CourBritt Genes

…an overview of my family history

World War 1

Some members of the family who fought in World War 1…

Britton, George
Britton, Sydney Melbourne
Britton, Walter
Campbell, James Foster
Campbell, John Maxwell
Campbell, William Argyle
Courtney, Allan Henry Ellis
Courtney, Robert William
Courtney, William Boomer
Coysh, William George
Edwards, William Stafford
Hill, Clement Archibald William
Keat, Percival (Percy)
Kerslake, Basil
McMillan, Neil Archibald
O’Beirne, John Bede
Onslow, Joseph Brisbane
Paton, Thomas Allan
Waterson, Thomas

George Britton

1st Cousin 3x Removed (son of 2nd Great Granduncle Sydney Britton and Charlotte Melbourne)

George was born 1888, Yackandandah, Victoria.  He enlisted aged 22 years and 8 months on 21 January 1916, at Wangaratta, Victoria.  His occupation was a Labourer.  George was discharged on 5 September 1919.

George embarked Melbourne, Victoria on board the HMAT A60 Aeneas on 8 April 1916.  His rank was a Sapper.  His unit was the 2nd Pioneer Battalion.

Yackandandah Times, Thursday 3 October 1918, pg2
Mr S Britton, of Bell’s Flat, Yackandandah, has received an official communication from Capt. Patterson, of the 2nd Australian Pioneer Battalion, as follows: “The Commanding Officer has directed me to advise that the name of Pte G Britton has been published in the Routine Orders of this battalion, for good work done by him of late, and in forwarding this note to you he wishes to express his appreciation of this man’s services with this battalion.”

Sydney Melbourne Britton

1st Cousin 3 x removed (son of Sydney Britton, 2nd Great Grand Uncle, and Charlotte Melbourne)

Sydney was born in 1890, Yackandandah, Victoria.  He enlisted on 7 March 1916, aged 26, with the 37th Battalion, D Company. His occupation was a Farmer. Next of kin was his father, Sydney Britton, Yackandandah, Victoria. Sydney embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A34 “Persia?”, 3 June 1916, 2nd Pioneer Battalion. He returned to Australia, 4 June 1919. Family/military connections Brother: 1663 Sapper George Britton, 2nd Pioneer Battalion, returned to Australia, 29 May 1919.

Walter Britton

1st Cousin 3 x removed (son of Thomas John Britton, 2nd Great Uncle, and Elizabeth Grealy)

Walter was born in 1893, Yackandandah, Victoria.

Enlisted 26 July 1915, aged 21 years and 9 months, with the 15th Reinforcement, 7th Battalion. His occupation was a Labourer. Next of kin was his father, Thomas John Britton, Yackandandah, Victoria. Walter was discharged prior to leaving Australia. Sadly, he died aged 30, Yackandandah, Victoria.

James Foster Campbell

Granduncle (son of Great Grandmother Rosetta Jane Foster and her first husband John Campbell)

James Foster Campbell

James was born in September 1888, Mitta Mitta, Victoria.

He enlisted on 28 October 1916. James was 29 and 6 months years of age. His occupation was a Sleeper Cutter.  His next of kin was his Mother – Rosetta Courtney, of Tallangatta, Victoria.

James embarked on 24 January 1917 on board the “Anchises”, from Sydney, NSW with the 34th Battalion, 7th reinforcement. He proceeded overseas to France via Folkstone on 12 October 1917, from the Machine Gun Training Depot.  James joined the 11th Machine Gun Company (Field) on 27 October 1917.  Was with the 3rd Machine Gun Company on 29 June 1918 when he was taken to hospital with influenza.  He rejoined his unit on 6 July 1918.

On 9 October 1918 James proceeded on leave (after the death of his brother, John Maxwell, on 5 October 1918?). He rejoined his unit from leave on 17 November 1918.  On 2 January 1919 he detached from the unit to join the Cookery School at Etaples, France.  On 20 May 1919 he was detached from the 3rd Machine Gun Company to ABD HQ.

On 27 August 1919, he married Jeannie Keilty Foster, Parish Church, Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland.  Jeannie’s parents were *Joseph Foster and Rachel Keilty.  [*Joseph Foster was a second cousin to JAMES FOSTER, born June 1841, County Antrim, Ireland].

James was transferred to Headquarters in London on 22 September 1919, and proceeded on indefinite leave awaiting family ship.  He returned to Australia on board the “Bahia Castillo”, 17 April 1920.

John Maxwell Campbell

Granduncle (son of Great Grandmother Rosetta Jane Foster and her first husband, John Campbell)

John was born on 18 June 1898, Mitta Mitta, Victoria, Australia.  He died on 5 October 1918, Montbrehain, Aisne, Picardie, France, on the day the 21st and 24th Infantry Battalions took the village of Montbrehain.  He was 20.

John enlisted on 27 March 1918. He was 19 years and 7 months. His occupation was a Labourer. He was Single. His next of kin is named as Mother: Rosetta J Courtney, Tallangatta, Victoria; Father: Deceased. His brother, Sgt. James Foster Campbell, was still abroad.

He embarked on board the “Euripides”, from Sydney, 1 May 1918.  On 15 June 1918 he was transferred to “HMS Tentonie”.  On 3 July 1918 he was with the 5th Training Battalion in England.  He proceeded overseas on board the “Rovant” on 21 September 1918.  Marched out to the 24th Battalion on 28 September 1918. Killed in action on 5 October 1918, Montbrehain. – Like many AIF battalions, the 24th was very weak at the beginning of 1918 … The battalion’s last battles of the war were at Beaurevoir on 3 October and Montbrehain on 5 October.

MELBOURNE CEMETERY, MONTBREHAIN, on the South side of the Montbrehain-Ramicourt road, containing the graves of 15 Australian soldiers (13 of whom belonged to the 24th Battalion, from Victoria,) who fell on the 5th October, 1918. [Commonwealth War Graves Commission].


In Memory of
51331, 24th Bn., Australian Infantry, A.I.F.
who died age 20
on 05 October 1918
Son of John and Rosetta J. Campbell, of Tallangatta, Victoria, Australia.
Remembered with honour

Burial Place - John Maxwell Campbell

In December 1918, Rosetta returned letters she had received after John was reported missing.

