Monday, 30 September 2013

Nothin’ doin’

Source: Saturday Referee and the Arrow, Sat 5 September 1914, p.1s

To me this verse neatly sums up the famous (some would say infamous) Aussie Spirit. It evokes the laconic, seemingly lazy Australian soldier who rises to the occasion and can be relied upon in a crisis. Many in authority, especially in Britain, did not share this view and constantly lamented the Australian soldiers’ attitude to discipline and their seeming lack of respect for those in command.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Australian Flying Corps

Members of No. 4 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, standing in front of one of their Sopwith Camel aircraft at Clamerais. C.1918 Image courtesy AWM, E02332.

A number of Coburg men joined the Australian Flying Corps, mostly as 2nd class air mechanics.

4th Australian Flying Corps
HEATON, William Alfred , 1097, Private
NOY, James Clarence, 969, Acting Corporal
WILLIAMS, Victor James, 1133, Private

Australian Flying Corps (most were 2nd Class Air Mechanics)
ALLEN, George Keith, 3451
BARKER , Robert, 1428
BLISS, Frederick Roden, 2482
BRIDGLAND, Charles William Starling, 17302
BURBERRY, Frank, 2485
CAMPBELL, Donald, 3302
ELLSON, William, 2502
EVANSON, William, 3230
GIRAUD, Marius, 494
GLEESON, Harold Paul, 2699
JARVIE, Walter Keith, 2515
NEAL, Harold, 1777
POOLE, Philip Henry, 2643
REILLY, Robert, 316, Sergeant
ROGERS, Harry Malcomson, 2549
SWINBOURNE, Thomas Anthony, 1788
TOPPING, Frank Albert, 592, Private (of Croxton)
WILSON, Hector Allan, 955, Corporal (father was in Launceston)
WISHER, Leonard Stanley, 1329, Private
WINDMILL, Aubrey George Beddes, 2568

Royal Flying Corps

One man, 255 Private Thomas Henry Norman Powell, began his war as a member of the 2nd Field Ambulance. He was discharged from the AIF in 1917 to join the Royal Flying Corps so that he could become a pilot. 

He was appointed 2nd Lieutenant when he graduated as a pilot on 16 March 1917 and died on 24 April 1917 in an accident. 

His dossier records that he died from ‘a fracture of the skull caused from falling from an aeroplane.’ The press version was that he was flying at Northolt Airfield, Ruislip, Middlesex, lost control of his aircraft and crashed. (Bendigo Advertiser, 30 April 1917, p.8) 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Footy at the Front

Just because it's Grand Final weekend!

Members of the Australian Flying Corps. Christmas Day, football match. Year and place not recorded.

Image courtesy AWM, C03957

Friday, 27 September 2013

The papers are full of war news

Coburg Historical Society member, Lois Williams writes, “My grandparents (from Brunswick) posted these two postcards over to their cousin in England who was in the army there. They seem to have come back to Australia with a lot of other documents when an uncle went over in about 1930.’  

Images courtesy, Lois Williams of Pascoe Vale.

Postcard 1 – “Dear cousin – Our daily papers are full of the war news. They are guarding some of the important places here. When I was in the City on Sunday, I saw four men walking up and down in front of the wireless office, two at the front and two at the side. But the drought here threatens to be worse than the effects of the war, the farmers are all wanting the rain or else their crops will be in a bad way.”

Postcard 2 – “2/11/14.  Dear cousin – Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.  Our troops are stationed about 3 miles from here at a place called Broadmeadows.  They are in training there. The first lot have gone, we don’t know where to or how many.  Now there is another lot taken their place, not only from Victoria but also from N.S.W. and Q’land.

These are very early postcards, written in the first few months of the war. The first reminds us that domestic concerns were still foremost in many peoples’ minds  (‘the drought here threatens to be worse than the effects of the war’) but by the following April and the Gallipoli landing, no one could deny that the ‘effects of the war’ were to be very bad indeed. 

