Four Long Years

It’s hard to believe it’s almost four years since commemorations marking the centenary of the beginning of WW1.  In November this year, it will be the centenary of the Armistice.  Time has flown but going back a century, four years of war seemed an eternity and with no end in sight.  One hundred years ago this month, the enlisted men and women in France and Belgium were just weeks away from the end of the European winter.  And while the battlefields were quieter in the winter months, the trade-off was snow, mud, water-filled trenches and the all too common trench feet.

LIFE IN THE TRENCHES DURING A EUROPEAN WINTER. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00146/

Those who had endured the previous two European winters knew too well, as the snow thawed and spring arrived, the fighting would again escalate.  In February 1918, little did they know it was the beginning of the end.  There was much in store for the Australian troops, the German Spring Offensive, fighting alongside U.S. troops for the first time, the Battle of Amiens and finally, victory to the allies and Armistice on 11 November 1918.

It’s also four years since I started writing the biographies of Hamilton’s enlisted men. A work in progress, there are now 125 published biographies at Hamilton’s WW1.  For fifteen of those men, the year 1918 would be their last.  Most of those fifteen first landed in Europe in 1916, but James Smyth was in the Middle East from 1915 including time at Gallipoli. Enlisting at just eighteen years and one month, James spent more than three in years in the desert as a signaller with the 9th Light Horse Regiment. In a matter of three weeks in October 1918, his life turned from a day when his bravery saw him awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal, to his death from malaria in Damascus.

CAMP OF THE 9th LIGHT HORSE REGIMENT IN PALESTINE DURING MAY 1918. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/B00021/

Spare a thought for William Austin, also part of the Gallipoli campaign. There he received a gunshot wound to his shoulder region with damage to his lungs. He returned to the front in 1916 in France but struggled with bronchitis and other related illnesses until influenza claimed is life on 11 October 1918 in England, so close to the end.

With the 10th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, Frank Morrissey was part of the final push to break through the Hindenburg Line in the Battle of St Quentin Canal.  He was killed on 29 September 1918 aged twenty-two. Also Frank’s age was young boundary rider Stan Niddrie who enlisted in 1915 but was not overseas until 1916. Reaching the rank of Sergeant, he was killed at Villers-Bretonnuex on 6 August 1918.

GRAVE OF STAN NIDDRIE AT VILLERS-BRETONNEUX CEMETERY. Image courtesy of Melinda Hestehauge.

Former V.F.L. (Victorian Football League) footballer and Hamilton teacher, Leslie Primrose (below) an airman with the Australian Flying Corps, crashed his plane during a training exercise near Amiens and killed as a result on 4 June 1918. He’d only been in France three months.

LESLIE JOHN PRIMROSE. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DACS0594/

Leslie Sangster (below), a Hamilton High School science teacher and sports master enlisted in January 1917.  On 18 August 1918, he was killed at Harbonnieres, France a month short of his twenty-second birthday and three months short of war’s end.

LESLIE FAIRBURN SANGSTER. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P05248.117/

During James Black’s two years overseas, he was disciplined many times and served six months incarceration in a military prison. He struggled with army life, the horrors of war and alcohol. James was killed on 24 April 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux. His body was never found. Also killed in April 1918 was George Herlihy (below). Mentioned in dispatches in 1916, he was killed by a shell on 11 April 1918 at Amiens, France.

GEORGE HERLIHY. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1237087

Just three months after his discharge from a military prison for desertion, John Whitehead was awarded a Military Medal (M.M.) for his “marked gallantry and devotion to duty” during the Battle of Amiens on 9 August 1918.  Three weeks later he was dead, hit by a shell at St Martins Wood, France.  Also a M.M. recipient, John Fenton (below) was at Ribemont, France on 31 May 1918 when a mustard gas shell burst at his feet.  He died in hospital three weeks later.

