Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Teresa Baxter and her six soldier sons

Herald, 16 December 1916

This photo of Brunswick woman Teresa Baxter (nee Hannabury) was taken at a time when five of her sons were fighting at the Front and another was yet to join up. 

The newspaper article tells us that she mothered 20 children, 17 boys and 3 girls and that there were 18 surviving children in December 1916. We are also told that she raised 8 of her late sister-in-law's children. (Her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Tomlinson, was her husband Robert's sister.)

The official records show that there were 16 children in the Baxter family - 10 boys and 6 girls - and that 6 were dead by 1916 when the article was written, so there were 10 alive, not 18 as reported in the paper. My guess is that the Tomlinson offspring were counted in that total.

In any case, the Baxter household must have been very crowded, and Teresa's life must have been very, very busy. Her last 5 children were born in the 1900s when she was in her 40s, so when WW1 broke out, she had young children to raise at the same time as her older sons were off at the war.

The Baxters had lived in the area for a long time. Teresa's father-in-law Robert Baxter, who died in 1890, was an early resident of Coburg, where there is a street (running off Sydney Road) named for him. 

The Baxters were also Roman Catholics (Probably no surprise when the mother's full name was Teresa Bridget Hannabury), and in some ways it is surprising to see so many sons from a Catholic family serving in the AIF, although most of them enlisted well before the conscription debates of late 1916 and 1917. You can read about the debates here and here and here.  The timing of the Herald's article is interesting, though, given that the first conscription referendum took place on 28 October 1916.

The five sons featured in the article are:

Robert Arthur, 9th child and 3rd surviving son, born Brunswick 1894, died Heidelberg 1962. 633 Sgt Robert Baxter served with 5th then 45th Btns. He enlisted on 21 August 1914 as a 20 year old ironworker (he worked for Messrs Kemp and Sheehan, brassfounders of Little Collins Street). He was also something of a sportsman and a member of the Coburg Cycling Club. He was at the Landing on 25 April 1915, wounded and hospitalised in Malta. After his return he developed pleurisy, but recovered. In France he suffered mild shell shock in August 1916. In 1918 he had VD treatment (he claimed to have contracted it for the first time in Australia in 1906, and if this was true, he was only 12 at the time), was courmartialled for being AWL for nearly 3 months and was sentenced to 180 days (it boiled down to 90 days forfeiture of pay in the end), then returned to Australia in late October 1918 with 'fibrosis of the lung'.  Immediately after the war, he was living in Sargood Street, Coburg.

Thomas William, 2nd child but 1st surviving child, born Coburg 1883, died Belgium 20 September 1917. 1658 Pte Thomas William Baxter, 7th Btn, 3rd reinforcements was single and nearly 34 when he enlisted on 28 October 1914. A veteran of the Boer War, he claims to have served in Thorneycroft's Mounted Rifles for six months, although I could find no official record of this. He worked at Hoffman Brickworks in Dawson Street, Brunswick before enlistment. He received a shrapnel wound in the shoulder at Lone Pine, Gallipoli on 25 August 1915 and was hospitalised in Malta. He was admitted to hospital in Cairo with neurasthenia in February 1916 after striking an officer and causing a disturbance in the camp and returned to France at the end of July 1916. He spent several months in hospital in England in 1917 suffering from nephritis. He was later arrested for drunkenness and being AWL and rejoined his unit on 18 August 1917. A month later he was killed in action in Belgium. 

Leonard Gordon, 14th child, born Brunswick 1902, died Coburg, 1983. 6611 Pte Leonard Gordon, 6th Btn, enlisted claiming to be 18 years old on 16 March 1916. However, the birth records indicate that he was born in 1902 and was actually only 14 years old. At the time of enlistment he worked as a potter and burner at Hoffman's Brickworks. He arrived in France in February 1917 (aged 15) and received a gun shot wound to his right arm in early October 1917. He did not see any action then until May 1918. He was gassed on 25 August 1918 and wounded in the thigh on 5 September 1918. This ended his war and he returned to Australia on 9 December 1918, aged only 16 (or maybe 17 by then). After the war, he returned to his former employment at Hoffmans and remained in the area until his death in 1983.

George Arthur, 8th child & 2nd surviving son, born Brunswick 1893, died Merlynston, 1974. 828 Pte George Arthur Baxter, 39th Btn, enlisted in early 1916 aged 22 and left Australia on 27 May 1916. He had married Jean Hackett just before he went into camp. He'd been employed at Mr Sweet's Pottery in Barkly Street, East Brunswick for 11 years (making him only 10 or 11 when he started work), but had recently been employed at Hoffman's as a potter - where his brothers Thomas and Leonard also worked. He landed in France in November 1916 and was evacuated wounded on 4 October 1917. He returned to the Front and was promoted to Sergeant in January 1918. After his return to Australia in April 1919, he went back to work at Hoffman's, where his brother Leonard was also working.

