Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A tale of two Arthurs: both from Coburg and both killed in action

3046 Sergeant Arthur Hunt, 59th Infantry Battalion and 692 Private Arthur Hunt, 57th Infantry Battalion, both lived in Coburg and both died in France.
Here follows the tale of these two Arthurs, both with very different backgrounds and very different experiences of war.
This blog entry tells the story of 32 year old Englishman Arthur Hunt, who had only lived in Australia for seven years at the time of his enlistment in June 1915.
Born in London in 1883, this Arthur Hunt was a jeweller by trade, census and shipping records recording his exact occupation as bracelet maker. From a young age he lived in Birmingham, where his father worked as a gold swivel maker and his brother Albert as a gold bracelet maker.
During the Boer War (often referred to now as the South African War) Arthur Hunt served as a Corporal and his Australian World War One service record notes that he had been a 3rd Lieutenant in the Staffordshire Army Service Corps for 3 years.
In April 1904 he married Edith Lily (known as Lily) Allen at All Saints, Birmingham and the couple had three children, Beatrice, Eva and Doris. In May 1911, the Hunt family left their home at South Yardley (in the Birmingham area) and sailed for Australia. They settled in Melbourne.

When war was declared the Hunts were living at 322 Sydney Road, Coburg and it was from this address that Arthur Hunt enlisted on 15 June 1915. He embarked with the 7th Battalion on 29 September 1915. His was not a long war. On 19 July 1916, he was wounded at Fromelles (a gun shot wound to his right knee) and sent to the 5th Northern General Hospital at Leicester where his right leg was amputated. Unfortunately, he died as a result of the operation on 8 August 1916. He is buried at the Welford Road Cemetery, the resting place of a number of other Australian servicemen and women.
After Arthur Hunt’s death, Lily Hunt and her three daughters were granted war pensions. By this time they were living at 26 Richard Street, Coburg.
Lily must have read about or been told about a newly established NSW scheme to house disabled soldiers or soldiers’ widows with dependants, a scheme run through the Voluntary Workers’ Association (VWA). The Association built  Voluntary Workers’ Cottages, promoted as ‘Homes for Heroes’. Local VWAs were established in suburban areas, including Vaucluse, Manly and Epping. The VWA raised money, provided unpaid labour (often working on weekends and holidays) and some Crown Land was made available through an Act of Parliament, although local newspaper reports show that some individuals donated land, too. The cost of materials was often donated or advanced by the bank. 

Image courtesy Woollahra Council. Image pf000\pf000122b
Members of the Vaucluse Voluntary Workers Association at Frenchs Forest, c1918.

In January 1916, an article in the Geelong Advertiser explained how the scheme worked. This article was repeated in many newspapers throughout Victoria, so it was well publicised. The houses were to be provided at a low rent (4 or 5 shillings a week) and after 20 years, the resident would own the house, although the land would continue to be leased.

For someone in Lily Hunt’s situation – newly arrived in the country, with no deep-rooted ties to the Coburg area and with three daughters to raise – such a scheme must have seemed a godsend. Her relief at being so securely housed is evident in the following snippet of a letter she wrote to the War Department in October 1921:

By that time she had been living in Sydney for three years. Her address was ‘Leicester’, 12 Edenlea Street, Epping. The house name recalls the death place of her husband Arthur, not long dead from wounds received at what many believe was Australia’s worst 24 hours of the First World War – the Battle of Fromelles. 

The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 6 April 1918, p.8. This article shows that the Voluntary Workers Cottage scheme, like all voluntary schemes, had its problems. It is tempting to believe that the house in question was Lily Hunt’s home.

Arthur Hunt was born in England in 1881, moved to Australia in 1911 when he was 30, returned to the northern hemisphere because of the war in 1915 and died in England not too far from his birthplace in 1916 aged 35. After his death, his wife and daughters moved to Epping in New South Wales. His wife, Lily, died there in the 1940s. Her daughters Beatrice and Eva did not marry. Beatrice died in 1976 and Eva in 2006. As Doris is not recorded in the electoral rolls, it seems she married and hopefully raised a family of her own who now carry on the family legacy in Australia.

In the next blog entry, you will hear the tale of another Arthur Hunt, an 18 year old, who, although he was not related to the Arthur Hunt of this blog entry, also had a Sydney Road address when he enlisted.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Jack Caird writes homes

15 Private Jack Caird, 29th Infantry Battalion

When he enlisted on 16 July 1915, Jack Caird was an 18 year old brass moulder apprenticed to Walton and Scott.

