Merri Creek at Campbellfield, circa 1925. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.
The children had a tough start in life. Not only was their father, a Campbellfield labourer, a drinker but he was unable to control his children. To begin with he was fined for not sending the children to school.
Campbellfield State School, circa 1920. Image courtesy Moreland City Libraries.
But in 1902, when son William was 11 and son Daniel was 9, the boys were found guilty of breaking into the home of Mrs Hannah Dunn, the Fawkner gatekeeper while she was away at Sunday School. They stole jewellery and money. They'd also taken scones from a tin she'd left on the kitchen table. For this crime they were sent to the Department of Neglected Children. (Age, 12 Feb 1902) Their father was expected to pay for their upkeep, but did not do so and in 1903 claimed that he did not have the money and would have to go to gaol rather than pay the fine. This continued into 1903 and 1904, so the boys were away from the family home for some years.
Daniel Fisher, the father, died in 1907 leaving his widow Edith to do the best she could to support the children. The oldest girls were 18 and 19 and William and Daniel were by then 17 and 15, but she still had four children under 14 to support and the youngest child was only 6 years old.
Move forward now to 1914 and Edith Fisher had moved to live in Coburg and it was from Coburg that three of her sons enlisted in the 1st AIF:
843 Pte Daniel Fisher, 5th Battalion, enlisted on 21 August 1914 and left with the first contingent on 21 October 1914. Daniel we have met before. He is the boy who was tried for housebreaking aged 9 and sent to the Neglected Children's Department. Daniel did not survive the war. After an attack of gastro when he first arrived in Egypt and mumps in April 1916, he suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and back and was in out out of hospital from the effects of that wound. He rejoined his unit in January 1917 and was killed in action in Belgium in October 1917. His only assets were his military pay which amounted to £244-9-8. He left this to his mother, who by the time probate was granted had moved to live in Austral Avenue, West Brunswick with her married daughter Minnie Price. I'm left wondering if perhaps this was the most money she had ever had, but what a price to pay!
Image taken from Coburg State School Soldiers Record Book,
courtesy Coburg Historical Society.
2618 Pte James Fisher (pictured above), 8th Reinforcements, 6th Battalion (and later 59th Battalion), enlisted on 28 May 1915 and embarked on 26 August 1915. Although I can find no evidence that the family lived in Coburg during James's school years, he is featured in the school's Soldier's Record Book. He was born in 1899, making him only 16 when he enlisted (his age at death confirms this), although he claimed to be 18 years old. It is not possible to know when he attended the school, but it seems likely that it was only a few years before the outbreak of the war, given the fact that he put his age up by two years when he enlisted in 1915. This is a mystery still to be solved.
2240 Pte John Thomas Fisher, 4th Light Horse Regiment, enlisted 18 January 1916 and embarked in February 1917. His was not an auspicious start. He went into camp at Seymour and by early April 1916 he was report as AWL and declared a deserter the following month. However, by September 1916 he had joined the 8th Light Horse Reinforcements and headed off to Egypt where he served out his war as a member of the 4th Light Horse.
Back home after the war, John Thomas and James Fisher lived with their mother Edith and younger brother Frederick (served WW2) in Tinning Street, Brunswick. John worked for the railways and continued to live in the area where he died in 1976. James married Doreen and they eventually moved to the Footscray area where he worked as a policeman. Here they raised their family. When James died in 1970, his age was given as 71, confirming that he was only 16 when he enlisted in the 1st AIF.