The Brunswick and Coburg Star, 11 September 1914 records the atmosphere:
‘There is a certain undercurrent of excitement in the city every since the war broke out, and there is always a knot of people in front of the newspaper offices and some extra police on duty in their vicinity, even in day-time, but in the suburbs, save for the flags and other patriotic emblems in some of the shop windows, things are going on just as usual. Now and then you hear one housewife say to another, when they meet on their shopping expedition, “Isn’t this war terrible?”,  but the business people and tradesmen go about their avocations very much the same. Last Sunday afternoon was characterised by beautiful weather, and as one looked at the happy, well-dressed, well-nourished crowds of young and old going to Broadmeadows Camp, in the various reserves and public gardens, it was difficult to imagine they were subjects of and Empire grappling with a foe that had been seeking trouble for years past.’

Monday, 23 September 2013

Mothers of men

Reading about the Mothers of Men initiative in the Argus in 1916 on the Empire Called blog made me wonder how many Coburg mothers sent three or more sons off to war.

One such Coburg mother was Alice Wood,whose four soldier sons survived the war.

Alice Wood of Sydney Road, Coburg and her four soldier sons. Back row left to right: Charl and Stan. Front row left to right: Carl, Alice and Edwin.
Image courtesy Ian Wood

Edwin Wood was due to take up the position of Governor of Pentridge Prison when he died suddenly at Bendigo in 1901 aged 52. His widow Alice and her nine children settled in Coburg and she established a drapery business in Sydney Road. Her four sons all survived the war, married and had children. Alice and Edwin's grandchildren all did well in various fields, most notably Professor Carl Wood, IVF pioneer, who died in 2011. (from information supplied by Ian Wood)

Alice Wood's four soldier sons were:

12440 Driver Carlyle (Carl) Sandford Wood, 6th Field Ambulance. Born 1895. At the time of enlisting in March 1915 he was a medical student. Some months later he returned to Australia to pursue his medical studies. He became a gynaecologist as was his son, the IVF pioneer. He died in 1987.

12440 Private Charles (Charl) Phillip Wood, 10th Field Ambulance. Youngest in the family, born 1897. When he enlisted March 1916, he was a chemist’s assistant at Haddon’s in Coburg. He was awarded the Military Medal in 1919. On his return to Melbourne he worked as a pharmacist in Coburg for some years before moving to Box Hill. He died in 1964.

10961 Private Edwin George Wood, 3rd Divisional Train. Twin of Stan. He enlisted in August 1915 at which time he was working as a clerk. After the war he moved to Bentleigh where he lived until his death in 1941.

289 Private Stanley Hewitt Wood, 7th Infantry Battalion. Twin of Ed. He enlisted in August 1914 at which time he was working as a farm labourer. He was injured at Gallipoli in May 1915 and returned to Australia where he was discharged in July 1916. He worked firstly as an auctioneer then returned to the land in the Western District of Victoria in the 1940s. He died in 1960 in South Australia.

A moving and quite unexpected letter is included in Stan Wood's soldier's dossier. It's from an English soldier who later emigrated to Canada and tells the story of Stan Wood's cap, which the soldier found while serving on the Gallipoli Peninsula. I wonder if Stan got it back.

I've included the envelope to indicate the lengths the authorities went to to try to find the right person!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Broadmeadows Camp

Photos of men at Broadmeadows Camp c. 1915.
Images courtesy Museum Victoria. Reg. No. MM 5409 & Reg. No. MM 5410

Very early in the war, in mid August 1914, moves were made to establish the main camp for Victorian troops at Broadmeadows. The 14 August 1914 issue of the Argus reported that it would be established on 200 acres of land about half a mile off Sydney Road on the edge of Campbellfield. It reported that ‘the property, known as Mornington Park, belongs to Mr R.G. Wilson, who has patriotically placed it at the disposal of the military authorities.’ They expected that by the following week about 7,400 troops would be in place in the camp – an instant tent city!