Although he had been a pupil at Coburg State School, he is not featured in the State School’s Soldiers Book, which is part of the Coburg Historical Society’s collection. At the time of enlistment he lived in Sydney Road, Coburg with his widowed mother Elizabeth and his 10 year old brother George, but at some stage he had also lived at Fawkner. 
We know from letters published in the local newspaper that he had been a member of the 1st Brunswick (King’s Own) Troop of the Boy Scouts. We know, too, that he had been the secretary of the Fawkner Football Club and we also know from the Holy Trinity Honour Roll that he was a member of that congregation.
On 10 November 1915, Jack left for the war on board the Ascanius. Other Coburg men to leave with him were Percival Kerrison Smith, Thomas Joseph Lynch, Frederick John Sherlock, William Charles Thomson, Alfred Williams (all in A Company), George Barrie and Frederick Fletcher (in B Company) and John Arthur Mether (in D Company).
Something of Jack Caird’s experience of the war can be seen in the letters he wrote to his former Scoutmaster, Albert Ambrey (Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 9 June 1916, 19 January 1917).
When the 29th Battalion arrived in Egypt, Jack sent back his impressions. This letter was written on Good Friday:
‘You asked me what I thought of Egypt. Well, I can tell you in one word and that is ROTTEN. We have seen nothing but sand and in fact we average about a bushel of sand a week in our food, and as far as Cairo is concerned, it ought to be burnt down with the exception of a few buildings – it is filthy and the smell is awful.’

Image courtesy AWM. Image  P00702.011 AWM  Cairo, Egypt. 6 January 1915. Australian soldiers in a dust storm. (Donor B. J. & V. Cardiff)

Image courtesy AWM. Image H02732.  Australian infantry marching during a dust storm, which is known in Egypt as a 'Khamseen'.

When he heard that William Symonds had been awarded the Victoria Cross Jack wrote:

‘I am glad to know Will. Symonds has won the VC and I hope you will be able to say that one of your old boys got it also, as I intend to do my best to get the Cross.’ (He did not succeed, of course, but he did survive the war.)

 Image courtesy AWM. Image P02939.002. Studio portrait of Sergeant (Sgt) William John Symons, 7th Battalion. Later promoted to Lieutenant (Lt), he was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) "for most conspicuous bravery on the night of 8th - 9th August, 1915, at Lone Pine Trenches, in the Gallipoli Peninsula". Lt Symons repelled several enemy attacks, withdrawing to a spot with some overhead cover and built a sand barricade. The enemy set fire to the woodwork of the overhead cover, which Lt Symons extinguished and rebuilt the barricade. "His coolness and determination finally compelled the enemy to discontinue the attacks". During the Second World War, Symons served as a Lieutenant Colonel with the British Home Guard set up to assist in repelling Hitler's expected invasion. He died in London on 24 June 1948.

When his friend Percy Smith was killed at Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916, Jack gave evidence at the inquiry into his death. He had been wounded that day and wrote home about it:
 ‘Oh yes, I got wounded alright and a nasty one at that, but still I was not sorry, for if hell is any worse, well, I am going to be a Christian.’

In the same letter, dated November 1916, he wrote:
‘I see by today’s paper that Conscription has been defeated. Well, it is good news for the boys over here.’ 
Jack was not alone in his opinion. Many men at the front were opposed to conscription.

Image courtesy AWM. Image RC00336. Black and white anti conscription leaflet. "AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY. Anti-Conscription Campaign Committee. 'VOTE NO MUM they'll take DAD next."

 Although Jack was wounded at Fromelles, he survived the war, married and raised his family, firstly at 2 Sheffield Street, Coburg and later at 10 Laurel Street, Coburg. He died in 1956 aged 59.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The first troops march up to Broadmeadows Camp

Here is another image from the Geo. Rose series of stereogrpahic slides from the Coburg Historical Society collection.

In my last entry, I mentioned the excitement in Coburg as the first recruits headed up to the Broadmeadows Camp and showed you a photo of them marching along Sydney Road, Coburg. You will also find there links to previous entries that describe the march in more detail.

