Friday, 6 November 2020

Thomas Turner of Fawkner

Herald, 9 July 1917

This snippet is from an article about soldiers who had just won Military Medals. The rather melancholy face looking off into an uncertain future belongs to 18 year old 2414 Pte William Thomas Turner (Tom to his family).

At the time of his enlistment on 10 July 1915, he was an ironworker living with his family in the fledgling settlement of Fawkner. He'd served two years as a senior cadet with 59A area, as had any young man of a similar age, given that cadet training was compulsory at the time.

He left Australia on 29 September 1915 and served in France. Slightly wounded in August 1916, he was able to remain on duty. Later that year, in early December, he was awarded the Military Medal. In late July 1918, he was more seriously wounded - a gunshot wound to the face - and did not rejoin his unit until mid-September. He remained in France until the end of the war until his return to Australia in May 1919. 

On his return he remained in Melbourne's northern suburbs where he and his wife Ella brought up their family of four children. Writing from his home in West Preston in March 1941, he applied for new discharge papers so that he could undertake munitions works. 

Tom Turner's was not a long life. He died at Caulfield Military Hospital on 9 October 1945 aged only 48 and was laid to rest at Fawkner Memorial Park.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Leonard Blackwood of Service Street, Coburg

Richmond Guardian, 10 November 1917

Roll of Honour Circular. Courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Leonard Stanley Blackwood is remembered at the Coburg Lake Reserve Memorial Avenue of Trees (tree 10). At the time of his death his family lived in Coburg, but the Roll of Honour Circular reminds us how mobile the population was in those times. Leonard was born at Leonards Hill near Daylesford, lived for some time in Richmond and called Coburg home at the time he enlisted.

He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (Plot XX, Row I, Grave No. 19), Belgium.

Image courtesy

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Rev Robert Thomson and Miss Annie Wiseman walking home from church, Glenroy, 1918


E2_3G.001. Rev Robert Thomson of Glenroy Church of England with Miss Annie Wiseman walking home from church. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

This image was catalogued along with images of an unnamed soldier and a group of three others standing on Pascoe Vale Road, Glenroy that were the subject of my last post, and so I have assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that there is some sort of connection between the images.

This photo appears on page 132 of Andrew Lemon’s book Broadmeadows with the caption ‘Rev Robert Thomson walks Miss Annie Wiseman home from church, looking north along Blenheim Street.’ And like the previous photos, I have spent a long time trying to find out more about Rev Thomson and Annie Wiseman.

The man is in uniform. We’re told he is Rev Robert Thomson, who was the Church of England clergyman based at St Matthews in Glenroy Road, Glenroy from 1917 to 1920. However, the identification of the man as Rev Thomson is problematic, because I can find no evidence that he served. He is not listed as a Chaplain or as an enlisted man. So is this really Rev Thomson?  And if it is not him, is it possible to discover his identity? He does not seem to be the same person as the man featured in the previous photos. Although they are both tall men, one is wearing a greatcoat and slouch hat and the other wears a cap (an officer's cap, perhaps). Then again, perhaps it is the same man and the photos were taken on different days.

If you're interested in finding out more about the role of chaplains during the war, there is an interesting article on Army Chaplains during WW1 on the Australian War Memorial website. You can read that here.

We are told that the woman is Annie Wiseman. She was the daughter of Albert Wiseman who built ‘Ashleigh’ in Widford Road. Annie was born in 1875, so was 43 when this photo was taken. She didn’t marry, so if the suggestion here is that they’re ‘walking out’, the courtship did not lead to marriage.

The photographer is facing north. We are told that this is Blenheim Street, which runs north off Glenroy Road. The Sands & McDougall Directory of 1915 records that the only house in the street was occupied by Arthur Ernest Wiseman, solicitor, Annie’s brother. So the connections to the Wiseman family are clear.

It's been frustrating not being able to discover more about Rev Robert Thomson and his supposed war service. Despite many hours of research, I could find very little about the man at all, suggesting that he may not have been in Victoria very long. He was Robert John Thomson and had been at Yarram before coming to Glenroy, but I could find no other trace of him in Victoria. His history here seems to start in 1916 at Yarram, continues from 1917 at Glenroy and ends with his departure from Glenroy in 1920. That search was made more difficult because there was another Rev Robert Thomson, a Presbyterian, who lived in the Smeaton area and whose name appeared in the newspapers on numerous occasions. With nothing to guide me, I don't even know how old he was. And during lockdown it isn't possible to consult the Anglican Historical Society to find out more. So he will have to stay floating in his Glenroy 'bubble' until it is possible to do more research.

Of Annie Wiseman I can say more. In November 1938, Annie, aged 65, and her 17 year old niece Phyllis were murdered in Annie’s home on the corner of Melbourne Avenue and Salisbury Street, opposite the Glenroy Railway Station. Annie had lived there for about 20 years, so this must have been the home they were walking to when this photograph was taken.

