Thursday 21 April 2022

Brunswick Sons of Soldiers B Cricket Team. Season 1937-38


This photograph of the Brunswick Sons of Soldiers B Cricket Team. Season 1937-38 is part of the rich Moreland City Libraries images collection and is available online through their Local History Catalogue.

The people in the photo have been identified as follows:

Standing: R. Liddle (Comm.), J. Dawson (Comm.), K. Hughes, M. Weston, G. Naylor, E. Binder, R. McCormack (Comm.), A. Horsburgh (Comm.). Seated: W. Barden (Coach), A. Lawson, D. Barden, A. Hughes (Capt.), B. Bridges (V. Capt.), A. Keyte, A. V. Stevenson (Sec.). In Front: D. Slater, J. Barden (Mascot), M. Akam. 

The photo was taken nearly two years before the start of World War Two, so the players are sons of World War One soldiers. It's likely, though, that at least some of them were old enough to served in WW2.

Sons of sailors and soldiers teams were first established at the end of 1931, although the Victorian Branch began in August 1935. There were also football teams. Both Coburg and Brunswick were part of the Essendon District and Essendon also had a team, of course.

These are just a few of the stories behind the names.

M. (Max) Akam (front row, far right)

His father was Alfred (Alf) Westhorpe Akam who was a Lancefield butcher when he enlisted in November 1916. He served with the 10th Reinforcements, 4 Machine Gun Company and left on board the Ballarat on 19 February 1917. His war began early - the Ballarat was torpedoed on Anzac Day 1917. Alf was wounded in March 1918 - shell concussion and machine gun wound to arm and chest. This led to his early repatriation in May 1918. 

On his return, the Lancefield Mercury (12 July 1918) reported that 'he informs us that he did not bring any souvenirs home with him, but he expects to have one shortly, when a bullet “made in Germany” is extracted from his side.’ By October 1918 he was Treasurer of the newly established Dandenong sub-branch of the RSSILA (an earlier name for the RSL)

By 1935 the Akams were living in Brunswick and Alf was a member of the Brunswick branch of the RSSILA as well as serving on the state committee. The family lived at 3 Davies Street, Brunswick and the children attended Moreland Central School.

On 31 March 1943, 19 year old Alfred Maxwell (Max) Akam of the Brunswick Cricket Club, enlisted in the 2nd AIF. He served in New Guinea and was at HQ Australian Area Command, Madang when he was discharged in October 1945.

Max returned to Brunswick and continued to play cricket for Brunswick. He married Gwendoline Atkinson of East Brunswick at St Augustine's, Moreland in early 1950. 

Donald and James Barden (Donald is seated, 3rd from left. Team mascot James is in the middle of the front row.) Coach William Barden (seated on left)

Coach William Barden was the father of Donald and James. He had enlisted in the 1st AIF in December 1915 when he was a month shy of 22.  He was a bootmaker and had been apprenticed to Whybro in Collingwood. He married Jane Shedden in 1921 and by 1925 they were living at 46 Rose Street, Brunswick West, their family home for a number of years.  William died at Parkville in 1964 aged 69.

Donald Barden, who was 15 or 16 in this photo, enlisted in the 2/6th Australian Commando Squadron during World War 2. At the end of the war, he returned to the family home, now at 8 Murdoch Street, Brunswick West.. When he died in 1985 aged 62 Donald was living at Rosebud. 

There are many more stories to follow, stories that take us into the years of the 2nd World War and beyond. I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can bring more of the names in this photo to life. 

Monday 26 April 2021

Roy Yorke of Champ Street, Coburg


2920 Signaller Roy Yorke, 6th Infantry Battalion, 9th Reinfs.

Roy, the second youngest of ten surviving children, and his eldest brother Robert (19 years older) both served in the 1st AIF. The family came to Brunswick from New Zealand in the late 1880s before moving to Coburg where Robert Yorke senior worked as an overseer at Pentridge Stockade.

Roy was born in Brunswick in 1897 and was just under 19 years old when he enlisted on 28 June 1915. Roy was an apprentice engineer with A.T. Richardson in Elizabeth Street (Melbourne) when he enlisted and his parents had to give permission for him to join up.

Not many non-prisoners could give their address as The Stockade, Coburg, but this was where Robert and Minnie Yorke were living when they wrote their permission letter for Roy to join up.

He served on Gallipoli then in France, was hospitalised for a few weeks with flu in July 1918 then returned to his unit where he was suffered a severe gunshot wound to his right foot and knee and was transferred to the 3rd Southern General Hospital in Oxford.

He returned to Australia in January 1919 and died at Heidelberg in 1971 aged 73.

Thursday 15 April 2021

Brothers James, Edgar, Bert and Sam Gay enlist

Graphic of Australia, 11 May 1917

Although these four brothers were identified in the Graphic of Australia as the sons of Mr and Mrs Gay of Coburg, when they enlisted their parents Edmund John and Ellen (Phillips) Gay were living in Nicholas Street (later Piera Street), East Brunswick. 

