Friday, 24 July 2015

When Rosie married Roy




The wedding of Rosie and Roy. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.


In June 1992 someone found this photo at a Coburg Trash'n'Treasure sale and donated it to Coburg Historical Society. 

On the back are written the words 'To dear Auntie Annie. With best wishes from Rosie and Roy.'

But who are Rosie and Roy? And what is their connection, if any, to Coburg?

There are three men in uniform in the photo. Roy and one other are wearing officer's uniforms and a younger man, centre back row, is wearing a slouch hat. 

Roy has stripes on his uniform sleeve, and someone with a better knowledge of patches will be able to tell me who he served with. This detail from the larger photo shows the patch and stripes quite clearly:



The woman on the left of the photo is wearing some sort of service badge. I think she must be the mother of either Roy or Rosie, so I'm guessing it's a mother's badge, but I'm sure someone will let me know!




No one in the photo seems very happy, so perhaps Roy was about to sail for the Front. 

I have already eliminated all the servicemen with Roy in their names who had connections to Coburg.

They are:

6470 Private Roy Beattie, 14th Infantry Battalion. KIA, 11 April 1917, France.
8166 Private Percival Roy Bridger, 2nd Australian General Hospital.  Member of Coburg Harriers Club. 
7549 Sapper Roy Marcus Bright, 2nd Divisional Signal Company.
2813 Acting Corporal Roy Phillips Bromley, 29th Infantry Battalion, D Company. KIA 26 Sep 1917, France. Memorial service for the fallen, Coburg, February 1918. Memorial Avenues of trees, Coburg Lake. Memorial Avenue of Trees plan. Tree # 9.
2342 Albert Royston Chapman, 21st Infantry Battalion, 5th Reinforcements then 67th Infantry Battalion.
7362 Roy Rupert Davis, 8th LIght Horse Regiment.
Roy Cavanagh Downs.
16332 Private Alan Samuel Roy Ferguson, Hospital Transport Corps.
3390 Private Cecil Roy Hambridge, 58th Infantry Battalion..
5153 Private Alexander Roy Main, 8th Infantry Battalion.
626 Sapper Roy Gustav Nilsson, Tunnelling Company.
Roy McCowan Russell.
2nd Lieutenant (MGS) Roy Blamire Sewell, HQ Staff of 22nd Infantry Battalion.
Roy Booty (or Botty) Watson.
1187 Private Alfred Roy Werner, 38th Infantry Battalion, D Company.
2476  Private Walter Roy Wilson, 5th Infantry Battalion. KIA 18 August 1916.
2920 Signaller Roy Yorke, 6th Infantry Battalion. 


I am hoping that I will eventually be able to identify this couple, and the other servicemen in the photo, so any help you can offer will be very much appreciated!


Monday, 20 July 2015

Adela Pankhurst, the anti-conscription movement and Pentridge Prison



Not long ago, my attention was drawn to several articles relating to a crowd of ‘no conscriptionists’ who had gathered outside the Women’s Prison at Pentridge to protest the imprisonment of Adela Pankhurst, daughter of English suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and sister of Christabel and Sylvia. Estranged from her family, she had arrived in Melbourne in 1914.



Image of Adela Pankhurst from Wikipedia 



On 7 January 1918, about 50 supporters, mostly women and ‘understood to be socialists’, gathered at the entrance to Pentridge and sang to Adela, who was now Adela Walsh, having married Tom Walsh while on remand in September 1917. She was serving a four month term for repeatedly defying a ban on public meetings. The sounds of ‘Solidarity Forever’, ‘The Red Flag’ and ‘We’ll keep Australia Free’ rang out along Champ Street. Enthusiastic Cooees, meant to send support to Adela on the inside, were heard. Soon a crowd of 300 had gathered.


Front gate of Pentridge Prison c1930. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.


The police dispersed the crowd quickly, but Carlton couple Richard and Lilias Mary Land were arrested, charged with ‘offensive behaviour’.  Many in the crowd followed the couple to the Coburg Police Station where they were charged, and while their supporters waited for the Lands to be bailed, they continued singing into the night.

The following articles outline the story:

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.2.


Weekly Times, 12 January 1918, p.10.



Tribune, 10 January 1918, p.5. 



Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 11 January 1918, p.1. 