John Maxwell Campbell23

“Dear Sir, I am forwarding the letters of my son’s, which I received after it was verified of his being missing.  We have not received any mail now for some weeks from France. I am looking forward to get some news of my poor boy as his brother is also in France. If I should get any word before you are notified, I will let you know. I am yours respectfully, Rosetta J Courtney.”

Ballarat Courier, Monday 2 December 1918, pg4
“MISSING – Pte Campbell J M, Tallangatta …”

William Argyle Campbell

1st Cousin 3 x removed (son of John Lang Campbell and Jane Edwards, 2nd Great Grand Aunt)

William was born in 1894, Flemington, Victoria.

He was born in Flemington, Victoria but attended the Kalgoorlie Central School, West Leederville, Clarement, Western Australia. He enlisted on 5 January 1917, at the age of 22, with the Railway Unit, Section 3. He was Single, and his occupation was a Clerk. His next of kin was his father, John Campbell, Trahalda, Princess Road, Claremont, Western Australia.

William embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board the HMAT A28 “Miltiades” on 29 January 1917. He died 11 November 1918, from pneumonia, Duston War Hospital, Northampton, England.

In Memory of
1007, 5th Coy., Australian Engineers
who died age 24
on 11 November 1918
Son of John Lang and Jane Campbell, of “Trahalda,” Princess Rd., Claremont, Western Australia. Born at Flemington, Victoria.
Remembered with honour

Allan Henry Ellis Courtney

2nd Cousin 1 x removed (son of John Henry Courtney, son of Great Grand Uncle, and Mary Ellis)

Allan was born on 20 August 1891, Mitta Mitta, Victoria.

He enlisted on 21 February 1916, at the age of 24 years and 6 months. His occupation was a Farmer. His next of kin was his Father, John Henry Courtney, Golden Bower Mine, Marysville, Victoria. Allan enlisted with the 13th Light Horse Regiment, 12th Reinforcement, and embarked with the Unit, from Melbourne, Victoria, 20 October 1916 on board the HMAT A30 “Borda”.  He transferred to the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade and died of pneumonia at the Inverness Military Hospital, Scotland on 6 December 1918.  He was 27. Allan is buried at the Inverness (Tomnahurich) Cemetery, Scotland.

“Argus”, Wednesday 18 December 1918, pg. 1:
COURTNEY – On the 5th December, at Inverness Military Hospital, Scotland, of pneumonia, Driver Allan Henry Ellis, dearly loved eldest grandson of Mrs S? Ellis, “Millbrook”, Tallandoon, loved nephew of Mr & Mrs Frank Treyrand?, East Malvern.

COURTNEY – At Inverness Military Hospital, Scotland, of pneumonia, Driver Allan Henry Ellis, much loved brother of D & M McCann, and loving uncle of little Lyndon, Drummond State School.

Robert William Courtney

Granduncle (son of Robert Wesley Courtney, Great Grandfather, and his first wife Sarah Todd)

Robert was born on 23 April 1876, Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland.

Robert enlisted 9 March 1916. His occupation was a Farmer. His rank on Enlistment was a Gunner, Medium Trench Mortar Battery Reinforcement 1.  The Unit embarked from Sydney, NSW on board “HMAT A47 Mashobra” on 14 September 1916; Rank – Driver; Unit from Nominal Roll 1st Divisional Ammunition Column.

He disembarked in Plymouth, England on 2 November 1916; and marched into No 3 Training Camp, Parkhouse, 2 November 1916.  Robert proceeded overseas to France via Folkestone, 29 March 1917; and marched into the Australian General Base Depot, Etaples, France, 31 March 1917.  He was taken on strength with the 1st Divisional Ammunition Corps, Field on 27 April 1917; and mustered to Driver, 3 September 1917.  He was appointed Acting Bombardier to complete establishment on 16 December 1917.  Robert marched out for return to Australia on 11 April 1919, and commenced his return to Australia from Devonport on board HT “Port Sydney”, 22 September 1919.  He disembarked in Melbourne on 12 November 1919, and was discharged from Sydney on 28 December 1919.

William Boomer Courtney

1st Cousin 2 x removed (son of Joseph Courtney, Great Grand Uncle, and Mary Jane Boomer)

William was born on 18 August 1878*, Belfast, Antrim, Ireland and died 30 October 1917, 5 1/4 miles from Ypres, Belgium.

*World War 1 records state birth as 18 August 1880.

In the 1901 Ireland Census, William was residing in Pottinger, County Down.  He was aged 22, and a Book keeper.  His father Joseph was 50?, and a Bread Server; his stepmother, Elizabeth, was 38; siblings were Margaret Woods (16); Ann McKee (20), both Dressmakers; Francis Robert (3); Edward Neill (7); Thomas Woods (9); James Todd (10), all at school; and John (24) and Joseph (18), both Clerks.

On 6 April 1906 William arrived in Canada on board the “Tunisian” along with brother John William Courtney –

John Courtney (29), William B Courtney (27), both Farmers?, from County Antrim to Winnipeg.

William enlisted on 29 April 1916 with the 231st Overseas Battalion C.E.F.*  He enlisted age 35 years.  His occupation was a Clerk.  William names his father, Joseph Courtney, of 38 Castlereagh Place, Belfast, Ireland, as his next-of-kin.  He was not married.  William stood 5 feet and 7 and a half inches tall.  He was of fair complexion, had blue eyes, and brown hair.  At the time of enlistment he was residing at 1856, 8th Avenue, West Vancouver, Canada.

*The 231st Battalion, CEF was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the unit began recruiting in early 1916 in that city and the surrounding district. The 231st Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), CEF was authorized on 15 July 1916 and embarked for Britain on 11 April 1917, where, on 22 April 1917, its personnel were absorbed by the **24th Reserve Battalion, CEF to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. The battalion disbanded on 11 April 1918.  **The 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles), CEF, was authorized on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Great Britain on 11 May 1915, arriving in France on 16 September 1915, where it fought as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The 24th Battalion was disbanded on 15 September 1920.