Age, 14 November 1938 

Aerial view of murder scene of Annie Wiseman and niece Phyllis, 1938. Image I9_1G.001. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

Herald, 14 November 1938. This photograph gives a clearer idea of the house's location.

Phyllis Wiseman's family lived in the country and she lived with another Glenroy-based aunt during the week and with Annie on the weekends. It was her bad fortune that she was staying with Annie at the time of the fatal assault.

Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

If you can add anything to the story of the photos featured here, or can suggest other ways that I might find more information on Rev Robert Thomson, I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

An unidentified soldier standing on Pascoe Vale Road, Glenroy near Prospect Street, 1918


Image E2_1G.001. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

I came across this photo, and the one you see below of two women and a boy standing with the same man, when I was searching the Moreland Libraries Local History Catalogue.

Image E2_2G.001. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

In the absence of any identifying material, I set out to find out as much as I could about the photographs.

These two photos were taken at the same time and in the same place along Pascoe Vale Road (near the Prospect Street intersection). They both face in the same direction. The muddy, rutted road is the same, the fence running along the property on the left is the same and the same tree is featured in both photos. Even though the soldier is wearing a coat, the women are not and there are leaves on the tree, so it must have been either autumn or spring.

I’m no further advanced in my quest to identify the soldier or the two women or the boy, who looks to be about 12 and appears to be wearing a school cap (or is it a Boy Scout uniform?) and is pointing his toy gun at the photographer. The woman on the left stands close to the soldier and leans into his side, but is she his sister, a friend, fiancee, wife? The woman standing a little to the side looks a little older. I can’t see a wedding ring, so is she an older sister, perhaps?

The soldier is tall and solidly built and he doesn’t look like a youth. That’s as far as I’ve been able to go.

The photo is dated 1918, so is this a returning soldier? Or someone who has yet to leave for the Front? Impossible to know. If he’s yet to leave, it’s likely to be an autumn photo. If he’s just returned, then it’s spring and it’s possible that he was an early enlistee, served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and came home early on ANZAC leave. But this is all conjecture. It’s impossible to know without more information.

There is one clue that with further work might lead to a firm identification – the next photograph in the sequence is E2_3G.001. It, too, is dated 1918 and shows a member of the Wiseman family walking home from church with the local clergyman Rev Robert Thomson. (My next blog entry will feature this photo.)

So, are these members of the Wiseman family, perhaps?

I wrote about the Wiseman’s link to the local area’s patriotic effort six years ago when I wrote about the Glenroy Military Hospital that was housed in the two Wiseman mansions in Widford Road – ‘Ashleigh’ (home of Albert Wiseman, later St Nicholas Boys Home and demolished in 1955) and ‘Sawbridgeworth’ (home of Arthur Wiseman, later St Agnes Girls Home and now Wiseman House). During WW1 it was an infectious diseases hospital (mostly measles cases) and one home housed officers, the other housed the ranks. You can read about that here.

This was part of a series of posts about the Glenroy Military Hospital, funded through the efforts of Coburg woman Linda Davis under the auspices of the local Red Cross Branch. These posts are also published on Wikinorthia and you can read about those hereYou can also read more about the development of Glenroy on Wikinorthia

And still I’m no closer to identifying this soldier or his companions.

These are great photos, though, and a reminder that just over a hundred years ago Pascoe Vale Road was little more than a dirt track.

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who can add any further detail on the location or the people in the photo. 

Friday, 14 August 2020

Albert Dunstan of Tooborac and Coburg

Bendigonian, 22 February 1917.

3181 Pte Albert Dunstan, 6th Field Ambulance and his older brother 255 Horace John Dunstan, who served in the Flying Corps and then the 8th Battalion, were probably used to moving around the countryside, like so many other children of railway stationmasters. Albert was born at Tooborac and Horace at Elsternwick. 

When Albert enlisted in March 1915, his parents were living in Hudson Street, Coburg, but throughout the war they sent the authorities news of their change of address - to Heathcote, then Yea. It must have been difficult for the family to decide just which community they identified with when it came time to place the names of their sons on Honour Boards, for example. In their case, Horace is listed on the Coburg Honour Board, but Albert is not.

This confusion around community identity must have been much the same for all railway children, just as it would have been for the children of Methodist ministers, for example, whose fathers moved every two or three years, that being the custom of the church at the time. Or teachers, or bank officers. Or any other itinerant worker.

Both Dunstan brothers returned to Australia. Albert died in 1954 aged 56 and Horace in 1965 aged 75.  

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Troops marching down Sydney Road, 1915

Troops marching down Sydney Road to Broadmeadows Camp, c1915. 
Image S.9.1.2. Courtesy Moreland City Libraries.

I've written about the first men to leave for the front before. You can read about that here.