Percy Roy, 10th child & 4th surviving son, born Brunswick 1896, died South Melbourne  1960. 3013 Pte Percy Baxter, 57th Btn then 60th Btn then 25 Howitzer Bde then 5th DAC. When he enlisted on 13 July 1915 he was claimed to be 21 year old glassblower working for Messrs Angliss and Co., Northcote and that he'd worked there for 11 years. This would mean that he was only 10 when he began work - probably correct, but very young, all the same. I'm a little sceptical about his length of service at Angliss and Co., because he was born in 1896, so at best was 20 when he enlisted, meaning he would have started work aged 9 - seems unlikely, but possible, I suppose.) Anyway, he arrived in France in Feburary 1916, survived the war, returned to Australia in February 1919 and settled in Brunswick immediately after the war.

Another son - Stanley - 11th child & 5th surviving son, was not mentioned in the Herald article, but also served. He was born at Brunswick in 1898 and died at Heidelberg in 1964. 7204 Pte Stanley Baxter, 24 Reinfs, 5th Btn. He enlisted on 14 December 1916 (around the time the newspaper article was published) at which time he claimed to be 21, although he was actually only 18. His parents signed the consent form on 15 December 1916 (the day before the Herald article appeared), stating that he turned 21 on 5 November. He embarked the following February, served in France until he received a flesh wound to his left leg in August 1918 and was hospitalised in England. He returned to Australia in January 1919. He had served 1195 days, 732 overseas and received a pension on his return.

The Baxter parents had married in 1888. Teresa Baxter, their mother, had signed the Women's Suffrage Petition (the Women's Suffrage 'Monster' Petition) in 1891 when the family was living in Glenlyon Road, Brunswick. After her husband's death in 1920, she lived at various locations around the northern suburbs - Brunswick, Fitzroy, North Carlton. She died at the grand age of 96 in 1952.

This piece was written as an International Women's Day tribute to all the women who struggled (and still struggle) to raise their families with very few resources. Many, like Teresa Baxter, took in other children in need, rather than see them go into care. Amazingly, Teresa survived to live a long life. I hope she felt it was a worthwhile life.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

H. Reginald, blacksmith of Coburg, and former member of the AIF.

I have a mystery I'm trying to solve and maybe someone out there can help.

The photo below clearly shows the  name H. Reginald, late AIF, Shoeing and General Blacksmith. 

I've been told that the photo was taken in about 1923 and that the business was at the rear of McKay's Dairy in Sutherland Street, Coburg and that it was later converted into a motor mechanic's workshop.

The first problem is the possible date. Sands and McDougalls gives the first entry for John McKay at 21 Sutherland Street, Coburg in 1929 and he's there until at least 1942. I can find no reference to H. Reginald, however.

The second problem comes with researching the name H. Reginald. Almost every database I've searched leads to a dead end. If I search for Reginald as a surname, they want to search it as a given name. If I search for Harry Reginald, the same thing happens. Same with H. Reginald.

The exception is that I've found a Harry Reginald, blacksmith, at 527 Sydney Road, Coburg from 1923 to 1925, then the numbering changed and it was 723 to 725 Sydney Road to 1935. (Same address, different numbering. It's just along from the old Fire Station, near Gaffney Street.) This is definitely the man in the photograph. In 1938 the blacksmith's name changed to W.A. Poole then in the 1940s it became a dentist's surgery.

If you look closely at the photograph you'll see the business was at number 527, so this is clearly the right location. Given that the numbering changed in 1926, the photo must have been taken between 1923 and 1925, as my information suggested.

So now I have a name - Harry Reginald - and a place - 527 (and later 723) Sydney Road, Coburg - and some dates - 1923 to 1935, with the photo dating from pre-1926.

I know vaguely what he looks like - I'm assuming that's him on the left in this photograph - and perhaps John McKay is the man on the right, although that's just a guess.

But that's where the trail ends. I can't find any Harry Reginald listed in AIF records. I can't find him on electoral rolls. The Victorian BDM indexes list only one person with the surname Reginald. Newspapers on TROVE do what everything else does - leads me to me who had the given name Reginald. I just don't seem to make any headway on this one.

Any suggestions anyone? I'm at a loss to know where to go next. 

Monday, 28 January 2019

Veterans Heritage Project

If you have a bit of time to spare, why not check out the 100 objects and stories that make up this terrific project. You can see it here.

Example from the Beyond the Centenary project, from the Wangaratta RSL Sub-Branch collection.

From the Lara RSL's collection. I have two of these memorial plaques, both in their original heavy card casings and in pretty much their original state. They were sent to my great grandmother Ellen Hunter in Carrick, Tasmania, in memory of two of her sons who died in WW1. The plaques I have look very much like the old pennies I used to get for my pocket money when I was a kid - not polished like this one. It's left me wondering what their original colour might have been. I actually like the fact that mine are that dull gun-metal colour. It seems appropriate.