When William was killed he was serving with the Canadian Infantry, 72nd Battalion Company*. He died aged 38, 30 October 1917, Ypres, and was buried at the Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium. Son of Joseph Courtney and Mary Jane Boomer (his wife) of Belfast, Ireland. Brother of John. Step-son of Elizabeth Courtney of Newtownards, County Down, Ireland.

*The 72nd Battalion (Seaforth Highlanders of Canada), CEF was authorized on 10 July 1915 and embarked for Britain on 23 April 1916. It disembarked in France on 13 August 1916, where it fought as part of the 12th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion disbanded on 30 August 1920.

The 4th Canadian Division was formed in the Britain in April 1916 from several existing units and others scheduled to arrive shortly thereafter. Under the command of Major-General David Watson, the Division embarked for France in August of that year where they served both in France and in Flanders until Armistice Day. The 4th Canadian Division was a part of the Canadian Corps in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which attacked and defeated the Germans, driving them from the ridge. As a result the Canadians became known as masters of offensive warfare and an elite fighting force.

In the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the 4th Canadian Division was given the job of capturing Hill 145, the highest and most important feature of Vimy Ridge. However, when they attempted to capture the hill, they were hampered by fire from the “Pimple”, which was the other prominent height at Vimy Ridge. To capture Hill 145, forces which were supposed to attack the Pimple were redeployed and captured Hill 145.

William Boomer Courtney war grave

William George Coysh

1st Cousin 3 x removed (son of George Coysh, son of 3rd Great Grandfather, and Anna Elizabeth Catherine Klippel)

William was born on 7 June 1894, Cudgewa, Victoria.

He was 21 on enlistment, 13 September 1915. He was Single, and his occupation was a Sadler. His next of kin was his mother, Mrs Annie Coysh, Cudgewa, Victoria. William embarked, 22 December 1915, on board the HMAT A23 “Suffolk”, from Sydney, NSW, with the rank of Driver, 7th Field Company Engineers. He returned to Australia, 4 June 1919.

William Stafford Edwards

Great Granduncle (son of William Stafford Edwards, 2nd Great Grandfather, and Margaret Stewart Fleming)

William was born on 28 October 1894, Guildford, Victoria.

He enlisted, aged 20 years and 9 months, on 10 November 1915, Melbourne, Victoria and was a Private with the 22nd Battalion, 7th Reinforcement. His occupation at the time was a Porter (Railways). His next of kin was William Stafford Edwards, Father, of Jumbunna, Victoria. The Unit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board the “HMAT A73 Commonwealth” on 26 November 1915. He returned to Australia, 19 October 1918, with the 5th Pioneer Battalion.

Joined the 57th Bn in Egypt, 23 February 1916; transferred to 5th Pioneer Bn, Tel-el-Kebir, 4 March 1916. Embarked from Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force, 19 June 1916; disembarked Marseilles, France, 25 June 1916.

Wounded in action (mustard gas), 17 April 1918; transferred to England, 21 April 1918, and admitted to Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Southampton, 22 April 1918. Transferred to 3rd Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, 14 June 1918. Discharged to No. Command Depot, Hurdcott, 17 June 1918. Admitted to Brigade Hospital, Hurdcott, 28 June 1918 (influenza); discharged to No. 2 Command Depot, Weymouth, 21 August 1918.

Commenced return to Australia on board ‘Sardinia’, 19 October 1918; disembarked Melbourne, 27 December 1918; discharged (invalid), Melbourne, 20 February 1919.

Clement Archibald William Hill

1st cousin 3 x removed (son of Emily Collins and Archibald Hill; Emily was a sister of 2nd Great Grandmother, Frances Collins)

Clement was born 1888, Corryong, Victoria.

He enlisted on 13 March 1916, with the 37th Battalion, D Company.  Clement was 27, Single, and a Labourer.  He was residing at Corryong, Victoria.

Clement moved out on 3 June 1916, with the 39th Battalion.  He was discharged on 22 September 1919.

Percival (Percy) Keat

1st cousin 3 x removed (son of Henry Keat and Charlotte Emily Onslow, sister of 2nd Great Grandmother, Eliza Josephine Onslow)

Percy was born 1892, Dederang, Victoria. He enlisted on 4 November 1914 at the age of 23.  He was single, and his occupation was a Grocer.  On enlistment his unit was the 5th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements.  Percy embarked on 2 February 1915 on board the HMAT A46 “Clan Macgillivray”.

He was killed in action on 8 May 1916, at Fleurbaix, France (during the battle of Fromelles).  Percy was buried May 1916, Departement du Pas-de-Calais, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.

Letters sent by Percy back home:

Yackandandah Times, Thursday 20 May 1915, pg2
With the Australian Troops.
Mena Camp, March 16, 1915.

I am writing a few lines to let you know we are in Egypt. We landed at Alexandra on the 7th, having been just a little over five week on the water. There were five boats, one with Infantry and four with Light-Horse on board. We did not feel too safe either, as were had no escort and our boats we not armed. I was glad to get off the boat, as we were overcrowded, having eleven hundred (1100) on board. Before leaving the boat each man had one tin of preserved meat, containing 1½lbs, and 28 biscuits given to him, and we had to do on this for two days. During those two days we had to unload tons of oats, chaff and lucerne from Egyptian trains which mostly arrived at night, so we had very little to eat and less sleep.

The English Imperial Officers treat the Australians very lightly. England has a standing army at first camp we went to (Abbesiah) and some of the finest houses there are held for soldiers’ barracks. We have no English officers at this camp; they are all our own. The Tommies call us the Pantomime Army, and consider we are not wanted.

