Headgear to Helmets is a documentary feature film that provides an insight into rugby league players who enlisted in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and saw active duty during the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign.
The following story is the third in a series of seven.
Stan Carpenter was a star player in the Newcastle rugby scene when he threw in his lot with the new code of rugby league. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Newcastle club and was appointed captain for their first season in the NSWRL in 1908.
He led them for their two seasons in the Sydney-based premiership and represented Australia in a Test match against New Zealand Maori in 1909. When Newcastle withdrew to commence a local competition he won premierships with South Newcastle and Easts, and was a mainstay of the local representative teams.
Carpenter’s first wife had died in 1913 so when war broke out he enlisted immediately and was in the third wave at the landing at Gallipoli on April 25 1915 as a stretcher bearer with the 2nd Battalion.
The next day he noticed movement on a boat supposedly full of dead Anzacs, so he and a mate went out under fire and rescued four wounded. He was recommended for the Victoria Cross for this action.
He was again recommended for the VC at Pozieres in France in 1916 and his citation reads:
At Pozieres during period 22-25 July 1916 this NCO throughout the operations showed the most remarkable gallantry under the most trying circumstances and though the shelling was unprecedented in severity nothing seemed to daunt the matchless courage of this NCO. Time after time was he seen way out in No Man’s Land collecting and tending the wounded. There is no doubt that it was through his efforts that so few of our Battalion wounded are missing. Officers and men are unanimous in their admiration of him.
Carpenter received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and was given a position with the Provost corps for the final 18 months of the war. He returned to Australia in 1919 and continued to play league into his 40s before finally hanging up his boots.
In 1920, Stan Carpenter married Olla Stokes at Waverley in Sydney. They had one son, who was tragically killed when hit riding his bike home for lunch from school in 1933. Stan Carpenter passed away in 1962 and is buried at Sandgate Cemetery in Newcastle.