The brothers are not listed on the Coburg Town Hall Honour Board. James is listed on the Brunswick Town Hall Honour Board, but not the other brothers. Sam was living in Moonee Ponds when he enlisted and is featured on the Empire Called and I Answered website. At different times, various members of the family lived in Coburg, so although their connections were to Brunswick when they enlisted, the family would have been known to some in Coburg. 

6537 Lance-Corporal Bert Stewart Gay, 6th Field Company Engineers. He was a 27 year old widower who named his son Albert Edmund as his next of kin when he enlisted in  September 1915, although his attestation papers note that he had remarried - in 1915 - to Lila Mary Gitson - and his next of kin was changed to his second wife. He was killed in action on 27 August 1916 in France, so his son had lost both parents by the time he was seven. His son, living with Mrs West at Murrumbeena, received Bert's effects, small compensation for the loss of a father, however. Lila Gay received the Memorial Plaque (the so-called Dead Man's Penny).

3307 Pte James Philip Gay, 6th Battalion, 11th Reinforcements. James Gay left Melbourne on 10 October 1915 on the same ship as his brother Sam. He was hospitalised in Egypt with mumps in February 1916 then again with neurasthenia in April 1916.  Soon afterwards he returned to Australia and married Margaret Isabel Marshall in 1917. He died at Sale in 1953 aged 63.

3301 Pte Samuel Archibald Gay, 6th Battalion, 11th Reinforcements. When he enlisted, Sam Gay was married and living in Moonee Ponds. You can read more about him on Lenore Frost's Empire Called and I Answered website here. Sam left Australia on the same ship as his brother James. He was wounded in France (shell wound to right buttock and gunshot wound to his forehead), was hospitalised but returned to his unit where he was wounded again in August 1918 - a gunshot wound to right thigh and a fractured left leg. His right leg could not be saved and it was amputated. He'd been wounded while taking rations up the line and a shell burst alongside him. Left with no memory of the event and suffering from head pains and tremors in his head and arms, he was diagnosed with neurasthenia. Despite his significent injuries, he died at Ashburton in 1970 aged 77. 

5353 Pte Edgar Roland Gay, 22nd Battalion, enlisted in April 1916 at a time when his parents were living at 7 Hatton Grove, Coburg. In January 1917 he suffered from a gunshot wound to his right leg and by July he had returned to Australia. He was discharged in November 1917. Edgar Gay, the youngest of the brothers to serve, died at Dromana in 1978 aged 80.

As is the way with research of this kind, the interconnections between Brunswick and Coburg are many. For example, the brothers' sister, Ellen Christina Gay, married 3064 Driver Leslie Gordon Dix, 24th Battalion, an old boy of Coburg State School who is featured with his older brother Frederick in my book The Old Boys of Coburg State School Go To War (available for purchase from Coburg Historical Society). Although the Dix family lived in Coburg when Leslie and his brother Frederick went to war, he lived in Brunswick on his return until his death in 1950 aged 57. Frederick was killed in action in Belgium on 1 January 1918.

Frederick (seated) and Leslie Dix. Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Monday 4 January 2021

Leslie Kennett of Gladstone Street, East Coburg wins the Military Medal

Herald, 4 Aug 1917

2614 Pte Leslie Gordon Kennett served in France with the 8th Battalion. He embarked in September 1915 and in January 1916, before he could see any action, he was hospitalised for a month with diptheria then developed tonsilitis.

Choubra, 1916. This view is of the Egyptian infectious diseases hospital where Leslie Kennett was treated. The view is from the nurses' home. It had been a civilian hospital but became a military hospital in August 1915 with an Australian CO and Australian nurses. Image courtesy AWM. Image PO1425.005.

Kennett recovered, convalesced at Helouan then returned to his unit. He was awarded the Military Medal in September 1916 for bravery rescuing wounded men at Pozieres. (The citation below has noted an incorrect given name.)

Courtesy AWM

As well as this award for bravery, Kennett, like so many other soldiers, also clashed several times with the authorities, once for gambling (with cards) on the journey from England to France. 

Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Image HO3557. Taken at Brown's Dip, Lone Pine, Gallipoli in 1915. The soldiers are playing 'two-up'. Minutes after the photograph was taken, four of these men (plus another six not in the photo) were dead from an enemy shell burst.  

Kennett survived the war, returned to Australia in 1919 and settled in Brunswick where he applied for the Anzac Medal in 1967. 

He died at Brunswick in January 1969.

Friday 6 November 2020

Thomas Turner of Fawkner

Herald, 9 July 1917

This snippet is from an article about soldiers who had just won Military Medals. The rather melancholy face looking off into an uncertain future belongs to 18 year old 2414 Pte William Thomas Turner (Tom to his family).

At the time of his enlistment on 10 July 1915, he was an ironworker living with his family in the fledgling settlement of Fawkner. He'd served two years as a senior cadet with 59A area, as had any young man of a similar age, given that cadet training was compulsory at the time.