There are beautiful lands here under cultivation, growing very good crops at present, all due to irrigation from the Nile, which is carried on in the most old fashioned and amusing style. The water is hauled from the channels to the crops by a wooden wheel, which is working after the style of a horse works for a chaffcutter, only a donkey or a mule works it. A horse is very seldom seen on a farm. Working on a wheel is a chain of’ bottle or old fashioned flagons; these dip into the channel as they go down and empty as they come to the top. I even saw the Egyptian plough with a camel and a donkey pulling it. Their ploughs are the same old fashioned piece of wood as was used a hundred years ago. Strange to say there no up-to-date farms among all the people; every man is like his neighbour. They do not live on their own farm but in small villages built of mud. The houses are a little bigger than dog-kennels and in a most filthy state. Donkeys, dogs, sheep and cattle all live together with their masters. We travelled for a full day in the train, the scene never changed on both sides. As far as the eye could see on the plains every square foot seemed to be cultivated, yet we saw not a fence to divide the farms. Each man shepherds his own flock. I had no idea there was such good country in Egypt; even in the desert, where the water is thrown on the sand, the grain from the horse feed is growing fine. There is not the slightest doubt the sea once covered these deserts, because as we went to the Pyramids we picked up numbers of sea shells from the sand.

We bog over our boot tops in fine sand here, which is very tiresome on a five mile march. We have full and plenty to eat here which is saying a lot; have no idea of the horses that are here. This army must have cost the Government a little fortune. Cairo is the oldest and most filthy city I ever sat foot in. The inhabitants are dirty and disgusting, the streets are filthy and the houses are merely tumbling down. There is every race of people on the face of the earth in Cairo, but the hardest to find is an Englishman. Some of the boys today received an ‘Age’ and we were much amused to read the account of the Australians under fire at Suez. As a matter of fact the Australians were not in the fight at all. It was done by the Indians, Egyptians and New Zealanders. This will give you an idea how reliable the war news is you get in the papers. I do believe that a small party of our engineers were there, also two of our Infantry Battalions; but they were held back in the rear for reserve. They said themselves that they never fired a shot, and were never under fire. The was placed on the notice board but the lads soon tore it down.  PERCIVAL KEAT, Of Gundowring.

Yackandandah Times, Thursday 16 September 1915, pg2
Letter from the Front.

The following is a letter from Private Percy Keat of Gundowring, dated 22nd May, 1915: —In writing to Mr L. Smith he says — I have been without notepaper since we landed in Turkey, just a month to-day. We landed at dawn under heavy firing from artillery and guns. I will not forget it for a long time, nor shall I wish to go through it again. We got a hot reception on the beach, but the Turks fled at the point of our bayonet.

We are now well established on Gallipoli in two positions, and the Turks can never hope to drive us out again. At one position we have advanced five miles from our landing, taking the full width of the peninsula. However, there is a great deal to be done yet, but we will lose less men in future. Our artillery is very much better than the enemy’s and much more effective. I am resting on board a transport in a snug little spot in the Mediterranean, one of the prettiest little spots I have seen, with green fields and hills, a place one reads of and sees in pictures. After three weeks in the trenches, under shrapnel day and night I appreciate the rest we I are having. We are on board a very fine boat, and I am living up to it.

Yesterday we had the sporting pleasure of being chased by a submarine, an experience not to be envied considering that our vessel was loaded to the scuppers with ammunition, high explosives and sundry gun fodder. We were on our road from Turkey at the time. Only very recently this submersive has put in an appearance, and so far has done no harm. The number of our warships here is amazing, and their material help in operations is important. The Turks have a mortal dread of the Australians and will sooner surrender to the English. We are called the White Gurkas. We have one deserter from the Turks on board, who is giving us some good information if it can be relied upon. There are plenty of troops, and we who landed first can now retire for a while; what is left of us.

When in the trenches it is the usual thing when we have a few minutes’ rest at night to be rudely awakened by the sentry: ‘Turks advancing with fixed bayonets, stand to arms!’ Sounds nice, doesn’t. However, we are hardened to it. A little thing happened the other night while our sergeant-major was asleep in his dug-out. We got a shell from the Turks, and it landed where he slept, and all we found was one of his legs. (Since receiving this letter Mrs Keat has received word that her son had been wounded).

Yackandandah Times, Thursday 29 June 1916, pg2
With the A.LF. 
Private Percy Keat writes to us from France under date 25th April (Anzac Day). News has since been received of his death.

Once more I have found a few moments to correspond. I do not know that it is necessary to explain or offer plausible excuses for the past delay. All correspondence has been withheld for a period of something like six weeks since I last wrote. .Then as for the rest of the time, well one never gets too many comfortable moments to excogitate an epistle that may become interesting. I could with ease become communicative, but here once more there is the ever-present thought of an expectant censor, under whose wise surveillance our letters are likely to come. We find after the sands of the deserts in the land of Pharoah a change that I cannot say we appreciate in the mud of Flanders. Weather conditions prevail that are anything but pleasant. In fact no one here seems to have control of the weather affairs. I suppose the weather clerk has been gassed by the Germans. Sometimes we get two fine days in fourteen. A few thousand men walking to and fro soon cause the place to become a bog. The cold has also been very severe. We are not under canvas but in billets, which are as comfortable as rats and vermin will allow. The rats in our billets and trenches are peculiarly fine specimens, to say nothing of the other creatures.

There still remains in the danger zone a great number of inhabitants, chiefly old men, women and children. I observed only today as in enemy shelled our village a farmer ploughing in a field near by with a stoic placidity that was remarkable. Little children play in the streets and fields quite unconscious of the danger that overhangs them. The roads are in need of repair badly, and the worst places are mostly repaired by our soldiers. The country shows everywhere the wastage of war, and is practically paralysed. Many of the best houses are closed, and the ubiquitous sparrows build their nests everywhere in the shuttered windows. The people are clean and amicable, but we have what is known as “spy-fever.” Therefore everyone has to be regarded with friendly suspicion. Nevertheless, we are at home with them – Coffee, eggs and other items are to be had from most houses for reasonable prices. The money which is mostly paper is easily earned, and the people as regards this are very honest. There being no inclination to cheat the stranger as was the case in Egypt. We have here amongst the cream of the German secret service, and some very remarkable stories come to hand, but unfortunately l must remain uncommunicative on this point.

Springtime is heralded by the green tints appearing on the many hedges and elm groves. The country here is apparently on a dead level, consequently the drainage is bad. Fences are seen but rarely, and the numerous holdings are divided by canals, ditches and hedges. The canals are also in need of attention, a great amount of debris having collected in them, thus affecting the drainage of the land as well as the sanitation of the billeted areas. Wines are very cheap and plentiful. The soldier’s water bottle is often filled with champagne for the small cost of four francs or about five shillings. They hold a quart, so it comes cheap. Good beer is to be had for two pence par glass. Everywhere are to be found drinking houses. In fact the ordinary peasant announces, in his window that vin and biere (wine and beer) are for sale. Owing to the interdiction of the military they are only allowed to sell to the troops during certain hours.