In the meantime, here's a photo from the Moreland City Libraries collection that I can't help feeling was taken around the same time (ie October 1914). The troops are walking along Sydney Road heading to Broadmeadows Camp. The camera man is facing south and there are lots of trees in the background, so I'm guessing that's Princes Park and we're somewhere in the vicinity of where Sydney Road widens to become Royal Parade. The other photos I've seen are further north along Sydney Road in Coburg, but this looks like Brunswick or even Carlton North to me.

Maybe someone reading this has some more information to add?

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Robert Allum is awarded the Serbian Medal

Some family background

Thomas Henry Allum was born at Acton, Middlesex in 1848. His younger brother William was born there two years later. In October 1853, the boys, with their parents William and Marianne (nee Sharp), arrived in Melbourne as assisted immigrants. They made their home in Brunswick where eight more children were born.

In 1878, Thomas Allum married a widow, Irish woman Margaret Matthew (nee Doyle). She had married her first husband Hannibal Matthew in Adelaide in 1861 and had eight children by her first marriage, three of them born in Brunswick.

In late August 1877 Hannibal Matthew, a Brunswick stone-carter fell trying to get his horse started and the wheel of his dray ran over his chest. The accident happened in Sydney Road. He died a month later at the Melbourne Hospital. He was only 36.

A year later his widow Margaret married Thomas Allum and they had two children, one of whom (a daughter) survived childhood.

These were the days before formal adoptions and it appears that the Allums fostered two sons: Robert, born about 1888 when Margaret was 35, and Joseph, born in 1894 when she was 41. There is some confusion about whether they were both foster sons, although I think this is likely, because I have yet to locate a birth record for Robert who is identified in a number of places as a foster son, and Joseph is identified as a foster son in his attestation papers.

Both of Margaret Allum’s foster sons enlisted in World War One, as did Matthew Matthew, a son from her first marriage.

Matthew Matthew (yes, that’s his correct name) enlisted in Perth in March 1916 claiming to be 43½ years old. His was a short war. He arrived in France on 1 December 1916 and three weeks later was in hospital in Etaples with rheumatism. He was evacuated to England in February 1917 where authorities discovered his real age – 52. He was returned to Australia and discharged on 12 July 1917.

Margaret Allum (formerly Matthew, nee Doyle) died at Coburg in 1918 aged 75. Her husband Thomas Allum died in 1925 aged 77. They are buried at Melbourne General Cemetery.


The Allum brothers and the war

The Allum family had been living in Moore Street, Coburg for a number of years when 1037 Private Robert Allum, 22nd  Infantry Battalion (later transferred to Camel Corps), enlisted in February 1915. He served in the Imperial Camel Corps in Egypt for the whole of the war and was awarded the Serbian Silver Medal in September 1916.

Imperial Camel Corps members, Palestine, 1918. AWM. Image B00193.

Studio portrait of 1037 Private Robert Allum, 22nd Battalion, of Coburg, Vic., taken about May 1915. Image courtesy AWM. Image DA09088.


Herald, 15 September 1917.

After the war, Robert Allum lived for a time in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick East, but by 1965 he was a resident of the Frank March Keira Diggers’ Rest Home at Mt Keira, NSW. (via Wollongong). His seems a sad story. By then he’d had a stroke and couldn’t write. He’d lost his discharge papers, medals etc. when his two suitcases (presumably holding all his possessions) were stolen from him in a similar place in Sydney. In a Stat Dec signed on 23 Sep 1965 when he was in Garrawarra Hospital at Waterfall (NSW State Hospital for those with chronic diseases and diseases of the ageing), he states that his next of kin at time of his enlistment was his brother Joe Allum of Moore Rd., Mooreland (sic). He said he’d had his suitcases stolen about 8 or 9 months before at a Residential near Central Station. ‘I asked a Residential Porter to mind my bags and when I came back the porter and the bags were gone.’ Robert died on 19 October 1969.

He is remembered on the Moreland State School (2837) Roll of Honour and on the Town of Coburg Honour Board, WW1, 1914-1918, located at Coburg Town Hall.

DEPOT 2544 Joseph Allum, enlisted in 5th Infantry Battalion but discharged.

Joseph Allum enlisted in July 1915. His foster mother Mrs M. Allum is listed as his next of kin. He was discharged at Broadmeadows because he enlisted without his parents’ consent. Margaret Allum wrote in January 1916 that she had lived in the Coburg/Brunswick area for 50 years and that Joseph had attended the Moreland State School. ‘I have always brought him up to be honest and truthful. I have had a great deal of trouble to rear him as he was not a healthy child.’ In another letter she says ‘He is not fit to go away and I find it very hard for to let a boy go to his certain death, especially when he has not had my consent.’ End of story. Joseph stayed home. He died in 1971 aged 75, quite possibly not knowing what had become of his foster-brother Robert.