A TRIBUTE has been unveiled in Bagshot for a Victoria Cross awardee who "went through absolute hell" in the years that followed his gallantry.
George Ingram received the military's highest honour for great courage and initiative during Australia's last major action of World War One, but it came at a terrible cost for the boy born in Bagshot, author and historian Anthony McAleer said on Saturday.
"There were about 40 guys he killed on that day, and most of those he would have looked face-to-face because it was such close-combat in that battle," he said.
"There's no evidence he ever spoke about it again and, in fact, there was a terrible moment when he came back home. The people of Seville (where he spent much of his youth) gave him a welcome and the whole night they were pressuring him to tell the stories of how he won the VC.
"They were looking for that boys' own adventure tale and the glory of it. He couldn't do it and he basically mumbled out a thank-you to everyone.
"Things really affected him, to the point that (in later years) he had a complete collapse and went to the repatriation office, where they only gave him 33 per cent of the pension, because they considered physical and not mental health."
Mr McAleer said Ingram was an extraordinary man who held a number of jobs in the building industry after the war, among other roles.
"He was very tall and very strong. He was definitely a man's man. He didn't suffer fools gladly, and he had a very interesting and varied life, that's for sure," he said.
Former Bendigo mayor and Bagshot resident Maurice Sharkey detected in Ingram a strong moral background, work ethic, involvement in the community and persistence.
"This obviously followed him into military service," he said.
The day George Ingram earned the Victoria Cross
Ingram was part of a company that attacked the German-held village Montbrehain on October 5 1918 in what would become the final Australian battle of the war.
The then-veteran of the European campaignwent into battle at dawn and, by the end of the day, had helped the company overrun the town and nearby quarry despite heavy casualties, a larger German force and a constant barrage of fire.
That day was likely a culmination of years of military training, experience at the front and the grief he carried over the loss of two of his brothers and many mates at the front, Bendigo RSL president Peter Swandale said.
Early on in the day, Ingram helped lead a front-on rush of a machine gun post and snipers who had been picking off Australian solders, before intense hand-to-hand fighting against 41 German solders, who were killed to a man.
"Lieutenant Ingram accounted for no less than 18 of them," Mr Swandale said.
Australian solders were still the target of machine gun fire 150 metres further forward and the company found itself pinned down with heavy losses, including the injury of its commanding officer.
Rallying his men, Ingram led them into "murderous" fire to overrun that resistance with more close quarters combat, before rushing a quarry where Germans had been camping, single-handedly rushing another machine gun post and forcing 62 enemy fighters in a cellar to surrender.
He spent the rest of the day uniting parts of his company that had been stranded under the force of machine gun and shell fire, "freely exposing himself again and again with utter contempt of danger", Mr Swandale said.
It inspired his men to keep up a constant barrage of fire on a bigger force.
"The intensity of his initial attack took the Germans by surprise and momentarily put them on the back foot," Mr Swandale said.
"Importantly, it paved the way for a successful advance by the Americans a few days later," he said.
Mr Swandale said Ingram's experiences that day would have been "horrific".
"In fact, no Victoria Cross is more soaked with blood than George Ingram's," he said.
How a war hero found peace after Montbrehain
After returning home, Ingram eventually found solace and a place to heal at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance, where he worked as a guard, Mr McAleer said.
"He could see how the shrine was helping families in that post-war period grieve the loss of their loved-ones," he said.
"Being there and talking to those who came to pay tribute to family members helped him to cope with his post-war issues."
When World War Two broke out Ingram volunteered again, serving with the Royal Australian Engineers on the home front.
"Then he left the shrine guards and worked for a building contractor," Mr McAleer said.
Ingram died in 1961 and is buried in Frankston Cemetery.
Ingram always considered Bagshot his hometown, even if he had spent much of his youth and later life away from the area.
"Certainly, his grandparents were pioneers of both Bagshot and Huntly - and his mother and father spent a lot of time here before they left for the Yarra Valley," Mr McAleer said.
"So it's lovely that the community of Bagshot was able to permanently pay tribute to George with the memorial."
The memorial sits out the front of the Bagshot town hall.
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