He left Australia on 29 September 1915 and served in France. Slightly wounded in August 1916, he was able to remain on duty. Later that year, in early December, he was awarded the Military Medal. In late July 1918, he was more seriously wounded - a gunshot wound to the face - and did not rejoin his unit until mid-September. He remained in France until the end of the war until his return to Australia in May 1919. 

On his return he remained in Melbourne's northern suburbs where he and his wife Ella brought up their family of four children. Writing from his home in West Preston in March 1941, he applied for new discharge papers so that he could undertake munitions works. 

Tom Turner's was not a long life. He died at Caulfield Military Hospital on 9 October 1945 aged only 48 and was laid to rest at Fawkner Memorial Park.

Tuesday 13 October 2020

Leonard Blackwood of Service Street, Coburg

Richmond Guardian, 10 November 1917

Roll of Honour Circular. Courtesy Australian War Memorial.

Leonard Stanley Blackwood is remembered at the Coburg Lake Reserve Memorial Avenue of Trees (tree 10). At the time of his death his family lived in Coburg, but the Roll of Honour Circular reminds us how mobile the population was in those times. Leonard was born at Leonards Hill near Daylesford, lived for some time in Richmond and called Coburg home at the time he enlisted.

He is buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (Plot XX, Row I, Grave No. 19), Belgium.

Image courtesy

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Rev Robert Thomson and Miss Annie Wiseman walking home from church, Glenroy, 1918


E2_3G.001. Rev Robert Thomson of Glenroy Church of England with Miss Annie Wiseman walking home from church. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

This image was catalogued along with images of an unnamed soldier and a group of three others standing on Pascoe Vale Road, Glenroy that were the subject of my last post, and so I have assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that there is some sort of connection between the images.

This photo appears on page 132 of Andrew Lemon’s book Broadmeadows with the caption ‘Rev Robert Thomson walks Miss Annie Wiseman home from church, looking north along Blenheim Street.’ And like the previous photos, I have spent a long time trying to find out more about Rev Thomson and Annie Wiseman.

The man is in uniform. We’re told he is Rev Robert Thomson, who was the Church of England clergyman based at St Matthews in Glenroy Road, Glenroy from 1917 to 1920. However, the identification of the man as Rev Thomson is problematic, because I can find no evidence that he served. He is not listed as a Chaplain or as an enlisted man. So is this really Rev Thomson?  And if it is not him, is it possible to discover his identity? He does not seem to be the same person as the man featured in the previous photos. Although they are both tall men, one is wearing a greatcoat and slouch hat and the other wears a cap (an officer's cap, perhaps). Then again, perhaps it is the same man and the photos were taken on different days.

If you're interested in finding out more about the role of chaplains during the war, there is an interesting article on Army Chaplains during WW1 on the Australian War Memorial website. You can read that here.

We are told that the woman is Annie Wiseman. She was the daughter of Albert Wiseman who built ‘Ashleigh’ in Widford Road. Annie was born in 1875, so was 43 when this photo was taken. She didn’t marry, so if the suggestion here is that they’re ‘walking out’, the courtship did not lead to marriage.

The photographer is facing north. We are told that this is Blenheim Street, which runs north off Glenroy Road. The Sands & McDougall Directory of 1915 records that the only house in the street was occupied by Arthur Ernest Wiseman, solicitor, Annie’s brother. So the connections to the Wiseman family are clear.

It's been frustrating not being able to discover more about Rev Robert Thomson and his supposed war service. Despite many hours of research, I could find very little about the man at all, suggesting that he may not have been in Victoria very long. He was Robert John Thomson and had been at Yarram before coming to Glenroy, but I could find no other trace of him in Victoria. His history here seems to start in 1916 at Yarram, continues from 1917 at Glenroy and ends with his departure from Glenroy in 1920. That search was made more difficult because there was another Rev Robert Thomson, a Presbyterian, who lived in the Smeaton area and whose name appeared in the newspapers on numerous occasions. With nothing to guide me, I don't even know how old he was. And during lockdown it isn't possible to consult the Anglican Historical Society to find out more. So he will have to stay floating in his Glenroy 'bubble' until it is possible to do more research.

Of Annie Wiseman I can say more. In November 1938, Annie, aged 65, and her 17 year old niece Phyllis were murdered in Annie’s home on the corner of Melbourne Avenue and Salisbury Street, opposite the Glenroy Railway Station. Annie had lived there for about 20 years, so this must have been the home they were walking to when this photograph was taken.

Age, 14 November 1938 

Aerial view of murder scene of Annie Wiseman and niece Phyllis, 1938. Image I9_1G.001. Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

Herald, 14 November 1938. This photograph gives a clearer idea of the house's location.

Phyllis Wiseman's family lived in the country and she lived with another Glenroy-based aunt during the week and with Annie on the weekends. It was her bad fortune that she was staying with Annie at the time of the fatal assault.

Courtesy Moreland Libraries.

If you can add anything to the story of the photos featured here, or can suggest other ways that I might find more information on Rev Robert Thomson, I'd love to hear from you.