Friday, 11 December 2015

The 1917 Win-the-War campaign strikes trouble in Coburg

The 1917 election campaign rapidly became the Win-the-War Campaign and emotional calls to the people of Australia to support the campaign were soon in evidence, such as the one below printed in Punch.

Ladies Letter, Punch, 26 April 1917, p.32.

Not everyone supported the campaign, of course, as the candidate for Maribyrnong Edmund Jowett soon found out, especially when he spoke at Coburg Town Hall. 

The newspaper articles below tell the story.

Argus, 28 April 1917, p.19

Essendon Gazette and Keilor, Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter, 3 May 1917, p.6

The Age, 28 April 1917, p.14

And as I always like to throw out a mystery for you to try to solve ...

The Minutes of the Coburg Recruiting Committee, Wednesday 26 April 1917, show that the Committee resolved to send a letter to 'ex-Sergeant McGirvan, thanking him for speaking at the meeting on Friday evening and the committee expresses its regret that he was hampered in his discourse by a noisy element.' 

This is the meeting at Coburg Town Hall where Jowett was 'jeered by peace advocates'. 

I've searched for someone with the surname McGirvan or McGovan or McGavan who served in the AIF without success. There is no one with the surname McGirvan on the Victorian electoral rolls. I searched the Australians in the Boer War database without success. I searched TROVE - no luck.

So who was this ex-Sergeant McGirvan?

Friday, 4 December 2015

Who is the mysterious Captain Steel?

Remember Captain Steel who presented such a colourful picture at the opening of the Drill Hall in Reynards Road?

I've been trying to find out who Captain Steel was and the only person who is even vaguely possible is Captain Walter Henry Steel of Woolacott Street, Coburg.

Read on and see what you think. Is this the man who appeared in a 'blue jumper and plaid trews of the Scottish Regt., with a "Gyppy" helmet like a Khakee mushroom on top'?

At the time of the opening of the Drill Hall, Walter Henry Steel, or Hal as he was known, was a medical student. He enlisted in the Army Medical Corps in June 1918, too late to see action. His family lived at 19 Woolacott Street, Coburg, which places Hal Steel in the right locality.

Hal Steel was a Methodist and at the time of his enlistment in 1918 stated that he had served in the Senior Cadets for 2 years in the 64A Infantry, which was based at East Melbourne, and had also served in the Melbourne University Rifles for 3 years. 

So, is this the same man who commanded the 59th Battalion of Cadets in February 1914?

Even if not, Coburg's Hal Steel had a long lasting connection to the military, a connection that would take him far away from Coburg to southern Queensland.

Born in West Melbourne in 1897, Hal Steel's family moved to Coburg in the early years of the twentieth century. They lived in Woolacott Street until 1922 when they moved to Sandringham and it was around this time that the family's connection to Coburg ended.

In 1923 Hal married Cosette Wuttrich and moved to Stanthorpe in Queensland's Granite Belt where he worked as the medical superintendent of the Repatriation Department's tuberculosis sanatorium 'Kyoomba'. 'Kyoomba' was sometimes referred to as the Anzac Convalescent Home. (Quite coincidentally, members of my own family emigrated from north Staffordshire around this time and settled in Stanthorpe, so I know the area quite well.)

In 1929, Hal Steel was promoted to the position of medical superintendent of 'Rosemount' in Brisbane's Fortitude Valley. It was Brisbane's main Repat. Hospital. He remained there until the early 1960s when he retired to Surfer's Paradise.

So, is he the colourful figure we read about in the Brunswick and Coburg Leader? I've read newspaper reports from Stanthorpe that say he was a member of the Stanthorpe Operatic Society (as were my aunts, uncles and cousins - another coincidence), so he was interested in theatre.  

In fact, I have in front of me as I write this the program for the Society's 1926 production of 'Miss Hook of Holland' billed as a 'Sparkling Musical Comedy in 2 Acts' which lists Dr Steel as the Producer, my great-uncle Tom Smith as Stage Manager and his son Len Smith as the Musical Director. Another cousin, Arthur Smith, was in the cast and my great-aunt Alice sang in the chorus. What a coincidence!