JOHN WILFRED FENTON (M.M). Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial

Brave Charles Stewart (below) lost his life to sniper fire while bandaging the wounds of a fellow soldier during the Battle of Amiens on 9 August 1918.  Correspondence from the battalion to Charles’ mother revealed he “…never knew what fear was, and every man in the company says the same”.

CHARLES HERBERT STEWART. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P06958.001/

For some, the war was over but the fight wasn’t. From April to September 1918, Walter Boxer displayed extreme bravery many times as a stretcher bearer. As a result, he was awarded a M.M., a bar for his M.M. and a Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M) and four other nominations for a D.C.M. He was on his way home at the end of 1918 with severe injuries but recovered to secure a job, marry and see the birth of a son. In 1927, tuberculosis cut his life short at the age of thirty-four.

Fred Waring was overseas from the end of 1915, fighting in many major campaigns with the 4th Field Artillery Brigade. By war’s end, he was in London with the Postal Corps but never returned home. Suffering lung-related illnesses during 1919, septicemia claimed his life in a London hospital.

Albert Davies (below right) returned to Australia in 1919, suffering symptoms similar to anxiety. Illness in England saw that Albert did not reach the battlefields but his brother Stanley (below left) was killed at Ypres in 1917. On his return to Hamilton Albert found his mother bedridden, her death imminent. By 1935, Albert was unemployed with little to his name.  While riding his bike in Richmond that year, he was hit by a car and killed at the age of thirty-seven.

STANLEY and ALBERT DAVIES. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA15721/

William Brake (below) served in the Middle East and Europe and returned to Australia in 1919.  By 1922, he was dead from tuberculosis aged twenty-nine.

WILLIAM BRAKE. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1286963

William was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.

GRAVE OF WILLIAM BRAKE AT HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

For those at home, by 1918 it seemed like an age since the first news of Australia at war.  Those of you who have followed the regular “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator” posts at Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page have seen how the district adjusted to war.  New and distant place names such as the Dardanelles, Syria, and the Somme became part of regular conversation. The four years saw thousands of socks, scarves, and pyjamas made just in the Hamilton district alone, thousands of pounds raised for various war funds,  and many tears shed. By February 1918, men were returning at a steady rate but they had changed from the men the Hamilton people had bid farewell to at the railway station in the years earlier.

The war barely left a home in Hamilton untouched. It even knocked on the door of the Hamilton Mayor. In the role since August 1917, Robert McLuckie comforted numerous grieving families, presided over many send-offs and welcome home celebrations. On 17 July 1918, his son John McLuckie sailed for England.  John fell sick on the voyage and died from pneumonia on 17 October 1918 in England, leaving a widow and four sons. When Armistice came in November 1918, one could only imagine the McLuckie’s sadness knowing if only John’s departure was delayed by a few months, he’d still be safe at home. Robert McLuckie died suddenly in 1922 while still in office with grief and stress from organising Hamilton’s war effort taking a toll.

Hamilton cab proprietor William Sloan also succumbed to the weight of his grief.  William and his wife Sarah endured eight months not knowing if son Joseph Sloan was alive or dead.  After official confirmation in December 1917 of Joseph’s death, along with the death of William’s mother in January 1918, William sank into deep depression.  Sarah didn’t like leaving him alone but one day in August 1918, with errands to run and William seeming happier, she stole herself away. William was dead when she returned.

There were others at home who thought their sons still alive come 11 November 1918 only to find out in the following days, weeks or months their sons were never coming home. Like Richard Hicks‘ mum Janet.  Richard embarked in 1915 and was killed on 17 October 1918 less than four weeks from the end of the war.  Six weeks after the Armistice, Janet Hicks found out Richard (below) was missing and it was the middle of 1919 before it was officially confirmed he would not return.