The items displayed online relate to all of Australia's war experiences, not just WW1, and are sourced from a range of contributing organisations to Victorian Collections.

There are also stories, curated by different people, on a vast range of topics, such as this one by Belinda Ensor, that relates to World War One.

If you're a researcher interested in Victorian history, you'll find the Victorian Collections website is well worth a visit. 

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Anzac Day breakfast at St Augustine's Moreland, 1933

One foundation: a parish journey in Moreland, Peter Sherlock, p.66. 

Rev Charles William Thomas Rogers was vicar of St Augustine's from 1932 until 1942. He served as a Chaplain, attached to the 57th Battalion during World War One. When he embarked in June 1917, he was vicar at North Carlton, the suburb where he was born 40 years earlier. He died in 1966 at Surrey Hills aged 89.

I've yet to identify Rev G. Hall, or Mr James or Major Douglas.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Ambler family of Moreland's contribution to the war

Widow Lizzie Ambler did not have it easy. Her husband died in his 40s, leaving her with four young children to raise. She managed, but it was a struggle as you can tell from this newspaper article in the Herald.

Herald, 12 May 1897

After her husband's death on their rural block at Kardella, near Korumburra in South Gippsland, Lizzie Ambler settled in Coburg and for many years the family lived at 'Blenheim',168 Moreland Road, Coburg West, on the border with Brunswick, in an area more commonly known as Moreland.

The family attended St Augustine's Church, then on the corner of Davies Street and Moreland Road.

Image taken from One foundation: a parish journey in Moreland by Peter Sherlock. The brick church was built in the early 1920s after the previous wooden building burnt down.

The girls were confirmed at St Augustine's in 1908.

Image taken from Peter Sherlock's One foundation: a parish journey in Moreland, page 28

Lizzie married George William Mateer in 1920 at St Augustine’s Church. She died in 1985 aged 91.

Rose married Leopold Beever in 1924. She died in 1976 aged 84.

Milanie trained as a nurse at the Children's Hospital and served as Staff Nurse Milanie Treleavan Ambler in Salonika during World War One. She did not marry, worked as a nurse all her life and died in 1970 aged 81. 

Adelaide, SA. June 1917. Group portrait of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) sisters from Qld, NSW, Vic, Tas, and SA, bound for Salonica, Greece on the RMS Mooltan. Includes Milanie Treleaven Ambler of West Coburg, Vic (112). Image courtesy AWM. Image A01240.

Their only brother Llewellyn (Lew), a builder by trade, was one of a number of members of the Coburg Cycling Club who enlisted in World War One.

A send off was held for Lew and his mates at the Club. Mr Johnston (Andrew Johnston, club stalwart) gave ‘a fine speech’ and mentioned that so far 30 members of the Club had enlisted.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 3 September 1915

Andrew Johnston’s son Donald was one of the 30 who had enlisted. By the time his father Andrew made his speech farewelling Lew Ambler, ‘hero of 100 battles on the track’, Percy Power (Cycling Club secretary) and Richard Lawless, Don was dead, killed in action at Krithia on 8 May 1915.

Lew Ambler’s pals from Coburg Cycling Club, Richard (Dick) Lawless and Percival (Percy) Power placed In Memoriam notices in the newspapers for years after his death. They joined up at around the same time and the local paper (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 24 Sep 1915) commented 'and so the three will share the fortunes of war together.’ This was the case until Ambler’s death in June 1918 , but he was never forgotten by his friends. 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Coburg Cricket Club and World War One

Recently I published a post featuring this picture that shows Gordon McKay with his cricket team members:

At the time I wondered whether it was taken at Coburg. 

And now, thanks to Paul Sumner, I know that it was!

Here's a picture featuring Paul's great-uncle Keith Harder and another Coburg man, Les Ward. Best mates, they both served in World War One. Les died of wounds on 12 March 1917. You can read more about them here.

Les is 2nd from left in the back row. Keith is 2nd from right in back row.

I haven't been able to identify any of the others in the photo and would be very pleased to hear from anyone who can do so!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Kylie McKay of Romsey for supplying this postcard. 

The writer is Elsie of Chandos Street, Coburg. Fanny McKay lived at Hill Croft Farm in Newlands. Elsie refers to two former students of Coburg State School - C. Phillips and L. Libbis - and there's been some sort of tiff because she's not speaking to them.

I'm not sure who C. Phillips was, but the Libbis family lived in Mayfield Street, Coburg between 1909 and 1912 when they moved to Nelson Street. Leslie and Bill Libbis both served in World War One (Bill was killed in August 1915). They had a sister Myrtle Lilian, so perhaps she was called Lilian. Otherwise, it appears Elsie's argument was with Leslie. We may never know!

Both Leslie and William Libbis are featured in my book The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go to War which is available from Coburg Historical Society.