This blog is a companion to the Database of Volunteers of Essendon and Flemington

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Kilmore Camp, 1912

Ru Jacobsohn of Ascot Vale is third from the left in this photo of the Kilmore Camp, 1912.  Photo courtesy of  Margery Burston.
Volunteer corps were preparing for armed conflict well before 1914.   The above photo shows volunteers of the Victorian Rifles.   Ru later became part of the 58 Inf Bn (Essendon Rifles), and joined the 7 Inf Bn, AIF in 1914.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mourning card for Lieutenant Jack Jennings

Mourning card for Lt J E Jennings, courtesy of John Taylor
John Edgar (Jack) Jennings, who embarked with the 24 Inf Bn, was the son of a former Mayor of Essendon.    Jack fell at Bullecourt on 3 May 1917.  His name is included on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.  He was a highly regarded young man, and many tributes to him were published in the Essendon Gazette.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lt H V Wood memorialised in two cities

2 Lt Harry Vasey Wood.  Photo courtesy of Natalie Stone.
Harry Vasey Wood had an association with Box Hill/Nunawading prior to his parents' move to Essendon in 1914/15.  He is not widely memorialised in Essendon - he appears only on the Moonee Ponds Methodist Church Roll of Honour, and the Essendon Gazette Roll of Honour.  His name is memorialised more widely in Box Hill and Nunawading, which I learnt from the Whitehorse Historical Society website which has a link to a Diggers Database.

Harry had studied at the University of Melbourne, and was a dentist when he enlisted in the 29 Infantry Battalion in 1915.  He was killed in a raid near Bapaume in March 1917.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Putting out fires on the Western Front

3 Pioneer Battalion waiting at Port Melbourne to board the Karoo, 1916. AWM PB0514
When the War broke out in Europe, John Mathew Farrell was working on ships as a marine fireman.  He didn't join the AIF immediately, and Rod Martin, who tells his story, considers some of the reasons for this, as well as the pressures involved.    Although he enlisted from Scotia Street in Moonee Ponds, he was a country boy from Wangaratta, one of ten children.  Two of his brothers also served.    In his story, Rod describes the lot of the Pioneer, and John Farrell's part in putting out the fires on the Western Front.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Missing in Action, 1916

The Preston family of Newmarket, taken in Spring, 1916, with an image of Alexander Preston superimposed at the back.  At about this time Private Alexander Preston was reported missing.  It was not until March 1918 that a Court of Enquiry determined that he had been killed in action on the day he was reported mssing.  Courtesy of Lesley Preston.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Men of the West

Men of the West:  Volunteers from the Essendon and Flemington districts in the Great War 1914-1918, by Rod Martin.

To mark the centenary of the beginning of the Great  War, this compilation of fifty stories about volunteers from your district is being made available on a strictly 'made to order' and non-profit basis.  The stories were originally published on the website The Empire Called and I Answered,  and are now available in this hard copy form.

If you have been enjoying Rod's stories on the website, this is a great collection of them to dip into.

About the author: Rod Martin BA, Dip Ed, Dip Ed Admin, M Ed, is a former secondary teacher/ principal who has written and co-authored a number of textbooks,  stories and articles. The First World War is one of his specialisations.

Details: 264 pages, desktop-published in Microsoft Word on  100 gsm paper, 290 illustrations.


PRICES: Hard cover; $100 delivered  (the binding costs $68.00)
                    Clear/black plastic spiral-bound: $40 delivered.  
Contact Rod at 
to place an order.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Valiant for Truth - has anyone seen this window?

Source:  Lost Lives.

The memorial window referred to in the news article was installed in the Aberfeldie Methodist Church, Waverley Street, Moonee Ponds, in 1948, commemorating the lives of three of their parishioners:  Ormond Frederick Clarke Copas,  John Skelton Russell,  and Robert William Russell, all of whom died on active service in 1942.

The motto "Valiant for Truth" comes from the Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

The church closed for worship in 1999, and the buildings are now occupied by Tobin Brothers funeral parlours.   It appears that the window was removed before the closure, and inquiries about the location of the window is being made to include in a database of commemorative stained glass windows around Victoria.