RICHARD ERNEST HICKS. Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/DA11301/

My WW1 research will continue up to and beyond 11 November 2018.  In time, more of the biographies will be of returned men and their adjustment to post-war life. Unfortunately, the Hamilton Spectators are only digitised until December 1918 at Trove. Therefore the “100 years ago in the Hamilton Spectator” posts on the Hamilton’s WW1 Facebook page will come to an end this year. Last year, the posts went from six times per week to three coinciding with a paper shortage 100 years ago and the Spectator halving the number of publication days.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see Hamilton Spectator‘s at Trove for 1919 and beyond to help better understand how the people of Hamilton and district re-adjusted to life after WW1.

You can find more about Hamilton’s WW1 on the link – Hamilton’s WW1.   To read the biographies published to date, click on the links to the following Hamilton WW1 Memorials – Hamilton War MemorialAnzac AvenueClarke Street Memorial Avenue – or from the pages of enlistments on the link – Hamilton’s WW1 Enlistments.  In each case, clicking on underlined names will take you to the enlisted man’s biography.  The same applies to the names in this post.

 

Wonderful Western District Women Part 2

It’s Women’s History Month and this is my second instalment of Wonderful Western District Women.  As in Part 1, I share the stories of five women I’ve been taken with while writing Passing of the Pioneers over the past five years.  In this post, all five women were in business in some capacity. One was also a teacher.  All are very similar in the level of perseverance and determination they displayed, but each led very different lives.  For example, two never married with one shunning the company of others and the other drawing people to her. As noted in one of their obituaries, they are “those splendid women, whose unselfish, unwearying zeal helped to make the Victoria of today”.  Click on the underlined text for more information about a subject.

DONNELLY, Jane (c1834-1914)  Also known as Jane Walsh and Jane Jenkins.

Jane Donnelly was born in Ireland around 1834 and arrived in Victoria in the early 1860s.  She married William Walsh in 1865 and together they operated the Forester’s Hotel at Myamyn.  Jane and William had three children before William died in 1877 aged forty-nine. It was the same year a fourth child was born. Jane continued to run the hotel although she did try to sell it. In 1881, the hotel was badly damaged by fire leading to Jane’s insolvency in 1881 with debts of £145.

“Advertising” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 24 April 1880: 3 (MORNINGS.). 

 

“Items of News” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 19 May 1881

In 1883, Jane married William Gordon Jenkins and they went to Portland to run the Victoria Hotel.  The building was dilapidated and they were soon closed down.  That appears to have been the end of Jane’s days in the hotel trade.  In their later years, Jane and William moved to Hawkesdale to live with Jane’s daughter.  Jane died at Hawkesdale in 1916 aged eighty.  William died the following year.

STEWART, Christina (1825-1921) Also known as Christina McPherson.

Christina Stewart was born at Kingussie, Scotland around 1825 and travelled with her husband, Duncan McPherson, to Australia in November 1851 on board the Hooghly.  While Duncan went off to the goldfields, Christina waited in Melbourne until they journeyed to Portland and then on to Strathdownie. In March 1857, Duncan purchased the Woodford Inn located just north of Dartmoor on the Glenelg River and a son Alexander was born in the same year. The inn was a busy place as it was at a crossing point on the river with a punt moored at the inn for that purpose. Christina had eight children and during her child-bearing years, rarely saw another white woman. She made friends with the local Aboriginal women, teaching them to cook and make damper. If she had guests staying at the inn, the Aboriginals caught crayfish in the river for her.  The McPhersons eventually moved to Hamilton, residing in Coleraine Road.  Christina died there in 1921 aged ninety-six.

RYAN, Mary  (c1834-1914) 

When I wrote about Mary Ryan for Passing of the Pioneers, there was little known about her other than she ran a servants’ registry office in Hamilton and she died ten months after fire burnt her home down. I also gathered from her short obituary, she was very independent. Mary never married and living a seemingly solitary life, save for the interactions through her business. When Mary died there was no-one to give the names of her parents, so her death record shows her parents as “unknown”.  Since her Passing of the Pioneers appearance, more Hamilton Spectators have become available at Trove and I’ve been able to find out a little more about Mary.

