poem by Corporal R. Dargan. Mosman Daily Oct. 03 1917

Reginald Dargan was part of 2nd Battalion, 1st Reinforcement. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 7/5/15 and to Corporal on 22/06/15.. He suffered serious bullet wounds to the abdomen, arm and legs at Gallipoli on 08/08/1915. On the 08/08 2nd Battalion was fighting at Lone Pine, Gallipoli.

His parents worried after him, writing to the authorities, and were relieved to find out he was still alive. He was sent to England via Malta for surgery (to remove shrapnel.)

According to his digitized files at the National Archives Reg Dargan also pleaded guilty to being AWOL from 11/11/15 to 17/01/16, following ‘furlough’ (leave) from Oct 28-Nov.11.

After reading this poem, who could blame him?

For his court martial he wrote an explanation of his absence. In it he mentions his serious stomach wound and that for 50 days.

[He was] laid up..being actually in bed for about 30 days and had no medical attendance. I was in uniform the whole time and had no intention of deserting.

Captain Cook of 2nd Btn. attested to Reginald’s character

I never had any occasion to speak to him for neglect of duty, he did his work well and I was proud to have in my platoon..one of the last men I would have expected trouble from.

He served 32 days detention, had 124 days pay docked, was declared fit for duty and sent back to the front lines. He was also demoted, then reinstated as a Lance Corporal. He returned to his unit and 6 days later, on 23/07/1916, he was shot through the right hand. 23/07/16 was the 1st day of the battle of Pozieres.

He recovered but was wounded again on 15th April, 1917 probably during the attack on Hermies or Lagnicourt. He again received gun shot wounds to the legs, resulting in infection to the left leg and knee bones.

Reg Dargan again spent time in Hospital in the U.K. His left leg had severe atrophy and ‘sepsis’ requiring massage, exercise and drainage. He was shipped back to Sydney on 20/12/17, as a permanent invalid, and Discharged, officially, on the 12/07/18.

Like all veterans he was awarded the British War and Victory medals and Star, and given a pension.

Reg died of ‘tuberculosis’ in 1920. The Sydney Morning Herald of Aug. 14th 1920 had the following Death Notice

DARGAN.—August 13, 1920, at Woodville Military Hospital, Randwick, Reginald, dearly loved husband of Alma
Dargan, and youngest son of Patrick and the late Margaret Russell Dargan, of North Sydney.

His mother had died in 1916 and his father, sixyears later, in 1922. Not much is known of what happened to his wife Alma.

Studio portrait of 1122 Lance Corporal (LCpl) Reginald Dargan, 1st Reinforcements, 2nd Battalion, of North Sydney, NSW. LCpl Dargan enlisted on 28 September 1914 and embarked aboard HMAT Themistocles on 22 December 1914. He returned to Australia on 20 December 1917.

Interestingly enough the only other “Reginald Dargan” to be found on a NAA search is Robert Reginald Dargan, 18, of 36 Ourimbah Rd., Mosman. Both men had fathers named Patrick and Robert Patrick respectively.

Of the Dargans at Ourimbah Rd only Robert Reginald survived the war. He was made manager of the Rural Bank which opened at Spit Junction. His older brother William Robert died of infected wounds, after 10 days on the Hospital Ship Galeka, Lemnos island, 15th of June 1915.

On the opposite page to Reginald Dargan’s Poem in The Daily is the War Chest Alphabet. It is reminiscent of the illustrated alphabet found in the Anzac Book compiled by C.E.W Bean at Gallipoli.

‘War Chest Alphabet’ Mosman Daily Oct. 03 1917