Adela (Pankhurst) Walsh was released on 22 January 1918. Not long afterwards she and Tom Walsh moved to New South Wales.


Punch, 4 April 1918, p.32.



These events at Coburg should be seen against the backdrop of bans on peace or ‘no conscriptionist’ meetings that had been in the news for the previous twelve months. There is little coverage of these meetings in the local newspapers, especially in Coburg where there appears on the surface to have been little support for the anti-conscription or the peace movement. Yet there must have been others in the area who supported the same anti-war and anti-conscriptionist stance as Pankhurst, who was an organiser for Vida Goldstein’s Women Political Association and Women’s Peace Army.



Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 1 June 1917, p.4. 




Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 20 April 1917, p.1 



You can read more about the peace movement, the anti-conscription campaign and other aspects of the Moreland area during World War One on the Moreland Remembers World War 1 exhibition banners.


Let me know if you can add to this story.





Sunday, 12 July 2015

1915’s War Census



'Australia has promised Britain 50,000 more men. Will you help us keep that promise?’ Poster courtesy AWM, ARTV00021. The poster depicts the national symbol of the kangaroo against a backdrop of advancing soldiers.


In the notes that accompany the above poster, the Australian War Memorial records that:
Towards the end of 1915, a War Census  of the Australian population showed that 244,000 single men of military age were available for enlistment. Accordingly, on 26 November 1915, the government with W.M. Hughes as its new leader, promised Britain 50,000 more troops - in addition to the 9,500 per month being sent as reinforcements for the 60,000 Australians already overseas.

To view the details of the War Census Act of 1915, click hereTo read more about the Census and its role in the recruitment campaign, click here.





Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.


Francis Greenwood was 49 when he filled out the census cards in September 1915. The cards show that he was a resident of Sydney Road, Coburg and was a produce merchant with assets worth £2,351.

Frederick Greenwood was the son of Coburg pioneer Abel Greenwood who had been a Coburg Councillor and a Shire President. 
It was Abel Greenwood who started the Sydney Road business.

Greenwood’s Produce Store, c1900. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.


And just to show yet again how one piece of research leads into another, I was interested when I was researching the 1915 War Census to come across the following article in The Mirror of Australia, 11 December 1915, p.16.



And this one from the Sydney Mail, 8 December 1915, p.30.





I wondered whether the Victorian branch of the National Council of Women had taken up the issue, but it seems not:


Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 1915, p.5.










Friday, 10 July 2015

Harold Swanson, a Coburg conscientious objector, comes under suspicion


A little while ago, I wrote about a local man, Harold Swanson, who came before the Coburg exemption court in October 1916 claiming he was a conscientious objector.


Age, Thursday 19 October 1916, p.8.

Since I wrote that blog entry, I have found out much more about Harold Swanson and about anti-conscription meetings in Coburg and Brunswick. The research goes on, but some interesting stories have begun to emerge.

Swanson's stance as a conscientious objector must have been well known to his local community, as the following newspaper clipping suggests:

Brunswick and Coburg Star, Friday 4 August 1916, p.3.

The newspaper article also makes clear that although Swanson's opinion of war was well known and clearly not supported by the St. Augustine's congregation, it was not considered an impediment to him taking the role of secretary of the vestry. It seems that although Swanson was anti-war, he still felt able to attend this welcome home to the St. Augustine's 'Anzac heroes'. So it wasn't a case of immovable object meets immovable object.

Whether this was still the attitude six weeks later, as anti-conscription meetings in Coburg and Brunswick met resistance from the local Councils, is unclear, but as the first conscription referendum drew nearer, there were signs of tension everywhere, as the following extracts from the local press reveal.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 15 September 1916, p.2.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 29 September 1916, p.3.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 20 October 1916, p.2.


And such times of great tension provide the perfect opportunity for neighbour to inform on 'suspect' neighbour, just as they did in the days of the Cold War. The World War One Intelligence files held at the National Archives of Australia reveal one such story from Brunswick.

