Monday, 27 August 2018

Mud and Blood - and 'Pompey' Elliot

There's a new play out about 'Pompey' Elliot, written by Moonee Ponds writer Meg McNena and performed at the Clocktower Theatre.

'Pompey' Elliot attended many local events, including the 1919 Dinner for Returned Soldiers at Coburg Town Hall. You can read about that here. He was also at the planting of the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Coburg Lake Reserve, which you can read about here.

If you live locally, this is a 'must attend' event.

Thanks to Lenore Frost and her The Empire Called and I Answered blog for publicising what will be a very special event.

Check out the Clocktower Theatre's website for further details.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Female Relatives Badges

A World War One Female Relatives Badge

Recently Lenore Frost posted an interesting piece regarding Female Relative Badges on her blog 'The Empire Called and I Answered'. You can read it here.

Not too long ago, I was shown another badge - a Mother's badge - that was worn by a local Coburg woman - either Emma Ashcroft or Maria Templeton. You can read more about the Ashcroft and the Templeton families lives during WW1 and beyond here and here.

Image courtesy Jean Taylor

As we look back on the years of World War One, our focus is mostly on the soldiers who went off to war and it is easy to forget the sacrifices of those left behind. These badges, and others like them, are reminders to everyone that mothers, sweethearts and wives all made their own important contribution to the war effort. 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

1834 Private William Tardif, 7th Infantry Battalion, 4th Reinforcements

William Tardif was the eldest of six children born to William Reilly Tardif and Clementina Ross between 1893 and 1905. He was born in Wedderburn, a small rural town in Central Victoria. His mother was from Wedderburn, his father from Eaglehawk.

Wedderburn High Street, circa 1906. Image H90.140/1130. 
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria. 

His parents married around the same time they moved to Brunswick, in 1903, the year their fifth child Florence was born. One more child was born in Brunswick – Clarence Hector (known as Hector) – in 1905.
In October 1906, William Reilly Tardif, aged only 36, died of pneumonia at the Melbourne Hospital. He left a destitute Clementina to raise their six children. The newspaper headlines declared ‘A Bequest to the State: Six fatherless children’. The children were boarded out to their mother and remarkably she kept her family together. Clementina had pleaded with the court to keep the children: ‘She could not part with her children, but could pull along if they were boarded out to her.’ (Coburg Leader, 20 October 1906)
They remained in Brunswick, where William Claude Tardif, a trucker, enlisted on 5 January 1915. He was 21. On 16 May 1915 he joined his battalion (the 7th) on the Gallipoli Peninsula but by early July he had been sent to the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital on Lemnos with epilepsy.

The tents of the No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos, which the Allies used as a base during the Gallipoli campaign. Image C02290. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. 

No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital, Lemnos. Image C02263. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial.

William Tardif returned to Australia in September 1915 and was sent to the newly opened Soldiers’ Convalescent Rest Home at Clifton Springs for treatment. 

Clifton Springs Hotel, c1914-1916. The hotel was used as the Clifton Springs Soldiers’ Convalescent Rest Home from December 1915. Image H2002.19892. Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.

Although Major J. Mitchell, the CO of the Rest Home wanted him to stay and work as an orderly, William remained there until at least February 1916, but then returned to the family home in Brunswick.

 Pages from 1834 Private William Tardif’s war service record, Courtesy National Archives of Australia.

The family moved to Coburg and for a while William and his mother survived on a war pension. but he soon resumed his place in the workforce and by 1921 is listed in the electoral roll as a municipal employee. He continued to work as a driver.

The Tardif family lived at ‘Wedderburn’, 47 (later renumbered 59) Main Street, Coburg. His sisters married and eventually moved away. His much younger brother Hector (Hec), who was only ten when William went to war, remained in the area.
His remarkable mother, Clementina (Teeny), had kept her young family together under very stressful circumstances. She lived with her eldest son until her death in 1950 aged 76.
William remained in the family home. He died in 1965. He had never married, but survived the war and the condition it brought into his life and despite the prejudices of the times, remained in the work force and enjoyed what appears to have been a productive and happy life. Looking back on his war experiences and the development of what was then termed ‘epilepsy’, it is hard not to wonder whether his epilepsy was actually a form of shell shock. If you are interested, you can read an article on The Conversation website on the myths and realities of soldiers with shell shock here.