The earliest newspaper reference I could find of Mary Ryan in Hamilton was in 1864 when she advertised her dressmaking services in the Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser.  Her advertisement said she was “late of South Yarra” and she was operating from Thompson Street. Other women in Hamilton including a Mrs Owens were combining dressmaking with servant registry businesses so it was a natural progression for Mary to do the same.  She began advertising both services in 1867 from a shop in Gray Street.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (South Melbourne, Vic. : 1860 – 1870) 29 June 1867 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article194474076

In September 1870, fire swept through several shops in Gray Street, destroying Mary’s shop.  The report in the Hamilton Spectator said the occupants were able to get their valuables out. Mary appears to have rebuilt and on 8 March 1877 the land where her shop stood was sold, the Hamilton Spectator published the results of the sale.

“Items of News.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 8 March 1877: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226045698 .

Mary responded in the next edition.

“VALUE OF HAMILTON LAND.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 10 March 1877: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226042386&gt;.

Mary expanded into millinery and drapery.  Only days after Mary placed this advertisement, she sold her shop on  13 July 1878, by auction but I wasn’t able to find a report of the sale in the paper.

“Advertising” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 2 July 1878:  <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226069431&gt;.

Two years later, an incident highlighted the potential dangers for a woman living alone.

“HAMILTON POLICE COURT.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 5 August 1880: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225488525&gt;.

That wasn’t the only such incident.  In October 1888, some local “larrikins” were in court charged with “rocking” Mary’s roof in Gray Street.  They also verbally abused her, calling her by name, well aware of who she was.  In her evidence, Mary stated her residence was opposite the Hamilton Mechanics Institute.  In 1895, Mary moved her business to Cox Street and by 1905, she had moved to Brown Street near the Hamilton Railway Station.  On 2 November 1910, Mary suffered another blow when fire swept through her shop and residence.  Built of pine, the shop burnt quickly and only a small box of valuables was saved.  Fortunately, Mary was away from home at the time.

Mary remained stubbornly independent in old age despite becoming very frail.  She stayed in her home, but besides the hospital, it seems she really had nowhere else to go.  In February 1914, a fire broke out in her home, accidentally started when Mary dropped a lit match on some papers on the floor.

“FIRE IN BROWN STREET.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 20 February 1914: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119823533&gt;.

While she wasn’t injured in the fire, it may have taken a toll as she passed away eight months later.  Her age was given as eighty.

“Hamilton Spectator” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 15 December 1914: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119874336&gt;.

SLOAN, Susan  (c1844-1918)

Susan Sloan was born in Glasgow, Scotland and after arriving in Portland in 1855, she went to Ararat where she married Thomas Sloan the following year.  Thomas ran a soda water manufacturing factory. In 1867, Susan returned to Portland with Thomas and they built the White Horse Brewery and a bakery in Gawler Street. Trade was tough and they moved inland in 1873 to Hamilton where they saw greater opportunities. Thomas purchased the North Hamilton Brewery from his brothers James and Robert.  In 1882, Thomas had a timber building constructed in Cox Street for a cordial factory.

Grace Sloan, a daughter of Susan and Thomas suffered consumption since 1893, and on doctor’s advice, she left Hamilton for a drier climate with friends in N.S.W. She departed on her journey but only reached Melbourne before her conditioned worsened and she telegraphed Susan to go to Melbourne. Grace improved so Susan returned home. A week or so later, Susan heard Grace had died in a Melbourne Hospital on 20 July 1895 aged twenty-one.  A memorial service was held at Hamilton’s Christ Church, where Grace had sung with the choir. The following year Susan had a close call herself.

“Items of News.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 12 March 1896: 2. Web. 10 Mar 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225868558&gt;.