On 20 October 1916, the very week that Harold Swanson appeared in Coburg Court, a report was filed at Brunswick Police Station on Otto Draeger, a 56 year old watchmaker of Sydney Road. Constable R.R. Dugdale was requested to provide a report on Draeger who was 'said to be a full blooded German canvassing for the Anti-Conscription Party.' Constable Dugdale found no evidence of this and said that Draeger was a 'quiet man and does not take any part in public matters'.  He went on to say that Draeger had been born at Emerald Hill in 1860 of German parents. He then listed some of Draeger's nephews who were away at the war. (National Archives of Australia, MP16/1. 1916/1273)

What isn't mentioned here is that one nephew, 33449 Driver Clarence Norman Draeger, 11th Howitzer Battery, 11th Brigade Australian Field Artillery, had enlisted the week before the report was written. An old boy of Coburg State School who lived in Bell Street, Preston during his school days, Clarrie Draeger was a resident of Blackburn at the time of his enlistment. He was killed in action in France on 22 June 1918 and is remembered on the Preston Cenotaph.

Uncle Otto, a quiet man from a respected family of local jewellers, a private man who 'does not take part in public matters', must have been mortified at being questioned about his loyalty. And he was just one of many.

Over six months passed before the tensions around Harold Swanson's anti-war stance re-emerged. A World War One Intelligence File dated 2 May 1917 reveals that Harold F. Swanson, of 98 Blair Street, Coburg, had been working as a munitions worker, but this appointment was about to be cancelled. (National Archives of Australia, MP16/1. 17/394)

The attack on Swanson was two-pronged. 

Firstly, the family's loyalty was called into question. It was said that Harold's father, A.E. Swanson, a patent attorney, had visited Paris 'and was known to travel towards the German frontier.' It was also claimed that 'his business was primarily to exhibit some patents; one being on a submarine ... This invention is now in use by the Germans, and since the return of Mr Swanson he appears to be much better off financially.' UK Inward Passenger Lists reveal that Albert Swanson did indeed travel to Europe, reaching London on 9 December 1911, three years before war was declared, so he could hardly be accused of selling secrets to the enemy.

Secondly, of Harold Swanson it was claimed that he was 'a socialist to the backbone' and 'states that he would not volunteer or be a conscriptionist, and would sooner be placed in front of a barrack wall and shot.' And just as bad - 'He helps break up recruiting meetings at Coburg.' Not only that, but the mother of the informant against Harold Swanson said that she had 'asked him before the referendum [the October 1916 referendum]  if he intended to vote for the KING or the Kaiser, and he said the Kaiser.' She had then asked him to leave the house!

None of this is new information, of course, but  the case against Harold Swanson was such that his appointment as a munitions worker was cancelled. Swanson's own voice is not heard in the files, but given his previous public statements, he probably did not protest.

Finally, in the week leading up to the second conscription referendum on 20 December 1917, the Swanson family re-appeared in the local press. 

This time it was Harold's older brother Albert, a Brunswick printer, who made the news.


Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 14 December 1917, p.1.

Both local men, Judd, of De Carle St., Brunswick North and Goding, of The Grove, Moreland, were both teachers and as such might be expected to set an example to others. Clearly the heat of the moment had got the better of Judd and his taunt of 'cold-footed rotter' moved Albert Swanson to action. He might have been an anti-conscriptionist, but he certainly was not averse to using force if he deemed it warranted.

It is here that I will leave this short exploration of a turbulent period on the home front. There is much more to be said about the anti-conscription movement and of the way those with foreign names, especially German sounding names, were treated.

There are over 7,000 files in the WW1 Intelligence Section Case Files at the National Archives of Australia, covering the time period 1914-1920. Only a handful of these files have been digitised, Otto Draeger's file being one of them. Here, then, is a relatively unknown source of rich information about Australians' attitudes to 'otherness' during a period of great tension and it's right on our doorstep!









Sunday, 5 July 2015

More exemption claims at Coburg


At a second session of Coburg Court on Wednesday 25 October 1916, just days before the first Conscription Referendum was held, magistrate Dr Cole heard another large number of claims for exemption from military training, mostly on the grounds that the applicants were only sons. This time no one was named, but some of the more ridiculous (in the eyes of the newspaper, at least) excuses were printed.

These were the excuses published in the Brunswick and Coburg Leader on 3 November 1916:












I haven't found any other references to exemption hearings in the local Coburg press and am still pursuing this line of research. 