If you can shed some light on the whereabouts of this memorial window, please get in touch.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

UK National Archives launches new WW1 Portal

From the National Archives, UK:
"We hold the official UK government records of the First World War, including a vast collection of letters, diaries, maps and photographs. Discover our online collections, research guides and educational resources to learn about the history behind the war.We will be marking the centenary of the war with an extensive programme, spanning a five-year period from 2014 – 2019. With a rolling series of digitised record releases, online and on-site events and education resources being added to this portal as we move through the centenary period, we will open up our unique collection of First World War records as never before".

World War 1 in colour

A photo essay from Time LightBox shows a series of rare colour images from the front-line in France during World War 1.

The above photograph is not one of the LightBox series, which carry a copyright mark, but appears in a group of comments about a set of images from the  Library of Congress.  The commenter noted that the original French uniforms had red pants, which led to enormous casualties from sniper fire early in the war.  The uniform was subsequently changed to the light blue in the picture.

Thanks to GeneaNet for highlighting the LightBox photos.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Australian burning effigy of Kaiser in square, Armistice Day

Arthur Streeton, an official Australian war artist in 1918, depicted a crowd of soldiers gathered around bonfire with effigy hanging from gallows, at Peronne, France. 12 November 1918.

Meanwhile, at Vignacourt, Louis Thuillier photographed jubilant soldiers and citizens in the street.

Monday, October 28, 2013

MUIOOF Loyal Albert Lodge

Elizabeth Street, Moonee Ponds is on the far left of the MMBW plan dated 1904. Source:  State Library of Victoria,  
Members of the Loyal Albert Lodge of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows arranged a roll of honour of their members who volunteered for the war.  Although the whereabouts of the board is not known, it can be seen in the background of photos in the Essendon Hist. Society collection, taken inside the hall.  For the full list go here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

'Other rank' wounded in shelling

Ruins of a dye works at Erquinghem, December 1916, AWM H15704.
Private Arthur William Findlay of Kensington was wounded at Erquinghem, France, in 1916 while serving in the 22nd Infantry Battalion.  Rod Martin has traced his service from enlistment, through a sojourn in Gallipoli, then France, until being wounded in the jaw by a shell.  You can read Arthur Findlay's story here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ascot Vale Presbyterian Church - For God and Empire

The Honour Roll, pictured in a pamphlet published for the unveiling, in the collection of the Essendon Hist. Society Inc. The Honour Roll and the Church were destroyed by an arsonist in 2004.
The unveiling of the Ascot Vale Presbyterian Church took place on Wednesday 15 September, 1920. Corporal F W Edmonds gave an organ recital which included pieces composed by Handel and Mendelssohn.    Captain-Chaplain W Fraser said the first prayer.  Colonel Chaplain D Macrae Stewart gave the address, and Senator-Brigadier H E Elliott, CB, CMG, DSO, DM, performed the unveiling.

D Macrae Stewart was the minister of the Ascot Vale Presbyterian Church from 1881 to 1903, immediately preceding Chaplain William Fraser.  Stewart served as a Chaplain in Gallipoli and France, but returned to Australia in 1916 when appointed the Senior Chaplain of the 3rd Military District (ie, Victoria).

The honour roll was an opus sectile, beautifully crafted from tiles.  This one was unusual in that it had the colour patches of the AIF represented in a block of tiles just above the legend "The Great War".  Another church in the district with an opus sectile is St Thomas' Church of England in Moonee Ponds.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The boys were all very sorry.

Walter Mackley's memorial stone at the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. Photo taken by Elizabeth Plummer, during  a recent visit.

Walter Mackley of Ascot Vale was a very youthful Sergeant when he was killed in November 1916 at the end of the Battle of the Somme, aged 19.  The Australian Red Cross made enquiries about the location of his grave in 1917, and one of his comrades stated that:
"He was very much liked and the boys were all very sorry.  He got his Sgt stripes in Egypt".

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wilf Young and the 7th Battalion

Sedate and sober troops marching from Mena towards Cairo. (AWM) PS0412
Private Wilfred John Young was amongst the first to enlist when AIF enrolment commenced in August 1914.  He was aged 27, a furniture fitter, and residing in Newmarket when he joined the 7th Infantry Battalion and embarked for overseas service.  Rod Martin gives a careful telling of Wilf's story.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mothers of Men

Pte S M Memery is identified as being in the centre of this photo, taken prior to embarkation on 29 October 1915.  Given that the three brothers embarked on the same vessel on the same day, and one a sergeant,  it seems likely these are the three Memery brothers.

