Saturday, 22 February 2020

Coburg markswomen raise funds for the war

The thirty members of the Coburg Women's Rifle Club decided to raise funds to buy an ambulance by holding an open day at their range in Bell Street, Coburg in March 1915.

The article in the Weekly Times featured a photograph of the Society's Secretary and Treasurer Mrs A.C. Warren.

Weekly Times, 20 March 1915

The Herald also featured a photo of one of the members of the Club, this time at practice at the Butts.

Herald, 22 March 1915

If Mrs Warren has been identified by her husband's initials, as was the custom at the time, it is likely that she is Janet Warren (nee Anderson) who married Alfred Charles Warren in 1898 and was living at 164 O'Hea's Road, Coburg when the photograph was taken.

Courtesy Coburg Historical Society. It's described as the Coburg Ladies' Rifle Club and dated 1906. Miss A. Wood (3rd from left in back row) and Miss E. Wood (sitting on left in front row) and their mother Alice Wood (ran the local Red Cross Branch) were very involved in patriotic activities in the Coburg area. The sisters' four brothers served - Carlyle, Charles, Stanley and Edwin. You can read more about them here. And there is more on Mrs Wood's patriotic activities here.

I'd be very happy to hear from anyone who can identify Mrs Warren. Likewise anyone who knows anything more about the Coburg Women's Rifle Club or any of its members.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Clement Lane of Coburg dies at Gallipoli

Herald, 25 March 1915. The image shows Captain J.C. Stewart, Adjutant 5th Battalion, with a boat sunk in the Suez Canal. The caption reads 'The holes made by rifle bullets are plainly visible. Those of the crew who were not drowned were taken prisoner.' The photograph was supplied to the newspaper by Rev H.W. Lane, Rennie Street, Coburg. 

It is likely that Rev Lane's son Clement sent this photo home to his family. Lieutenant Clement Frederick Wills Lane, 6th Infantry Battalion, left Australia with the first contingent in October 1914.  

You can find more details about Clement Lane here on the Virtual War Memorial website. The photograph is courtesy Faithe Jones.

Clement Lane's was not a long war. A month to the day after the Herald published this photo, he was killed at the Anzac Landing. 

Roll of Honour Circular. Courtesy AWM.

He is remembered in the Memorial Avenue of Trees at Coburg Lake. 

Clement's brothers 3293 Sergeant George Gabriel Odiaone Lane and 36908 Gunner Tremayne Eustace Manley Lane served in France. George joined in February 1915 and served with the 6th Field Ambulance. Tremayne served with the Field Artillery Brigade, 29th Reinforcements and left Australia in November 1917. They both survived the war.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

James Bain Sutherland enlists

This entry started with a photograph of a house in Sydney Road and the stories that I've collected relating to it.

Cement House corner. Carr. St. and Sydney Road, Coburg, 13 October 1968. Photographer John T. Collins. Image H94.200966. Courtesy State LIbrary of Victoria.

The photograph was taken from Carr Street. The building on the left is a small outbuilding and the house is in the background. It was built in the 1920s for (or maybe by) Alexander Sutherland, a Scotsman who had settled in Coburg in the early 1890s. His address from 1922 was 570 Sydney Road, Coburg and when the street numbers changed in 1925/26, it became 726 Sydney Road.

It's now the site of the Coburg Motor Inn, but in the 1920s it must have stood out from the crowd - there were not many cement houses in Coburg.

Here's how it looks on Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works detail plan 3533 (from the State Library of Victoria's digitised collection of MMBW detail plans) in 1930. It might give you a better idea of the house's situation. You can see the outbuilding on the Carr Street fenceline and the house behind it and off the street. Sydney Road is at the bottom of the plan (so to the west) and Merri Creek is at the top (to the east). 

My interest was piqued by these comments from a family member: 'I believe it was one of the earliest concrete houses built and its roof used old cable-car wires for reinforcing a sort-of-domed roof. It had a veranda on two sides with pillars.' This family member thought that the brick building on the left was an old dairy. 

The family member wrote about the inside of the house, too: 'I remember  the upstairs, which had a central bedroom on a very slightly higher floor than the children's bedrooms which encircled it and those rooms had walls that did not reach the ceiling. The reason for that was to provide light and air to the central parents' room and to allow the parents to look over the walls to check on the children, who because of their relatively lower floors could not do the same thing and check on their parents. Of course I remember that - what kid wouldn't?' 
In the June 1991 issue of the Coburg Historical Society newsletter, member Rosemary Hayes wrote that ‘Mr Sutherland bought the property on the corner of Carr Street, and built a round concrete double-storey house, reinforced with lengths of cable from the old cable car network. The rooms upstairs had big oblong windows which projected through the roof. The roof was prone to water leaks and Jim Sutherland, his banker son, was often doing a patch job. He lived there with his sister Bessie, a primary school teacher. They had a three to four foot high cast iron fence and heavy gate, which was overgrown by a huge cypress pine hedge. Jim would cut this hedge standing on a ladder. This is where the motel is today.’