I was interested in the wording of the rest of this article. It wrote of ‘the disappointment of the 18 year old young soldiers, who are not to be permitted into the concentration camp.’ A very different meaning of the term ‘concentration camp’ to the one we think of today.

The Broadmeadows Camp quickly became the place for a Sunday afternoon outing and the novelty of the place is evident in this article in the Brunswick and Coburg Star, 28 August 1914:
‘Never in the history of Brunswick and Coburg has traffic along Sydney Road reached such a stage as that on Sunday, when from early morn ice cream carts, fruit vendors, and the general public drove to the Broadmeadows Camp in every possible class of conveyance.’
The traffic threw up clouds of dust and the police were called to supervise the traffic. Fortunately, only one accident occurred.

The atmosphere changed later in the year, as the first contingent was preparing to embark, but at first it was like a carnival. The great losses and sorrow were still to come. Now it was time to celebrate the great adventure and join in the excitement.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Teachers at the Front

Thanks to Coburg Historical Society member Lois Williams for pointing out the following teacher soldiers whom she found when going through the Victorian Education Department’s Record of War Service, 1914-1918. Lois’s father-in-law was presented with the book some years ago and it has remained in the family. It is a wonderful source of information and often includes photographs of the soldier-teachers. 

The following information comes from the Victorian Education Department’s Record of War Service, 1914-1918; the soldiers’ dossiers which are located online at the National Archives of Australia; information from VPRS 892/1119, Letters of condolence etc, Public Record Office of Victoria.

All of these men are featured in the World War One Pictorial Honour Roll of Victorians

Group portrait of the personnel of the 2nd Sanitary Section attached to the 5th Division at Samer, France. Photo taken 30 December 1917. John Norman Bartley is the short man, 4th from the right in the back row. Image courtesy AWM, E01607.

18150 Pte John Norman Bartley of the 1st Sanitary Section of the Australian Medical Corps
Twenty-one year old John Bartley was from Northcote but taught at Coburg High School at the time of his enlistment and is listed on the Coburg High School honour board. He enlisted in October 1916, embarked August 1917, was sent to hospital in London with influenza in February 1919 and returned to Australia a month later. Unlike so many others, he survived the war and the influenza.

68888 Pte Edward Theodore Ebbels of the 15th Reinforcements.
Nineteen year old Edward Ebbels of Brunswick was teaching at the Moreland School at the time of his enlistment in 1918. He did not see service because the war was over by the time he reached Europe. 

Raymond Gardiner. Image courtesy AWM, P05248.047

2325 Pte Raymond Aubrey Gardiner of the 38th Infantry Battalion.
He and his brother Reg were Coburg boys. They attended Coburg State School and are featured in the Coburg State School Soldier’s Book that can be consulted at the Coburg Historical Society Museum (82 Bell Street, Coburg on the 1st Sunday of the month, except January, from 2 to 4.30pm). The family lived at 18 Chandos Street, Coburg, although at the time of enlistment 26 year old Raymond was head teacher of SS3316 Cororac South, in rural Victoria. He enlisted in July 1917 and was killed in action at Ypres only three months later. At the time of his death, his father Alexander was engaged in war work in England, his brother Reg was serving as a Lieutenant in the 55th Infantry Battalian and another brother Claude was in camp at Broadmeadows.

303 Lieutenant Reginald Scott Gardiner of the 55th Infantry Battalion
At the time of enlistment, Reg Gardiner was a 22 year old student teacher and resident at the Teachers’ College in Parkville. He suffered from influenza in 1915 at Gallipoli and was gassed in November 1917. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and returned to Australia in May 1919. On his return he completed a law degree and on 1 March 1922 was admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor. He did not survive the war long, however, and died on 14 November 1922 at home in Chandos Street, Coburg. He is buried at Fawkner Cemetery. (Argus, 2 March 1922, p.6)

Image courtesy AWM, DASEY1422. Photographed by Darge Photographic Company, c. 1915

24 Sgt Woolstan James Govan of the 13th Light Horse Regiment
At the time of his enlistment, Woolstan Govan was the Head Teacher at SS2287 Mangalore. His brother Gavan was a clerk in the Lands Department. He did not see action because he died of a heart attack on 2 April 1916, shortly after arriving in France.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Arf a mo Kaiser

Taking up the theme of ‘Fighting the Kaiser’, I’ve been doing a little exploring on the internet and found some very interesting material. 