Sources:Australian War Memorial
National Archives of Australia
State Library of Victoria picture collection
Victorian Places website
Victorian birth, death, marriage indexes
Victorian electoral rolls
Sands and MacDougall Street Directories
The Conversation website
Bendigo Advertiser, 26 June 1894
Age, 13 October 1906
Age, 18 October 1906
Argus, 19 October 1906
Coburg Leader, 20 October 1906
Age, 27 October 1915
Evening Echo, 29 December 1915
Geelong Advertiser, 16 March 1916
Age, 19 October 1920
Argus, 17 June 1950
Age, 16 June 1953

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Staff Sergeant-Major Frank Taylor, hero or fraud?

I'm going to begin this post by going back to a story I've told before: the story of Staff Sergeant-Major William Dalton, who was based at Coburg. In February 1914 he became Staff Sergeant-Major Instructor in Cookery to the AIF Camps in Australia, based at Broadmeadows. In late August 1916 he was court-martialled for having received a large quantity of stolen tea. He was given the option of enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force rather than serving a prison term. This he did. By 3 October 1917 he was dead, killed in action at Ypres. You can read his story here.

I've started with William Dalton's story to show that even amongst men with previously spotless records, there were falls from grace.

Just down the road in Brunswick, Staff Sergeant-Major Frank Taylor sprang onto the scene with great acclaim in January 1917 (by which time Dalton was already overseas). He was appointed Brunswick's official recruiting organiser, based at the Mechanic's Institute on the corner of Sydney Road and Glenlyon Road. 

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 19 January 1917

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 March 1917

Brunswick Mechanic's Institute, taken by me, 4 March 2018 (day of the Sydney Road Street Party)

An imposing figure (powerfully built and 6 foot 3 inches tall), he arrived to great acclaim:

Sergeant-Major F. TAYLOR, the official organiser, is an old warrior and a much-travelled individual. He is a fine upstanding fellow, being 6 feet 3 inches in height, a native of Hawkesbury NSW and of massive proportions. 
His father was the late Sir Charles Taylor, KCMG, and he is a cousin of the late General Sir Edward Hutton, a former Commander-in Chief of the Commonwealth Forces.
The Sergeant fought right through the Matabele War (1896), Bechuanaland War (1897), Boer War (1899-1902), Somaliland War (1903-4), Swazi rising (1905), Zulu rising (1906), and in the late South African rebellion. He also experienced a lot of tribal fighting in Egypt and the Soudan.
Gaining the DCM in the Matabele War, he was decorated by the late Queen Victoria in 1897, by the late King Edward in 1902, and by his present Majesty King George in 1911.
He possesses also general service decorations, and was formerly a Captain in the Field Intelligence Department of the Military Forces of the South African Union. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 February 1917)

Who could fail to be impressed? There was more:

 Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 2 February 1917

On his return to Australia from South Africa in 1915, he went to New South Wales, we are told, where he took part in the 'Snowball' marches of 1915 and 1916:
Staff Sergeant-Major T (sic) TAYLOR DCM,  is accompanying the 'Boomerangs' to Bathurst NSW as instructor on their route march, is a soldier possessing a remarkable career. As the 'Boomerangs' marching from the Parkes and Forbes districts are going into the Bathurst Camp a few particulars regarding Staff Sergeant-Major Taylor will be read with interest. He first saw active service in the Matebele War 1896 as a Sergeant in the British South African Police, and was recommended for the Victoria Cross. .. etc. (The Bathurst Times, 3 February 1916)

'Western Champion' (Parkes), 27 January 1916

There were ten recruiting marches in NSW and southern Queensland in 1915 and 1916. They had names like the Waratahs, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Dungarees, Men from Snowy River, Kurrajongs, Kookaburras, Central West Boomerangs and North Coast Boomerangs

Image H11586. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Taken near Wallendbeen, NSW, c1915. The ‘Kangaroos’ march along a country road. This group started in Wagga Wagga in December 1915 with 88 men. By the time they walked the 350 miles to Sydney their group had grown to 230.

The accolades for Frank Taylor were repeated throughout the rural press, in Victoria and New South Wales.

Then came the fall from grace. 

Frank Taylor's stay in Brunswick was brief. He was 40 years old, single and lived at 74 Smith Street west, Brunswick, according to the 1917 electoral rolls. He was in Brunswick from January, when he was appointed, until 17 March, when he was 'relieved of his duties' (Evening Echo, 13 April 1917) and he left Melbourne en route to Adelaide, where he later claimed he was going to try to find similar work.

