Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Mayfield Street football team

Image 16035, courtesy Coburg Historical Society

This photograph, identified only as the Mayfield Street football team pre-1914, was probably taken in around 1909 or 1910 which is when the Libbis family lived in the street.

The only person to be identified so far is Bill Libbis (6th from left in middle row).

1989 Private William Thomas Libbis, 6th Infantry Battalion and his brother 9025 Private Leslie Fookes Libbis, 6th Field Ambulance were old boys of Coburg State School and are featured in the School's Soldiers Book. Bill Libbis died at Lone Pine on 7 August 1915.

Looking at these photographs of the brothers, neither looks like the young man identified as Bill Libbis in the football photograph and it is possible that he was misidentified. 

Other old boys of the school who served in the war and lived in Mayfield Street at the time were Clive and Frank Callaghan, Dudley Crump and Vernon Hallam. 

These men are all part of Coburg Historical Society's ANZAC project, so if you recognise any of the people in the photo, I would be very interested in hearing from you. I also wondered if anyone recognises the house in the background - a long shot, I know.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

160 & 17937 Lance Corporal Thomas Meredith Boyd & Corporal, 2nd Field Company Engineers & 1st and 2nd Field Troops (Engineers)

Image from Coburg State School Soldiers Book. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Thomas Boyd, an old boy of Coburg State School, was born in Ararat in 1891. His Irish parents John Wilson and Caroline Boyd married in Melbourne in 1889 and their first four children were born at Ararat. Two more children were born once the family had moved to Coburg – a sister in 1900 and a brother in 1905. The Boyds lived at 1 Blair St., Coburg and father John was a warder at Pentridge Prison.
At six foot tall and with previous experience in the infantry and senior cadets, Thomas Boyd must have been seen as an ideal candidate for the military. He was a gas fitter with the Metropolitan Gas Company and enlisted on 20 August 1914, one of the first men in the area to do so. 
He left with the first contingent in October 1914 and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 with the 2nd Field Company Engineers. He was there for three months before being hospitalised in Alexandria with severe rheumatoid fever. 
The Field Engineers were responsible for building and destroying bridges, roads and other infrastructure and local newspapers reported that on Gallipoli Thomas Boyd was involved in an accident while building a bomb shelter. Several sandbags from the bomb shelter fell on him and while being carried on a stretcher to get medical care, he was shot. 
At the same time he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and placed on the dangerously ill list. He was removed from the list in August 1915 and transferred to England where his health further deteriorated. Although he improved again, he was returned to Australia in April 1916 and discharged as medically unfit after several months at Langwarrin Isolation Camp.
This was not the end of Thomas Boyd’s war, however. He re-enlisted in  December 1916 and again embarked for overseas service in early May 1917. He arrived in Egypt in June 1917, but again his health let him down and in December 1918 he was admitted to hospital in England with pneumonia and suspected pulmonary tuberculosis. His health improved and he arrived in France with his unit in February 1918. However, a month later he was gassed and on the sick list again until August 1918, when he rejoined his unit. At the end of October 1918 he was sent to hospital with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis and returned to Australia not long afterwards with bronchitis and influenza.
In 1920 Thomas Boyd married Rachel Cuthbert and they settled in Alice Street, Coburg. He joined the police force. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he worked with Traffic Branch, was promoted to first class sergeant and by the 1950s, when he was in his late 50s, he was Officer in Charge of the Police Transport Branch.

Thomas Boyd died at Heidelberg on Boxing Day 1974 aged 83. He is buried at Coburg Cemetery with his wife Rachel, who predeceased him. 

Monday, 14 March 2016

477 Private George Barrie, 29th Infantry Battalion

Image from Coburg State School Soldiers Book. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

George Barrie, son of James and Amy (nee Murray) Barrie, was born in Port Melbourne but by the early years of the twentieth century his family was living in Coburg. He attended Coburg State School and was a Senior Cadet based in Coburg. At some stage, though, he must have moved to the Balranald area of New South Wales, most likely looking for work, because in his attestation papers it states that he was ‘CF [Citizens Forces) exempt – out of area – Balranald, NSW.
George’s father, James Barrie, was a ship’s carpenter and when he enlisted on 12 August 1915, George gave this as his occupation, too.  By this time, George was 19 years and 5 months old and the family were living in à Beckett Street. His younger brother James was eleven and brother Alex was eight when he enlisted.
On 18 November 1915 George left Australia. Australian troops were then preparing to leave the Dardanelles and begin fighting on the Western Front. In May 1916, not long after his arrival, George Barrie was promoted to Bombardier. In early October 1917 he was hospitalised with shell shock and did not return to his unit for several months. Not quite a year later, George’s war ended. In August 1918 he was severely wounded in his left leg which was amputated at the thigh.
George  had already had one brush with death. On a Saturday afternoon in April 1912, when he was 16, he and a group of friends were cycling south down Sydney Road when he collided with a cart driven by 'a young man named Rolls'. George was unfortunate. He was ‘riding with his head down and he struck the step of the vehicle with sufficient force to break it. He sustained some lacerations and cuts on the head, and was simply deluged in blood. Mr Rolls took him in his cart to Dr Ritten's where his wounds were dressed.' (Coburg Leader, Friday 19 April 1912, p.1)
Amy Barrie must have gone through a very difficult time in 1918. Not only was her son George severely wounded, but her husband died aged only 58. She remained in the area but eventually her sons left – James and Alex for Western Australia and George for Petersham, New South Wales. She died at Essendon in 1956 aged 91.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

7471 Corporal John Eadie Aitken, 1st Divisional Train Supply.

Coburg State School Soldiers Book. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Jack Eadie Aitken was the son of William and Nannie Aitken of ‘Oamaru’, Walsh Street, Coburg. He was a Coburg man through and through. His family had lived in the suburb since the 1880s and probably earlier. He was born there in 1894. He attended Coburg State School from 1905 and won prizes for punctuality, attendance, good fellowship and as a drummer in the school band.

Images courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Jack’s father William, a miller by trade, died suddenly in January 1913 and his death notice shows that he left behind his widow Nannie and seven children, most of them adults by then.
Argus, 3 January 1913, p.1. William Aitken, died 1 January 1913 (suddenly) at his residence ‘Oamaru’, Walsh St., Coburg. Son of Mrs Robert Aitken of ‘Linwood’, Harding’s Rd and the late Robert Aitken (miller), Melbourne.  Also: Husband of Nannie, brother of Mrs D. Scott, Mrs W. Downes, Mrs R.J. Gibson and Miss Meron Aitken. Also: Husband of Nannie, father of Robert, Victor, David, John, George and Nannie and Mrs H. Powell. After a short illness.

A motor body builder by trade, member of the Coburg Presbyterian Church and an athlete and footballer, Jack Aitken enlisted on 30 July 1915 and sailed out of Melbourne in November, not long after his 21st birthday. Apart from a sprained ankle in May 1918, he survived the war and returned to Australia in July 1919.

After his marriage, Jack Aitken and his wife Florence lived in Barrow Street, Coburg until the 1940s when they moved to the street of his childhood – Walsh Street – where they raised their family. The military life must have suited him, because he remained a soldier all his life. He served in World War Two and died in 1976 aged 82 and is buried at Fawkner.