It's possible, but what do you think?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Coburg Drill Hall opens in Reynards Road

Until the opening of the Drill Hall in Reynards Road, Coburg, the area’s cadets (Area 59) had no permanent building in which to meet. Although they had tried to secure Coburg Public Hall, the Council refused permission, because the Hall was a valuable revenue raiser and its use as a drill hall would mean a significant loss of income. (Coburg Leader, 17 March 1911, p.4) In May 1911 Moreland State School was being used as a temporary drill hall (Coburg Leader, 19 May 1911, p.1) and it was not until December 1912 that the Coburg Council finally offered the Defence Department ‘a large Recreation Reserve in Reynard Road. The offer was for as much as required and as long as required at peppercorn rental of one shilling per year.’ (Coburg Leader, 6 December 1912, p.1)

The Drill Hall in Reynard Road was built in December 1913 at a cost of £1,500, which in today’s terms is about $162,500. Click here to see how this was calculated.)

Much later images of the Drill Hall, courtesy Coburg Historical Society. For a history of this site, see the Robinson Reserve Neighbourhood House website.

At this stage there was no Drill Hall in Brunswick. In July 1915, the local newspaper referred to a drill hall of iron and wood being erected in Percy Street, Brunswick. It was opened in 1916. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 July 1914, p.4)

The Drill Hall was for the use of the Senior Cadets of Area 59 and for the use of the 59th Regiment when it was formed.

The Area Officer when it first opened was Lieutenant R.B. Anderson, probably Robert Balfour Anderson of Blair Street, Coburg. He was assisted by Staff-Sergeant Major Taylor, who was probably James William Taylor of Bell Street, Coburg. His other assistant was Staff-Sergeant Major P. MacMahon of 57 Victoria Street, Coburg and later of 4 Wellington Street, Coburg.

The official opening of the  Drill Hall on Saturday 21 February 1914 was a grand event. The Minister for Defence Senator Edward Millen was there to address the 500 cadets and officers who were present. 

Senator Millen, c.1914.  Image courtesy Australian War Memorial, Image 306782.

Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 27 February 1914, p.2.

One of the more colourful characters at the opening was Captain Steel, commander of the 59th Battalion of Cadets:

I have yet to identify Captain Steel and to date the closest I have come is an H. Steel who belonged to the Coburg Lacrosse Club.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Coburg cadets

After Field Marshall Viscount Kitchener visited Australia in 1909, Australia introduced compulsory military training. By January 1911 the system was in place. There were three levels of training. The first, the junior cadets for boys aged 12 to 14, was administered by schools, where military drill had already been introduced. The second, the senior cadets, was for boys aged 14 to 18. The third, the Commonwealth Military Forces, was for young men aged 18 to 26.

Field Marshall Viscount Kitchener at the time of the Boer War

Exemptions were given to those who lived more than five miles [eight kilometres] from the nearest training site, those passed medically unfit, to resident aliens and theological students. Those who failed to register for military training were punished with fines or jail sentences. Many boys did not register for their military training, and between 1911 and 1915 there were 34,000 prosecutions, with 7,000 jail sentences imposed.  

I have written previously about exemption courts in Coburg here, here, here and here

The scheme did not meet with universal approval. Those on the political right tended to support the scheme and those on the left were largely against it. Those who were presented as ‘shirkers’ in the press cited many reasons for failing to report for drill: it was a long way from their workplace; there was no nearby training centre; it was very inconvenient to get to; it was very tiring; it was intrusive; it went against religious principles.

The following article from page 1 of the Coburg Leader28 February 1913, gives an idea of what happened to those who were deemed 'shirkers'. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Coburg woman in Egypt – Dagmar Dyring’s experience

In July 1915, Dr Carl Dyring, Coburg’s Health Officer, enlisted. He was 55 years old and was soon on his way to the 2nd Australian General Hospital  at Gezireh in Cairo.