He got no further than Ararat. There he was intercepted and on 19 March was charged with a number of offences:

Soldier Prosecuted. Ararat Vic. Wednesday 28.3.1917. At the Ararat Police Court this morning, Frank Taylor was fined £3, or three weeks imprisonment, for having used insulting language at the Ballarat railway station to a guard on the Adelaide express. A second charge of travelling in a railway carriage on March 19 without being in the possession of a ticket or pass was dismissed. It was stated, in evidence by railway and recruiting officials, that Taylor was a recruiting officer at Brunswick till March 17. Taylor was next charged with having on March 19 worn a military uniform contrary to the War Precautions Act. It was deposed that he was in the uniform of a staff-sergeant at the Ballarat refreshment rooms. He came on to Ararat by the midday train and changed to plain clothes on the way up. (Argus, 29 March 1917)
Not too long after this, Taylor was arrested again, this time on 3 April 1917 at Lorquon, near Nhill (in the Wimmera). The charges ranged from forging and uttering to perjury and he was sent to Melbourne to the Supreme Court for trial. This time he did not get off so lightly. He was sentenced to 12 months. He served the first few months in Melbourne Gaol and the rest of his sentence at Pentridge Prison. 

Frank Taylor's prison photograph, taken April 1917.

His prison record (Prisoner 34589), available online at the Public Record Office of Victoria (Central Register of Male Prisoners, VPRS 515/P1, item 67, record Page 388) provides a little more information: He was 6' 2 and 1/2" tall, had brown hair and blue eyes, was a labourer and his religion is given as Church of England. It also records that he was born in New South Wales in 1877.

I have found no further trace of Frank Taylor after his release from Pentridge on 6 March 1918, but as I attempted to verify the stories about the early life of this 'modest' man who was never heard boasting about his exploits, it became clear that all was not right with his back story.

So, this is what I have found:

Family: He claimed his father was Sir Charles Taylor, but I have found no evidence of this. I can't even discover who Sir Charles Taylor was or what he did or where he lived. He said his cousin was Sir Edward Hutton, but again, no link has been found, although Hutton's life is well outlined in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Birthplace: On a number of occasions his birthplace is given as New South Wales, often the Hawkesbury is mentioned, but I have found no record of his birth in the Birth Indexes for New South Wales. On one other occasion, his birthplace is given as Serviceton, Victoria. This is a possibility, as Nhill was where he was apprehended in April 1917, and it is not far away. Again, he is not listed in the Victorian Birth Indexes.

Birth date: Almost all references to his age in newspaper articles suggest he was born between 1877 and 1879.

Occupation: He was described variously as a labourer, an engineer, a master mariner, a soldier, a recruiter and organiser, a dairy farm hand (in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW).

War experience: His supposed war record in South Africa was repeated endlessly in newspapers around Victoria and New South Wales, but nothing can be verified. Believe me, I've exhausted all the usual sources.  One newspaper said he left Australia for South Africa when war broke out and another that he returned to Australia in 1915 from South Africa. Yet another said he served at Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula and another that he had just returned from France.  I even found an article in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post (30 September 1915) that said he had just passed the medical for active service. He is also said to have worked at Victoria Barracks in Sydney. There is no record of war service on the National Archives of Australia website, however.

So, I'm left wondering what is the real story behind this man with the 'unassuming disposition and cheery manner', a man who was 'immensely popular with the staff at headquarters'. (Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, 18 April 1916)

It's quite a story whichever way you look at it. I don't suppose I'll ever discover the 'truth' of his past or what happened to him after April 1918, but if you have any suggestions of where I could look, please let me know.

Victorian electoral rolls
Victorian Birth indexes
New South Wales indexes
Fighting the Kaiser
Australian Dictionary of Biography
Australian War Memorial encylopedia
Australian War Memorial images
Public Record Office of Victoria, Central Register of Male Prisoners, VPRS 515/P1, item 67, record Page 388
Anglo Boer War website
South Bourke and Mornington Journal, 28 January 1915
Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 30 September 1915
Western Champion (Parkes), 27 January 1916
The Bathurst Times, 3 February 1916
Sunday Times, 2 April 1916
The Globe and Sunday Times War Pictorial, 8 April 1916
Richmond River Herald, 18 April 1916
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 19 January 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 2 February 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 February 1917
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 20 March 1917
Ararat Chronicle, 20 March 1917
Argus, 21 March 1917
Age, 29 March 1917
Argus, 29 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 29 March 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 12 April 1917
Ballarat Courier, 13 April 1917
Evening Echo, 13 April 1917
Herald, 13 April 1917
Warrnambool Standard, 13 April 1917
Herald, 19 April 1917
Ararat Advertiser, 29 April 1917

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Coburg Methodist Church WW1 Memorial window

Courtesy Coburg Historical Society

This beautiful stained glass window is located in the former Coburg Methodist Church on the corner of Sydney Road and Bell Street.