The conduct of the men up-to-date has been everything to be desired. The mails come to hand very regularly, letters from home arriving on good time. We see plenty of aircraft work, both with our machines and the enemy’s. The shooting of hostile aircraft affords keen interest to most of the boys. So far I have witnessed the bringing down of one enemy machine only. The wing of a Taube being shot away it came to earth behind our lines from a great height. Aeroplanes are more plentiful here than birds, and. many air duels are fought the hours of daylight.

To-day is the anniversary of Anzac Day . Consequently we are celebrating it. A free issue of beer is on, the result of which the troops are tonight somewhat hilarious. We had a three-course dinner at 4 o’clock. It consisted of tea, boiled meat (without salt), preserved fruits and rice. There is sure to be a big sick parade after this. Time draws on, and the sound of bacchanalian revellers wending their way towards the billets reminds me that the time for tatoo report is near at hand. Therefore I close.

Albury Banner and Wodonga Express, Friday 2 June 1916, pg7
GUNDOWRING – On May 20 Mr and Mrs H Keat, of Gundowring, received the sad news that their son, Percy, had been killed in action, in France.  He was one of the first to enlist from the district, and left with one of the first divisions for Egypt, and from there to the Dardanelles, fighting through all that terrible time.  He was born and reared in the district and was universally liked, being of a very cheery disposition, and taking part in any of the local entertainments.

Basil Kerslake

1st Cousin 2 x removed of husband (son of William Kerslake and Selina Penelope Crooks)

Basil was born on 27 November 1894, Launceston, Tasmania and died 5 August 1916, in the Middle East.

Basil enlisted on 10 September 1914.  He was 20. His occupation was a Reporter. Next of kin was his Mother, Mrs S P Kerslake, 14 Law Street, Launceston, Tasmania. He embarked on board the “HMAT A36 Thirty Six” on 21 December 1914, from Newcastle, New South Wales, with the 3rd Light Horse Regiment, 1st Reinforcement. He died of wounds, 5 August 1916, aged 21.

Examiner, Saturday 7 August 1915, pg7 –
Notice that Trooper Basil Kerslake had fallen ill on embarkation at Malta, 28 July 1915.
Mr S P Kerslake, of Law Street, Launceston, received a telegram from the Secretary of Defence on Thursday evening, stating that her son, Trooper Basil Kerslake (of the “Examiner” reporting staff) was suffering from slight sickness.  He had disembarked at Malta on July 28.

Examiner, Wednesday 29 March 1916, pg7
Writing from the “Egyptian Wilderness” on ‘February 8, Trooper Basil Kerslake, a member of the “Examiner” staff, who is with the Light Horse, says:

The heading above gives very little indication of our whereabouts. This is as it should be, for the censorship of letters is still very strict, and prevents us from writing any detailed account of operations. Our regiment was on Gallipoli Peninsula for seven months. For the first four we were in the firing line on Popes Hill and Quinns Post. Both of these positions were at that time the centre of nearly all the Turkish attacks, and Quinns Post was reckoned one of the ‘”hottest little corners” on the Peninsula.

It was there that the 15th Infantry fought so valiantly, and suffered so heavily, and it was there that the 2nd Light Horse made their notorious hopeless charge in early August. We supported the second on that day, having been too weakened (by casualties and sickness) to undertake the charge ourselves. On the same day the 1st Light Horse Regiment charged from Popes Hill, so that the 1st Brigade was well represented in the advance.

During the last three months of our sojourn on Gallipoli we were stationed at Destroyer Hill, and our work consisted mainly of outposts, cossack posts, and patrols. An outpost consisted of a party of men stationed in an advanced trench. A cossack post consisted of men, who had to go out in front of our firing line at dark for a hundred yards or so, and station themselves there until dawn. The patrol, in order not to be unnecessarily impeded, were armed only with a revolver and two bombs. Their task was a very arduous one. They worked in the bitter cold close up to the enemy outpost, and for twelve hours they had to keep continuously on the alert. As their nerves were at the highest tension during that time, they were naturally pretty well “done up” when dawn broke.

Doubtless the particulars of the evacuation of Anzac have reached Tasmania before now. So remarkably well were the operations carried out, that we ourselves did not know of them until we had almost completed them. The various units were taken to Lemnos for a “spell,” and it was not until we saw brigade after brigade, and regiment on regiment, landing for that “spell,” that we realised what was “in the wind.” Sometime previous to the evacuation the Turks had been treated by us to three days of silence, and things were worked in such a manner that the enemy could not have been aware of what was happening until the very last.

The 1st Brigade did not remain long on Lemnos, but were brought onto Egypt, and despatched to the western frontier to suppress a Senusal rising. Although our regiment had been seven months dismounted, we were only in camp a few days before we had reorganised, and started on the roving desert life we now lead.

Day after day we were in the saddle from dawn to dusk, and although 50 have come to a standstill now for a day or two; we are liable any moment to “mount and away.” We lead just such a roving life as the native inhabitants of these great sandy wastes. The strictness of the censorship does not allow me to give a detailed account of our operations, but as for the most part we can look north, south, east,-or west, and see nothing but vast undulating plains of gleaming sand, it can be understood that the life we lead does not need much description. When we are not on the move, our nights are pretty well taken up with outposts, patrols, etc., and the lonely, silent rides these duties necessitate cause each man to get quite used to his own company. Of course, the foe we are up against does everything with lightning speed, so we are never for a moment unarmed. Waking or sleeping, our arms and equipment are always within easy reach. If we are well sinking our rifles are piled beside us. Sleeping, they are at our sides. Camel driving they are slung across our shoulders. Our horses and saddlery, too, are always kept in a state of absolute readiness, and in case of alarm we can be mounted and into action in a few minutes.