Image courtesy AWM. Image J02560. The 2nd Australian General Hospital, Gezireh, Cairo in October 1915. Image donate by Lt.-Col. A.M. Martyn.

Image courtesy AWM. Image C00531. Part of the facade of No 2 Australian General Hospital, which was located in the Ghezireh (Gezira) Palace in Cairo from June 1915.

Image courtesy AWM. Image J06129. An interior view, No.2 Australian General Hospital, Gezireh, Cairo. Image donated by Mr T.J. Richards, MC.

Soon afterwards, Dr Dyring’s 35 year old wife Dagmar took her children, 13 year old Carl, 10 year old Rosa and 5 year old Moya to stay with her family in Bendigo and set off to join her husband in Egypt. 

Dagmar Cohn had married Carl Dyring in 1901. She was the daughter of Jacob Cohn, one of three Danish brothers who arrived (with Carl Dyring’s father) during the goldrush era and established Cohn Brothers, well-known makers of cordials and beers. She was also related to the sculptor Ola Cohn who made the Fairies' Tree in Melbourne's Fitzroy Gardens.
Although Dagmar had been living in Coburg for fourteen years by the time she left for Egypt and her three children had been born in Coburg, Bendigo claimed her as their own, as can be seen in the newspaper article that follows. The article was pubished in the Bendigo Advertiser, 11 May 1916, p.8.


The article in the Bendigo Advertiser gives a detailed picture of Dagmar Dyring’s eight months in Cairo and provides us with a different perspective of hospital life. Most of the voices we have heard to date have been from patients or medical staff. Here we have a privileged woman, who has enjoyed an active social life both in Bendigo and in Coburg (yes, there was a very active social set based around Moreland Grove). She has made her decision to do her bit for the war and support her husband. On arrival, she was disappointed at the tasks she was given, but soon found a niche for herself, firstly at Gezireh, then at a British Hospital and finally at the YMCA canteen. She became involved with the Australian Soldiers’ Comforts Committee and helped distribute Christmas billies, as can be seen in the following (poor quality) photos published in the Bendigonian, 24 January 1916, p.15.

Images from the Bendigonian, 24 January 1916, p.15. Dagmar Dyring is in the third photograph.

Image courtesy AWM. Image   A03155. A farewell dinner for the staff of the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Gezireh Palace, prior to embarking for France.

When Gallipoli was evacuated and the Australian troops relocated to France, Carl Dyring went with them and Dagmar returned to Australia. By May 1916, she was living with her mother Rose at her home ‘Horsens’ in Bendigo. She had brought back with her a ‘large collection of curios’ and twice a week ‘Horsens’ was open to public to come and view the collection. These were not war-related momentoes, but ‘exquisitely embroidered Eastern cloths, hangings and draperies’, brass work, jewellery. There was even a bracelet made from a ‘genuine scarab.’The cost was sixpence and the funds raised went towards the Australian Soldiers’ Comforts Fund. (Bendigonian, 18 May 1916)

By December 1916, Carl Dyring’s war was over, too. He was invalided home with heart disease and emphysema. He did not return to Coburg. Instead, he sold his practice to Dr R.A.R. Wallace, who took over his role as Coburg Health Officer. He then retired to Brighton where he and his wife spent many hours tending their extensive gardens at their home ‘Marhabba’. (Perhaps the house was so named from ‘Marhaba’, Arabic for ‘hello’. )

The Dyrings had a fourth child, Patricia, in 1920. By the mid-20s daughters Rosa and Moya begin to make an appearance in the social pages of the newspapers, just as their parents had in the years before the war. In the late 1920s, son Carl graduated as a doctor and daughter Moya was making her name as an artist. In 1931, Carl Dyring died aged 71 at which time Dagmar moved into an apartment. She died in June 1947 aged 72.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Coburg Infants School WW1 memorial garden

This is the Coburg State School's Infants School. It is on the south side of Bell Street and faces north. At the back of the building there was once a WW1 memorial garden, planted in November 1918 in memory of 35 old boys of the school. I've written about the memorial garden before. Click here to find out more.

