Friday, 14 March 2014

Dealing with bureaucracy

1414 Private Victor Clark, 15th Infantry Battalion, missing in action, 8 August 1915, Lone Pine

Victor Clark was born in Bendigo but educated at Coburg State School and later at the Working Men’s College (now RMIT). His father Peter, a labourer, and mother Elizabeth (nee Hawkins) lived in Sargood Street, Coburg.
When Victor enlisted in September 1914, he was working in Queensland as a sugar refiner. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, was wounded a week later but soon returned to duty. On 8 August 1915, he was killed in action at Lone Pine, one of the early Coburg casualties. He is remembered in the Coburg State School Soldiers Book and in the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Lake Reserve, Coburg, tree number 21.
Victor’s younger cousin, Roy Clark, a Methodist Home Missionary from South Australia, embarked just over a month after Victor’s death. He served briefly on the Gallipoli Peninsula then went on to serve in France. He was wounded at Mouquet Farm (referred to as Moo Cow Farm by many Aussie soldiers) in August 1916, but returned to the front where he served for another eighteen months before being killed at Villeurs Brettoneux in April 1918.
I’ve included this letter from Victor Clark’s father as a reminder of how difficult it must have been for those left behind, especially those with poor literacy skills who struggled with the official correspondence they received and as you see here, had trouble putting down on paper their concerns.


  1. How very sad. "his anxious and loving father... " I doubt Peter Clark would have been so outspoken about his feelings for his son under any other circumstances.

  2. I agree, Jenny. I think it was incredibly brave of someone like Peter Clark to try to set out his thoughts on paper. My own great grandparents went through something similar in Tassie. My great-grandfather was illiterate so my great-grandmother had to do all the writing and she found it an immense struggle on top of losing two of her sons. The authorities had written the wrong father's name down and so wouldn't accept at first that the sons were both their children. She did sort it out though. I think the thing she found hardest was that one son's effects never made it back to Australia - the boat carrying them was sunk. Even the postcards the boys sent home make me want to cry. They barely could write, but they did their best to brighten up those at home!