Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Bromley brothers of Munro Street, Coburg

Charles (known as Charl) and Roy Bromley were the sons of William and Annie Bromley of ‘Leeds’, 101 Munro Street, Coburg. Roy was a clerk, Charl a fitter. Their father, an accountant, married Annie Phillips in Hamilton and there were eleven children in the family, born between 1875 and 1893, the last two being Roy and his twin sister Nellie who were born at Yarrawonga in July 1893. Their father died in Feburary 1918, only five months after Roy died on the Western Front. Their mother remained in Coburg, where she died in 1942.

207 Private Charles Edward Bromley, 7th Infantry Battalion

Twenty-five year old Charles Bromley enlisted on 15 August 1914 and served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and later on the Western Front. In 1917 he married English nurse Elsie Edwards. They returned to Australia and lived out their lives in the suburbs of Melbourne.

2813 Acting Corporal Roy Phillips Bromley, 29th Infantry Battalion, D Company

Roy Bromley enlisted on 4 October 1915 aged 22. He served in France where he was slightly wounded in 1916. He recovered quickly and returned to his Battalion, only to be killed in action in France on 26 September 1917. He was buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery, two miles east of Ypres. 

After the war, a tree was planted in his memory at the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Coburg Lake. You can still visit the Memorial Avenue of Trees and although a number of the original trees have long gone, the Moreland City Council has recently planted new trees to complement those that remain. The Council has also erected two large interpretive panels at each end of the walk that include a plan of the original plantings. The Avenue is well worth a visit and is highly recommended.

Image courtesy Bruce and Sue Garrett.

Last year I visited the State Library of Victoria, where a collection of letters, postcards, photographs and other items relating to Roy’s war service are kept in the Manuscripts Collection, MS BOX 4406/6, 4409/15. If you are interested, you can see the catalogue record here.

I’ve included the description here, in case it is of interest to you: There are four letters from him plus 37 photographs. Comprises four letters from Roy Bromley to his family, 4 Sept. 1916-9 Aug. 1917 and undated (three in postcard form); one letter from mother to Roy, 27 Nov. 1916; one letter from Lieutenant H.S. Gray reporting the death of Roy; thirty-seven photographs of Roy and his brother Charles, Roy's grave in Hooge Crater Cemetery, Gallipoli and Britain, and a view of the troopship Anchises; Roy's identity disc; a ring made on the Somme and a ribbon with star sent to Roy's mother on his death; and a press clipping from the Weekly Times, 26 May 1917, containing a photograph of Roy. Biography. Roy Phillips Bromley, a clerk whose family lived in Coburg, Vic., enlisted on 4 Oct. 1915 (no. 2813); served as a corporal with the 29th Battalion; and was killed in action on 26 Sept. 1917. Charles Edward Bromley (Charl), a fitter, enlisted on 15 Aug. 1914 (no. 207) as a private with the 7th Battalion; rose to the rank of sergeant; and was repatriated to Australia on 26 Nov. 1918.
As I worked through the collection, I extracted some details, which give us an idea of what the war was like for the Bromley family:
1. Letter from Roy, 20 September 1916, D Company, 29th Batn. Written 'In my dug out'. The letter begins ' Your welcome letters to hand ... believe me they were the most welcome ones I have ever received. I read them in my dug out under very heavy shell fire.'  He says ' Well parents, I am still well but the weather is not to my liking, too cold, the past two days it has been raining. You ought to see the mud etc ...' He also mentions Charl [His brother Charles Edward]. He goes on to say  'At present there is a very heavy shell bombardment. Hope it won't interfere with my letter writing. You ought to see me in my steel and gas helmet, you would not know me.'  Then 'Well Parents, I must close and take some cover from schrapnel.'
2. Letter from his mother, 101 Munro St., 27 Nov 1916. Wrote to say they were praying for a good recovery from being wounded - 'Poor poor old darling boy'. She ended: 'Will the war never end it is dreadful all the cruel things that are being done.'
3. Letter to his parents from Roy, France, 9 August 1917 and 8 page letter on YMCA Paper undated, saying he left France on 25 August 1917 for 10 days leave around London. He gives details of what he did and who he saw.
4. Very tattered page from 'The Weekly Times', 26 May 1917  'Cheerful Australians among the ruins'. Roy front - 4th from left in helmet holding gun. (You can see it below, taken straight from TROVE. It's a very poor quality image, but in the copy in the MS collection, Roy has identified himself as the man at the very front, holding the gun.)

And here is the same image in the Australian War Memorial Collection, Image E00361. Once you've read the description, you'll see the dilemma. Is Roy in the photo, or not?