I am still trying to find out more about the 35 trees that made up the memorial avenue planted in November 1918. 

I recently found a 1913 MMBW map in the State Library of Victoria's online image collection. The following detail from that map shows the extent of the original school grounds, but I am still trying to find out when the trees were removed.

I also know that the avenue of honour still existed in July 1939:
Meeting of the Coburg Parks and Gardens Committee, Monday 10 July 1939  - 'The city curator was authorised to replace trees missing in the avenue of honour in the school ground, Bell Street.' (Argus, 11 July 1939, p.9)

So, is there anyone out there reading this who was a pupil at the school in the 1940s or later and who remembers this avenue of trees? We know it was gone by May 1991 when the following plaque was erected in the grounds, but perhaps you remember it from your time as a pupil or a parent? If so, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Rupert Adams dies of war-related tuberculosis

4351 Acting Corporal Rupert William Edwin Adams, 21st Infantry Battalion, C Company

Rupert Adams, the eldest son of William Leonard Adams and Millicent Bawden, was born in Moonee Ponds in 1891. His brother Aubrey was born there five years later. Older sisters Edeline Florence (referred to as Hilda in some records) and Lillian (Lily) were born in South Yarra in 1888 and 1890.

Rupert Adams is remembered in Coburg Historical Society's Soldiers' Book. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

By 1903 the family was living in Coburg where the youngest children attended Coburg State School. After school, Rupert worked as a clerk. He was a member of the local Lacrosse team and something of an athlete as he left his mother all his trophies ‘won in running’ when he died in November 1920. The family attended Holy Trinity Church. Little else is known of his life, except that the family lived at 6 Main Street, Coburg and his father William was a commercial traveller, and Vice President of the Commercial Travellers’ Association for a time.
Rupert Adams enlisted in July 1915 when he was 24 years old. He embarked in March 1916 and arrived in France the following month. However, he saw little action. By December 1916 he was sick in hospital. He returned to his unit but in mid-January 1917 returned to hospital with appendicitis and returned again and again with influenza, tonsilitis and pleurisy. Finally, in early November 1917, he returned to Australia with tuberculosis of the lung and was granted a pension.
By the time of Rupert’s return, his family had moved from Coburg and was living at ‘Brighton Grange’, Hawthorn Road, Brighton and it was there that Rupert’s younger brother Aubrey died on 20 January 1918 of pneumonia. He was 22 years old.  
Rupert’s health deteriorated over the next three years and he died at ‘Warawee’, Healesville on 15 November 1920 of tuberculosis contracted during the war. Considered a death caused directly by his war service, his parents, who were then living in Union Street, Malvern, received the Memorial Plaque known to many as the Dead Man’s Penny. He was 27 years old.
The Adams brothers are buried together in the Church of England section of the Brighton Cemetery.

Image courtesy Brighton Cemetorians

In the will he made the day before his death, Rupert Adams left a Sister Clara Bristow his ‘War Gratuity Bond with interest accrued at the time of my death’. Presumably she was his nurse. At first I thought she might also be his sweetheart but she was twelve years older than he was, so perhaps the legacy was simply a gift from a grateful patient.   
Rupert’s parents and unmarried sister Lily moved to Garden Vale before settling in Murrumbeena in the mid-1920s. His father William died in July 1937 aged 74. His sister Lily died the following year aged 48. His mother Millicent Matilda, who appears to have gone by the name Sarah Matilda in her latter years, died in 1943 and is buried with her husband in the Church of England section of Fawkner Cemetery.
Sister Hilda remained a mystery for some time until I discovered that her legal name was Edeline Florence. It was then that I found in one of those coincidences that feature in so much historical research that Hilda (Edeline) Adams married Edwin Endersbee, younger brother of Charles Endersbee who was the subject of my last blog post. The couple married in 1912 and lived in Thornbury and Preston. Hilda (Edeline) died in 1982, the longest-surviving member of her family and the only one to have children.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Charles Endersbee’s link to Tasmania’s convict past

Ship Manlius, attrib. Fitz Henry Lane, c.1865

Charles Endersbee’s maternal great-grandfather, Horatio Wilks, was born in Market Drayton in Shropshire. In April 1828 he was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for 7 years. He had stolen fourteen hats from a warehouse. It was his third conviction. He’d previously been in prison for stealing linen and stealing marble.