Sunday, 28 June 2015

More on conscientious objectors in Coburg



It has been pointed out to me that Rollo Heskett and Claude Cash, whom I wrote about in my last blog entry, were not conscientious objectors and of course this is correct. My last blog entry should more accurately have been headed ‘Exemption courts in Coburg’. Heskett and Cash were applying for exemption from military training, which was compulsory, not exemption from military service overseas, which was voluntary.

Having said that, however, as the day of the conscription referendum drew nearer and it seemed possible, even likely, that conscription would be introduced, it must have been on everyone’s mind that compulsory military training might within a few days mean that military training would inevitably lead to compulsory service overseas.

As I read back over the last blog entry, I realised, too, that I did not name the newspaper that I used as my source. The article, entitled ‘Coburg: Church Official as Conscientious Objector’ was in the Age, Thursday 19 October 1916, p.8.




Today’s blog entry deals with three conscientious objectors who appeared before the Coburg Court the same day as Rollo Heskett and Claude Cash. They were Harold Frederick Swanson, George Alfred Summers and Edward Hamilton Paul. Their stories appear below.




Harold F. Swanson

The records of the National Archives of Australia show that Harold Swanson did not serve in World War One, but there is yet-to-be digitised Intelligence Case File on him dated 1917 and next week I plan to go and read that file, which I have supposed was compiled because of his status as a conscientious objector.

At around this time, Harold Swanson was an active art potter and in late September 1916, just weeks before his application for exemption, he attended a meeting of manufacturers at Brunswick Technical School, which was building its relationships with local industries. The Principal of the Tech, Percy Everett, stated that the ‘chief aim of the Tech was to eventually become the Pottery School of Australia.’ At that meeting Harold Swanson and Alan Finlay offered their assistance in the formation of the Pottery School. An advisory committee was established, comprising of George Sweet (managing director of Brunswick Brick, Tile and Pottery Works Ltd.), J. Goold, H.F. Swanson and A.P. Finlay (Alan Finlay, a Moreland potter, who worked with his brother Ernest, a painter and potter).

Although the electoral rolls show that Harold Swanson’s main occupation was as a carpenter and later as a contractor and builder, he was also a potter and proprietor of the Doutta Galla Pottery, which operated out of East Brunswick and Coburg from 1908. Clearly there was no living to be made from pottery, although there are references in the press in 1913 to his pottery at Campbellfield and a 1916 article in the Mildura Cultivator lists him alongside Finlay Bros and Merric Boyd. The National Gallery holds six of his vases, all made in 1913 at his Doutta Galla Pottery, and during the 1920s there are newspaper reports of joint exhibitions he held with artist Aileen R. Dent.

To begin with, Harold lived with his family in Moreland Road, Brunswick, but by the time of his application for exemption, they had moved to Blair Street, Coburg. Later they moved to The Grove, where he continued to live until his marriage to Rosalie Byrne, nee Franke, in the mid-1920s. After a short period in Sandringham, he and Rosalie moved to East Gippsland, where they remained for the next decade or so. By 1943 they had returned to Melbourne, to Greville Street, Prahran, where he had a business as a confectioner. In that year Rosalie died and Harold later returned to Blair Street, Coburg where he lived until his death in 1960.

I have found little reference to the pottery of Harold F. Swanson after the 1920s, but would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add more to this lost story of the Moreland arts scene.

Sources: Victorian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street  Directories; Australasian, 10 August 1912, p.44; Argus, 20 Dec 1913, p.18; Brunswick and Coburg Star, 27 March 1914, p.1; Mildura Cultivator, 8 July 1916, p.12; Brunswick and Coburg Star, 4 August 1916, p.4; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 22 September 1916, p.2; Table Talk, 12 October 1922, p.13; Australasian, 23 February 1924, p.35; Table Talk, 6 March 1924, p.27; Age, 11 February 1925, p.16; Argus, 11 February 1925, p.17; Table Talk, 12 February 1925, p.40; Argus, 23 June 1943, p.2; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry; National Archives of Australia, MP16/1, 17/394, WW1 Intelligence Section case files.






George Alfred Summers

Despite my best efforts, I have been unable to find much more about George Alfred Summers, apart from the fact that he was a labourer who lived at 60 Campbell Street, Coburg at the time of his application for exemption and was living at 36 The Avenue, Coburg three years later.

