Colin Blumer was born in Mudgee, New South Wales, in 1895, and was in his second year of agricultural studies at Hawkesbury Agricultural College when war broke out in 1914. He falsified his age in order to enlist on 26 August 1914, stating that he was 20 years and one month old rather than 18 years and nine months. His family was not happy about this but did not stop him. Blumer was appointed to the 3rd Battalion and underwent two months of basic training before his departure for war.
Blumer sailed from Sydney on HMAT Euripides on 20 October 1914, joining the rest of the First Convoy in Albany before proceeding to Egypt. Euripides arrived in Alexandria at 11 am on 3 December 1914, disembarkation began at 9 pm and the troops then travelled by train to Cairo.
On 5 April 1915, Blumer was promoted to sergeant, and on same day the 2nd and 3rd Battalions departed for Gallipoli aboard the captured German liner Derfflinger. Blumer and the 3rd came ashore at 5.30 am on 25 April 1915 under heavy gunfire. Forming up below Plugge’s Plateau, they advanced, fully laden with packs, ammunition, picks, shovels and entrenching tools. By 10 am every man of the battalion was engaged in reinforcing the 3rd Brigade.
The 3rd Battalion suffered terrible loss of life in fierce fighting while repelling Ottoman counter-attacks near Russell’s Top. When night fell, the men tried to dig in under continuous fire and heavy rain. They were subjected to constant attacks and fierce hand-to-hand fighting for the next four days, and when the exhausted men were finally relieved, 39 had been killed, 193 wounded and 69 were missing. Over the next two weeks, Blumer and the 3rd worked hard digging and reinforcing trenches, while enduring intense heat, flies, lice and the stench of those they could not bury. Deeper and more secure trenches were the only safeguard against the incessant enemy shelling and gunfire.
The 3rd Battalion then helped repel the Ottoman Offensive on 19 May. Under orders to fix bayonets and withhold fire to conceal their position, the 3rd had a close view of the oncoming Ottomans as they walked into a blaze of gunfire. On 24 May, during an armistice, they were finally able to enter no-man’s-land and recover the dead for burial.
Blumer was wounded on four occasions while serving at Gallipoli. On 17 May, two days before the disastrous Ottoman Offensive, he was shot in the thumb and spent a month out of action. Three weeks after his return, with the battalion engaged in intense trench warfare near Lone Pine, he received a gunshot wound to the back that kept him away from the front for a further two months. He was slightly wounded once more on 9 September, but remained on the peninsula. However, on 19 November at Bolton’s Ridge, he sustained serious chest and arm wounds from shrapnel resulting in his evacuation to Egypt and the end of his time on Gallipoli.
On 23 July 1916, Blumer and the 3rd Battalion were given the objective of Pozières trench, which they captured with few casualties. However, that night and the following day, heavy German shelling resulted in rapid losses for Blumer’s A Company, and a large number of the battalion’s most experienced soldiers were either killed or wounded. Many others were buried as severe shelling levelled the trenches. Supporting the advance of the 8th Battalion, three companies of the 3rd came under heavy machine-gun fire and an intense bombardment of high-explosive shells. The battalion’s losses totalled 104 killed, 375 wounded and 43 missing. Blumer was awarded the Military Medal for keeping up his men’s spirits and leading them forward, despite having been wounded and, on one occasion, buried.
On 9 August 1916, after the heavy loss of officers at Pozières, Blumer was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Just over a week later, at Mouquet Farm, the 3rd Battalion was inadvertently shelled by British artillery while in position near the front line, resulting in a disastrous loss of life and a bitter feeling among the men over the incident. By now, many were experiencing sleeplessness and fatigue caused by nonstop shelling. Subjected to soaking rain and having lost confidence in their own artillery, they were weary in body and mind and became deeply despondent. It was the battalion’s lowest ebb of the war.
In early October 1916, Blumer and the 3rd joined the front in Ypres. Blumer, in a group specifically trained in trench raids, led a raid on the night of 12 October. As they rushed the German trenches, however, they met with strong resistance and a heavy fusillade of bombs. Unable to take prisoners, they killed 13 enemy soldiers. Four of the 3rd’s own men were wounded and one was reported missing, believed killed. Blumer sustained a bomb wound to the left leg and eye, and was evacuated on 13 October to the 3rd London General Hospital. He was commended for his actions. The military citation read:
For great bravery while leading his men in a raiding party on the night 12/13th inst at YPRES while crossing NO MAN’S LAND he was wounded, but entered the enemy’s trench and led his party being again wounded. He was the last man of his party to leave the hostile trenches. He set a fine example of determination and courage. 2/Lt. BLUMER received the MILITARY MEDAL for gallantry at POZIERES while a Sergeant.
Despite being commissioned as a lieutenant on 18 December 1916, Blumer appears not to have been involved in active engagements after this time. He was given a special Mention in Despatches on 9 April 1917, however by this time he was in Weymouth awaiting repatriation to Australia. He arrived home on 5 July 1917. Most likely due to wounds sustained at Ypres, Blumer was declared medically unfit for service and his AIF appointment was terminated on 28 August 1917.
Blumer was placed in the Reserve of Australian Army Officers with the honorary rank of lieutenant following his return to Australia. In March 1924, he was transferred from the Reserve and appointed to the Australian Army Veterinary Corps with the rank of provisional captain for part-time service with the Militia Forces.
Blumer completed the studies he had been undertaking when the First World War intervened. In May 1924, he was awarded a Bachelor of Veterinary Science, having also won the William Cooper and Nephews’ Prize for Veterinary Parasitology. Three months later he was appointed as a veterinary surgeon in the Stock and Brands Branch of the Department of Agriculture. On 20 December the same year, Blumer married Clarice Aileen Beer in Nambucca Heads.
On 23 January 1940, Blumer was reappointed for service with the Militia Services. He served with the 12th Light Horse until 15 July 1942, when he commenced full-time duty with the 12th Australian Motor Regiment. In September that year, he volunteered and was accepted for service in the AIF. He was transferred to the 12th Australian Armoured Car Regiment on 4 November 1942. His appointment was terminated 11 April 1944, after having only undertaken garrison duty within Australia.
Following his war service, Blumer was appointed to the position of Senior Veterinary Officer for the State of New South Wales in 1944. Three years later, he was working in the Division of Animal Husbandry for the Department of Agriculture. He had been stationed in Armidale, New South Wales, but in 1948 moved to Sydney where he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Tick Control in Lismore, a position he held for about five years before being appointed Deputy Chief of the Division of Animal Husbandry. Two years later Blumer was promoted to chief, and he remained in this role until retiring in 1960. In 1965, the University of New England honoured him by naming its veterinary laboratory after him.
Blumer and his wife, Clarice, did not have any children. He died on 2 July 1973 aged 77 leaving a legacy of outstanding public and private achievement. His funeral was well attended, not least by those remaining of the 3rd Battalion AIF Association, of which he was president.
Australian War Memorial, Embarkation, Honour and Nominal Rolls, http://www.awm.gov.au/
National Archives of Australia: Australian Imperial Force, Base Records Office; B2455, NX137581, Colin Charles Blumer’s First Australian Imperial Force personnel dossier, 1914-1948; BLUMER C C, 1914-1948
Woods, M 2014, Colin Charles Blumer 1895-1973, personal family research, unpublished
Wren, E 1935 Randwick to Hargicourt: History of the 3rd Battalion, AIF, 1914-1918, Naval-Military Press, East Sussex, and Imperial War Museum, London (Replica)