Almost 100 years to the day since Lance Corporal Alfred Youdale landed in Anzac Cove, his great nephew Professor Graeme Clark received a heart-warming gift – the discovery of his forebear’s war medals.
Professor Clark, famous for inventing the Cochlear Implant 30 years ago, said he was thrilled when he heard his great uncle’s missing medals had been found in the Russell RSL in New Zealand.
“He’s been a family hero you might say,” Professor Clark said of his mother’s uncle. “We as a family all felt proud.”
Lance Corporal Youdale, from the inner Sydney suburb of Croyden, was 28 and single when he enlisted and found himself fighting in the trenches at Gallipoli.
Professor Clark recalled how he enjoyed reading his great uncle’s war experiences in his diary, now on display in the Australian War Museum.
“It tells what it was like when he first hit Gallipoli,” he said.
The diary also tells records how, after being evacuated from Gallipoli due to illness, Lance Corporal Youdale returned to Australia, only to make his way back into the war as an RAF pilot.
“When he was in Gallipoli, he was fascinated by the aircraft and could see how important they were while fighting on the land,” Professor Clark said.
“When he had to go home sick, his passion was to go back and fly.
“He trained as an air force pilot and as Australia didn’t have an air force he had no option but the join the Royal Air Force.
“He seems to have had an aptitude for it.
“He learned to fly in six weeks before starting to fly missions.
“He was shot at many, many times and was promoted. He started [in the army] as a Lance Corporal and finished as a Squadron Leader.”
It seems to Professor Clark that his great uncle was something of an adventurer.
“He was a bit of a daredevil from how he describes his missions,” Professor Clark said.
“He tells from his letters his plane being full of bullets.
“One zipped through his tie.
“He was getting it stitched up so he could wear his tie again.
“One time he was shot down yet again, and was in hospital, but as soon as he was able they called for volunteers on this dangerous mission to go back over France or Belgium, so he volunteered.
“That’s the last letter we have written by him.”
Squadron Leader Alfred Youdale was shot down just before Christmas 1917.
His body was never recovered.
Before his death, he posted his medals, three Military Crosses, to his sister in Australia, but they never arrived.
“For [almost] 100 years we wished we’d found the medals,” Professor Clark said.
“Then about six months ago the RSL in Russell in New Zealand had a whole lot of medals and someone went through them and they were mystified because there were these three medals where the name had been scratched off.
“And so he got some forensic person to delve into the markings and found the name Youdale, which is an unusual name, and assumed that they came from Sydney.
“He looked up the Youdales and found the family, and they’re now on display in New Zealand in the Russell RSL.”
But while Alfred Youdale’s diary is on display at the Australian Museum as a permanent record of his bravery, one thing saddens his great nephew.
“He fought so much for the country, but his name was not put on the War Memorial because even though he fought in Gallipoli for Australia he [was killed while flying with] the Royal Air Force.”