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.

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