Except for occasional bursts of excitement in the way of alarms, etc., our life is very monotonous. We are generally on the move, but the country traversed contains no vestige of variety, and to’ use a Kipling phrase, “Every bloomin’ campin’ ground’s exactly like the last.” There is no one like a soldier for adapting himself to circumstances, so what would be generally thought a “dreary monotone”, is to us a more or less pleasant quietness. The lazy Egyptian sunshine has its advantages, especially when one gets accustomed to solitude; and sitting loosely in the saddle with a pipe between one’s teeth.

It is pleasant to ride and drone away the day in cogitation. “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,” a trooper soon gets to value the company of his horse, and there is a sort of allinity? between them, which is not present under ordinary circumstances. No man who has eaten his midday ration alone on the desert will ever forget the shimmering heat that can be seen as well as felt, and the intense silence that is broken only by the rhythmic munch, munch of his horse beside him. It is when a Light Horseman is lying thus, “lost in languor” that Australia and the folk at home get their full share of attention in his thoughts.

The Mercury, Tuesday 17 October 1916, pg6:
Mrs S P Kerslake, Launceston, yesterday received official advice that her son, Trooper Basil Kerslake, Light Horse, died of wounds on August 5. At the time of enlisting the deceased was a member of the “Examiner” literary staff. He joined the forces shortly after the outbreak of the war, and saw service in the Soudan and at Gallipoli. After the evacuation of Gallipoli he went back to Egypt, and was in the great battle of El Romani, wherein he received wounds from which he died the next day. Trooper Kerslake was in his early twenties, and full of enthusiasm. He had the chance of being engaged as official shorthand writer on the Headquarters Staff, but preferred to go on active service.

Basil’s death was reported in the North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times, Tuesday 17 October 1916, pg3:

Word has been received by Mr W C Kerslake, of Burnie, to the effect that his brother, Trooper Basil Kerslake, of the 3rd Light Horse, has succumbed to a wound in the stomach, received in the battle of Romani early in August, his death occurring on August 5. Lieut. Griffen?, of Whitefound? Hills, who took part in the engagement, described the conduct of the young soldier as magnificent. “Nothing”, he said, “troubled him, and when he got hit he showed real grit”.

When war broke out Trooper Kerslake volunteered, but was rejected on account of his height, he was accepted for the ??? contingent, and eventually became attached to the 3rd Light Horse. He was then only 19 years of age. For seven months he went through the hardships of Gallipoli, and was twice stricken down with fever. He was ordered to be invalided home to recover on the second occasion, but at his request, this order was cancelled. Previous to this he was attached to the Headquarters Staff, but could not resist the temptation of the front line and was transferred. A returned soldier speaking of him declared that he was one of the best soldiers that had left Tasmania. He was a son of Mrs S P Kerslake, of Launceston, and a brother also of Mr G Kerslake, of Devonport. Educated at the Launceston High School, he was a school mate of the late Captain Irne? Margetts and Sergt. George Challis.

Neil Archibald McMillan

2nd Cousin 2x removed (son of William McMillan and Martha Jane McKibbin (who was the daughter of Mary Ann Magee and her husband Robert McKibbin.  Mary was a sister to my 2nd Great Grandmother, Agnes Magee)

Neil was born in 1887, Myrtleford, Victoria.  He was killed in action on 10 June 1918, at Villers Bretonneux, France.

He enlisted on 7 December 1915, aged 28, with the 49th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement.  He embarked from Brisbane, Queensland on board the HMAT A49 “Seang Choon”, 19 September 1916.  Neil’s occupation on enlistment was a Billard Maker.  His address was in Warwick, Queensland.

War Grave Register notes state: Private Neil Archibald McMillan, killed in action on 10 June 1918.  Son of William and Martha McMillan, husband of Poppy McMillan, of Stanthorpe, Queensland.  Born in Victoria.  Unit: 49th Battalion, Australian Infantry.

Neil was buried at the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery (Vaux-sur-somme C.C.E. Memorial 6), Fouilloy, France.  Australian War Memorial – Commemorated on: Panel 148.

Notes from Red Cross state: On June 1918, in the trenches at a village near Villers Bretonneux, the Germans were shelling and a shell dropped in the trench killing McMillan and another man, named H G Jones, instantly.  McMillan was hit on the head.  I was only a few years away at the time and saw McMillan and Jones both lying dead in the trench.  I cannot say where the bodies were buried, but they were taken out of the trench.  The ground was held.  There was another man of the same name in the battalion.  Description: About 5ft 6ins, fair complexion.  Called him “Mac”.  Informant was Pte James Mcdonald (reliable and intelligent), 49th Battn, D Coy, 15 Platoon, Monyhall Section, 1st SG Hospital, Birmingham.

John Bede O’Beirne

Maternal Grandfather of Husband (son of James O’Beirne and Anne Theresa Fitzpatrick)

A young John Bede O'Beirne
A young John Bede O’Beirne

John was born on 12 March 1893, Franklin, Tasmania.

He enlisted on 7 June 1916. He was aged 23 years and 1 month. His occupation was a Motor Driver (Chauffeur, Parliament House, Hobart). He was Single. Next of kin was his mother, Mrs Annie O’Beirne, of 130 Melville Street, Hobart, Tasmania.

John’s Unit on enlistment, 17 June 1916, was the 40th Battalion, C Company. He was a Private.  John embarked from Hobart, Tasmania, on board the “HMAT A35 Berrima” on 1 July 1916.  He proceeded overseas to France on 23 November 1916.  After several bouts of illness, he was wounded in action on 12 October 1917, receiving gun shot wounds to the back, left thigh, and a compound fracture to the right arm.  John embarked on board the “Princess Elizabeth” to East Leeds War Hospital on 21 October 1917.  He returned to Australia on 30 January 1918 and was discharged from the 40th Battalion on 24 March 1918.

Pt J O'Beirne - WW1 - 1917

[Excellent website on the 40th battalion –

…On the 12th October the attack was renewed, the 3rd Australian Division continuing the attack from the ground won on the 4th October, as the 66th Division had failed to advance the line in their attack on the 9th October. From the 4th October till the 12th October heavy rain had fallen almost continuously, and the Ypres battlefield was a sodden waste of mud.

