OSBORNE, Percy Beaumont

NAME:  Percy Beaumont OSBORNE                                                                                                                                        098



PLACE OF BIRTH:  Bacchus Marsh

DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 11 February 1916



UNIT: 8th Battalion, 18th Reinforcement

EMBARKED:  28 July 1916

TROOP SHIP:  HMAT A32 Themistocles

FATE:  Died of Disease – 2 February 1917 –  Military Hospital, Tidworth, England

Percy Osborne was born at Bacchus Marsh in 1895 to Alfred George Osborne and Emily Drury.  Alfred Osborne was a merchant in the town and remained in business there until the early 1900s when his health began to fail.  Around 1902, Alfred bought into the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser and the family moved to Maryborough.  Percy, an only child, was twelve when his father died at Maryborough in 1906. Alfred aged forty-three had days earlier been elected to the Maryborough Hospital board.

On 19 October 1909,  Percy’s mother married Charles Harris, the Anglican Vicar of Hamilton and Archdeacon of the Grampians. Prior to arriving in Hamilton in 1907, Charles was the Canon of the Christ Church Cathedral Ballarat and was Rural Dean of Maryborough. Emily and Percy moved into The Vicarage in Gray Street Hamilton.



In 1911, Percy was one of the first students enrolled at Ballarat Church of England Grammar School where he was a prefect and served in the school cadets. Upon finishing school, he worked as a ledger-keeper at the Union Bank in Lydiard Street South and was a member of the local citizens military forces.

UNION BANK, BALLARAT. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/214252

FORMER UNION BANK, BALLARAT. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/214252

On 11 February 1916, Percy enlisted and spent three months with the 14th Battalion Depot at Ballarat. He then spent a month with the 19th Battalion 8th Reinforcement also at Ballarat before departing Australia for England on 28 July 1916 with the 8th Battalion 18th Reinforcement.  Percy arrived at Salisbury Plains, England in September for training with the 2nd Training Battalion and during October 1916, he was promoted to Acting Sergeant and given the task of escorting a prisoner, Sergeant (Sgt.) Adcock.  On 12 November, Percy was severely reprimanded by Major St. John Clarke for allowing Sgt. Adcock to escape under his guard.

Due to leave for France, Percy fell ill and was admitted to hospital on 10 December.  He had a bad cold and erythema on his face. While in hospital, Percy wrote home to his mother:


IMAGE COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/359166/30

On 9 January 1917, Percy wrote to the manager of the Union Bank, Ballarat, Mr Herbert to tell him had been in hospital for six weeks and had missed out on going to France. Percy thought it may have been a blessing as he had heard “our fellows were cut up rather badly”.  As a banker would, Percy discussed such matters as his pay arrangements and the Defence Department’s handling of its finances.

Considered well enough for discharge, Percy returned to the 2nd Training Battalion on 20 January 1917 but he still wasn’t feeling well and complained of a heavy cold. His conditioned worsened so he was transported back to  Tidworth Military Hospital on 31 January in a serious condition. Two days later Percy Osborne was dead.  The cause was Cerebral Spinal Meningitis.

Percy’s death raised questions. Sgt. Arthur Edward Ferguson of the 8th Battalion wrote a letter to the Defence Department with his concerns. He had known Percy from Ballarat where Percy was his company clerk at the Ballarat Depot, himself Acting Sergeant Major.  Sgt. Ferguson was “attracted by his sterling qualities”. He claimed Percy should not have been discharged and neglected from the onset of his illness in December 1916.  Sgt Ferguson said Percy was not himself when released from hospital and was in a “languid condition”.

Emily Harris was also concerned that Percy’s illness was not communicated to her with his death coming as a shock to her.  Emily was in Portland when the news of Percy’s death arrived to Hamilton on 8 February 1917.  A Portland clergyman was given the task of passing the sad news on to Emily.  She had received Percy’s letter, above, on 10 January 1917, but had not realised he was so ill.  She had not received any official notification particularity since Percy had been in hospital ten weeks before his death, referring to Percy’s letter in which he stated he’d been in hospital since the end of October. Emily Harris and Sgt. Ferguson requested an inquiry into Percy’s death which was duly undertaken. It was found that everything possible was done to care for Percy from the first onset of his illness in December 1916.

At the Ballarat Anglican Grammar School’s Annual Speech Day on 15 February 1917, the headmaster Dr. P. Ansell Robin delivered the then recent news of Percy’s death.  

"CHURCH OF ENGLAND GRAMMAR SCHOOL." The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1924) 16 Feb 1917:.

“CHURCH OF ENGLAND GRAMMAR SCHOOL.” The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924) 16 Feb 1917:.http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article154806768

On 17 June 1917, a memorial service was held at Hamilton’s Christ Church Cathedral.  Bishop Green made a special trip from Ballarat to deliver the service out of respect for his friend the vicar and for Percy who he had confirmed.  He told the congregation a memorial window would be installed to commemorate Percy’s memory.  They would feature St. John, representing love and St. Alban representing courage.  





At the start of October 1917, Emily and Archdeacon Harris left Hamilton after a large send off from community leaders and congregation members.  They moved to Elton in Beecroft Sydney. Charles took a leave of absence then gave up parish duties in 1921.  He died in 1934 at Rose Bay, Sydney aged eighty-seven. It is unknown what became of Percy’s mother Emily.

A tree was planted along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue for Percy and the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour.  Percy’s name is also on the Hamilton War Memorial and the Union Bank Honour Roll (Melbourne)



Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – Percy Beaumont Osborne

Australian War Memorial WW1 Embarkation Roll – Percy Beaumont Osborne

Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour – Percy Beaumont Osborne

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Tidworth Military Cemetery, England – Percy Beaumont Osborne

Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – Percy Beaumont Osborne

Newspaper Articles from Trove – Percy Beaumont Osborne

The AIF Project – Percy Beaumont Osborne

The War Graves Photographic Project – Tidworth Military Cemetery, England – Percy Beaumont Osborne