And not too long ago I was told about the house from an out of towner who used to visit Coburg relatives as a child and her father always drove them past 'the cement house that they always called the mushroom house – or the fairy house.' 

Alexander Sutherland's wife Annie died in 1933 and he died the following year but their unmarried children James (Jim), who worked for the State Savings Bank and Elizabeth (Bessie), a State School teacher then Superintendent of the Brighton Orphanage, lived on in the house until James's death in 1960. (Elizabeth died at Brighton in 1974).

It was the image of Jim Sutherland standing on his ladder and trimming the huge cypress hedge that caught my attention and when I realised he was of an age to have served in the First World War, I went back to my research and sure enough, there he was, 40 Quarter Master Sergeant James Bain Sutherland, 8th Light Horse Regiment, A Squadron.

He had enlisted at Wodonga where he was the manager of the Wodonga branch of the State Savings bank. He was 29 years old and gave his father Alexander, of Bell Street, Coburg, as his next of kin. 

James Sutherland enlisted on 14 September 1914 and embarked on 25 September 1915 aboard the HMAT A16 Star of Victoria. There were a number of other Coburg men aboard the troopship, including 2845 Signaller Lance-Corporal Thomas Atherton Johnston (KIA 15 July 1916, France), 2864 Private Thomas Oscar Meredith (KIA 19 August 1916, France), 2849 Private Albert Harrison Lee, 2876 Private Arthur Clarence Bloom and 2961 Private John William Davis. Like James Sutherland, all these young men were old boys of Coburg State School and Johnston and Meredith are featured in the book I wrote in 2017 - The old boys of Coburg State School go to war (available for purchase from Coburg Historical Society).

Sutherland began his service as a Private by was RQM Sergeant by November 1914. He contracted influenza in Egypt on arrival and again on Gallipoli. He was based in Cairo and went to the School of Instruction in January 1916. 

In May 1916 he was transferred to the 59th Battalion and set off for France where he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in August 1916 and then to Lieutenant in February 1917. He was wounded in the left knee in June 1918 and transferred to England but was back on duty in August. He returned to Australia on 24 December 1918, having been granted Special Leave (Anzac Leave) as an soldier who began his service in 1914 and had served continuously from that time.

On his return, he rejoined his family and moved with them to the 'cement' house in the 1920s where he lived until his death in 1960 aged 74.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Walter McNicoll, head master of Coburg High School in 1920

Walter Ramsay McNicoll (later Sir Walter) had been a teacher with the Victorian Education Department since he was 16 years old. In February 1900, eleven years after he started work as a monitor, he entered the Teacher Training College in Carlton and by 1904 he had Matriculated. 

He married fellow teacher Hildur Wedel in 1905 and when he enlisted in the 7th Battalion in August 1914 he was the Head Master of the Geelong Continuation School.

An outline of his teaching career and his war service can be found in the Education Department's Record of War Service

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Image J00675. Portrait of Brigadier-General (BG) Sir Walter Ramsay McNicoll, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO, VD, on the footpath in front of an armed services window display. BG McNicoll was the Headmaster of Geelong High School before enlisting for World War 1. BG McNicoll enlisted in August 1914 and was appointed as Major, 2nd in command in the 7th Battalion on 28 August 1914. In April 1915 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th Battalion. He was wounded at Gallipoli Peninsula and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) dated 11 September 1915. In February 1916 he was promoted to Colonel in the 10th Battalion. In May 1916 to be temporary Brigadier-General of the 10th Battalion. On 18 April 1918 BG McNicoll was awarded Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG); he was also made a member of the military division of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 23 May 1919. On 23 July 1919 BG McNicoll was awarded the Croix de Guerre Belgium. BG McNicoll was also made a Knight Commander of the British Empire and was Mentioned in Despatches on five occasions. On 13 November 1915 BG McNicoll, having been severely wounded returned to Australia and was classed as unfit for service for six months. He re-enlisted on 7 June 1916 aged 49 years. He was immediately posted overseas. BG McNicoll returned to Australia on 28 September 1919. (From the collection of Mr Alfred Thomas Sharp.)

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Image J00675. E04699. Taken in France on 5 April 1918. An informal portrait of Brigadier General Walter Ramsay McNicoll CMG DSO, GOC of the 10th Australian Infantry Brigade, sitting on a bench outside of the Brigade Headquarters with his dog Karl, a captured German messenger dog. Note the wires running down the wall behind.