Courtesy National Museum of Australia, Object number 1986.0117.4003

This image by British artist Bert Thomas was widely used in fund raising for tobacco for the troops.

Courtesy Imperial War Museum, London. IWM PST 10799

And staying with the tobacco for the troops theme, here's a cigarette lighter in the form of a caricature of the Kaiser from the Australian War Memorial collection.

Image courtesy AWM. REL31809

Must it come to this?

Australians couldn't fail to understand the implications of not enlisting, at least according to the recruiting authorities. I couldn't find an exact date for this poster, but it's the sort of thing you'd expect to find in the lead up to the two conscription campaigns in 1916 and 1917.

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. ARTV06030. Artist B.E. Pike.

Many of the images I found were far more menacing than the Arf a Mo, Kaiser cartoon.

‘Destroy this mad brute’: A US Army recruitment poster, c. 1917. The dribbling ape, club in hand and wearing the pickelhaube helmet walks onto American soil, a half-naked women (Liberty, perhaps?) in his grasp.

Saint Valentine’s Day in the Fatherland.
It chanced that on the fourteenth day of February the boy Cupid strayed into the precincts of Potsdam, and came all unawares upon the War Lord; who deeming him to be an alien babe essayed to make a characteristic end of him.
Punch, vol.150, 16 Feb 1916, p.114

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Make your own balaclava

As a young child I lived in Ballarat and can remember wearing a balaclava to school on chilly winter mornings. Not a great fashion statement but they certainly kept my ears warm!

During World War One, women and children at home knitted scarves, mittens, socks and balaclavas for the soldiers on the Front. During the unprecedented cold winter of 1916-1917, they would have been much appreciated. As you can see in the photograph below, it was a bitter winter.

France. 1916. Portrait of an unidentified member of the 24th Australian Battalion at a frozen water point. He is wearing a sheepskin vest and balaclava as protection against the cold.

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Image EZ0123.

If you’d like to knit your very own balaclava, check out the various patterns on the HJS Studio website. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Corporal Charles James Kelynack

Group portrait of Brigadier General H J Bessell-Browne, Commander Royal Artillery (CRA), and officers of the 13th Brigade, Australian Field Artillery.
Second row: Capt C J Kelynack, 5th Divisional Signals, DAHQ, 2nd from right. 
Photo taken 5 November 1918 on the Western Front.

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial, ID # E03695

Corporal Charles James Kelynack, SERN 17, 1st Divisional Signal Company, was one of the early Coburg volunteers, enlisting on 19 August 1914. He lived in Shaftesbury Street, Moreland with his father Thomas, a well-known football writer for the Herald known as ‘Kickero’, and his mother Catherine (nee Smith). His younger brother Philip also served, as a newly qualified veterinary surgeon. In 1916, Charles was promoted to Lieutenant then Captain and in 1917 he was awarded the Military Cross. In January 1919, he married in London, to Polish artist Dorota Kucembianka (known in the art world as Dora Bianka). The marriage must have failed, because in April 1919 her address is given as Paris and in September that year Charles came back to Australia alone. In 1931, Dora married Pierre Thomazi. She died in France in 1979 aged 84. Charles, an accountant, continued to live in Coburg, where he died in 1950, aged 55.

Sources: Information from his dossier, held at the National Archives of Australia and available online; English marriage index, March quarter 1919, St Martin, London, 1a 1112; English marriage index, September quarter 1931, Marylebone, Middlesex, 1a 1666; Victorian death, 1950/11061; Argus, 19 November 1936, p.12.

