Thursday, 23 April 2015

WW1 cemetery walk at Coburg Cemetery

Last Sunday a group of 40 people braved the weather and went on a highly successful WW1 cemetery walk that featured eight old boys of Coburg State School.

Part of the larger Coburg Historical Society ANZAC Centenary project, the walk has been funded through a grant obtained by the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust and  was organised by members of the Friends of Coburg Cemetery and Coburg Historical Society.

The walk will be repeated on Sunday 17 May, Sunday 21 June and Sunday 15 November and bookings are now open for these walks. 

If you have an interest in the Coburg area or if you'd like to support the organisers, why not come and join us on one of these three walks. 

For more details or to book your place, you can either email me at or email Friends of Coburg Cemetery at

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Moreland remembers World War One travelling exhibition

Last Tuesday I attended the launch of Moreland Remembers World War One, a travelling exhibition commissioned by Moreland City Council.

You can see the exhibition, which is comprised of 10 themed banners and some memorabilia, including the Coburg State School Soldiers Book, as follows:  

Exhibition at Brunswick Library 14 April – 8 May 2015 during Library opening hours.
Exhibition at Coburg Library 11 – 29 May 2015 during Library opening hours.
Exhibition at Glenroy Library 1 – 19 June 2015, during Library opening hours.

If you are unable to visit the exhibition in person, it is available online on the Moreland City Council website at

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Battle to Farm: WW1 Soldier Settlement records in Victoria

(From The Empire Called blog)

This fantastic online resource has just been released by the Public Record Office of Victoria and you can search it here.

I've already located a number of Coburg men who took up soldier settlement blocks, including Cyril Westhorpe.

1655 Private Walter Cyril Roy (Cyril) Westhorpe, 8th Light Horse Regiment and his brother 18755 Private William Wilson (Wilson) Westhorpe, 5th Field Ambulance, were the sons of Walter and Emma Westhorpe of ‘Myrtleford’, 14 Dean Street, Coburg. They were both old boys of Coburg State School and are featured in Coburg Historical Society’s ANZAC Centenary project, ‘A hundred men, a hundred heroes: the old boys of Coburg State School go to war’. 

Image courtesy AWM. Image ID P04700.003. c 1916. Studio portrait of standing, 1654 Signaller (Sig) George Leslie Newstead, and seated, 1655 Sig Cyril Westhorpe. Sig Newstead and Sig Westhorpe both attended Signal School between October and November 1915, before embarking, as Privates (Pte), with the 8th Light Horse Regiment, 11th Reinforcements, on 13 November 1915 aboard HMAT Clan McCorquodale (A6). Both survived the war, with Pte Westhorpe returning to Australia in 1916 and Pte Newstead in 1919.

Cyril Westhorpe arrived in Egypt in December 1915 but within a few months was admitted to hospital with influenza and by April 1916 had been declared medically unfit and was returned to Australia in June suffering from phthisis, a disease of the lungs. On his return, he was placed on a pension and soon took up life as a farmer on a Soldiers’ Settlement block at Balliang East, just 45 kilometres west of Melbourne in the Shire of Moorabool. You can read the records relating to this here

He married Grace Whiteoak in 1919 and it seems he took up residence at Balliang East in the early 1920s. He called his property ‘Sunnyside’ and farmed there until 1937, when he moved back to Melbourne. He moved around a bit and last appeared on the electoral rolls in Box Hill in 1968. He died in Brisbane the following year aged 75 and is buried at Fawkner Cemetery with his wife Alice, who died in 1958.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Members of the Coburg Presbyterian Church congregation go to war

Presbyterian Church, Coburg, built in 1899 and at that time located on the west side of Sydney Road near the corner of Munro Street. Image found in Coburg Historical Society collection. Source unknown.

Members of the Australian Expeditionary Force from Coburg Presbyterian Church. Left to right: George Waite (3431 Private George Harold Waite, 5th Infantry Battalion); Jack Aitken (7471 Corporal John Eadie Aitken, 1st Divisional Train Supply); T. Williams; Arch Murray (2nd Lieut Archibald James Murray, 29th Btn.); Mel Robertson (3484 Private Melrose Noel Robertson, 14th Infantry Battalion); Jim Buchanan (6133 Private James Reid Buchanan, 2nd Field Ambulance). Image courtesy Coburg Uniting Church Archive.

3431 Private George Harold Waite, 5th Infantry Battalion, was a 20 year old civil servant when he enlisted on 3 July 1915. He lived with his widowed mother Isabella in White Street, Coburg. Although he embarked with the 5th Battalion, he transferred to the Army Pay Corps and worked at Admin. HQ in London. He returned to Australia in November 1919.

7471 Corporal John (Jack) Eadie Aitken, 1st Divisional Train Supply, was a motor body builder aged 21 when he enlisted on 30 July 1915. He lived with his widowed mother Nannie at ‘Oamaru’, 40 Walsh Street, Coburg at the time of his enlistment. In May 1918, he was invalided to England with a sprained ankle but was otherwise injury and illness free. He returned to Australia in July 1919, became a career soldier and lived in Coburg until his death in 1976 aged 82. As an old boy of Coburg State School, he will be featured in Coburg Historical Society’s ANZAC Centenary Project.

Apart from the fact that T.R. Williams is listed on the Coburg Independent Order of Rechabites Honour Board and is featured in this photograph, I have yet to identify him.

2nd Lieutenant Archibald (Arch) James Murray, 29th Infantry Battalion, was a Coburg Lacrosse Club member and had been in the Victorian Scottish Regiment (52nd Infantry) for 6 years prior to enlistment.

3484 Private Melrose (Mel) Noel Robertson, 14th Infantry Battalion, was another member of the Coburg Lacrosse Club and had served in the Victorian Scottish Regiment for three and a half years before enlisting.

6133 Private James (Jim) Reid Buchanan, 2nd Field Ambulance, was a 24 year old tailor living with his mother Margaret in Reynard Street, Coburg when he enlisted on 11 June 1915. He, too, was a member of the Coburg Lacrosse Club. He also played for the Olmurita Tennis Club and was a member of the local branch of the Australian Natives Association. 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Artillery practice at Broadmeadows

Australian Expeditionary Force at Broadmeadows. Artillery practice with the 18 pounder quick firing guns. From a stereographic slide by Geo. Rose. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.   

The young man at the back of the trio seems to be in a shiny new uniform, as does the fellow in front of him. I’m not so sure about the chap on the left who appears to be looking through the sight of the gun. I’m guessing that he’s a bit older than the others and judging by the state of his hat, he could well have had previous military experience. All conjecture, of course, and I’d be interested in hearing your take on the situation.

What interests me most in this photograph is the long line of spectators who are watching the three soldiers intently. I wonder what they made of it all? And in the background are the ubiquitous tents of the Broadmeadows Camp. Horses, too, all in a line, just waiting…