Much has been written about McNicoll's later life, outlined in his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, which you can read here.

However, for a short time he made a huge impression on the students at Coburg High School. 

Coburg High School's magazine, announces the appointment of Brigadier-General McNicoll, Scribe, vol 4, no. 1, May 1919

In the school's centenary history Loyal in All (available from the Coburg High School Historical Group), we are told that 'Brigadier General McNicoll, headmaster in 1920, was a distinguished former soldier with a 'romantic limp'. He rode a motorcycle with sidecar and was able to 'transform a boisterous junior cadet corps found misbehaving in the school yard. “Without raising his voice, within 10 minutes he had us drilling with the discipline and precision of Grenadier Guards", recalled a student of the day.' (Loyal in All, p.21)

Excerpt from Echoes, Coburg High School Magazine, 1986

At the end of 1920, McNicoll left Coburg High to take up the position of Principal of  Goulburn Girls School (Presybterian Ladies College), in New South Wales.

Scribe, Vol 5, no 2, December 1920

Friday, 10 January 2020

Hugh Lindsay (Wren) Teale, killed in action November 1917

1316 Wren Teale (mistakenly identified in this photograph as Wren Leale) left Melbourne in June 1916 with the 38th Battalion. His family lived in Moonee Ponds, but on 14 May 1915, the Brunswick and Coburg Star listed a number of Coburg cyclists with their addresses and Teale is listed at 50 Munro Street, Brunswick.
At Christmas 1916, Wren sent Season's Greetings to his Coburg Cycling Club mates and said that he was leaving Salisbury Plains soon for the Front. (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 5 January 1917). 
There were to be no Season's Greetings the following year. He was killed on 19 November 1917 near Ploegsteert Wood in north-west Belgium. 
Click here to read more about Wren Teale on Lenore Frost's website 'The Empire Called and I Answered'. 
Wren's brother Rheineus also served. He is listed on the Embarkation Roll as 14180 Private Reimens Selwyn Teale of the Hospital Transport Corps and his attestation papers list him as Reinius Selwyn Teale. 
As Rheinus Teale, he is listed as a former student of Coburg State School in the school's list of old boys who served, although there is not a separate entry for him in The Soldiers Book produced after the war.

The spelling of his given name remained a quandary for people in many spheres, but it seems it should be Rheineus, this being the spelling his father Alfred used when he wrote giving permission for his son to enlist for home service. It is also the spelling given when his birth was registered in 1897.
Rheineus was young (18) and slight (5' 3" and weighed 104 lbs) and had been rejected before on account of a weak chest. In April 1916 he was accepted for duty on the hospital ship Kanowna. It appears that he remained in Australia and was discharged from the AIF in September 1917.
Rheineus Teale's entry on Lenore Frost's website 'The Empire Called and I Answered' can be seen here.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Jack Sheppard, Coburg cyclist, enlists

Like William Knox Cooper (see post 28 December 2019), 3939 Private John Sheppard MM was a member of the Coburg Cycling Club.
The son of John Thomas Sheppard and Agnes Amos Eddington, Jack Sheppard lived in aBeckett Street, Coburg before the war and worked as a box maker. He enlisted on 10 July 1915 aged 19 and served with the 6th Infantry Battalion, 12th Reinforcements. He sailed on the same ship as William Cooper - HMAT A40 Ceramic - on 23 November 1915. He served in France where he was awarded the Military Medal on 14 October 1917.

The entrance to the 6th Battalion Headquarters (HQ), 2nd Brigade, 15 May 1918. For a period of over four months, though hundreds of shells fell in the yard and surrounding gardens and fields, the house itself escaped a direct hit. Identified, left to right: 5091 Private (Pte) W. A. Foord MM, HQ runner; 3770 Pte John George Grierson [later awarded Croix de Guerre, wounded 10 August 1918], HQ runner; Lieutenant Neil McLachlan MC (Killed in action 10 August 1918 at Lihons), Battalion Intelligence Officer; 3939 Pte J. Sheppard MM, HQ runner. Image courtesy AWM. Image E02181.

Detail from the photograph of the 6th Battalion headquarters At first it appears there are only three men in the photo, but Sheppard has been identified as the man on the far right, so my guess is that he's the one leaning over in the background.

After Sheppard's return from the war in March 1919, the references to him as a cyclist disappear from the newspapers. In the 1920s he moved to Brunswick, and he remained in the local area until his death. Electoral rolls describe him variously as a 'motor proprietor' or a 'garageur'. 

John Sheppard died at his home, 300 Sydney Road, Brunswick, in September 1961 aged 55. He was married and the father of two daughters. (Herald, 1 October 1951) He had lived in Coburg and Brunswick all his life, apart from his war service during World War One.