Before enlistment, Charles Kelynack was an employee of the Commonwealth Government Cordite Factory, Maribyrnong, and at a farewell by the staff, he was presented with an inscribed gold watch ‘in admiration of his spirit in going to the war.’

Mrs Waxman, wife of Cr Joseph Waxman of Brunswick, had knitted him a Balaclava helmet and presented it to him on the night. The Waxman’s son Ernest enlisted the following year. I wonder whether his mother knitted him a Balaclava, too? (Source: Brunswick and Coburg Star, 28 August 1914, p.2)

Image courtesy Lenore Frost.

For more information on the Honour Board and the staff who volunteered, see the Cordite Factory Honour Board entry in the Empire Call website. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The enemy in our midst?

At about the same time as Coburg was wrestling with the vexatious issue of its Germanic-sounding name, some residents were making life difficult for those with German backgrounds.

One such was 50 year old Otto Neuendorf, a photographer, who had been employed by Pentridge Prison for 26 years. He claimed to have introduced the finger-printing system of prisoners to Victoria in 1902 and took the finger-prints of prisoners at Pentridge from that time until his ‘retirement’ in 1914.

Only a few weeks after war was declared, Neuendorf, who lived in Moreland Grove (later The Grove), Coburg, placed a Public Notice in the Brunswick and Coburg Star, declaring that he was a British Subject (he had been naturalised in 1890) and that he had ‘received many insults’ and intended to take ‘stringent action against any person who assails his character by spreading false reports concerning him.’ He strenuously denied that he’d made disparaging comparisons between the troops at the Broadmeadows Camp and German soldiers.

Argus, 11 September 1914, p.8.

A few weeks later, a short article appeared saying that he’d resigned from the Penal Department. I wondered why. Had pressure been placed on him to go? An article in the National Archives of Australia’s journal Memento, gave me the answer: His son, also Otto, was bitter about his father’s treatment at the hands of his employers and claimed that his father had been forced to resign.’

Determined to show his patriotism, a year later Neuendorf Senior, now of Sydney Road, Brunswick, donated an ambulance to the war effort.

Argus, 27 August 1915, p.8.

A World War One vintage ambulance and mobile operating theatre (right) outside a train station. ID number P02537.003.
Courtesy Australian War Memorial. 

Other sources:
Brunswick and Coburg Star, 4 September 1914, p.1; 18 September 1914, p.3.
‘Resisting the call to arms: men who did not enlist in World War I’, Dr Bart Zino, in Memento, National Archives of Australia, Issue 36, 2009. You can read it online at

Monday, 9 September 2013

What’s in a name?

Coburg, Stanley or Linlithgow? Which would you prefer? 

Coburg Town Hall, c1920-1954, with War Memorial in front. Rose series; P. 13046. Image H32492/7879.
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria.

Barely more than a month after the war began, Coburg was wrestling with the Germanic origin of its name. It had lobbied furiously for a change from Pentridge to Coburg in the 1860s, citing the stigma of sharing a name with Pentridge Prison. In 1875, Coburg became a Shire and civic pride was evident everywhere. It considered itself, as Broome has pointed out, ‘a fortunate Shire’.

Now there was unhappiness again. The Coburg branch of the ANA (Australian Natives Association) objected to the name being changed, but if it were, they asked that a native name, such as Merri, be chosen. Someone else suggested the name ‘Stanley’ (probably after the newly arrived Governor of Victoria) and Councillor Cash favoured ‘Linlithgow or some other suitable name’. The tricky matter was raised at the Coburg Council Meeting of 23 September 1914, although when a motion to change the name was put, it lapsed for want of a seconder.

