Sunday, 29 March 2015

Coburg Branch of Old Linen Society

Goods made by the Northcote Red Cross Society for sick and wounded Australian soldiers. (Donated by the Australian Red Cross Society) Image courtesy AWM. Image H11735.

 From the Annual Report of Coburg Red Cross Branch. 
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 10 August 1917, p.1.

Mrs Minnie Yorke was in charge of the Old Linen Branch of the Coburg Red Cross Society. Eighteen women met on Thursday afternoons to prepare the old linen but their efforts were often hampered by lack of supplies. Some of the members of the Old Linen Branch in Coburg were Mrs Edwards, Mrs Rudrum, Mrs Wood (Red Cross Branch President), Mrs Ward (Red Cross Branch Secretary) and Mrs Springhall.

Minnie Yorke, whose husband Robert worked at Pentridge, had two sons at the war: her eldest son Robert and youngest son Roy. 2920 Signaller Roy Yorke, 6th Infantry Battalion was an old boy of Coburg State School and will be featured in Coburg Historical Society’s ANZAC Centenary Project.

Martha Edwards was married to Chief Warder George Edwards and lived in the Officers’ Quarters at Pentridge Prison. Three of her sons – Harold Norman, Sidney Harris and Ernest – served and returned.

Edith Rudrum was the wife of William Rudrum, a Pentridge warder and lived in the Officers’ Quarters at Pentridge Prison. She was the  mother of Lieutenant Arthur (Carl) Rudrum, 8th Infantry Brigade Train. (later Captain, 5th Divisional Train, ASC). Carl Rudrum survived the war and died in 1969 aged 82.

Alice Wood, the Branch President, was the widow of Edwin Wood, former Governor of Sale Prison. He had been appointed Governor of Pentridge, but died suddenly before he could take up the appointment. She then opened a draper’s shop in Sydney Road, Coburg. Alice Wood was the mother of four soldier sons – Carlyle (Carl), Charles, Stanley and Edwin.

Mary Ward, the Branch Secretary, was the wife of John Henry Ward, rate collector and member of the Coburg Recruiting Committee. Their son Leslie (13365 Private Leslie Thomas Ward, 12th Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Corps) died on 12 March 1917 of wounds received near Rouen.  As an old boy of Coburg State School  he will be featured in Coburg Historical Society’s ANZAC Centenary Project.

Elizabeth Springhall was the wife of John Alexander Springhall of ‘Lyndon’, Bell Street, Coburg, a former Post Office Superintendent. Her son Stanley (32376 Gunner Leonard Stanley Springhall, 21st Howitzer Brigade) survived the war, did not marry and died in 1969 aged 82. Interestingly, George Springhall, Elizabeth Springhall’s brother-in-law, married Melbourne pioneer John Pascoe Fawkner’s adopted daughter Eliza Ann. They had two sons who served in the 1st AIF, Clement Pascoe Springhall and Victor Hubert Springhall. Like their cousin Stanley, they both survived the war.

Abbeville, France. The Red Cross Store, Australian Branch, at No 3 Australian General Hospital with a Red Cross car standing by ready for action. (Donor Miss P.N. Robertson, Australian Red Cross Society, Melbourne)
Image courtesy AWM. Image H13602.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Dinner time at Broadmeadows Army Camp

Assembling the ‘camp kitchen’. From a stereographic slide by Geo. Rose.  Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.  

Here we are again at Broadmeadows Camp and judging by the swaying trees in the background (conifers, I think), this photograph was taken on the same day as the tent city photograph of my previous entry 'Broadmeadows Camp, a city of tents'. So it’s likely to be late August 1914, a feeling strengthened by the fact that many of the men are only in partial uniform. I can see peaked caps, hats of all varieties, men out of uniform altogether or in partial uniform.

There’s a very long fire pit in the centre of the photo and I’m pretty sure that those are coals I see under the two pots still balancing on the long poles that extend along the length of the pit. No one’s eating yet, but the food’s there, steaming hot and waiting for the hungry hordes to descend. I wonder what was for tea – stew and spuds, perhaps. I notice that the chap kneeling with dog on leash and cigarette dangling from his lips has a tin cup in his hand – a cup of strong, black tea perhaps?

And now that I look at the image a little more closely, I can make out a dozen or so horses, one of them with nose in a feed bag, so grub’s up for everyone, it seems. I wonder what the dog ate?

Monday, 23 March 2015

WW1 Cemetery Walk at Coburg Cemetery

Interested in hearing the stories of 10 old boys of Coburg State School who served in World War One?