Just before the Coburg photo was taken, the men had eaten lunch at Royal Park, as you can see here. In the foreground I can see bottles of cold drink. I wonder if anyone can identify the nature of the liquid refreshments? I can also make out a long table in the foreground with some empty plates and I can see a tea cup. I'm pretty sure that I can see slices of bread with a butter knife next to them. And just off centre to the right is a chap in a dark outfit carrying a flattish white box - perhaps of sandwiches?

As I look at the photo, I wonder what the two men in the very foreground are chatting about. I wonder, too, about the two boys who are looking in the direction of the photographer. Were they anticipating the day, when they, too, were old enough to enlist? And did that happen? 

Then, just next to them, there is a well dressed older couple and a young (very young) soldier standing just near them - their son, perhaps? The couple look as though they don't quite know what to make of all this. Did they believe, like so many others, that the war would be over and their son would then come safely home to them? 

Many of these early recruits lost their lives the following year on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Others were injured and returned to Australia, changed for life. Others still went on to serve on the Western Front. Some died, some were injured and returned to Australia early, but some remained until the end of hostilities.

It is impossible to tell from this photo what the future held for these soldiers and their families and friends. It is impossible, too, to know who of them might have been members of the Coburg community, but it is certain that there were some Coburg men on that march. 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The first men to leave for the front

I’ve written before about the excitement in Coburg as the first recruits paraded down Sydney Road to the newly established Broadmeadows Camp.

In the Coburg Historical Society collection is a series of Geo. Rose stereographic photos, which have now been digitised and printed out to reveal an amazingly detailed picture of those first few months of the war.
As you look at the photos, you move back in time and become part of the scene. You are there among the crowds watching the troops set off down Collins Street. You are there as they eat lunch at Royal Park. You are in the crowd at the side of the road as they march down Sydney Road, Coburg on their way to Broadmeadows Army Camp. And you are there in the tent city that had arisen at Broadmeadows, watching as the men assemble their camp kitchens or train in the art of attacking in short rushes. And finally, you are there, looking on as the men eat their last meal before breaking camp and departing for the front.

This is just one image from the Coburg Historical Society collection. It was taken in October 1914 as the troops moved down Sydney Road, Coburg towards Broadmeadows Army Camp. You can also find a digital copy of this image in its original stereographic form on the Australian War Memorial website, image P00852.002.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The spelling gremlin strikes ...


It seems that the Microsoft Word spelling gremlin came along behind me in my last entry on Chris Flint of Darraweit Guim and did a spot of auto-correction. And after I'd especially checked that I had the correct spelling!

This photo of a girder bridge at Darraweit Guim designed by Sir John Monash was taken by Lesley Alves in c1997. I imagine that Chris Flint crossed it many times.

And just so you can picture the sort of countryside Chris Flint worked:

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Chris Flint of The Grove: WW1 soldier and greyhound racing legend

The World War One stories emerging from Coburg’s The Grove (or Moreland Grove, as it was first called) have provided a glimpse of a richly diverse group of residents, unlike those of any other street in Coburg, I would guess.

We’ve heard the stories of a number of the residents of The Grove now: Otto Neuendorf, a native of Berlin and photographer at Pentridge Prison during the WW1 era; Charles Dare, son of the developer of the area, Monty Dare; Richard Courtney of Courtney’s Post fame; Percy Cornwell of Cornwell’s Pottery in Brunswick; the Shawe brothers and their link to the British Raj.

And now it is the turn of the Flint family,who lived at ‘Dunvargin’, 12 The Grove. Unusual for this street (and Coburg enlistees) in that they were staunchly Catholic, the six children of the family (all boys and all born in the local area) attended firstly St Ambrose School in Brunswick then St Patrick’s College in East Melbourne, where they excelled academically. Their father’s interest in education is evident in his membership of the original Council of the Brunswick Technical School and his continuing interest in the school council, taking up the role of President in 1923.

Photo of the Flint family: Arthur and Margaret Flint and sons Theo, Chris, Tom, Claude, Arthur and Jack. Courtesy familyhistory blog of Nicole Close 

The house name, ‘Dunvargin’, speaks of an Irish background, Dunvargin being a seaside market town in County Waterford. The family’s  interest in the Irish question, which was forefront in the minds of Irish Catholics everywhere after the Easter Uprising of 1916, is evident in their membership of a newly established North Brunswick Hibernian Society, based at the recently established St. Matthew’s Church, the family church and in their participation in various Hibernian Society events.

The many references to the sons’ academic successes speaks of a household of clever, ambitious boys, and the electoral rolls show that they fulfilled their early promise, most taking up careers in the civil service or the law.

