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CPL Ernest Corey, MM

30 SEP 1918: World War I and 2143 Lance Corporal (later Corporal) Ernest Albert Corey, MM, a stretcher bearer with the 55th Battalion earns a third bar to his Military Medal, first won on 5 May 1917. The winning of four Military Medals is a unique feat. Ernest Albert Corey was born near Cooma, New South Wales on 20 December 1891. Educated at Thubergal Lake Public School, Corey was a 24 year old labourer when he joined the Men from Snowy River recruitment march and enlisted in the AIF at Nimmitabel on 13 January 1916.

Posted to 55th Battalion as private 2143, Corey embarked on 4 September and joined his battalion near Guillemont, France on 8 February 1917. His first front line action was on 2 April in fighting around Doignies.

A few weeks later Corey was involved in the action for which he was awarded the first of four Military Medals that he would receive during the course of the war.

On the first occasion near Queant in May, Corey volunteered to act as a stretcher bearer and spent 17 hours retrieving the wounded, and was instrumental in saving of many men’s lives. The award was given with immediate effect.

The commendation for the award reads:

‘During the enemy attack on front line facing QUEANT on 15th May 1917, Private Corey, whilst acting as a stretcher bearer, showed great courage and devotion to duty. Although under direct enemy observation, he carried out his duties continuously for 17 hours without rest, and in a manner worthy of the highest commendation.

Although an untrained stretcher bearer, he, together with the rest of the bearer party, saved by first aid the lives of seriously wounded men.

The Commander of the 54th Battalion wrote an appreciative letter for the help given, and specially mentioned the stretcher bearing party for their good work’.

A second Military Medal, represented by a bar on the ribbon of the original medal, was awarded for Corey’s courage under fire near Polygon Wood in September 1917. For this action he was originally recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal but for reasons unclear the Military Medal was awarded in lieu.

The commendation for the second award reads: ‘This stretcher bearer showed wonderful devotion to duty and untiring energy during the attack on POLYGON WOOD on 26th Sept 1917. The greatest danger did not deter this man from doing his duty when his services were required, and he tended the wounded and carried them to places of safety continuously throughout the engagement. His presence, coupled with utter contempt of danger gave the men near him greater confidence and heart’.

A second bar representing a third Military Medal was awarded for his courage and inspiration under heavy fire near Peronne in September 1918. Again the Military Medal was awarded in lieu of the recommended Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The commendation for the award reads: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations at PERONNE on 1st and 2nd September 1918. This man, who is a stretcher-bearer, dressed and carried wounded of several units throughout the whole operation. Although the enemy artillery and M.G. fire was exceptionally heavy this did not debar Pte Corey from carrying on. He worked continuously and arduously and was the means of saving the lives of many wounded. He was most unselfish throughout and cheerful at all times and under all circumstances. His conduct was a great example to all his comrades. His careful handling of the wounded and his knowledge of first-aid helped greatly to relieve their sufferings. His was a fine example of courage, coolness and devotion to duty under heavy fire.’

The final action for which Corey was recognised occurred while his battalion was taking part in an attack on the Hindenburg Line on 30 September 1918, nine days after he was promoted to corporal. In the fighting Corey was seriously wounded in the leg and saw no further action.

The commendation reads: ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as N.C.O. in charge of Battalion Stretcher Bearers during an attack on the Hindenburg Line N. of BELLICOURT on 30th Sept. 1918. Although enemy M.G. and shell fire were particularly heavy, this gallant N.C.O. directed the operations of the Battalion stretcher bearers with the utmost skill and bravery. Regardless of personal danger, he, on numerous occasions, although the enemy was firing upon him and other bearer parties, attended to men and carried them from most exposed positions. His efforts were untiring and he set a splendid example to all ranks until he was severely wounded. It was mainly due to his magnificent work that the wounded were successfully removed from the danger zone’.

Corey returned to Australia in May 1919 and settled in Cooma for a couple of years before moving to Canberra. During the Second World War he served in the 13th Garrison Battalion at Port Kembla. Corey died on 25 August 1972 at Queanbeyan and was buried with full military honours.

His Military Medal and three bars, representing the award of the medal on four occasions, is the highest number ever awarded to an individual. Photo: Queanbeyan, NSW. May 1971. Informal portrait of veteran Mr Ernest Corey in a Queanbeyan Nursing Home, with Sister Mary Hawkins.

Mr Corey was the only soldier in the British Commonwealth to have been awarded the Military Medal (MM) four times. 2143 Corporal Ernest Albert Corey of Cooma, NSW, enlisted on 13 January 1916 into the 55th Battalion. More;

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