From my collection

The church, its grounds and the parsonage hold a very dear place in my heart, as my father was the clergyman there from 1962 to 1968 and our family lived a very happy life in the parsonage, which now has another life as Peppertree Place.

Enjoying life at the parsonage, 1966.

Taken from a similar position, April 2009.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Robert Norman of 'Normanville', Moreland Road, Coburg

The research for this story began when I was looking through the Duncan MacGregor Papers in the State Library's manuscript collection. (Duncan MacGregor owned the long gone mansion 'Glengyle', on the Merri Creek and is the subject of the book The Enterprising Mr MacGregor by Fay Woodhouse.)

'Glengyle' in the 1890s, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

In among the many boxes of material in that collection, I came across a solitary letter written in pencil and dated 23 September 1915 from Bob Norman to his employer Jack MacGregor of 'Dalmore', Pakenham. It was written 'In the trenches' and he'd been at the Front for about a fortnight. 

Letter from Bob Norman to Jack MacGregor, Duncan MacGregor papers, 1857-1938,  Box 2.5, MS 12914, Manuscript Collection, State Library of Victoria.

Letter from 1560 Pte Robert (Bob) Norman, A Coy, 21st Battalion:
 ‘We had a bit of an experience coming over being struck by a torpedo... I am sorry to say the water cooked [?] the watch that you gave me but I still have it for old time's sake.’ ‘The Rev McRae Stewart* is our chaplain and I suppose you have heard from him all about it. I had a chat to him about Dalmore [at Pakenham] the other day. He is a fine Chaplain and well liked by all the men...We are in a very quiet part of the trenches at the moment although there are always shells and bullets flying about. The Turks trenches are about 200 yards away from us… We have been in the firing line ever since we lobbed here…’
*The Rev Donald Macrae Stewart was a Presbyterian minister married to Jessie MacGregor, one of the seven children of 'Glengyle' family. He was minister at Brunswick, then Ascot Vale then Malvern where he remained until his death. He enlisted as chaplain to the 21st Battalion and served on the Gallipoli Peninsula then France. On his return to Australia he was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in 1918-19.

Robert Norman continues:
‘We are quite used to shells and bullets now and don’t mind them at all. You cannot catch them and chuck them back again. We sleep through it all when off duty. It’s marvellous. Before coming here if old Spots [his dog, maybe?] barked a bit I couldn’t sleep …’

'Southland', torpedoed 2 September 1915. Accession no(s) H2013.365/1-295. Fetherston family album. Gift of Mrs Audrey Houghton; 1990. Courtesy State Library of Victoria.

I have written about the torpedo attack on the 'Southland' mentioned by Bob before. You can also read about it here

From The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go to War, by Cheryl Griffin, pp 59-60:
As recorded elsewhere, old boy John McCormack was on board the Southland when she was torpedoed on her way to Gallipoli. Another Coburg soldier, Robert Norman, wrote a long and dramatic account of the events to his parents, which was published in the Herald. This is just a small part of his very detailed letter home:

We left port on Monday evening expecting to get here on Thursday. We zigzagged our course all the way, and kept a good lookout for submarines. Everything went well till Thursday morning, when we had just cleaned our rifles and were going to fall in for a bit of instruction. About 5 to 10am we were struck by an Austrian torpedo. We dropped our guns, and rushed downstairs for lifebelts, which were lying on the beds. Talk about shock – we nearly dropped with fright, but soon recovered our nerves, and went to our boat stations on deck.
Charlie and I stuck together, and when we arrived on deck one boat was full and lowered. When it reached the water it turned over, and they all fell into the sea, which had a good swell on at the time. About five of them climbed back on to the top of the boat and clung there. The next boat was let down by only one end, and shot most of the chaps into the sea. That was enough for me. We took off our boots, putties, and tunics, and went astern… We paddled away a bit from the ship, which we thought might sink at any minute. We passed by plenty of boats, but they would not pick us up. Talk about being shipwrecked.
We were on our rafts for about an hour, and were getting pretty cold. I never gave up hope, and kept my head all the while. It was everyone for himself. At last I decided to swim to a boat about 150 yards away… There were 40 of us in a canvas boat. We were in her for about three hours before we got picked up.
The Southland held together marvellously, and a volunteer crew got her into the harbor and beached her. I got all my kit back, and have only to get a pair of boots and putties. The crew went back to their ship on Friday morning, and looted all the officers and soldiers’ kits, stealing razors, etc. I left my tunic on deck when I went over the side, and all they took were my badges.
I was delighted to get the pocket Bible which mother gave me, also my diary. I lost my pipe and tobacco pouch when swimming; they got washed out of my pockets. It took us two or three days to get over the shock, and I am feeling fit and well again now. A lot of the chaps are still very bad; their nerves are gone. Some of the worst cases went back to Alexandria by hospital ship tonight.
From Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 16 June 1916. The letter is dated 23 September 1915, the same day he wrote to Jack MacGregor.

Norman was injured (head and shoulder wound) in France in July 1916 and he returned to Australia in February 1917. Among the belongings sent home with him is the damaged watch he mentioned in his letter.

(from Robert Norman's service record, courtesy National Archives of Australia)

On his return Robert Norman took up a fruit block at Merbein through the Soldiers' Settlement Scheme and lived in the area for the rest of his life. 
Robert died in 1971 and his grave can be found in Merbein Cemetery alongside that of his son VX131759 Staff Sergeant Herbert Charles Norman, 30th Infantry Brigade who served in World War Two and died two years after his father.

There is one more story I'd like to tell you about the Norman family. It's an extraordinary story and quite unexpected. It's bizarre and macabre and it relates to Robert Norman's paternal grandparents. 
Robert's father Charles Norman was a teacher of music and the records suggest that he was a man of independent means. Originally of Newlands, but for many years of 'Normanville', 75 Moreland Road (corner of Barrow Street), he died in 1922 aged 69 and is buried at Coburg Cemetery with other members of the family.
Charles Norman's parents married in Victoria in 1854. He was born in 1856. In 1869, his father William Gore Norman, a Carlton grocer, died in Fiji under extraordinary circumstances - he was eaten by natives.
Many newspapers reported the events. This is just one:
'Our readers will remember that a boat which left Levuka for Nasavusavu about twelve months ago, with 17 New Hebrides labourers, their employer, Mr. Norman, late of Sandhurst (sic), Victoria, and the aforesaid Jimmie, never reached its destination. The boat was thought to have been wrecked and all on board lost. Jimmie Lasulasu informed Captain Field that when on their way to Nasavusavu the natives took possession of the boat, compelling them to steer first one way and then another, and threatened to kill them if they did not land them on their own island. On the seventeenth day they murdered Mr. Norman, splitting his head open with a tomahawk. They cooked and ate the body, thrusting portions of his cooked companion into the face of Jimmie.' (The Manaro Mercury, and Cooma and Bombala Advertiser, Saturday 3 September 1870.)

Probate papers show that William Gore Norman had purchased a cotton [I think it should be coconut] plantation (Matani Kavika) at Wai Ruhu (Wai Ruka?). He had a Frenchman named Simonet Michel as his overseer. In a statement given for probate purposes, his neighbour, Thomas R. Shute, said that Norman had employed native labour and was doing well and doing business with his neighbours. Those men’s term was up so Norman delivered them home and at Levuka hired 17 Tanna men and paid for their passage. There was a disagreement about the cost of the passage so he decided to take them himself even though he was cautioned not to do it. There was another white man on board – a drunk – natives cooked and ate him. Shute didn’t know what happened to Norman. (PROV, VPRS 28/P0 Unit 88)
I wonder what seven year old Charles Norman was told about his father's demise?
His mother, Elizabeth (nee Webber), remarried in 1880 and had built up a considerable portfolio of property in her own name. She had sold the grocer's shop in Carlton after her first husband's death and began to accumulate property, but in 1889, as the era of 'Marvellous Melbourne' began to evaporate, she found herself in financial trouble and committed suicide in a quite gruesome manner. She was just 57 years old. Her son Charles was 33 and her grandson Robert and his twin brother Raymond, were yet to be born. 

