b. 17/03/1897 Gundurimba, New South Wales, Australia. d. 28/09/1917 Ypres, Belgium.
Patrick Joseph Bugden (1897-1917) was born on 17th March 1897 at Gundurimba, near Lismore, New South Wales, Australia. His father, Thomas Joseph Bugden, was a dairy farmer at Tatham, NSW. He was also the licensee of the Farmer’s Home Hotel, Gundurimba and then leased a hotel at Bangalow. He married Annie May Teresa Connolly in 1896 at Casino, New South Wales. They had eight children, with Patrick the eldest of three boys and five girls.
Patrick’s father died in 1903, and his mother re-married in 1906 to James Joseph Kelly, a hotelier. They ran the Farmer’s Home Hotel initially together, before running the Billinudgel Hotel and later Hotel Wells, Tweed Heads, NSW. They would both be killed in an automobile accident in 1949.
Patrick was educated at Convent School, Tatham, then Gundurimba Public School and finally a local school in Billinudgel, where he excelled in sports. After school, he worked in the Post Office at Mullumbimby, on the New South Wales coast, before the family business at the New Brunswick Hotel, Billinudgel NSW. He later worked at the Federal Hotel, Alstonville NSW, which the family purchased in 1914. He played cricket and rugby league for Billinudgel from 1911-1914.
Patrick served for 12 months under the Compulsory Service Obligation scheme. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Adelaide Street, Brisbane on 25th May 1916, giving his age as 21 years and one month. He was posted to 11th Depot Battalion at Thompson’s Paddock, Enoggera, Queensland and left Brisbane for England with 9th Reinforcement Group for 31st Battalion aboard HMAT A49 Seang Choon on 19th September. On arrival in December, he joined 8th Training Battalion at Codford, Wiltshire, though spent the next month out of action due to illness.
On 16th January 1917 he departed Folkestone aboard Princess Victoria, arriving the next day at 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot, Etaples. His size and physique got him the nickname “The Tank” by his colleagues. He won many sporting awards in gymnastics and boxing. He also took part in an obstacle race in front of the King, which was filmed. After a bout of influenza throughout May took him out of the line, he was keen to rejoin the action at the end of the month.
During the period 26th September to 28th September 1917 at Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, Belgium, an advance was held up by strongly defended pillboxes. Private Bugden, despite devastating machine-gun fire, twice led small parties against these strong points and, successfully silencing the guns, captured the enemy at the point of the bayonet. On another occasion, he rescued a corporal from capture when, single-handed, he rushed up, shot one of the enemy, and bayoneted the other two. On five occasions he rescued wounded men under intense shell and machine-gun fire, showing an utter contempt and disregard for danger.
Patrick was killed during the action, and was buried just south of the southeastern corner of Glencorse Wood. The grave was fenced off and a Celtic cross was placed over it. His body was exhumed after the war and re-interred at Hooge Crater Cemetery near Ypres. The VC was sent to Australia from Downing Street, London on 12th December 1917. As he never married, the VC was presented to his mother by the Governor General of Australia, Sir Ronald Craufurd Munro-Ferguson GCMG at Admiralty House, Sydney on 4th April 1918.
In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19. His mother kept his VC in her handbag for over 30 years. After her death in a car accident in 1949, the family searched everywhere for it, but it could not be found. Finally they returned to the crash site where she died and they found the VC lying in the grass by the side of the road. The VC was presented to the Board of Trustees of the Queensland Museum, Brisbane on 14th June 1980 by his eldest surviving sister, Mrs Rose Elliott, and it remains there.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: QUEENSLAND MUSEUM, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: HOOGE CRATER CEMETERY, ZILLEBEKE, BELGIUM.
PLOT VII, ROW C, GRAVE 5
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Queensland Museum – image of VC Medal.
Ross Cable – Image of the Bugden VC on display at the Queensland Museum.