He was living in the home of widow Amy Ann Phillips and her six children and when they moved to The Avenue in 1919, he moved with them. The next year he married Amy’s eldest daughter Ivy Jane. Amy remained in The Avenue until at least 1942, but I have found no further trace of George or Ivy.

Sources: Victorian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street Directories; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry.

Edwin Hamilton Paul

Edwin Hamilton Paul, listed in this article as Edward, was a 29 year old carpenter living in Chandos Street, Coburg with his widowed mother and siblings at the time of his application for exemption.

The records of the National Archives of Australia show that Edwin Paul neither served in the war, nor applied to enlist. He came from a non-conformist background, marrying the daughter of former Member of Parliament and temperance advocate John George Barrett in January 1919 in the Church of Christ in Swanston Street, Melbourne. 

Paul was involved in the work of the Church of Christ all his life, as a death notice in Perth’s Daily News on 4 March 1948 attests, and I wonder if his non-conformism drove his beliefs regarding the killing of other men. There is certainly a strong tradition of pacifism amongst the non-conformists, as any study of the peace movement between the wars will reveal.

Sources: Victorian and West Australian electoral rolls, via Ancestry; Sands and McDougall Street Directories; Victorian birth, marriage, death indexes and family trees, via Ancestry; Age, 18 January 1919, p.1; Perth's Daily News, 4 March 1948, p.5.




Saturday, 27 June 2015

Conscientious objectors in Coburg



On Wednesday 18 October 1916, just ten days before the first Conscription Referendum was held, 74 applications for exemption from military service were made before Police Magistrate Dr Frank Hobill Cole at Coburg Court. Thirty-four applications were granted, 31 were refused, five temporary or conditional exemptions were granted and four were adjourned. Six of those men were named in the next day’s edition of the Age.


Rollo Walter Heskett





Twenty-three year old Rollo Heskett’s unsuccessful claim for exemption was based on his claim that he was the only support for his mother and sisters and had ‘other obligations which he did not wish to mention in open court’. He was the son of Walter Prosser Heskett, a native of Durham, England, and Emilie Rose. His father was a metallurgist who led a peripatetic life, moving his young family from place to place around the metropolitan area, country Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. In 1906, when Rollo was thirteen, the family was living in Maryborough in Queensland. By 1914, Rollo, they were living at 44 Mayfield Street, Coburg. By then his father had left the family home and made his way to New Zealand where a son Brian was born to Walter Heskett and Kathleen Martin in 1915. Rollo’s father and second family eventually returned to England where his father died at Hampstead in 1925.  

So, although his father was alive in October 1916, he was lost to his first family, who were to remain in Coburg for many years to come. Rollo, a clerk, could hardly claim to be the only support for his mother and sisters, however, as two other brothers lived at home, one a metallurgist and the other a clerk. Although exemption was refused, the records of the National Archives of Australia show that Rollo Heskett did not serve in World War One and until all applications to enlist are digitised, the reasons for this remain unknown.


Claude Bertram Cash






Twenty-seven year old Claude Cash was the son of well-known Coburg resident, Cr. William Edward Cash. There were seven Cash children, four boys and three girls. The eldest son of the family, William, had drowned at Alexandra the previous December. The next oldest brother, Ernest, was a married man with children. He was an ironworker who presumably did not work in the family business. Claude’s younger brother, Arthur Lancelot, a signwriter, had enlisted in October 1915. Cash Plumbing was a thriving business, dealing mostly in sewerage pipes, sanitary ware and the like, so perhaps Claude really was needed at home. It is unlikely that his father was in ill-health, however, given that at this very time, Cr. Cash, himself a magistrate, was busy with his Council duties (Chairman of the Finance Committee, Council representative on the Board of Public Health) and chaired a number of enthusiastic and well patronised recruiting meetings. 

It seems that Cr. Cash may have been the instigator of his son’s claim for exemption, as he states here that his civic and patriotic responsibilities were such that he would have to close his business if Claude were to join the military. Given that his eldest son, who worked in the business, had died the previous summer, and another son, Arthur, was away at the war, it is likely that this claim had some substance. The magistrate certainly thought so and granted a temporary exemption. The records show that Claude Cash did not serve, and he continued to work in the family business until his death in 1941.   

There are more stories to tell, but they will be the subject of future blog entries ...