It's not often that you come across stories like these, but I think you'll agree that they are quite extraordinary.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Fireman William Brown and his soldier sons

Recently I was going through some images at Coburg Historical Society and came across some interesting material relating to Coburg Fire Station and also to World War One.

This image was found in an envelope with several other photographs on unrelated subjects. It had been donated some time ago, possibly by George Williams, who was a fireman at Coburg Fire Station in the 1920s (and probably earlier). The photograph has written on the back ‘To George Williams, with best wishes, from W. Brown’ The donor has written on the back at the time of donation ‘Horse Stable at Coburg Fire Station with Capt W. Brown and son enlisted in 1914-18 war.’ 

Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

It took me very little  time to realise that at the time the photograph was taken (probably 1915 when his sons enlisted), Brown had already left Coburg and was stationed at Mentone, so it is almost certain that this photo was taken at Mentone.

Mentone Fire Station with Fireman William Brown sitting in the fire engine, c1918. Courtesy Mordialloc and District Historical Society. From

First Class Fireman William Henry Brown had been in charge of the Coburg Fire Station (then located in Victoria Street) from about 1908 to 1913. He and his wife Winifred (nee Whelan) had five sons and a daughter, the two youngest born while they were living in Coburg. As Roman Catholics, their older children probably attended possibly at St Paul's School in Coburg.

Staff of Coburg Fire Station, circa 1920. Note the almost identical placement of the fire truck to the Mentone image above. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

The Coburg Fire Station staff prior to the motorised fire truck. Victoria Street Fire Station, date unknown. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Having settled to my satisfaction the location of the image of William Brown and his soldier son, I was now left trying to decide which of Brown's sons is pictured with him.  

The two older Brown boys, William Henry and Urban Henry Joseph both enlisted in 1915, WIlliam Henry in August when he claimed to be 18 years old and Urban in September when he, too, claimed to be 18. The Victorian birth indexes reveal that William was actually 17 and Urban was only 15.

William, who was working as a farm hand on King Island, Tasmania when he enlisted, survived the war, returned to Australia with gas poisoning in December 1918 and settled on the land at King Island for a few years before returning to Victoria where he worked as a fireman. He died in August 1974 aged 76.

Urban, a telegraph messenger at Mentone, was 15 years old (born 1900) and of diminutive build (5 foot 4 inches tall and weighing only 7 stone - 44.5 kilograms) when he enlisted. He set off with the 5th Battalion and arrived in France in April 1916. By the end of August he had returned to England with pleurisy and pneumonia and was sent back to Australia. The doctor's report on his journey home stated that 'Patient is a very young delicate looking boy', so perhaps they suspected that he wasn't as old as he claimed, although there is no notation to this effect on his service record.

Postcard written by Urban Brown to his parents from Egypt, March 1916. Image courtesy Discovery Anzacs website. (Original source unknown.)

By February 1917, Urban had recovered from his illnesses and decided to re-enlist. By now he was claiming to be 19 years 10 months, although we know that he was actually 17. He had grown four inches taller and was now 8 and a half stone (54 kilograms). He embarked with the 24th Battalion in May and was soon back in action in France. Slightly wounded in August 1918, he returned to the lines where he died of wounds received on 5 October 1918 and was buried at Templeux Le Guerard Cemetery, France.

Looking at the photograph at the top of this entry, my feeling is that the young man standing next to his father is Urban Brown. He is of slight build, very youthful and he's holding a crop in his hands, something Urban Brown did in several other photographs I've seen on the Discovering Anzacs website. I also think it's more likely that his father would send a photo of himself with the son who died back to his old fire station. I wonder whether you agree with my reasoning?

Finally, here's another photo that was with Urban Brown's entry on the Discovering Anzacs website. The contributor is unknown, but says that these are Brown family members. I think it must have been taken in November 1915 just before William junior embarked. (Urban left in December.) My guess is that the soldier on the left is Urban and that his brother William is holding their sister Winnie (then 5 years old). I can't decide whether the man seated in the front is their father William Henry Brown. I have found no evidence that he served in WW1, so perhaps it is another family member. Then again, this man has a splendid moustache and so does Fireman Brown in the first photograph! I think that the child holding the 'gun' at the front must be Eric Brown, born in 1908, so 7 years old at the time. 

These are all guesses, of course, and I would be delighted if anyone can fill in any gaps in the story I've put together!