One local newspaper decried the idea of a name change, calling it ‘puerile rather than patriotic’. It went on to say:
‘It would be well not to become hysterical. We need not be frightened out of our wits because Melbourne has suburbs named Heidelberg, Coburg and Brunswick. They have had it for some time, and no one is the worse.’
Melbourne Punch bought into the issue, too, even then revelling in stirring the pot:
‘Brunswick and Coburg recall memories of gallant generals who were Britain’s allies in the Napoleonic Wars. The Councils will probably substitute the names of some mutton-headed local celebrities, or else unpronouncable aboriginal cognomens and then expect applause for their patriotism.’

We know, of course, that the change did not happen, although other places did change, like Germanton in New South Wales, which became Holbrook in 1915.

Some wag bought into matter in 1916, declaring tongue-in-cheek that:
There is no truth in the rumour that the Coburg Council propose to change the name of Coburg to Thistletown. The Coburg Council, on the other hand, are determined to act in a very radical manner regarding thistles and have them torn up by the roots.’

The matter of changing Coburg’s name was raised again in 1920, so anti-German sentiment did not go away once hostilities ceased. This time the mooted change was to ‘Moreland’, which eventually came to pass more than 70 years later.

Sources: Richard Broome, Coburg between two creeks, Chapter 6, pp.126-162; Adelaide Advertiser, 6 September 1914, p.6; Brunswick and Coburg Star, 18 September 1914, p.1; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 25 September 1914, p.2; Melbourne Punch, 26 September 1914, p.8; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 4 February 1916, p.2;  Argus, 28, August 1920, p.11; Argus, 10 September 1920, p.8.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Researcher, beware

We’ve all heard the saying ‘Buyer, beware’. Well, this is definitely a case of ‘Researcher, beware’.
In my quest to discover more about the 1300 or so volunteers with Coburg connections, I’ve become used to unravelling the mysteries of how names were spelled. Was it Johnson, Johnston or Johntone? Bartram or Bartman? Riley, Reiley or Reilly? Freudenthal or Frendenthal? Malcolmson or Malcomson? Kiernan or Kernan? Were their initials correct? Were they known by their first or second given names? You know the sort of thing.

In my first blog entry I mentioned that I was having difficulty tracking down Hector McKay, resident of Campbell Street, Coburg, 'son of the late Robert McKay and grandson of the late "Sandy" Ellis, the one-time famous jockey, and nephew to Mr Mat Ellis, well-known horse owner.' (Brunswick and Coburg Star, 28 August 1914)

In my second blog entry I listed the first Coburg men to enlist. Among them was a Hector Kay.
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. It’s a case of you can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper and I fell for it!

I can now reveal to you that Hector was actually 2864 Private Hector Kay, a 25 year old driver of 35 Campbell Street, Coburg. He embarked from Australia on 20 October 1914 on board HMAT Shropshire as a member of the Divisional Ammunition Column. He survived the war and returned to Australia in December 1918.

An old type British torpedo head passing the HMAT Shropshire at Port Said in December 1914. Hector Kay was on board. Photograph by Phillip Frederick Edward Schuler.
Image courtesty Australian War Memorial, ID number PS0297

Giza, Eypt, April 1915. The pyramids overlook the tent lines and vehicles of the 1st Divisional Ammunition Column.
Image courtesy of AWM. Image P00211.022

Hector Robert Alexander Kay, son of Robert Mitchell Kay and Elizabeth Johnson Ellis, was born at St Kilda in 1888. His father died in 1896 and his mother remarried not long afterwards to William Wilson of Cardigan Street, Carlton. His mother was the daughter of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Ellis, a Scot who arrived in the Colony in 1847, married here in Melbourne in 1849. Hector Kay, his grandson, was married to Kitty, had a son Stuart and lived in Holroyd Street, Coburg until his death in 1953 aged 67.
Sources: Victorian Birth 1885/29183; Victorian Marriages 1849/3420, Victorian Deaths 1953/3041; Victorian electoral rolls, 1914-1949;  Argus, 20 March 1953, p.10)

I’m still very keen to learn more about the one-time jockey ‘Sandy’ Ellis and his horse owning son Mat. Hopefully someone will be able to tell me more.