The sacrifices madc by some women in sending their sons to serve the Empire are so notable that it seems fitting that they should be made known to readers of "The Argus."
It is therefore proposed to give on this page the photographs  of mothers who have sent three or more sons to the front. For this purpose I shall be glad to receive the portraits of such mothers, with their full name and the names of their soldier sons, together with particulars of their service.
From The Argus, 10 May 1916.

Mrs. Catherine Memery, who lives at No. 8 Heritage street, Moonee Ponds, has three sons, all of them in the third reinforcements of the 29th Battalion. Sergeant Vivian Memery, aged 22; Private Samuel Memery, aged 25; and Private John Memery, aged 19. Her son-in-law, Private Edward Murphy, is in the 27th Battalion. She has also two nephews on service; Sergeant Ryan, of the 7th Battalion, was at the Gallipoli landing; Carlyle Ryan is in the A.M.C. Mrs. Memery had also a son who died on service in the Boer War, and a nephew who was killed in the Boer War.
The Argus 10 May 1916

Monday, September 9, 2013

Private Charles Wigg who fell at Ypres

Charles Wigg, from the Australian War Memorial Collection
Rod Martin traces the path of Charles Ernest Wigg, a labourer, of Essendon, from his enlistment in September 1917 to his final days on the battlefield of Ypres in October 1917.

WW1 British Soldiers' last Wills released

An example of one of the letters.
In a news story just out on the MailOnline, 230,000 wills and personal letters have been released by the British Government. The wills and letters were collected from the men in the trenches, but their families never saw them.  Instead, they went into storage.

The UK Government has given some examples of the last letters.

You can search the online index if you know the surname and year of death.  A scan of a will or letter will cost £6. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Embarkation of Troops, Sydney, 1915

Troops boarding the Hororata in Port Melbourne in 1914. AWM C02491

I just found an interesting silent pictures entitled WWI Troops Embarkation and Charity Bazaars, Sydney (c.1915) of troops embarking on troopships in Sydney.  One of them was the A9 Shropshire.  There are four associated clips - look for the links under the screen.  From the Australian Film and Sound Archive.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fighting the Kaiser!

A new blog called Fighting the Kaiser: Coburg and the First World War  has started up to feature the volunteers from another suburb of Melbourne.  Coburg, of course, was in the invidious position of carrying part of the name of the Consort of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha - of nation now the enemy.  How would the good burgers of Coburg handle that, we wonder?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Senior cadets, circa WW1

Distinguishing  between senior cadets and a militia soldiers has always been a bit of a blank for me, but with a bit of hunting round the AWM website I think I now have a handle on it.  The age group hasn't always helped - say in the instance of a lad in the vicinity of 18 years of age, who might be in the senior cadets or the militia going on his appearance.  The cadets were grouped into junior cadets,12 to 14 years of age, senior cadets 14 to 18 years of age, and militia 18 to 26 years of age.

It appears, however, that the cadet uniform shirt did not have epaulettes (as in the example above), and the hat was often domed.

I still find the brass regimental number badge a conundrum.  I'm not sure what the rule was with those badges so I will leave it for now and hope someone will comment on it.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Returning by the Boorara, 1919

 Sergeants on the A Troop Deck of the Boorara, 1919.  Sergt Cyril Rae of the 1st Field Artillery Brigade is standing on the right in jodhpurs an spurs.

Living the good life.  This group of returning soldiers appear to have a little trouble doing up their jacket buttons. 

Can anyone identify any of them?  They come from the album of  Sergeant George Paton Wilson of the Veterinary Section.  He was assigned to an Artillery Brigade, and these men may have served with an Artillery Brigade.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 Prize for Australian history winner

Farewell, dear people: biographies of Australia's lost generation, by Ross McMullin, is the 2013 winner of the Australian History prize in the Prime Minister's Literary Awards.

Congratulations to Ross, well-deserved recognition.

Lost Digger - Jack of the 20th Battalion - Updated

 Photo courtesy of Isabelle Godard, Vignacourt.