The description reads: Members of B Company, 30th Battalion (in support) amongst the ruins on the Cambrai Road, Bapaume, during the day on which the Australians entered the town. Left to right: Unidentified; 358 Corporal (Cpl) C Boland; 5796 Lance Corporal R McKinnon (standing); Private (Pte) Page; 3848 Cpl F McDowell (back); 2267 Cpl Cecil Edward Alcorn Belgian Croix de Guerre (foreground); 341 Sergeant Max Kenneth Dick Arkell (standing) (later killed in action 28 August 1918); 792 Pte A C Walker MM (standing); 466 Cpl W H Linsley. Taken on 17 March 1917 after Aussie occupation.

5. Letter from Lt H.S. Gray, France, 27 Dec 1917 to Roy’s mother.
'It is with very much regret that I now have to inform you that your son has been now reported Killed in Action on the 26th September.I have been hoping against hope that he would turn up alright, but we have just recieved word from a wounded man who says that both he and your son Roy were together when a shell burst close to them. This man Private H.A.L. Davies was wounded but your son was killed. ...There is nothing I can say about Roy that is too good for him, both as a soldier and a man. He was one of the most dependable men in the company and one who could always be relied on, no matter what the circumstances were.When Bapaume fell on the 17th March, I had to go out, well in front of our line to reconnoitre the position. It was a particularly trying and dangerous task and I selected Roy to come with me. He worked splendidly there and it was largely due to his courage and initiative that I gained much information for further operations. Since then he has proved his worth too.Not only was he a fine soldier but he was most popular among the Company. I am sure I am expressing the feelings of the whole company, officers, NCOs and men alike when I offer you our deepest sympathy.'

6. Postcard - France. Photo of soldiers of 29th Bn. Roy’s note is dated 6 Oct 1916. He says it's a photo of the Fire Brigade Staff and he says he's a fireman.
7. Postcard, France, 4 Sep 1916 to his twin sister Nellie. It has embroidered flowers on it.
8. Postcard, France, 10 March 1917 to his mother. This is also embroidered.
9. Photo of Roy's grave in a card issued by Australian Graves Section to Mrs A. Bromley, 54 Wellington Street, Coburg. He was interred at Hooge Crater Cemetery, Plot 11, Row D, Grave 15. The nearest railway station is Ypres.
10. Photo of Roy in uniform.
11. Photo of HMAT Anchisis, 24 March 1916. You can just make out the soldiers on the deck.
12. Photo of five soldiers on camels, Egypt, 1915. Sphinx in background. Charl Bromley, #207, 7th Btn, 2nd from right. Two native men sitting in front - the camaleers?
13. Photo of Charl, Egypt 1915. Other soldiers looking on. Same day and place as the previous photo.
14. Photo of three soldiers. Roy on left. Probably taken before they left – their uniforms look pristine. There is no Rising Star badges on hat.The man in the middle has 'Vic' on his hatband.
There follows 5 pages (10 sides) of photos taken from a photo album.
Side 1. Charl in hospital. Charl in camp in England.
Side 2. Salisbury Plains, under snow. Salisbury Plains. (It's a big map of Australia with 'Australia' written on it on the hill behind.)
Side 3. Top: Photo of Charl, Harcourt and Has. Harcourt in civilian clothes. Has looks older and has a big moustache. Below: several photos of Charl, probably in England. [Has and Harcourt are their much older brothers.]
Side 4. One photo without caption. One photo of Charl in Egypt. One photo of Charl with daughter coming home. One photo of two soldiers, the one on the right is Roy.
Side 5. Photos of Charl a) in Egypt and b) probbaly in England.
Side 6. The landing at Gallipoli. With the Australians at Gaba Tepe. Both commercially produced postcards.
Side 7. Charl on camel in Egypt. Charl in camp, England (seated at front).
Side 8. 4 photos - Roy in Egypt, Charl in Egypt, Charl (left) and Roy with Egyptians.
Side 9. Charl (standing 2nd from right) in snow. Loch Lomond.
Side 10. Roy top left. Charl in Ruins, Egypt and on the boat home(?)

So, if any of these items sound of interest to you, don’t forget that you can find them in the State Library’s Manuscript Collection, where many more WW1 related collections can be found.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

More on Roy and Rosie's wedding

Remember Roy and Rosie and the wedding photo they sent to Auntie Annie? The photo that was bought at a Trash'n'Treasure in Coburg in June 1992?

Just in case, here it is again:

Thanks to those who responded to my previous post on Rosie and Roy’s wedding. The mystery of Roy and Rosie has been solved, thanks to all the detectives out there who got on the case!

I firstly followed up on Colin’s mention of the overseas service chevrons and found a very interesting article on how to make sense of the parts of a soldier’s uniform. You can read it here.

