4379 Private Robert Cail, 21st Infantry Battalion, 11th Reinforcements.
Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.
Born in South Melbourne, Robert Cail was an old boy of Coburg State School, although at the time of his enlistment in February 1916 he was a 22 year old blacksmith living in Brunswick. His parents, George Henry Cail, a fireman and Frances (nee Douglas) lived firstly in Lynch’s Road, Fawkner (sometimes referred to as Coburg North) then in Colebrook Street, Brunswick and several other Brunswick addresses.
Robert was gassed twice while serving on the Western Front and returned to Australia with gas poisoning in November 1918, around the time of the Armistice.
Unusually, Robert Cail emigrated to America, calling firstly at Honolulu where a married sister lived and finally settling in Los Angeles. He didn’t marry, worked on oil tankers for a number of years and became a US citizen in 1930. He died in December 1949, a long way from his childhood home in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
The mobility of the Cails was not unusual amongst working class families. Work meant survival, so you went where the work was. As I’ve been researching the Coburg soldiers and their families, this lesson has been brought home to me time and time again.