Saturday, 6 May 2017

Percy Chaster Brearley

Percy Brearley was born at Geelong, but enlisted in the 23rd Battalion at Rutherglen in February 1915 aged 25 years 6 months. 

He qualified for a commission and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in December 1916 and then served with the 46th Battalion. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in July 1917 and mentioned is Sir Douglas Haig's dispatches in November that year.


Image courtesy AWM. Image E01794. 6 March 1918, France. Group portrait of the officers of the 46th Battalion. Left to right, back row: Lieutenant (Lt) Matthew Martin Cuddihy; Lt William Jackson; Lt Nevinson Willoughby Faulkner MC MM; Lt Alfred Bernard Mortimer; Lt Ernest Alexander Charlton; Lt Reginald Francis Foster; Lt Leslie Byrne MC (killed in action 18 September 1918). Middle row: Lt Arthur Frank Stanley Dobson; Lt Wilfred Crosbie Pleasance MC: Lt Arthur John Chilvers Muriel MC; Lt Walter Hood MC; Lt Alfred Benjamin Reginald Edward Willison MC; Lt Leopold Bull MC (died of wounds received in action 7 April 1918); Lt Reginald Eric Daton Palmer (died of illness 4 December 1918); Lt Donald Murchison Sandral; Lt Charles Edward Palstra; Lt Albert Victor James MM; Lt Sydney Albert Latimer; Lt Arthur Phillip Percival Kemp MC; Lt Percy Chaster Brearley. Front row: Lt James Picken Cowey MC; Lt Frank Osborne Cameron; Captain (Capt) George Eric Milne MC (died of wounds received in action 5 April 1918); Major Ernest Samuel Davis; Temporary Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Cedric Ford DSO; Capt George Stanley Vanstan MC; Lt Thomas Garden Carter MC; Lt Leonard Lutterell Coulson MM; Capt Donald Barclay Payne MC; Capt Frank Elliott Trenoweth True MC.


He was wounded in France in July 1918 and sent to England where he married Emily Maidment at Withycombe, Somerset on 30 April 1919. Six months earlier he had written to the authorities to say he intended to settle in England after his marriage, but towards the end of 1919, he and Emily sailed for Australia.

Percy and Emily Brearley settled in Gaffney Street, Pascoe Vale and from 1930 until 1936 he served as a Coburg Councillor and was Mayor in 1933-34. According to one newspaper report he was the first returned serviceman to be appointed Mayor of Coburg.

Percy Chaster Brearley, c1930s. Image 17294. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

In September 1935, the Brearleys and their daughter Erica (born c1921) left Melbourne for Adelaide where Percy worked in the Commonwealth Audit Office for several years. 

In the 1940s, the family moved to the United States where they lived in Manhattan for a decade. They were frequent visitors to the United Kingdom over the years and it is there that their daughter Erica married and lived until her death in 1977.

Emily and Percy Brearley returned to Australia to live in Sandringham. Percy died in 1957 aged 67. His wife returned to England and died in Yorkshire in 1989 aged 93, having outlived her husband and her daughter.

Although the Brearley family lived in Coburg for only a decade, they contributed to the community through their civic work in the 1930s, a period of unemployment and great distress. Together with the Town Clerk, F.W. Shore, Percy Brearley organised numerous carnivals and other events to raise funds to support Coburg's unemployed.



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