Huon Times, Friday 16 November 1917, pg2
Franklinite Wounded
Mrs A O’Beirne, of Melville Street, Hobart, and formerly of Franklin, has been officially notified that her son, Private J B O’Beirne has been wounded in France. Private O’Beirne was well-known in musical circles, having been a member of the Franklin brass band, and his many friends will join in wishing him a speedy recovery.

Huon Times, Friday 1 March 1918, pg2
Returning Soldier
Among the names on the list just issued of returning soldiers who are now on the homeward journey appears that of Private J B O’Beirne of the 40th Battalion, a one time resident of Franklin. Private O’Beirne was seriously wounded in France, his injuries being caused by shrapnel to the head and right arm. After some months in hospital in England, Private O’Beirne is now sufficiently recovered from his wounds to undertake the voyage home. Although at latest advice his arm had not recovered its use, his many friends will wish him a speedy and complete recovery.

Joseph Brisbane Onslow

2nd Great Granduncle (son of Joseph Onslow, 3rd Great Grandfather, and Mary Ann Wade)

Joseph Brisbane Onslow

Joseph was born on 11 September 1877, Gundowring, Victoria.

He enlisted on 8 January 1915, aged 34 years and 3 months. His occupation was a Labourer (Farmer). Next of Kin was named as Kate Turner, Park Street, Kalgoorlie, WA. His Unit was the 10th Light Horse Regiment*, 4th Reinforcement.


He served in Malta, Gallipoli, 22 May 1915, and was wounded at Walker’s Ridge*, July 1915. Declared medically unit, 16 July 1917, and embarked from England for Australia on 8 October 1915.  He was discharged on 15 August 1916.

*…The ridge led down to the sea in only two places – at either end of the semicircle – by the steep slopes of Plugge’s [Plateau] on the right, and by a tortuous spur (afterwards known as Walker’s Ridge) on the left. –

Thomas Allan Paton

Great Granduncle (son of James Andrew Paton, 2nd Great Grandfather, and Frances Collins)

Thomas Allan Paton b. 1892_snapshot

Thomas was born on 10 May 1892, Thougla, Corryong, Victoria.

Thomas enlisted on 24 May 1915, aged 23. His occupation was a Grazier. He was Single, and living at Kalymna, Thougra, Corryong, Upper Murray. Thomas next of kin was his father, J Paton, Kalymna, Thougra, Corryong, Upper Murray. His rank on enlistment was a Driver, Field Artillery Brigade 2, 9th Reinforcement. He embarked, 15 September 1915, Melbourne, Victoria, on board the HMAT 55 “Makarini”. Returned to Australia, 12 April 1919.

Thomas Waterson

1st Cousin 2 x removed (son of William Waterson, Great Grand Uncle, and Anne Folster)

Thomas was born on 12 August 1895, Yackandandah, Victoria.

He enlisted on 8 December 1916, aged 21 years and 3 months. His occupation was an Engine Cleaner. He was Single. Next of kin was his Father – William Waterson, of Yackandandah, Victoria.

Thomas embarked from Melbourne, 19 February 1917, on board the “Ballarat”.  Disembarked Devonport on 25 April 1917 with the 7th Reinforcement of the 10th Machine Gun Company.  At the Machine Gun Training Depot, Grantham, England on 5 May 1917.  Proceeded overseas to France 26 June 1917 with the 11th Machine Gun Company.  On 20 July 1918 he was serving with the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion.

Thomas was awarded the Military Medal 1918:

Military Medal
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On the 2nd September, during the attack by the 11th A.I. Brigade near Allaines he continually moved his gun forward from position to position, giving the best possible support to the attacking infantry. This he accomplished in full view of the enemy, and continually coming under direct machine gun fire. His tenacity and pluck in getting up stores and ammunition was most praiseworthy. ‘Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 115, Date: 10 October 1919.

Thomas waterson8_snapshot

On 19 July 1917 Thomas forwarded a letter back home, which appeared in the Yackandandah Times [also on board the “Ballarat” was Charles Aberdeen, 1st cousin 3x removed, son of Emily Selby Edwards and Daniel Patrick Mackay Aberdeen.  Emily was the daughter of 3rd Great Grandparents, William Tripp Edwards and Elizabeth Adelaide Selby]:

Yackandandah Times, July 19th 1917:
Soldier’s Letter
Gunner T Waterson, of Bruarong, has written our editor an interesting account of his voyage on the “Ballarat”, which was torpedoed and sunk.

“I left Port Melbourne with the 7th Reinforcement of the 10th Machine Gun Coy, on Monday February 12th. Our voyage to Albany W.A. was rather rough as I knew to my sorrow, being seasick the whole way. We stayed at Albany for a night and a day, and left there again for Fremantle, our next port of call on the 23rd February, getting there a couple of days later. We had to stay in Fremantle for four days on account of our boat taking on a large cargo of apples. We were granted leave every day so I can tell you we had a good time going from one place to another. Railway travelling being free to soldiers in W.A., the railway was well patronised, especially between Perth and Fremantle.

Left Fremantle on March 1st and then had three dreary weeks voyage to Cape Town. We didn’t even pass a vessel to break the monotony in that three weeks sail. We had to stay at Cape Town for five days while the boat was getting coaled. Leave was granted to us every day so there was not much of Cape Town and surrounding district that we did not see. The scenery in places there is well worth anyone seeing especially on and around Table Mountain. The Cecil Rhodes monument on the side of Table Mountain is a very fine monument indeed. There is also another pretty spot a few miles out of the town known as Camp’s Bay. To reach this sport you take an electric tram which passes over a part of Table Mountain and down the other side through some very fine scenery to the Bay. The return journey is made around the beach and the distance covered by the tram is 11 miles, and the fare is only one shilling.

Our stay in Cape Town came to a close on March 24th. We then had a fortnight’s sail to our next port of call, which was Freetown, Sierra Leone, on the west coast of Africa. We reached this place on Good Friday morning, and anchored in the bay till the following Tuesday. No leave was granted to us there. We experienced terrific heat while we anchored at Freetown, also when crossing the equator. It is too unhealthy for many Europeans on account of the fevers that are so bad in these tropical parts. The natives used to come out round our boat in their little canoes by the hundreds, trying to sell us fruit, and after arguing the point with them for about half an hour you would get your money’s worth.