In 1903, the Hamilton Spectator reported Susan had sold the North Hamilton Brewery to Mr J.B.Webb.  He didn’t do much with it and in 1904, the Sloans revitalised it with new equipment. They did the same at the cordial factory where they could produce up to sixty dozen bottles per hour.  Susan advertised prior to Christmas 1908, citing her fifty-two years in the business.

 

“CHRISTMAS DRINKS.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 17 December 1908: 4. Web. 10 Mar 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225895607&gt;.

Thomas died in May 1910 and Susan continued to run the business until her death, after which time family members continued operations. The Sloan’s cottage Whinhill in Pope Street, Hamilton still stands today.

“WHINHILL” – THE FORMER COTTAGE OF THE SLOAN FAMILY, POPE STREET, HAMILTON.

 

WADMORE, Sarah Jane (1859-1941)

Sarah Wadmore was the youngest daughter of Cape Bridgewater pioneers James Wadmore and Mary Driscoll. She was born in 1859 and only a month after her birth, James Wadmore drowned after he was washed off rocks while fishing on the west coast of  Cape Bridgewater.

By the age of fifteen, Sarah was helping her brothers on their mother’s farm. Mr and Mrs Joseph Voysey from the local state school saw something special in her and offered to train Sarah as a teacher.  In 1880, Sarah became head teacher at the new Kentbruck school.  Prior to that she was living at Bacchus Marsh and teaching at the school of Mr and Mrs Voysey.  From Kentbruck, Sarah was head teacher at the Tahara State School twelve years, her last teaching appointment.   In 1905, Sarah and her sister Anne moved to Annesley in Julia Street, Portland to operate a private boarding house.

“ANNESLEY’, JULIA STREET, PORTLAND. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/233404

One of their first “guests” at Annesley was Rosalie Brewer, the only child of the previous owner, Dr Brewer. Rosalie was confined to bed at Annesley for over twenty years until her death on 2 March 1926 at the age of fifty-seven.  Sarah, then sixty-seven, along with her sister, gave Rosalie the love and care a mother would, nursing her through those years.  Sarah’s mother Mary also moved into Annesley from her home at Cape Bridgewater and she died there in 1908.

Inspired by the pioneering life of her mother and others at Cape Bridgewater, Sarah had a great interest in the history of Portland and its pioneers.  It was always her ambition to publish the history of Portland’s women and in 1934, with the approaching centenary of the arrival of the Henty Bros, Sarah and two other local’s, Mrs Marion Hedditch and Mr E. Davis of the Portland Observer produced a booklet entitled Portland Pioneer Women’s Book of Remembrance for the event.  As Secretary of the Portland Pioneer Women’s Association, she was also the main force behind the Pioneer Women’s statue near the Shire Offices at Portland.  Also in 1934,  Sarah contributed to a supplement for the Portland Guardian for the centenary of the arrival of the Hentys at Portland Bay called Lone furrows on sea and land, or, Historical Portland .  For the publication, Sarah wrote of the Reminiscences of a Pioneer State School Teacher

“OBITUARY” Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) 6 January 1941: 1 (EVENING). Web. 15 Mar 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64398666&gt;.

Sarah had a busy life. Many fundraisers, Pioneer Women’s Association meetings and even art exhibitions were held at Annesley.  At one stage, she travelled to England visiting Sussex the birthplace of the Henty brothers. She was interested in the Scout movement and donated a flag to the Portland Scouts. Sarah was also active in the St Stephens Anglican Church community and the church was conveniently across the road from her home.

ST. STEPHEN’S ANGLICAN CHURCH, PORTLAND

A wonderful life closed on New Year’s Day 1941 when Sarah died at Annesley at the age of aged eighty-one. Sarah’s obituary closed with, “It may be truly said of Miss Wadmore that she shares largely in the honour of those splendid women, whose unselfish, unwearying zeal helped to make the Victoria of today”.

 

You can read Part One on the link – Wonderful Western District Women Part 1