"Jack" on the left of the picture, had this photo taken in Montigny-le-Tilleul (Belgium) in 1919 and sent it to a French family in Vignacourt with his first name and his Battalion - the 20th - written on the back.  The family have kept that photo for all these years, and now would like to identify him.  Their enquiry ended up with The Lost Diggers volunteers to attempt to identify him.    

Volunteers Alison McCallum, Tim Lycett and Sandra Playle have identified the clues in the photo - his appearance fair, light coloured eyes, average stature, probably aged in his early thirties, late twenties  WW1 uniform, three overseas service chevrons on his right sleeve, and a wedding ring on his left hand.

After detailed research, Alison says "Jack had posted the photo to Vignacourt (Somme, France) from Montigny-le-Tilleul (Belgium) where he was stationed with 20th Battalion. Based on a search of the 20th Battalion War Diaries and the Quota lists and staff movement lists for 20th Battalion found in the diaries for 6 Feb - 30 April 1919, locating men with J as an initial, I started with a list of 90 surnames and initials. That was then narrowed down to any with Jack or John as given names. Finally further refined list working from clues in the photo, cross-checking with Embarkation Rolls, and Service Files and narrowed it to one soldier as a POSSIBLE."

I haven't included all of Alison's research here, but John Howarth Blythe served with a number of battalions, the 24th, 23rd, 17th, 19th, and in 1919 the 20th Battalion. 

Alison believes the soldier may be John Howarth BLYTHE of 27 Parsons St, Kensington who enlisted in 1916.  We would be very glad to hear from anyone who believes they can identify the man in the photo above, or confirm or otherwise his possible identification with Private 4622 J H Howarth.  PLEASE PHONE Alison McCallum  0400 063 718 OR E-MAIL

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Melbourne GPO Roll of Honour - updated

This gorgeous marble roll of honour is in the Bourke Street entrance foyer of the Melbourne General Post Office.

Updated:  Locals included on this roll of honour include E W Junier,   C P G Kaighin, and W E Wilson.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Military periodicals online

There is an extremely useful list of Military periodicals online at the Fibiwiki website - a website  of the Families in British India Society.  It covers many periods of the British Army, not particularly the Indian Army, and also the Royal Navy, and Air Force.  Definitely worth a look if you have British military ancestors.

Essendon Avenue of Honour

The Avenue of Honour on The Boulevard, from the western end.

A plaque at the beginning of the Avenue giving the background of the creation of the Avenue.  References to the 'Essendon League' should read 'Essendon River League'.

A plaque at the end of the Avenue, giving details of the Battle of Jutland.

One of the plaques installed at the replanting and re-dedication of the Avenue in 1999.  Each plaque commemorates a Royal Naval vessel which fought at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
See the full range of plaques in the Essendon Avenue of Honour.

Friday, August 2, 2013

58th Infantry Battalion (Essendon Rifles)

Only two people have been identified in this photo of members of the Essendon Rifles - Ru Jacobsohn and Captain R W Wells. Any further identifications are welcome.  Please see a larger version of the photo here.   Both Ru Jacosohn and Richard Wells volunteered in September 1914 and served on Gallipoli.   Wells was killed, which means the photo dates to pre September 1914.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Williams Bros Album

“Back from the line unwashed, unshaved.  The brothers Williams, both as fit as fiddles, France 8/5/17”. 
It has taken a while to load up the photos from the album of Gordon and Harold Williams, but they are finally on the website, and you can scroll through the photos, commencing from here.  The album covers the embarkation and journey to the Middle East of Gordon with 6 Field Ambulance, and a later period with 12 Field Ambulance in Belgium and France, where Gordon's brother Harold joined him in 1916.  The photos were scanned courtesy of Robin Benjamin.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The horsewhisperer

Private George Paton Wilson, circa 1917
George Wilson, a woolclasser from Essendon, was only 18½ when he enlisted on 8 January 1917. Appointed to the Veterinary Corps, George embarked six months later with the mission of caring for the horsepower on which the army depended.  After a period in the Australian Veterinary Hospital in Calais, George was posted to an artillery unit.  Read his story and see the wonderful photos from a family photograph album, kindly provided by the Wilson family.