If so, you might like to take part in a cemetery walk organised by Coburg Historical Society, Friends of Coburg Cemetery and the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust.

It's on Sunday 19 April 2015 at 2 pm at the Coburg Cemetery. 

To book a place for this free event, contact Friends of Coburg Cemetery.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Women's war work in the Coburg area

I have already written about the patriotic work of groups such as the Coburg Branch of Red Cross who worked hard to support the Glenroy Military Hospital (a Red Cross Hospital). 

Glenroy Military Hospital with Red Cross at front. 
Image courtesy Broadmeadows Historical Society.

I've written, too, about the individual efforts of women such as Linda Davis, crowned Queen of Soldiers for her fund-raising efforts.

Table Talk, 2 August 1917, p.18.

Just recently, I have begun looking more closely at the work of the Coburg Branch of the Red Cross, which was established in 1915 and was presided over by Mrs Marie Davis, wife of the then Mayor (and mother of Linda, mentioned above). She was succeeded by the next Lady Mayoress, Mrs Hackett, from October 1915 to August 1916. 

Mrs Lillie Richards, the next Mayor’s wife, then took over, but the Coburg Branch was then informed that they had to form an elected executive and the Presidency moved to Mrs Alice Wood, who won the election. 

Alice Wood remained in the position until at least the end of the war, and possibly later still. Alice Wood, widow of a former Sale Prison Governor and mother of nine, owned a Sydney Road draper’s and milliner’s business, had four sons at the war and five daughters at home.

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

Just the other day, Lenore Frost of the Empire Called and I Answered Blog alerted me to another wonderful resource: The Voluntary War Workers' Record, published by the Australian Comforts Fund in Melbourne in 1918. 

You can read it online here.

There are three Coburg related entries:

Coburg Branch of the Lady Mayoress's Patriotic League

Pascoe Vale Branch of the Lady Mayoress's Patriotic League

League of Soldiers' Friends (organised by the Melbourne Diocese of the Church of England)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Broadmeadows Camp, a city of tents

Australian Expeditionary Force at Broadmeadows. A city of tents. From a stereographic slide by Geo. Rose. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

This amazingly detailed photograph brings to life the tent city at Broadmeadows. In the right of the foreground is a soldier in a slouch hat, arms crossed, gazing directly at the photographer. I’d love to know what he is thinking! Behind him are two soldiers. The one on the left has a rifle slung over his shoulder, tin mug in one hand and a document, which he is reading, in the other. I can’t help wondering what is in the document. To his right is another soldier wearing a cap with chin strap. Each man has on different headwear, but I don’t have the expertise to know what the different hats mean, if anything. Maybe someone out there can help?

To this group’s left is a group of three civilians. The man (back to photographer) is wearing a black suit and bowler hat and holds an umbrella in his hands which are clasped behind his back. He’s in conversation with two women, one of whom is glancing over her shoulder in the direction of the photographer, although she seems to have other things on her mind. 

The figures are all casting longish shadows, so I’m guessing that it’s reasonably late in the afternoon. From the way the trees are bending in the background of the photo, we know that it is a blustery day, but there are no overcoats and the women are dressed in between seasons outfits, so my guess is that the image was taken in Spring, perhaps at the end of the long march made by the first contingent from the city through Royal Park and Coburg to Broadmeadows in late August 1914.

To the left of the three civilians are two lots of rifles stacked in threes and some very new looking blankets. In the far left is a soldier lying back on the ground, propped up on one arm near another soldier who is looking at the camera, a young woman (or so it seems) examining an object she is holding in both hands and another woman who is taking a peek inside the tent. (She's a bit too dark to make out in this photo.)

Behind the figures to the right of the foreground is a line of soldiers posing casually for the camera. One is reading a newspaper, a group of three have their arms around each other’s shoulders and further along one man is leaning on another’s shoulder. There is a boy wearing a slouched hat towards the middle of the group and I wonder whether he served in the war at a later time, and if he did, whether he came home again.

We know that most of these men were destined to fight on the Gallipoli Peninsula and that many of them died or were wounded there. We also know that some of them went on to die on the Western Front. As I look at them here, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness, knowing something they don’t know yet: the war won’t be over by Christmas and there are terrible times ahead.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

A tale of two Arthurs and the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Lake Reserve, Coburg

Firstly, I should correct a few inaccuracies from my last blog entry on 692 Private Arthur Hunt, 57th Infantry Battalion.