Perhaps, given their background, it is not surprising that only one of the six Flint brothers enlisted – Christopher, the second son.

731 Sergeant Christopher Arthur Loftus Flint

When Chris Flint enlisted in June 1917, he was attached to the 23/3 Machine Gun Company. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and worked as a clerk in the audit department of AIF HQ in London where he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in January 1919 and Lieutenant in April 1919. So, in many ways, although his valuable contribution to the war effort was acknowledged in his war record, he was unusual in that he did not see any action.

London, England. 28 September 1918. Horseferry Road, looking towards Victoria Street, showing on the right AIF Administrative Headquarters, and on the left the buildings occupied by the Australian War Records Section. Image D00077. Image courtesy AWM.

Chris Flint returned to Australia in September 1920 to the family home in The Grove, where he remained until he completed university studies and qualified as a lawyer. He married – to Mary Veronica Murphy – and had two sons, Christopher, who died in infancy, and Geoffrey, who followed in his father’s footsteps and took up a career in the law. His marriage appears to have failed, and the electoral rolls over the years show that Chris and Mary lived apart from around the time he moved to Mornington in the mid-1930s where he set up a legal practice.  

It is almost impossible from the official records to get any sense of Chris Flint, the man, but a sense of his personality emerges from an unlikely source – Greyhound Victoria’s Hall of Fame. Here we learn from family members that he could be difficult to get along with and that he ‘wasn’t afraid to step on people’s toes if it meant he could achieve something he believed in’. His nephew said that ‘if anyone got into an argument with him, he’d [verbally] cut them to pieces.’ He was definitely not someone to cross.

The following newspaper report from the Argus, 1 February 1947, tells the story of a disgruntled client taking revenge for perceived wrongs. 

Photo of coursing from Anecdotes of dogs, Edward Jesse, London, 1888.

What the official records also don’t tell us, is that the Flint family had been involved in coursing (greyhound racing) for many years. By the time Chris got involved, there was great respect for the Flint family in coursing circles. His father, Arthur, had been involved for more than forty years and there was an A.L. Flint Memorial Cup presented annually. Chris was equally impressive and he was known as a fearless and insightful administrator of the sport, whom his nephew claimed ‘brought greyhound racing out of the dark ages.’ He was an impressive figure, nicknamed the ‘Squire’. 

Chris Flint. Photograph courtesy Greyhound Racing Victoria

Geoff Flint, son of Chris. Photograph courtesy Greyhound Racing Victoria

As well as being outspoken and apparently fearless in his dealings with his opponents, Chris Flint was remembered as a generous man, who bought his son and his wife their first home. He also gave generously to the cause of greyhound racing in Victoria. He donated money and used his public speaking skills, his legal background, his understanding of human nature to negotiate some very difficult times in the sport. He was involved at an administrative level from the 1930s until his death and helped work through many difficult negotiations. He became the first Chairman of the Greyhound Racing Control Board.

At the same time, he maintained a legal career and at some stage, probably in the 1940s, moved to Darraweit Gum, 50 kilometres north of Melbourne on the edge of the Shire of Macedon Ranges, where he lived and worked 11,000 acres of land, land that was devastated by rabbits and water erosion when he first went there, according to his nephew. ‘He planted trees and cleared the rabbits. He really turned the place around’, his nephew said. He had 10 people working for him to begin with, but towards the end of his life much of the land was subdivided, although he kept 4,000 acres which he called ‘ Amesbury House’.

Chris Flint was unwell for some years and died in 1958, aged 62.

Sources include: Victorian BDM indexes and electoral rolls (via Ancestry), Coburg Leader, 31 January 1913, p.1; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 23 January 1914; Tribune, 4 April 1914, p.7; Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 2 April 1915, p.2; Tribune, 4 May 1916, p.5; Advocate, 16 December 1916, p.25; Advocate, 14 July 1917; Argus, 12 December 1918; Argus, 10 December 1920, p.11; Argus, 19 February 1923, p.8; Table Talk, 23 April 1925, p.5; The Australasian, 25 August 1934; Australasian, 23 May 1936, p.51; Australasian, 23 August 1936, p.57; Australasian, 28 November 1936, p.24;  Argus, 12 August 1939, p.14; Argus, 1 Feburary 1947, p.21; WW1 service record of Christopher Arthur Loftus Flint ; WW2 service record of Geoffrey Vincent Flint; Greyhound Racing Victoria’s Hall of Fame 

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The Shawe brothers of The Grove: Coburg’s connection to the British Raj

When the Shawe family took up residence at 50 The Grove, Coburg in the early 1900s, they had been in Australia for only 10 years. Before that the family had been residents of Madras (now Chennai), the base of the British India Office for almost a hundred years.