Twenty-nine year old Horatio Wilks left behind his wife Rosanna and children in their home city of Liverpool. Many years after his enforced voyage, his daughter Caroline made her own way to Australia with two of her children. It was 1856, thirty-two years after her father’s departure, and she was going to join her husband Thomas Endersbee on the Victorian goldfields. It is not known whether her father was still alive, or whether they ever met again.

It was not long before Thomas and Caroline Endersbee relocated to the Newlands area of Coburg where Thomas is reputed to have set up as the first quarryman in the area. Here they raised their family, including Thomas George, who was our soldier Charles’ father.

Thomas Endersbee junior married Sarah Jane Daley at Pentridge (as Coburg was then known) in October 1867 and they settled at 74 Bell Street, Coburg, just near the Public Hall and Shire Offices, where the Moreland Municipal Offices are today. He was a warder at Pentridge and in those times warders had to live within hearing distance of the bell at Pentridge, so this was a perfect location. The seven Endersbee children, including Charles, were raised in Bell Street.

In 1888, grandmother Caroline Endersbee (nee Wilks) died at West Newlands and the year after grandfather Thomas died, leaving an estate of £1,152. For the daughter of a convict, Caroline had done well. It is doubtful that the family who stayed behind in England could say the same.

2900 Private Charles Endersbee, 32nd Infantry Battalion (on nominal roll. (51st Btn, 7th Reinfs. on embarkation roll) 

From the Coburg State School Soldiers' Book, page 30.

In 1903 Thomas Endersbee junior died and Charles, our future soldier, lived at home for a while, before making his way to Western Australia, where worked as a labourer on the railways. In 1916, he was living at the 257-Mile Camp, Trans-Australian Railway in the Kalgoorlie area. In July 1916, aged 39, he enlisted at Kalgoorlie and set sail from Fremantle on 9 November 1916. He went to France in 1917 and survived the war without injury.
On his return to Australia in June 1919, he lived briefly in Rodda Street, Coburg before returning to Western Australia where he died unmarried in April 1946.
The following extracts from West Australian newspapers in June 1923 give  an excellent glimpse of what Charles Endersbee’s working life was like. He was a caulker and ring setter based a few miles out of Canderin, working on a pipe track on the WA goldfields water scheme. Here he is giving evidence in the WA Arbitration Court regarding Government employees’ hours and wages. (He was employed by the Goldfields Water Supply Department.)

The West Australian, 28 June 1923, p.7.

The Daily News (Perth), 28 June 1923, p.8.

An interesting sideline:

The Van Diemen’s Land convict records are a rich resource and have been the subject of the long-running project called Founders and Survivors.

One of the very useful things that can be done using the convict records, which are available online through LINC Tasmania and the AIF records, which are available through the National Archives of Australia is compare the physical descriptions of different generations.
The first thing I noticed is that Horatio Wilks, convicted and transported in 1828, was 5 foot 9 ½ inches tall, had brown hair and hazel eyes. About 90 years later, his great-grandson, Charles Endersbee, was described as being 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighed 204 pounds, had reddish hair and blue eyes.  

Many more comparisons between male convicts and their AIF descendants are possible and the Founders and Survivors project has been doing just that in its Convicts to Diggers project. The Victorian team, led by Professor Janet McCalman is now embarking on a new project entitled ‘Diggers to Veterans: Risk, Resilience and Recovery’. This project will cover the period after the war and investigate what happened to the men of the AIF on their return to Australia.