  • I noted that he was buried at the Villeurs-Brettoneux Military Cemetery, but what I should have said was that he is memorialised there. Like so many servicemen, his actual burial place is unknown.
  • I also mentioned a 'sibling' (actually an aunt) called Alice, who I said was 17 years old than Arthur. In fact, Arthur never knew Alice, as she died in 1882, aged 1 (and long before Arthur was born).
  • Finally, I mentioned that Arthur's brother/uncle Syd Hunt had damaged eyes due to being gassed in the war. This is true, however, the story of him removing his glass eyes has proved to be untrue. The family member who remembers this happening when he was a young boy has now been told by other family members that there were no glass eyes, so it has proved to be a false memory. 

And now for some further news relating to which of the two Arthur Hunts was memorialised at the Lake Reserve Memorial Avenue of Trees.

Letter relating to the planting of the Memorial Avenue of Trees, Lake Reserve, Coburg, 30 August 1919. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Images relating to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at Lake Reserve, April 1990. Images courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Recent research has revealed that the list of names on the plaque unveiled in 1990 is incomplete and in some cases it is inaccurate. The list was compiled after extensive research using the available evidence of the time. Since then, new material has come to light, including a plan of the Avenue and the names of soldiers with their tree numbers. Since then, too, more and more resources have come online, including the richly diverse collection of the Australian War Memorial and the soldiers' records available from the National Archives of Australia.

And so, thanks largely to the work of local couple Bruce and Sue Garrett, Coburg Historical Society now holds an almost complete record of those men who are remembered at the Lake Reserve Memorial Avenue of Trees. Please contact Coburg Historical Society if you would like to know more. 

If you are at Lake Reserve, you can consult the large storyboard that has been erected at the start of the Avenue. It gives a plan of the Memorial Avenue of Trees and the names of those remembered there.

Many of the men who were remembered at Lake Reserve were former pupils of Coburg State School and are the subject of Coburg Historical Society's ANZAC Centenary project 'A hundred men, a hundred heroes: the old boys of Coburg State School go to war'. If you would like to know more, or you would like to contribute to the project, please contact Coburg Historical Society.

And now back to the matter of which Arthur Hunt is remembered at Lake Reserve ...

I have just found a handwritten list of names of those who had trees planted in their memory and I can now reveal that Tree #49 in the Memorial Avenue of Trees was planted in memory of 3046 Sergeant Arthur Hunt, the husband of Ethel Lily Hunt, once of 322 Sydney Road, later of 26 Richard Street, Coburg and later still of Epping in NSW. Sergeant Hunt died of wounds received at Fromelles in July 1916. 

So now we know. Perhaps 692 Private Arthur Hunt is memorialised in Monbulk or Belgrave where his family lived at the end of the war? I'm sure today's generation of the family will be keen to discover if this is the case, so if anyone reading this blog has further information, please let me know.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A tale of two Arthurs, continued …

Our second Arthur Hunt, 692 Private Arthur Hunt, 57th Infantry Battalion, was only 18 years old when he enlisted at Brunswick on 24 February 1917. Prior to enlistment he had served for several months in the Coburg Citizens Forces (the 59th Infantry) who were based at the Drill Hall in Reynard’s Road, Coburg. (The Hall was demolished in 1987.)

Coburg Drill Hall at the time of its demolition in 1987. 
Images courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

At the time of Arthur’s enlistment, his mother, Affra Jane Hunt, was living in Sydney Road, Coburg, but they were not long-term residents of the suburb. Arthur was born in Prahran in 1898 and went to school at Eastern Road State School in South Melbourne, yet when Affra Hunt filled out the Roll of Honour Circular after his death, she stated that he was chiefly connected with Coburg, the place where he had spent his youth. She did not remain in Coburg long. By the time Arthur had left for the Front, she had relocated to Monbulk, later still moving to Belgrave.

When Arthur Hunt embarked for the Front on 21 June 1917, he was serving with the 14th Machine Gun Company, but he later transferred to the 57th Battalion. He arrived in Liverpool on 26 August, was sent to France on 19 December and was killed at Villers-Bretonneux eight months later, on 8 August 1918 during the Battle of Amiens and is buried at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.

Click here to read an account of the Battle of Amiens.

The correspondence between the widowed Affra Hunt and the military authorities after Arthur’s death reveals a story that would otherwise not have come to light. Arthur was not Affra’s son at all, but her grandson. He was actually the illegitimate son of her daughter Isabel, but had been brought up by his grandmother and had no knowledge of the circumstances of his birth. The family had come originally from Tasmania, where his birth mother, now Isabel Jackson, was living with her husband John and their four children. Of this Arthur had no knowledge, although one of his grandmother’s letters reveals that she had intended to tell him the truth about his birth on his return from the war.