When we left Freetown our convoy consisted of four transports and one cruiser. We were now getting into the danger zone of submarines. Nearly every day we would get boat drill, that is learning to get to your life boats in as quick a time as possible, in case we should get torpedoed. Well I suppose you know that we all got the opportunity of putting our boat drill to some purpose when on the 25th of April we were torpedoed by a submarine and our boat was sunk.

Two days before this we were met by British Destroyers and then our convoy split up and each boat went in a different direction in charge of a destroyer. All went well with us until the date I mentioned above, we all had arrangements made for a service in memory of Anzac Day; it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I was one of the few up on deck, when all at once I saw something coming through the water straight for the engine room of our boat, it was the torpedo. I can’t describe the sensation that went through me while standing there waiting for the boat to be hit. We were not long in getting to our life boats and getting away in them after being hit, we had not very long to drift about in these little boats, as destroyers came rushing to our rescue from all directions after receiving our distress signal, and very soon had us safe on board.

It was a wonderful sight from the destroyer. I was one to see all the little life boats drifting about, the destroyers all round, two seaplanes flying about in the air looking out for the submarine, and the poor old Ballarat slowly sinking. The destroyers had most of us safely landed at Devonport within six or seven hours from the time we were torpedoed. We were all kept at the Devonport Naval Barracks for that night and the next day. The sailors there treated us splendidly; it was very laughable seeing us getting about for two days after we landed. We had lost most of our clothing and were knocking about in any sort of clothing we could get hold to. Some were without boots, others without hats and so on, “a real rag time army”.

The conduct of all the troops on board was splended, and goes to hold up the reputation of all the Australian troops. We have received congratulations and praises from King George, General Birdwood, Andrew Fisher and other high officials since we landed, in reference to bravery and conduct shown by all the troops that were on board. I am now at Grantham going through a few weeks training before going to the front.”

The following letter was sent by (Pte) Charles Aberdeen to his sister, when the “Ballarat” was torpedoed.

Foster Mirror and South Gippsland Shire Advocate, Thursday 12 July 1917, pg4
Australians in Action

At the time of writing Private Aberdeen was at Salisbury Plains: – I went on submarine guard on the 13th April.  We had a tropical thunderstorm on the 16th, and I can tell you that it rained some—about 4 inches in 10 minutes.  We began to sight boats every day.  All went well with us until Anzac Day, when we were told to keep a wide awake look-out for submarines.

About 2 o’clock in the afternoon we got torpedoed.  Our guard saw the tube coming about 600 yards away, but saw no periscope showing, and did not see it, as it hit us on the starboard side, and was on the port side.

As soon as the man on watch on the bridge saw it coming he jammed the rudder over to the side, and it turned the boat around a little, otherwise I may not have been alive to tell the tale.  We got it fair on the stern, and it went clean through the vessel.  As soon as we were hit the bugle sounded for every man to get to his boat station.

I, being on guard, had to wait until we got orders from our sergeant before we could leave our posts.  They say that the Australians have no discipline, but you can take it from me every man behaved as quietly as if he was on parade, and the General that inspected us at Salisbury said that he was told by our commanding officer that we upheld the highest traditions of the English race.  If the boys had not played the game the way they did fully half of us would have been drowned.  As soon as the boat was struck destroyers were sent out, and trawlers and sea steamers came to our rescue.  It was a sight worth going a long way to see the manner in which they came to our rescue.

In less than 13 minutes one boat came in sight, and others followed every few minutes.  The first thing you could see of them was a white streak of foam in the far distance, and before you could turn round they were alongside the sinking boat.  I took my time in getting off.  The boats took several trips out to the destroyers and back again before I got off.  She did not sink very quickly, and we all got safely off by about 4 o’clock.  By then she was just under the water at the stern.  We were struck about 75 miles out from our port. I did my first bit of rowing, about a quarter of a mile away to a trawler.

We set sail for port about 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and did not get there until 5.30 next morning.  When we got off the trawler we were entertained by the Naval Reserves.  We heard that the torpedoing incident cause no little excitement all over England.

We left in the afternoon for Amsbury, on the Salisbury Plain, where we were entertained by the mayoress.  We arrived about 10.30 that night, and marched about three miles out to our camp.  I lost everything except my camera and films, and it will take all my pay for a long while to get all the things I need together.  By all accounts we will be kept here about nine weeks.  What little I have seen of old England up to date will do me.

One sees the country lanes mentioned in the English novels.  They are about 12ft wide, with earth fences running each side, with an oak growing here and there.  You will not see a paddock above an acre in size, and as for the farm buildings one hears about, we have better pigstyes.  We travelled about 120 miles, and I consider that I saw more cattle and sheep than I have ever seen.  They are mostly crossbred sheep and D. von cattle, and they all have hair about six inches long.  The Shorthorns that I saw seemed to be very small, but well built.  The country is of very even quality, the pastures being like lawns, and the rye that grows here is as fine as silk, and the country is very much like that around Leongatha.  Food is very dear here.  Potatoes are scarce and butter is never seen.  No one is allowed more than 6ozs of bread a day.  We get very little rations, but what we do not is very good.  If the submarines keep sinking many more ships there will be a lot of people over here cut very short of food.  You hear nothing of the number of boats that the submarines sink in Australia, for in the last six weeks they have sunk 100 boats.

Thomas returned to Australia on board the “Themistocles”, 12 June 1919.

“Yackandandah Times” August 28th 1919
A very enthusiastic reception was accorded returned soldiers on Wednesday evening at Yackandandah Shire Hall, when eight of the boys who have recently returned were welcomed home at the usual social gathering. A good program was contributed by local artists, and addresses of welcome were made by the Chairman, Councillor R.Riddington, Mr Clune and Revs Fletcher, Day & Preece. The following soldiers were welcomed:-Lieut Booth, Privates Hocking, T.Charles, D.Blair, Sergt J.Donovan, J.R. Ward, Gnr T.Waterson, MM, and Nurse Priestly. Gold medals, suitably inscribed, are being obtained for each. The soldiers suitably responded.



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