George's brother Tom Wilson had embarked in 1916 and served with the 21 Infantry Battalion.   

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A bit of a lad

SS Makarini at Port Melbourne, 1915, with troops abord.  AWM PB0537.
In his latest story Rod Martin describes Private George Roy Lancaster as 'a bit of a lad'. Dogged by ill-health, including a bout of mumps, George added to his travails by going absent without leave after completing leave in London and attracting some severe punishment.  By 1918 he was involved in some very heavy fighting with the 14th Infantry Battalion.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A mention in the Top 50 Blogs for 2013

From Inside History Magazine:

"Blogs have provided many research breakthroughs and Eureka moments for family historians, so it’s only fitting that this issue sees Inside History’s Top 50 Genealogy Blogs 2013. See who made the list and why".

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lieut R G Casey's WW1 Photo Album

Emden sailors leaving the 'Orvieto' at Port Said to go aboard the 'Hampshire', 2 Dec 1914. National Archives of Australia.

Martin Elliget came across this interesting WW1 photo album on the NAA website. It belonged to Lieut. Richard Gavin CASEY (later Governor-General of Australia), starting with his voyage from Australia to Egypt on the Transport Orvieto. Later photos are of Egypt, Gallipoli, England and France.

Martin has transcribed the first ten pages of annotations, which you can see here.

You can find the album and scroll the album here.  Click to enlarge to get a really good scan of the album pages.  These are very clear and interesting photos, one minute in Egypt strolling round the Pyramids, and the next minute Anzac Cove.

Well worth a browse, and thanks to Martin for locating it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Staff Nurse Lilian Rutherford

Staff Nurse Lilian Rutherford
Lilian Rutherford joined her sister Linda in Salonika in 1917.  Authorities would not approve leave to the UK for nursing staff at Salonika until mere days before the Armistice, and once the war ended the Rutherford sisters were granted leave in the UK, Linda leaving a few days before Lilian.  On 1 January 1919, Lilian was awarded a Royal Red Cross "in recognition of her valuable services with the British Forces in Salonika".

Royal Red Cross

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sister Linda Rutherford of Essendon

The sisters' quarters at No 66 British General Hospital on Hortiach Plateau, Salonika.
The British and Australian soldiers who served at Salonika endured harsh winters and hot summers  under canvas, subject to illness, particularly malaria.   Sister Linda Rutherford also endured these conditions.  Click on the link to read her story.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pte Rudel O'Dowd of the Vet Section

The son of noted poet Bernard O'Dowd, Rudel was a veterinary student at the outbreak of war, and in February 1915 joined the Veterinary Section and embarked for the Middle East.  Marilyn Kenny relates the story of Rudel O'Dowd, who also tried his hand at poetry.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tedworth House, 1917

Regarded as the most spectacular country house in the County of Wiltshire, the former family home was acquired by the War Office in 1897. The acquisition of 40,000 acres on Salisbury Plain close by turned the small farming village of Tidworth into a Garrison Town.  Tedworth House became the Officers' Mess.
This tiny image comes from an album of photos taken by Driver Gordon Anderson who at the time was serving with the Australian Army Service Corps.  It seems unlikely Gordon ever saw the inside of Tedworth House, unless invited in to wash the glasses!

Wiltshire Community History and Tedworth House websites give reasonably detailed information about the military establishment on the Salisbury Plains.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Private Sproston and the Gallipoli Landing

Lenoard G Sproston of Ascot Vale enlisted on 17 August 1914, one of the very first.  Embarking just a few weeks later with 7 Infantry Battalion, he celebrated his 21st birthday in Egypt while preparations were made for the landing on that fateful shore of Gallipoli.

Marilyn Kenny tells the poignant story of Len Sproston, who is remembered on the Lone Pine Memorial.

Images courtesy of Kim Phillips of The Spirits of

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is this Shorty Jackson?

Is the man standing at the rear wearing a tie Shorty Jackson?

Hunting around for people related to Henry George Jackson of Ascot Vale, I found the above photo attached to the file of Henry's nephew, Robert S Jackson - and based on the photo in the previous post, Who was Shorty Jackson?, I think the fellow standing at the back with the tie could well be Henry George Jackson.  I would love it if someone could confirm that for me.  The photo would appear to be post-war.