The agony of humiliation experienced by Affra Hunt at having to reveal this information to a faceless, implacable bureaucracy is evident in these extracts of letters written in June 1921, almost three years after Arthur’s death. Her references to the ‘humiliating questions’ she was being subjected to remind us of the stigma of illegitimacy at that time, a stigma that continued for many decades after. 

Affra Hunt comes across as a strong woman, who rose to the occasion when her daughter became pregnant by a married man and raised the child as her own. Arthur must have known that his ‘father’ Robert Hunt, Affra’s husband, was dead, but clearly he was unaware that his father/grandfather had actually died three years before he was born. And he probably didn’t realise that his mother/grandmother (Affra) was nearly 50 when he was born, making it highly unlikely, although not impossible, that she was his biological mother. He was brought up believing that his mother Isabel, the oldest child of the family, was his sister. I wonder whether he puzzled over why his ‘siblings’ were so much older than he: Isabel was 21 years older, Syd 18 years older, Alice 17 years older and Jean 14 years older.

Arthur Hunt's brother/uncle, Syd Hunt, born in Launceston in 1880, also served in the war. 

4348 Private Sydney Walter Hunt, 7th Battalion. Images courtesy Colin Rowley.

Syd Hunt enlisted on 30 September 1915 aged thirty-five. By then he was married to Alice Ashton and had two children – Affra and Harry. A third child, Walter, was born after his return from the war. Syd lived in Crown (later Donne) Street, West Coburg when he enlisted but relocated to Belgrave on his return, working as the postmaster until 1936 when he was transferred to the city. By the 1950s, he had lost his vision due to the effects of mustard gas during WW1 and his grandson recalls him ‘removing his glass eyes’. Syd died at his daughter’s home in Pascoe Vale in 1965 and is buried at Box Hill Cemetery.

Interestingly, through their mother/grandmother Affra (Murray) Hunt, Syd and Arthur Hunt could trace their ancestry back to Third Fleet convict Kennedy Murray, who was tried at Glasgow in 1786 and sentenced to 14 years transportation. He arrived in NSW in 1791 and from there was sent to Norfolk Island where his son Kennedy White Murray was born in 1799. When the settlement at Norfolk Island was evacuated, young Kennedy White Murray, aged 16, applied for and was granted farmland at Evandale in Tasmania’s north. (His parents and three brothers were then in NSW, the parents having been committed to an insane asylum and the boys having been admitted to the male Orphan School at Richmond.)

Kennedy White Murray became a prominent Tasmanian sheep breeder and one of Evandale’s earliest settlers. His son Thomas John Murray was Affra Hunt’s father. Another family member, Henry Murray, was involved in politics, serving as the Member for Latrobe (in Tasmania) from 1891 to 1909.

Syd and Arthur Hunt also share a common ancestor, Kennedy Murray, with Lt. Col. Henry William ‘Mad Harry’ Murray  VC, CMG, DSO (and Bar), DCM, reputed to be Australia’s most decorated soldier in WW1.

Image courtesy AWM. Image P02939.053. Studio portrait of Major (Maj) Henry William Murray VC DSO and bar DCM, 13th Battalion. Maj Murray was awarded the Victoria Cross as a Captain (Capt) for "most conspicuous bravery" on 4 - 5 February 1917 at Stormy Trench, France. Capt Murray led his company in an attack and quickly captured the enemy position, fighting back three heavy counter attacks by the enemy. He encouraged his men, led bombing and bayonet parties and carried wounded men to safety. He landed at Gallipoli as a Gunner on 25 April 1915 and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in June 1915. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work at Mouquet Farm in August 1916, and in April 1917 received the bar to the DSO for his part in the battle at the Hindenburg Line. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in March 1918 and in May 1919 was created a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. 

A final word on this tale of two Arthurs ...

In February 1918, a memorial service was held in Coburg to honour the fallen. One of the men remembered was Arthur Hunt. At that time, 18 year old Arthur Hunt was still alive, so it must have been the Englishman Arthur Hunt, who was the subject of my last blog entry.

In 1919, a Memorial Avenue of Trees was planted at Lake Reserve, Coburg. Tree number 49 was planted in memory of Arthur Hunt, but which Arthur? By then, both men had died. Both had lived in Coburg, if only briefly, and both had lived in Sydney Road. Before war's end, the wife of one had moved to NSW and the mother/grandmother of the other had moved to Monbulk.

So, which Arthur Hunt is remembered in the Memorial Avenue of Trees? I think it might be this Arthur, the 18 year old, because his family still had ties to the area and were still living in Victoria. I'm hoping that family members can confirm my hunch.