For three generations, members of the family had been baptised, married and buried at St Andrew’s Church, Madras, pictured here in the 1840s and again in more modern times. 

Coloured aquatint with etching by J.V. Gantz of St. Andrew's Church at Madras, dated 1841, courtesy British Library online gallery

John, Patrick and William Shawe were all born in the Madras area in the 1880s and baptised at St. Andrew's. Their father, Charles Barron Shawe, an Inspector in the Salt Revenue Department of the India Office, had been baptised there and married the boys’ mother Annie Eleanor Walker there. His parents had been married there in 1833 and his father's siblings were also baptised there. It was their parish church.

Merchants’ Buildings 1829. Courtesy British Library online gallery

What motivated the family to come to Australia is not known. It seems an unusual choice. The 1851 census shows that their father and his sisters had been sent back to England to be educated. Charles Shawe’s sisters had settled in Notting Hill in London and his father had retired there and died there in 1891, not long before Charles brought his family to Victoria.  

For whatever reason, Charles Shawe chose Melbourne as his retirement destination. He lived comfortably on his British Office pension, buying a home in one of Coburg's most exclusive locations. His sons attended nearby Carlton College where they excelled academically. Three of the sons, John, his twin brother George and Patrick, took up banking careers. The fourth brother, William, chose a different path, moved to Pyramid Hill and became a farmer. 

1190 Pte John Fawcett Shawe, 7th Infantry Battalion

The first son to enlist was Jack, the second son of the family. His twin brother George did not enlist. He was the older of the two, so perhaps he chose not to enlist because he was the eldest son, even if only by minutes.  Jack enlisted in September 1914. Just a few months later, at the end of December, the boys’ mother Annie died aged 62. Their sister Hester was on hand to look after her father and brothers, but it must have been a sad household that new year.

Jack’s was not a long war. He was wounded three times on the Gallipoli Peninsula - on 25 April 1915 (gun shot wound to right leg), July 1915 (gunshot wound to chest) and August 1915 (gunshot wound to sides and thigh). By March 1916 he was on his way home.

It seems that Jack Shawe did not marry. He left Victoria in the 1930s and by the 1940s he was working as a clerk in Wynnum in Queensland. His last entry in the electoral rolls was in 1968, so it is likely that he died around this time.

6901 Private Patrick Henry Villiers Washington Shawe, 24th Infantry Battalion

The next brother to enlist was the youngest, Patrick, on 31 August 1915. He served without injury until September 1918 when he was wounded and invalided to England with a severe gunshot wound to his head and neck. His war was over and he chose to return to Australia via America in April 1919 at his own expense.

Patrick married Mary Hatton at Christ Church, South Yarra in 1920 and they moved to Lismore, NSW. He did not return to the Coburg area, but by the mid-1930s he was back in Melbourne, living in the south-eastern suburbs. He died in 1945 aged 56. His wife died in 1974.

 3249 Pte William Charles Shawe, 21st Infantry Battalion

Middle brother William, the farmer from Pyramid Hill, enlisted on 31 August 1916. By 19 July 1917 he was dead, a casualty of the Battle of Fromelles. An eye witness said that he was ‘one of the first to be knocked out during the stunt.’ William Shawe must have died not long after the following photograph was taken.

AWM. Image A02555. Taken on 19 July 1916. Looking from a sandbag trench to the bombardment of the German lines, ten minutes prior to the attack on Fleurbaix which was fought on the 19 July 1916 and 20 July 1916.

In just a few years, Charles Barron Shawe, now an elderly man, suffered the loss of his wife, welcomed home his injured sons and experienced the loss of another. Looked after by his unmarried daughter Hester, he remained at The Grove where he died on 11 August 1919 aged 75. He and his wife are buried in the Church of England section of Coburg Cemetery, a long way from their homeland, British India.

The sons who did return from the war did not remain in the Coburg area. Although their sister Hester was buried at Coburg Cemetery when she died in 1935, she was then living in East St. Kilda. So it seems that with the death of Charles Barron Shawe in 1919, Coburg’s short connection to the British Raj came to an end.