The most useful part is the paragraph that reads:
‘In January 1918 the AIF also approved the wearing of the overseas service chevrons which had been adopted by the British Army. These were embroidered or woven inverted chevrons worn above the cuff on the right arm. Due to a shortage of supply, some men had chevrons privately made. For each year of war service a blue chevron was awarded and those men who had embarked in 1914 received a red chevron to indicate that year’s service.’

It then became clear that Roy was an early enlistee and left Australia in 1914. There are four blue chevrons, meaning he served from 1915-1918, so it seemed probable that the wedding took place in 1919, on Roy’s return from overseas.

Lenore also noticed the pips on Roy's epaulettes, so I knew he was an officer, rank of Lieutenant. 

The colour patch on his sleeve was a little harder to make sense of, especially as the image is in black and white. Colin suggested it might be the 49th or 50th Battalion’s patch. The 49th Battalion’s patch was circular with dark green horizontally divided over light blue. The 50th Battalion’s was circular with purple horizontally divided over light blue. So either of these would work. 

While I was taking another look at this photo of Roy and Rosie from the Coburg Historical Society collection, I noticed in the bottom right hand corner the words ‘Dease Perth’. A quick visit to Mr Google and I discovered that the Dease Studios operated out of Barrack Street, Perth from the late 1890s and took many photos of WW1 service personnel.

The State Library of Western Australia has digitised a large collection of Dease Studios photographs taken between 1900 and 1927 and these can be viewed online. I started to look through them thinking I might find Rosie and Roy that way, but there are just too many of them, even for me!

Since then, though, others have got to work and we now have a much better idea of the story behind the photo. 

It was Paul who came up with the brilliant thought of posting the photo to the Great War Forum and within hours, we not only knew who Roy and Rosie were, but I had a link Roy's war service record and another to a newspaper article about their wedding which gave the names of the wedding party, including the other servicemen in the photo.

So thank you, Paul. I never would have thought of doing it!

Firstly, Roy's war service: He was Francis Roy Brown, who enlisted at Blackboy Hill in Perth and left in 1914 with the 11th Battalion and served on the Gallipoli Peninsula. With the evacuation of the Peninsula, the 11th was disbanded and many of the men in this battalion became members of the newly formed 51st Battalion and went on to serve on the Western Front until the end of the war. These were both West Australian battalions. Roy Brown's rank at the end of the war was Lieutenant. You can read his war record here.

As a member of the 11th Battalion, he appears in the iconic photo of the 11th Battalion on the Cheops pyramid.  He's near the very top middle of the photo and is reasonably distinctive because he's holding a white bag/shirt/hat or something. He is identified as number 70 in the photo. Even if you don't have any interest in the 11th Battalion, you should check out the website here

More than that, again through the Great War Forum, Paul supplied me with a link to a newspaper article that gives details of Roy's wedding to Primrose Mary (Rose) Barrington at the Wesley Church in Perth on 30 July 1919. The person who gave the information said they had been engaged since 1916. The two servicemen in the photo have been identified as 4727 Sgt Arthur Victor Royal Barrington, 48th Battalion (at the centre back) and 4380 Lt Charles Thomas Britt, 28th Battalion (on the right at the back). I'm not sure of Arthur (Roy) Barrington's place in the family, though, because the birth indexes show that he and Rosie were not siblings, so perhaps they were cousins. In any case, Roy Barrington remained in Perth after the war.

You can read the newspaper article here but I've published it below, too.

The Daily News, 11 August 1919, p.3.

Thank you Paul for taking the trouble to post the photo to the Forum and thank you so much to everyone who responded. 

So now we know that although Roy was born in Carlton, he married Rosie in Perth. Roy later lived in Sydney, but did make occasional visits to Melbourne, as this letter found in his war service file shows:

I have also discovered through looking at electoral rolls that the bride's parents moved to East Melbourne in 1919 and lived there until 1926. By 1933, when Rosie's father died, he was living in Hawthorn. Roy's parents remained in Perth, where his father died in 1941 and mother in 1956. They had been residents of Perth since the early 1900s.

Francis Roy Brown, son of Francis Henry Brown and Annie Sholl, was born in Carlton in 1894. He and Rosie had one daughter, Selma, who was born in 1921 but who died at the Children's Hospital the following year aged four and a half months. If the electoral rolls are to be believed, the marriage didn't last and by 1936 Rosie and Roy were living at different addresses in Perth and Rosie was making her living as a typist. She remained in Perth until her death in 1971.

Frustratingly, I cannot locate Francis Roy Brown on any later electoral rolls, but it seems that he died at Granville, NSW in 1943, the same year that he wrote the above letter where he says he ran a General Store at Maroubra Beach in Sydney. 

So where is the family's connection to Coburg? Maybe it was through Auntie Annie? Then again, maybe they had no connection to Coburg whatsoever and the photo's presence in the Coburg Historical Society collection is just a coincidence.

Back to square one …